When You Least Expect It
written by Ness


Rating: FRT
Spoilers: Nothing after "Wrecked", or "Sleep Tight" on Angel.
Summary: Giles and Cordelia form a friendship.
Dedication: For Joanna and Wenchie who have patiently held my hand from the beginning. They had been fantastic betas and friends.
Feedback Author: Ness



Giles stepped into the motel room and dropped his bag as he closed the door. He leaned back against it as a wave of exhaustion, both mental and physical, swept over him. "Just my bloody luck," he thought. "I'm trying to get out of the blasted country and my flight is delayed until tomorrow."

He had rented the motel room after finding out about the delayed flight.

Wearily, he pushed himself away from the door and made his way to the bed. Sitting down, he began removing his shoes, all the while trying not to think of Buffy and the pain, anger and betrayal that had been in her eyes when he had told her he was leaving. The pain and anger had torn at his heart. But the look of betrayal had torn at his soul. It was a look he remembered all too well from her eighteenth birthday.

He had left without saying goodbye. He hadn't wanted to see the betrayal in her eyes again. It hadn't done him any good. He saw it every time he closed his eyes.

Suddenly, he was too tired to do anything but stretch out on the bed and try to sleep. He was hoping not to see her face in his dreams, but something told him he would.

He was right.

* * * * *

Giles woke from the nightmare with a scream lodged in his throat. As he tried to calm his racing heart and quell the fear that still coursed through him, he tried to remember what he was dreaming. Bits and pieces of the nightmare began to come back to him. He dreamed that Buffy had died again. This time he had the power to save her but hadn't been there. Rationally, he knew that the dream was merely his subconscious displaying his feelings of guilt over leaving Sunnydale. But, that did not make the dream any less vivid or any less painful.

He began to feel cold from the effects of the air conditioner on his sweat-soaked skin. Slowly, he moved from the bed and made his way to the bathroom to shower and dress in order to make his flight on time.

As he picked up his suitcase and prepared to leave the motel he wondered, yet again, if he was doing the right thing.

He didn't know the answer to that. But the one thing he did know was his life would never be the same.

* * * * *

Giles made his way to the airport counter. At first he did not hear the person calling his name. By the time he did, there was a definite note of impatience. Cordelia Chase came striding toward him.

"Hey Giles," she greeted him with a smile. "I didn't think you were going to stop for a minute there. Where are you going in such a hurry?"

"Hello Cordelia, I am waiting for my flight to London to board. What are you doing here?"

"I was seeing a friend off," Cordelia replied, "Wait a minute, what do you mean flight to London? Why aren't you in Sunnydale? I thought for sure you'd be permanently attached to Buffy, what with her coming back from the dead and all."

"I'm going home, Cordelia. I've seen Buffy but I think it's best if I return to England at this time." Giles responded.

"What do you mean 'it's best if you return to England'? Why are you leaving Giles? What happened?"

"I simply believe it's best for Buffy if I am not quite so accessible." Giles explained. "Returning to England seems to be the best alternative."

"I understand giving her some room. But don't you think leaving the country is a bit of overkill." Cordelia asked in a puzzled tone. "I mean if you wanted to get away from her all you had to do was move to L. A."

"I did not leave Sunnydale to 'get away from her' as you put it." Giles was beginning to lose patience. "I did what I thought was best for her"

"Okay, okay. Don't get bent out of shape. I was just making a comment. Anyway, are you planning on coming back?"

"I don't know Cordelia, at this time I would have to say no, but I just don't know."

Cordelia couldn't help but notice how sad Giles seemed as he said that. The only time she had seen him this down was when Buffy had run away that summer. It broke her heart to see him so sad.

"I'm sorry Giles. You know that Buffy and I have never been each other's biggest fan. I just hate to see you move so far away. Tell you what, I'll give you my number and you can call me and tell me how it's going in Merry Olde England. And I can let you in on what's going on here."

Giles hesitated, "I don't know Cordelia--"

"Come on Giles." Cordelia persisted. "Geez it's not like I'm asking you to marry me. Just give me a phone call every now and then." Cordelia paused for a moment before continuing in a cool voice. "Unless, of course you'd consider it too much of a chore."

"No, of course not." Giles sighed. "I'd be happy to call you every now and again for a friendly chat."

"Great. See now that wasn't hard at all was it?" Cordelia's tone warmed again.

Giles chuckled, "No, I suppose it wasn't at that."

At that moment he heard his flight number being paged.

"Well, I must be going--"

"Wait, let me give you my number." Cordelia said, digging in her purse for pen and paper.

As she watched him walking away after exchanging telephone numbers, she made a vow to herself. She would keep in touch with Rupert Giles. She would not let him get pushed aside like so many times before.

With that thought she headed back to the office.

* * * * *

Giles was sitting at his desk, studying the invoices of several artifacts that had just been received from Cairo, when his office intercom buzzed.

"Mr. Giles, you have an overseas call from a Miss Cordelia Chase."

"Thank you Miss Thompson. Please put it though."

As Giles waited, he thought about the unlikely friendship that had sprung up between he and Cordelia Chase. If anyone had told him that he would look forward to these weekly telephone calls three months ago, he would have sent them to the nearest psychiatrist with all due haste. As it was, these calls were becoming the highlight of his week. It seemed that Cordelia Chase had matured and when she claimed you as her friend, you stayed a friend. His phone buzzed to indicate the incoming call.

"Hey Giles, how's my favorite British museum guy?" Cordelia greeted him cheerfully.

"Cordelia, I'm your only, as you put it, British museum guy." Giles chuckled.

"I know, but if I had more than one you would be my favorite." Cordelia countered with a giggle.

Giles couldn't help but laugh, "You're sure of that, are you?"

"You bet. 'Cause I don't think I have the patience for more than two stuffy British guys. You and Wes have used up my quota, probably for life."

"Oh, my. I believe I hear hearts all over England breaking at that statement."

"Oohh, you think you're funny don't you? Just for that I think I should just hang up right now."

"Now Cordelia, if you hang up now, you know you'll miss out on telling me something that you've been dying to tell me for a week." Giles said.

"That's true. I hate it when you know me so well." Cordelia let out a mock-sigh.

Giles leaned back in his chair to ease some of the kinks in his back and to make himself more comfortable. "Things in L.A., how are they?"

"Good. Connor keeps getting bigger and bigger. The other day he looked right at me and smiled. Wesley tried to say that he had an upset stomach, but I know that he was smiling at me. He's trying to talk, not saying much, but he's trying. Everyone's coaching him, trying to get him to say their name first. Of course, you know that I would never do that."

Giles could hear the laughter in her voice at that last statement.

"Of course not, you would be above that, wouldn't you?" he chuckled.

"Anyway, Fred and Gunn are an item now," she continued. "I feel sorry for Wes, he liked her a lot too. But he seems to be taking it all right."

"I'm sure he'll be fine." Giles agreed. "It's hard to see someone you care about with someone else, but he has friends so I'm sure he'll get through." Giles changed the subject. "Have you heard any news from Sunnydale?"

She noticed that neither of them had mentioned Angel. That was the one uneasy point in their weekly conversations. He loved to hear about Wesley, Gunn, Fred, Connor, even Phantom Dennis on occasion. He said that they seemed as real to him now as the people in Sunnydale. Even though he had never met any of them, except Wesley. And he said that it didn't sound like the Wesley he knew, so in a way, he was a stranger to him too. But they never mentioned Angel.

She knew that even hearing the vampire's name was painful to him, so they never talked about him.

"Well, I don't talk to them much," she answered. "But I've heard that the wedding plans are coming alone fine. I got an invitation in the mail a few days ago."

"Yes, I know. I received mine yesterday."

"You did? You're coming back for the wedding, aren't you?" Cordelia asked excitedly.

He hesitated, "I'm not certain. I don't think that Buffy would really want me there. She was very angry at me the last time we saw one another."

"What do you mean?" Cordelia didn't like what she was hearing. "Giles, please tell me that you've talked to each other since you left Sunnydale!"

"No."

"Why?"

"There just didn't seem to be a right time." Giles defended himself. "You didn't see her, Cordelia. She was so hurt and angry and feeling so betrayed." Giles sighed heavily. "I don't know that she would even talk to me."

"Have you even tried?" Cordelia persisted. "Have you even picked up the phone and called her?"

"No," he replied tersely.

Cordelia took a deep breath, "Look, I know that Buffy and I haven't been exactly what you would call best friends--"

Giles had to laugh at that.

So did Cordelia.

"As I was saying," she continued. "We're not best friends, but I understand her being angry. But it's also been three months. You wanted her to grow up. Don't you think it's time to see if she has?" Cordelia asked gently. "I mean the worst she can do is hang up on you. And honestly, I don't think she'll do that. You were a very important part of her life for a lot of years, Giles. You owe it to her, and to yourself, to see if she's forgiven you. Besides how are you going to go to Xander and Anya's wedding if you can't even talk to Buffy? And you have to come back for the wedding!"

"Why, Cordelia?" he asked curiously.

"Because--I want to see you," she answered softly. "You've become one of my best friends. These phone calls are nice, but every now and then I'd like to see you in the flesh, so to speak. Promise me Giles. Promise me that you'll give Buffy a call."

"Very well, I'll give her a call. But if she doesn't want me there. I won't force my presence on her."

"Good enough. Now, do you have time to hear about everyone else?"

"Of course. How are Willow and the others?"

"Dawn's doing okay. She was having a hard time for awhile, but she says she's okay now. I talk to her as often as I can. I may not have always gotten along with everyone else, but Dawn's a good kid. I've talked to Xander a couple of times. He seems to be very happy with Anya."

"Does that bother you Cordelia?"

"What?"

"That Xander is engaged to another woman."

"No! No, Giles." Cordelia reassured him. "I'm over Xander. I've moved on in so many ways that I can't count them. I'm not the same spoiled girl that went to high school in Sunnydale. I'm happy that he's found someone. I just should have known that it would be an ex-vengeance demon. I mean, that boy sure can pick 'em."

"How are Willow and Tara getting alone?"

"Well, they hit a rocky patch a while back. Tara was concerned about Willow getting too deeply into magic, what with her bringing Buffy back and all. But as far as I know, they got through it and are still together." Cordelia finished her Sunnydale report. "So, I've got you caught up on everything here, how are you doing over there?"

"I'm doing well," he replied. "I'm helping a friend of mine here at the museum. He's the curator. He's offered me a job, but I don't know that I want to tie myself down here. So right now, I'm here as a consultant. It's working out for me. And it leaves me free to pursue other projects if I so desire. And you?"

"I'm good. Taking care of Connor and trying to figure out all of my demony aspects is keeping me hopping. That's not counting when a vision hits. But it's been kinda quiet on that front lately. At least it's giving me a rest. I'm enjoying it for however long it lasts."

Giles still couldn't quite fathom how she dealt with the fact that she was part demon. But she didn't have a problem with it so he tried not to as well. He did worry about her though. He felt that she pushed herself entirely too hard.

"Well, make sure that you rest properly. I would be quite distressed to learn of anything happening to you. You know that if you need anything, research material, someone to listen, anything. All you have to do is call me." Giles wanted her to know she count on him.

"I know Giles." Cordelia smiled at his concern, "If I need anything, I'll be sure and call you."

He cleared his throat, "Well, I would love to chat with you longer, but I'm afraid that if I don't get these invoices done, I shall lose even my consultant job with the museum."

"Well, we can't have that. You need a job if you're going to come for the wedding. I'll talk to you next week, Giles."

"Very well. Have a good week, Cordelia"

"You too, Giles. Bye"

"Goodbye, Cordelia."

He heard a dial tone. He stared at the handset for a moment more before he hung it up. Maybe he would give Buffy a call. He would really like to see everyone again. Especially Cordelia.

With that thought, he turned his attention to the invoices laying on his desk.

* * * * *

Giles looked at the phone with some trepidation. He had promised Cordelia that he would speak to Buffy. He also had to admit that Cordelia made a valid argument. How could he expect Buffy to behave as an adult if he made no effort to treat her as one? That made it no easier to face her, or talk to her, as the case may be. He vividly remembered her anger and disappointment when he told her he was leaving. He wasn't sure he was ready to face that again.

However, nothing was being accomplished by avoiding her. So he took a deep breath and picked up the receiver. As he waited, he thought about what he would say. And kept coming up blank.

He held his breath as he waited.

"Hello?"

"Buffy?"

"Giles? Giles, is that you?" Buffy sounded surprised.

"Yes. How are you Buffy?" Giles asked quietly.

"Do you really care?" she snapped before she could catch herself. "Wait, I didn't mean to say that. I promised myself, if you called, I wouldn't get angry. So this is me not getting angry. What can I do for you Giles?" she asked as calmly as she could.

"You're upset with me." Giles told her. "You have every right to be, but I just couldn't continue to distance myself from you."

"Why is that?" Buffy asked stiffly.

"I had a friend remind me that if I expected you to act like an adult then I needed to treat you as one. Also, I've missed you terribly." Giles sighed. "You have no idea how much I've missed you."

Buffy's tone softened, "I've missed you too."

"Buffy--?" Giles hesitated.

"What, Giles?"

"Would you mind if I returned to Sunnydale for Xander and Anya's wedding?"

"Why are you asking me?" Buffy didn't expect that.

"Because if my presence makes you uncomfortable, I'll send my regrets to Xander and Anya," he answered truthfully.

"Would you really do that for me Giles?" Buffy asked curiously. "If I said that I didn't want you here, you would stay away?"

"Yes. Because even though I would like to be there. I won't do it at your expense. I know you don't believe me, Buffy." Giles was surprised at how badly that hurt. "But you are, and you will always be, my slayer. Your wishes will take precedence in this matter. Whatever you decide I will abide by."

"If you want to come, I won't stop you." Buffy refused to make the choice for him. "But, I'm not going to lie to you Giles. It's been three months since you left and I'm still feeling abandoned. I understand why you did what you did, a little. But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I know I was leaning on you too much and letting you make way too many decisions," she admitted. "Especially letting you be the heavy with Dawn. But you didn't even give me a warning first. You just left. I mean, I'd like to think that I might have been able to change. But you didn't even give me a chance."

Giles' heart broke at the pain in his slayer's voice, but before he could say anything, Buffy was speaking again.

"I'll tell you what--you come to the wedding and we'll go from there. How does that sound?"

"That sounds wonderful. Thank you, Buffy." The relief was evident in his voice.

"You're welcome. I'll see you then. Bye, Giles."

"Goodbye, Buffy."

That had actually went much better than he had originally thought it would. His slayer may not have forgiven him, but at least she was willing to talk to him. He left his office feeling much lighter than he had in a very long time. He was going home.

* * * * *

When Giles stepped off the plane, he marveled at the difference in his feelings. The last time he walked through this airport, it was on the assumption that he would never set foot in America again. Now, he was returning to the one place that he considered home. He would always miss England. But Sunnydale was his home. Everyone who meant anything to him was there. Well, almost everyone, he corrected. Cordelia was living in L. A., working as a part-time secretary and full-time seer to a souled vampire. The friendship he had with her was one for the record books. She had been the reigning queen of Sunnydale High, "Queen C" as it were. And he had been the school librarian. But even when she had frayed his nerves to the end, he had admitted that there was more to this young girl than met the eye.

When she had moved to L. A. to pursue an acting career, no one really expected to hear from her again. But it seemed that the Hellmouth, or the Powers-that-be as she called them, did not release the ones that knew of their secrets easily. If he had ever questioned the existence of fate, the fact that Cordelia had ended up working for Angel would have put paid to those doubts. He still wasn't as certain of Cordelia working for Angel as she seemed to be. But then again, he had never told anyone what Angelus had done to him. Not the details anyway. He had made himself a promise. If Angel showed signs of hurting anyone he would stake him and risk Buffy's wrath. But, if he hurt Cordelia, he would do more than simply stake him.

At that moment, he heard his name called out. When he turned, he had an odd sense of déjà vu. Then his arms were full of Cordelia. He didn't realize how happy he was to see her, until he had picked her up off her feet in a huge hug. As he realized where he was and who he was holding, he hastily released her. But she hung on a moment longer.

Then she backed up and took a long look at him

"Hey, Giles," she grinned. "You're looking good. Have you been working out?"

He couldn't help it, he laughed.

"Hello, Cordelia. As a matter of fact, I have. I found that I was becoming out-of-shape without a slayer to spar with."

"Well, I don't remember you looking this good when you *were* sparring with a slayer," she said as she hooked her arm through his. "Are you ready?"

"I just have to retrieve my bags and I shall be." Giles answered through his chuckles.

"Good, let's get this show on the road. I borrowed Angel's car."

Giles hesitated, "Cordelia, you didn't have to do that. I'm more than capable of renting a car and driving myself."

Cordelia just shook her head, "See, I knew this was going to happen."

"What?"

"You were going to tell me 'Don't bother Cordelia, I shall get to Sunnydale on my own'." Cordelia did a passable imitation of Giles' accent. "Then I would have to argue with you until you saw it my way. Make my life easier and just agree with me. You know you're going to in the end. Just save yourself, and me, the hassle and give in now. I'm taking you to Sunnydale and I'm not taking no for an answer," she finished with a grin.

Giles stared at her a moment, "It's frightening how well you know me. Very well, let me gather my things and you may take me to Sunnydale."

"Great! See, I told you you'd see it my way," she said cheekily.

Giles was laughing as he went to get his luggage.

As he and Cordelia were leaving the airport, a middle-aged gentleman approached Cordelia.

"Cordelia Chase? Is that you?"

Cordelia stiffened when the man called to her.

"Mr. Carlson," she answered, without any enthusiasm. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm picking up my wife. How have you been? I haven't heard from you or your family since--," he stopped abruptly.

"You mean, since my parents left the country?" Cordelia said in a matter-of-fact tone. "I moved from Sunnydale. I haven't been back so I haven't kept up with anyone."

"I'm sorry Cordelia, I didn't mean to--." he let his sentence hang again.

Giles interrupted, "Cordelia, aren't you going to introduce us?"

"Oh, yeah. Giles this is Mr. Carlson. Mr. Carlson this is Rupert Giles." Cordelia didn't want to have to make nice with the little toad. But it seemed she didn't have a choice. "Mr. Carlson was one of Dad's 'friends'." Giles could hear the sarcasm in her voice.

Apparently, so could Mr. Carlson.

"So, Mr. Giles, where do you know Cordelia from?" he said, changing the subject quickly.

"I was a teacher at Sunnydale High School when Cordelia was a student. We became friends after she graduated." Giles answered politely. "She graciously agreed to meet me here today."

"Did you become friends with all your students, Mr. Giles? I saw when Cordelia greeted you. It looked very--friendly." Carlson said. The censure in his voice was evident.

Giles, feeling his anger rising, was about to speak when Cordelia beat him to it.

"What are you implying, Mr. Carlson?" Cordelia asked evenly. "Are you implying that there might be something improper going on between Giles and I? Because if you are, then I have to say, I don't really think that it's any of your damn business." Cordelia was furious. "And if I really wanted to point out that you have no room to talk, I might mention the affair you had with your daughter's college roommate." Cordelia regained control of herself with an effort. "But, since I don't want to point that out, I don't think I'll mention it. I think you'd better go, Mr. Carlson. I see your wife coming, and I *really* don't think you want to have this conversation with her here, do you?"

"How dare you?" Carlson spluttered, "I don't know what you're talking about. I was just trying to stand in for your father, I'm sure he would be concerned about this--"

"Don't." Cordelia interrupted coldly, "He wouldn't have any more room to talk than you do. And I don't answer to my parents any longer. What they do is their business and what I do is mine. Goodbye, Mr. Carlson. Next time you see me--don't speak. I think we'll both be happier that way."

Cordelia turned on her heel and headed towards the door.

Giles hung back a moment,

"Mr.--Carlson, I believe it was?" Giles asked.

The man nodded.

"I want to make something perfectly clear." Giles continued. "There is nothing between Cordelia and I other than friendship. However, if I hear of you saying otherwise--to anyone--I will make sure that you are held responsible for spreading such scandalous lies. Do I make myself absolutely clear?" Rupert simply held Carlson's gaze until he nodded a shaky assent. Rupert smiled coolly, "Good, I knew we could settle this like gentlemen."

With that, he turned and followed Cordelia.

About that time, Mrs. Carlson walked up. "Was that Cordelia Chase I saw leaving just now?" she asked curiously.

Carlson shuddered, "No. No, it wasn't." He knew that he wouldn't be repeating this conversation to anyone. The man hadn't threatened him, per se. But there was no doubt in his mind that if he spoke ill of Cordelia Chase, Rupert Giles would pay him a visit. And he didn't ever want to see him again.

* * * * *

Outside, Giles was standing by Angel's car talking with Cordelia.

"Cordelia, would you like for me to drive? I understand if you're upset--"

"Upset? What about?" Cordelia looked at Giles in confusion.

"Cordelia, I'm sure the insinuations that man made about us have upset you." Giles was a bit upset himself.

"Giles, I'm not upset," she reassured him. "Now, if you say pissed off, I'd have to say that you're right. But not because he thought you and I were a couple. That didn't bother me. It was the fact that he thought that he had the right to pass judgement on me." Cordelia unlocked the door. "I mean, he's supposed to be one of my father's best friends and the minute everything with the IRS broke you couldn't find him--or any of dad's 'other friends'. And he really did have an affair with his daughter's roommate." Cordelia stated matter-of-factly. "So who was he to look down his nose at me even if I had decided to get involved with you? Uh, not that we're involved or anything, you know, other than friends." She stopped suddenly, running out of verbal steam.

"So it didn't bother you that he thought you and I were romantically involved?" Giles asked seriously.

"No. I mean, come on, why would I be ashamed of you?"

"Oh, I don't know?" Giles answered wryly. "Perhaps the fact that I'm twice your age springs to mind."

"Giles, I know that I was shallow in high school but--." Cordelia began.

"Cordelia--." he interrupted.

"No, you asked the question, let me finish," she broke in. "If I cared about you, I would have no problem with your age. You may not think it, what with Buffy and the others, me included, going ewww all through school, but you're a very handsome man, Giles." She began to click off his finer points on her fingers. "You're intelligent, well-mannered, cultured and, might I mention again, good-looking. You've always been a gentleman with me. And trust me, there's not that many of you out there. So no. If I cared about you, the age thing would be so far down on my list of problems that it wouldn't even be a problem. Now the fact that you live in England, are a watcher to a slayer or, hey, the fact that I'm part-demon. Now those are problems. Your age….not one," she finished firmly.

He was quiet for a moment, "I don't quite know what to say--."

She grinned at him, "Don't say anything. Just get your butt in the car so we can get to Sunnydale. I told Xander that I was bringing a guest to the wedding. I can't wait to see their faces when I show up with you."

"They know I'm coming to the wedding Cordelia."

"I know, but they don't know you're coming with *me*," she grinned mischievously. "Buckle up. Sunnydale, here we come."

Giles shook his head in amusement as Cordelia pulled away from the curb.

* * * * *

As Cordelia drove to Sunnydale, she kept sneaking glances at Giles. Right after they had left L.A., he had dozed off. He didn't look like he had been sleeping very well. She knew the situation with Buffy had been bothering him and he had seemed better since she had made him promise to call her. Buffy had made him feel guility for leaving and that bothered Cordelia. No matter what Buffy had done, Giles had always forgiven her.

But she also admitted that she was always harder on Buffy than anyone else. To them anything Buffy did was okay. Because, hey, she was the slayer and could die young. But in Cordelia's mind that was a possibility for any of them. Their deaths just weren't written down in some prophecy.

Cordelia was happy that Giles was here and she could spend some time with him. She had gotten very close to him. She had told him things that no one else knew. If someone had told her five years ago that her best friend would have been the school librarian, she would have told them they were nuts.

Her thoughts turned to what had happened earlier at the airport. For that jackass Carlson to judge her because he thought she was sleeping with Giles still pissed her off. She hadn't told Giles, but Carlson had hit on her when she was still in high school. What had really hurt was her father hadn't believed her when she had told him about it. He had said that she must have misunderstood. Right after that everything had fallen apart and they had left the country. She hadn't see Carlson again. Until today.

Her thoughts turned to Giles. He really was a handsome man. And the fact that he was such a gentleman was a real turn-on for most women. And the fact that he could sing and looked sexy in leather and an earring didn't hurt.

Whoa. She shook herself mentally. Where did that thought come from? She didn't think about Giles like that. He was just a friend. Granted, a good-looking friend, but a friend nonetheless. Angel was good-looking, but she hadn't thought about him like that for ages. In fact, if she thought about it, she was surrounded by fine men. She chuckled to herself. If Carlson had seen the men she worked with, his nasty little imagination really would have gotten a workout.

She saw she was approaching Sunnydale.

"Giles. Wake up. We're almost there." Cordelia gently shook him.

Giles slowly opened his eyes. He blinked, trying to focus and everything was still blurry. He felt Cordelia shake him again.

"Sorry, I forgot that I had taken off your glasses when you fell asleep. I didn't want anything to happen to them."

He looked down and saw her blurry hand holding his equally blurry glasses. He slipped them on and everything came into focus.

"Thank you. I'm sorry I fell asleep."

"Don't worry about it, I figured you needed the rest. I just wanted to wake you up before we got to Buffy's." She turned her attention back to the road. "I meant to ask you, but you fell asleep on me. Do you have a place to stay? The wedding is in two days, but you're gonna need a place to stay until then."

Giles looked sheepish, "Actually, I hadn't thought of that. I sold my flat when I left here. Perhaps I can book a hotel room?"

Cordelia grinned at him, "Actually, you can't. They're having a convention in town and there isn't a room to be had. But, thanks to me, you're in luck," she informed him playfully. "When I booked my room, I got you one too. I didn't want to take the chance you'd forget. So, we can either go and check in now. Or go to Buffy's. Your call."

"I think I would like to see Buffy now." Giles decided.

"Okay."

"And Cordelia--."

"Yeah?"

"I seem to be saying this quite often to you. Thank you."

"No problem."

Giles felt the butterflies begin in his stomach. The closer to Buffy's they became, the more active they were. He wasn't sure what to say to her or any of the others. He felt Cordelia lay her hand over his clenched fist.

"Don't worry, Giles," she reassured him. "Everything's gonna be okay. They'll understand. And if they don't, I'll just kidnap you and we'll spend the weekend in Vegas." She grinned impishly.

"I don't know Cordelia." Giles chuckled. "If we did that, Angel and the others might think I've corrupted you."

"Nah," she giggled. "They'd just say that I've finally corrupted you."

As they pulled up in front of Buffy's house, Cordelia became serious once more.

"Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be, I suspect."

"Well--." she hesitated. "Say the word and we're outta here. I mean it. If you're uncomfortable, we'll leave." Cordelia finished firmly.

He smiled, touched by her concern.

"Don't worry. I'll be fine." Giles reassured her.

They made their way to the front door.

"Well, here's goes nothing" Cordelia said as she rang the doorbell.

* * * * *

Dawn opened the front door.

"Giles!" she shrieked. She threw her arms around him, almost knocking him off balance.

"What are you doing here? How long are you staying? Does Buffy know you're here?"

Giles smiled, "Take a breath and I'll answer your questions"

Dawn stopped and took a deep breath.

"That's better. Now, I'm here for the wedding. As for how long I'll be here. I'm not sure. Buffy doesn't know I'm here. She knew I was coming, but she didn't know exactly when I would be here."

Dawn pulled on his arm.

"Well don't just stand there. Willow, Tara, Xander and Anya are here. Buffy's at work, but she'll be home in about 15 minutes."

At that moment, she noticed Cordelia, who had been standing off to the side grinning like a Cheshire cat. Dawn's welcome was the best thing that could have happened to Giles. This way he knew there was at least one person in Sunnydale that was glad to see him.

"Cordelia!" Dawn said. "I didn't know you were coming."

"I came for the wedding too. I got the weekend off from Angel and decided to stay a few days. I met this guy at the airport and decided to take pity on him and give him a ride." She grinned at Giles.

About that time, Willow appeared at the door.

"Giles! What are you doing here?" she asked in surprise.

"I came for the wedding, Willow." Giles answered. "Didn't Buffy tell any of you that I was coming?"

"Well, yeah." Willow stated abruptly. "She told us, but we kinda thought you'd call before you showed up. You know what I mean?"

"Yes, well. Perhaps I should come back at a later time? We still need to check into the hotel. We could do that and come back later." Giles offered.

Cordelia heard the hurt in his voice and stepped in.

"If you want to go to the hotel, we can do that now."

Willow's eyes widened, "Cordelia, what are you doing here? And what are you doing with Giles?"

Cordelia kept her tone was just this side of freezing. "I came for the wedding. I *was* invited."

"I know." Willow said hastily.

"I picked Giles up from the airport and we drove here together." Cordelia continued. "We'll just go to the hotel, get checked in and then we'll come back."

Willow looked at them strangely, "You're staying at the same hotel?"

"Yeah, so?" Cordelia asked with a hint of challenge in her voice.

"Nothing, it's just--well, I didn't think you two knew each other all that well. I mean to drive from L.A. and then stay in the same hotel--." Willow's voice trailed off.

Giles spoke first as the statement sunk in.

"We are just friends, Willow," he explained. "Cordelia was kind enough to make reservations for me. She knew that rooms would be in short supply this weekend and booked one for herself and one for me. Now, was there anything else before we leave for the hotel?"

"No…No I don't think so." Willow said stammered.

"Fine. When Buffy returns, tell her that we will come back by in about an hour or so."

"Okay."

"Giles." Dawn spoke for the first time since Willow had come to the door.

"Yes, Dawn?"

"I'm really glad to see you and Cordelia." With that she gave him a quick hug and went back into the house.

As Willow closed the door, Giles and Cordelia headed back to the car.

"Are you alright?" Cordelia didn't attempt to hide her concern.

"I'm fine."

"Are you sure? Because I know that wasn't the welcome you were looking for--well, except from Dawn." she added.

Giles looked at Cordelia after he had gotten into the car.

"I'm fine, Cordelia. I knew not everyone would be happy to see me and to be quite honest, I expected Willow to be one of the ones that wouldn't be overly thrilled."

"Why?"

Giles took a deep breath and slowly released it before replying, "Let's just say that she and I had a rather large disagreement before I left the last time."

"It was about the magic she used to bring Buffy back, wasn't it?" Cordelia guessed.

"Yes, it's just one more mistake I have to rectify."

"Hey, hold on." Cordelia said in exasperation. "I'm tired of you assuming that everything is your fault."

"Cordelia, if I had been here the first time, Willow might not have dabbled in the powerful magic that she has gotten into." Giles protested.

"And maybe, she would have." Cordelia shot back. "You forget, she purposely waited for you to get on that plane before trying that spell. You can't take the blame for her mistakes, anymore than you can take the credit for what she does right. She's old enough to make her own decisions, Giles." Cordelia had had enough of him blaming himself. "I'm sure Willow knew exactly what she was getting into. And if she didn't--that was her own fault. She's done enough research over the years to know how to find out what the risks are. If she didn't, that's her fault. You can help her all you want, and all she'll let you, but don't you dare try and take the blame for anything that comes out of this." She looked at him for a moment, "Are you listening to me?"

"Yes, Cordelia. I'm listening to you." Giles was warmed by her concern. "I'm just trying to figure out when you became so wise."

"It comes with age," she said loftily

"With age, does it?" he said as he laughed, "You're all of what? 20?"

"I beg your pardon," she said, trying her best to sound offended. "I'm 21."

"I stand corrected." he chuckled. "You must have gotten it because of your age."

"Hey, are you callin' me old?!?"

With that, they both dissolved into laughter. When they had gotten themselves under control, they left for the hotel.

* * * * *

Cordelia went directly to her room to freshen up. She put her bag on the bed and began to unpack.

The way Willow had treated Giles had infuriated her. How dare she? Cordelia wasn't sure if the others would react like Willow. She didn't think Anya would, if anything, she might be a little protective of the Magic Box. But other than that, she would be glad to see him. Xander was another problem altogether. He had always went along with Buffy, except about Angel. If Buffy rejected Giles, there was a good possibility that Xander would as well. Surprisingly, the thought that Xander might side with Buffy didn't bother Cordelia. She would hurt for Giles, but any pain that Xander could cause her was in the past. With that thought, she grabbed the clothes she had decided to wear and headed for the bathroom.

Next door, Giles was doing the same. He had put away his clothes and, having showered, was shaving. His thoughts drifted to Willow. He was very much afraid that she had gotten herself in trouble with her magic. He could almost smell it on her. He smiled at Dawn's reaction to his appearance. At least one Summers woman was eager to see him. He was actually looking forward to seeing Anya. There were times that she tried his patience, but she had a good heart. She tried, albeit with some grumbling, to help as best she could. She was a good girl (even if she was an 1100-year-old ex-vengeance demon).

He glanced at his watch, he needed to hurry if he wanted to meet Cordelia on time. They had decided to get a bite to eat before heading back to Buffy's.

They met in the lobby of the hotel.

"Where would you like to eat?" he asked.

"There's a deli not too far from here. We could eat and go back to Buffy's." She didn't sound eager at the prospect.

"Cordelia--are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Why do you ask?" She cringed inwardly, how lame could you get? She didn't even convince herself with that one.

"Cordelia, if you would rather not return to Buffy's with me, I would understand. I'm sure you have people that you would like to see."

She smiled wryly. "Giles, at this point in my life I probably have fewer people to see in this town than you do. I didn't like how Willow treated you. I'll get over it. I will tell you this, if she is rude to you again--well, let's just say that she'll meet Queen C again."

"Cordelia, there's no need--."

"I know there's no *need* Giles." Cordelia interrupted. "You're my friend. I *do not* like when people are rude to my friends. I tend to take it personally."

He stared at her as he slowly shook his head, "Remind me to never get on your bad side."

"Don't worry, I will," she grinned. "Now, let's get something to eat. I'm starved." Cordelia was already pulling him out of the hotel.

One hour later, they pulled up in front of Buffy's house. The butterflies in Giles' stomach had graduated to eagles. He was aware of Cordelia standing next to him and it seemed to calm him. Buffy opened the door before he had a chance to knock.

"I'm glad you're here Giles," she said as she hugged him. "I know we need to talk, but I'm glad you're here."

Giles released a sigh of relief.

"I'm glad to see you as well."

Buffy noticed Cordelia standing to the side.

"Hey Cordelia." Buffy greeted her. "Willow said you were with Giles. How are you?"

"I'm good." Cordelia said slowly, "How have you been?"

"As well as can be expected." She stepped back to let them in. "Come in. Everybody's here."

* * * * *

Giles stepped into the living room and saw Anya at the same time she saw him.

"Giles!"

She was across the room before he could say anything. She stopped suddenly as she reached him. If he didn't know better, he would swear she was nervous.

"Hello, Anya. How have you been?"

"I've been okay. The Magic Box is making lots of money. I've sent you the financial reports. Have you been reading them?" she said in a rush.

"Yes, I have. You've been doing very well." Giles complimented her. "How are the wedding plans coming along?"

"We've got everything planned." Anya answered excitedly. "Xander says he'll be glad when it's all over, but I like planning weddings. I never thought I'd get a chance. I mean, when I was a vengeance demon, it's not like I saw the best of marriages. But with Xander, I get to see why people would want to get married to begin with. It is a lot of work though." She informed him. "Keeping up with who sits where and who sits with who. I wanted to ask you, since I don't have a father to walk me down the aisle, would you do it?"

It took Giles a moment to process the question. He had learned that sometimes Anya could leave him in the conversational dust.

"You want me to give you away?" He asked uncertainly.

"Well, not give me away." Anya corrected. "I mean, I'm not yours to give away. But I would like you to walk beside me down the aisle."

"I would be honored to walk you down the aisle, Anya" Giles was pleased that she had asked him to be such an important part of her wedding.

"Good. That's settled. When Buffy told us that you would be here for the wedding, I told Xander that I was going to ask you. He said that was all right with him."

"Hey G-Man." Xander chose that moment to speak.

"Hello, Xander." Giles was so delighted to see Xander that he didn't bother to correct the bothersome nickname. "How have you been?"

"Good. I'll be glad when the wedding is over. I'm also hoping that my family doesn't do something that will totally embarrass me," he grinned sheepishly. "I'm not holding out much hope, though. I mean, we are talking about *my* family." He then turned to Cordelia.

"Hey, Cordy."

"Hello, Xander."

Just then, Willow and Tara came downstairs.

Tara saw Giles and smiled.

"Hello, Giles."

"Hello, Tara."

Willow nodded a hello, but didn't speak.

Giles decided that as important as his conversation with Buffy was, he needed to have a talk with Willow first.

"Willow, may I speak to you in private?"

Willow looked as though she would refuse but then seemed to change her mind.

"Sure Giles." She agreed, a little sullenly. "Where would you like to go?"

"The kitchen?"

She nodded and followed him to the kitchen.

The others were left in silence. Dawn was the first to speak.

"What was that all about?"

Cordelia smiled, "I think Giles is tired of Willow being rude."

"What do you mean rude?" Xander asked in surprise.

Cordelia shook her head, "Xander, when we first got here, Willow wouldn't even let Giles in the door. Not to mention making a snide remark about the fact that we drove here together. And just now? She didn't even speak to him."

"What do you mean 'snide remark'?" Xander asked.

Cordelia sighed, "She just couldn't understand why we would drive from L.A. together or stay at the same hotel. Like spending time with Giles is a chore."

"You're staying in the same hotel?" This came from Buffy.

"Look, he forgot to rent a hotel room." Cordelia explained impatiently. "Sometimes he forgets the basic stuff 'cause he's worrying about everything else. So when I made reservations for me, I made one for him. That's all."

"Wait a minute." Buffy interrupted. "How do you know what he forgets or doesn't forget?"

"Because I've been talking to him for weeks." Cordelia informed her. "You all may have forgotten about him, but I didn't. I met him the day he left for London and talked him into calling me. We talk about once a week. Not that it's any of your business." Cordelia added.

"How has he been?" Tara asked softly.

"He's tired, worried about everyone, and blaming himself." Cordelia answered.

"Blaming himself for what?" Dawn didn't know what Giles was blaming himself for.

"He thinks that Willow wouldn't be so deeply into magic if he had been here." Cordelia responded. "He's worried that maybe he made a mistake in leaving Buffy and Dawn. Basically, every mistake that you made since he's been gone, he'll find a way to take the blame for."

"He's not responsible for our mistakes." Buffy said.

"Try telling him that." Cordelia looked at Buffy. "He will always feel responsible for you, Buffy. Even though he thought you needed to take more responsibility for yourself, and Dawn, he will always see you as *his* slayer." Cordelia didn't understand why she was having to explain this to them. "He's spent his whole life preparing to take care of you. Everything he's done for the last six years has been with you in mind. Even going back to England. He will never believe that there wasn't more he could have done for you. That maybe, if he'd been smarter or braver, he could have spared you some of your pain. *And* he will never admit to his pain. He doesn't allow himself the luxury."

Buffy looked at her, a little stunned.

"How do you know all of this?" Buffy asked a little defensively. "When he's never told any of us this."

"Because I took the time to ask. And to listen." Cordelia took a deep breath. "I'm going to go outside for a while. I am in sudden need of fresh air."

As she reached the door, she turned back to Buffy.

"Don't hurt him again, Buffy. He doesn't deserve it."

* * * * *

"She cares very deeply for him." Tara's voice was soft in the silence following Cordelia's exit.

"How can she think she knows him so well?" Buffy asked petulantly. "She hasn't even been here for the last three years. How can she know what he's done or not done?"

