Truth or Dare

“Truth or dare?” Buffy challenged.

“Not on your life,” Giles growled, throwing his fourteenth pebble.

“I'm bored. How much longer do we have to wait?”

“Truth,” Giles sighed.

“How old were you when you were…y'know…with a girl for the first time?”

Giles coloured brightly. Even Buffy could see him glowing in the moonlight.

“Truth,” Buffy reminded him.

“If you must know I went to an all boy's school. The first girl I ever kissed, much less 'y'know' was Evelyn Sherbourne. I was seventeen. She was eighteen. It was at a party my parents gave…more like a supper for insufferable…” He stopped himself. “On second thoughts, never mind. Now you know, can we move on?”

Buffy frowned. “But what about Ripper…you know, the candy?”

Giles rolled his eyes, which Buffy also saw. “Yes, the bloody candy. First of all you have to remember that I was not sixteen, and that my behaviour then was a manifestation of magic, my then current life-experience levels, and the worst, most amoral, and unchecked side of my character. That version of me never really existed. A good part of it may have been manifest in different ways during my time with Ethan Rayne, but really…”

“Yeah, well, I didn't really think you were the type to beat up cops or smash windows, let alone…”

He snorted and threw another pebble. “If this demon hasn't presented itself in another half an hour, it's not going to, or we have the wrong blasted cemetery.”

“Thanks for coming with me, tonight,” Buffy said softly. “It's been way too long.”

Giles half smiled, almost ruefully, and took off his glasses. “Yes it has, hasn't it? I wonder how we got quite so lost. At least now things are back the way they should be.”

She looked at him, his cheeks and his eyes lit by the bright moon, and tried to figure out what he was thinking. “They are?” she asked.

He nodded. “Exactly,” he told her, just as a night shadow fell across his face, moving him to look up.

“Oh dear lord…”

Buffy was on her feet swiftly and wheeling around. It wasn't their demon.

“Greetings…”

“You again!!” Buffy exclaimed, just before everything went black.



********

“Well, this isn't exactly what I mean by 'exactly' Giles grumbled, spitting out dust and straw and pulling himself into a sitting position against the dungeon wall.

“Are you okay?” Buffy asked in a raspy voice.

By the time it crossed his mind that no dungeon should be able to hold the Slayer, he'd turned to see Buffy shackled by one arm to the wall.

“Can't you…?” He winced.

Buffy hauled on the cuff and chain. “No I can't,” she muttered. “I've been trying since I woke up. I don't know what this stuff is made of, but I can't break it.”

Giles squinted, his glasses not having made the journey. He wondered in passing if he might find them in the cemetery later.

“They look fairly ordinary to me…wait…” He moved closer to her and took hold of the chain, and closed his eyes for a moment. “There's a spell on them. Damn…”

“What do suppose he wants?” she asked, flopping back against the wall.

“You, I daresay,” Giles replied. “After all he came halfway round the world for you the first time.”

Buffy snorted. “Yeah, but this isn't usual his modus operandi. He has to have had help this time. Knocking us out and locking us down here is way more like…oh God, I hope not…”

“Ethan,” Giles growled.

“Yeah, how did you…?” Buffy's voice faded as she followed Giles' gaze. “Who let you out of your cell?” she growled.

“Hello, Buffy,” Ethan grinned ferally. “Ripper. Good to see you both again. I'd have sent you a postcard except I was too busy trying to preserve what was left of my mind after the military was finished with it. You really must try one of their lovely little 'rehabilitation' facilities sometime…really.”

“How did you escape?”

“Let's just say I had help,” Ethan drawled cryptically. “Right now, you should be more worried about your own future.”

“What are you going to do with us?” Giles growled under his breath.

“Ah well, young Dracula has already earmarked our Buffy for his personal attention. And I get you, dear Ripper. Except my plans are rather less romantic than his.”

Giles scrambled to his feet and lunged at Ethan, who back pedalled quickly up the stairs and barked something. Two very large Fyarl demons came down the steps to flank him.

“Behave, Rupert,” he said smugly, “or I'll have you fitted with a matching set of irons to go with your bit of skirt's. She's grown up quite nicely, Ripper. Tasted the sweet fruits yet?”

Giles lunged again and found himself collared by one of the Fyarls and hurled across the dungeon, hitting a wall and sliding down it, only to find when he finally dragged his bruised body into a sitting position, that the Fyarl still had half his new black shirt caught in its claws.

“Blast! Not another one,” he growled.

“Giles, are you okay? Is anything broken?”

“Only my shirt,” he snorted, and winced. “However, the rest of me is nicely pulverised now and will probably be a delightful shade of purple and blue tomorrow.”

“Touching,” Ethan drawled, and withdrew, along with his henchmen, before they could ask any more questions.

Buffy moved as far as the chain would let her, but was still feet away from Giles when it ran out.

“Are you sure you're okay? And what is it with Fyarl demons and black shirts?” she asked when she realised he was only wearing the collar, sleeves and a ragged panel on the right side of his chest. The rest was gone.

Giles discarded the rags and shivered a little. It wasn't freezing…what in Sunnydale ever was? But it was dank and cool as dungeons were wont to be.

“I can't get to you,” Buffy eventually pointed out when he showed no sign of getting up. “So maybe you could come back over here?”

“What…Oh…s-sorry,” he said, drawing himself back from his involuntary mental trip into his youthful past with Ethan. He scrambled up gingerly and came back to sit alongside her, leaning against the wall to which she was chained.

“Well that explains the spell on the manacles,” Giles offered, when he'd recovered from the discomfort of his rapidly discolouring right side.

“Yeah,” Buffy agreed glumly. “Wait 'til I get out of this. This time I'm going to kill him, very, very dead. And you're not going to stop me, okay?”

Giles tried to chuckle and winced. “I'd like to see that, but I think our first priority right now is how to deal with Dracula. Are you confident you can handle him?”

“Totally,” Buffy said confidently. “But um…what are we going to do about those?”

“Oh dear lord,” Giles repeated as Dracula's women crept down the stairs.

“Are you confident you can handle them?” she asked dryly, before starting to haul on her chain again.

“Um…I…well,” he stammered as the women approached him. At least this time they wouldn't have the opportunity to rip all the buttons from his shirt. He detested needlework. “Ladies!”

Buffy stopped trying to break her chain and whirled around in time to see one of the women take hold of the now open sides of his fly and rip them apart, shattering the zipper, and the other two haul the legs of his jeans over his already shoeless feet, so that Giles was immediately divested of his pants and his dignity.

Acutely aware that Buffy was watching, he struggled to focus through the overwhelming influence all three of them were exerting on his mind.

“No!” he cried, and struggled to get up, only to have a pair of hands slide up his chest, another up his thigh, and the third inside his boxers.

“NO!” he shouted.

Buffy realised then that he was really trying to fight the thrall and started to talk to him.

“Giles, you can do it. I'm over here. Remember? I really don't want to see you get it on with the Dracubabes!” she shouted. “C'mon, try harder! You don't need them. Evil, remember? Giles! Buffy, over here! Remember me?”

“Buffy?” he called as he was being brought almost to climax. His mind clung to the sound of her voice.

“I…I…” He lunged, trying to throw them back off him, but they were vampires, with vampire strength and all he succeeded in doing was getting the hand out of his boxers. The realisation that he still had a raging erection mortified him, but there was nothing he could do about that.

“Giles, try to fight it! You can do it…! Do it for me…for Buffy, Giles. I need you!”

He twisted violently just as two of them were sliding their hands back under the band of the boxers and bit the arm of the one holding him down. She yelped and let go in sheer surprise. Giles used the opportunity to leap clear, wincing at the pain from his bruises as he moved across the room to where Buffy was dragging at her manacles.

She shoved him behind her without lingering on the view…well, not too much…and confronted the vampire women.

“So who wants to be dust, then?” she invited, drawing the small stake she always carried concealed there, from the cleavage of her low-cut t-shirt.

They hissed at her, and looked longingly at Giles before wafting up the steps and vanishing.

“I think they broke your pants,” Buffy offered, looking at the crumpled jeans on the floor.

Giles didn't answer.

She started to turn.

“DON'T turn around,” he growled.

“So you can talk?” she asked, complying.

“Oh, Hah, bloody hah,” he retorted, shivering. “I suppose you thought that was funny. If I had been a woman and those male vampires it would have been a different story!”

Buffy hadn't actually thought it funny at all. Gross, perhaps, and assault at best. She swallowed, realising now exactly how distressed he was.

“Sorry, Giles. I didn't think it was funny at all. It's just that you don't…I mean, you don't usually let stuff bug you, you know? You didn't last time…”

“I hardly think almost being raped in front of you constitutes 'stuff' do you?” he growled.

“I-I guess not,” she said. “Do I have to keep talking to thin air?”

“Yes, you do,” he retorted and went to retrieve his pants, muttering about the shattered zipper as he limped back to the corner farthest from Buffy with them.

In spite of herself she turned to look, and her breath caught. Never had she contemplated that there might be such a male body under his clothes. His shoulders were wide, and lightly muscled, his back broad and mostly smooth, and his waist short, but tapered, in a British sort of way, to a very respectable butt in the tiniest, shortest black satin boxers Buffy had ever seen.

“Wow,” she said, before she could stop herself.

He wheeled, his eyes flashing, and Buffy saw the pattern of the emerging bruises on one shoulder, and down the same side, in the moonlight filtering through the tiny, barred window.

“I thought I told you—”

“Chill Giles!” she cut him off. “I'm not sixteen any more. And this isn't Sunnydale High, Toto. Me, remember? Slutty the vampire slayer…been there, seen that.”

He snorted angrily. “I don't care what you've seen. Allow me at least a shred of dignity, if you please.”

At that Buffy's eyes pricked and she wheeled immediately. “I'm sorry,” she told him. “I didn't expect a guy your age to be…you know…embarrassed.”

The pants back on, but without any way to close them, and his feet shod again, Giles swore softly and padded over to where she was facing the wall.

He turned her. “Had I been with anyone but you I wouldn't have given a damn,” he confided softly.

She looked up slowly, found his gaze and caught her breath in her throat again. “But it's okay, really,” she told him. “You fought them, and they're gone. And I-I know I rag on you a lot…but Giles…wow…now I know what Olivia comes to Sunnydale for…” she teased.

“Came,” he corrected. “The Gentlemen were the last straw, I'm afraid.” His expression grew sheepish. “And I'm aware that I am by no means 'wow.' You're just trying to cheer me up…” He stopped, the expression on her face telling him that she was doing anything but. He felt his face glow again. Not in his most outrageous dreams had he ever considered that Buffy might find him attractive

“What are we going to do?” she asked, holding up her manacled arm, and letting him off the hook.

“At this moment, I don't know. Ethan's magic is far stronger than mine, and, frankly, I wouldn't know where to start with a spell of this type.”

Buffy frowned, trying to think the way Giles had spent years trying to teach her to.

“Does it have to be broken…Ethan's spell? Can you do another spell instead?”

Giles looked puzzled. “Another spell? What—?”

“You're always helping Willow with those 'poof' spells of hers when they go wrong …you know, making your cash register, your statue, your Greek cookery book disap—”

“My what?” he exclaimed. “Nobody told me that my new cookbook has been consigned to another of Willow's demon dimensions!”

“Oh…ah…it's not. She got it back. It's on the shelf next to 'Human Sacrifice in the Eleventh Century', where it always is,” she told him hastily. “But…you know that spell, right? Could you make my bracelet here go to one of those dimensions?”

Giles forgot the cookery book. “It might work,” he said softly. “Ethan is sloppy, and it's been so many years he thinks I've lost it.”

Buffy was never so glad as to see the metal cuff and chains vanish into the ether when Giles was done. It had taken half a dozen aborted attempts to succeed, but she was now free.

Before she realised what she was doing, she had thrown her arms around his neck. “You did it!” she exclaimed ecstatically. “Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!”

For just a moment, Giles allowed himself to hold her, feel her warmth against his bare chest, and then he put her down and smiled self-consciously.

“We must…we must have a plan of escape,” he managed.

“Um…yeah,” Buffy said awkwardly, realising what she'd done and whose neck and chest it was. “How about I kill Ethan really dead, and we escape?”

Giles tried to snort, but chuckled instead. “It could work,” he said ruefully, provided Ethan and your vampire boyfriend don't complicate things.”

“Eiww, please!” she exclaimed. “Lame-O, clichéd Euro-vamps are so not me. I can't believe he ever had me in thrall…way too much like the Master.” She shivered. “I'm just glad I kicked both their asses.”

“Yes you did,” Giles said softly, remembering, painfully, both the event and the aftermath of Buffy's fight with the Master.

They smiled awkwardly at each other. The memories were no less painful now than they had ever been.