"Because she *cares* for him." Tara said again, "We all love him. But--we lean on him. Maybe, just maybe, with Cordelia he felt he could lean on *her*."

Buffy looked as though she wanted to argue the point, but then took a deep breath.

"Okay, apparently there are a few people that know my watcher better than I do." She said with a small smile.

Tara smiled back at her.

"Okay, I hate to break up this understanding-the-watcher fest. But what I want to know is--what's going on with him and Willow?" Xander asked.

Buffy's smile faded, "I don't know. But I have a feeling it's not all sweetness and light in the kitchen right now."

* * * * *

Giles leaned back against the counter,

"Would you like to tell me what the problem seems to be?" He asked softly.

Willow folded her arms across her chest, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Come now, Willow. You were very rude to both Cordelia and I and you seem to have a problem with the fact that she and I are friends. But I don't think that's what is bothering you."

"Come on, Giles." She said, ignoring his last comment. "You have to admit that you and Queen C being friends is a stretch."

"I'll admit, four years ago, the idea of Cordelia and I being friends would have been somewhat-- odd. However--." he continued before she could interrupt, "people change. They grow and, hopefully, mature. Cordelia is not the same person I met all those years ago."

"She couldn't have changed that much." Willow insisted.

"Actually, she has changed a great deal." Giles contradicted. "She has grown into a most remarkable woman. She has gone through changes that would have destroyed a lesser person. She has come through them stronger and more compassionate than even she realizes."

Willow was shocked by the vehemence with which Giles defended Cordelia.

"Giles, you haven't seen her for three years, how can you know what changes she's gone through?"

"Cordelia and I have become friends." Giles explained. "Long-distance friends to be sure, but friends nonetheless. She has told me of the changes in her life. Just as I have told her of those in mine."

"So now, you're her biggest defender?" asked Willow sarcastically.

"Willow, I will defend anyone I consider a friend if I think they are being judged unfairly. You know nothing of Cordelia now. You are basing your assumption of her on the Cordelia Chase you knew before. That person no longer exists. She has changed, just as all of you have changed." He paused for a moment. "Why don't you tell me what's really bothering you."

Willow turned away before answering him.

"There's nothing wrong."

"Willow--."

Willow turned to face him.

"Giles, even if I told you everything that's going on. It's not like you could do anything about it. You'll be going back to England after the wedding."

"Why don't you tell me the problem and let me decide if I can help."

"Can you teach me magic from England?" she asked heatedly. "Because that's the problem. When I raised Buffy, I felt like I opened this deep well of power inside me. There's so much I want to do and I don't know how. There's this guy Amy introduced me to, Rack. He says he'll teach me. But I don't trust him. Tara doesn't either. She and I got into an argument about this. I don't trust him, but I'm ready to go to him just so I can control this. I'm scared, Giles. I can feel it and I'm afraid I'll hurt someone if I don't learn how to control it." Willow sounded on the verge of tears.

"Have you told any of the others?" Giles asked quietly.

"No." Willow shook her head. "With your leaving and Dawn acting up, Buffy's had enough to deal with."

Willow saw Giles wince at the mention of the pain he had caused his slayer.

"I'm sorry, Giles." Willow apologized.

"No, that all right, Willow I did make things harder for her." Giles admitted.

"Anyway," Willow shrugged. "I haven't told Buffy. Xander is my best friend, but I didn't want to spoil his wedding with this."

"What about Tara? It would seem to me that she would be the logical one to talk to about this. She is a witch *and* your partner." Giles asked curiously.

"I have told her some. That's what the fight was about, me wanting to get Rack's help. But I haven't told her about how scared I am," she confessed.

"Why?"

"I'm not sure. I'm afraid she'll think I really am addicted to magic. I know that's what they've been thinking. I'm not though. I'm just scared."

"You need to tell them, Willow." Giles knew she had to be honest with everyone.

"I know." Willow agreed. "I had already decided to do it after Xander's wedding. I just need someone to help me."

"Well, contrary to what you've been thinking, I may be able to help you."

"How? You'll be in England. How would we do it, over the telephone?"

"No. I've been thinking about returning to Sunnydale."

"You have? Since when?"

"It's been on my mind since I decided to return for Xander and Anya's wedding. I have to find out Buffy's reaction to this, but if she and I can get past our problems, I would like to return."

"Well, if you don't mind me asking, why?"

"Because I miss it. I miss everyone here. You all have become an integral part of my life. A part that I find I'm having a great deal of difficulty living without."

"When would you move back?"

"As I said, much would depend on Buffy. I left her so she could begin living her life on her own. She may not want me back. If that is the case, I will stay in London."

"Even though you want to come back?" Willow asked curiously.

"Yes. For all of the changes that have taken place, she is still my slayer. I will do what is best for her."

"If you come back, will you train me?" Willow pleaded. "Not just the stuff you think I'm ready for but everything. I need help, Giles. I don't think I can do this on my own."

"Willow, I promise you. Even if I do not move back. I will find a way to help you." Giles told her soothingly. "You have unleashed a great deal of power. We will find a way to deal with it. I will not leave you alone." He paused, "You could have called me about this. I would not have denied you."

"I know." Willow hung her head. "I think I was ashamed to call you and ask for help after the way I treated you when you were here before."

"Well, I could have handled the situation better as well." Giles touched her shoulder. "I was worried about you and that caused me to be a bit more tactless than I could have been. I know something of regrets, Willow. I was worried about you because I see so much of myself in you. You want to learn and you barge in before finding out just what the dangers can be."

"An arrogant amateur." Willow recalled the words with bitterness.

"I apologize for those words." Giles knew they had been a mistake when he had said them. "It was harsh and unproductive. I want you to learn, Willow. I would just like for you to learn safely. I want your soul to be intact at the end of the day. I carry guilt and pain because I wouldn't listen to anyone. I will carry them until the day I die. I want better for you."

"How do I learn if I don't try?" she asked plaintively.

"By researching, studying, learning." Giles wanted her to understand that there was other ways of dealing with this problem. "You don't have to do, to learn, Willow. Odds are, there are others that have been there before. Learn from their mistakes, as well as their successes. Then build upon that."

"I'll try." Willow was willing to try anything at this point.

"That's all anyone can ask of you."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Find my slayer and have that talk she and I have been putting off."

"Well, she's right here so you won't have far to look." Buffy spoke from the doorway, "I came to make sure everything was okay. You two looked kinda intense when you came in here."

"We're fine." Willow said, as she headed for the door. "Looks like your turn now."

"Willow?" Giles' voice stopped her.

"Yeah, Giles?"

"We will work this out."

She smiled, "Thanks."

Buffy looked as Giles as he watched Willow leave.

"What was that all about?"

"Willow has a problem and I believe I can help."

"What did she tell you?"

"I think I'll let her tell you that. Now, would you like to have that talk here or would you rather go somewhere else?"

"Here's good."

"Very well."

* * * * *

Giles gestured toward the kitchen table. He couldn't tell what Buffy was thinking and that worried him. She was usually very open about her feelings. This time she wasn't and he wasn't sure how to proceed.

"So, who starts?" Buffy interrupted his thoughts.

"Would you like to tell me what you're feeling?" he asked uncertainly.

"Don't psychoanalyze me, Giles." Buffy snapped. "If you want to know how you're leaving affected me, just ask."

"All right," he said slowly, "How did my leaving affect you?"

"Well, for one thing. You promised me that you would never leave me." Buffy reminded him. "I think flying to England qualifies as breaking that promise. Don't you?"

"Buffy…."

"Nope," she interrupted. "You asked and now you're gonna get your answer. I wasn't sure how I felt about being brought back from the dead--being ripped out of heaven." Buffy paused to collect her thoughts. "I was at peace there, Giles. I had my mom back. For the first time in God-knows-how-long, I didn't have the fate of the world as my responsibility. I'm not going to lie. It felt good. I missed everyone. But overall, I would have preferred to stay there." Buffy looked at her watcher. "The problem is, I wasn't given the choice. Now I know that wasn't your fault. Hell, you didn't even know about it until waayyy after the fact. Doesn't change the fact that I was confused, sad, and just a little bit angry. When you got back, it felt like I had the one constant in my life back. It made so much of this bearable."

Giles didn't know what to say to that.

Buffy walked over to the sink. Now that they had started this, she couldn't control the nervousness that was overwhelming her.

"Now I know I didn't handle the whole thing that great," she continued. "Dawn was a handful and I ignored that. The fact that I didn't tell anyone but Spike where I had been was beyond stupid. I let everyone think that I was rescued from hell. That meant I had to act grateful when all I really wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs, 'PUT ME BACK'. Maybe if I'd told you where I had been, it would have been easier. I don't know. I can't change how I handled it. But you didn't handle it great either. I mean, you made this decision to leave me. Only problem was, you didn't even give me a chance to try and change your mind. If I was leaning too heavily on you, you should have said something. You're word-guy remember?"

"Buffy, I'm sorry."

"I'm not finished," Buffy said, not unkindly. "I love you, Giles. You're the closest thing to a father that I've had for a long time. Whenever I've needed someone, you're the one I could go to. . You're my friend, my mentor. Willow and Xander are important to me. But, you--you are the one that, no matter how badly I screwed up, was always there. The one who let me know I wasn't alone. No matter what I did, you were there. I know I took advantage of that. But I was *never* ungrateful for you. Even if you didn't always know it. When you left, it felt like I had lost my anchor to the world." She had to stop because the tears were threatening to overflow. She took a deep breath before continuing. "That's not an excuse for anything I did. I just trying to make you understand how I was feeling."

Giles interrupted, "May I say something?"

Buffy nodded, "Go ahead."

"When I left, I truly thought I was doing what was best for both you and Dawn." Giles defended himself. "I felt you were counting on me to make all your decisions."

"But--."

"As you said--I'm not finished." Giles moved to stand behind her. "Perhaps I made a mistake in not talking to you first. I'm not infallible, Buffy." He laid his hands on her shoulders. "I make mistakes. All I could see was you weren't taking responsibility for anything. That worried me on many levels, but I think it worried me most because you had never been that way before. If you needed me, you came to me for advice. But you made your own decisions. It scared me that you seemed to lose that capacity. On a personal level, you had to be able to care for yourself and for Dawn. On a slayer level, if you lost the ability to think on your feet, you lost the ability to win. One of the reasons you have been such a success as a slayer is because you have the uncanny knack for doing what no one expects. You've never been predictable. Even when I might wish it otherwise." He smiled ruefully, "If I had to leave in order to give that ability back, I was willing to do that. I refuse to lose you. If I had to bury you again, knowing-- not thinking-- knowing, that I could have done something to prevent it, and didn't. Well, I couldn't live with myself. That's why I left. Not because I didn't want to help you. You mean the world to me. I have defied my family, the Council, *anyone* that has told me to leave you. I ignored them because I felt my place was with you. When I left, I thought I was doing what you needed, if not what you might have wanted." He stopped, waiting for her reaction.

Buffy turned to look at him. "My turn?"

He inclined his head.

"Maybe you're right about my not taking responsibility, and not thinking for myself. I admit that. The problem I have with you is you didn't even talk to me before you decided to leave." She held up her hand to stop his interruption. "You just told me you were going and then you left. That hurt, Giles. That hurt almost as bad as when I lost mom."

"I'm sorry I hurt you." Giles didn't know what else to say. "I could apologize for the rest of my life and I don't think I'll ever let you know just how sorry I am. Truthfully, one of the reasons I didn't talk to you first is because I knew, given the chance, you would convince me to stay."

"Would that have been such a bad thing?" Buffy asked tearfully.

"At that time, in my mind? Yes."

"What about now?"

"Now--I would like to return"

"Why do I sense a 'but' in there somewhere?" Buffy eyed him suspiciously.

He smiled slightly, "Probably because there is. Things would have to change, Buffy." Giles was firm about that. "I will help you all I can, but you must help yourself. I understand this has been hard for you, but you must start taking responsibility for yourself and for Dawn. For all intents and purposes, you're all the family she has left."

"Yeah, we couldn't even find Dad to let him know Mom died." Buffy said bitterly.

"He still doesn't know?" he asked incredulously.

"Nope. At first he was in Europe on a business deal and now his *new* secretary told me he's on honeymoon in Europe with his *old* secretary, and I still haven't been able to track him down."

"That's outrageous!" Giles was furious

"It doesn't matter." Buffy didn't really care what her father was doing anymore. "He hasn't been here for the last six years. Why should this be any different?"

"Buffy, I'm so sorry." Giles wanted to strangle Hank Summers.

"It doesn't matter, Giles. If you come back, I have the important man in my life back anyhow. Dad hasn't been an important part of my life for a long time. You have. Things'll change. I'll do what I need to do to have you back."

"We'll do this together," he assured her.

"Sounds good to me." She thought for a moment, "Giles, where are you going to stay? I'd offer you a place here, but we're full. Willow and Tara got Mom's bedroom. You could sleep on the couch."

Giles laughed, "I don't think that will be necessary. I sold my flat when I left, but I don't believe it will be hard to find another. I have an inheritance from my grandmother that will tide me over until I find a place and a job."

"What are you going to do about a job? Are you going to run the Magic Box again?"

"No, I gave it to Anya. I won't take it from her just because my plans have changed. Actually, I have had a museum in Los Angeles. that has shown an interest in me."

"You would live in L.A.?" Buffy sounded disappointed.

"No. I would live here in Sunnydale. It would be about a two-hour commute, which was what I had in London. It would be similar to what I am doing now. Consulting on different artifacts and any other questions they might have that my expertise would cover. It would give me a flexible schedule and allow me to carry out my responsibilities as your watcher."

Buffy grinned. "So, it settled. You're coming home."

Giles liked the sound of that, "Yes, I'm coming home."

Buffy grabbed his arm and headed for the door.

"Let's go tell the others."

She stopped as something occurred to her.

"Uh, you might want to go out to the front porch."

Giles gave her a puzzled look.

"The front porch, whatever for?"

"Well, Cordelia is sorta out there."

Giles gave her a long, level look.

"Buffy, why is Cordelia on your front porch instead of the living room with everyone else?"

Buffy gave a sheepish smile, "Well, she kinda got upset at how Willow snubbed you and she didn't like the way we were treating you, I guess."

"What do you mean, 'you guess'?" Giles didn't care for the sound of that.

"Look, she's protective of you, okay? She took up for you. She even told me not to hurt you again." Buffy shook her head wonderingly at that. "She cares about you and she got angry at us. It happens. Especially with me and Cordy. Anyway, she wanted some fresh air."

"I need to see if she's all right."

Buffy tilted her head and looked at him, "You two really are good friends, aren't you?"

"Yes, we really are. And right now, I need to check on my friend. Tell the others I will be there in a few minutes, will you?"

"Sure thing. Giles?"

"Yes, Buffy?"

"I'm glad you're coming back."

"So am I."

* * * * *

Giles opened the front door and paused. Cordelia stood with her back to him, looking out into the night. He could tell she was uncomfortable. He really shouldn't be able to read her body language. They were no more than acquaintances before he left for London. But, they had become very close over the last few months. It seemed that the phone calls gave him insight into her that translated into reading her physically. It was amazing really.

"In or out, Giles." She said without turning. "Didn't your mother ever teach you not to hold a door open."

"How are you?" He asked softly, closing the door quietly. "Buffy said you were upset earlier."

"I was. I'm over it now--mostly." Cordelia replied.

"What was wrong?"

"I'm worried about you." Cordelia turned to look at him.

"Me? Why?"

Cordelia just shook her head. Giles truly didn't understand why she was upset.

"I'm worried that, for all the talk of growing up and changing, you'll get hurt again." She told him honestly.

"Cordelia, you're the one that suggested I treat Buffy as an adult." Giles reminded her gently.

"I know. I think I may have made a mistake." She paused, and sighed, "No, that's not right. I think you should, I'm just feeling helpless right now."

"Why?"

"Because if you move back and get hurt again, there won't be anything I can do. It's not like I can tell them off."

Giles chuckled, "Just for the sake of curiosity, why not? From what Buffy told me, you've already done it today."

Cordelia didn't smile.

"Because if I do, it will drive a wedge between us. You would see it as an attack on them and it would start an argument between us."

"You seem sure of that."

"I am. You're protective of the people you care about, Giles. And, better or worse, you care about everyone in that house. If you had to choose, I know *who* you would choose"

Giles cursed everyone that had ever let this girl down. That she should think so little of herself was heartbreaking.

"You're right. I do care about everyone in that house. However," he continued before she could interrupt. "I also care about the person standing in front of me. I may not agree with your opinions concerning Buffy and the others. But I would never turn from you or take my friendship from you because of those opinions. Buffy is my slayer. I've spent a good portion of my life preparing for her. However, we are in territory that few watchers have ever had to deal with."

"Because slayers die young?" Cordelia speculated.

"Precisely." Giles knew Cordelia would understand. "Buffy and I have to find a new way to relate to one another. She is an adult. We will have to find a new path for our relationship. I have let her, and Willow, know that I will be treated with the same respect that I afford to them. I will let the others know as well."

"Do you think it'll happen?"

"It has to. I will not tolerate anything less. You must understand something, Cordelia. I'm returning to Sunnydale for more than just Buffy."

"Why else would you come back?"

"Because somewhere along the way, Sunnydale became my home. I acquired a family. A strange family, at times. But that only makes them more precious to me." He smiled at her, "I've also acquired a very good friend. A friend that can be somewhat tactless on occasion, but a friend nonetheless."

"Hey! I can be tactful," she exclaimed. "I just don't see the reason most of the time."

"As I said….tactless on occasion." He laughed as she swatted his shoulder.

"Cordelia, when I returned to England, I felt as though my entire world had fallen down around me. Those weekly telephone calls you and I shared helped me retain my sanity," he told her seriously. "I would no more deny what I feel for you than I would deny what I feel for the others. You are a part of my life, Cordelia. One that I do not wish to do without."

"I care about you too, Giles. I guess that's why this is so hard. Always before, if I've had an opinion about someone, I just said it. I don't want to do that now. I don't want to be the cause of more pain for you."

"You won't be. Just be yourself, Cordelia. I don't expect you to do, or be, any less."

She stared at him, a little stunned.

"You mean that."

"Yes, I do. You are who you are, Cordelia. If you change for my benefit, you are not longer the person I care about."

Her smile was like the sun coming out from the clouds,

"You are an amazing man, Rupert Giles."

"Hardly," he replied dryly, "I just know when I'm well off."

"Whatever," she waved off his protest, "I know I'm right. You really should just learn to agree with me."

He grinned at her.

She grinned back.

"That's a good look for you."

"What look?" Giles gave a slightly puzzled look.

"The grin. Makes you look really good. I bet I could get you a date if you smiled more often." Cordelia teased him.

"Cordelia! I don't think I need you to help me with my love life."

"Well, somebody needs to. It's not like you have one. Unless you got one while you were in England--." She looked at his expression, "Nope. You didn't. That's okay, when you move back, I'll fix you up."

"The thought of you playing matchmaker fills me with a terror I have never before experienced. I think I would rather face vampires and demons."

"Hey! See, I was trying to be nice, and you make fun of me." Cordelia pouted.

Giles saw the twinkle in her eyes.

"I apologize, Cordelia. I didn't mean to make fun of you." Giles teased.

"Yeah," she said with playful sarcasm. "I can tell you're just overcome with remorse."

"Oh, but I am." Giles said through his laughter, "If I make you angry, heaven only knows what type of woman you will find for me to date."

Cordelia put her hand on her hip, "Just for that, I may get Anya to help me look."

Giles stopped laughing.

"You wouldn't do that, would you? Cordelia? Cordelia?"

She didn't answer him as she went back into the house.

"I think I may have made a grave tactical error." Giles muttered to himself.

* * * * *

Giles and Cordelia made their way back into the house. As they neared the living room, they heard Xander's voice.

"So what's the deal with G-man and Cordy?"

"They're friends, Xander." Buffy answered him.

"Giles and *Cordy*?" Xander sounded skeptical. "Come on, since when would Queen C be friends with the school librarian?"

"I guess they've been friends since he left for England." Willow replied. "He mentioned something about being long-distance friends, so I guess they talked on the telephone."

"I just don't get it." Xander repeated. "*Cordy*?"

"Yes, *Cordy*." Giles said as he stepped into the room. He could feel Cordelia tensing beside him. "Cordelia and I are friends, do you have a problem with that, Xander?"

Xander was saved from answering Giles' question by Buffy.

"He didn't mean anything by it." She was trying to keep Giles from saying anything he might regret later.

She then turned her attention to Xander.

"Xander, you may not understand their friendship," she told him firmly. "It doesn't really matter. They're friends. That's the end of it."

She looked at Giles and grinned, "See, I told you I was growing up."

He smiled at her, "So I see."

Xander spoke again, "But, come on Buffy. Cordelia?"

Giles looked at everyone in the room.

"I had not planned on having this talk with all of you this soon. But since this came up, I might as well get it over with. I have talked to Buffy and Willow, and I think they understand. But now I'm telling everyone else." He pinned Xander with a stern look. "I am returning to Sunnydale. However, there will be a few changes. I will not tolerate the constant disregard of my personal privacy. By that, I do not mean coming to my home. You will always be welcome there. By that, I mean, I will not tolerate these constant remarks on how I live my life. They are disrespectful and I will no longer tolerate them. I made allowances for you before because you were children. That is no longer the case. You are adults and I will expect you to act accordingly." He paused, "As for my friendship with Cordelia, I fail to see that is any of your concern, Xander"

"But, Giles." Xander protested, "You have to admit. It's strange. What could you possibly have in common with her?"

Before Giles could answer, Cordelia stepped closer to Xander and answered for him.

"What could I possibly have in common with him?" she asked him coldly. "Let's see, when he went to England, none of you called him. You didn't write to him. You have a bad habit of 'out of sight, out of mind'. I didn't really mind it with me. I mean, I left Sunnydale to get away from everything here. But, the fact that none of you could be bothered to pick up a phone and call him is inexcusable." Cordelia looked at Xander with disdain. "You claim to love him, but you didn't even check on him. I understand Buffy being reluctant. But what about you, Xander. You told me, more than once, that he was more of a father than the one you grew up with. Is this the way you treat him?"

"Hey! You don't have to right--"

"Oh, I think I do." Cordelia didn't wait for Xander to finish. "You want to pass judgment on our friendship. Let me tell you about our friendship. This man looked like his whole world had been destroyed when he left here. I talked him into calling me because I didn't want him to be alone. That's how it started. But now." She smiled softly, "Now, I have never had a better friend. He listens, he cares and he doesn't judge, no matter what I do. He and my family in L.A. are the only people that have ever been that way with me."

"What family?" This came from Buffy.

"Maybe I'll tell you about it later." Cordelia said. "But right now, I have a few questions for Xander."

"What?" He asked warily.

"If you hold me in such contempt, why did you invite me to your wedding. Why did you bother even letting me *know* you were getting married? Don't bother answering--I'll save you the trouble. I'll just go back to L.A., and you get married without me. How does that sound?"

She stopped and looked at him and Anya.

"I really do hope you have a good life, Xander. Even with everything that's happened, I still want you to be happy."

She handed the car keys to Giles.

"I'll leave you the car. I feel like walking."

She left before he could stop her.

"How dare you?" Giles asked in a frosty tone. "How dare you pass judgment on the friendship Cordelia and I share? How dare you invite her here and then proceed to insult and belittle her."

"Giles--." Xander began.

"No," Giles interrupted him, "I will not listen to anything else you have to say about Cordelia. You have no idea what that young woman has done for me. When I left here, I felt as if my entire reason for being was gone. *Everything* I had worked for my whole life was being left behind. I didn't know what to do. She saw me at the airport and bullied me into calling her after I got to London." He smiled at the memory, then sobered. "She is the reason I am here. She convinced me to call Buffy. She is the reason I am whole. Without her, I would have, no doubt, dove into a bottle and not come up for air. When I first returned to London, those phone calls were the only thing I looked forward to. She would keep me up to date on what was happening. Always using her wit and humor to make me laugh. She is a compassionate and caring person. I consider it a honor and privilege to call her my friend.

He turned to Buffy.

"Buffy, I am sorry. I wanted to take everyone to dinner. As a way to catch up on everything that has happened here. But, I need to find Cordelia."

"That's okay, Giles." Buffy nodded understandingly. "We have plenty of time. We'll catch up later. Go find Cordelia."

"See, needing to be rescued. Just like always." Xander said snidely.

Giles rounded on him so quickly that Buffy was afraid she would have to get between them.

"Not another word!" He said though clenched teeth. "Or I may just forget that you and I are friends."

He turned and left without another word.

"Way to go, Xander. Why did you say those things about Cordelia." This came from Dawn.

Dawn wanted to see Cordelia. When Buffy was having problems, Dawn could call Cordelia and she would listen when nobody else would.

"Yeah, Xand. You were kinda harsh to her." Willow seconded Dawn's opinion.

"Hey! When did everyone jump on the 'Cordy's great' bandwagon? When did I become the bad guy?" Xander protested.

"When you started acting like a jerk." Buffy answered.

"A jerk?!?"

"Yes, Xander." Tara replied. "You're acting like a jerk."

"Xander, I know that you and I haven't always had the best luck with Cordelia." Willow told him quietly "But, Giles says she's changed. Maybe she has. I mean, she didn't take one shot at you, other than to defend Giles. And Goddess knows, you gave her plenty of ammunition. I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Why won't you?"

Xander started to speak, then closed his mouth.

"I screwed up." He sighed. "I don't know what it is about me and Cordelia. I didn't mean to insult her. It just seems like--like my mouth is off and running before I have my brain saddled up, ya know. It's always been that way with me and her." He sighed again, "I guess she grew out of it."

"Yeah, well. You'd better grow out of it, too." Buffy said in a stern voice. "I don't think Giles is too happy with you right now. And I don't think he'll let you do it again."

"Oh, man. How am I gonna make this up to him and Cordelia?" Xander moaned.

"First, you find Cordelia and apologize. Then you apologize to Giles." Willow told him.

"I'd wait." Tara put in unexpectedly.

"Why?"

"Because right now, I think Giles is talking to Cordelia and the last person they're going to want to see is Xander."

Xander groaned.

"Sorry, Xander." Tara apologized. "But it's true."

"I know. I just don't know if they'll forgive me for being such a prime jackass."

Buffy patted his hand.

"Just grovel a lot. They'll forgive you--eventually. I mean, you were just being Xander."

"Gee, thanks." Xander said dryly.

* * * * *

Giles had looked for Cordelia as he drove to the hotel. No luck. He approached the desk and asked for his key.

"Excuse me, have you by any chance seen the young lady I checked in with?" He asked the desk clerk.

"No, sir. I haven't seen her since you left together earlier."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome, sir."

He still couldn't believe the gall Xander had shown. He didn't know what had gotten into the boy, but it was unforgivable. He knew that Xander and Cordelia had a history, but he thought all that was in the past. Now, as far as Xander was concerned, he wasn't so sure.

He went into his room and knocked on the door that connected their two rooms. He knocked softly again. When he didn't receive an answer, he sighed. He had no idea where she would be. But he had to find her. The others may not have been able to tell, but he knew she had been deeply hurt by Xander's words.

He was about to leave when he heard her door open. He knocked on the adjoining door again.

"Cordelia? Please open the door, I would like to speak to you."

The silence that greeted his request made him think that perhaps it was the maid service. Just as he was about to leave, the door opened slowly.

Cordelia stood at the door and looked at him without a word.

His heart broke. She looked lost, almost broken. Damn Xander Harris for reducing her to this.

"Cordelia, are you all right?"

She stood to the side, so that he might enter her room.

"I'm fine, Giles. I should be used to the contempt that Xander and the others feel for me. I mean, it's not like I don't deserve it."

Giles gripped her shoulders and turned her to face him.

"Don't." He spoke softly, "Don't take the blame for what that pillock Xander said back there. You don't deserve his harsh words or his low opinion of you."

"Why not? I mean, I was Queen C in high school. I wouldn't have been caught dead talking to you back then." Cordelia was perilously close to tears. "The better question is, why would you want to be friends with me?"

Giles pulled her into his arms and held on. After a moment, he pulled back so he could see her clearly.

"Actually, I think the best question is, why would I not want to be your friend?" Giles gently wiped a single tear that had slid down her cheek. "You have proven yourself to be loyal, compassionate and caring. I could not ask for anything more in a friend. As for what you were in high school. Cordelia, you were a teenager. You made mistakes, as have we all. I've made more than my share, and they were much more serious. If the biggest mistake I had ever made was to snub the librarian, I would consider myself lucky," he finished with a crooked smile.

"Giles, we're not talking about you." Cordelia objected. "Besides, we both know I've made more mistakes than just snubbing you."

"Cordelia, do you see me condemning you for your past?"

"No."

"And I wouldn't. My past is much darker and much more serious than yours. I would never judge or condemn you."

"I know that."

"Then know this." Giles tone was firm. "Xander's opinions are just that, his opinions. I do not hold to them and from what I could see before I left, the others don't either. If he can't deal with the person you are now--well, he's not worth the effort. You are a great deal more than you were. We all are. I will also tell you what I told them before I left. I count it an honor and a privilege to be your friend. Nothing will change that."

He could see tears glistening in her eyes again.

She tried to speak, had to take a deep breath before she tried again.

"I kinda like you too." She smiled at him.

They were interrupted by a knock on her door.

When she opened it, she was sorely tempted to slam it shut again.

Xander must have been able to see that, because he started talking--fast.

"Please, don't slam the door. I came to apologize. Well, actually, I came to grovel, beg, you name it and I'll do it."

Giles had moved to the door at the sound of Xander's voice. He simply stared at Xander.

Now Xander knew what the word 'glare' meant. But he thought that Giles made it look even meaner than it sounded.

"Look, I'm sorry. I'm *really, really* sorry. One minute I was fine and the next, I was standing back watching as my mouth made me look like an idiot. I didn't mean what I said. I don't think the idea of you two being friends is that crazy. I mean, not anymore than Giles being friends with any of us." He took a deep breath. "Cordy, I really don't know what came over me. I guess it's a throw back to when we were in school. I couldn't seem to help myself back then either. I acted like an ass. I can't apologize enough."

He stopped to breathe.

"Can I get a word in?" Cordelia asked.

He nodded, slightly afraid of what she would say.

"You hurt me, Xander. I thought we had gotten past everything. I don't expect us to be best buds. But I thought we could at least be civil. You invited me to your wedding, for God's sake. I saw that as a peace offering. Was I wrong?"

"No. No, you weren't wrong. It was a peace offering. I'm telling you, I don't know what happened." Xander desperately wanted them to understand. "By the time my brain was in gear, my mouth had already done the damage."

He paused, not quite sure how to go on.

"Cordy. I would really like you to come to the wedding."

"I don't know, Xander." Cordelia shook her head. "I'll have to think about it."

He nodded. "Sure--I understand. I really have missed you." He hesitated, "Cordy?"

"Yes, Xander."

"I want you to be happy too." Xander's voice was quiet.

"Thank you."

"Well, I guess I'll be going now."

"I'll walk you down." Giles opened the door.

"Uh, okay." Xander knew Giles wouldn't do anything to him--maybe.

Giles was silent as they walked to the elevator. They stepped in and he pushed the button for the lobby. He pushed the emergency stop button about halfway down.

Xander swallowed nervously.

"Xander," Giles began quietly.

"Yeah, Giles?"

"I want to have a discussion with you. Man to man, as it were."

"Okay." Xander was getting more nervous. 'he won't hurt me, he won't hurt me', he kept repeating it , hoping to convince himself.

"I know you are sorry for what you said to Cordelia earlier." Giles continued softly. "However, I want you to understand a few things."

"What?" Xander asked apprehensively.

"If you ever, *ever* hurt her in such a fashion again. I will be forced to take, shall we say, unpleasant action. Do we understand one another?" He gave Xander a cold smile that made him understand how Giles could have gotten the nickname "Ripper".

"Umm, hurt Cordelia again--unpleasant action." Xander gulped. "Got it."

"You're sure?"

"I'm positive." Xander squeaked.

"Very good." Giles smiled again. "I'm glad we could have this conversation."

He then pushed the button to start the elevator again. When the doors opened at the lobby level, Xander made his way off on wobbly legs.

"Oh, and Xander?" Giles called to him.

Xander froze. "Yeah, Giles?"

"Please let Buffy and the others know I will be over later."

"I'll let them know."

"Thank you."

"No problem." Xander said.

He breathed a huge sigh of relief outside the hotel. He didn't know what was going on between those two. But he'd bet it was more than friendship--even if *they* didn't know it yet. He thought about telling the others his theory. Then he shook his head, nope he wasn't gonna say anything. His mouth is what got him in trouble to begin with. He wasn't gonna give it anymore chances. Next time, Giles might do more than just scare him.

* * * * *

Two days later, Giles stood at the bar, enjoying the reception. The wedding had gone smoothly. Which, he had to admit, was something of a miracle for this group. He watched as Xander's parents began to argue. It seemed that Xander had been right. It was too much to hope that his family wouldn't embarrass him. Giles set his drink down on the bar and made his way over to where the Harris' were beginning to get quite vocal.

"Is there a problem here?" Giles inquired politely.

Xander's father looked at Giles with bleary eyes.

"Who are you?"

"I'm acquainted with your son ."

"Well, there's no problem here." Xander's father was belligerent. "My wife and I were just talking."

"Are you certain?" Giles said in the same polite tone. "Because it was becoming quite loud."

"Look, it's none of your business. So why don't you just butt out." Mr. Harris ordered rudely.

Giles leaned in and spoke quietly.

"It is my business. I happen to think your son deserves to have a peaceful wedding day. Do not force me to escort you outside for a more in-depth discussion."

Xander's father leaned back so he could see Giles better. Whatever he saw convinced him to turn back to his wife.

"Let's get out of here." He said in a sullen voice. "I'm ready to go home."

With that, they were out the door without further mischief.

Cordelia met Giles as he returned to the bar.

"Gee, Giles." Cordelia watched Xander's parents leave. "Are you running off the guests now?"

"Yes, Cordelia. I've become, what is the term?--oh yes, a bouncer." Giles replied dryly.

"Oohh, can I watch when you throw the next person out?" Cordelia batted her eyelashes at him.

"It is my sincerest hope that there won't be another."

"What did you say to Xander's father?"

"I simply reminded him that Xander deserved a peaceful wedding day." Giles answered.

"His parents were starting to fight, weren't they?"

"Yes."

"Poor Xander." Cordelia frowned. "They won't even give him any peace on his wedding day."

"You seem to be feeling more charitable towards him." Giles was thankful she was feeling better. "Care to tell me why?"

"I thought about what he said," she admitted. "He was right. He and I were always at odds with one another in school. We were either all over each other or we were fighting like cats and dogs.

How can I expect him to believe I've changed if I don't give him the same chance?"

"Have you told him any of this?"

"Yeah, I told him this morning when I gave him and Anya their wedding present."

"What did he say?"

"He didn't really say anything. But he seemed kinda relieved. I could have sworn he said something about 'Ripper not coming after me now'. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?" Cordelia arched a brow as she asked this quesiton.

Giles gave her his best innocent look, "I wouldn't have any idea what he meant by that."

"You're sure?" Cordelia pressed. "Because the only ripper *I* know is *you*."

"Cordelia, why would Xander think I was going to 'come' after him?" Giles asked mildly.

"I don't know. But he sure seems to look at you differently since that elevator ride you two took together."

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about." He said, trying to sound offended.

Cordelia just tilted her head to the side and gave him a long look.

"You know, eventually I'll find out what this is all about. And when I do--you and I are going to have a talk."

Just then a song began playing, Giles took the opportunity to distract Cordelia.

"Would you care to dance?"

Cordelia smirked at him.

"You won't get out of it that easily. But, I would love to dance."

He took her hand and led her to the edge of the dance floor. He began to lead her in the elegant steps of a waltz. She surprised him by following his lead quite well.

"I didn't realize you knew how to waltz?"

"I've known how to waltz since I was eight. My grandmother felt that a young lady needed to know how to dance, among other things."

"What other things?"

"Oh, how to greet your guests, what fork to use and how to deal with rude people."

"How did she deal with rude people?"

"She didn't. That's what she taught me. Never deal with someone that isn't worth your time. If they're rude, they're not worth your time."

"Did she ever feel--?" He paused, not sure how to ask the question.

"What? That I was rude?" Cordelia finished for him.

"Did she?"

"Tactlessness and rudeness were two different things to her. Who do you think I learned it from? She was a pro at it. No, to her rudeness was doing something to intentionally hurt someone. Or to use your position to hurt them." Cordelia let out a little sigh. "I do think I was a disappointment to her."

"Why?"

"Because when I was in school, I did hurt people. I didn't always mean to, but I never tried to fix it when I did. Look at Willow and Xander. I was so mean to them."

"Is your grandmother alive?" He asked, trying to steer her away from hurtful memories.

"No, she died about a year ago." So much for that idea. "She was living in Florida when everything happened with the IRS. Thank God. I don't think she could have dealt with the shame if she had lived here. As it was, she was well off in her own right, so she didn't have to worry about money. Even after they took all of ours."

"Did you speak to her after you graduated?" Giles had never heard her talk about her family.

"I talked to her all the time. I wanted her to be proud of me. I told her about the work I was doing with Angel."

"You told her?!?" He asked incredulously.

"Well, not about the demons and vampires and stuff." Cordelia laughed. "Geez, Giles. If I had told her about that part of it, she would have had me locked up in the loony bin. No, I just told her that I was working for someone that was helping people."

"How did she feel about that?"

"She said that she always knew I would do good things." Cordelia smiled at the memory.

"She sounds like she knew you quite well."

"Well, at least someone in my family was proud of me."

"Have you heard from your parents?"

"No. When they left the country, they didn't leave a forwarding address and I haven't heard from them since."

She tried to say it matter-of-factly, but Giles could tell it bothered her that her parents hadn't called her. He didn't understand them. They had left their eighteen-year-old daughter to fend for herself and hadn't bothered to check on her. It was a testament to her strength that she had survived and coped as well as she had.

"When do you plan on returning to Los Angeles?" He asked, trying to find a more pleasant subject.

"I'm not sure. Probably first thing in the morning, but it depends on you."

"Me? Why?"

"Well, unless you've decided to just leave everything in London, you're going to have to go back," she reminded him. "I wasn't sure if you had a way back to L.A. or if you wanted me to take you."

"I will most likely let a friend of mine settle everything there." Giles explained. "I would very much like to get on with the business of finding a place to live and getting a job."

"Will this friend know what to do?"

"Yes, he and I go back to our school days. He will know what to do with anything I don't want shipped to me." Giles shrugged. "Really, other than my books and few other odds and ends, there's not much that I wish to have. I hadn't really begun to settle in." He smiled wryly, "Which seems quite ironic, since that was my childhood home."

"You really did miss this place?" She asked softly.

The music had changed, as they were talking, and he began to move her in the steps of a Rhumba. Noticing as he did, that she had no more difficulty with this one than she had had with the waltz. This woman was full of surprises.

"Yes, I really did." He answered.

"If you like, I can call Angel and take a couple more days off?" Cordelia offered. "You know, help with the apartment hunting."

"Can you do that? What about your visions?"

"I can do what I've done this weekend." She held up her cell phone. "If I get one, I'll phone it in."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm positive. I got one this morning, before I came here. I talked to them not too long ago, they had taken care of the big nasty and told me to have a good time at the wedding. If anything major comes up, they'll call me. Oh, and Fred wanted me to tell her what everyone was wearing. I think I'm finally starting to rub off on her." She grinned.

He smiled back at her, "I would be very pleased if you stayed to help me."

"Good, I'll call Angel and let him know my plans have changed." She hesitated, "After this dance is over." She leaned back into his arms.

* * * * *

Giles was meeting Buffy for breakfast at a small outdoor café he had discovered right before he had left town. He had made plans with Cordelia the night before to have lunch and begin the process of hunting for a new flat. He had called the museum in Los Angeles after he had left the reception yesterday and made an appointment to talk to the curator in one week. That would give him time to make arrangements for his things in London and also to find a place to live. The café was in walking distance of the hotel so he was saved the problem of transportation. That was yet another issue that must be addressed.

He saw that Buffy was already there when he arrived.

"Buffy! How long have you been here?" He glanced at his watch to make sure he wasn't late.

"You're not late, Giles." Buffy grinned at him. "I had to get Dawn off to school. So I decided to get here before you. What a switch, huh?"

"Quite." He smiled at her exuberance.

"So, what do you want to eat? Cause I'm starved." She said as she moved to take her seat.

"Why don't I start out with a cup of coffee and then have a look at the menu?" he suggested.

"You? Coffee? Since when?"

"Buffy, I've always liked coffee. I just happen to like tea as well."

"Okay, okay." She put up her hands in mock surrender, "I was just curious."

The waitress brought his coffee, and refilled Buffy's, along with a menu.

"Would you like to order now, ma'am?" She asked Buffy.

"No, thanks. I'll wait for him."

"All right. I'll be back in a few minutes to take your order."

"Thank you." Giles replied.

"So, did Xander and Anya get off all right?" He asked as he looked over the menu.

"Yep. I think he was as relieved to see his family leave as he was to have the wedding over. I saw his parents leaving early--right after you talked to them. Did you have anything to do that?"

"I may have reminded them that it was Xander's wedding day."

"And?" Buffy prodded.

Giles looked slightly uncomfortable. "I may have invited his father outside to discuss the situation."

"Giles!" Buffy put a hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter. "You threatened Xander's father?!?"

"I didn't 'threaten' Xander's father." Giles protested. "I simply gave him the choice of location for our discussion."

"I don't believe it." Buffy giggled. "My mild-mannered watcher threatened Xander's dad to make him behave."

"Buffy, please do not make more of this than there is." Giles said in a pained voice

Buffy sobered. "It is a big deal, Giles. You shouldn't have had to take up for him. But you did. That means a lot to him. Probably more than you'll ever know."

She watched at her watcher turned red.

"I'm sorry, Giles. I didn't mean to embarrass you," she paused. "I mean--I sorta like to embarrass you. It makes up for you knowing more than me. But I didn't mean to about this. This is important and you deserve to know what a difference you've made in Xander's life. All our lives, if the truth was told."

Giles turned an even deeper shade of red.

Buffy laughed.

"Okay. No more mushy talk. You look like you're about to explode. How would I explain that?"

The waitress came to take their orders, giving Giles time to recover. They ordered their food and continued their conversation.

"So--can I ask you a question?" Buffy said tentatively.

"You may ask. I won't guarantee I'll answer it." Giles smiled at her. "But you may ask."

"What's the deal with you and Cordelia? Wait, wait, wait." She said quickly, trying to stave off his objection to the question. "I'm not downing on you about your friendship. I just--I talked to Xander and he told me what happened at the hotel."

"It seems that Xander is incapable of keeping a conversation private, I see." Giles said in frustration.

"Giles. You went all Rippery on *Xander* for Heaven's sake. I think that entitles him to be a little shook up, don't you?" Buffy asked reasonably.

"I did not, as you say, go all rippery on Xander." Giles retorted. "He and I had a discussion about how he will treat Cordelia in the future."

"Okay, that's my question. When did you become her protector? I'm not criticizing, I'm just curious."

"I am not her protector. I simply felt that she was being treated unfairly and I didn't want it to happen again. You didn't see how hurt she was, Buffy. Cordelia puts on a brave front for the world, but she has feelings, and they can be hurt. Regardless of what most people seem to think."

Buffy nodded in understanding.

"I know she has feelings, Giles. She and I may not have gotten along, but when Mom died, she called."

"She did?"

Buffy paused as the waitress returned with their food. After the waitress had left, she continued.

"Yeah, she said she wanted to pay her respects. She couldn't leave L.A. but she wanted me to know that she thought my mom was nice and she was sorry for my loss." Buffy stopped for a moment. "Then she told me I was lucky." she continued. "When I asked her why? She told me that I had had Mom for twenty years. She said some people don't get a loving parent at all. At least I had the memories of a parent who cared about me and loved me." Buffy shook her head at the memory. At the time, the fact that Cordelia would call at all stunned her. "After I thought about what she said, I realized she was right. I mean, Mom used to drive me nuts about the rules and everything. Especially when she didn't know I was a slayer. But, at least she cared. Willow and Xander's parents didn't know where they were half the time. And Cordelia--I've heard that her parents haven't even called her since they left the country."

"They haven't." Giles replied quietly.

"How can a parent treat their child like that?" Buffy was angry on Cordelia's behalf.

"I truly don't know, Buffy," he sighed.

"What did she mean when she mentioned her 'family in L.A.'? Does she have family we don't know about?"

Giles smiled slightly, "Something like that. I think I'll let her explain them to you."

"I hate when you're secretive. It means that you know some juicy gossip and you won't spill." Buffy pouted.

"That won't help you, Buffy," he admonished her. "Cordelia said she would tell you and she will. In her own time."

"That's just mean, Giles."

He only smiled as he continued to eat.

* * * * *

After the meal, he promised to call her to let her know how his plans were progressing. He bought the paper and continued on toward the park. He checked the time and discovered he had several hours before he was to meet Cordelia for lunch. He found a vacant bench and opened his paper. He tried to read but couldn't seem to concentrate. He found himself watching the people as they played or simply picnicked. When he had first moved to California, what he had missed most about England was the damp, foggy mornings. When he returned to London, he discovered he missed the sun-drenched mornings of California. He shook his head and laughed softly, apparently he was hard-to-please. When he had one thing, he wanted another. No, he wasn't hard to please. His ideal had changed. He glanced at his watch and discovered that he had been in the park for almost three hours. He gathered his things and headed for the hotel.

* * * * *

Giles saw Cordelia as soon as he entered the dining room. It had excellent food and had the added advantage of being close at hand. He frowned slightly when he saw a young man talking to her. The talking wasn't what bothered him. The man looked as though he was trying to occupy the same space as Cordelia. And she didn't look happy. He quickened his step, trying to save the man from one of Cordelia's famous tongue-lashings.

He got to them just as Cordelia has reached the limit of her patience. She was about to set this guy straight when she felt an arm slipped around her waist. She knew it was Giles. Along with other abilities, her demonness gave her a heightened sense of smell. Nothing like, oh say, a *vampire's* sense of smell. Which was something Angel was always teasing her about. But it still enabled her to know when someone she knew was near. Giles had a very unique scent. She had picked him out almost as soon as he had walked in. Which was one reason she had been trying to get rid of this clown. He was an old classmate and he seemed to think that she actually should, would, or could remember him. She had--finally--after much reminding on his part. Then he proceeded to hit on her. That was about the time Giles had walked in. She felt Giles' arm tighten on her waist just as he began to speak.

"So, Luv. Aren't you going to introduce us?" Giles asked in a low, seductive voice.

Giles knew the man was hitting on Cordelia and felt the quickest way to rid themselves of his presence and continue with their lunch was to give him the idea she was unavailable. He glanced down at her and almost burst out laughing. She had the most flabbergasted look upon her face.

Cordelia was having a hard time keeping her jaw from hitting the floor. Did Giles just call her luv? And did he step just a little bit closer as he waited for introductions? She resisted the urge to look around for the cameras or listen for the twilight zone music. She finally found her voice and made the introductions.

"Um, sure. Giles, this is Thomas Ford. I went to school with him. Thomas, this Rupert Giles. He's a--friend." She wasn't sure how to introduce him. He *really* was her friend, but that wasn't the impression Thomas was getting.

Giles held out the hand that wasn't wrapped around Cordelia. "It's nice to meet some of Cordelia's friends."

Thomas looked stunned. He held out his hand in reflex. "It's nice to meet you. Hey wait, weren't you the librarian when we were in school?" he asked in surprise.

"Yes, I was." Giles squeezed the hand he still held .

"Uh, okay. Just thought I recognized you." Thomas stammered. "Look, Cordy. It was nice seeing you, but I've really gotta be going." With that he hurried off holding his hand.

Cordelia moved away from Giles. She stared at him for a moment and then said, "Okay, now that you've convinced him we're sleeping together. Would you like to tell me just what the *hell* you're doing?"

Giles stepped back from the furious tone in her voice.

"Cordelia, I was just trying to rid you of an irksome person," he explained patiently. "Leading him to believe that you and I are a couple seemed to be the easiest way of doing that without causing a scene."

Cordelia stood up, the anger was flowing off of her seemed to be a tangible being. She knew that her temper was frayed--badly. With everything that had happened in the past three days, she had had more than her fair share of angry moments. She also knew that a public place wasn't the place to deal with this. For one thing, she refused to make a scene in public. For another, some of her more demony attributes had manifested themselves during high-stress periods. If she was going to get into an argument with Giles, she preferred it to be in private--just in case.

She took a deep breath and deliberately unclenched her hands.

"Giles, let's postpone lunch," she said in a calm, quiet voice. "I would like to speak to you and this restaurant is not the place. I'll meet you back at my room in five minutes." She turned and headed toward the ladies' room. She was hoping she could cool down a little before she talked to him.

* * * * *

Giles paced the confines of his room as he waited for Cordelia to return to hers. He went over what had happened in the restaurant and cursed himself for being an idiot. He didn't know what came over him. He had seen the man doing everything but kissing Cordelia and it had made him furious. He had went over there and made a bloody fool of himself and embarrassed poor Cordelia. No wonder she was furious at him. He didn't have time to analyze just why the idea of a man finding Cordelia attractive bothered him so much. He was saved from that particular self-analysis by Cordelia's arrival in her room. He left his room and knocked on her door. He could have used the adjoining door, but somehow, he didn't think she was be thrilled with him taking that liberty right now.

She opened the door and gestured him in. He walked in and turned to face her. She closed the door and looked at him. Just looked at him, until he became slightly nervous. Now he knew how Xander had felt.

"Cordelia, I--."

She held up her hand, "Stop." She began to pace. "I don't know exactly what you think you were doing down there. But--my personal opinion--I think you've lost your mind. Why did you have to make him think we were a couple? I didn't need your help."

"Cordelia--." Giles began again.

"Giles, if you wanted to save me from making a scene. Why didn't you just come over, tell me our table was ready and allow me to excuse myself. That's all it would have taken. I mean, it's not like the guy was trying to drag me out of the building." She paused. "Well, aren't you going to say anything to defend yourself?"

Giles took a deep breath. He understood that Cordelia was angry, but he was beginning to feel that way himself.

"Cordelia, I understand that you're angry." Giles had a slight edge to his voice. "I will also admit that I may not have handled the situation as well as I could have--"

"That's the understatement of the year." Cordelia said with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

"As I was saying," he continued as though she hadn't spoken. "I could have handled the situation better. The only thing I can say in my defense is, I saw him acting like a crass fool and it made me angry. I've watched as people have treated you with little or no regard for the past three days and , frankly, I'm tired of it." Giles began to pace. "I went overboard, I admit that. If I had it to do over again, I would, no doubt, handle it differently. *But* I will not apologize for wishing to come to your aid. I know you are not a shrinking violet in need of protection. But I do care about you and when I see you in a situation I can help you with, I will. If you cannot, or will not, accept that as part of our friendship--perhaps we should rethink the entire thing." He stopped abruptly. The moment he said it, he knew he was treading dangerous ground. Cordelia did not take well to ultimatums.

"Are you saying, if I don't accept your treating me like a damsel-in-distress--on occasion, that you'll stop being my friend?" Cordelia asked slowly.

"I'm saying that if I see you in a situation where I believe you could use my help, I will help you." Giles said carefully. He couldn't tell what she was thinking and, with Cordelia, that could be dangerous. On many levels.

She narrowed her eyes and stared at him for a long moment.

Then she sighed, "Well, I guess I'd better get used to you butting into my business, huh?"

Giles slowly released the breath he had been holding. He risked a small smile.

"Am I forgiven?"

She just shook her head.

"I suppose so," she said returning his smile. "If you pay for lunch."

He grinned. "Done."

"You do realize one thing." She said as they made their way to the door.

"What is that?"

"By this time tomorrow, half of this town will think you're sleeping with one of your former students."

"Surely, that young man wouldn't spread that kind of gossip?" he asked, appalled.

"Oh, no. He won't." Cordelia assured him.

Giles looked relieved.

She continued, "But his mother is the biggest gossip in this town."

She threw a grin over her shoulder and continued out the door.

Giles gave her a rueful look as he closed the door behind him.

* * * * *

After lunch, Giles and Cordelia bought a paper and proceeded to get down to the job of finding him an apartment. They circled several of the more promising ads and called the real estate agents to find out if they could see them on such short notice. On all but one of them, the answer had been yes. The one that was unavailable was in the neighborhood where Giles' old apartment had been. An appointment had been made to see it the next day.

Several hours later, the house-hunting duo returned to the hotel, exhausted.

"I didn't know finding you a place to live was going to be so hard." Cordelia stated tiredly.

"Nor did I." Giles replied.

"Did you want to take any of the ones we looked at, or would you rather wait until tomorrow to make a decision so we can look at the one in your old neighborhood.?"

"Let's wait. I would like to see this last flat."

"Okay." Cordelia glanced at her watch. "You better get going. You're supposed to meet Willow and the others in an hour."

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to join us?" Giles asked. "I'm sure they won't mind."

"No." Cordelia shook her head. "I got the feeling Willow had big announcements to make and she probably wouldn't want me there. Besides, I'm pooped, I plan on taking a hot, hot bubble bath and going to bed. I'll call home first and see what's going on there."

"If you're certain?"

"I'm sure." Cordelia said. "Go be with the Scoobies and have a good time. I'll be fine."

"I'll leave you to your bath, then. Have a pleasant evening and I'll see you in the morning. We are still having breakfast, are we not?"

"I was planning on it. Just make sure you don't try to convince anyone else we're a couple." She smiled to take the sting out of her words.

"I wouldn't dream of it," he chuckled.

* * * * *

Following her bath, Cordelia got ready for bed. She picked up the phone and called the Hyperion. This was her nightly routine. After taking her bath, the official end of her day was a call to Angel and the others. She listened to the phone ring and wondered who would pick up tonight. Most of the time it was Angel. But Wesley, Fred or Gunn had been known to pick up on occasion. This night it was Angel.

"Hey." She said in a quiet voice.

"Hey, yourself." Angel replied. "How was your day?"

"It was good. We were apartment hunting for Giles. We've got one more to look at tomorrow before he makes up his mind. How are things on your end?"

"Everything's been fairly quiet."

"I'm not entirely sure that's a good thing.. I haven't even a vision in two days.

"Maybe they're just giving us a break. You know, a rest."

"Yeah right. And tomorrow you won't drink blood for breakfast. When have the Powers ever had any consideration for us?" she finished wryly. "Anyway, how's Connor?"

"He's great." Angel said enthusiastically. "He said my name today."

"He said your name?" Cordelia was skeptical.

"Yeah, he said Da."

"Angel, that's not your name," she protested. "That's not even daddy."

"No." Angel agreed. "But it Irish for Dad."

"I think he just made a sound and you want his first word to be for you, so you heard what you wanted to hear." Cordelia laughed.

"Think what you want. I know what he said." Angel said loftily.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever." Cordelia teased. "So how is everybody?"

"Everyone is fine. I think Wesley is seeing someone."

"Get out! How do you know?"

"Well, he's been leaving early. And he just seems happier."

"Angel, leaving early and being happy doesn't mean he's dating someone. Besides, it hasn't been that long since he had a thing for Fred. Do you really think he'd jump into a relationship so soon."

"Cordelia, it's not like he and Fred actually dated or anything. Besides, just because he's dating doesn't mean it's a relationship."

"This is Wesley we're talking about. You know as well as I do that if he dated a woman more than twice he would consider it a relationship."

"Well--maybe. But I still think he's happy."

"I hope he is." Cordelia twirled the cord around her finger. "He deserves it and when Fred started dating Gunn, it hurt him. Even if he wouldn't tell anyone."

"Okay, enough talk about Wesley's love life, or lack thereof." Angel decided. "How is everything in Sunnydale?"

Cordelia laughed. "Buffy's fine."

"I didn't ask about Buffy. I asked about Sunnydale." Angel protested.

"Angel, when you ask about Sunnydale, you're really asking about Buffy."

"I--I didn't mean to be that obvious." He sighed.

"It's okay." Cordelia told him. "She seems to be getting better."

"She's had a hard time."

"Yes, she has. But I think she's actually starting to see that she wasn't the only one."

"What do you mean?"

"Buffy can be a bit--self-absorbed." Cordelia tended to step carefully around Angel when it came to Buffy. Come to think of it, she did it with Giles too. Although neither one of them would appreciate the comparison.

"Are you saying Buffy's selfish?" Angel's tone gave nothing away.

"I'm saying that when something happens to Buffy, everyone seems to think the world has to stop. It doesn't. I think she's finally learning that. I think she sees that other people had a hard time with everything that happened."

"By other people, you mean Giles?"

"Among others. You didn't come out of your room for two weeks, Angel. I was really worried. I thought we were going to lose you. You seemed to just give up. As for the others, Willow and Xander had a hard time. But Dawn was really in bad shape. Did you know she used to call me almost every week? Sometimes twice a week?"

"No." Angel was surprised.

"She felt that no one was listening to her." Cordelia told him. "I think she was pretty close to the mark."

"And you listened?"

"I tried. I remember what it was like to have your whole world collapse and not have anyone to talk to. *And* I was grown and nobody died.. Dawn was only 15, she had lost her mother and her sister. When Buffy came back, everyone expected Dawn to just pick up where she left off and not feel anything different. What I don't think anyone realized was that Dawn was carrying around a lot of guilt."

"Guilt? Why? It wasn't her fault Buffy died. Glory was to blame."

"Yeah, well. Try telling that to a teenage girl who watched her sister dive off of a building to save her. That's hard to deal with. The problem was, nobody *let* her deal with it. When Buffy came back, suddenly everything was about Buffy and Dawn got lost in the shuffle."

"You've thought a lot about this." Angel said in a thoughtful tone.

"It's not so much that I've thought about it," she corrected. "I just listened to Dawn and put two and two together. As for Giles, he's had a lot to deal with too. When Buffy died, he suddenly became responsible for Dawn. He became the dad of this little group--well, even more than he already was. When he came back and saw how much Buffy *wasn't* dealing with things, he had to make a decision that broke his heart. He went back to England and it was like he ceased to exist. They didn't call him, they didn't write him. I'm not sure they even thought about him."

"Is that why you called him every week?"

Cordelia paused for a moment, "I didn't think you knew about those calls."

"Cordelia, you made some of them from work. Of course I knew about them."

"Why didn't you say anything?" Cordelia asked curiously.

"Because I didn't think it was any of my business." Angel answered. "Also, I didn't want to make things awkward for you. I know that Giles doesn't like to think, let alone talk, about me. I don't blame him. After everything I put him through, I wouldn't want to think about me either, if I were him."

"Angel--" Cordelia began.

"Cordy, don't make excuses for him. You don't need to. He doesn't need to be excused for hating me. He has every right."

"Actually, I wasn't going to make excuses for him." Cordelia said. "I was going to say that it was Angelus that did that to him, not you."

"Cordy, it may have been my demon that did those things to him, but it was still me. I had become his friend--did you know that he and I discussed books and music? We even talked philosophy a couple of times. I used all of that when I tortured him. What I did to him was unforgivable. The fact that he allowed me to remain in Buffy's life after I returned from hell makes him a much better person than I've ever been," he paused. "Even when I was alive."

"Did you ever talk to him about what you did?"

Angel was silent for a moment before he answered. He wasn't sure it was his place to say this, but--he had a feeling that Cordy had a vested interest in the inner workings of Rupert Giles.

"Angel, are you still there?"

"Yeah. I'm still here." He took a deep breath. "Cordy, I never talked to Giles about what happened. I don't think he's ever spoken to *anyone* about what happened."

"What do you mean? He told Buffy what happened, didn't he?"

"No. I asked her one time if he had. She told me that when she got back, after being gone that summer, he just told her that he had been hurt and dropped the subject."

"You mean to tell me that he was tortured by Angelus, Spike *and* Drusilla and he never told anyone?" she asked incredulously.

"Cordelia, stop and think about it. Can you really see Rupert Giles telling anyone what happened? I mean, he wasn't going to tell Buffy, Willow or Xander. He doesn't have any close adult friends that he could have told this little tale to, and he certainly couldn't have told anyone on the Watcher's Council. They would have called him back England immediately. You know he wouldn't have left without knowing where Buffy was. And after she came back, he wouldn't have left her."

"But he didn't talk to anyone?" Cordelia couldn't believe it. "How did he deal with it? I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't been able to talk to you after Doyle died."

"I don't know how he dealt with it." Angel replied honestly. "Maybe he didn't. I don't know."

"Well, why didn't he talk to me about it? We've been talking for months. He's told me all sorts of things, why didn't he tell me any of this?"

"Cordelia." Angel said patiently, "You and I are friends. Giles wouldn't jeopardize that by telling you what really happened. He knows that you would be put in the position of defending me and he wouldn't want to hear it. He might even have told you he didn't *want* to hear it. That would have made things difficult for you and him. He also wouldn't have put you in the position of having to choose between us. A fact for which I am truly grateful."

"But for him to have gone through all of that alone--never telling anyone." Cordelia's heart broke for Giles. "That's just *so* not fair."

"I agree."

Cordelia could hear the guilt in Angel's voice.

"Angel, would you tell me what happened?" She asked tentatively.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Two reasons. One, it's not my place to tell you what happened to him. If he wanted you to know, he would have told you."

"And the second reason?"

"Because I'm afraid, if you knew what I did to him, you wouldn't be able to forgive me."

"Angel, I've forgiven you a lot. What makes you think I wouldn't forgive you this?"

"Because you may know that my demon did a lot of things, but it's different when you hear details. I hurt him, Cordelia. I hurt him very, very badly. I've done a lot a lot of things that I feel guilty for. But what I did to Rupert Giles is at the top of the list of things that I have to atone for. Maybe it's selfish--no, scratch that, it is selfish. But I don't want to lose another friend. I'm afraid, if you knew details, I would."

"Angel, no matter what you did. You wouldn't lose me." Cordelia insisted. "For one, I don't let go of my friends that easily. And two, I'm your seer. It's not like you can audition somebody else for this gig."

"Regardless, If you want details, you'll have to get them from Giles. But, Cordelia--?"

"Yeah?"

"Be very sure you want those details. Because if he tells you, it won't be pretty."

"I know that."

Angel sighed, "No, I don't think you do. But, if you really want to know, ask him. He might tell you."

Cordelia talked with Angel for a while longer and then ended the call. She thought about what Angel had said. If Giles hadn't talked to anyone about what happened, how was he dealing with it? Had Giles really carried all this inside him for four years? Cordelia didn't know what happened, but she remembered how he had looked. She had never seen anyone in that much pain and still be able to move. The thought that he never told anyone what happened was heartbreaking. She didn't know how he did it. The only thing that kept her sane when Doyle died was the fact she had Angel to share her pain.

* * * * *

Giles knocked on Buffy's door at precisely 7:00 pm. He had wanted to take everyone out to dinner, but Buffy insisted on cooking for him. She'd even assured him that it would be edible. As he waited for someone to answer the door, he thought about his slayer. In many ways, she was the same girl he had first met in the Sunnydale High School library. But in many, many others, she had grown into an exceptional young woman. Especially, in the time he had been in London. As hard as it had been to do, leaving *had* been the right course of action. He had thought it a mistake when he had first returned. That maybe he could have handled the situation without actually leaving. But now, he realized that everything happened just as it needed to. He could see the spark that was uniquely Buffy in her eyes more and more. It gave him a joy that he thought he'd never feel again. He had his slayer back and she was on her way to being whole. Not unscarred by her experiences, to be sure. But able to blend those experiences into the rest of her life and deal with them.

Buffy answered the door with a smile.

"Hey, Giles. Come in. Dawn's upstairs and Dinner's almost ready."

"Hello, Buffy." Giles stepped into the house and could smell the odors of cooking wafting from the kitchen. "Something smells delicious."

Buffy smiled, "Thanks. It's a recipe of Mom's. She taught me how to cook when I was younger than Dawn. I haven't had much time to do it lately. But I wanted to do something special to celebrate the fact you're back."

"Will Tara and Willow be here for dinner?"

"I'm not sure. I know Willow said she would try, but they both had late classes. It may just be you, Dawn and me. How goes the house hunting?"

"It's going well. Cordelia and I looked at several places, but there's one more I'd like to see before I make a decision."

"Why?"

"I'm not sure. Something just tell me to wait and look at this last flat before I make a decision."

"Well, I'll be glad when you've got your own place."

"Why is that?"

"It just seems strange to have you living in a hotel. It's like you could pick up and leave at any time."

"Buffy, I'm not going to leave again."

She looked away, "I know. I'm just--I'm scared I'll lose you again. I don't want to do this alone again, Giles. I can. I know that now. But I don't *want* to, ya know."

"Yes, I do know," he reassured her. "I'm here to stay Buffy. You've shown me so much since I came back. How could I leave without seeing everything you've accomplished."

"Yeah, I've really accomplished a lot." Buffy laugh held no amusement. "I work at a fast food restaurant and I can barely pay the bills."

"Yes." Giles agreed. "You do work at a fast food restaurant. And you do barely pay the bills. But the point is--you're doing it. You're doing what you have to to build a stable home for you and your sister. I admire you for that almost as much as I admire you for your slayer capabilities. You're behaving like an adult--even when you don't want to. Somewhere along the way you grew up, Buffy. I am so very proud of you for that."

Buffy blushed, "Gee, Giles. When you say it like that, you make it sound like I really did something."

"As gratifying as it is to see you blush, after all you've done it to me enough, that's not the reason I said it. You did do something, you took responsibility. You did what you didn't think you could. That is something to be proud of."

"Okay," Buffy protested, "That's it for this round of 'embarrass Buffy'. Geez, now I know how you feel when I do it to you."

"Does this mean you won't do it to me any longer?" Giles chuckled.

"Nope." Buffy grinned at him, "It just means that now I know how you feel."

Just then Dawn bounded down the stairs and gave Giles a hug.

"Hey Giles. Buffy, when do we eat?"

"In about fifteen minutes, munchkin. Think you can wait that long?"

"I guess. I'll go set the table."

Buffy turned to Giles.

"Well, while she's doing that, do you want something to drink?"

"Nothing right now. Thank you."

Giles followed Buffy into the living room.

"How are things settling down since the wedding?"

"Good. It seems like Willow has calmed down since you came back. I've been meaning to ask--again. What was that little talk about?"

"I'll tell you--again. When, and if, Willow wishes you to know, she'll tell you."

Giles looked Buffy in the eye.

"I will not break a confidence, Buffy. Not even for you. I'm sure Willow will tell you. But until that time, I cannot."

Buffy looked as though she would persist, but then changed her mind.

"Okay, I understand. I may not like it. But, I understand. Whatever you two talked about seemed to help her, though. I was getting worried about her--and for me to notice, in the state I was in, it had to be bad."

Willow and Tara came in, looking harried.

"Hey, Giles." Willow greeted him.

"Hello Willow, Tara"

"Hello, Giles." Tara said.

Dawn called from the kitchen, "Hey Buffy. Is this supposed to be smoking?"

Buffy headed towards the kitchen, "Oh, man! My pot roast is burning!"

Tara started after her, "I'll see if I can help with anything." She paused, "That'll give you two time to talk." She was out of the room before either of them could respond.

* * * * *

"So, what do we do now?" Willow asked.

"I would say that it is your move." Giles responded.

"I've got to tell them, don't I?" She wanted him to tell her no.

Giles felt badly for Willow. He knew how hard this was going to be for her--however, if she didn't face this now, it would only get worse.

"Willow, you must tell them," he insisted. "How can they help you if you don't?"

"How do I know they're going to help me?"

"You know Buffy and Tara, along with the others, will do anything in their power to help you."

"What if they don't believe me?" Willow shot back. "What if they still believe I'm addicted?"

Giles' patience was beginning to fray--just around the edges.

"Willow, are you sure the reason you're delaying telling them is because you're afraid of how they will react--or is it because you don't wish to deal with the consequences of your actions. Because make no mistake about it, these are the consequences of *your* actions."

"Who are you to judge me?" Willow exclaimed.

"I'm the man that stood in that kitchen and listened to you tell me how scared you were that you were going to lose control. That you were going to hurt one of your friends or your partner. I'm the man that you asked to help you. Now, I will help you. But you must help yourself first."

All the fight seemed to go out of Willow.

"All right," she conceded. "I'll tell them after dinner."

Buffy called to them from the dining room.

"Dinner's ready."

"Shall we?"

* * * * *

Dinner was pleasant. Giles thought it interesting that he could talk politics and Dawn, of all people, had an opinion. When asked, she replied that she was studying it in school. She had looked pleasantly surprised when he had complimented her on her knowledge of the subject.

After the dishes had been cleared and taken to the kitchen, everyone returned to the living room. Giles looked at Willow to see if she was ready. She nodded her head to let him know she was.

Willow took a deep breath, "I've got an announcement to make. I don't know how well all of you are going to take it, but I can't hide it any longer."

Tara looked concerned. "Willow, honey. What is it?"

"Yeah, Will. If you have a problem, we're here. Just tell us what you need." Buffy spoke up.

"I know that everyone has been worried about me. About the magic I've been using." Willow began, "I even know that you think I'm addicted. I'm not. But I do have a problem." She took another deep breath and strengthened her resolve. "I'm having problems controlling the magic. It's like I opened a deep well of power when I brought you back, Buffy." Willow said, still having trouble with the fact she had taken her friend out of heaven. "I am so sorry about that, Buffy."

"Will, we've been through this." Buffy said. "You couldn't have known where I was when you brought me back. I know that. I wasn't happy when I came back--that's also a known fact. *But* I'm dealing with it. Stop beating yourself up about this."

"I'm trying." Willow replied. "Anyway, the power I tapped into is scaring me."

Buffy looked puzzled, "What do you mean?"

"I mean that I've been feeling on the verge of losing control. It's like it's just under the surface and if I let go for even a moment, it will swamp me and I won't be able to stop, or control, it. I'm scared, Buffy. That's part of what Tara and I have been fighting about. There's a guy named Rack that has said he'll teach me."

"But I don't trust him." Tara interrupted.

"Yeah, she doesn't trust him." Willow continued, "The thing is, neither do I. But I didn't have anyone that could help me."

"Until now." Giles spoke at last.

Willow looked relieved, "Until now. That's what Giles and I talked about--well, part of what we talked about." Willow added sheepishly. "Anyway, he told me he would help me. Even if he had gone back to England, he intended to help me."

"Since I am staying in Sunnydale, it will be much easier to deal with Willow's problem." Giles added.

"So what can we do?" Dawn asked.

Willow smiled at her.

"Right now, there is really nothing that you can do." Giles answered. "Willow simply needed to let everyone know what is going on and for all of you to know the problem she is dealing with."

"How are you planning on helping her?" This came from Buffy.

"Well, the first step is to identify the type of power Willow is dealing with. If it is internal, we will work on ways to strengthen her control."

"If it's not internal?" Tara asked anxiously.

"Then we discover what exactly is happening and go from there."

Everyone was silent for a moment.

Buffy was the first to break the silence.

"Well, I guess Giles does his thing and if he needs us, we start researching. Or what ever else they need."

Willow looked grateful and on the verge of tears by this simple acceptance of her problem.

"I wasn't sure you would help me. I wasn't even sure if you would believe me."

"Why wouldn't we believe you. You said you need help. That's what we do--help each other. I just wish you had spoken up sooner and not carried this around for so long by yourself."

Willow hugged Buffy tightly.

Dawn stepped closer. "Hey, I can help. Just tell me what to do."

Willow reached out and hugged her as well. "Thanks, Dawnie. That means a lot."

"Man, do I have a life." Dawn giggled. "My sister comes back from the dead and her best friend is worried about controlling her magic. If I ever told anyone at school about this, they'd think I was crazy."

Willow laughed through her tears. "Don't worry, Dawn. Everything will get back to normal."

Dawn giggled again. "Willow? Normal? Us? Who are you thinking about?"

Willow chuckled. "Good point. How 'bout this? Things will get back to our normal."

"Which means only one apocalypse per year." Tara added mischievously.

At that everyone laughed.

"I hate to break this up, but I really must be returning to my hotel." Giles said. "It's getting late and it's been a long day."

"How are you getting back to your hotel?" Tara asked.

"I'll call a cab." He responded.

"I'll take you." Tara offered.

"Are you certain?"

"I'm positive. Willow, I'll take Giles and be back in a little while."

"Okay. Do you want me to go with you?" Willow asked.

"No. It won't take me that long and I know you're tired."

"All right. I'll wait up for you, though."

* * * * *

Tara was silent for most of the ride. She spoke as they neared Giles' hotel.

"Thank you for what you did for Willow."

"I didn't do anything, Tara." Giles insisted. "She recognized the problem and asked for help."

Tara took her eyes off the road for a moment before turning her attention back.

"You and I both know that's not true, Giles. Willow was headed down a road that I'm not sure she could have come back from. Especially, if she had gotten involved with Rack."

"You seem to know quite a bit about this Rack fellow."

"Giles, I know that I don't seem all that strong, emotionally. But I'm much stronger than Willow and the others know. I couldn't have survived my family if I wasn't. When I found out that she was thinking about going to Rack, I checked around. I may not have the power that Willow has, but I've got contacts that she doesn't. Everyone that I talked to said he was bad news and he wouldn't help her. Just use her and draw her so deeply into the darkness that she wouldn't be able to get out. Then he could control her. That's why I fought her so hard on going to him."

Giles looked at Tara with a new understanding.

"Yes, we have a tendency to forget that you've survived your own monsters." He murmured.

"Yes, I did. I know Willow needs help and I just want to thank you for being here for her."

Giles smiled, wondering if Willow knew just how lucky she truly was.

"You are quite welcome. I love Willow. She, Buffy and Xander are the closest thing I have to children. I would do anything to help any one of them."

"I know. I just wanted you to know I'm grateful."

"Tara--?"

"Yes?"

"I hope you know that you are included in my family now. If you need anything, you are just as welcome to come to me as any of the others."

He watched as tears filled her eyes.

"Now I know why Buffy and the others love you so much."

He just smiled.

* * * * *

The next morning, Giles and Cordelia met in the hotel dining room for breakfast.

"So, how did things go last night?" Cordelia asked.

"It was a very nice evening."

"That's good. I talked to Angel and everything is quiet at home."

"How is everyone?"

"They're fine. Angel thinks Wesley is dating someone."

"What makes him think that?"

"He said Wes has been leaving early and he seems happier."

"What do you think?"

"I think it's a little too soon."

"Why?"

"Because Wesley had it bad for Fred. He just didn't work up the nerve to say anything before Gunn did. I don't think he would get into another relationship this soon."

"Does it bother you that Wesley might have a lady friend?" Giles asked.

"No! Why would it bother me?"

"I seem to remember a time when you both were in Sunnydale that you had quite a crush on Mr. Wyndam-Pryce."

"Giles! I haven't felt that way about Wesley in years." Cordelia giggled, then sobered. "I just don't want to see him hurt again. I don't think he's dating anyone, but if he is--it's a rebound thing and he's gonna get hurt."

"And that would bother you?"

"Yes."

"Again I ask, why?"

"Because he's family. Would you want someone you love to get hurt if you could prevent it?"

"No."

"I just don't want him hurt again."

"I'm sure he'll be fine."

"I hope so." Cordelia said, sounding worried.

Giles studied Cordelia for a moment. He wasn't sure of her feelings for Wesley. She had told him several times that they were only friends, but she worried about him, sometimes more than Giles thought was appropriate for being 'just friends'. It wasn't really his concern. But a small voice inside told him that it was more of his concern than he wanted to admit. He usually ignored that small voice. It tended to get him trouble more often than not.

He changed the subject.

"So, after we have breakfast, do we look at the flat?" Giles asked.

"Yeah, we've got about an hour and a half before we have to meet the real estate agent."

"Very well. Shall we order?"

After they had ordered, they chatted until their food came. As they ate, they both thought about how comfortable they had become with one another. It wasn't something they talked about, it was simply acknowledged to themselves. Their friendship was a vital element in their lives, but neither one of them felt the need to analyze it.

They had eaten and were talking quietly when Cordelia glanced at her watch

"We need to go. We have about thirty minutes before we have to meet the real estate agent."

Giles nodded.

As Cordelia stood, Giles held her chair. She always marveled at how well-mannered he was. He held the door for her, he stood when she came into a room, he behaved the way her grandmother always said a gentleman did. She had mentioned it to him, saying that the men she dealt with didn't behave like him. He had replied that perhaps it was because he came from a different generation. She had laughed and said that couldn't be it, because she dealt with men from his "generation" and they weren't any more well-mannered than the guys her age. He then said that it must have been his mother's influence. She had drummed manners into him from an early age. She had told him that when he married, some young lady would thank her for training him.

Cordelia had laughed and said that his mother was right. Some woman would be grateful to his mother. Giles had chuckled and said that it was unlikely that he would marry. At that, Cordelia had said that she appreciated his mother's efforts so it wasn't a total loss.

She was pulled out of her reverie by Giles signing for breakfast. He turned to her and indicated that she should proceed.

As Giles followed Cordelia to the car, he was deep in thoughts of his own. He watched as men paused to stare at Cordelia as she passed. He knew that she was aware that she was a very attractive woman. He also knew there was a time in her life when she used that fact very efficiently to her advantage. He just wasn't sure if that was the case anymore. He saw a confidence in her that wasn't there in high school. She had been confident in school, but it was a confidence that could be shattered easily. What he saw in her now was a confidence that came from overcoming the trials and tribulations that life, and other things, could throw at her. Now it seemed that she was more secure in who, and what, she was. It was an amazing transformation and it had been something that he hadn't been entirely prepared for. He had been--surprised when she had insisted that he call her from England. It had done more than surprise him when he had discovered the changes that she had gone through. Added to that, the changes that Wesley and Angel had gone through. Well, suffice it to say that he had been stunned. He still had problems reconciling the Wesley of Los Angles with the Wesley of Sunnydale. But Cordelia assured him that getting fired from the Council was probably the best thing that had ever happened to Wesley. As for Angel--Giles would never be entirely comfortable around the vampire. He knew that Cordelia cared for him, but he just didn't trust him. He had made a concerted effort to overcome his dislike for Angel. He knew that Cordelia had kept Angel out of their friendship as much as possible. Giles hadn't wanted her to feel uncomfortable, so he had taken to mentioning Angel. It allowed her to tell him anything she wanted without having to censor her conversation before it passed her lips. He noticed that she talked about Angel more, but he suspected that she still didn't mention him as much as she would have normally. The fact that she was that considerate of his feelings just emphasized how much Cordelia Chase had changed since leaving Sunnydale.

* * * * *

As the approached the apartment complex, Cordelia saw the real estate agent was already waiting for them. They looked at the apartment and Cordelia had to admit that it was nice. It was a little bigger than Giles' last apartment. It had two bedrooms, instead of a loft. It was roomy and it had the added advantage of having an exercise room with hardwood floors. It was perfect.