“We must wait our chance,” Giles said finally. “As much as I want to get out of here…and to watch you kill Ethan very, very dead,” he quoted dryly, “it must wait and so must we. Sooner or later I would expect someone to feed us, or at least to bring water. Ethan is a bastard, but he's not an animal. When it comes, we'll make our move.”

He started to move away.

“Don't go,” Buffy said suddenly. “Sit with me…please?”

Giles cocked his head to one side. “Buffy, nothing about this would normally frighten you,” he pointed out.

“I'm not scared…technically,” she agreed, looking him up and down and trying not to notice how incredible he looked, with the moonlight on his shoulders and hair, his bare chest graced with just the right amount of golden brown chest hair tapering all the way down to the black boxers, now peaking out of the roughly pulled on jeans where the fly was broken, and the flaps hung open. “I just hate dark, nasty, closed in places, and, well…is it so hard to believe I might want your company?”

“Frankly, yes,” he told her, amused, but came back anyway and sat down stiffly against the wall.

“Your bruises are worse?”

“Very observant of you.”

“I'm sorry,” she said, sliding down to sit alongside him.

They sat together in silence for what seemed an eternity, but what in reality was, according to Giles' watch, just an hour and a half.

Buffy finally spoke. “Maybe Ethan's an animal after all…?” she offered.

Giles made a 'humph,' noise, but didn't speak.

It was strange sitting almost shoulder to shoulder with him, smelling his faint musk cologne, and a couple of other scents that were probably deodorant or aftershave or something, mixed in with his natural male scent.

Buffy found herself wanting to lean her head against his shoulder and only just stopping herself from doing so.

“Tired?” Giles asked, catching the movement in his peripheral vision.

“Um, no,” she squeaked then grabbed the opportunity with both hands. “That is…yes, very,” she lied and rested her head against his bare bicep. She didn't count on her body's reaction to his touch, to the intensified male scent of him near her nostrils. It was too late to follow her instinct to sit bolt upright, so she managed her histrionics silently, closing her eyes against the realisation that she was indeed attracted to her Watcher. Not just attracted, but turned on in the worst way.

Alongside of her, Giles had closed his own eyes, barely able to concentrate on keeping his reaction to the faint herbal scent of Buffy's hair, or her light perfume, or the warmth of her cheek on his cold bicep, from gravitating to his loins. Since her fateful prom night, he'd grown more and more aware that he was in love with her, wanted her…but had refused to allow himself to acknowledge it in any conscious way, lest he accidentally let her see…

Only when challenged by Maggie, or by Spike, had he slipped and let his true feelings show. And none but the two of them had been witness. Up to now, his secret had been safe…

Buffy knew she was either going to have to move away, which she didn't want to do, or do something before she exploded from the tension.

Giles felt the fingers on his stomach long before he realised Buffy had moved. He jumped a little then drew a shuddering breath as she traced his navel and let her fingertips follow the trail of body hair up to his chest, where they stroked and touched and twirled the soft hairs…until he groaned involuntarily.

In a split second they were both sitting bolt upright, apart, silent.

For another hour they sat in silence, until the dungeon door opened again and they both scrambled to their feet, Buffy taking point and waiting to see who was there.

As Giles predicted, it was a Fyarl with a bucket and a platter of what looked like meat and bread.

It put the bucket down on the floor and sat the platter on it, before making several rumbling noises.

“It says we're to eat and drink. Ethan's orders,” Giles translated.

Buffy looked sideways at him.

He shrugged. “I have no idea,” he admitted, but I suppose I had to retain something from the experience.” He looked up when it growled again. “Oh, um…it's just realised your chains are missing.”

“Show time,” Buffy declared and leaped out at the oncoming demon.

The fight was a tough one, with Giles wishing there was some way he could help when Buffy was thrown against a wall for the third time. Then he spied the silver tray.

Buffy ran at the Fyarl and launched herself, feet first, catching it in the solar plexus before it had time to work out what she was doing. As it staggered backwards, she was surprised to see Giles stride into view wielding a silver plate, and bash the creature over the head with it. It reeled again and Buffy landed several more blows, knocking it to the ground, before Giles hit it again, finally bringing the edge of the rectangular, fine metal platter down across its throat.

“Gross!” Buffy exclaimed as a spurt of green shot across the room.

“But effective,” Giles growled and threw the tray away. They both drank from the bucket before slipping up the steps to the closed door. Giles listened at it.

“I don't think there's anyone out there. It's a thick door, but surely someone would have heard the fight, if they were on the other side of it?”

Buffy closed her eyes. “There's no one there. Ethan obviously thought the chains would hold me, and that you wouldn't leave…me…” she trailed off and looked up at him. Ethan was right, and Giles' expression was telegraphing that fact in no uncertain terms. She cleared her throat and tried the door.

As expected it wasn't locked and they made their way swiftly along the deserted corridor to the stairs that led up to the castle itself.

“These places usually have a secret exit,” Buffy muttered, looking up the spiralling steps. “You wouldn't happen to have any good ideas…?”

Giles took a last look up the stairs, which could only lead to Dracula and Ethan, and then back down the passageway to the junction they'd passed. “Come on,” he said finally.

One end of the new passageway off the junction led to a torture chamber out of which they had both backed with speed and horror. The other end didn't seem to lead anywhere until Giles had lifted a torch out of its holder, to light it with the cigarette lighter he always carried. The moment it was clear of its holder, the end wall began to move.

“Way to go, Giles!” Buffy exclaimed happily.

They had gone at least a mile across country before they realised that nothing was familiar, or known to them.

“So where are we?” Buffy said, when they stopped, breathless, Giles' torso glistening with sweat, her own chest heaving with the effort of the pace they'd set themselves, despite their injuries.

“If Dracula manifested his castle in the same place he did last time, and we're not on the side of it where Riley and I entered, I'd say we're either headed for the harbour, or North Sunnydale.”

Buffy shrugged. “There are lights ahead. We'll find a phone, or something.”

But while there was a housing estate, there were no public telephones to be found.

Buffy finally knocked on the door of a house whose lights were still burning. A curtain drew back moments later and a figure checked her out. Then the door opened.

“You couldn't help me, could you?” she asked the young man. “I need a telephone. I'm lost and I have to call my friends to come and get me.”

He looked her up and down and smiled. “Sure,” he agreed and ushered her inside. Giles rolled his eyes. Moments later he heard crashing noises inside, then silence. Then, a few minutes later, Buffy emerged and slammed the door behind her.

“What is it about your sex that makes them see every woman as an open invitation?” she growled.

“Not all of us,” Giles qualified. “Did you hurt him very badly?” he asked, straight-faced.

“I think I broke his coffee table…with his nose,” she muttered. “Xander's going over to Will and Tara's right now to get Will to run Romeo's phone number. When they get the address he'll drive your car over here…wherever here is…and pick us up.”

Giles took both pieces of information with the same straight face, and hoped that Romeo wouldn't have the presence of mind to trace Buffy's call or to attempt to press assault charges.


********


When the others had left, Giles and Buffy faced each other in his apartment.

“Are you sure you don't want me to run you straight home?” he asked for the third time, or second if you didn't count prompting Xander to offer her a lift earlier.

“Home will come later,” Buffy told him. “Right now we have to talk about what happened, what Dracula is doing making encore appearances in Sunnydale, and how Ethan got away from the U.S. Military.”

Giles, whose fly was now pinned closed with a safety pin, looked even more battered in the full light, and even more sexy, Buffy's misbehaving mind added, shook his head.

“We both need to get cleaned up and changed. We can't stay here. While you were in the kitchen with Willow earlier, I booked a room at the Sunnydale Plaza. This is the first place Ethan, and therefore Dracula, will come looking for us, and I for one want time to find some answers. The others should be safe at their new addresses, and with your mother and Dawn in Los Angeles visiting your father…”

“Dawn's visiting. Mom just drove. I think she just wanted to prove she could. She'll go to her friend Althea's apartment for the weekend, do some visiting of her own and they'll both be back here by Sunday night.”

“Yes, fine, but they're not here, which is all that's important at the moment.

“In that case I'd better come with you,” she declared.

Giles' eyes widened.

“Well I can't stay here and I can't go home, and I'll be damned if I'll be a fifth wheel at Xander's or Willow's. Besides, I've never stayed in the Plaza. Five stars, I hear,” she grinned.

Giles muttered something and headed for the bathroom.

Buffy caught herself wishing she were going with him.

When he opened the door some time later, steam billowed out, followed by Giles who emerged reluctantly with a thick dark blue bath sheet wrapped around his hips and tucked in tightly.

Buffy swallowed. It wasn't fair. She wasn't prepared for that view. Her loins weren't prepared for that view….she wasn't prepared for her loins not to be prepared for that view.

“Um…missing something?” she managed to tease, aware that he'd been flustered earlier and guessing that he had taken a shower without getting clean clothes first.

“Very funny,” he retorted as he passed her and strode towards the stairs, the outline of his ridiculously firm, round glutes moving unbearably provocatively under the towel.

“I can't be doing this,” she muttered to herself, moving uncomfortably and unable to ease her arousal one iota. It wasn't George Clooney, or even Harrison Ford.

It was Giles, for God's sake...!

Immediately the memory of his scent in the dungeon came back to her and she closed her eyes.

It was Giles…Giles, whom she would never look at the same way again; Giles whom she now wanted so badly she was about ready to fly up the stairs and jump him right there and then.

Several minutes later he came back down stairs with an overnight bag. He was wearing his spare glasses, Buffy's favourite ones, a dark blue collared shirt, dark belt and grey pants. A tie hung, untied, around his neck.

“Lose the tie,” she directed. “We're not going to a council meeting or stocktaking at your store.”

He scowled at her, before drawing the tie off and tossing it on the back of the sofa.

“You look good, Giles,” Buffy told him, unexpectedly.

His eyes flew up and searched hers, then he grinned self-consciously again. “Thank you,” he said. “We'll swing by your home and pick up some things for you, but you must be quick, and preferably unseen. Perhaps entering your room the old way…?”

“Through the window and be quick about it,” she acknowledged and led the way out before he got any redder in the face.

*******

Buffy craned her neck to look at everything in the Plaza lobby, from the honey gold flecked marble-looking floors, walls and fountain, to the glass elevators, luxurious green plants and herbarium, gold coloured spiral staircase, tourists, visitors and porters coming and going. She'd never been in a hotel like it. She knew Angel investigations had moved into one, but a very old one. She wondered if it was anything like this…

When Giles returned with their key, a porter already had their bags on his big trolley. The two smallish overnight bags looked ridiculous on the huge carrier with its arching chrome frame, but she watched him trundle off with them before turning to Giles.

“Like we were going to bust something carrying them ourselves?”

Giles chuckled. “We all have to make a living, Buffy. They'll be waiting for us in our room.”

When they reached the eighth floor room, Giles swiped his door lock with the computer key card and pushed it open.

Buffy's mouth fell open again.

It was a suite. There was in fact, a breakfast area in creams and greens, with a smoked glass table and white furniture, in a recessed window overlooking central Sunnydale, a luxurious sitting area with plush cream carpet and soft blue furnishings, and a door to the bedroom.

While Giles was tipping the porter, who had mysteriously reappeared at just the right time, Buffy peeked into the room.

There was more of the plush carpet, a king-sized bed with a blue coverlet that matched the rest of the furniture, a large glass-fronted closet, and an open door to the bathroom.

Buffy stood in the doorway, her mouth open, looking at the bathroom, which to her looked like a Roman bath house or something similar…more marble looking stuff, white this time, and glass and chrome and huge fluffy cream coloured towels so thick she imagined them almost too good to use…even a telephone on the wall next to the john! In the middle of it was an equally luxurious and large hot tub.

The door of the room clicked shut. Buffy went back to where Giles was picking up their bags.

“So do you always book hotel rooms like this?”

He shook his head, looking a little sheepish. “The council is paying. I'm listing it as an expense,” he admitted, trying not to smile.

Buffy grinned. “Great plan, except there's one problem.”

“Oh?” he asked.

She led him to the bedroom door and bade him absorb the fact that there was only one bed.

“Oh dear. I rather thought there would be twin double beds, or a double and a single, which is the usual configuration,” he admitted. “Else I would have asked for two rooms when we were downstairs. I'll call them now and see if they'll change us to two standard rooms…”

“Standard?” Buffy asked suspiciously.

“Well, yes. The Council might stand the cost of one room like this without question, but I think they would draw the line at two…it is rather…expensive.”

She looked longingly at the furnishings, the view, the bathroom and the complimentary bottle of champagne in ice on the breakfast table…

“One is fine,” she announced, and took her bag. “There's always the couch. I've slept on worse.”

“But…” Giles began, then sighed and gave up, picked up his own bag and took it into the bedroom, to the opposite side of the bed to where Buffy had opened hers.