Giles looked over the paperwork the agent had brought, in anticipation of a possible closing.

"I think that this will be quite satisfactory."

"I think you'll find everything in order. You said you could have a bank draft from your bank in London wired to the bank in Sunnydale this afternoon. Is that correct?" Ms. Lawson, the real estate agent, asked.

"Yes. I will contact my banker when I return to my hotel and have him make the necessary arrangements." Giles affirmed.

"I'll finish up the paperwork at the office and have the final papers ready for you to sign tomorrow morning," she told him. "Is that all right with you?"

Giles nodded. "That will be fine."

"If you like you can stay for awhile and look it over a little more."

"Thank you. I think we'll do that." Giles shook her hand as she headed towards the door. "I'll see you tomorrow morning?"

"Yes. Goodbye, Mr. Giles."

"Goodbye, Ms. Lawson."

* * * * *

Giles turned to Cordelia after he closed the front door.

"You haven't said much, don't you like it?"

"I think it's perfect." Cordelia said as she looked around. "You've got plenty of room and a place to help train Buffy. What could be better. I do have one question, though?"

"And what might that be?"

"Why did you need two bedrooms?"

"Oh, I don't know," He smiled at her. "I thought I just might have this friend from L.A. visit and she *might* need a place to stay."

"You got a place with two bedrooms so I can come and visit you?"

"I thought it might be an incentive if you didn't have to stay in a hotel every time you came to Sunnydale."

Cordelia just looked at him for a long moment before she turned away from him.

"Cordelia? What did I say?" Giles asked. He wasn't sure what had happened, but he didn't mean to upset her. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. "Cordelia, I hope you don't think that I intended this invitation as anything other than a gesture of friendship--." He began.

"No, Giles! No," she repeated with less force. "I know you didn't mean anything by it. I just--I don't know what to say. I've never had anyone think of me like that before."

"What do you mean?"

"I've never had anyone make a decision about something as important as where they were going to live, with me in mind. I mean, until Angel and everyone back home, I've never really had anyone care about what I was doing. My parents never really did--as long as I didn't embarrass them. Even my grandmother, as much as she loved me, didn't worry about me when she decided where to live. You're the only one that ever has."

With that simple statement, she broke Giles' heart. How could anyone have a daughter like Cordelia and allow her to grow up feeling so unloved. He made a vow, if he ever met her parents, he would make sure they knew just what they had given up. He knew that if he told her what he was feeling, she would take it as pity and that was one thing she had never had any use for. So he simply cleared his throat and said, "Well, I want you to feel welcome. After all, you're my best friend."

Cordelia simply put her arms around him and hugged him with all her strength. Which was not inconsiderable since she had been training with Angel. "I do love you, Rupert Giles." She whispered in his ear.

"That's good to know, Cordelia Chase," he chuckled. "Because I kind of like you too."

* * * * *

Cordelia glanced anxiously at the clock on the wall. It was Friday afternoon.

"Angel!" She called to him when she heard him on the stairs.

"What?" Angel said, somewhat irritably.

Cordelia looked at him.

"You sure are grouchy."

"I didn't sleep very well," he explained. "I think Connor is teething. He was up all night--er day. Anyway, what did you need?"

"I'm leaving." Cordelia informed him. "Wes, Gunn and Fred should be back anytime. If I don't leave now, I'll never get to Sunnydale before dark. Call me paranoid, but I don't like driving into Sunnydale after dark."

"Okay. Do you have your cell phone?"

"Yes, Dad." Cordelia grinned at him.

He smiled back, "That's Granddad to you." He looked thoughtful for a moment, "actually, you could put a few greats in front of that." Then he looked pained. "I don't want to think about how many, though. It makes my head hurt."

"Anyway, I've got it. It's charged up and everything. I'm not the one that's technologically challenged, remember?"

"Call when you get there." Angel said, ignoring the last comment.

"Angel." Cordelia said in exasperation. "I'm just going to visit Giles."

"Cordelia. Humor me. Call when you get there."

"Geez, you're as bad as Giles. He always makes me promise to call *there* when I get *here*."

Angel shrugged, "We worry."

"Well, I'm gone. Tell Wes and the others that I'll be back Monday."

"Have a good time."

"I plan to." She threw over her shoulder.

* * * * *

Cordelia passed the Sunnydale city limit sign just as the sun was setting. She hadn't been for a visit in two months. Things had been so hectic. The visions would have been too much to handle if she had still been fully human. As it was, they still exhausted her. Things had been quiet for about three days so she had told Angel she was going to visit Giles. She *had* talked to Giles on the phone. She had also had lunch with him several times. The job at the museum had come through and he seemed to be settling in. Things also seemed to be going well with the Scooby Gang. She was thankful for that. She was enjoying having Giles on this continent. If he had had problems with Buffy or any of the others, he would have went back to England. But so far, everything seemed to be going okay. She smiled as she thought about the last lunch she had with him. He was so excited about an artifact that had come in. He told her about it's origins and it's history. He had been like a kid in a candy store. She, nor any of the others, for that matter, had truly realized how much he had missed his work. Being a watcher was his calling. It was what he had trained his whole life for. But he had also trained and educated himself for the work he did at the museum. Plus, he was recognized for the expert he was. When he had first come to Sunnydale, he was just the "librarian". He didn't get a lot of respect in that position--from either the kids or the adults around him. Now, he was given the opportunity to put his education to use. People sought out his opinion and advice. That had to be a thrill for him.

She stepped out of the car just as he opened his door. She got her bag out of the trunk as he spoke.

"Hello, Cordelia."

She noticed that he didn't invite her in. Living on the hellmouth tended to make some basic manners life threatening. He stepped aside to let her pass.

"Hey, Giles. Sorry I couldn't get here any sooner."

"That's quite all right. I was getting a little worried, but I called and Angel said you didn't leave L.A. until after five."

"Yeah. I wanted to get here earlier, but every time I got ready to leave, something would happen."

"Well, as luck would have it, you arrived just in time for dinner. Have you eaten?"

"Nope. And I'm starved."

"Well, put your things in your room and I'll set the table."

It still gave her a little thrill when he called it her room. It made her feel welcome in a way she couldn't explain. She unpacked her suitcase and put away her things. She loved coming to visit Giles. It was almost like he was her safe harbor. She could say anything and he wouldn't take it the wrong way. Also, when she was here, he made her feel as though she was wanted. Other than the people in L.A. she had always had to work for that. Giles gave it unconditionally. Not for the first time, she thought about what an amazing man he really was.

"Cordelia, dinner is ready."

"Coming."

* * * * *

She smelled tantalizing aroma of roasted chicken when she stepped out of her room. Her mouth began to water as she realized just how long it had been since--breakfast? She thought for a moment. Yep. Breakfast. She had skipped lunch in order to finish up some things that needed to be done before she left.

"This smell great. You know, one of these days you're going to make someone a great wife." Cordelia teased.

"I'll take that as a compliment." Giles laughed. "Whether that's the way it was intended or not."

"Oh, as long as you feed me--it's meant as a compliment."

"So does that mean you'll never feed me?" he asked.

"I'll feed you, as long as there's a restaurant close by. You know I can't cook. Have you forgotten when I tried to cook you dinner the one time you stayed overnight in L.A.?"

"No, I haven't forgotten. I still haven't figured out what was on my plate." He dodged her as she swatted at him.

"Hey, it just so happens that my talents lie in other areas."

"I understand. Your talent lies in the eating, not the cooking, of food?"

"See, I knew you'd figure it out eventually. You're smart guy--I don't care what anyone else says." She said with a grin.

He put his finger to his lips, "Shh--Don't spread that around, I have a reputation to protect."

She crossed her heart, "My lips are sealed," she crossed her heart. "I won't tell a soul."

"See that you don't."

They grinned at each other.

* * * * *

The meal consisted of roast chicken, broccoli with a cheese sauce and baked potatoes with a white wine. Cordelia ate with an appreciation of a meal well-prepared. Giles really was a good cook. He finished it all off with a slice of chocolate cake.

"Chocolate Cake? That's my favorite." Cordelia exclaimed.

"Yes, I know. I can't take credit for it, I got it from a bakery today. Would you like coffee to go with that?" Giles asked her.

"Yes, please. You spoil me, Giles."

"Why? Because I remembered chocolate cake is your favorite. It happens to be my favorite as well. So I succeeded in spoiling both of us."

"Thank you for a great meal."

"You're very welcome. Would you like to go into the living room to eat our dessert?"

"That would be nice."

He put both slices of cake and both cups of coffee on a tray and gestured with his shoulder that she should walk in front of him.

"Shall we?" He asked.

She went into the living room and sat down on the sofa. She made room on the coffee table for the tray and waited for him to sit down.

"How was your week?" She asked as she picked up her cake.

"It went rather well, actually." Giles said as he picked up his plate. "We had several interesting exhibits come in and I spent a considerable portion of my time squaring those away."

"I know you told me earlier this week that you were taking some time off next week." Cordelia took a sip of her coffee. "Are you still planning to do that?"

"Yes. I will probably take all of next week. I'm not sure how long my project will take me so I simply told Robert, the curator, I would be taking the entire week."

"Well, that's why you took the consulting position, so you could have a flexible schedule."

"Yes, well. He has been quite gracious about it, regardless."

"That's because he knows he's got a good thing in you. If you were getting paid what you were worth, he wouldn't be able to afford you and he knows it."

"I don't know about that--but I'm relieved to be able to take the time I need without having to make lengthy and, sometimes, unbelievable excuses. I simply tell him I need the time off and he works it out. It makes things easier."

Cordelia knew that he was helping Willow with something. More from things Willow had let slip than anything Giles had said. He was very good at keeping a secret

Giles finished his coffee and gathered the empty plates and cups and put them on the tray. He spoke as he took them to the kitchen.

"It's late. How do you feel about retiring for the night and we'll get an early start tomorrow morning?"

"Sounds good to me. I'm tired anyway."

"Very well. Tomorrow morning we'll plan our weekend."

"Okay. Do you need any help with the dishes?"

"No. I will put these in the dishwasher and start it. Everything else was cleaned earlier."

"Okay, I'll see you in the morning. Good night, Giles."

"Good night, Cordelia. Sleep well."

* * * * *

Cordelia woke up the next morning with the sun streaming into the window by her bed. She looked at her clock and saw it was 7:30. She got up and put on a robe over her boxers and t-shirt. As she left her room, she heard music coming from the training room down the hall. She opened the door and saw Giles, wearing only a pair of sweat pants, working out on the heavy bag. "Sweet Home Alabama" was playing on the stereo in the corner.

"Lynard Skynard, Giles? When did you start listening to them?"

"I'll have you know, I've listened to this band for years. Freebird is one of my favorite songs. Besides, you'd be surprised at some of the music I listen to." Giles said as he reached for a towel to wipe the sweat from his face and chest. When he reached for his t-shirt, Cordelia grinned at him.

"Don't bother on my account. Who knew watchers had such good bods?"

"I'm not sure I qualify for that category." Giles' grin was rueful. "I'm afraid my 'bod', as you put it, has seen more than it's share of abuse."

"Don't kid yourself." Cordelia's gaze was appreciative. "I've seen guys half your age that didn't have as good a body."

Giles blushed and ran his hand through his damp hair. Before he could come up with a reply, however, Cordelia continued.

"I didn't know you were working out."

"I try to find the time every day. If you'll give me a few moments, I'll clean up and we can have breakfast."

Cordelia tilted her head to the side in a thoughtful pose.

"I've got a better idea. How 'bout you give *me* a few minutes and we'll work out together."

"I don't know--?"

"What's the matter?" Cordelia said with a sly smile "You afraid I'll take you?"

Giles got a wicked gleam in his eye.

"I'll just wait here for you." He said.

"I'll be right back." Cordelia hurried out of the room. She had been training with Angel but she had never worked out with Giles before. She quickly changed into sweats. When she returned, Giles had put on his t-shirt.

"Hey! I told you not to bother."

"I wouldn't want to distract you." Giles explained in mock-seriousness. "It wouldn't do for you to yell foul when I defeat you. I'm not giving you any excuses."

"Okay, buster. You're in for it now." Cordelia threatened him playfully.

They circled each other on the mats Giles had placed on the floor when he had prepared the room for Buffy's training. As he watched Cordelia for an opening, he couldn't help but notice that she moved with a grace and authority that spoke of training and confidence. He suddenly began to wonder if this would be as easy as he had first thought.

As for Cordelia, she watched Giles and had to admit to herself. He really was in fantastic shape. He also moved like a man who knew what he was doing. Of course, he should. He had been training a slayer for six years. *And*, considering he's the one that taught Buffy those nifty fighting techniques, he should be able to handle himself.

Suddenly Giles feinted to her right and, when she made a move to counter, he reversed direction and came at her from the left. She didn't have time to adjust and he had her down on the mat before she could blink. He straddled her and smirked.

"That wasn't very hard."

She relaxed underneath him and when he did the same, she scissored her legs up and around him before he could react. The next thing he knew, he was lying flat on his back and she was the one standing over him, grinning.

He sat up slowly. "Where did you learn to do that?"

"Well, Angel taught me some moves. But that one, you know the one that put you on your back, that one came from gymnastics. My mom put me in classes when I was seven years old. Three years on the varsity cheer squad didn't hurt either." She grinned at him.

He got to his feet and stared at her. Just stared at her. Cordelia began to fidget. She didn't like that look in his eyes. She told him so.

"I don't like that look."

"And what look might that be?" Giles asked in a polite tone.

"The look that says paybacks are a bitch."

"Why ever would I be giving you a look like that?" Giles inquired innocently.

"Don't even try it, Mister." Cordelia warned. "I know that look and that look means you're up to no good."

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about. I simply wish to continue our workout."

Cordelia knew she should call it quits now. But that would have been admitting that she didn't think she could beat him.

An hour later, she was wishing she had. She was laying on the mat, trying to catch her breath and looked up at him.

"You know, that's just mean." Cordelia said as she sat up.

"What? That I didn't let you win?"

"Yeah. I'm a guest in your home. You're supposed to let me win."

"I'm sorry, Cordelia. I didn't think. You're the one that keeps telling me my flat feels like home to you. Minus Dennis, of course."

She let him help her to her feet.

"Besides," he continued, "I had to work for it. I think the only person that's ever given me a harder workout is Buffy."

She perked up at that admission, "Really?!?"

He smiled, "Really."

"Okay, I don't feel so bad now. If I can kick your butt almost as good as the slayer, I'm happy."

"I'm so glad." he said dryly.

"Well, I'm gonna go take a shower and get ready for breakfast. Are we eating here?"

"No, I thought we would go out."

"I'll go get ready."

"Very well, I'll just clean up in here."

She nodded as she headed out the door.

"Oh, and save me some hot water." He called after her.

"I'll think about it."

He laughed as he set about cleaning the workout room.

* * * * *

As Cordelia drove to L.A. Monday morning, she thought back on the weekend. Their sparring session Saturday morning had been the start of a great couple of days. She hadn't felt this relaxed in ages. TPTB had even given her a break and she hadn't had a vision all weekend. She turned on the radio and smiled as "Sweet Home Alabama" came on. She sang along as she sat in the morning traffic. She grinned to herself, it really had been a *great* weekend.

* * * * *

Giles watched Willow closely as she drifted deeper into a trance using the meditation techniques he had taught her. The power she had felt inside had been entirely within her. There wasn't anything, or anyone, using her as a "conductor", if you will. That information had set Giles' mind at ease. Now, the task before him was to teach her how to control the considerable power she wielded. As long as she controlled it, and not it controlling her, he felt she had a good chance of not being lost to the darkness that magic could bring if used improperly. She had caught a glimpse of what it could be like for her when she had resurrected Buffy. On one hand she had tasted power like she had never known before. But on the other, she knew that power could, and would, destroy everything and everyone she cared about. What tipped the scales, and made the power she *could* have not enough, was the risk to the people she loved. What she hadn't counted on was the fact that by bringing Buffy back, she opened the door. Once she did that, she didn't know how to close it.

That was what Giles was attempting to teach her now. The meditation techniques were just one of the tools he was showing her. He was also teaching her spells she would be able to use to tell if someone was trying to tap into her power. Because, like it or not, that was a very real threat now. When he had gotten a taste of the power she held, it had frightened him. He had never dealt with any single person with this much power. Even when they had summoned Eyghon it had taken the combined powers of several people to do it. Willow would be able to accomplish that by herself. It was a frightening thought. He had contacted a coven in Devon for help. They had a great deal of knowledge, not to mention power, and he wanted their input on how to deal with this. He had told Willow before contacting them and she hadn't minded. In fact her exact words were, "Giles, if I lose control they'll probably know about it anyway." He couldn't argue with that logic, so he had contacted them. They had concurred with his course of action in teaching her meditation and the spells. But they had wanted to go one step further and put a spell on her that would monitor her use of magic. Willow had objected, saying she didn't want anyone spying on her. Since she *had* come to him for help, he had to agree with her. With the provision that if he saw her doing anything *he* considered dangerous or ill-advised, he could put the monitoring spell on her. Willow had agreed to that. The coven had backed off for the moment and simply offered any assistance he thought he might need. That had alleviated some of his concerns. Because, truth be told, he wasn't sure he could defeat Willow if she did lose control. He wasn't sure she knew just how strong she was. Which might turn out to be a good thing. She might not be so determined to control it if she knew just how much power she had *to* control.

Willow's breathing began to get shallower. She opened her eyes as she came out of the trance and smiled at him.

"That's getting easier to do."

"I told you it would be."

"I know, but the first time I tried it, my mind was in such a mess I didn't think I would be able to clear it enough to be able to do it."

"How do you feel?"

"Better. Every time I do it, it makes me feel more in control."

"That's very good." Giles congratulated her. "Just remember, you must practice and remain vigilant."

"I will." She paused, "Giles?"

"Yes, Willow?"

"I've said this before, but I want to say it again. Thanks for all your help."

"Willow, I would never refuse to help you. You are as dear to me as if you were my child. You, along with Buffy and Xander, *are* my children."

She smiled widely, "Don't you wish your children didn't cause you quite so many problems?" she quipped.

"Oh, I don't know. My mother used to tell me that the time-honored prayer of parents the world over, was that your children be just like you. I think you three have succeeded even beyond her wildest expectations." He laughed.

Willow looked at him strangely for a moment, "I don't know about Buffy and Xander. But I would consider it a compliment if someone told me that I was like you."

Giles blushed, "Yes, uh--well." He stammered.

Willow giggled, "I think I'm being more like Buffy now. I'm actually making you blush."

Giles tried to look stern, "You don't have to sound so pleased about it, you know."

Willow just giggled more.

As Giles was about to retort, the phone rang. Giles was still glaring at Willow as he moved to answer it.

"Hello?"

"Giles? It me, Angel."

Giles stiffened at the sound of the vampire's voice.

"Angel. What can I do for you?"

The silence from Angel went on so long that Giles was about to see if they had been disconnected. Then Angel spoke.

"Giles--I don't know how to say this."

Giles felt a knot of fear in the pit of his stomach.

"Just say it, Man!" He said.

Still Angel hesitated.

"It's about Cordelia." Angel's tone was soft.

At that quiet statement, Giles felt the fear surge through him.

"What do you mean? What has happened to Cordelia?" He asked in a low voice.

At the mention of Cordelia's name, Willow stood and crossed the room to stand by Giles. She shivered at the tone of Giles' voice.

Angel still hadn't answered Giles' question.

"I'll ask again. What. Has. Happened. To. Cordelia?" Giles enunciated each word carefully. If Willow thought the tone of Giles' voice was scary the first time. The tone he used when he asked the second time was downright terrifying.

Apparently, Angel thought so too.

"Giles, calm down." That was entirely the wrong thing to say.

"Do *Not* tell me to calm down. You call my home and say 'it's about Cordelia' in a ominous voice and you expect me to react calmly?"

"She's going to be all right." Angel assured him. "She had a run in with a demon and she's in the hospital."

"What happened?" Giles asked.

"Apparently she had a vision about some kids and she couldn't find any of us." Angel answered.

"Let me guess. She couldn't find her Champion and his band of merry men, so she decided to protect the children herself." Giles snapped.

Angel wanted to snap back. He would have, except he could hear the fear underneath the anger in Giles' voice.

"She's going to be fine." He said once again.

"If there is nothing to worry about, why are you calling me?" Giles ground out.

"I'm calling because Cordy asked me to."

"Cordelia asked you to call me?"

"Yes. She said you talk every Wednesday and she didn't want you to worry when you called her apartment and no one answered."

"Tell her I'll be there in two hours." Giles said.

"Giles, there's really no--." Angel started to say.

"I said," Giles interrupted in a frigid tone. "Tell her I'll be there in two hours."

Angel sighed. "Okay, I'll tell her."

"Good." Giles paused, "Angel?"

"Yes?"

"Thank whatever deity you might have cause to pray to that she wasn't badly hurt--or worse. Because if she had been--the flaming baseball bat would have been only the beginning." Giles paused to let that sink in. "Do we understand one another?"

Angel didn't know what to say for a moment. Did Giles just threaten him? Yeah, he'd say that statement classified as a threat.

"Yes. We understand one another." Angel said. Not mentioning that if anything happened to Cordelia, Giles wouldn't need the baseball bat.

"I'm so glad. Tell Cordelia I'm coming."

"I will."

Giles hung up the phone and turned to Willow.

"Willow, I am very sorry, but I must cut our training session short."

"That's okay, Giles," she told him.

"Thank you. I'll call Buffy and let her know what is happening. Would you let the others know. Just tell them I'm going to Los Angles. I don't want to alarm them until I have a chance to survey the situation."

"Okay. And Giles--?"

"Yes?" Giles answered, somewhat distractedly. His mind already in Los Angles.

"I'm sure she'll be all right."

"I'll call you when I know something more."

Willow prepared to leave as Giles called Buffy.

"Buffy?"

"Hey, Giles. What's up?"

"I have to go to L.A." Giles informed her. "I'm sorry, I won't be able to come to dinner tonight as we had planned."

"That's alright. Did the museum call you or something?" Buffy asked curiously.

"No. Angel just called and told me that Cordelia is in the hospital. Apparently she had a run in with a demon and it was serious enough to warrant a hospital stay."

"Whoa, is she gonna be okay?"

"Angel says she will be fine. But I prefer to see for myself."

"Uh, Giles?" Buffy began uncertainly. "Are *you* gonna be okay?"

"I'm fine. I'm not the one in the hospital."

"I know that. But you sound kind of shook up. Will you be able to drive?"

"I said I'm fine!" Giles reined in his temper with considerable effort. "I'm sorry Buffy. You didn't deserve that. I will be careful. However, not going is not an option."

"Would you at least call when you get there?" Buffy asked, sounding worried.

"If it will set your mind at ease."

"It will."

"Then I will call and let you know I arrived and what Cordelia's condition is."

"Giles, I'm sure if Angel--." She didn't get any further.

"Buffy. Do not defend him. I have overlooked many things where he is concerned because I know how much both you and Cordelia care about him. But she was doing his job. He is the one working for redemption. Not her. She got hurt because she couldn't find him and that's inexcusable. Nothing he can say or do will make it right." Giles was not in the mood to hear his slayer expound the virtues of the vampire to him.

"okaaay," Buffy said slowly, "I wasn't going to defend him. I don't know what happened so I can't really do that. What I *was* going to say was, if he said she'll be okay, I'm sure she will be."

"I wish to see that for myself."

"Well, be careful and let me know what's going on."

"I'll do that. I really must go." Giles' mind was already in L.A. "I have to pack a few things and I told Angel to tell Cordelia I would be there in two hours."

"Tell Cordy I hope she gets better." That sounded lame to Buffy, but she really didn't know what to say.

Giles took the sentiment at face value and told her he would tell Cordelia. He hung up the phone and prepared to go to L.A. No matter what Angel said, he wouldn't feel confident in Cordelia's well-being until he saw her for himself.

Willow let herself out as Giles was hanging up with Buffy. She hadn't seen Giles that upset for awhile. Actually since Buffy died. She wondered if Cordy knew how Giles felt about her. Hell, she wondered if *Giles* knew how Giles felt about Cordelia. She thought about it for a minute. Then shook her head, nope, probably not. Another thing she had noticed about Giles. He could lie to himself really well when he tried. She shrugged and headed to Buffy's house.

* * * * *

When Willow got home, she found Buffy sitting in the living room.

"Hey, Buff." Willow said as she closed the front door.

"Hi, Will." She paused, "You were at Giles' when Angel called, weren't you?"

"Yeah."

"Was he all right?" Buffy asked. "He sounded--I don't know, really shook up."

Willow hesitated, "Buffy, I haven't heard Giles that upset since you died." They had quit tiptoeing around that particular issue. It did no good and just made things awkward.

"I know, I mean I wasn't here when I died. But I can imagine how he was. I was his slayer and he watched me die. That's what has me worried. If he's this upset, will he be okay?"

"I think he will be once he sees Cordy and knows she'll be fine."

"Do you think so?"

"Yeah, I do." Willowed reassured her. "I think he's scared and being scared makes your watcher mad."

"I hope so. I mean the part about him being okay." Buffy said with a sheepish grin. "Not the part about him being scared."

Willow laughed. "I know what you meant. I taught you how to babble, remember?"

Buffy laughed. "Yeah, I didn't know I had it in me, until you came along."

"Do you think there's something going on between Giles and Cordelia? Not that I really care, she's been good for him." Buffy shook her head ruefully, "I never thought I'd say that about Cordelia Chase."

"Me neither. But you're right, she has been good for him. As for something between them, I'm not sure even they know. I think they're still telling themselves it's just friendship. But--I think, given the chance, there would be more."

"I think so too. You know if that happens, we'll have to be supportive. Especially me."

"Will that be a problem?"

Buffy thought about it for a minute, "No, I don't think so."

"Why?" Willow asked out of curosity.

"Because of two reasons. One, she makes him happy. Even I can see that. When she comes for a weekend, just to hang out, he always seems to be in a better mood after she leaves."

"And the second reason?"

"I know she's the reason I have him back. If she hadn't talked him into calling me, he would probably still be in England. I'll never be able to repay her for that. That also tells me how much she's changed. I think it's time I got past all the high school stuff--way past time."

"I think maybe we all need to." Willow agreed. "We all talk about how grown up we are, but I think we still have a little resentment towards her for how she was. But from everything I've seen, she's not that way anymore. And Giles will tell you that--a lot." Willow finished with a small smile.

"Yep." Buffy nodded. "He's very protective of her. Which is one more reason why I think he feels more for her then he's saying."

"I'm not sure he's even admitted it to himself, Buff."

"I know. Sometimes my uptight watcher has to be hit upside the head to get him to notice something besides demons and vampires" Buffy took a deep breath. "Well, enough about Giles and Cordelia. Come on, you can help me with dinner."

Buffy and Willow headed for the kitchen. Both hoping things worked out for Giles and Cordelia.

* * * * *

Giles made it to L.A. in an hour and a half. He pulled up in front of the Los Angeles Community Hospital. He sat for a moment to collect himself and to find some semblance of calm before he saw Cordelia. Rarely had he been as frightened as he was when Angel had said that Cordelia had been attacked. He still felt that Angel should be drawn and quartered for allowing this to happen. But, he also knew that he couldn't say that to Cordelia. She would defend the vampire and he didn't know if he could keep quiet right now. The best course of action would be to avoid the subject as much as possible. He stepped out of the car and took a deep breath before walking toward the entrance doors.

* * * * *

He approached the nurse at the main desk, "I'm here to see Cordelia Chase. Would you tell me what room she is in?"

The nurse checked her computer for a moment before answering.

"She is in room 316."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

As Giles made his way to the third floor, he became increasingly worried. Angel had said that Cordelia was well, but what if she wasn't? What if--. He stopped himself. 'What' if did not help the situation. He could 'what' if to himself all day. The only thing that would make him feel better would be to see for himself that she was safe. He found her room and knocked quietly on the door. Wesley opened the door and gestured him in.

"Hello, Giles." Wesley greeted him.

"Hello, Wesley." Giles returned the greeting.

"You know, you two don't have to whisper." Cordelia said in a petulant voice. "I'm not asleep. Like I could sleep in this place. Every time I doze off somebody comes in here to poke, prod or take blood," she complained. "I swear, I think they have vampires in the basement. They need more blood than Angel."

Giles moved into the room to see Cordelia propped up in a hospital bed with a young woman with long brown hair and a young black man standing next to her.

He stood for a long moment just looking at her. He was so grateful that she was doing as well as Angel had said. But at the same time he was furious at her for putting herself in this position. He pushed the gratefulness aside for the moment and went with the fury.

"Have you lost your bloody mind." He said with all the pent up anger and worry that was inside him.

"Hey--!" Gunn started to interrupt but Fred poked him in the side and hushed him. Wesley was still standing behind Giles, so neither he nor Cordelia could see his reaction clearly. He was smiling. Here was someone that Cordelia couldn't tease, threaten or bribe her way out of with. He looked forward to the show.

For her part, Cordelia looked a little stunned and more than a little mad.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"What were you thinking?" Giles said. "Going off without letting anyone know where you were."

"I did let someone know where I was." Cordelia defended herself. "I left a note."

"Wonderful!" Giles ran an agitated hand through his hair. "That's just bloody wonderful. She leaves a damn note and expects that to make everything right." He muttered, half to himself.

"Hold on just a minute, buster!" Cordelia said, her anger starting to overcome the shock of him ranting at her. "I said I left a note. What was I supposed to do?"

"You were supposed to wait for someone to come and help you." Giles answered angrily. "Not run off and play hero."

"I didn't just run off and play 'hero'." Cordelia shot back. "I saw those kids in trouble and I knew if I waited they would die. I didn't have a choice."

"There's always a choice, Cordelia." Giles contradicted her. "What would have happened if that demon had killed you? There would have been no one to protect those children you say you were thinking of." He stopped for a moment, suddenly unable to go on.

"What if you had been killed, Cordelia?" he continued in a softer tone. "What if the phone call I had gotten from Angel would have been to inform me of your funeral arrangements?" He finished in an anguished tone.

Gunn and Wesley had been about to step in to keep this from escalating. But they both held back at that quietly asked question. Everyone at Angel Investigations knew that Giles and Cordelia were friends, but they didn't know just how deeply Giles felt about their Seer. They had all been worried about her. But, looking at Giles, they could see that he had been scared to death for her. The fact that he had had to wait two hours to see her, to know for himself she was all right, must have been even harder.

They weren't the only ones brought up short by that last tortured question. Cordelia had been about to let him have it with both barrels. But how could she, when she saw how scared he was.

"Giles? Giles, come over here, please?" She asked.

He composed himself and moved to the bed. He started to sit in the chair by the bed, but she patted the empty spot on the bed.

"Sit here."

He sat down and took off his glasses and began to clean them. That only softened her heart more. That was one of his nervous gestures. He did that when he was uncomfortable, scared or didn't know what to say.

"Giles? Please look at me."

He raised his head and she was amazed to see unshed tears there.

She turned to Wesley, Gunn and Fred.

"Would you give us a little time alone?"

Wesley nodded and led Fred and Gunn out. He looked back one last time and wondered if Giles knew just how far gone he was.

"Giles, I'm sorry." Cordelia apologized.

"No." Giles told her. "I shouldn't have come in here and yelled at you like that. But--." He broke off.

"But you were worried about me." Cordelia finished for him.

"No, Cordelia." Giles corrected her, "I was terrified."

"But Angel told you I was okay."

"I know that. And the rational part of my mind tells me I'm acting like an idiot. But--when he told me you had been attacked all I could think of was I was going to lose you."

Cordelia didn't know what to say. She had assumed that Giles would come, visit, and tell her to be more careful. She never expected him to be so worried.

"Giles, I know that you were worried about me. I understand that. Hell, I worry about you. You're the watcher to the active slayer for God's sake. That automatically puts you in danger. I expect to get a call from Buffy any time telling me that you took one too many shots to the head and you're not among the living anymore. I don't like it, but I accept it. I know that you wouldn't be who you are if you didn't have Buffy and your responsibilities to her."

"Yes, but--"

"Nope," she stopped him. "You don't get to interrupt. Now, here's what you have to understand. I will try my best not to put myself in dangerous situations. Come on, do you really think I want to put myself right in the middle of the action? But I won't just tell Angel the visions then sit in the office while everyone else risks their lives. I won't do that. And I can't turn my back on someone in my vision just because there's no one to call. If it comes down to me or no one. It's always going to be me. That's just how it is. Can you live with that?"

Giles took a deep, shuddering breath. He knew that she was right. She could no more let someone be injured or die to save herself than he could. It was one of the things that made him admire her so. But the thought of her being the one injured or dying. That scared him to the very marrow of his being. However, he was even more afraid of losing her because he couldn't accept who and what she was. He took another deep breath.

"I don't suppose I have much of a choice, do I?" He said with a small, somewhat sad smile.

"Not really." She answered him. She released pent-up breath. She didn't know what she would have done if his answer had been different. She didn't want to lose him--that was the last thing she wanted. But she couldn't back down on this. It was too important, both to her and to their relationship. He had to trust her and trust in the fact that she knew how to take care of herself.

"Are we okay?" She asked in a quiet voice.

He smiled, "We are, and have always been, much more than okay."

"Just checking." She blessed him with a thousand watt smile.

"Would you like me to invite your friends back in?"

"Yeah, I want them to see you've calmed down and are not acting like psycho-guy."

"I was not acting like 'psycho-guy' as you say. I was merely expressing my concern." Giles protested.

"Yes, expressing your concern at the top of your lungs. Admit it, you were worried about me and you totally forgot to do your stiff-upper lip thing." Cordelia teased.

"If that's the way you feel about it, perhaps I should leave." Giles baited her.

"Don't you dare think about leaving. I've got you here, I'm taking advantage." She stopped,

"Wait, that came out wrong."

"So you want to take advantage of me, do you?" Giles said, conveniently ignoring the last part of her statement.

Cordelia started to protest, but then she got a sly look in her eyes.

"Does that mean that you'll let me take advantage of you?"

Now it was Giles' turn to protest. But before he could get the chance, Wesley knocked on the door.

He stuck his head in, "I've been elected to see if there has been any bloodshed. Since I can see there is no physical damage to you two, other than what was done to Cordelia before, I will let the others know you've resolved your quarrel peacefully."

"Wes, you can come in. Bring Gunn and Fred with you. Giles had calmed down and seen the error of his ways." Cordelia said.

"Oh, he has, has he?" Giles said, raising one eyebrow.

"Well, you've stopped disagreeing with me. That means you've seen the error of your ways." Cordelia said cheekily.

Once again, Giles was stopped from replying by the door opening.

Fred, Gunn and Wesley walked back in.

Gunn walked over to Cordelia.

"Hey, girl. You okay?" He asked casting a glance in Giles' direction.

"I'm fine. He got it out of his system and now he's over it."

"We had to keep a nurse from coming in here. She said she heard you two all the way at the desk." Fred chimed in.

Giles managed to look somewhat sheepish at that statement. Cordelia just looked at him.

"What?" He asked, irritably.

"Don't get snippy with me. It's not my fault you barged in here, not thinking about where you were."

"Actually, in a way, it was." He returned.

Wesley interrupted before the argument could begin anew.

"Before this escalates once more. I think I should remind everyone," he looked pointedly at Giles and Cordelia. "That we *are* in a hospital and as such, we should keep our voices down."

"Yes, you're quite right." Giles agreed.

Wesley turned to Cordelia.

"I've spoken to your doctor and he says he will release you on the condition there is someone at home who can look after you. He was also amazed at your recuperative abilities. He said he had never seen someone heal as quickly as you have."

"How did you explain it?" Cordelia asked curiously? That *was* one of the side benefits of being part-demon. She healed almost as fast as a slayer.

"I simply told him that your family was quite gifted in that regard. I couldn't very well tell him you were part-demon and that was the reason, now could I?" He finished with a grin.

"I don't know why not, you told me the other day you needed a vacation." She giggled.

"But not in the psychiatric ward." Wesley laughed.

"Well, I tried. Don't blame me if you don't get one." Cordelia said loftily.

Wesley just laughed.

Giles watched the interaction between the two of them. They were more comfortable with each other than when they were in Sunnydale. Cordelia no longer had stars in her eyes and she treated Wesley with great affection. As for Wesley, he no longer assumed that his way was the only way. He seemed to hold Cordelia in high regard. Perhaps being fired from the Council had been a blessing in disguise for the young man. "But are they in love?" The small voice inside him asked. He *really* wished that small voice would just shut up. It kept asking questions he didn't really want the answers to. He shook himself out of his reverie.

"Back to the matter at hand. The doctor said she could return home if someone were to look after her?" Giles asked.

"Yes. I told him that one of us would do it."

"No you won't." Cordelia interrupted. "I don't need a babysitter. Besides, I've got Dennis."

"Cordelia--." Wesley began.

But Giles was just a bit faster with his argument.

"Cordelia, really. I don't believe a ghost is what the doctor had in mind when he said someone must take care of you."

"I don't care." Cordelia insisted. "I'm not going to have someone hovering over me. It's gonna be bad enough when I get back to the office and Angel gets his crack at it. I'm not having it at home, too."

"You very well will 'have it at home' because if you do not I will tell the doctor to keep you here." Giles told her..

Cordelia was speechless, for about a split second.

"You wouldn't dare."

"Just watch me."

"But, but…" she sputtered.

"However," he interrupted the beginnings of her tirade. She was quite good at them if he remember correctly….and he did. "I have a solution. I can stay with you for a few days until you are feeling better."

"You can't stay with me. You have a life in Sunnydale, remember?" She shot back.

"You are correct. I do have a life in Sunnydale. But, that life will still be there if I stay a few days in Los Angeles. You have two choices, Cordelia. The hospital or me. Choose." He said with steel in his voice.

Cordelia was furious, but she also realized that he *would* tell the doctors to keep her here if she didn't agree.

"I choose you. But remember one thing, Giles. I won't forget this." She replied in an ominous tone.

"I know you won't." He said softly. He was very much afraid they had gotten over one bump only to run into a mountain. Running roughshod over this woman was not the way to get on her good side. His only defense was, he knew she would be able to convince the others she was fine. When, no matter how quickly she healed, it was obvious she was not. He had seen her wince and try to shift into a more comfortable position when she thought no one was looking.

The other three occupants of the room had been observing the exchange with all the fascination you reserve for watching a train wreck. They had never seen anyone get the better of Cordelia like that before. They also didn't want to be in Giles' shoes when she got him alone. He was in for it. Fred broke the silence first.

"Um, Cordelia? Would you like me to tell the doctor there's someone to take care of you at home?"

"Yes, Fred. Thank you for asking." She looked pointedly at Giles.

"I'll go with you." Gunn moved to Fred's side.

Wesley hesitated for a moment before he spoke.

"Giles, may I speak to you outside for a moment?"

Giles looked surprised.

"Of course."

He followed Wesley outside Cordelia's room.

"What did you need to speak to me about, Wesley?"

"I wanted to tell you…" Now that he had him out here, Wesley wasn't sure how to say what he wanted to.

"Want to tell me what?" Giles prompted.

"You can't just run over Cordelia that way. She won't allow it." Wesley blurted out.

"I don't see that I had much choice. It seemed the three of you would have let her go home alone." Giles replied coldly.

Wesley tried to hold onto his own temper. He would make certain allowances for Rupert Giles. But, he would not allow him to insinuate they didn't care about Cordelia's well-being.