For some reason their silent unpacking grew more and more tension filled, until they were both done. Buffy came around to lean past Giles, who was stowing his bag in the bottom of the closet, to throw hers in, brushing his chest as she did, and feeling his warm breath on her cheek as she withdrew.

They looked at each other, and each started to talk nervously at the same time. Within moments they found themselves out in the living area again.

Working on her breathing, Buffy went straight to the window. Something was happening to her, something incredible, and she was terrified she was going to embarrass him, or humiliate herself.

A few moments later she heard the champagne bottle pop and turned to see Giles expertly filling two slender tulip glasses.

She raised her eyebrows, not realising how much she was emulating him.

“I thought perhaps, after the day we've had…?” he offered. She loved champagne and it was almost exactly what she needed for her shattered nerves, right then.

Giles held his glass up unexpectedly. “To you…who you are, and who you will become…” he said softly.

Buffy stopped, mesmerized by his voice and his tender green eyes over the crystal glass.
Finally, she lifted her own and brought it to her lips without realising that she hadn't taken her eyes off him. Neither did she realise consciously that she was watching his glass press against those sensual lips and the way he drank, as she drank. It also didn't occur to her that he was still watching her. The only thing that did occur to her was that her heart was almost pounding out of her chest.

They finished their glasses in silence, the tension almost palpable, and Giles filled them again, also without speaking. Buffy forced herself to move, and Giles followed her to the window after settling the bottle back into the ice.

It was a clear, beautiful night, without haze. They could even see the mountains in the distance.

“It's beautiful,” Buffy finally said, with just a mouthful left in her glass and her head feeling a little light.

“Very,” Giles agreed, and then wondered why. It was really no more or less attractive than any night vista of any small city, with its myriad of lights and neon signs, distant horizon and even more distant stars struggling against the generated light. He finished the last half of his glass in two sips. The only sign that he was tense was the way his fingers were clamped on the stem of it.

“I…I'll sleep on the couch,” Giles finally managed. “It's quite a decent size.”

Buffy half turned to look up at him. “It's your room, your expense account, and you're way too big to sleep on that couch, anyway. One thing about cheap motels is the couch usually turns into a bed,” she added, annoyed.

After a moment's silence, Giles cleared his throat and Buffy realised she was staring at the golden brown hairs visible in the vee of his shirt. Before he could argue about the bed, or question exactly where her gaze had been directed, she went back and retrieved the magnum from the bucket and filled both their glasses again.

“Um…you haven't eaten all day,” Giles warned her.

She took another long sip of the expensive champagne. “I finished that yoghurt in your refrigerator …and your last two apples, while you were getting changed.”

“Not nearly enough,” he said. “You'll be on your ear shortly.”

“Wanna bet?” she retorted, not sure why it annoyed her, only that she was feeling no worse than she had after the first glass. Rightly or wrongly she'd been drinking socially since her nineteenth birthday, figuring that since she wasn't going to have the next fifty years after she came of age to enjoy it, she was entitled to a little early fun. “And what about you?” she demanded.

He snorted. “Buffy I've been a drinker, more or less, for thirty years. It will take considerably more than a shared glass or two of champagne to…”

“When did you last eat?”

“Pardon? Oh…er…this morning. Tea and…and…well, I was going to make toast,” he sighed and almost finished his glass. “There, you see. I'm fine. It's you I'm worried about.”

Buffy finished her drink and refilled both their glasses. “I'm fine, too,” she told him, tore her eyes from the same small area of chest, damp now where condensation had dripped onto it from the base of his glass, and took a long sip of her drink.

“Buffy, alcohol is not a game,” Giles said quietly and tried to take the bottle, unsuccessfully.

“Killing yourself with, I dunno, forty seven shots of whisky or tequila or bourbon in a macho pissing contest, is stupid,” she retorted. “This is just champagne and it's just us.”

“Marvellous rationale,” Giles muttered and sipped his drink thoughtfully. “Perhaps I should order some dinner from room service?”

Buffy stared at him, her eyes lighting up. “Room service? Where's the menu?” She finished her glass quickly, blinked at the bubbles, then hurried over to the breakfast table with the hospitality folder still laying on it.

Within minutes room service had been given an order that was going set the Council's accounts department sizzling.

Buffy put the folder down, turned too fast and stumbled a little over her own feet, putting out a hand which came to rest on Giles' chest. His hands caught and held her elbows.

For a moment they both froze, then she straightened and looked up slowly, surprising a smouldering look in his eyes that she'd never seen there before. She swallowed and moved closer instead of moving away, letting her soft curves just brush his torso as she spoke.

“Sorry,” she said huskily. “But it's not the champagne,” she added as an afterthought.

He cleared his throat again. “No h-harm done,” he said. “I caught you before you toppled.”

“You always catch me,” she whispered, a great deal of underlying inference in the words.

He smiled a little, and she watched it change his face, wondering why she'd never noticed before how wonderful he looked when he really smiled.

Giles jumped a little, then stayed very still as Buffy reached up and removed his glasses.
Her eyes told him what she was thinking, and took his breath…almost as much as the softness of her body, pressing even more against his own, had been doing for the last minute or so.

“Buffy…” he said softly, then was silenced as her fingers slipped around his nape and drew his unresisting head down to hers.

A tiny part of Giles still believed what he was doing was wrong, but the overwhelming rest of him knew that it was what he wanted…what he wanted more than anything in the world…and now, apparently, also what Buffy wanted…

When he finally covered her lips, his body went from rigid defensiveness to electric shock in a split second. Her mouth was soft and sensuous and moulded itself to his as they were both swiftly lost in the new world of their desire. His arms slid around her waist, hers loosely around his neck.

Buffy's body was now crushed against his, her mouth seeking and finding egress to his, making a bolt of electricity shoot up his spine and his hips move involuntarily towards her as her lips also parted, and their relationship forever shifted to the realm of passion and intimacy…

Neither one of them attempted, even half-heartedly, to pull back from the commitment they'd just made. In fact neither one even breathed until, finally, the kiss ended by itself, and each lifted their head, blinking at the other, flushed and aroused and slightly overwhelmed.

“M-more champagne?” Giles asked numbly.

Buffy blinked. “Champagne?” Her fingers played with his chest hair. “I was kind of thinking more along the lines of seeing what you look like in those black pajamas I watched you unpack earlier.”

Giles closed his eyes, trying not to think about what her fingers were doing, and even harder not to remember the nightwear he'd seen Buffy unpack earlier.

“We-we have to talk about Ethan and D-Dracula,” he breathed as her fingers slipped inside the shirt and continued to toy with the soft hairs.

“We have to talk about your chest and your body and why I can't stop thinking about it,” Buffy told him.

“It's the champagne,” he ventured.

She carefully popped his first button. “Was it the champagne back in the dungeon?”

“I-In the dungeon?”

“When you were all nekkid except for those horny looking little boxers.”

“Buffy, I definitely think the champagne…” Giles stammered.

“Is still cold,” she finished and refilled his glass. “If you're going to use that as an excuse you can keep going and I'll stop. Tell me when you catch up,” she said brightly, obviously mildly influenced by the champagne, but far from drunk.

Giles looked at the drink she put in his hand and then at her and back at the drink, shifting slightly to try and make certain other things he was resolutely trying not thinking about, more comfortable. He started to sip the drink as Buffy undid another button, and then another, then swallowed the whole lot when she started kissing her way from his sternum down to his belt.

“B-Buffy…”

“Giles!” she groaned as he gently brought her to her feet again.

He was about to explain when there was a rap on their door.

Their dinner smelled unbelievably good. And while the tension subsided only marginally, the realisation of just how hungry they were, and the quality of the meals, provided a distraction that allowed them to relax just a little.

Giles made short work of his carpetbag steak, baked potato, and spring vegetables, while Buffy left no doubt as to how she felt about her fillet mignon and salad.

“God, I was starving,” she said, sitting back when she'd finished the last of the hot rolls, one oyster and several pieces of steamed courgette from Giles' plate.

“I noticed,” he said gruffly, finishing the last bite of his own roll. “But it was excellent.”
“Sure was. Where's dessert?”

“What? Oh yes, you ordered sweets, didn't you? Underneath the cart, I daresay. I assume part of it is refrigerated, or at least keeps things cold.”

Buffy rose and went to explore. She found their desserts, and she also found extras, obviously backups for unhappy patrons. There were sauces and mustards and other condiments, a jar of olives and another of maraschino cherries, a bowl of fresh fruit and best of all, a can of whipped dairy cream. Cold. She brought the desserts back to the table.

Giles eyed his for a moment, before deciding that Buffy had actually ordered something he'd like, and digging in.

“Sure you wouldn't like some whipped cream on that?” she asked a moment later, as the first mouthful of exquisite rich-crust, deep-dish apple pie began to melt in his mouth. Before he could swallow to say no, or cover his plate with his hand, she was squirting fluffy cream from the newly shaken tin onto his pie, and unfortunately, onto his fingertips.

He swallowed and was about to say something cutting, when Buffy lifted his fingers to her lips and started to lick the cream off, one long, lazy stroke of the tongue at a time. He was too stunned…and too aroused…to say a word.

When she was done and they were completely clean, she grinned. “Sorry about that,” she said, and started on her own dessert.

Giles, still in no condition to hold a conversation, studied the calorie-laden confection instead. Something called a 'Chocolate Avalanche…'

As far as he could make out it contained a large wedge of some kind of layered continental chocolate cake, chocolate ice-cream, large flakes of Belgian chocolate, both regular and white, and chocolate fudge sauce. His stomach groaned as the whipped cream piled up.

Aware that she was being watched, Buffy put the can aside and stuck two fingers in the cream, assuring herself that his eyes were following them before she brought them to her mouth and slowly licked and sucked off every morsel until they were clean again.

“I…I think you're meant to use a fork,” Giles croaked.

“But it's so nice like this,” she said, swiped another wad of cream from the top of the whorl, and brought her fingers to his lips.

For a long moment there was only silence, and air electric enough to start a small forest fire. Then Buffy slowly caressed his bottom lip with her index finger, getting just a little cream on it.

Instinctively his tongue came out and swiped the cream away.

Buffy forgot to breathe. She moved to do it again, but before she could, Giles' incredibly warm, soft mouth closed around her fingertips, his tongue and lips gathering all of the whipped cream from them, the strokes and caresses making Buffy struggle not to squirm in her seat, though she couldn't disguise the desire in her eyes, or flaming of her cheeks.

Now that he'd started, Giles didn't want to stop. He finally slipped the fingers from his mouth to take some cream from her plate and put it on her palm. Then he slowly kissed it off, aware of the small, almost inaudible groans and whimpering noises Buffy was trying to strangle.

When he was done, he released her hand and they stared at each other for a long moment.

Then Buffy picked up the can and sprayed cream across the curves of her tender bosom above the line of the low cut top.

Giles stared mesmerically at it and then into her blue-grey eyes when she lifted them to his.

A current flowed between them that grew stronger and stronger, drawing him in until he rose from his chair, moved around the table as she stood and closed his strong hands around her waist to lift her easily so that he could reach without bending.

And when she groaned and slid her legs around his own body, his hands moved to cup her firm, curvaceous rear. His lips followed the sweet curve of her breast, pushing the fabric aside to reach further and further down to the soft, sensitive flesh beneath, aroused and inspired by her soft moans and entreaties long after the cream was gone.

When he lifted his head he was breathing hard. Buffy moaned a little and moved, prompting him to let go enough for her to do what she wanted, exhaling in a half moan, half shudder, when she allowed herself to slide just far enough to let her heat settle over the pronounced bulge in his pants.

Buffy…” he said helplessly, any half-formed protest already lost as her top came off, revealing perfect, full, round breasts, their shell-pink peaks straining towards him.

Giles,” she whispered back, an invitation, a demand…and a whimpered plea rolled into one.

In spite of himself, he closed his mouth over a soft peak and tasted her, responding to the feel her body shuddering and hearing her unfettered groan of pleasure at his touch.

Buffy groaned again as Giles' warm, moist lips and soft tongue teased, caressed and massaged, and moved herself against his granite arousal with wanton abandon.

Giles groaned loudly in spite of himself and pushed back, lifting his face at the touch of her fingers on his cheeks and capturing the sweet soft lips that came down on his, devouring them with an urgency matched by her own.

“Dear God, Buffy,” he groaned, barely lifting his mouth from hers.

“Giles,” she whimpered, and ground even harder against him.

In seconds they were in the bedroom, on the big bed, their mouths again locked in a frenzy of passion, their hips rising to each other as he pushed rhythmically against her wanton grinding, unable to stop…not wanting to…

Then her hands were reaching between them, pulling at the stud on his pants.

He pulled back just long enough to kick off his shoes and socks and throw the pants aside, stopping only when his eyes fell on her beautiful form.

Her hair was everywhere, loose and spread across the quilt, her breasts rising and falling with her laboured, impassioned breaths, and her hands were moving from her throat, over her breasts to the obviously aroused mound beneath her tight jeans, and back again.