"We weren't given the opportunity to say, or do, anything. You made your decisions and put them into action before we were allowed to say a word. Wait a moment." Wesley put up his hand to forestall Giles' next comment. "I understand you were worried. I understand that and we will make allowances for it. However, *do not* imply that we do not care about the woman in that hospital room. We are the closest thing to family any of us have. We would die for each other. I will not permit you to act as though we do not care."

Giles was taken aback by the vehemence in Wesley's voice. He was also ashamed. He knew these people cared about one another. He knew that even Angel was considered a part of this family and that they had gone to great lengths to protect one another. There was no excuse for his words.

"I apologize. You are right. You would have never allowed Cordelia to endanger herself in any fashion if you could prevent it. I had no right to imply otherwise. Once again, I am sorry."

Wesley simply nodded his head. "Apology accepted. The problem now is you have well and truly pissed off Cordelia."

Giles sighed, "I am well aware of that fact. And, I'm not sure how to make it right."

Wesley took pity on him.

"Let's get her home and then we'll see if we can get her to forgive you."

Giles smiled, "Why don't we?"

The two men walked back into the room. At the same time, Fred and Gunn came with the news that the doctor was releasing Cordelia into Giles care.

* * * * *

Giles followed Cordelia into her apartment. She hadn't spoken a word to him since she had agreed to his demands. She had acted normally with the others. But every time her attention was drawn to him, he could feel the temperature drop. He knew she could hold a grudge until it died of old age. But he had never had that particular talent directed at him. It was disconcerting to know that she could ignore him so completely. As they had left the hospital, he could feel the sympathy of the others. Perhaps he should have asked them what to expect. He had called Buffy and let her know he wouldn't be home for several days.

"Hi Dennis." Cordelia spoke to the air around her. She knew the ghost had been worried about her. Fred had told her she had called and left a message on the machine so that he would know what was happening. Fred was like that, considerate to others--even if one of the others was a ghost. When Cordelia had thanked her, Fred had said that she liked Dennis and she didn't want him to worry. Gunn had told her how Fred had introduced herself to Dennis and shook his party hat. Then she thought about the man coming in behind her. She was still furious at him. He assumed just because he wanted something, he could have it. That she would fall in line with him and not question. That may be how they were doing things in Sunnydale. But he was about to learn that this was a whole different world--*her* world. She would not be dictated to. Even if the dictator happened to be her best friend. "He's just worried about you." a little voice said. "Shut up." she snapped to said voice. She didn't want to think about how he was feeling. If she did she wouldn't be able to stay mad. And she very much wanted to stay mad. She may have changed a lot from her high school days. But she had never been a follower then and she didn't intend to start now. He had no right and she intended to let him know that.

"Cordelia, don't you think we should talk about this?" Giles asked. He had no intention of spending the next two or three days in total silence. One way or another she would talk to him.

"Don't do that." Cordelia snapped.

"Don't do what?"

"Don't give me that holier-than-thou attitude."

"I wasn't aware that was what I was doing."

"You know that's exactly what you're doing. You want me to think I'm overreacting to your little ultimatum back at the hospital. I'm not. You will not treat me like a child and get away with it."

"Then kindly stop acting like one." Giles retorted.

She wanted to tell him he was the one acting like a spoiled child. Expecting everyone to go along with what he wanted, just because that's what he wanted. But the small rational part of her mind that was still functional knew that if this argument went on much longer, they were both in danger of saying something that couldn't be taken back. She took a deep breath and tried to regain her shattered composure.

"Giles, I think that right now, the best thing you can do is leave me alone. I'm so mad, I'm having trouble remembering just exactly why it is we're friends. I don't want to say something that will hurt you or destroy this friendship. In order not to do that, I need you to leave me alone."

Giles was tempted to provoke her, just to get everything out. He also realized that she was probably right. They were both on the verge of totally losing what hold they had on their tempers.

"Very well," he agreed. "Would you like something to eat? I haven't eaten since this morning."

Cordelia recognized that he was trying, so she did too.

"That would be nice. I'm going to change and I'll be right out."

"Take your time."

* * * * *

Cordelia stepped out of her bedroom. Taking a shower had helped her to relax and she felt better for it. The first thing she noticed was the soft music playing. It sounded like jazz.

"Did you put that on?" She asked Giles as she came into the kitchen.

"No. I think Dennis was trying to sooth the savage beast." Giles answered.

"Well, I'm glad one of us could think that clearly." She said. "Thanks, Dennis." A gust of air ruffled her hair.

"Would you like to eat in the living room? Dinner is almost ready." Giles asked.

"That would be fine. Giles--?"

He hushed her, "Not until after we've eaten. I don't know about you, but I'm starving. Let's eat this meal in peace and then we'll sort everything out. Agreed?"

"Agreed." She said. Truth be told, she wanted a little more time to think of an apology. She knew that Giles was only doing what he thought was best for her. That didn't mean she planned on letting him get away with it again. But she accepted that part of him when she became friends with him. The problem was--they were both hard-headed. That meant they would argue. Probably setting off a set of spectacular fireworks when they got started. But she didn't ever want a disagreement to jeopardize their relationship. It meant too much to her.

Giles was thinking the same thing. Cordelia was too important to him to lose her because of an argument. They would have to work something out. Anything else was unacceptable.

They ate their meal in a comfortable silence. Dennis, for one, was glad the tension level in the room had eased. The living room was tidied up and Cordelia was the first to speak.

"Giles--I'm sorry. You have every right to worry. I worry about you, too."

"I apologize as well. I should have taken the time to talk to you before I started issuing ultimatums."

"You didn't let me finish." Cordelia said. "You have every right to worry. But I'll only say this once. Don't ever, *ever* do this to me again. Don't presume to know what is best for me. I love you dearly, but you *will not* control me." Cordelia looked at him for a moment. "Is that understood?"

Giles considered the woman before him. He had handled the situation badly from the beginning. Now he had to make it right between them. But he also had to let her know how he felt.

"Yes, I understand. But you must understand something as well. I handled this badly." Giles admitted. "However, you should realize that I will never stand idly by when I think you are doing something that will harm you. I will try to be more considerate of your feelings in the future. But if I feel you are wrong, I will speak up. No matter how angry you become." He paused for her reaction, receiving none, he continued. "I'm sorry you feel I was trying to control you. That was never my intention. I simply saw you were about to do something I felt was detrimental to your health. My mistake was not in talking to you first. That is a mistake I will not repeat in the future. I love you, Cordelia. I can't let something happen to you if I can prevent it."

Cordelia started to answer, then stopped. She tilted her head to one side and studied the man in front of her thoughtfully. He really could be an annoying pain-in-the-ass. But hell, so could she. She laughed softly. They really were a pair.

Giles was trying to figure out what was so funny when she decided to speak.

"I think we should make a pact."

"What kind of pact?" Giles asked warily.

"A pact that says whenever we are acting like idiots, we will return to our neutral corners until brain activity returns. Otherwise, we're going to argue--well, more than we already do." Cordelia finished with a giggle.

Giles chuckled. "Does this mean I'm forgiven?"

She just nodded her head. "Yeah, you're forgiven. I'm still not happy about what you did. But I'll live with it. 'Cause I know before too long, I'm going to do something that will piss you off royally. Just remember this when I do."

"Do you think there's a chance you would let me forget it?"

"Nope."

"I didn't think so." He replied.

"We're both stubborn, Giles." Cordelia became serious again. "That means when we don't see eye-to-eye, we're going to fight. I don't want to do that very often, but I know the possibility is there. Let's just try and make the fights few and far between, okay?"

"I agree." He took the risk and pulled her into his arms. He was relieved they could settle this. As he held her, he was amazed how right it felt. They had been friends for a relatively short time. In that short span of time, she had set up residence in a place in his heart he hadn't known was empty. She had become important to him on a level that he wasn't sure even she was aware of. He loved her and he would do whatever was necessary to keep her in his life.

* * * * *

Two weeks later, Cordelia was on her way to Sunnydale. When she had been hurt Giles had stayed with her for three days. In that time, they had come to an understanding. Whenever one thought the other was acting hastily or without regard for their personal safety, (Giles' words), that person had the right to say something. However, that person did not have the right to say it in front of everyone and his dog, (Cordelia's words). So far, everything was working out fairly well. She had healed nicely. She had had two cracked ribs, cuts, abrasions and a nasty wound on her right thigh. She was completely well by the time Giles left. The doctor had been amazed at her recovery when she had went back for a follow-up.

Angel was worried about her. But for some reason, he wouldn't come to her apartment while Giles had been there. She couldn't get either one of them to tell her about the phone call they had when she had been hurt. All they would say is Angel called and let Giles know. *But* Willow had let something slip in an email she had sent after Giles had returned to Sunnydale. Apparently, Giles had been--well, Willow wouldn't say for sure, not even after Cordelia had prodded her, but Cordelia got the impression that Giles hadn't been very nice to Angel on the phone. When she had confronted him about it, he had flat out refused to tell her what he had said. Angel wasn't anymore helpful.

She passed the city limits sign and turned down the road toward Giles' apartment. She was looking forward to this weekend. Things had been a little tense between them and she wanted it back to the way it was before. She missed him. She pulled into the parking lot of Giles' building. Giles' door opened just as she stepped out of the car. She got her bag out of the trunk and made her way to the door.

"Hey, Giles."

"Hello, Cordelia." Giles smiled at her. "How was the drive?"

"It was okay," she answered. "I managed to get away before the rush hour traffic, so that's a good thing."

"I thought we might go out for dinner. It that's acceptable to you?"

"Sounds good. Just let me freshen up and I'll be good to go."

"Take your time. We still have a little over an hour before we have to be there."

"Okay."

Cordelia took her bag to her room and freshened up. She wondered where he was taking her. She came out to find him waiting for her.

"I'm afraid I couldn't get reservations until 9:00. I thought we might try the Italian restaurant that's not too far from here."

"Italian sounds great." She looked at her watch, it was 7:45 now. "Why don't we sit and relax for a little while? We've got plenty of time."

"Very well, I'll make tea. Would you like something different?"

"Tea's fine." She had developed a taste for it since he had moved back. She teased him that she tried it to see what he saw in it. To her surprise, she liked it. She followed him into the kitchen and watched him start the kettle. It seemed, that more and more, his apartment felt as much like home to her, as her apartment did. She usually didn't feel comfortable in other people's homes. The Hyperion was a rare exception. Of course, she spent more time there than she did in her house so it kind of made sense. Giles' apartment was the only other exception. She was honest enough to admit it was because of him. She turned her attention back to him when he indicated that she should lead into the living room. She settled herself on the sofa and watched him set the tea tray on the coffee table.

Giles was aware of her scrutiny and wondered what she was thinking. He glanced at his watch and saw that they still had almost 45 minutes before they needed to leave to make their reservations.

"What are you thinking?" He asked.

She didn't answer right away, simply studied him some more.

"I was just wondering if anyone else realized how much you do without making a big deal about it?" She replied.

"What? Because I made a pot of tea?" He was, admittedly, a bit confused.

"No. Because no matter what you do, you do it and never make a fuss. While everyone else is running around trying to figure out the problem, you've done that and are on your way to fix it. You never ask for recognition. You just do it."

Giles was a bit flustered.

"Do not make me out to be a paragon of virtue, Cordelia. I have my faults."

"Oh, I know that." She grinned at him. "I'm just saying that I don't think we give you enough credit, that's all."

"Well, I appreciate the thought. But, really, I think we all are a bit under appreciated. Take you, for example."

"Oohh, would you, really?" She asked impishly.

"Smart ass." He smiled at her fondly. "What I meant was you were given these visions--admittedly, you didn't ask to take them, but when you were given the chance to rid yourself of them, you refused. You have even become part demon in order to be able to handle them better. That is an amazing sacrifice. Especially, considering the fact that you've done nothing that needs atoning for."

"Yeah, but I complained about them."

"Cordelia, don't you think I would have complained? The only difference was, you had someone to complain to. I didn't." He held up his hand to halt her response. "I'm not saying that to gain sympathy. I'm simply stating a fact. Just because you complained does not, in any way, nullify your sacrifice or commitment."

"Well, can I just say that I think it sucks that you didn't have anyone to talk to."

He laughed, "Yes, you may."

They finished their tea and left for the restaurant.

* * * * *

They returned home after a quiet meal and talked for a little while. Cordelia yawned and looked at her watch, it was almost midnight.

"Giles, I'm going to go to bed. I've been up since 6:00am, and I'm falling asleep sitting up."

"By all means, I'll see you in the morning."

"Are we training tomorrow?"

He chuckled. She insisted on training with him every time she came for the weekend. He didn't mind, he enjoyed it.

"Of course. Since it is so late, what say I wake you up at 8:00am instead of our usual 7:00?"

"Sounds fine to me. I'll see you in the morning."

"Good night, Cordelia."

" 'Night Giles."

Giles locked up for the night and made sure everything was put away. He had just prepared for bed and settled in when he thought he heard crying. He got up to investigate and discovered the sound was coming from Cordelia's room. He knocked softly on the door, and was preparing to do it again, when he heard a terror-filled scream come from inside. She hadn't locked the door. He threw open the door and discovered Cordelia thrashing about on the bed. He went to her side and shook her gently.

"Cordelia, wake up. It's only a nightmare."

Cordelia didn't respond. She was too deeply into whatever nightmare that had her in it's grasp. He tried again, this time more forcefully.

"Cordelia! Wake up!" He shook her, not so gently. This time she seemed to come around. It took her a moment to focus. She looked for all the world like a small child that had been lost and now was found.

"Giles?" She asked haltingly. Then with more strength, "Giles! Oh, God. I was so scared."

"Are you all right?"

She took a deep, shuddering breath.

"I think so."

"Would you like to talk about it?" He asked gently.

"Not right now, maybe in a little while." She responded.

She hesitated, but the thought of going back to sleep alone decided her.

"Would you stay with me, just until I fall asleep?" She asked.

Giles wasn't completely sure this was a good idea, but there wasn't any way he could refuse her.

"Certainly. Slide over." He climbed under the covers and settled himself against the headboard. He cradled her in his arms and began to gently stroke her hair.

"Try to sleep." He said.

"Okay." She was already drifting off again. "Giles?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks."

"You're welcome." He lightly kissed her hair and prepared to wait for her to fall asleep. He was acutely aware that he was clad in nothing but his pajama bottoms. He planned on leaving as soon as she went to sleep, but the long day caught up to him and he fell asleep before he could make good on his plan.

Cordelia woke with a strange feeling. She felt movement on the bed next to her. That couldn't be right--she slept alone. As she opened her eyes, the movement got stronger. She looked over and saw Giles. It all came back to her--the nightmare and asking him to stay. Before she could think anymore about her nightmare, she realized that he was in the midst of one of his own.

"Giles, wake up." She called to him. She shook him but he suddenly threw his arm out and knocked her from the bed. She could hear him mumbling.

"No. No, I will not tell you how to awaken Acathla." He suddenly screamed and launched himself straight up in the bed. He looked dazed for a moment and then, as he collected himself, he noticed Cordelia on the floor.

"Oh my God. Please tell me I didn't do that." He begged.

Cordelia got up slowly. She hit the floor pretty hard and she hadn't been expecting it.

"It's ok. You were having a nightmare."

Giles buried his head in his hands.

"It it not 'ok'. I struck you."

Cordelia climbed back on the bed and attempted to touch him. He turned from her and swung his legs over the side of the bed, in preparation to leave. Before he could, she did touch him.

Cordelia gently laid her hand on his back. Over the scars that she had never asked about. She had never asked about any of his scars. When they trained together and she had seen the scars she hadn't commented. She wasn't sure why. Maybe it was because she didn't want to know the events that could cause him such pain that he had to bear reminders of them for the rest of his life. She didn't know. But, she did know this--it was time to ask.

"Giles, what was your nightmare about?" She questioned softly.

He tried to shrug her off.

"It was nothing." He answered in a harsh voice. Usually that tone was enough to make anyone who was curious learn to control their curiosity.

He had forgotten that didn't work on Cordelia.

"It most certainly was something," she contradicted him. "You had a doozy of a nightmare--knocking me off the bed, I might add. You also woke up screaming. Something that I don't think you do every night. So give."

"Cordelia, I do not wish to talk about this."

"I do not care, Giles." She said, mimicking his style of speech. "You're gonna talk to me and tell me what's got you so shook up."

He ran his hand through his hair with some agitation. He did not want to talk about this--especially to her.

She saved him the trouble of pinpointing the exact problem.

"I know you were dreaming about Angelus."

"And, pray tell, how do you know that?" He asked in a somewhat snide voice.

"I know, because you mentioned the name Acathla." She explained patiently.

"Cordelia, I beg of you. Please let this be." Giles asked in a low voice.

"I can't do that Giles." Cordelia hurt for him so badly. "You came in here for me and somehow that set off your nightmare. That makes it my responsibility."

He knew there was a flaw in her logic. But, right now, he couldn't seem to find it. Instead, he tried to absolve her and get the hell out of her room.

"This was not your responsibility. I'm going to my room now and in the morning we'll pretend this never happened."

Cordelia moved to her door to block it.

"No dice, mister. You're not leaving until you talk to me."

"I could move you."

"No, you won't. You wouldn't touch me in anger. I know that about you and I'm prepared to take shameless advantage of that fact."

He sighed, "You're right."

She hated the fact he sounded so defeated, but she didn't have any other choice. Not if she wanted to find out what was really going on.

"So talk." She demanded.

He sat back down on the bed.

"Very well," he sighed. "You're right, I was dreaming about Angelus. I do that, although not as much as I used to." He shuddered as he remembered the sheer viciousness the vampire was capable of. At first he thought the dreams would finish what Angelus had started and drive him mad.

"Are you sure you really want to know, Cordelia?" Giles asked bitterly. "Do you really want to know what your precious Angel is capable of?"

Cordelia took a deep breath and let it out slowly before answering.

"Yes." With that one word she was giving him permission to tell what had happened to him. Maybe for the first time.

* * * * *

Giles took a breath,

"Why don't we move this into the living room. Well both be more comfortable." He looked down at himself. "I'll go change."

"No, you won't." Cordelia stopped him. "If I let you out of my sight, you'll revert back to stiff-upper-lip guy and won't talk to me. We can go to the living room, but you're going just like you are."

Giles nodded his head.

Cordelia steeled herself for what was to come. She knew it wouldn't be pretty. Not just because of how Giles was acting or because Angel said it would be bad. She knew because she had had a small taste of Angelus.

She sat down on the sofa and waited for him to do the same. Giles was uncomfortable, not just because he had no shirt on. He was about to talk about something that he hadn't told anyone about. When Buffy had run away, he had expended all his energies in trying to find her. The others had their own wounds to deal with. They knew that he had been hurt, but they did not know, and never asked, the extent of what was done to him. Cordelia was the first. It was hard for her, he knew that. But if she wanted the truth, that's what he would give her.

"When Angelus first took me, I really didn't expect to live. He wasn't known for his generosity towards his victims. I also knew that he had taken sadism to a whole new level--he liked playing with his victims. It was a game of power for him. He was *very* good at the game. Darla taught him well, but he showed a natural aptitude for it."

"At first, all he did was talk. Telling me about Buffy and how I had failed her." He paused. "That part didn't work as well as he intended. You see, I had been telling myself that for months, so he didn't really come up with anything new on that point. But then he began telling me how he was going to kill everyone. Willow, Xander, Oz, you and last, but not least, Buffy. He said that Buffy would be last because losing her would completely destroy me--and he didn't want his fun to end too soon. He told me that Jenny was just an appetizer for what was to come. That was something that I had feared." He closed his eyes as he remembered finding Jenny. He breathed deeply before continuing. "He began to demonstrate what he planned to do to everyone. He never planned to just kill any of you. Everything he did was with a purpose. When he killed Jenny, it was with the purpose of destroying me and making Buffy weaker. If he had killed me that night, I'm sure he would have used that in the fight with Buffy."

"He was also very good with a knife." He rubbed a scar on his abdomen. "Did you know it is possible to literally skin a person alive. I had heard of the technique, but I never had first-hand knowledge until he decided to show me how it is done." He looked at the scar clinically. "Actually, it's very simple to do. You cut off a small patch of skin, being careful not to go too deep."

"I'm sure he would have continued with that until he had tired of that particular game, but he was running out of time. So he moved to the quicker pain of my hands. He also knew that my hands were important. He knew I played guitar. It's ironic, he's the only one of the group that did. I had played for him several times as we waited for Buffy to come home from patrol. He mentioned that as he proceeded to work on my hands. He didn't do any permanent damage. I'm not sure that he *intended* to do anything permanent. He wanted to test my endurance. He took an almost childlike delight in doing it. He said that he had never had a watcher to torture. He had heard that they could take pain in a way that would rival a slayer. It was a new and interesting situation, as he put it." He remembered Angelus' enthusiasm, almost like a child with a new toy.

"As he was administering the physical pain, he continued to expound on the mental and emotional trauma he was inducing. He liked to tell me how pathetic I was. I didn't have any friends, that my entire world was inhabited by teenagers. He said the only reason that I met Jenny was because she worked in the high school. And even then, when Buffy was angry with her, I dropped her. He said it must have emasculated me to be dictated to by a seventeen-year-old girl." He stopped. "I need something to drink."

"I'll get you a glass of water." Cordelia left Giles sitting on the sofa.

The calm, almost detached way Giles was relating this horror was shocking Cordelia almost as much as what he was telling her. She could not believe that he had carried this around inside of him for four years. Not only carried it around, but he had to deal with Angel after this happened. First because of Buffy, then because of her. She got the water and hurried back to Giles. He may have seemed calm, but she didn't want to leave him alone for long.

She handed him the glass and sat back down. Giles took it and sipped the water almost mechanically.

He took a deep breath and continued.

"After he finished with my hands, he asked again for the information to release Acathla." He was thoughtful for a moment. "You know, thinking back on it. He didn't ask that question as much as he could have. I think he didn't want the answer too soon. He was enjoying himself entirely too much to have it ended by my telling him what he wanted to know." He shrugged. "At any rate, he asked and I refused. I think he was becoming angry by this time. I had dealt with everything he had done to me and I still hadn't broke."

"He threatened to use a chainsaw. Spike stopped him from doing that. By this time, he was frustrated *and* running out of time. He needed to know and he needed to know right away. I'm not sure what he would have come up with next--I don't want to know. Drusilla came and showed me Jenny and that was what broke me." He laughed harshly, the sound echoing in the silent room. "Isn't it ironic that the most feared vampire in history isn't the one that broke me. It took the vampire he drove insane to do it." He asked derisively.

Suddenly, he looked a hundred years old.

"I'm tired. I'm going to bed. If you have anymore questions you may ask them in the morning."

He started to go to his bedroom, but Cordelia stopped him.

"No, you're not sleeping alone tonight."

She led him to her room and settled him in and climbed in beside him. She gathered him to her and stroked his hair, much the same way he had comforted her, until he fell into an exhausted sleep. She held him through the night. Not sleeping. She couldn't get the story he had told her out of her mind. To know Angelus had done that to him. Worse, to know he had lived with it--alone--for all this time. That broke her heart. She wasn't sure he would forgive her for pushing him on this, but the one thing she was sure of. He would never deal with something like this alone again. Never, ever again.

* * * * *

Giles woke the next morning feeling exhausted. Slowly, as he realized he was in Cordelia's bed, he remembered last night. He groaned softly. How could he have burdened her with his nightmares? Yes, she had pushed. But that was no excuse. Now she had to deal with what happened to him and reconcile it with the Angel she knew. He had never intended to put her in that position. He turned to face her, only to discover she wasn't there. Raising up on his elbows he looked around and his eyes landed on the bedside clock. It read 9:30am. He hadn't slept this late in--he couldn't remember the last time. He slowly eased himself out of bed. He listened for sounds that she was moving about, but the apartment was quiet. His shoulders slumped. Perhaps she had returned to Los Angeles. He made his way to the bathroom. Just as he was returning to his own room to dress for the day, he heard the front door open. He turned to see Cordelia carrying a deli bag and two cups of coffee.

She held up the bag.

"Jelly-filled doughnuts. I also got coffee 'cause you're out."

"Yes, um--well." He stammered. He didn't know quite what to say. He hadn't known what to expect this morning. But doughnuts and coffee definitely hadn't been on his list.

"You finished getting dressed and I'll be waiting for you." Cordelia instructed him. "We need to talk."

He closed his eyes and then opened them slowly to look at her.

"Yes, I suppose we do."

* * * * *

Twenty minutes later, he stepped out of his bedroom. He saw Cordelia looking out the front window.

"You're coffee's in the microwave. You might have to warm it." She said without turning around.

Once again, he was at a loss for words. He went into the kitchen and retrieved his coffee.

When he returned to the living room, he found her seated on the sofa. He moved to sit in the chair opposite, but she patted the cushion beside her.

"Sit here."

He sat down before he spoke.

"Cordelia--." He began.

"Don't." She gently laid a finger across his lips. "I know what you're going to say."

"What am I about to say?"

"You're going to apologize for telling me what you did last night. You're going to say that it's a burden that I shouldn't have to bear. Am I right so far?" She asked.

"I wasn't aware I was so easy to read." He said in a peevish tone..

"You're not." Cordelia replied with a smile. "I just happen to know you better than most."

"Well, regardless of whether or not you feel as if I was out of line. I know I was. I shouldn't have told you those things."

"Why not? I did ask."

"Because--just because," he finished lamely. He removed his glasses and began to clean them.

"Giles," she said in a gentle voice. "Because isn't a reason. That only works for parents--and even then not very well. You are many things to me--my father is not one of them. Why didn't you want me to know what happened?"

"I didn't want you to know. You care about Angel. How could I tell you what he did to me? And before you say it was Angelus, I know that. But he still wears the same face and that makes it tremendously difficult for me to deal with him." He finished. He shoved his glasses back on and ran his hand through his hair with a great deal of pent-up emotion.

"I know it's difficult, Giles."

"Do you? Do you know what it was like when he returned from hell? My body still ached. Hell, it still does. But not only was I dealing with the physical effects of what happened, I find out that he still has enough power over my slayer to make her lie to me. After everything we went through, she still lied to protect him." He said in an anguished tone.

Cordelia wondered if Buffy knew how deeply that lie cut Giles. He had told her once about Buffy's eighteenth birthday. He condemned himself for his betrayal of her. She wondered if Buffy ever thought of her betrayal towards him.

"I don't know everything you've been through, Giles. But I understand how hard it can be when what you believed to be the most important thing in the world is jerked away from you. I've told you about when he fired us. There was nothing I could do but watch as everything fell apart."

He got up and shoved his hands in his pockets as he looked out the window.

"It's not the same."

"Why?" She rose to stand behind him.

"Because no matter what I do, the people I care about choose him. First Buffy--now you!" He angrily replied.

She grasped his shoulder and turned him to look at her.

"Is that what this is about?" she asked. "You feel like we're choosing him over you?"

"Well, aren't you?"

"Giles--!"

"No, you insisted I talk about this, now I am. When you leave here, you will go back to him. With everything you know, you will still return to him!" He hated sounding this needy, this childish. But, damn it! He couldn't help himself. He had held this in long enough.

"Giles, you know I can't leave him. One, I'm his seer. He depends on me. Two, he's my friend--no, he's more than that. He's part of my family. You knew that from the beginning"

"So you still choose him." Giles stubbornly clung to his argument..

"No! Damn you, that's not fair! I could no more abandon him than I could you. I love you both. Please, *please* don't make me choose between you." She pleaded. She was on the verge of crying. She couldn't believe that this was happening. She had wanted Giles to tell her what happened, she had wanted to help him. How had it turned into a discussion of who she had to choose?

"I'm not making you choose. You seem to have done that already." He finished dully. He didn't know what had gotten into him, but he couldn't seem to make the words stop. He was painfully aware he was pushing her out of his life.

Cordelia wasn't sure what to do. She was afraid if this conversation continued it would go somewhere they couldn't come back from. Before she could say anything, Giles spoke.

"I think it might be best if you went back to Los Angeles."

Cordelia was stunned, "You're throwing me out?"

"No, I'm not throwing you out. I simply believe we need some time apart. That would be best accomplished by you returning to L.A."

Cordelia couldn't think of anything else to say. It wasn't in her nature to walk away from a fight, but she didn't know what to do to fix this. She decided to do as he asked. She went to her room and packed her things. She hurt so badly, she wanted to curl up into a ball and cry until there was nothing left. But she didn't do that. She walked out of her room with her head held high. Giles stood in the doorway as she loaded the car. She climbed in and pulled away. She never looked back.

If she had, she would have seen Giles leaning on the doorjamb. He watched her car until he could no longer see it. Then he went down on his knees, with his arms wrapped around himself, and wept..

* * * * *

Cordelia pulled the car to the side of the road as soon as she was out of sight of Giles' apartment. She couldn't drive any further. She laid her head on the steering wheel and let the tears come. She still couldn't believe what had happened. She knew Giles had major issues about Angel. Hell, after what he had told her, she would have trouble believing him if he said he didn't. But to throw her out? To accuse her of choosing Angel over him? He didn't even give her a chance to talk. He had put words in her mouth and then condemned her for them. She couldn't go back to L.A. like this. She drove to the nearest motel and rented a room. She called Angel and let him know her plans had changed. When he asked what was wrong, she dodged the question and hung up before he could ask again. She thought about what would happen now and just couldn't seem to find any answers. She curled up in the middle of the bed and cried.

* * * * *

Giles slowly picked himself up and moved into the house. A small part of his brain wondered what the neighbors thought if anyone had seen him. Then he decided he just didn't give a damn. Once again, he had managed to screw up one of the most important things in his life. What the hell was he thinking. Accusing Cordelia of caring more for Angel than for him. "What you've thought all along." the small voice he hated answered. "Shut up!" He replied viciously. The voice ignored him. "You've always thought that Cordelia and Buffy would choose him if it came to that."

"That's not true. I know they care for me." He argued.

"Maybe so, but you also know they care more for him." The voice snidely replied.

Giles pulled himself up short. What was he doing? Arguing with himself? He sat down heavily on the sofa. He was losing his mind. First he throws Cordelia out of his home, then he's having an argument with himself. He didn't ask what else could happen, he was afraid he just might get an answer. He moved to pick up the phone and call Cordelia. No, he had to see her. This couldn't be settled over the telephone. Just as he was about to leave for L.A., the telephone rang. It was Wesley.

"What the hell did you do to Cordelia?" Wesley demanded.

"Well, hello to you, Wesley." Giles greeted the ex-watcher.

"Don't try and tell me you did nothing. Angel just got a call from her and he said she sounded terribly distraught." Wesley continued as though Giles hadn't spoken.

"What do you mean 'distraught'." Giles asked quickly.

"Just what I said. He asked her what was wrong and she evaded the question. Shortly after that, she hung up the phone. All she told him was her plans were changed and she was now staying in a motel in Sunnydale. So I ask yet again, what the hell did you do to Cordelia?" Wesley asked harshly.

"I don't see where what goes on between Cordelia and I is any of your concern." Giles replied stiffly.

"That is where you are very wrong." Wesley said in a quiet voice. "When someone hurts Cordelia, it is very much my concern."

Giles was surprised by Wesley's attitude. He didn't think he had it in him to stand up for someone this way. Following quickly on the heels of surprise was anger.

"Cordelia and I will settle this." Giles snapped. "Kindly mind your own business."

There was a long silence before Wesley spoke again. When he did, he left no doubt that Giles no longer intimidated him.

"Understand something, Mr. Giles." Wesley said in a soft, almost menacing tone. "Cordelia is part of my family. I've told you once before that we would die to protect one another. Perhaps you didn't fully understand what that meant to me. Cordelia is one of the most important people in my life. For the first time in my life I have a family that cares as deeply for me as I do for them. I will not permit you to hurt any one of them. Most especially Cordelia."

"Why most especially Cordelia?"

"Pardon Me?" Wesley asked, puzzled.

"You said 'most especially Cordelia'. Why most especially her?" Giles asked in an exaggeratedly patient tone.

Wesley was silent for a moment and then he burst out laughing.

"You're jealous!" Wesley chuckled.

"I most certainly am not." Giles exclaimed.

"You most certainly are. Why on earth are you jealous of me?" Wesley asked curiously.

Giles didn't answer.

"Giles, there is no need to be jealous of me. Cordelia and I are friends--family. Nothing more."

"That's not how you felt when you both were in Sunnydale." Giles retorted.

"When we were in Sunnydale, I was trying to fit in a place that did not want, or need, me. Cordelia was the only friendly face I found. As for her feelings for me--I won't presume to know what she was feeling then. But I do know she had just been through a painful breakup with Xander Harris and was still dealing with it. She knew your secrets. That made her a part of your group, whether she wished to be or not. I happened to be the one person that she felt wouldn't automatically take Xander's side. We simply turned to each other out of necessity."

"And now?" Giles questioned.

"We do not have romantic feelings for one another now. However, we do care deeply for one another. That is why I want to know what went on between the two of you." Wesley said, bringing the conversation back to the reason he called in the first place.

"We had a misunderstanding."

"It must have been a serious one. Angel was very worried. He had me call you as soon as I came into the office."

"It's nothing that we can't work out." Giles said, praying that was true.

Wesley started to say something else, but then changed his mind.

"Very well. I will leave it for now. But know this, if she comes home in the state she apparently was in when she called Angel--we will talk again."

"Is that a threat, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce?" Giles asked.

"No, Mr. Giles. Think of it as incentive to settle things with Cordelia." Wesley replied smoothly. "I will hang up now because I believe you need to find her and do just that."

"Goodbye, Wesley."

"Goodbye, Giles."

* * * * *

It didn't take Giles long to find the hotel where Cordelia was staying. He just hoped she would speak to him when he got there. He didn't know how he could have been such an ass to her. He found the motel room and knocked on her door.

Cordelia heard the knock and thought very seriously about ignoring it. Then she decided what the hell, if it was someone to bother her, she could take some of her aggravation out on anyone dumb enough to knock on *her* door. When she opened the door and saw who it was, she turned away and left him standing in the doorway.

He entered the room nervously.

"Cordelia, I'm--." He began.

"*Don't* tell me you're sorry." Cordelia rounded on him angrily. "Saying 'I'm sorry' isn't good enough."

"I don't know what else *to* say." He replied quietly.

"Right now Giles, I don't know if I want to hear anything you have to say. I left your apartment like you asked. What more do you want from me?"

"I want you to listen to me. I want to apologize and attempt to make this right."

"I don't know if you can make this right, Giles."

"Don't say that." He pleaded desperately.

"You hurt me badly. I wanted to help you and you accused me of choosing Angel over you. I never said that, but you condemned me for what *you* believed. Then you threw me out of your house without giving me a chance." She was on the verge of tears again and that only made her angrier. "You had no right to treat me that way."

"I know that." He replied.

"Do you?" she asked. "You condemn me, not only for what you think I did, but also for what you believe Buffy did."

"Leave Buffy out of this." He replied stiffly.

"I can't do that." Cordelia shot back. "You brought her into this, not me. You're mad at both of us, but you take it out on me. That's not fair. If you have issues with me, that's fine. We'll deal with them. But I refuse to be used as your whipping girl for Buffy's sins as well."

"I thought this was about what happened today."

"Part of it is. But be honest, if this was about my relationship with Angel--nothing else--would you have gotten so angry? Or was it because, last night, I pushed and got you to tell me something that no one else in your little world bother to find out? Not even Buffy."

"I said leave her out of this." Giles was beginning to lose control of his temper.

"And I said I can't." Cordelia was just as angry as he was.

"This is not about Buffy. This is about the fact you are incapable of choosing anyone's side other than Angel's." Giles said in a near shout.

"I'm not incapable of choosing anyone over Angel." Cordelia disagreed. "I simply will not do it just because you decide that what it takes to prove my loyalty to you. I know you have issues with him. Hell, there are times *I* have issues with him. But understand something Giles. You claim to know the person I am now. If that's true then you should know the person I am is because of Angel."

"You are the person you are because of the choices you have made." Giles argued.

"You're right. But I've made those choices largely because of Angel. When I first got the visions I would have loved to have gotten rid of them. But then I saw all the people that needed our help. Then when we found out that Angel would eventually become human, that was one more reason to keep them. I became part demon because of the people we help. But I also became part demon because I believe Angel deserves this chance. And I'm willing to do whatever it takes to give it to him."

"You would do anything for him." Giles said in a defeated tone.

Cordelia looked at him and was alternating between feeling sorry for him and wanting to knock some sense into him.

"Yes, I would do almost anything for him. Angel believed in me when no one else did. He helped me when I had nobody else. He will always hold a very special place in my heart. Nothing will change that. *No one* will change that." She finished firmly.

Giles started towards the door. He had lost her--to Angel.

"*But*." Cordelia continued, "that doesn't mean that I can't have someone else hold a special place in my heart."

Giles turned back to her.

"Does that mean--?" He was frightened to ask the question, lest he was wrong in his assumption of what she meant.

She smiled for the first time since this entire argument began.

"It means that I will never choose between you two. I love both of you and I refuse to give up on either one of you."

He smiled tentatively at her.

Then her expression grew stern.

"I'm only going to say this once."

"What's that?"

"Don't ever put me in this position again. Because next time, when I leave your apartment, there won't be any tracking me down and saying 'I'm sorry'. Are we clear?"

"Crystal."

"I mean it Giles," she insisted. "You hurt me badly. Both by not trusting me and by damning me for something I hadn't done."

"I know that." Giles hadn't meant to hurt her.

She looked at him questioningly.

"Do you? You've got issues with more than just Angel, Giles. You got a lot with Buffy, Xander, and Willow. You need to deal with them."

"Buffy and the others have nothing to do with this." Giles retorted, his temper flaring again.

"If that's true, why do you get so upset when I say they do?" Cordelia asked calmly.

"Because you're trying to change the subject."

"Really? Why would I need to do that?" Cordelia said in that same even tone. "We've settled our argument. Face it. You haven't told any of them what happened and they haven't asked. Now whether or not they had a good reason for that is beside the point. It just kills you that everyone assumes that you can deal with all this and doesn't even bother to ask how you're doing. They've had four years and they still haven't asked." She knew this was hard for him but she refused to take the fallout for their screwups any more. She had enough to deal with from her own screwups.

Giles didn't take kindly to her criticizing Buffy. Or any of the others for that matter.

"You didn't ask when it happened." He reminded her.

"No, I didn't. But, then again, I wasn't one of your precious Scooby Gang. I was the hanger-one. I was the one that everyone, including you, tolerated. Don't lump me in with them. I won't let you. If you're pissed because they didn't ask then you need to tell them. Don't blame me because they didn't ask. That's their sin, not mine." Cordelia said. "You accuse me of choosing Angel over you. What do you do every *single* time I say anything against Buffy. You defend her, no matter what she's done. Tell me the truth, if you had to choose between me and Buffy, who would you choose? Then again, do I even need to ask?" She finished softly.

Giles started to reply--but then he looked at Cordelia for a moment and then he shook his head.

"No, Cordelia. I will not allow you make the same mistake I made. Yes, I love Buffy and yes I will defend her. But I will no more choose between the two of you than you will choose between Angel and I. You're right about my being angry because they never pushed when asking what happened. But I have to shoulder some of that blame as well. The summer Buffy ran away, I discouraged anyone who brought up the subject by making excuses and putting up emotional 'do not trespass' signs. Perhaps, if they had pushed as you did, I would have told them. Then again, maybe not. I do not know. I may never know." He ran his hand through his hair as he collected his thoughts. Then he spoke again.

"However, I do apologize for holding you accountable for their failure seek a more thorough answer. Lord know, that's never been a fault of yours." He smiled to take the sting out of his words.