Just as swiftly, he undid her button and slid her zipper down, stopping to look at her and to hold her lust filled gaze as his fingers slipped inside the opening of her pants and over the damp silky fabric beneath.

Buffy's lips parted, and as she groaned, her eyes closed, her hips moving against his touch as he gently stroked the fabric, allowing his fingertips to provoke and explore until her small, pleading whimpers became too much and he pulled off her shoes, discarded the jeans, and bent to taste the silken warmth and the sweet, musky scent of it.

Buffy shuddered and bucked, her cry almost a scream of pleasure, and then another and another. She had never felt anything like it. The feel of his hot mouth, tongue, lips through the sheer nylon… The torture of the thin film between her arousal and his touch was driving her to new heights of desire.

When he finally relented and hooked the fabric aside with a finger, she felt the first touch of hot flesh against hot flesh. His tongue trailed over her sensitive and swollen folds, stroking, pushing into them, exploring them until her groans turned to cries and her hips arched. Then his tongue shifted to massage the hard evidence of her desire until the demand was torn from her.

“Please!” she begged.

Slowing, but not stopping his torture, he removed his briefs and hers, lifting his head just long enough to draw them down.

Buffy was mad with need, her head moving from side to side, her groans almost pants, and more desperate as he slowed his teasing to a snail's pace until they were free.

And then he was moving over her, and she to him.

He ached for her, so hard he had to guide himself to her waiting entrance. And when he was finally about to touch the sweet, silky folds with his own granite heat, he paused, trembling with the intensity of his need, his desire…his lust…for her. How many times in the last year had he dreamed of just this moment…and of holding her in his arms and telling her how much he loved her…?

“Giles…please!” she whimpered again, and half gasped, half groaned as they touched for the first time and she was able to feel his own rock-hard need…to covet it, crave it, strain to it as he began to push into her.

“Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” she gasped almost in one breath as she stretched around him, and he slowly took her, inch by inch, until his flesh was buried inside her and they were both gasping for breath. When he stopped she could feel him twitching inside her, feel him still stretching her, challenging her. Most of all she could her own desire pulsing against him, until she couldn't stand it anymore…

“Now!” she whispered hoarsely, “Now, Giles. Please!”

Her sultry plea galvanized him into action, taking her, meeting her demands with all the power, all the urgency they both felt, his own passion flamed by the grip of her vice-like channel, her demanding cries and moans of pleasure as he continued to bury himself in her, over and over, faster and faster, for long minutes, until his body exploded and he could hear himself gasping out a startled cry at the power of it and the sudden, incredible clamping as Buffy screamed and twisted and gasped, forcing him to continue as both of them convulsed in what seemed like an endless avalanche of pleasure.

By the time it was over they were both exhausted, but Giles continued to prop himself up on his elbows, as though still, somehow, unsure…until Buffy's fingertips slid into his soft hair, stroking it, his temple, his brow.

“I love you so much,” she whispered. “Hold me…?”

He shuddered, partly with relief, partly at her touch, and took her in his arms, rolling to his side and cradling her to his chest.

Buffy snuggled into his warmth, closing her own arm around his waist and staying there, silently, her lips occasionally grazing his sternum, as if to tell him how much she loved him, tell him what words could not.

Giles closed his eyes and sighed heavily. He felt exhilarated, alive and he loved the woman in his arms more than he believed anyone was capable of loving anyone or anything. So much so, that a part of him was afraid…because everything he had ever loved or wanted had been taken from him…all either lost, or destroyed…or walked away…but in the end, still gone…

He didn't think he could survive losing her too…The single most precious thing ever to come into his life…

For a long while after he slipped out of her, they lay curled up together on the bed, content, sleepy and not ready to let go of each other yet. They might have even slipped into a peaceful slumber if the phone hadn't shrilled and disturbed them both.

With a muttered oath Giles stretched a long arm to the side table and picked it up, muttered something into the receiver and slammed it down with feeling.

“Bloody Housekeeping wants to know if we've finished with dinner yet.”

Buffy wrinkled her nose. “How rude of them,” she teased.

Giles grunted.

Buffy propped herself on one elbow. “Have you looked in the bathroom yet?”

He turned a little so that they facing each other, and began tracing the outline of one bosom as he spoke.

“Not yet. Why? Something wrong?”

She giggled. “No, silly. Something right. C'mon.”

As they settled into the hot water, among far too much foam and bubbles, thanks to Buffy's enthusiasm, Giles struggled to remember why they were there and the circumstances that brought the two of them to this wondrous moment.

Buffy wriggled across to snuggle into Giles' side, parting the froth to make a place high under his chin to rest her cheek, where neither water or nor bubbles could go up her nose.

He closed a possessive arm around her body and held her there, kissing her damp hair and resting his chin against it as he mused, and then, inevitably, dozed.

It was a very long time before either of them stirred.

“Mmmm,” Buffy purred, stretching. “Tubby naps. I could get used to this.”

He squeezed her a little and chuckled. “Perhaps if the store continues to do well, I could consider a little remodelling in the apartment…”

Buffy turned onto her stomach and caught his lips with hers. “Or a whole new place. You've been in that apartment an awfully long time.”

“And it has an awful lot of fond memories,” he pointed out softly, then frowned. “And not a few unpleasant ones, I suppose.”

Buffy traced his jaw. “I guess, but things change all the time. Look at me…I've never had 'a place'. Even mom's house is the last in a line of them, none with years of warm cosy memories abounding,” she added sadly.

“But there were some, at each,” he pointed out as her hand slid back into the water.

“True,” she agreed, but not like there's one place above all places that makes me nostalgic or full of warm fuzzies. That's more about family, and people…bits and pieces all over the place. Like the first Ice Show my dad took me to, the first time I got my seven times tables right all the way through and mom fussed like I'd just got elected president or something…” She looked up. “The first time I saw you and knew that I loved you.”

Giles grew very still and searched her face. “Yesterday,” he said almost wistfully.

She shook her head. “I said 'loved you.' After everything that could go wrong did, I walked onto that dance floor and there you were, waiting for me, making everything all right without saying a word…like you always do. And I loved you for it. Yesterday I fell in love. Yesterday I woke up for the first time,” she added, surprise flickering in her eyes. “I did, you know. It's like all this time a part of me has been asleep while the rest of me needed you, wanted you to be there for me, but never knew the reason why…”

This time their kiss was slow and gentle, filled with love and tenderness, lingering for a long time before either of them was ready to relinquish the other.