"Yeah, I've always been pushy." Cordelia replied.

"That's not always a bad thing." Giles admitted. "Sometimes, that is the only way to get to the truth." He moved closer to her and laid his palm on her cheek. "I truly am sorry. The last thing in the world I would have ever wanted to do was hurt you. Please forgive me."

Cordelia laid her hand on top of his.

"I forgive you. But, Giles--?"

"Yes, Cordelia?"

"Please, talk to Buffy. You need to or you'll never be able to get past this."

Giles dropped his hand from her face and turned from her.

"Please Cordelia. Let this drop."

"I can't. What hurts you, hurts me. And this has been hurting you for way too long."

"You do not understand."

"What's to understand," she asked in frustration. "You've felt neglected for years. Tell them that and give them a chance to make this okay. If you don't, you'll never get past it."

He gave a great sigh and turned back to her.

"If I promise to think about it, will that be enough for you?"

"One of your promises? You bet." Cordelia responded instantly.

"Good. Now, if we've settled this to your satisfaction, what do you say we return to my apartment and enjoy the rest of our weekend?"

"I'd say that sounds great."

"Very well. I'll load your things in your car while you check out."

"Okay."

Giles opened the door and allowed her to move past him as he picked up the suitcase she had never unpacked.

* * * * *

Buffy tapped her fingers impatiently as she waited for someone to answer the telephone.

"Come on, I don't have all day."

"Angel Investigations." A female voice sounded in her ear.

Buffy was caught off guard. She didn't know there was another woman working with Angel.

"Hello? Is anybody there?" A soft Texas drawl asked.

Buffy found her voice.

"Hello. May I speak to Wesley?"

"Sure, hold on a minute." Fred said. She called to Wesley. "Wesley, you have a call."

"Thank you, Fred." Wesley picked up the extension in his office. "Hello?"

"Wesley, it's Buffy."

"Buffy? Is anything wrong?" Wesley asked. He couldn't fathom why Buffy Summers would be calling him.

"No, nothing's wrong. Well, at least nothing that could end the world." Buffy replied.

Wesley chuckled. "Would you care to be a bit more cryptic?"

"Very funny. I need your help."

"With what?" Wesley asked cautiously.

"I need to know what happened with Giles and Cordelia."

"I'm not sure I know what you mean."

"I think you know exactly what I'm talking about. I know something happened the last weekend Cordelia spent in Sunnydale. I've asked Giles about it and he won't tell me anything." Buffy complained peevishly.

"If he didn't want to talk about it, don't you think you should honor his wishes?"

"I know something happened and my watcher hasn't been the same since. I can't help if I don't know what's going on."

"Perhaps he doesn't feel he needs your help." Wesley suggested. "I'm not saying that to hurt you Buffy. But you can't always fix things and this may be something he doesn't wish you to know about."

"I know he's hurting and he won't talk to me." Buffy couldn't keep the hurt out of her voice.

"Buffy, I know you care--." Wesley began.

"I love him, Wesley." Buffy broke in. "He's the closest thing to a father I've had for years. No, that's not true. He's more than my father. He's been my father, friend and mentor. He was there when Hank Summers couldn't be bothered to remember he had two daughters that needed him."

"I understand that Buffy. Believe me, if anyone understands the bond you two share, it is I. But that doesn't mean you can solve everything for him. I don't believe he would want you to, even if you could."

"But, but--what am I supposed to do?" Buffy asked plaintively.

"You offer your affection and support." Wesley told the slayer gently. "That's really all you can do."

"But there *has* to be something else I can do." Buffy replied stubbornly.

Wesley sighed. Buffy may have changed in many ways--but she was just as stubborn as she had always been.

"Perhaps, you should ask him about what happened between he and Cordelia. He might tell you. That's really all I can suggest."

Buffy was quiet for so long, Wesley thought perhaps they had been disconnected.

"You're right. I should just ask him." Buffy agreed. "Thanks, Wesley."

"You are welcome. I'm not sure I did anything, but I'm glad to be of help."

"Wesley?" Buffy asked hesitantly.

"Yes, Buffy?"

"I'm sorry."

"Whatever for?"

"For the way I treated you when you came to Sunnydale. Granted you didn't help much with the way you treated us--but, if I had been nicer, maybe you would have been nicer too."

Wesley sighed, "Maybes and ifs are a way to drive yourself insane, Buffy. I accept your apology. But I think, perhaps, we are where we are meant to be. If you hadn't treated me the way you did, I most likely would have stayed with the council. If I had, I wouldn't have come to Los Angeles. That would have been a great loss on my part."

"I still think things could have been different between us."

"Possibly," he conceded. "But that is over and done with. Now we must deal with the here and now. I don't know about you--but I am quite happy with my life."

Buffy thought about it for a moment.

"I am too. I've just made so many mistakes. I don't know how to fix them."

"Sometimes, fixing the mistakes isn't the important thing."

"What do you mean?"

"Buffy, the mistakes we make in life aren't what define who we are."

"What do you mean?"

"How we deal with those mistakes shape the person we become. Everyone makes mistakes, Buffy. If you didn't, you wouldn't be human."

"Yeah, but do I have to make so many?" Buffy asked in a tone that reminded him of a lost child.

"Unfortunately, yes. You have grown into a fine young woman. You have courage, loyalty and commitment. Those are admirable qualities. The mistakes you've made have taught you the importance of those qualities. Therefore, they were a necessary evil in your life."

Buffy marveled at Wesley. When did he change from the man who drove her crazy in Sunnydale to the man that would offer her advice--good advice?

"When did you get so smart?" She asked playfully.

"I have always been highly intelligent." Wesley teased her. "You simply did not appreciate my finer qualities."

"I guess I didn't. I guess I never let you be a friend" Buffy sounded apologetic for that fact.

Wesley was caught off guard. He was used to sarcasm, even ridicule from Buffy. He was not prepared for understand, and perhaps, friendship. He didn't know quite what to say.

Thankfully, Buffy saved him from having to reply.

"Well, I'd better go. I told Giles I'd meet him at his place for training."

"You still train with him?"

"Oh, yeah. It keeps me in shape and he says he needs it to stay up with Cordelia. I guess they spar when she's here."

"Yes, she mentioned something along those lines when she tried a new move on Angel."

"She and Angel train?" Buffy sounded merely curious.

"Yes. She asked him to teach her self-defense so she wouldn't be at the mercy of our enemies. She has taken to it very well and it has become something of a contest to see if she can best him."

"Angel's pretty good. Can she really keep up with him?"

"She does quite well. I think the sparring sessions she has with Giles has given her an edge."

"What do you mean?"

"Before, she only knew the moves Angel had taught her. Granted, she was very good at improvising. But she was still using the techniques Angel had shown her. Now she has moves that Giles has shown her. She has surprised Angel on several occasions."

"I can imagine. Giles is good--he also can fight dirty if he has to."

"Yes--well. He's taught both of you very well." Wesley said. He couldn't help but feel a small pang of jealousy. Rupert Giles had the admiration and affection of two of the finest women he had ever known. "He has made quite a difference in both your lives."

"You've done a lot of good since you went to L.A. You're a good guy, Wes. I may not have said so when you were in Sunnydale. But you are." Buffy said.

"Thank you for that, Buffy." Wesley sounded surprised--and pleased.

"You're welcome. Okay, enough of this. I've gotta go find my watcher. Maybe I'll talk to you again."

Wesley chuckled.

"Feel free to call anytime. After all, that's the least I can do for my almost-slayer."

"That's right. And if you play your cards right--I might let you tell me your problems next time."

"Really?" Wesley said bemusedly.

"Yep. I figure if you listen to my problems, I can listen to yours. The only rule is only one of us can be depressed. This time it was me. Next time, it's your turn."

"Is it? Now I feel truly special."

"You should. I don't make this offer to just anyone." Buffy replied cheekily.

"Then I feel truly blessed." Wesley laughed. Never in his wildest dreams had he ever imagined this conversation. Perhaps there was hope for a friendship between the two of them.

"Buffy?"

"Yeah?"

"Why exactly did you call me about Giles and Cordelia?"

"Well--honestly?"

"That would be nice." The ex-watcher said.

"I didn't really have anyone else to call. I didn't really think Angel was a good idea. If Giles isn't talking, I'm pretty sure Cordelia isn't. And you were the only one left in L.A. that I knew that might tell me." She replied sheepishly.

"So, you're telling me I was your last choice?"

"Nooo," she denied playfully. "I'm telling you, you were my smart choice."

"Very nice, Miss Summers. I didn't know you had it in you to be diplomatic."

"There's a lot of things you don't know about me Mr. Wyndam-Pryce." Buffy said, laughing.

"So I see."

"Well, I've really gotta go. Bye, Wes."

"Goodbye, Buffy."

Hanging up the phone, he marveled at the surprises in life. As Buffy hung up, she was thinking the same thing.

* * * * *

Giles was startled when the door to his flat burst open.

"Sorry I'm late." His slayer apologized breathlessly.

"Actually, you are not late." Giles said with a smile.

"What do you mean? We said 9:00. It's 9:30 now."

"No, you asked if 9:00 was when I wished you to be here. I said whatever time that was convenient for you was fine with me. You said you would be here at 10:00. So in actuality, you are early."

Buffy blew her bangs out of her eyes.

"I can't believe I rushed over here, expecting to hear a lecture about being on time, and I'm early."

Giles chuckled.

"Perhaps your subconscious did not wish to hear said lecture and decided the matter for you."

"Don't say that," she wailed. "I have enough trouble making decisions with my conscious brain. If my subconscious get in the act, I'll never be able to keep up."

Giles laughed.

"Whatever the case. You are here and we may as well begin now."

"Okay. Just let me find my cd."

"Must we listen to that noise you continually try to pass off as music?"

"Come on, Giles. You can't tell me that you haven't heard something you like in all the time we've trained to my music?"

"I most certainly can. That *noise* is not now, nor will it ever be, music."

"Look at it this way. If we listen to it, you can take out your aggravation at having to listen to it on me. Should make for an interesting training session."

Giles looked thoughtful for a moment.

"Perhaps you have something there." He said, with a twinkle in his eye.

Buffy loved to tease him. She loved it even more when he teased her back. She wanted so badly for him to be happy. She decided that she would ask him today about him and Cordelia.



****

Giles led Buffy to the training room. He had changed into a pair of sweat pants and a tee-shirt. He put a light chest pad on. He had gradually been able to forgo the use of body pads when sparring with Buffy. He still preferred to use the chest pad, however. There were times her body hits were a little too strong for even his comfort.

Buffy watched as he prepared for their sparring session. At first, when she had thought about him and Cordelia, she couldn't get used to the idea of someone her age being with someone his age. But now that she thought about it, it wasn't that crazy of an idea. He was in really good shape--for any age. He was also good-looking. And she knew that a lot of girls in high school had had a crush on him. She had heard one girl talk about his dreamy accent. At the time she had thought the whole idea was crazy. But now--she could see what they meant.

"Shall we begin?" Giles asked, interrupting her thoughts.

"Sure."

They sparred in relative quiet for about thirty minutes before Buffy could work up her courage to ask him about Cordelia.

"So, what happened between you and Cordelia?" She asked casually as she moved in to sweep his feet out from under him.

Normally, Giles would avoid this move with ease. This time however, Buffy's question took him off guard. He managed to say, "I beg your pardon?" right before she knocked him flat on his back.

He lay there, winded.

"Oh, God, Giles. Are you hurt? I didn't mean to--I mean, you never fall for that move." Buffy said as she moved to help him.

Giles waved her off as she tried to help. He sat up.

"What do you mean 'what happened between Cordelia and I'?" He asked as soon as he got his breath back.

"Just that." Buffy answered as she sat down on the mat beside him

"Nothing has occurred between Cordelia and I." Giles said somewhat stiffly.

"Come on. The way you just answered that question tells me something happened."

"What does that mean. I simply answered your inquiry."

"Nooo," she told him. "You answered my question by being all stiff-upper lippy. That tells me I hit a nerve."

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean." Giles was indignant.

"I'm sure you do." Buffy replied, mimicking his tone. "Giles. If you don't want to tell me, that's okay--no scratch that. It's not okay. I'm gonna keep bugging you until you tell me. You haven't been the same since she was here and I want to know what's going on."

"Perhaps I don't think it is any of your business."

Buffy shook her head. "Doesn't matter. See, I'm gonna find out. I'm through letting you push me away and telling me nothing is wrong. I'm not a kid anymore. I wouldn't let any of my other friends get away with it and I won't let you. Not anymore."

"Are we friends, Buffy? Are we truly?" Giles questioned. He watched her intently.

Buffy got the impression there was a lot riding on her answer. So she chose her words carefully.

"No, Giles. We are not friends." She said. She saw his face fall before she could finish her answer. She grabbed his arm to keep him from leaving.

"We are much more than friends." She felt him relax and sink back down beside her. "You are the closest thing to family I have, other than Dawn. Even my dad doesn't come close to being to me what you are." She finished softly.

Giles didn't know what to say. He knew he was important to Buffy. He was her watcher, of course he would have a place in her life. But he had never believed, deep down inside, that she would ever consider him anything more than a necessary intrusion in her life. Perhaps that attitude came from the lack of acceptance in his own family. He didn't know. All he was sure of, as the words soothed and comforted a hurt deep inside of him that he hadn't even been aware of, was he loved this girl. He loved all of them, but she held a special place in his heart. There was nothing in this world he wouldn't do for her.

"Giles? Are you still with me?" Buffy asked anxiously.

"Yes, yes," he replied absently. "I was simply thinking."

"About what?"

Giles focused on her again. "How very lucky I am to have you in my life."

Buffy blushed slightly.

"Well, I don't know about that. You would have had a more peaceful life without me in it. That's for sure."

He took her hand.

"I do not know that for sure. However, I do know my life would have been much more bleak and less filled with joy if I had never had the pleasure of knowing you--of witnessing your existence."

Buffy blushed even more and unshed tears sparkled in her eyes.

"Okay, that's it! No more. Not unless you want me crying all over you exercise mat."

Giles grinned. "No, I don't think I want that."

"Good. Now, you never did answer my question."

Giles lost his grin. Before he could put her off again, Buffy spoke.

"Giles. You know I'll get it out of you eventually. If you don't talk now--you'll talk later."

"You're sure of that, are you?"

"Absolutely. You forget, Willow taught me her resolve face. See?" Buffy pointed to herself.

Giles couldn't help it. He laughed.

"Very well. Cordelia and I argued. That is all."

"That's it? You've been in a funk for how long? Just because of an argument?" Buffy shook her head, "Sorry, I'm not buying it. What did you fight about?"

"Really, Buffy. I do not think that is any of your concern." Giles protested.

"That's where you're wrong." Buffy said seriously. "When you're upset, it concerns me. I also happen to think this argument had something to do with me."

"Why would you think that?"

"Because, 1. You're being evasive. Bet you didn't think I knew a big word like that, did you? 2. When you're being evasive, it's usually because you're trying to protect me. So that means something was said in this argument that you think I need protecting from. That's why I think something happened and my name came up."

Giles didn't want to tell her what he and Cordelia had argued about. But she was very close to the truth and he wasn't sure he could put her off.

"Buffy, please--."

"Nope. Don't try that, 'Buffy, please let it be'. I won't do it. I know you don't like to talk about your problems. But, buddy, this time you are."

"Are you sure you wish to know? If I tell you, there will be no going back."

"I want to know. But you make it sound like the end of the world." Buffy stopped for a moment as a terrible thought occurred to her. "Please tell me it's not another prophecy."

"No. Not another prophecy. But it does concern Angel--or more appropriately Angelus."

Buffy stiffened at the name of Angel's demon. Now she knew why Giles had been acting so strange.

Giles took her silence as a sign that she did not wish to hear the details. He moved to rise from the mat. Her voice stopped him.

"It's about when he tortured you isn't it?" She asked quietly.

"Yes." He answered in a low voice.

Buffy took a deep breath. Well, she had asked.

"Okay, tell me."

"Everything?"

"Everything." Buffy nodded her head resolutely. .

"Very well. First, I need something to drink. I think I am going to need it."

They both stood and moved towards the door. Giles tried one more time.

"You are sure you want to know?"

Buffy looked at him and gave him a small smile.

"I'm sure." But she didn't sound as though she believed her own words.

Giles sighed. Perhaps it was best this way.

"Come along." He said. "We'll do this in the kitchen."

Buffy followed him from the room.

* * * * *

Have you noticed that our significant moments lately have been in the kitchen?" Buffy said.

Giles merely smiled. He retrieved the kettle and put water on to boil.

"Would you like a cup of tea?"

"Sure, thanks."

He busied himself with the task at hand.

"Giles?"

"Yes?"

"What are you doing?"

"Procrastinating." Giles said with a sigh.

"Why?" Buffy asked gently.

"Because I do not care to have this conversation."

"We're going to have it. Stalling won't make me go away."

"I know that." Giles said, a little testily.

"Then sit down and talk to me." Buffy answered, sounding a little huffy herself.

Giles took a deep breath and sat down at the table.

He told her what had happened to him. How Angelus had tormented him. It was supposed to get easier the more he told it. It didn't. It was just as hard telling Buffy as it had been telling Cordelia. He finished just as the kettle whistled.

Buffy jumped at the sound. She tried to collect her scattered thoughts as Giles made the tea. She couldn't believe he had kept this in for *four* years. How had he done it? She felt ashamed. When Angel came back, she had thought only of him. What had it taken for Giles to let him back into his life? No wonder Angel never dealt with Giles alone. God, it's a wonder Giles didn't stake him the minute he saw he was back. She came back with the one question she had been asking herself ever since he had finished his tale.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Giles set the tea tray down on the table. He wasn't prepared for the hint of accusation in her voice.

"As I recall, you weren't there for me to tell." As soon as he said the words, he wished them back. He saw the hurt flash across her face. "Buffy, I didn't tell anyone." He continued, trying to ease her pain.

"Except Cordelia."

"Yes, I told Cordelia--two weeks ago. I told no one at the time."

"Why?"

"Because all my energy, all my concentration, went towards finding you. You had disappeared. I knew you had survived, but I didn't know what shape you were in, physically or mentally. Willow had told us of the spell to return Angel's soul. But I didn't know if, or when, it had worked. I was deeply concerned for you."

"But what about later?"

"What about later?"

"After I came home, why didn't you tell me then? Or when you found out Angel was back?"

"Buffy, be reasonable. What was I supposed to tell you? That the great love of your life had tortured me when he had been a homicidal maniac? We had enough to deal with. First with Faith coming to town and then the mayor. After that, when Angel left town, there didn't seem to be a point to bringing it all back up."

"No point? You had been tortured and you didn't think it was important enough to tell me about?" Buffy asked, incredulously.

"It wasn't a matter of importance." Giles replied impatiently. "We had enough to deal with. Then as time passed, there didn't seem to be a way to approach the subject."

"How 'bout, 'Buffy I need to talk to you about Angelus'?" Buffy asked.

Giles stared at her for a moment.

"Buffy, if you remember correctly, you weren't around a great deal of the time the following year. You had Riley and the Initiative." Giles reminded her.

"But--!" she protested.

"No." Giles held up a hand to stop her. "You are telling me I should have told you what happened. For the sake of argument, I will concede that point. However, you must admit, I would have had a difficult time cutting into your social life in order to do that."

Buffy started to object. She felt Giles was being unfair. But a little voice (God she hated that voice) said that he was at least partially right. She had drifted away from him and the others. No matter who's fault that was, she had.

"Okay, maybe you're right."

Giles simply raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, okay. You *are* right. I just don't understand why you didn't tell me later. Things were better between us after that year, weren't they? Or even after you came back from England this time. Why not then?" Buffy was desperate to understand why he would keep something like this from her.

"Buffy, as I said. With the passage of time, there seemed to be less of an opportunity to tell you. Also, with everything going on with Dawn and your mother, I wasn't going to add old injuries and hurts to the load you had to bear."

Buffy couldn't stop the tears. Even with everything that had happened, he still put her first. She knew she didn't deserve it, but she had never felt so loved.

"I'm so sorry, Giles. I'm so sorry you couldn't tell me."

Giles came around to her side of the table and took her in his arms.

"Ssshh. Hush. There is nothing to apologize for."

"But, I--"

Giles didn't let her finish.

"No. You have nothing to apologize for. You made mistakes, just as I did. Perhaps you're right and I should have told someone. That is something that we will never know for certain. I felt at the time that I should keep this to myself."

"And now? Would you have told me if you hadn't argued with Cordelia?" Buffy paused, "What was that all about anyway?"

"She felt I should tell you what happened."

"That's all?"

"Well, she said that after she persuaded me to tell *her* what had happened."

"So you didn't exactly volunteer for her either." For some reason that made Buffy feel a little better.

"No, I definitely did not volunteer the information." Giles had to smile at the thought. "Cordelia seems to be incapable of taking no for an answer."

Buffy laughed. "And you're just now figuring that out?"

"No, I've known it for some time. It was just brought home to me again." He chuckled.

"Did you fight about not telling me?" Buffy was curious.

"Not exactly." Giles hedged. He moved back to his side of the table.

"What do you mean, 'not exactly'?" Now Buffy was really curious.

"After I told her, I hinted that she would choose Angel over me."

"You accused her of loving Angel more than you?!?" Buffy couldn't believe her watcher could be so dense.

"You make it sound worse than it was." Giles protested.

"No, I'm not. Was that all you said?"

"No."

Buffy waited for him to clarify his answer. When he didn't, she prodded him.

"Well? What else did you say?"

"I might have suggested that both of you would choose him."

"You didn't?!?" Buffy just shook her head. "You got mad at her for what you thought she did and for what I did? Geez, no wonder she let you have it." In Buffy's mind, he had passed the dense stage and went straight into the realm of extreme dumbness.

"I did not blame her for your mistakes."

"That's not what it sounds like. Is that when she told you to tell me?"

"Yes."

"What exactly did she say?"

Giles fidgeted for a few moments. Then he pushed his chair back and turned his back to Buffy.

"She said she would deal with the problems she and I had--."

"But?" Buffy prodded.

"But she refused to be 'condemned for your sins', as she put it."

Buffy let out a low whistle.

"I'm surprised the house is still standing."

Giles turned back to her. "Meaning?"

"Giles, it's not like you two are the most even-tempered people in the world. I mean, you hide it well, but you hold it in until you're ready to explode. And Cordelia? Well, she's never been known to hold it in at all."

"And?"

"*And* you both picked subjects that are near and dear to you. *Then* you challenged each other. Like I said--I'm surprised the house is still standing."

Giles thought about what Buffy was saying. He had to admit, she was right. He and Cordelia were two very strong-willed people. The fact that they could come through this disagreement with their relationship intact spoke volumes about the depth of their feelings for one another. It was time he examined just how deep those feelings might go.

"Giles? Giles, are you still with me?"

Giles was pulled away from his thoughts of Cordelia and their relationship.

"Yes. I'm sorry Buffy. What were you saying?"

Buffy looked at him strangely for a moment.

"I was just wondering where you went all of a sudden. One minute you're talking to me and the next minute you're a million miles away."

"I was just realizing your observation about Cordelia and I may have more merit than I first realized."

Buffy grinned. She knew it. He was finally beginning to realize how much he cared for Cordelia. She thought about giving him a little push--nah, better let him figure this out on his own.

"Well, I think I'd better go home and write this down on the calendar." She giggled.

"Write what down?"

"That you admitted I was right about something. It doesn't happen very often and I think I should write it down. That way the next time you argue with me I can show it to you. Besides I think I'd better quit while I'm ahead. So, I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Yes. I look forward to having lunch with you and Dawn."

"Cool."

Buffy headed towards the door. Right before she moved to open it, she turned to him.

"Giles, promise me something?"

"If I can."

"Promise me that you'll never keep something like this from me again."

He didn't need to ask what she was talking about.

"I will do my best, Buffy. I promise."

Buffy smiled at him.

"Good enough. Well, I gotta go. Dawn's gonna be at the house and wonder where dinner's at."

"Willow and Tara are not home?"

"Nope, they both had late classes. So it's just me and Dawn. Bye, Giles."

"Goodbye, Buffy."

After Buffy left, Giles reheated his tea and went into the living room. He sipped his tea and allowed his thoughts to drift to Cordelia. He didn't notice the room slowly darken or his tea growing cold again. His thoughts were consumed by the dark-haired seer. When exactly did his feelings change? And more importantly, what was he going to do about it? That was the question that plagued him far into the night.

* * * * *

Cordelia was researching the latest demon to devastate her wardrobe when the phone rang. She kept working. Fred had been catching the phone calls all morning.

"Cordelia?"

"Yeah?"

"Telephone. It sounds like Mr. Giles."

Giles chuckled, Fred was one of the few people that bothered to put a mister in front of his name.

"Tell Fred she may call me Giles. There is no need for her to be so formal." He told Cordelia when she answered the phone.

"I've told her that. She says she wouldn't feel comfortable. I think it has something to do with the way she was raised." Cordelia replied. "So, what's up?"

"I was wondering if you would be able to come to Sunnydale this weekend?"

"Sure, but I thought we were going to do our next weekend together here in L.A.?" Cordelia sounded puzzled.

"I've had a change of plans. I was also wondering if you could possibly come tomorrow?"

Cordelia ran the list of things she had to do through her mind.

"I'll talk to Wes and Angel, but I don't think that'll be a problem. Tomorrow's Friday, anyway. I can probably be in Sunnydale tomorrow afternoon. Is that okay?"

"That's fine." Giles hesitated. "I thought we might go out to dinner tomorrow night."

"Sounds good."

Again, Giles hesitated. He had made very specific plans, he just wasn't sure how they were going to be received.

"Also, if you could bring a formal dress. For dinner." He added quickly.

"Giles, you're acting kind of strange. Is everything okay?" Cordelia asked.

"Everything is fine. So I can expect you tomorrow afternoon?"

"Yeah, I'm sure that Wes and Angel won't have a problem with my leaving early. If something comes up, I'll call you."

"Very well. I'll see you tomorrow. Goodbye, Cordelia."

"Bye, Giles."

"Cordelia--?" Giles didn't know how to say it.

"What, Giles?" Cordelia asked Curiously.

"I just wanted to say--I love you." He hung up before she could respond.

Cordelia stared at the phone. What did he mean by that? Did he mean "I love you" like a friend? Well, of course he did. What else could he mean? "He could mean what you want him to mean." A little voice said. Cordelia shook her head. Nah, he didn't mean it like that. She sighed, she had been thinking of him more and more. She was coming to realize that Rupert Giles meant much more to her than she had ever admitted before. She had thought about saying something to him. Could he feel the same about her? She wanted to ask him--but what if she was wrong? She would lose him for sure if she was. She wouldn't, couldn't, take that chance. Having him as a friend was better than not having him in her life at all.

She shook her head. Thinking about this could drive a person nuts. Besides, she had a lot to do if she wanted to be ready to leave tomorrow. She called out to Angel.

"Angel, can I borrow your credit card?"

* * * * *

"Wes, can I talk to you?" Cordelia asked as she knocked on his open door.

"Of course." Wesley looked up from the large book he had been reading.

"I need to take tomorrow off. I've talked to Angel and he doesn't have a problem with it. But, I wanted to check with you. I know we're in the middle of researching this demon--but Giles sounded kinda strange and he asked if I could come down for three days instead of two." Cordelia said as she seated herself in front of Wesley's desk.

"Is there anything wrong?" Wesley sounded concerned.

"No--at least I don't think so. Like I said, he sounded strange. We were supposed to do L. A. this weekend. But he just called and asked if I could come to Sunnydale and also if I could get tomorrow off. I told him I didn't think that would be a problem."

"No, of course it's not a problem. You will call if you need anything?" Wesley asked.

"Yes. But I don't think it's anything like that." She wasn't sure what was going on with Giles, but she was pretty sure it didn't have anything to do with demons. "He told me to bring a formal dress." She still sounded slightly puzzled. In all the times they had been together, he had never taken her anywhere that required formal dress. It wasn't that he didn't want to. It was her decision. She loved to dress up. But when she was with Giles, she wanted to relax and just enjoy his company. She loved the dinners at home more than going to a fancy restaurant. That was something that most people who knew her might have a hard time believing.

"Why is that strange?" Wes asked.

"Because we usually stay home or go to a place close by. There's a nice little Italian place that has great food and it's relaxed. When I'm with Giles, I don't want to have to deal with crowds. I don't want to waste the time we have together worrying about what to wear." She grinned at Wesley. "What a switch, huh?"

"Indeed." Wesley grinned back at her.

"Anyway, can you do without me for a few days? I know it'll be hard." Cordelia grinned again.

Wesley laughed. "I'm sure we'll be able to muddle through. As you say, it will be difficult, but we'll manage."

Cordelia laughed as she left his office.

* * * * *

Wesley leaned back in his chair and contemplated the situation that was Cordelia and Giles. He shook his head and laughed softly.

"What's so funny?" Fred asked quietly from the doorway.

"I do believe that Rupert Giles may have just realized what has been in front of him for months."

"That he's in love with Cordelia?" she asked as she moved further into the office.

Wes laughed out loud.

"Exactly. And I think Cordelia might be coming to the same realization. It should be most interesting to watch."

Fred watched Wesley closely for a moment.

"It really doesn't bother you, does it?"

Wesley looked at her quizzically.

"What do you mean?"

"It doesn't bother you that Cordelia and Mr. Giles may become involved?" Fred was curious. She knew that Wesley had had feelings for her. But she also knew that he had felt a lot for Cordelia at one time.

Wesley sat up straighter in his chair.

"Fred, I have not felt that way about Cordelia in a very long time. She is a dear, dear friend now. I wish her all the happiness in the world. I sincerely hope that Rupert Giles can give that to her. But--!

"But what?"

"I will tell you, as well as anyone else, that I will not stand for her being hurt. She had a tough exterior, but Cordelia feels very deeply. When she gives her heart, she gives it totally. When it is broken, she hurts just as deeply as she loves. I hope Giles knows that."

"I'm sure he does." Fred said.

"I think he does. I certainly pray he does." Wesley looked into Fred's eyes. "Just for the record, I would feel the same about you. I'm not sure you understand how I feel about the people in my little family. I do not have many people that I care a great deal for. I will protect the ones that do mean something to me with everything I have." He suddenly realized how revealing his speech was. He coughed and turned his attention to the book that had lain forgotten on his desk. "Well, I really must be…."

"Researching. I'll just get out of your hair now." Fred said as she moved to the door. "Wesley?"

"Yes, Fred?"

"We love you too." With that, she left.

* * * * *

Cordelia passed the Sunnydale city limits sign the following afternoon. She was anticipating the weekend with an excitement that she could hardly contain. She had a very good feeling about this. A very good feeling.

Giles was waiting for her when she pulled her car to a stop. He walked over to the car and held her door open as she got out. He kissed her gently on the cheek.

"I'm glad you could make it today."

"So am I. So what's on the agenda. I want you to know that I bought a dress that will knock your socks off."

"Cordelia, anything you wear 'knocks my socks off'. As for the agenda, I thought we would relax for a few hours. I made dinner reservations for later in the evening."

"Sounds good."

Giles picked up her suitcase and followed her into the house. He was very nervous about tonight. He wasn't sure how to approach Cordelia about the subject of their relationship. He knew that he had to. Now that he had faced his feelings, he couldn't hide them any longer. He was acutely aware that this could damage their friendship if she did not feel the same. He also knew he would not lose her, no matter what.

* * * * *

Cordelia put her things in her room and hung up the formal dress so that the few wrinkles the garment bag had put in it could fall out before she put it on. She couldn't help being curious about what Giles had planned for tonight. He was being very secretive. He had been more complimentary than usual and he seemed to be paying more attention to her. Not that she had ever lacked for his attention when she was with him. All in all, she was anxious to find out what he had planned. She went out to the living room. She had three days with him and she didn't intend to waste any of them.

* * * * *

Giles met her in the living room.

"How was the trip?"

"Same as usual," she replied. "Giles, are you all right?"

"Certainly, why do you ask?" Giles could have kicked himself, he didn't realize his agitation was noticeable to her.

"You just don't seem like yourself. I was just wondering if everything was okay. Is anything wrong with Buffy?"

"No, Buffy is fine. As are the others."

Cordelia looked puzzled at his tone. She couldn't put her finger on what was different, but something was definitely not the same. She would have to figure it out later.

Giles put on a quiet jazz station. He had come to like the music that Dennis had introduced him to. It made him smile that a ghost could introduce him to a form of music. He had a strange and wonderful life.

* * * * *

Cordelia was getting ready for dinner. They had relaxed and talked for a couple of hours before she told Giles she need some time to get ready. She wore her hair down. Giles said he liked it best that way. The dress she had gotten was a simple midnight blue evening gown that reached her ankles. It had two slits up the side and showed off her figure to perfection. She didn't know why, but when she had seen this dress she had know it was the one she wanted to buy. She had gotten a pair of pumps that perfectly matched the dress. She wore a gold necklace. That was her only jewelry. She looked at herself in the full-length mirror. She looked good, if she did say so herself. She grinned to her image. He wouldn't know what hit him. She grabbed her matching handbag and headed to the living room.

* * * * *

Cordelia opened her door and made a show of entering the living room. She caught her breath when she saw Giles. He was wearing a tuxedo similar to the one he had worn at the prom. He looked as good now as he did then.

Giles forgot to breathe for a moment. Cordelia was magnificent.

"So, did I knock your socks off?"

"No, Cordelia." Giles said in a serious tone.

"I didn't?" Cordelia asked disappointedly.

"No. You took my breath away. You are stunning!"

"Oh--well, that's even better." Cordelia's smile was out in full force.

"Shall we go?" Giles offered Cordelia his arm.

Cordelia nodded her assent. She took his arm and let him lead her to the car. She wondered where they were going. She didn't understand when he drove to the little Italian restaurant they normally ate at.

"Giles, I thought you said this was a formal occasion?"

"So, I did." Giles answered.

"So why are we here? This isn't a formal restaurant."

"Cordelia, trust me. All will be revealed with time." Giles said in a cryptic manner.

"Okay, now you're starting to sound like a Chinese fortune cookie."

Giles smiled as he found a parking space. It was then that Cordelia noticed that theirs was the only car in the parking lot. That was very unusual. This place was usually packed.

"Where is everyone?" Cordelia asked in a bewildered voice.

Giles only smiled again. He got out of the car and came around to Cordelia's side. He opened her door and held his hand out to her. Once again, he thought about how this night could end. He wasn't sure what he would do if she didn't feel the same. He shook the thought off. That wouldn't be an acceptable ending to this evening. Everything would work out--it had to.

Cordelia took his hand and stepped out of the vehicle. She was even more curious about what Giles was up to now.

"Shall we go in?" Giles asked after he closed the car door.

"Yes. I want to know what you've got cooking in that devious mind of yours." Cordelia said with a grin.

"Anything you want, my dear," he responded. "Anything you want."

Before she could say anything to that, Giles led her to the door of the restaurant.

"Close your eyes."

"What? Why do I have to close my eyes?"

"Please, Cordelia. I wish to surprise you completely. Close your eyes."

Cordelia closed her eyes and waited for Giles to lead her into the restaurant. She smelled the aroma of Italian food. It took her a moment to realize that she didn't hear anything. There should have been the sound of other people. It was silent, but for the soft music playing in the background.

"What's going on, Giles?"

"You'll see. You may open your eyes now."

Cordelia opened her eyes to find the restaurant completely empty. The table in the center of the room had candles lit. The rest of the room was dim.

"Giles?" Cordelia gave him a questioning look.

"Cordelia, I have something very important to discuss with you. But first, I would like us to have a pleasant evening together. Would you agree to that?"

"Yes. But--what do you need to talk to me about?"

"Later. I've arranged to close the restaurant for tonight. The staff made dinner and will serve it. After that they will leave us alone."

Cordelia didn't know what else to expect. She had never had a man treat her so romantically. Giles pulled her chair out and waited for her to be seated. He took his seat and the waiter appeared with their appetizers. They talked quietly as they ate their meal. After the dessert dishes had been cleared, the waiter asked Giles if they needed anything else. When he told him no, the waiter wished them a good night and left.

Cordelia thought Giles would tell her what was so important, but he extended his hand and asked her to dance.

"You want to dance?" She asked.

"Yes. I remember that you do it quite well and I enjoy the feel of you in my arms."

Cordelia was more than a little curious by this time. He had been making comments like this all night. He also had been very affectionate since she had arrived. Kissing her cheek, taking her arm, and generally….flirting with her. That's what he had been doing with her! She didn't know what was going on. Giles didn't flirt with her--well, no more than any other man did.

"What's going on Giles?" She asked, a bit more forcefully this time.

Giles sighed. He could see he wasn't going to the get the dance he had been looking forward to.

"Cordelia--"

"Don't 'Cordelia' me. You've been acting strange ever since I got here. Is this some kind of hell mouth thing?" She asked suspiciously.

"No, this does not have anything to do with the hellmouth."

"Then what's going on?"

"I am trying to ask you to enter into a romantic relationship with me." Giles all but shouted. He was disgusted and a little angry. This was not the evening he had envisioned. He had wanted to romance her and show her the kind of man he could be.

"Giles, are you saying you want to sleep with me?" Cordelia ask. He couldn't mean what she thought he meant. Because if he did--?

"Well, I wouldn't say that--." He began. He ducked a split second before the punch that would have leveled him whizzed by his head.

"What the bloody hell was that for ?!?"

"What do you mean you wouldn't say that? Don't you think I'm attractive enough to sleep with?"

Cordelia was furious.

"You know bloody well I think you're attractive." Giles snapped. "That dress you have on did everything but make me drool."

"Everything, huh?" Cordelia asked brightly.

Giles sighed in exasperation.

"Yes, everything. Cordelia why don't we just forget this whole evening. You don't feel the same and I really don't wish to embarrass you, or myself, by having you list the reasons why you wouldn't want a relationship with me. It was insane idea by an insane old man."

Cordelia grabbed his arm when he moved to step away from her.

"Hold on buster. You can't drop a bombshell like that on me and expect me to react instantly. I didn't even know you felt that way about me."

"Why wouldn't I feel that way about you? You are attractive, witty, intelligent and courageous."

"Giles, we've never been anything more than friends. Close friends, granted. But friends is all. You've never even kissed me, for crying out loud."

Giles didn't know what came over him. He only knew that if he only had one chance to kiss her, he might as well take it.

"Well, I can remedy that."

With that, he drew her into his arms. Even though he wanted to kiss her more than anything, he still have her ample opportunity to stop him. She didn't. He angled his mouth to cover hers completely. Then he showed her that the experience of an older man could be a very good thing, indeed. When he raised his head later, drawing in much need oxygen, he was satisfied to see that she seemed to enjoy the kiss as much as he did.

Cordelia slowly opened her eyes.

"Wow!"

"Wow, indeed." Giles couldn't help the grin that spread across his face.

She looked at him for a moment. Then she broke the embrace and turned from him.

Giles was alarmed. Had he offended her somehow?

"Cordelia, I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"

"Don't apologize. I'm not sorry you kissed me."

"Then what's wrong?"

Cordelia turned back to him. She looked at him for a long moment. Giles wasn't sure what she was thinking. He knew she enjoyed the kiss. He could tell by her reaction. But now, he wasn't sure what was going through her mind.

"Giles, why did you do that?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"It's not a hard question. Why did you kiss me?'

"Because I wanted to. Because I think you are an extremely attractive woman. Because I have come to the realization that I care for you a great deal. You hold a very special place in my heart. I would like to see if we could have more than friendship."

"And if we can't?"

Giles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"If we can't, I will deal with that." He said in a quiet voice, as he put his glasses back on.

"What if we destroy our friendship."

"We won't." He was emphatic about that.

"How do you know?" She persisted.

"Because I won't allow it. There is nothing in this world that I would allow to interfere with the friendship I have with you."

"You're sure?"

"I am positive."

Cordelia took a deep breath, "Well, I say let's give this a try."

Giles wasn't sure he heard her correctly. Cordelia looked at him a moment and then had to laugh.

"What? You asked and I'm saying yes."

"I just never thought you'd actually say yes." Giles was stunned.

"Why?"

"Well, as my slayer said once, I'm very, very old and it's gross. I never believed you give an old man like me a chance."

"Well, for one thing, Buffy and I don't agree on much of anything."

"And the second thing?" Giles asked.

"Secondly," Cordelia continued. "You're not old, you're older. There's a difference."

"There is, is there?" Giles couldn't help but smile.

"Yep. There is. I've told you before. If I were involved with you, your age would be the last thing I'd worry about."

Giles laughed, a sound filled with joy.

"I don't know what I did to deserve you, Cordelia Chase. But I will be thankful for the rest of my life for it."

"Just remember that the next time I piss you off." Cordelia said with a grin

* * * * *

Giles pulled to a stop in front of Cordelia's apartment building. He had enlisted Wesley's help to make sure Cordelia did not come home unexpectedly. The irony of asking Wesley for help was not lost on him. He walked to Cordelia's door and knocked softly.

"Dennis, it's Rupert Giles. May I speak to you?" He felt rather foolish. The door opened. He took that as an invitation to enter.

* * * * *

Giles moved to the couch and sat down. Now that he was here, he wasn't quite sure how to proceed. How do you carry on a meaningful conversation with someone, a *ghost*, that couldn't talk.

"Perhaps this wasn't a good idea." He moved to rise from the couch, only to find himself pushed back down. Shock kept him seated for a moment. He shook his head and moved to get up. Once again, he found himself forced back down on the sofa.

"Dennis?" He asked hesitantly. He felt a slight nudge. He took that to mean he was dealing with Dennis.

"Dennis, I wish to leave." He felt a force holding him immobile on the sofa. Just then something clicked in his mind. Cordelia had told him once that Dennis had an insatiable curiosity. Apparently he wouldn't be allowed to leave until he told Dennis why he wanted to talk to him. He decided to ask and find out if this were the case.

"Dennis, am I not being allowed to leave until I tell you why I wished to speak to you?" He felt the force holding him loosen. He was right. Dennis was simply curious as to why he was here. Apparently he was going to have to see this through whether he wanted to or not.

He heaved a sigh, "Very well, I wanted to speak to you about my relationship with Cordelia." It was an amazing feeling, but he could almost feel a questioning aura emanating from the ghost. "I have asked Cordelia to enter into a romantic relationship with me." Giles hurried on. "I know how much you care for her, so I wanted to talk to you." Giles felt rather foolish asking a ghost for permission to date Cordelia. But he felt that she deserved the respect the act implied.

Suddenly the pressure holding Giles to the sofa disappeared. He wasn't sure what happened until he heard dishes rattling around in the kitchen. He didn't know exactly what was going on, so he decided to sit and wait a few moments. Perhaps Dennis was considering the request. Or, he could be laughing his insubstantial arse off at an old man with a foolish sense of propriety, Giles thought wryly.

"I realize that I am quite a bit older than Cordelia. But when I'm with her I feel more alive." Giles felt a breeze ruffle his collar playfully. "Yes, I feel like there is joy in the world. I am happy with Buffy and the others, but Cordelia makes me laugh at the small things in life." Giles chuckled, remembering some of the things that Cordelia would find funny. "She finds the joy in life and helps me to do the same. She is unique person." Giles could feel Dennis' presence swirl around him in agreement. Sometimes it was easy to forget that Cordelia could have exiled Dennis to oblivion. The fact she was willing to share her living space, and her privacy, with a ghost was testament to the kind of woman she was.

Then Giles sobered. "She has matured so much since she moved to Los Angeles." Giles felt the air around him still. As if Dennis was waiting to see what he would say next. "When I am with her, I do not feel as though I'm with someone 20 years my junior. I feel like I am with the one woman in the world that can truly understand my life and my needs." He paused to collect his thoughts. "I haven't had the best luck with the relationships in my life." The air around Giles grew warm as Dennis tried to offer comfort. "Jenny was a wonderful woman." Giles continued as he took a deep breath and pushed his hand through his hair. "But I never had the chance to develop a full relationship with her. She was the first time I ever looked past my duty since my Ripper days." He had to laugh. "The only other person that you could say I've had a meaningful relationship with was Ethan. And we all know how well that turned out." He finished wryly.

"I suppose I am simply frightened of what will become of us if we can't make the transition from being friends to being lovers." He sighed.

He saw a tea tray floating from the kitchen. When Dennis set it down on the coffee table, Giles saw it had a pot of tea and two cups sitting on the tray. Dennis proceeded to pour Giles a cup of tea and fix it the way he liked it

"Dennis, does this mean you approve of my pursuing a relationship with Cordelia?"

His answer was a cup of tea floating into his hands and a spoon being tapped against the empty teacup on the tray.

"I'll take that as a yes."

The spoon tapped again.

"I'm glad you approve. And Dennis?"

The ghost waited.

"I will do my best to make her happy. You have my word on that." Giles said sincerely.

Once again, Giles could almost feel something emanating from the ghost. This time, it felt like approval.

* * * * *

Giles walked into the office of Angel Investigations feeling--invigorated. He hadn't realized how nervous he had been about dealing with Dennis until it was all over. He had the ghost's approval and now he intended to take Cordelia out to celebrate. He saw Wesley first.

"Hello, Wesley."

Wesley looked up from the book he was reading.

"Hello, Giles." He looked around to see where Cordelia was. "How did the talk go?"

"It went rather well." Giles smiled. "Where is Cordelia?"

"She's training with Angel. Would you like me to show you where?"

"Yes. Thank you."

Wesley carefully marked his place in the book before closing it. He then led Giles down the hall to the training room. He knocked on the door, but no one answered.

"Perhaps they've finished for the day." Giles suggested.

Wesley shook his head. "More likely, they didn't hear me knock." He opened the door and sure enough, Angel and Cordelia were going at it with swords. Angel was showing better form, but Cordelia was using a series of moves that seemed to be confusing him somewhat. He moved to parry a thrust he saw coming his way, then suddenly Cordelia changed direction and slid under his guard. She had her blade to his throat before he knew what was happening.

"Have you had enough?" Cordelia grinned at him.

"If I say yes, will you move that blade a little?" Angel couldn't move, his back was pinned against the wall and Cordelia's sword was a little too close to his throat for his comfort.

"Yep. So--do you give?"

"I don't guess I have a choice." Angel replied carefully.

Cordelia stepped back and lowered her sword. Angel moved away from the wall. Cordelia was about to suggest they go again when she heard a throat being cleared.

"Giles!" She ran to him.

"Cordelia!" Giles sounded somewhat--anxious.

"What?"

Giles gestured to the sword she still held in her hand.

"Oh, yeah." She gave him a sheepish grin. She went to the weapons cabinet and returned the sword to its place. Angel did the same.

"Angel, are we done for the day?" Cordelia asked.

"Sure." Angel was privately relieved for the interruption. He was ready for a break, but he didn't want to tell Cordy that.

"So, what are you doing here?" Cordelia asked, turning her attention to Giles. "I didn't expect you until this weekend."

"I had some business to take care of and I thought I would drop by and ask if you would like to have dinner tonight?"

"Sure. Just let me go home and change."

"Very well. I'll take you back to your apartment if you like?" Giles offered.

"Sounds good." She turned to Wesley. "Was there anything else you needed me to do before I leave?"

"Nothing pressing." Wesley replied.

"Okay. Let me get my purse and I'll meet you in the lobby."

Cordelia left Giles in the room with Wesley and Angel.

"So--Wes tells me you're dating Cordelia." Angel approached the subject tentatively.

"Yes, I am." Giles said. He knew that he had to deal with the vampire, but that didn't mean he had to enjoy the process.

"Hey, I'm glad you two are happy." Angel wasn't sure how to approach Giles. He knew the man had a lot of animosity towards him. Hell, he'd be more surprised it he didn't. But he was also worried about Cordelia. No matter his relationship, or lack thereof, with the former watcher, he felt he had a duty--no, a right--to look after her. He and the others were the only family she had left. "I was just wondering--?"

"What, Angel? What were you wondering?" Giles had little patience where Angel was concerned.

Wesley watched the exchange with a great deal of interest and not a little trepidation. Everything in him screamed at him to interrupt before things could get ugly. But--if Giles was going to have a lasting relationship with Cordelia, he had to deal with his animosity towards the vampire. Because, like it or not, Angel was in Cordelia's life to stay. Giles had to realize and deal with that.

"Look, Giles. I just want to make sure Cordelia is happy." Angel said.

"I want the same for her. I will do my best to see that she has everything she deserves." Giles paused. "What is happening here, Angel? Am I supposed to ask for your permission to court her? Is that what this is leading up to?"

Angel was at a loss. He wasn't sure when he lost control of the conversation. No, to be honest, he lost control of it the minute Cordelia left the room. He just didn't know how he was supposed to talk to Giles.

Giles took a deep, soothing breath. This anger he felt towards Angel wasn't doing him any good and it would only put a burden on Cordelia in the long run. He had to get past this.

"I apologize, Angel." Giles said. "I shouldn't have snapped at you. I know you have Cordelia's best interests at heart."

"It's okay." Angel answered. He hesitated, he wasn't sure how to approach this situation, but he knew that he and Giles couldn't keep on the way they were. Eventually Cordelia would call them both on it and when she did, she wouldn't take any excuses. They needed to clear the air.

"Um, Giles?" Angel began uncertainly.

"Yes?"

"We need to talk." Angel plowed right in. "We've got to clear the air before this gets out of hand. If nothing else, we need to do it for Cordelia." He finished bluntly.

Wesley held his breath. That wouldn't have been exactly how he would have handled this.

Giles started to tell Angel to sod off. But then he realized that in order to get past this, he would have to talk to Angel.

"Very well. When would you like to do this?" Giles asked.

Wesley let out the breath he had been holding. By now he was totally unobserved by the other two occupants in the room. He didn't know how this was going to end, but the analytical part of his brain couldn't help but be fascinated by the exchange.

"Now is good for me." Angel wanted to get this done.

"Fine. What shall we tell Cordelia?" Giles wasn't in the mood to put this off either.

"Tell Cordelia what?" Cordelia's voice sounded from the doorway. "I went and got my things and you still weren't in the lobby, so I decided to check in here." Cordelia stepped into the room. "So what's the big powwow about?" She asked curiously.

"Well, uh--um--." Angel couldn't think of a thing to say. He wasn't sure if Giles wanted Cordelia to know what they were talking about.

"Come on, somebody. Spit it out. Tell Cordelia what?" Cordelia asked impatiently. She turned to Wesley. "Wes, what's going on?"

Giles saved Wesley from answering.

"Angel and I are going to--discuss-- our differences." He said.

"Well, it's about time." Cordelia exclaimed. "I thought it was going to take you two forever to get around to this. When?"

"Now." Angel answered for Giles.

"If it is agreeable to you, I will meet you at your apartment after I speak with Angel." Giles knew that Cordelia wouldn't let him leave town without first talking to her.

"You don't want me to wait for you?" Cordelia directed this question to Giles.

"No. If Wesley would be so kind as to escort you home. I will see you afterwards." Giles stated in a firm tone.

Cordelia could tell this talk wasn't going to happen if she was here, so she resigned herself to leaving.

"Okay. Are you ready, Wes?" She turned to Wesley.

"Yes. Let me get my keys." Wesley left the room.

Cordelia walked to Angel and spoke in a whisper.

"Don't hurt him. If you do, I won't forgive you."

"I won't." Angel didn't know what else to say.

Cordelia stopped in front of Giles on her way out.

"I'm going to tell you the same thing I just told him. Don't hurt him, I won't forgive you if you do."

Giles stiffened at her protective tone. Then she spoke again.

"Now, I'm going to tell you something I didn't tell him."

Giles waited.

"I love you. Come home when you're done."

Without giving him a chance to answer, she walked out of the room and out of the hotel without a backward glance. She knew if she thought about it for a minute she wouldn't leave. This had to be done and now was as good a time as any.

* * * * *

Giles and Angel simply stared at one another for a long, moment.

"So, how do we do this?" Giles asked, getting right to the heart of the matter.

Angel wasn't sure how to start this so he opted for the simplest approach.

"What do you want to do?" The vampire asked cautiously.

"Don't patronize me, Angel." Giles snapped.

"I'm not, Giles. But I don't know how to do this anymore than you do." Angel shot back. He wanted to do this. He desperately wanted to clear the air, but he didn't intend to let Giles put words in his mouth either.

Giles took a deep breath.

"Very well. I will concede that you are in as unfamiliar territory as I am. I'm not sure that we can even do this. It's not like talking will make any of it disappear."

"I know that, but if we don't talk about this, we'll never be able to deal with one another on any kind of comfortable level." Angel paused to take a breath he didn't need. "I'm not asking to be your friend, Giles. I know that's impossible. I'm asking that we establish a relationship that we both can live with so Cordelia isn't put in the middle of our past."

Giles nodded his agreement.

"Now, how do you want to do this?" Angel asked this time.

Giles started to pace the room like a cornered animal.

"I don't know." He said as he ran his hand through his hair with barely concealed impatience. "Cordelia wants me to talk to you. But I'm not sure what there is to talk about. You know what Angelus did to me."

"Yes, I do." Angel said. He could do this. He had to do this. Not only for Cordelia, but for Giles as well. And, if he were being totally honest, for himself as well. That was part of his atonement. At least in his eyes.

Giles wandered over to the heavy bag hanging in the middle of the room. At first he simply spun it around, but then he began to punch on it as he talked to Angel.

"I can tell you what I feel, Angel. I can even tell you that, even now, I wake up in the middle of the night with a scream in my throat and bile rising right behind it. I will always carry the scars from our little 'encounter'." Giles could feel the anger rising as he talked. He had kept such a tight lid on his feelings since that summer that he wasn't sure it was wise to let them out, but here he was, ready to take, or more to the point, blow the lid off. For better or worse. He was still lightly punching the bag as he spoke.

"The physical pain you caused me was actually the least of your sins where I'm concerned." Giles continued. "The mental damage you did to me will always be the worst of it."

"Giles, I'm sorry I let Drusilla use Jenny's memory against you." Angel said.

Giles looked at Angel full on for the first time since he entered the room.

"I don't mean what Drusilla did, Angel."

"You don't?" Angel was confused.

Giles went back to punching the bag, this time with a bit more force.

"No. As much as that hurt, and it did hurt, I was talking about you using our friendship against me."

"Giles--." Angel started to interrupt, but then he stopped. There wasn't really anything he could say. That was what he did and he did it knowing that was one of the Watcher's weaknesses. Angelus was a master at exploiting the weaknesses of his victims.

"Nothing to say, Angel?" Giles couldn't help the taunt that came out. He was wondering if the vampire would try and excuse his behavior. Apparently not, at least not yet.

"No. Nothing to say." Angel said with a sigh.

"Shall we continue?" Giles asked with exaggerated politeness.

Angel just nodded his head.

"You used our relationship against me. Even worse, you used your relationship with Buffy against me." Giles had been pounding on the bag for several minutes now and his knuckles were beginning to show the signs. "You taunted me with the fact you had made her love you, a soulless creature. The fact you had sex with her wasn't as painful to me as the fact you had her love and threw it away. Do you realize that you scarred her for any other man in her life. I don't think she even realizes how deeply your betrayal has affected her. And molded her for any other man." Giles paused for a moment. "Although to be fair, most of the men in her life have let her down and disappointed her in one fashion or another. Including me," he ended with a sigh.

"Giles, you've never let her down. You've always been there for her when she needed you." Angel knew that this wasn't the time or place, but he also knew that Giles had put up with more, and given more, to Buffy than any other person in her life.

"No, Angel. I left her."

"For her own good."

"Ah, yes. For her own good. Isn't that what you did when you moved to Los Angeles?" Giles asked, bringing the subject back around to Angel.

"Yes."

"Well, back to the matter at hand I suppose." Giles said. The knuckles on his hand were beginning to split from the punishment he was inflicting on them. During the entire time, he had kept an even, almost affable, tone to his voice. His tension was being shown in the damage he was doing to his hands.

Angel could smell the blood from Giles' hands and he wasn't sure if he should say anything or not. The smell of blood was beginning to make his demon sit up and take notice. The Watcher didn't even seem to notice the punishment he was inflicting on himself.

"You took the times we trusted you and made them cause for ridicule. You asked me how I could call myself a watcher and still let my slayer sleep with a vampire. As if I had had a say in the matter." Giles said, bitterness creeping into his voice. "You used every time we allowed you into our lives as a reason to show how stupid we had been." Giles was punching the bag hard enough to leave blood smears on the vinyl. "Don't you think I had been telling myself the same thing since you had returned as Angelus? How could we have been so bloody blind and stupid?" Giles asked, almost to himself. He seemed to have forgotten Angel was in the room. "We trusted you as though you were trustworthy." Giles looked at Angel then. "You were never were, were you?"

Angel wanted to scream at him 'yes, I am'. But he also knew, that given the nature of his curse, and the fact that someone had already found a way to remove his soul without his achieving perfect happiness, that for him to say that he was completely worthy of their trust would be a tremendous lie.

"No, Giles. I never really should have had your complete trust." Angel hated admitting that. That brought home the fact that, no matter how much he cared about the people around him, he could always hurt them. That they could never fully trust him.

Giles finally noticed the damage he had done to his hands. He looked at them as though it was the first time he had ever seen his hands bleed.

"You know, you did a great deal of damage to my hands." Giles said.

"Yes, I did." Angel was uncertain as to what the watcher wanted to hear.

"The doctors weren't sure I'd ever had full mobility in them again. They said the damage was severe," he looked at Angel again. "They wanted to know what I had done to them. I believe I told them I had been in an accident," he looked at his hands again. "Which, considering how the rest of me looked, wasn't that hard to believe."

Giles removed his handkerchief from his pocket and began to dab at the blood on his hands.

Angel watched as the material soaked up the blood from Giles' hands and he tried to concentrate on what Giles was saying. Thankfully, he had fed before coming down here.

"Giles, I'm not sure what to say. 'I'm sorry' seems to be inappropriate. I damn near destroyed you and everyone you cared about."

"You're right Angel. An apology is inappropriate and, in my mind, insulting. An apology is only meaningful if it's sincere. And no matter how sincere you are, your demon would do it again in a heartbeat." Giles told him as he tore his handkerchief in order to make bandages for his hands.

"Yes, he would. But even though you don't want to hear it, I am sorry." Angel didn't know what else to say.

"Once again, you are correct. I do not wish to hear your apology. But it seems that we both are doing things we would rather not today." Giles finished wrapping his hands. "I suggest this, Angel. Why don't we simply agree that we will never hurt Cordelia, that we both love her, and leave it at that. You can't change what you did to me and I can't change the way I feel about you. We simply must learn to abide one another when we are in each other's presence."

"Will you be able to do that?" Angel asked.

"I don't believe I have a choice. The only way I can have you totally out of my life is to give up Cordelia." Giles looked at Angel for a long moment before he continued. "And not matter how much I despise you, I am not willing to do that. I love her and I will deal with you as much as I have to in order to have her in my life."

Angel didn't have an answer to that.

Giles moved to the door.

"Now, if we are done here, I am going to Cordelia's and have dinner."

With that, he walked out of the training room and left Angel to deal with the aftermath of their talk.

* * * * *

Giles walked out of the Hyperion. He looked down at his hands and realized they were shaking. He then realized that his entire body was shaking as well. He found a bench and sat down. He had just confronted the monster that invaded his dreams. He wondered why he didn't feel better.

As he sat there, he realized he didn't feel better because there was a part of him that desperately wanted to forgive Angel. Not just because it might give him some peace, him being Giles not Angel. But also because, at one time, the vampire had been a friend. A friend that Giles had desperately wanted and needed. He sighed. There was no use thinking about that now. He would never be able to trust Angel again. He certainly wouldn't be able to be friends with him. He sighed again. He noticed that the trembling had stopped, so he got up and made his way to his car.

* * * * *

Cordelia paced the confines of her apartment. She felt a breeze ruffle her hair.

"I'm worried Dennis. I know they need to do this, but I am so worried."

She saw the cushion on the sofa rise and fall as the ghost plumped it in a bid to get her to sit down and relax.

"I can't relax."

Finally, she went and sat down.

"What if they can't settle their differences? What if this only makes things worse?"

Dennis went into the kitchen and poured her a glass of wine from the bottle that was left from the last time Giles had come for dinner. Cordelia saw the glass and took it from the ghost. She took a sip and then took a gulp.

She hadn't stopped worrying since Wesley had dropped her off. He had told her not to worry. That Giles and Angel had been able to deal with one another when Angel had returned from hell and they would be able to do so now. She wasn't so sure. Giles had so much rage built up inside and he wasn't one to let it out. She finished the rest of her wine and began to pace again.

Dennis tried to get her to sit again, but to no avail. She was too nervous and too worried to sit. All she could do was wait for Giles to show up.

A knock on the door startled her. She opened it to find Giles standing there, looking dead on his feet.

"Well. Get in here!" Cordelia exclaimed.

Giles moved wearily into the apartment. He sat down heavily on Cordelia's sofa.

"Are you okay?" Cordelia didn't like how Giles looked.

"I'm fine. If you will allow me to rest for a moment, we can go to dinner."

"I don't think so, buster. You're going to take off your shoes and I'm going to find that extra set of pajamas you left here and you're going into the bedroom and get some rest. You look exhausted."

Before Giles could protest, Dennis was taking off his shoes and socks.

"Do you mind?" Giles asked the ghost irritably.

Dennis just continued to remove Giles' shoes.

Giles sighed in defeat.

"Very well. I'll stay here the night and return to Sunndale in the morning."

"You damn right! You're not going anywhere in the condition you're in. What exactly did Angel do to you?" Cordelia demanded.

As much as Giles would have loved to blame his condition on the vampire, he knew that he was as much to blame as Angel.

"He didn't do anything to me, Cordelia. We had our--discussion--and then I left. It simply drained me more than I was prepared for."

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"I will be fine with adequate rest."

Cordelia went into the bedroom to retrieve Giles' pajamas and to allow herself a moment to collect her emotions.

"Everything is going to be fine." She repeated to herself softly.

She took a deep breath and returned to the living room only to find Giles sound asleep on the sofa. She shook her head and got a blanket to cover him. What was she going to do with him? She went to her room and settled in for the night.

* * * * *

Giles woke feeling stiff and with a pounding headache. He reached for his glasses only to discover they weren't on his nightstand. He then realized he was on Cordelia's sofa. The events from the previous day came back to him and he knew why his head was pounding. He found his glasses and proceeded to the kitchen to make coffee. He needed the caffeine.

Cordelia came into the kitchen as Giles was pouring himself a cup of coffee.

"I knew I smelled coffee."

Giles smiled.

"Yes, you did. Would you like a cup?"

"That would be great."

Giles poured a cup and set it in front of her on the table.

"How are you feeling?" Cordelia asked.

Trust Cordelia to jump right in.

"You're not even going to give me time to finish my first cup of coffee are you?" Giles asked good-naturedly.

"Nope. You gave me a scare last night. I want to make sure you're all right."

"I'm fine. I told you I simply needed a good night's sleep. I got that and I'm feeling much better this morning."

Cordelia looked unconvinced and Giles decided to change the subject.

"I came to town yesterday to see Dennis." He announced unexpectedly.

"Dennis? My Dennis?" It took Cordelia a moment to switch gears.

Giles chuckled. "Yes, your Dennis. I don't know any other Dennis, do you?"

"No. Why did you come to see Dennis?" Cordelia decided to let his amusement at his own cleverness slide for the moment. She was more curious to know why he wanted to see Dennis.

"Well--." Giles wasn't sure how to explain his visit.

"Give, Giles. You know I'm not gonna leave you alone until you tell me."

"Very well. You know I'm rather old-fashioned--." He began.

"Nah, I would have never guessed that!" Cordelia interrupted with good-natured sarcasm.

Giles threw a mock-glare at her.

"At any rate." Giles continued. "I felt that I should speak to the predominant male figure in your life about my intentions."

"Giles, are you saying you asked Dennis if you could date me?"

"Well, um--yes." Giles stammered.

"That is *so* sweet." Cordelia exclaimed. "I've never had a guy ask someone if he could date me--well, besides me, anyway." Cordelia tilted her head and looked at Giles for a long moment. In fact, she studied him for so long that he actually started to fidget under her gaze.

"But I want you to realize that, no matter what he said, I'm still going to date you."

"Dennis is incapable of speech." Giles said, chuckling.

"You know what I mean!" Cordelia said in an exasperated tone.

"Yes. I do know what you mean. I simply couldn't resist." Giles teased. "Actually, it's a moot point. He gave us his blessing." Giles added smugly.

"Really? Dennis doesn't usually like anyone I date." Cordelia was amazed.

"Perhaps you weren't dating the right men?" Giles questioned slyly.

"Very funny. Keep it up and I won't let you spend the night on my couch anymore." Cordelia threatened with a laugh.

"Oh, in that case I shall be the soul of discretion. I shan't say a word about any unfortunate dating mishaps that may have occurred before I entered the picture." Giles did his best to look innocent. He failed miserably.

"Gee, thanks." Cordelia said dryly.

Giles managed a "you're welcome" with a straight face--barely.

Cordelia was aware that Giles had intentionally changed the subject. That was okay. He seemed like he was in a better mood this morning, so she decided to let him get away with it. Besides, she had all the time in the world to find out what happened. *And* she might even make a call to Sunnydale and see if Buffy could find out anything. Yeah, let him think he had gotten away with something. She had a plan. She always had a plan.

* * * * *

Giles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He had been researching for hours and was no closer to a solution than when he started.

"Giles. Give it a rest. When Angel and the others get here, we'll start again." Buffy said.

"I suppose I shall have to." Giles agreed reluctantly.

Demon activity had increased significantly in the past several weeks and all the signs led them to believe there was a common denominator. The problem was, they couldn't find it. Buffy had suggested calling Angel and finding out if they were having the same problem. They weren't. But they offered to help.

"There has to be a common denominator." Giles shoved his glasses back on. "There has to be something I'm missing."

"Giles, if you're missing something, so are the rest of us. You're not the only one that's been researching for a couple of weeks." Buffy said as she handed him a cup of tea.

"It's not the same, Buffy." Giles protested.

"Why? Because we're not watchers? Or because we haven't appointed ourselves the one to blame when something goes wrong?"

"I am the one responsible---."

"Not anymore." Buffy cut him off. "We're in this together, remember?"

"I remember." Giles smiled.

"Good." Buffy smiled back at him.

Just then, the door to his apartment opened to reveal Cordelia carrying a heavy-looking box.

"Well, don't just stand there, love-o-mine. Grab this thing before I give myself a hernia."

Giles rushed to take the box as the rest of the group entered the room. Everyone, except Angel. He hit a barrier at the threshold.

"Giles---!" Cordelia and Buffy said together.

"What?" Giles turned to see what was the matter and saw Angel standing with a box in his hand. "Oh! I had forgotten."

"Don't you think you need to *unforget*?" Cordelia asked pointedly.

Giles took a split-second to consider--no he had better not. If Cordelia didn't kill him, Buffy most certainly would.

"Come in, Angel." He invited.

Angel walked the rest of the way in and closed the door.

"What are the boxes for?" Buffy asked curiously.

"We thought we might have some reference material that would help." This came from Wesley, who was already piling more books on the table in the dining room.

Cordelia looked around.

"Where is everybody?"

"Dawn is at home, Xander is still at work, Anya is at the magic box and Willow and Tara are on their way." Buffy answered. "Where are Fred and Gunn?"

"They stayed in L.A. to hold down the fort. Things have been pretty quiet so we thought they'd be okay. Besides they've got Gunn's crew if they need backup." Cordelia said.

"What have you found so far?" Angel spoke for the first time.

"Not much. It seems like the vampires are working with some sort of strategy in mind every night, but we don't know why or who is leading them." Giles replied.

"Well, that's what we're here to find out." Wesley said as he finished unpacking his books.

Giles walked over and peered over his shoulder to see what he had brought. Surprisingly, he had brought things that Giles didn't already have.

"How on earth did you know what to bring?" Giles questioned curiously.

"Well, I remembered some of what you had from my sojourn in Sunnydale and what I couldn't remember, Cordelia did."

"I'm impressed."

Wesley just smiled.

"Well, standing here isn't getting the job done. We need to get to it." Buffy's voice spurred them into action.

They each grabbed a book and settled down to research after Giles had filled them in on the details of what they were looking for.

* * * * *

Later, much later, Angel spoke.

"I think I've got who it is."

Everyone's head came up. By this time, Willow, Tara, Xander, Anya and Dawn had joined them.

"Who?" Willow asked.

"I think it's Cormac. Everything that's happening fits with how he does things."

"Bloody hell!" Giles blurted out.

"What? Who's Cormac?" Buffy asked.

"Cormac is a very powerful vampire." Wesley explained. "He was turned in Ireland in the early 1400s."

"So that makes him 600 years old." This came from Xander.

"A very powerful 600 years old." Giles said in frustration.

"Giles why are you so upset about this?" Cordelia went over to where Giles had began pacing.

"Because I should have seen the signs." Giles bit out.

"Again, I ask, why?"

"Because I studied him when I first became a watcher."

"I'm guessing you didn't study him because of his sunny disposition?" Xander put in.

"What makes him so dangerous is the fact he can meld a group of vampires into a cohesive fighting unit." Wesley added his information to the pile.

"Um--when you say 'cohesive fighting unit', you don't mean like soldiers, do you?" Buffy sounded worried.

"Yes. That's exactly what he means." Giles answered.

"How bad is it?" Cordelia asked.

"Bad." Angel answered.

Giles continued to pace.

Cordelia crossed to him and took his hands in hers.

"Stop."

"But--!"

"No. No buts. So you missed something. It happens. Now we have to figure out where we go from here. We need you to focus on that, not on the mistake you think you made."

Something in her voice seemed to calm him. He took a deep breath and nodded.

"Quite right. Now that we know who, we can concentrate on how to stop him."

"Okay…what I don't understand is if this guy was turned like, what? 600 years ago. Why does he make his vamps fight like soldiers?" Xander asked.

"He was a professional soldier before he was turned. He took great pride in his military knowledge. When he was turned, he looked upon the opportunity of living for an eternity as a way to perfect his fighting skills. He was a leader, therefore he needs someone to lead." Wesley explained.

"But we can beat him, right?" Tara asked nervously.

"Of course we can." Willow said, doing her best to sound confident.

"Yeah, we can." Angel said, achieving the confidence that Willow tried for.

"Yes, well. Now that we know who, we simply have to find out where he is and stop him." Giles said.

With that pronouncement, they went back to work. Angel and Wesley went out on patrol with Buffy. Willow and Tara began searching the 'net for anyplace that might seem likely and Cordelia headed to Willie's Bar. If he knew where Cormac was, she would get it out of him. Giles went back to his books in an attempt to find a way to stop him once they found him.

* * * * *

"Found him!" Buffy yelled as she came through Giles' door.

Giles looked up from his research.

"Where?"

"He's in the warehouse district. He was with his buddies. Why is it always warehouses, I ask you this?" Buffy replied cheekily.

Giles ignored her question.

"How many are there?" His mind was already planning.

"Well, at this exact moment, I'd say there was at least eight. But I overheard them saying that not everyone was home tonight." Buffy said "Oh, yeah, I forgot. We brought you a present." Buffy opened the door so Giles could see the unconscious vampire that Angel and Wesley were carrying.

"Take him around back and well do this in the backyard." Giles instructed.

"What about the neighbors?" Cordelia asked as she came to stand by Giles.

"They are gone for the week. No one will see us." Giles told her. "Also, I don't plan on this taking very long," he finished grimly.

"Okay, then." Buffy murmured as she followed everyone outside.

* * * * *

Wesley and Angel dropped the vampire on the ground as he was coming around.

"Where--?" he asked. Then he stopped as everything came back to him. He tried to run, but two heavy boots, Angel's and Wes', stopped him.

"Now where do you think you're going in such a hurry?" Giles asked pleasantly. "One might think you don't like us."

"I'm not telling you anything!" The vampire replied sullenly from his position on the ground.

"Ha! That's what you think!" Cordelia responded gleefully.

"What do you want to know?" he whimpered.

"Actually, very little." Giles said in the same pleasant tone. "We know where you are based at, what we need to know now is, how many of you are there? And what kind of weapons are you using?"

"We don't use weapons."

Giles foot came down on his neck before he could move.

"Do not test my patience." Giles said in a cold, even voice. "I know that Cormac is your leader and he *always* uses weapons."

"But--" The vampire began.

The pressure on his throat increased. Giles leaned down slightly.

"We--no, I-- will hurt you badly if you do not tell us what we want to know." He said in a soft, menacing voice.

"You're gonna kill me anyway."

"True." Giles shrugged. "But if you don't cooperate, I will make that death as painful as I possibly can." Giles smiled thinly. "And trust me, I can be very imaginative."

The vampire looked into Giles's eyes and decided that a quick dusting was better than what the watcher had in store for him. He told them everything.

* * * * *

"Would you really have tortured him?" Cordelia asked after they were back inside. The vampire had tried to run after he had told them what they needed to know. Buffy had taken care of the problem.

"Torture is such an--ugly--word, Cordelia. I prefer, persuaded." Giles said in a pained voice.

"Persuaded, tortured. It means the same thing tonight. You didn't answer my question, would you?"

Giles paused for a moment.

"Yes. If that's what it would have taken to get the information we needed," he said bluntly.

Cordelia was quiet for a moment.

"Okay."

Giles was surprised. He was expecting more of a reaction.

Cordelia noticed his surprise.

"What?"

"Nothing, I just didn't expect--." Giles trailed off.

"What? That I would take it calmly?" Cordelia asked, amused.

"Something like that."

"It's not like he was human, Giles."

Giles couldn't help a guility twinge that accompanied that observation. His mind flashed back to Ben and the night Glory had almost won.

"No, he wasn't human." Giles replied.

Cordelia let that slide for the moment. Giles didn't know that his nightmares about Angel weren't the only ones she had been privy to. She knew what had happened with Ben. He had never said, but she had pieced it together from the nightmares she had overheard. It broke her heart that he wouldn't share this with her, but he would in time. She was sure of that.

"What do we do now?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Now, we plan."

"Oh, goody." Buffy said with enthusiasm. "We're gonna kick some demon butt."

* * * * *

Giles was crouched down behind several crates waiting for the others to get into position. They had managed to get into the warehouse while the vampires were gone and had disabled most of their weapons. The only weapons the vampires would have available would be the ones they were carrying. Hopefully, they wouldn't be prepared for a fight.

The others had just gotten into position when they heard the first vampires returning. Giles crouched a little lower and peeked around a crate in an effort to locate Cordelia. He saw her across the room, holding a crossbow like she knew how to use it. She threw a small wave at him.

Just then a vampire caught sight of Willow and Tara.

"Intruders!"

The fight was on. Angel engaged the two vampires closest to him. Wesley came to his aid after dispatching one that had been sneaking up behind Angel. Xander and Anya had water guns filled with holy water and were proving they knew how to use them.

Cordelia fired a bolt at one vampire and used the crossbow as a bludgeon when another got too close before she could reload. The strength that her demon side gave her helped in the battle and the lessons she had been taking from Angel and Giles paid off handsomely. Willow and Tara were throwing fireballs for all they were worth.

Buffy, meanwhile, was confronting the reason for all this mayhem.

"Hiya, Cormac." She said in a pleasant tone, when she came to stand in front of him.

"Who the hell are you?" He growled. His minions were being slaughtered by--a bunch of teenagers?!?

"You mean you don't know me?" Buffy asked in feigned astonishment. "I'm hurt. I thought for sure you would know me. I mean, you come to my town and try to take over. The least you could do is know who the Slayer is, don't you think?"

"You're the slayer? But, but, you're dead!" Cormac exclaimed.

"You know. I've been gettin' that a lot lately." Buffy shrugged carelessly.

Cormac lunged at her with the intent of taking her off her feet. Buffy dodged the attack and delivered a spinning heel kick to his temple that sent him skidding across the floor. He growled as he got slowly to his feet.

"You'll pay for that, Slayer." He threatened ominously.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what they all say." Buffy taunted him. "Sheesh, do you guys all have the same writer?"

With that last taunt ringing in his ears, she executed a flip that took her over his head and landed behind him. She threw a side-kick at the back of his right knee that had his leg bending at an unnatural angle. He screamed in agony as he went down. Buffy straddled him before he could recover.

"See ya!" She drove Mr. Pointy deep into his heart and was sitting in a pile of dust three seconds later. She got up and dusted herself off as best she could.

Giles looked to make sure the others were all right when he saw a vampire that had somehow escaped their notice, sneaking up behind Tara. He, being the closest to her, shoved her out of the way before the vamp could shove the knife he was carrying into her. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for Giles. He stared dumbly at the knife protruding from his abdomen before slowly slumping to the ground.

"Giles!" Tara's scream got everyone's attention.

Cordelia was the first to move. She sprinted to giles, pausing to stake the vampire as she went.

"Giles!" Cordelia fell to her knees beside him.

"Cordelia?"

"Yeah, Giles. It's me." She said as she cried softly. She gently cradled his head in her lap.

"Is everyone all right?" Giles asked through the pain.

"Everyone's fine. Buffy's fine." Cordelia answered him. He hadn't asked about his slayer, but he would have.

"So tired." Giles slipped into unconsciousness.

"Cordelia?" Buffy had come to the seer's side.

Cordelia's gut-wrenching sobs echoed in the suddenly quiet warehouse.

"Cordelia?" Angel said, trying to get her attention. She never even heard him.

"Cordelia?" Wesley asked softly. Nothing. He could see that the gentle approach wasn't going to work now. "Cordelia!" He repeated her name, adding a hint of steel to his voice.

Her head snapped up at the tone of his voice. He had never seen such anguish in her eyes. Not even when she lost the demon babies.

Angel's heart broke. He, unlike Wesley, had seen her like this before. Just after Doyle died.

She looked at Wesley with a blank look in her eyes. Wesley knew she was going into shock, he also knew that if they didn't get Giles to a hospital soon, he would die.

"Cordelia, you must let us help him." Wesley said gently.

She simply stared at him. He hated what he had to do next, but it had to be done.

"Cordelia, unless you want him to die, you had better get a move on." He said in a voice just this side of mean.

"Wesley!" Buffy sounded astonished that he would speak to Cordelia this way.

"How dare--!" Cordelia said, then she stopped. "What took you so long?" She finished, snapping out of the fugue she was in.

"We must get him to the hospital. Angel, would you carry him?" Wesley instructed.

Xander protested. "We can carry him. We don't need deadboy."

Wesley turned on him with barely concealed fury.

"Xander, at this point, I don't give a good damn about what you think or want. Giles will die if we don't get him to the hospital and Angel can carry him with minimum damage. So step aside if you do not wish to help."

"And if you don't step back, I'll move you back." Cordelia added fiercely.

Xander moved away from the combined fury of Cordelia and Wesley as Angel picked up Giles as if he were a child.

"Take him to the van. We can put him back. We'll need to keep constant pressure on his wound." Wesley said, stripping off his shirt, leaving himself clad in an undershirt, as he spoke, "Use this and put as much pressure on the wound as you can." He said handing the shirt to Cordelia.

"Do we pull the knife out?" Willow asked softly.

"No. We could do more damage. Leave it and do what you can." Wesley directed this last instruction to Cordelia.

"I'll ride in front with Wesley and Cordelia can ride in back with Giles." Buffy said, ending any other argument Xander or the others might have come up with.

Cordelia opened the back door of the van and climbed inside and waited for Angel to bring Giles. Angel gently laid Giles in the van with his head in Cordelia's lap.

As they drove to the hospital, Buffy could hear Cordelia talking to Giles.

"Come on Giles. You can't die on me. You're not allowed to die on me. We made a deal, we give this relationship thing a try. Don't you dare quit on me." She broke off as a sob overwhelmed her. "You're not allowed to die on me, do you hear me?"

After a while, this became her mantra. As if by sheer force of will she could stave off death and make Giles live.

Buffy watched from the front seat. Her heart breaking for Cordelia. She turned to Wesley.

"What happens if he dies?" She asked, unable to believe that she had voiced the thought out loud.

Wesley looked at her and she was stunned by the grim determination on his face.

"I do not intend to find out." He said with utter finality.

Buffy looked back at Cordelia and saw that she hadn't moved other than to continue rocking Giles and talking to him softly.

"We're at the hospital." She said softly as the pulled into the emergency room entrance..

"Get a doctor, tell him to hurry." Cordelia said in a tone that said there would be dire consequences for anyone that failed to heed her instructions.

"I'm on it." Buffy was out of the van before it came to a complete halt.

She hit the emergency room doors at a dead run.

"I need a doctor out in the parking lot."

A doctor said, "Whoa, slow down. Let's calm down."

Buffy grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and brought him nose to nose with her.

"You're not grasping the situation here. I said we need a doctor out in the parking lot. You can come or you can serve as an example to the next one that doesn't come the *hell* on."

"Miss--?" The doctor began nervously.

Just then a nurse came by that recognized Buffy.

"Buffy, what's the matter?"

"Gail, thank God! Giles has been stabbed. He's lost a lot of blood and this moron is trying out his bedside manner on me. I need help *now*."

Gail was already issuing orders to those around her.

"Sara, Get Dr. Williams. He's seen Mr. Giles the most. He'll know how best to deal with this. Troy, grab a gurney and meet me in the parking lot."

The doctor that Buffy had threatened was left in wake of these orders, looking dumbfounded.

By the time the hospital personnel had reached the van, Wesley had the door open.

"We'll take it from here." Gail said.

They got him on the gurney and headed back to the hospital entrance. Dr. Williams met them just inside the doors.

"Gail, what's this about Rupert Giles being hurt?"

"He's been stabbed, Doctor. He's lost a lot of blood."

Dr. Williams looked at the wound and began issuing orders, much like Gail had.

"Call upstairs, get an operating room prepared. Stat. His blood type is O positive. Start with five units and get him prepped for surgery. I'll scrub. Gail, you'll assist." He turned to Buffy, Wesley and Cordelia. "You three can go to the waiting room upstairs and I'll find you when I know something."

"I'm staying with him." Cordelia said in a tone that spoke of her determination.

"Young lady--." He began.

"Don't 'young lady', me. I'm going with him and the longer we stand here arguing about it, the longer it takes to get him help. And if he doesn't make it, I'll make you wish you had never heard his name." Cordelia said in a icy tone.

Dr. Williams looked at Cordelia for a moment.

"Very well. You may accompany us upstairs. But when we get to the operating room, you wait outside, got that?" He said in a tone that brooked no argument.

Cordelia wasn't an idiot. She knew that was the best she was going to get.

"Got it."

"Let's go."

The doctor and nurses left, with Cordelia following. Buffy and Wesley were left standing in the emergency room entrance.

Just then, the others arrived.

"How's Giles?" Willow asked.

"We don't know yet. They just took him to surgery." Buffy replied.

"Where's Cordelia?" This came from Angel.

"She threatened the doctor with dire consequences if he didn't let her go with them. Of course, he allowed her to accompany them." Wesley answered dryly.

"The doctor said we could wait in the waiting room upstairs if we wanted to." Buffy said, anxious to be going. Cordelia may be *in* love with her watcher. But she loved him too and she was worried about him. "Let's go."

Willow hung back with Tara.

"You go on ahead. I'm gonna have them check out Tara. She went down pretty hard when Giles shoved her out of the way."

"I'm alright, Willow. I'm just so sorry Giles got hurt because of me."

Buffy stopped in the process of leaving the room.

"It's not your fault Giles got hurt. It's the fault of the 'person' that stabbed him." She said, mindful of the fact that they *were* standing in a public place and claiming a vampire stabbed Giles was a good way to be taken to the psych ward. She led the others upstairs.

* * * * *

Cordelia paced in the waiting room. She had held Giles' hand all the way to the entrance of the operating room. When she had finally been forced to let go, he had clung to her hand until they had pushed him through the doors.

She had never felt so helpless in her life. Not even when she had been in the grips of head-exploding, nose-bleeding visions. She had to let strangers take care of the man she loved with all her heart. Damn it! This wasn't fair! The fight was over. The Big Bad was dead. Why did this have to happen.

She was still pacing when the others joined her.

"Cordelia, come sit down." Buffy took her by the hand and led her to a chair.

Cordelia sat down and Buffy sat next to her. The others took seats around the room and settled down to wait.

* * * * *

Dr. Williams came in much later to find everyone in various positions, trying to sleep. Everyone, that is, except the two young women sitting together. One blonde, the other brunette, they sat talking quietly, so as not to disturb the others.

Buffy noticed him first. Cordelia mere seconds later.

"How is he?" Cordelia and Buffy asked in unison.

"He is in stable condition." Dr. Williams answered.

Both sighed in relief.

"But." The doctor continued. "He had a very serious injury and he lost a tremendous amount of blood. If you hadn't gotten him here when you did, we would have lost him."

Cordelia lost what little color she had left. She knew it had been bad, but she hadn't let herself truly believe he would die. Now, hearing how close he had come to dying, shook her to her core.

Buffy wasn't much better. She had told her watcher once that she couldn't do this without him. Even when he had returned to England she had known, if she had really needed him, he would have come. Her mind shuddered back from the possibility of a world without him in it.

Dr. Williams watched as this news sunk in for both of them. He hadn't wanted to unduly distress them, but he had to make sure they knew just how serious this was.

"What I need for you to do now is make sure that he stays comfortable and rests. I'm keeping him here for a few days. But if everything goes the way I'm hoping, I'll be able to release him soon. Will there be someone to stay with him when he's released?"

"Yes. I'll stay with him." Cordelia didn't hesitate.

Buffy had been about to volunteer, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that it was Cordelia's place to be with him. Now, that didn't mean that she wouldn't be over there everyday, several times a day. It just meant that she wouldn't be staying with him.

"Very well. You may see him now. One at a time and only ten minutes each." Dr. Williams said.

"Thanks." Buffy said.

Cordelia didn't say anything. She was already on her way to his room.

* * * * *

Giles woke slowly. He became aware of the much too familiar view of hospital walls. He felt a pressure on his right hand. He looked down to see Cordelia's head laying on his hand.

"So you're awake?"

Giles looked to his left to find his slayer sitting in a chair with her legs curled under her.

"So it seems," he answered. "How long have I been here?"

"A couple of days. We were starting to get worried. The doctor said the longer you stayed unconscious, the worse it could be." Buffy stretched as she spoke.

"What exactly happened?"

"Well, the fight was over. I had dusted Cormac. You saw a vamp going for Tara. You played hero and pushed her out of the way."

"I did *not* play hero!" Giles protested.

"Looked like it from where I was standing." Buffy said. "Anyway, you got a knife in your gut for your trouble."

"Yeah, if you had died, I was gonna kill you myself." Cordelia spoke as she sat up.

"Well, ignoring how ridiculous that statement is, when will the doctor release me?" Giles asked.

"I don't know." Buffy answered as Cordelia went to find the doctor.

"Certainly he said something." Giles insisted.

"Nope, he said he was waiting for you to wake up." Buffy explained. "Come on, Giles. You know the drill. You should, you've been in the hospital enough."

"Actually, I said that I would make that decision when I saw how you were doing after you woke up." Dr. Williams said from the doorway.

"I'm doing fine. I would like to go home." Giles moved to sit up.

"Why don't you let me be the judge of how fine you are?" Dr. Williams gently pushed Giles back down. "Would you ladies give us a moment?" The doctor closed the door after Buffy and Cordelia left.

"I wish to leave." Giles insisted again.

"Mr. Giles, you know I will not even consider releasing you until I am convinced that you are recovering to my satisfaction." The doctor was used to dealing with difficult patients. Rupert Giles was one of the worst. "Let me examine you and we'll go from there."

Giles nodded.

* * * * *

Cordelia was pacing outside the hospital room.

"Cordy!" Buffy was getting tired just watching her.

"What?"

"Chill out, he woke up. That's a good sign, right?"

Cordelia stopped pacing.

"I guess. It's just--."

"I know." Buffy cut in. "It's hard to be in there and not be able to do anything."

"Exactly!" Cordelia exclaimed.

"He's gonna be fine." Buffy assured the dark-haired seer.

"I know." Cordelia found a chair and sank into it. "It's just that I don't know what I would have done if he had died."

"Cordelia--."

"No, Buffy. You don't understand. I love him more than I thought I could love anyone." Cordelia was near tears. "He completes me in places that I didn't realize I was lacking something. He knows me. I mean, really knows me. And he loves me anyway. I've never had that before in my life."

Buffy didn't know quite what to say. She knew that Giles and Cordelia loved one another. But she hadn't realized just how deeply that feeling had run until tonight. If she was totally honest with herself, she had to admit that she was also a little jealous of them. She had loved Angel, but part of his attraction was the fact that he was forbidden. There was also so much pain in their relationship. She would always care for him as her first love, but he would never been the one that she would have spent the rest of her life with.

"Cordy, he's going to be all right." Buffy said.

"I know that." Cordelia snapped. She took a deep breath and tried again. "I know he's gonna be fine this time. What about next time?"

"Cordelia, you know as well as I do that this is part of the risk with what we do." Buffy looked at her suspiciously. "You're not thinking about breaking things off with him because of this, are you?"

"NO!"

"Then what?" Buffy asked.

"I don't know." Cordelia dropped her face in her hands.

"Cordy, what's going on in that mind of yours?"

"That's what I would like to know." A new voice interrupted.

"Wesley!" Buffy was glad to see the ex-watcher. She was hopelessly out of her depth when it came to advising people about their problems. She usually ended up making things worse.

"Hello, Buffy." Wesley greeted the blonde slayer. He had heard most of their conversation. Now he wanted clarification from Cordelia as to what she had meant by her comments.

"Buffy, would you mind terribly if Cordelia and I went downstairs for a few minutes?" Wesley asked.

"Go ahead. I'll let Giles know where Cordelia went."

"Thank you." Wesley took Cordelia's arm and began to lead her towards the elevators.

"Hey, wait just a minute!" Cordelia protested.

"Cordelia, I need to speak with you." Wesley insisted.

Cordelia considered digging her heels in and refusing to go. One look at Wesley's face changed her mind.

"Tell Giles I'll be right back." Cordelia threw over her shoulder to Buffy.

* * * * *

"Would you like to tell me what the hell you're doing!" Cordelia hissed as soon as they were out of the hospital.

"I might ask you the same thing." Wesley shot back.

"What are you talking about?" Cordelia asked in confusion.

"I'm talking about what I overheard upstairs."

"Once again, what are you talking about?" Cordelia said with a little more heat.

"You sounded like you were about to talk yourself out of a relationship with Giles."

"I was not!"

"That is most certainly what it sounded like." Wesley stated emphatically.

"Well, whatever you thought you heard was wrong." Cordelia couldn't believe Wesley's nerve.

"Are you telling me that all that talk of danger and losing him wasn't aimed towards letting him go." Wesley pressed.

"NO! If you had bothered to let me finish before you dragged me out here, you would know that. I told Buffy I didn't want to break things off with him. I love him, dammit. Why would I willingly let go of the best thing that I've ever had!?!" Cordelia's voice rose to a near shout.

"I'm sure I don't know." Wesley responded. "I apologize if I misunderstood the conversation."

"Well you did." Cordelia was pissed.

"Once again I apologize. Perhaps we should return to Giles' room." Wesley turned to go back inside.

"Hold on just one damn minute." Cordelia's voice stopped him. "I want to know what this was all about."

"I told you, I misunderstood." Wesley's tone was stiff.

"I don't think so. That doesn't explain why you felt the need to drag me out here and give me the third degree about my intentions towards Giles." Cordelia didn't intend to let Wesley Wyndam-Pryce off that easy.

"Cordelia--."

"Nope." Cordelia interrupted. "What's going on with you, Wesley?"

"Nothing."

Wesley was being defensive. That told Cordelia that he was hiding something.

"I'm not leaving this spot until you tell me, Wes." Cordelia told Wesley softly.

"I just--." Wesley's voice trailed off. He had never been very good at discussing his feelings. That skill, or lack thereof, had not changed over time.

"What, Wes?"

"I simply do not want you to make the same mistakes I have!" Wesley blurted out.

"What are you talking about?"

"I do not want you to lose someone that is very close to you because of fear. It is better to live with the pain knowing you tried than to live with it with the knowledge that you were too much of a coward to take the chance."

"Oh, Wes." Cordelia moved towards him.

Wesley stepped back.

"Please Cordelia. Do not make more of this than there really is," he insisted, a red flush staining his cheeks.

"Okay." Cordelia decided to let it go for now. But, after everything was settled with her and Giles, she was finding this boy a girlfriend! "Let's go back inside."

Wesley breathed a sigh of relief.

* * * * *

Buffy sat and watched Giles as the doctor explained everything to him. He had lost a lot of blood, but overall, he was in pretty good shape. The knife hadn't hit any major organs.

"We understand one another, do we not, Mr. Giles?" Dr. Williams asked.

"Yes. I am being allowed to return home if I have someone to stay with me for the next several days." Giles parroted back the instructions the doctor had given him.

"That is correct." The doctor was certain that Giles would ignore most of his instructions as soon as he set foot out of the hospital. That's why he was thankful that Cordelia Chase had offered to stay with the stubborn man.

"Now, may I be allowed to leave?" Giles asked.

"In a moment. Where is Ms. Chase?" Dr. Williams asked.

"She had to go downstairs for a minute. She should be back anytime." Buffy answered.

"Good. I'll go see to the discharge papers. A nurse should be in shortly to help you."

"That won't be necessary." Giles said.

"It is hospital regulations, Mr. Giles." The doctor smiled slightly. "You should know that by now."

Buffy giggled.

Dr. Williams turned to leave, pausing at the door.

"Mr. Giles, I don't know what kind of occupation you, and the others with you, are in, but please try to be more careful."

Giles began his explanation of how he had been mugged, but the doctor held up a hand to stop him.

"I have been a doctor for 20 years. I've worked in emergency rooms all over the country. I've handled injuries stemming from muggings, gangs, and just about any other mayhem human beings can do to one another. I have also seen things that modern science cannot explain. You and your friends fall into that category. I know you can't tell me what is going on." Dr. Williams took a deep breath. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I would want to know even if you were willing. All I ask is that you be careful. I have a feeling you do very important work."

He headed out the door to finish his rounds.

Buffy looked at Giles with wide eyes.

"Wow. I guess everybody in Sunnydale isn't as clueless as we thought," she said with a grin.

"Apparently not."

Buffy settled back in her chair.

"So, what are you planning to do about Cordelia?" she asked with exaggerated nonchalance.

Giles was caught off guard.

"What do you mean?"

"Giles, that girl just about lost it when you got hurt. She loves you, you love her. What are you gonna do about it?"

"Buffy--." Giles sighed.

"What? I'm just asking a question." Buffy asked with all the innocence she could muster.

Giles just sighed again.

"I don't believe it is a question that you need to ask." Giles replied patiently.

"Why? You're my watcher. What you do affects me. As for Cordelia--I admit, I didn't always get along with her--."

Giles interrupted her with his laughter.

"Okay, smartass," she chuckled. "I haven't always gotten along with her, but I've gotten to know her better since she started coming to Sunnydale to see you. She cares about you--a lot. That makes her okay in my book."

"Buffy, do not take this the wrong way, but why do you care about what happens in my love life." Giles asked curiously.

"Because, I don't want to see you alone anymore." Buffy answered truthfully. "I never realized how lonely you must have been until Cordelia became a part of your life. You gave up so much for me, I don't want you to have to give up anymore if you can help it."

Giles didn't know what to say to that. Just when he thought he knew just how much Buffy had grown up, she would do, or say, something that would force him to reevaluate his assessment.

He cleared his throat. "I do not think you have to worry about that any longer."

"Just out of curiosity. Why?"

"Because I have made certain plans that I will put into motion when the time is right." Giles was being as cryptic as he could. He didn't want anyone to know what he had in mind until he was ready.

"You're gonna ask her to marry you!" Buffy squealed.

"Buffy, please!" Giles said in a pained voice.

Buffy visibly controlled herself.

"Are you really going to ask her to marry you?"

"Buffy, please do not mention this conversation to Cordelia." Giles pleaded.

"Giles, I can keep a secret." Buffy said as she blew her bangs out of her eyes. "I just don't know how long I can keep this one," she informed him with a grin.

"Keep what?" Cordelia's voice sounded from the doorway.

Giles looked up to see her and Wesley standing together. They were both wearing identical curious looks.

"Nothing." Giles replied as he shot Buffy a warning glance.

She just grinned at him again.

The nurse knocking on the door prevented Cordelia from repeating her question. Giles was given his ride through the hospital in a wheelchair, protesting the entire way that he could walk just fine.

Wesley pulled Giles' car to the front of the hospital. Giles was situated in the front seat while Wesley drove and Buffy and Cordelia rode in the back. They headed for home.

* * * * *

Giles sipped his tea as he made notes on a yellow legal pad. It had been a quiet couple of weeks since he had been stabbed and Cordelia had left for home several days ago. He had been making arrangements ever since her departure.

He was thankful that Buffy had shown herself capable of keeping his secret. He had worried that she would spoil his surprise by tipping his hand too soon. His slayer had proven true to her word when she had promised not to tell anyone her assumptions. A knock on his door interrupted his thoughts.

"Come in," he called out as he sat his cup down.

"Hey, Giles." Willow greeted him as she and Tara entered his apartment.

"Hello, Willow. Hello, Tara." Giles smiled at them.

"Hello, Giles." Tara returned his smile. She had gotten more comfortable with him since their talk about Willow. Not that she had been uncomfortable around him before. It was just that she had taken him at his word that she could come to him. The problems she had discussed with him hadn't been earth-shattering, but it had been nice to have someone to talk to that could give her advice. It had been kind of like having a father.

Giles thoughts had been running along the same lines and he smiled to himself, amused that he seemed doomed to be these children's father figure. Except for Cordelia--never Cordelia. As she had pointed out to him on a few occasions.

"What can I do for you ladies today." Giles was in a rare humor.

"Well, actually, it's what we might be able to do for you." Willow answered with a grin.

Giles' humor took a decidedly unamused turn. Somehow, he didn't think he was going to like what was coming next.

"What exactly do you mean?" he asked.

"Buffy told us what you're planning." This came from Tara. She hadn't been sure about coming over here and offering help. But Willow had insisted.

"What do you mean, what I'm planning?" Giles asked, hoping against hope that they didn't mean what he thought they meant.

"Why don't we let Buffy explain it to you?" Tara suggested. "She's right behind us."

His slayer chose that moment to come bounding through his door, acting for all the world, like her younger sister.

"Hey, Giles!" Buffy called out cheerfully.

"Hello, Buffy."

"We came to help." Buffy was almost bouncing in place in excitement.

"What do you mean 'help'?" Giles asked warily.

"We're gonna help you plan how you're going to ask Cordelia to marry you!" Buffy and Willow almost squealed with delight over that announcement.

Giles couldn't say anything for a moment. Apparently, his credit to his slayer for being able to keep her mouth shut was a bit premature.

Tara was the only one of the three that noticed that Giles had been less than pleased with Buffy's revelation. She had been worried about his reaction ever since Buffy and Willow had decided that he was moving too slow and needed their help.

"Giles--it is okay that we're here, right?" she asked hesitantly.

"Of course it's okay." Buffy answered for him.

Tara just looked at Giles.

"Yes, yes. It's fine." Giles reassured Tara quickly.

Buffy seemed to finally notice his marked lack of enthusiasm.

"It is okay, isn't it?" she asked uncertainly.

Giles looked at the three young women standing before him. Their faces, which had been full of excitement before (at least Willow's and Buffy's had), now held a look of apprehension. He sighed.

"Of course."

"Yay. Let's start planning." Buffy exclaimed.

"Yay, indeed." Giles muttered.

* * * * *

"Buffy!" Giles said in exasperation.

"What?" The slayer in question responded.

"Why must you insist upon doing this?"

"Because we want to make sure Cordelia will say yes."

Giles glared at her.

"You do not believe she will say yes to a proposal from me?"

Even Buffy knew to tread lightly when Giles used that tone.

"No, I mean, yes. Geez, Giles. Of course I think she'll say yes. She loves you. But every girl, and no matter what else she is now, Cordelia is still a girl."

"That she is." Giles agreed.

Buffy grinned.

"She's a girl and all girls dream of when the man they love proposes to them."

"They do, do they?"

"Yep. Don't they, Wills?" Buffy asked the red-haired witch. She needed reinforcements and she needed them now!

"Yeah, Giles. I mean, before Tara, I used to spend hours thinking about it." Willow said. "Now I think a lot about Tara." She smiled at her partner.

"I think about you, too." Tara responded with a shy smile.

"Okay, back to the subject." Buffy declared. "You've got to make this perfect."

"And you don't think I can do that all on my own?" Giles asked. He was admittedly curious as to what these young women would come up with. But he didn't intend for them to know that. If he let them think for a moment that he welcomed their help, he wouldn't be able to get rid of them.

"It's not that we don't think you can do it. It's just that we think we can make it--better." Buffy finished with a flourish.

Giles affected a put-upon air.

"Well, I suppose I have no choice--."

"Nope. None at all." Buffy didn't let him finish. She had learned that when you got a victory over Giles, you ran with it.

"Let's start planning!" Willow put in.

* * * * *

Several hours later, Giles was wishing he had thrown the lot of them out when they had first knocked.

Buffy had decided that the perfect place to propose would be a romantic dinner out in the desert. Willow had vetoed that idea and said that a cozy dinner at home would be the perfect time and place to ask Cordelia to marry him. They had bickered back and forth about whose idea was the best. Tara, unsurprisingly, had been the one to put a stop to it.

"Uh, guys? Don't you think that Giles should have *some* say in where and how he wants to ask Cordelia?" Tara was as tired of the wrangling back and forth as Giles was. She could see that Buffy and Willow were putting forth their fantasies of what they would have liked someone to do for them. Not necessarily, what would be best for Giles and Cordelia.

"I guess." Buffy said with a sheepish grin. Willow looked a bit shamefaced as well.

"Why don't we do it this way? I will take your suggestions under advisement and will make a decision on my own." Giles suggested, grateful for Tara's intervention.

Buffy and Willow looked ready to protest. Tara didn't give them the chance.

"I think that sounds great. You have our suggestions, so we'll be going now." Tara ushered the other two women out of the door before they could think of a reason to stay. She hung back for a moment.

"Good luck," she whispered. "I know she'll say yes."

"Thank you and I hope you're right." Giles breathed a sigh of relief as he closed the door behind the slayer and her friends.

Now, to get back to the plans he had been making before they had arrived.

* * * * *

Cordelia breathed easier as she headed out of L.A. She had expected something to keep in her town for the weekend. She needed to see Giles. They hadn't seen one another since she had left Sunnydale after he had been hurt. That had been weeks ago. Every time they made plans to spend time together, something happened. She was missing him and needed her Giles' fix. She pulled up in front of his apartment. She noticed that he hadn't opened to the door to meet her. That was strange. She shrugged and got her bags out of the trunk.

When she got to the door, she found it locked. "What's going on here?" she thought. She looked down to find an envelope peeking out from underneath the welcome mat. She saw her name when she picked it up.

Cordelia,

Please go inside and look on your bed. You will find further instructions there.

Giles


Okay, that was strange. She dug her key out of her purse and opened the front door. When she got to her room she saw a garment bag from one of the most exclusive stores in Sunnydale lying on the bed. She opened it to find a sexy evening gown. It was gorgeous. It was black with silver strands woven into the fabric. Beside the garment bag was a shoe box containing a pair of patent leather black pumps that had at least a three inch heel. They were perfect for the dress. There was also undergarments to go with the dress and shoes. She also found another note.

Cordelia,

I hope you like the dress. Please put it on and meet me at the Italian restaurant where we normally go.

Giles


Cordelia didn't know what he was up to, but he definitely got points for style with this dress.

* * * * *

After she dressed, she looked at herself in the mirror. The dress fit to perfection. She put her hair up in a French twist. She pulled a few tendrils loose on the sides and at the nape of her neck. Whatever Giles was up to, she was ready.

* * * * *

She pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant with a sense of déjà vu. The parking lot was almost completely empty. Giles' car was parked in front. Cordelia stepped out of the car and walked to the door. There was a note on the door.

Cordelia,

This will be the last note. Please knock on the door and wait for me. I promise it will be worth the wait.

I love you,

Giles


Cordelia knocked on the door and waited. Giles opened the door and walked outside. He kissed her softly.

"Hello, my dear." Giles said as he took her hand.

"Hello, yourself."

"I must ask you to close your eyes." Giles said as he began to lead her inside.

"I think we've done this before." Cordelia chuckled as she closed her eyes.

"Indeed we have." Giles said as he carefully shut the door behind them. He didn't want any interruptions tonight.

"How long do I have to keep my eyes closed?" Cordelia asked.

"Not long." Giles promised.

Giles led her to the center of the room where a table had been laid with fine china and a linen table cloth. The room was lit by dozens of candles that had been placed on every table and shelf. The table at the center of the room had a large arrangements of red and white carnations with sprigs of fern providing color. He nudged her into a waiting chair and picked up a small jeweler's box that had been sitting on the table.

"Giles, I'm getting impatient." Cordelia said, but obediently kept her eyes closed.

"I am almost ready," he assured her.

"Open your eyes," he instructed.

Cordelia opened her eyes to the sight of the room. The candles and the flowers took her breath away.

"Giles, it's beautiful!"

Giles took her hand and kissed her palm.

"I wanted tonight to be special for you."

"It is. The flowers are gorgeous."

"I know you like roses, but I just couldn't bring myself--."

Cordelia laid her finger against his lips. She remembered about the roses in his apartment when he found Jenny.

"The flowers are perfect."

Giles smiled gratefully as he knelt down on one knee in front of her chair.

Cordelia gaped at him.

"Giles--?"

"Please." Giles held up his hand. "Let me say what I have to say before you speak."

Cordelia nodded.

"Thank you." Giles took a deep breath. "Cordelia, I'm not someone who speaks easily of his feelings. I simply have a difficult time finding the right words," he chuckled nervously. "Which is quite absurd considering how many languages I speak." He took another deep breath. "I may not always find the words to tell you exactly what you mean to me. But know this, you hold my heart in the palm of your hand. I wake up sometimes with the absolute certainty that this has all been some sort of dream or hallucination. That you can't possibly love an old man like myself. Then you will kiss me or touch me and I will have to remind myself to breathe."

Cordelia started to speak, but Giles laid a gentle finger on her lips.

"I can't promise that I will always be here. I would never lie to you like that." Giles said. "But I can promise you this. I will never willingly leave you or let you go. I promise that I will always love you with everything I am or will ever be. My heart will be yours until the day they put me in my final resting place. Most likely, even after that." Giles reached into his pocket for the ring box.

"Cordelia Chase, will you be my partner and the love of my life. Will you let me love you for the rest of my life?" Giles opened the jeweler's box to reveal a gorgeous emerald solitaire. "Will you marry me?"

Cordelia couldn't speak. She tried and couldn't. A single tear rolled down her cheek. Finally, she whispered.

"Yes."

She pulled him to her and kissed him. Giles' arms came around her.

"Thank God. You had me worried when you started crying," he told her.

"I love you, I love you, I love you." Cordelia punctuated each 'I love you' with a kiss somewhere on Giles' face.

Giles retrieved the ring box.

"This belonged to my maternal grandmother." Giles told her as he slipped the ring on her finger. "She and my grandfather were married for almost 60 years. She told me to give this to the woman I couldn't live without." He kissed her hand gently. "It took me awhile to find her, but here you are." Giles put the ring on Cordelia's hand.

"Here I am." Cordelia agreed through her tears.

Giles took her hand and led her out to the middle of the floor.

"Shall we dance," he asked.

"Why don't we." Cordelia smiled.

As they moved to the music, Cordelia listened to the words. It wasn't a song she had ever heard before, but the words touched her. She laid her head on his shoulder and lost herself in his arms.

I can't imagine, any greater fear
Then waking up, without you here,
And though the sun, will still shine on,
My whole world, would all be gone,
But not for long,


If I had to run, if I had to crawl
If I had to swim a hundred rivers, just to climb a thousand walls,
Always know that I will find a way, to get to where you are,
There's no place that far


It wouldn't matter why we're apart,
Lonely minds or two stubborn hearts
Nothing short of God above
Could turn me away from your love
I need you that much

If I had to run, if I had to crawl
If I had to swim a hundred rivers, just to climb a thousand walls,
Always know that I will find a way, to get to where you are,
There's no place that far


If I had to run, if I had to crawl
If I had to swim a hundred rivers, just to climb a thousand walls,
Always know that I will find a way, to get to where you are,
There's no place that far
Baby there's no place that far


"Giles, where did you get that song?" Cordelia asked without raising her head.

"Tara suggested it to me. Apparently a friend in college was listening to this song one day and Tara heard it. She thought it fit us." Giles answered. He was resting his cheek on her hair.

"I think she's right. It does fit us."

"Indeed."

They spent the rest of the night lost in each other.

* * * * *

Cordelia took the wedding dress out of the garment bag and hung it up before sitting down in front of the mirror to do her makeup.

"Hey Cordelia." Buffy came through the door. She had come to help Cordelia get ready. She wasn't her maid-of-honor, but she was a bridesmaid.

"Hi, Buffy." Cordelia didn't turn around.

"Everything's going okay outside." Buffy told her. "Angel and Wesley are finishing the backyard and Tara and Willow have finished the protection spells."

"That was nice of Tara and Willow to cast those spells as our wedding present." Cordelia said as she put the finishing touches on her makeup.

"Well, since the wedding was being held at night--for obvious reasons--they didn't want any baddies ruining your big day, er, night." Buffy looked for the maid-of-honor.

"Where's Fred?" She turned to look at Cordelia's dress as she asked the question. "That's a beautiful dress."

"Thanks. It belonged to my grandmother. Fred's running a little late " Cordelia answered.

"Do you need anything?"

"No, I think I've got everything under control." Cordelia turned from the mirror to look at Buffy. "But do me a favor."

"Sure."

"Check on Giles for me."

"Why?" Buffy knew her watcher was eager for the wedding. She couldn't imagine why Cordelia wanted her to check on him.

"Because my parents are here." Cordelia's voice sounded strained.

Buffy was surprised.

"I didn't see them."

"That's because they haven't gotten here yet."

"Then how do you know they're here."

"A relative called to warn me."

"Warn you?" Now Buffy really was curious.

"Buffy, I haven't seen my parents since I left Sunnydale. I don't want Giles to have to deal with them and I don't want them to ruin my wedding."

Buffy didn't have any intention of letting anything, or anyone, interfere with this day. Giles and Cordelia had been through too much to have anything happen now.

"Don't worry, Cordy. I'll take care of it."

Buffy headed out the door, only to bump into Fred.

"Hi, Fred."

"Hi, Buffy." Fred greeted her.

"Do you know where Angel and Wesley are?"

"No. I think I saw them outside."

"Thanks."

Buffy went looking for reinforcements.

* * * * *

"Giles, we've got problems." Xander burst into the room where Giles was dressing.

"Xander, what's wrong?"

"Cordelia's parents are here." Xander was out of breath from trying to find the groom.

"What?" Giles couldn't believe this. Hadn't he and Cordelia been through enough? Couldn't they had a nice, peaceful wedding day?

"Buffy just caught them outside. They want to come in, but she's trying to stop them."

Giles didn't answer, he was already on his way outside.* * * * *

"Young lady, I demand that you move aside and let us pass!" William Chase said.

"I can't let you do that." Buffy was being polite, but she wasn't letting them inside where they could ruin everything.

"And why not, might I ask?" Laura Chase sneered.

"Because she knows you will do nothing but cause trouble." Giles said as he came out of Buffy's house.

"And who are you?" Cordelia's father asked as he looked Giles up and down.

"I happen to be the groom." Giles' even tone gave nothing away.

"Don't you think you're a little old for our daughter?" Cordelia's mother gave Giles the same bug-under-glass look that her husband had.

"I don't see that that is any of your concern." This came from Wesley as he and Angel came from around the side of the house. They had been putting finishing touches on the backyard for the reception. The ceremony was being held inside."Who are you?" Cordelia's father didn't know any of these people. Except that horrible Xander Harris person. What kind of crowd had his daughter fallen in with.

"I happen to be Cordelia's employer." Wesley replied.

"You're name is Angel?" This came from Cordelia's mother.

"No. I'm Angel." Angel spoke for the first time.

"But, he just said--." Laura Chase began.

"It doesn't matter!" Her husband interrupted. "We want to see our daughter."

"That isn't an option." Giles didn't like these people and he wasn't going to let them upset Cordelia.

Gunn had come up behind Angel and Wesley and watched the proceedings silently. He didn't have to say a word to be intimidating and he knew it.

"You can't stop us from seeing our daughter." William Chase spluttered.

"That's what you think." Buffy said with a grin. "If we want it to, hell will freeze over before you see her."

"Who are you people?" Cordelia's mother couldn't believe this was happening.

"We are the people that intend to make sure that this is a joy-filled day for your daughter." Wesley said as he, Angel and Gunn joined Buffy, Xander and Giles on the porch. They effectively blocked Cordelia's parents from getting anywhere near her.

"Actually, Daddy. They're trying to protect me." Cordelia's voice rang out from behind her protectors.

"Protect You? We're your parents, you don't need protecting from us ." Cordelia's father protested.

"Is that anyway to talk to your mother and father?" Her mother chimed in.

"Probably not. But you haven't acted like my parents for so long, that I can't be totally sure."

"You can't talk that way to us." William Chase protested again.

"Daddy, I can talk to you any way I like. I'm not the little girl that wants to please you anymore. I'm a grown woman."

"A grown woman that's about to marry a man old enough to be her father," he sneered.

Giles started to speak, but Cordelia held up a hand. She tilted her head as she considered her parents thoughtfully.

"See, you've got it wrong *again*. I'm not about to marry a man old enough to be my father. I'm about to marry a man that loves me more than anything else in this world."

"He told you that?" William Chase didn't attempt to keep the contempt out of his voice.

"No. He didn't tell me that. He showed me that. He has been there whenever I needed someone. No matter what I do, he doesn't leave me. Even when I'm acting like a bitch. He may not be happy with me, but he's there for me."

Cordelia stepped off the top step of the porch. She was eye-level with her father.

"He would have never have abandoned me to save his own skin. He certainly wouldn't have left me for three years, not knowing if I was alive or dead."

"We *were* concerned about you." Her mother protested tearfully.

"You have a funny way of showing it." Cordelia looked at her mother for a moment before stepping back up on the porch.

"We came back to see you." This came from her father.

"You came back to see if you could get anything out of my new husband." Cordelia bit out.

"That's a lie! Who told you that?"

"Aunt Alicia called me this morning. She wanted to warn me that you were on your way. She told me what you said." Cordelia was trembling. She refused to lose her composure in front of her parents, but she was precariously close to the edge.

"What did she say?" Cordelia's father didn't sound as sure of himself.

"She said you told her you were running out of money and wanted to see if you dear daughter was marrying anyone worth your time." Cordelia's voice broke, just a little.

"That's not true, she's--!" Her mother didn't get to say anymore.

"Don't lie!" Cordelia demanded. She took a deep breath and composed herself. "Don't lie." She said, more quietly this time. "Aunt Alicia is the only person in this whole damned family that has ever told me the truth. Besides, what reason would she have to lie?"

The Chases had no answer to that question.

"That's what I thought." Cordelia looked at her parents for a moment more. "Leave. Now. Don't come back. You're not welcome in my life anymore." She didn't give them a chance to say anything more. She quickly went back inside.

There was a long silence on the porch before Giles spoke.

"I promised myself that if I ever met you, I would tell you what an exceptional daughter you have," he said in a quiet voice. "But I don't think it would do any good. You've thrown away the most precious gift you will ever be given and you don't even realize it." He followed Cordelia back inside.

The others went back inside until only Buffy, Angel and Wesley were left.

"I think it would be wise for you to leave now." Wesley said.

"And if we don't want to leave?" William Chase asked belligerently.

Buffy stood on one side of Wesley and Angel on the other. The three of them simply looked at the Chases.

"Fine. We'll leave. But tell Cordelia we won't be back." Her mother spat out.

"I'm sure that'll just break her heart." Buffy said to their retreating forms.

She turned to look at the two men next to her.

"Let's get this show on the road before anything else happens."

"Agreed." Wesley said.

Angel nodded.

* * * * *

Cordelia looked beautiful as she came down the Summers' staircase. Willow had insisted on the tradition of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Her grandmother's dress was old, Her garter was blue, Buffy had loaned her a pair of diamond stud earrings, and Wesley and Angel had bought her a diamond pendant necklace to go with the earrings. She was covered.

Giles took one look at her and lost his breath. He thought he was going to pass out.

"Breathe, Giles!" Xander whispered.

Giles took a huge gulp of air as Angel walked her to him.

Giles couldn't remember much of the ceremony later. He knew that obey had been taken out of the vows. Cordelia had told him that unless he wanted her to lie on their wedding day, he had better drop that word. He did remember when the minister had pronounced them husband and wife. He had heaved a relieved sigh. Now, she was truly his, and vice versa.

* * * * *

Later, in the backyard, he held her close as they danced. He knew they had a lot of preparations to make. He would be moving to L.A. Even if Cordelia had been willing to move, which she wasn't, he wouldn't have asked it of her. He was the more flexible of the two and he could manipulate his life a bit easier than she. They had decided to keep his flat in Sunnydale. It would be for times he had to come and also for weekends.

He was afraid that Buffy might have been feeling a bit bereft, but she assured him that she understood. She had told him that it wasn't like when he had moved to England. Now he was only two hours away. And they could still train on the weekends or whenever he was in town. He smiled, life was very good.

"What are you grinning at, Husband?" Cordelia looked at him.

"At my life, Wife," he answered.

"You think life with me is going to be funny?" Cordelia asked, as she feigned shock.

"Yes, among other things."

Cordelia leaned back in the circle of his arms.

"Are you up to the 'other things'?" she asked saucily.

"With you? Always, Luv, always." Giles chuckled.

"That's good." Cordelia said as she nodded. Suddenly she laughed and threw her arms around his neck. "I do love you, Mr. Giles!"

"That's nice to hear. Because I love you too, Mrs. Giles." Giles hugged her as their laughter rang out.

END

Read the sequel to this story: Deceptions And Betrayls