Buffy lifted her hand from the water to touch his face again and saw how wrinkled her fingers were.

“Um…time to get out?” she asked, turning her palm towards him.

Giles' eyebrows rose, only half seriously. “I suppose we better, before you shrivel into an old crone,” he told her, chuckling, dodging and spluttering when she tried to slap his chest and sprayed water everywhere.

“You're horrible,” she said, and stood up. Giles watched her turn and bend to put her hands on the side of the step-less bath so that she could climb out and felt himself stir at the sight of her smooth, round, bottom and the tender womanhood peeking out between her slender legs. He watched her dry herself with growing desire, envying the plush towel's every stroke, until she asked him why he hadn't moved yet.

“Um…” he said and started to lift himself out of the water, Buffy still watching.

“Oh,” she said, amused, when she saw the state of his arousal, bobbing as he moved.

Amused, and impressed.

“Bring that with you and I'll meet you in the bedroom,” she told him huskily, already stirring at the sight of his apparently abundant appreciation of her womanly assets.

When he arrived in the bedroom, he found Buffy sprawled on the bed wearing his black silk pajama top and nothing else except the prescription sunglasses from the side pocket of his overnight bag, where they resided with the spare spectacles, headache tablets and other assorted travelling paraphernalia he more or less permanently kept there. They were of the reflective glass, 'Top Gun' variety, with silver frames. She looked both sexy and adorable at the same time, now kneeling on the bed and messing about with them in the open top, looking at herself in the glass doors of the closet.

“Very nice,” he growled suggestively as she leaned towards the glass, as though pretending to be a model, her impossibly firm buttocks poking out from under the black satin.

Buffy giggled and stood up on the bed. “Thanks, but I bet they'd look sexier on you.” She put them on his face and stood back. “Oh, God yes,” she confirmed playfully. “I don't know why you don't wear them more often. You look like you should be telling guys to go mount up…er…you know, like, their jet planes…scramble…go…kill bogies…whatever…” she finished sheepishly.

Giles tilted his head down enough to look at her over the top of the dark lenses in a way that told her exactly what he thought of the idea of telling men to mount anything.

Buffy grinned again. “God, you look sexy in nothing but sunnies,” she growled, and, before he could object, started kissing his chest all the way down to his slightly flagging member. When her warm mouth closed around it, he forgot that he'd ever thought of objecting. By the time she had brought it to aching attention again, he could barely stand.

Buffy turned him around and pushed him backwards onto the bed, climbing over his hips and easing herself easily onto his straining length, guiding him deep inside her, until she growled with pleasure and started move.

Through the dark glasses, Giles watched her throw her head back and close her eyes, the black pajama top open to show her bobbing breasts and lithe body. He ran his hands over it, massaging the soft mounds with the sensuous fabric, even playing with her nipples through it, making her moan loudly as she continued to ride him. Finally, the sensation took over everything and she stopped to let him massage her entire body with the slippery silk.

When the impromptu massage finally ended, Buffy sighed with pleasure and slid off him, to lie on her side for a moment. “You know what I've never done?” she growled huskily, turning over so that her tail was poking up in the air again. “Have you?”

Giles felt his erection turn from solid rock, to burning steel, as though it had no intention of ever going down again. He cleared his throat, opting for honesty. “Um…once or twice,” he admitted, stretching out a hand to rub the firm, ripe globes and make her purr like a cat. He even let his fingers trail down into her moist centre a time or two and smiled when she moaned loudly.

When she spread her legs a little further and made a whimpering noise, he threw the sunglasses away and moved behind her

Before he could do anything more, however, the phone rang. He reached out for it, while still caressing her with one hand.

“I'll tell you when we're ready. Now sod off!” he snapped and hung up again, before focusing again on the task at hand, a task nothing could entirely distract him from…

“Who?” Buffy asked as his both his hands ran over her waiting rump again, pushing the silk up her back as he brought himself to her.

“Bloody Housekeeping again,” he growled, letting his fingers slide into her heat and gently tease and caress the soft folds until she was making those small whimpering noises again and pushing back towards him demandingly.

Barely able to contain his desire, and in peril of not being able to maintain control, Giles pushed against the now wet, burning entrance.

Buffy shuddered, her exclamation part moan, part gasp. “Yes!” she growled, low in her throat. “More!”

Giles, himself, groaned aloud as he slid home.

“Giles, I can't…Oh, God, this is so…do it to me…Harder!” Buffy's senses were going into overload, the combination of openness and deep penetration like nothing she'd ever experienced before.

He allowed her to control the entire exercise, well aware of the danger of penetrating to deeply, enjoying her frantic pushing and gyrating against him as he stroked rhythmically.

Buffy's breaths were coming in short pants as their coupling grew more and more frantic, Giles taking over more and more as she relaxed. In a few more strokes he was riding her hard, Buffy being driven into a pleasure frenzy both by the pistoning of his rigid erection and the slapping of his scrotum against her swollen heat.

“Oh…ohhhhh!” her voice rose in exclamation and ended in a half-scream, half gasping howl of ecstasy, followed in just moments by Giles, pushed from the edge he'd been teetering on forever, into the same abyss of bliss by the frantic bucking and clenching of her beautiful body, not to mention the glorious view of it, coupled with her erotic vocalisations.

When they both came down, Giles moved away to find a clean handkerchief. Buffy growled again like a satisfied cat when he returned and cleaned away the evidence of their pleasure, then rolled over when he was done, to grin up at him.

“I'd give that one an A plus,” she told him contentedly. “And I'd give you an A to the hundredth power,” she added tenderly.

“Buffy you can't mix math and the alphabet quite that way,” he said tolerantly and grinned. “But I appreciate the compliment.”

She curled up in the crook of his arm when he settled next to her. “What are we going to do tomorrow? Do we involve the others? Do we go back to the castle? Do I get Xand to find me a bazooka from somewhere?”

Giles squeezed her a little, reassuringly. “We ask Willow to get onto the net and use her indomitable talents for getting into places she's not supposed to be able to get into, to find out how Ethan escaped. Then we ask Tara to organize the ingredients and paraphernalia so that the two of them can perform the most powerful warding spell on us that they can find. Then we will consider returning to the castle to deal with Ethan Rayne. I rather think Dracula is going to be an entirely different proposition.”

“He wants me to be his. He wants me to come to him and worship at his feet like some fawning, mindless dracu-bimbette,” she complained, then turned in his arms, so that she was looking at him, her expression serious. “He says my power comes from darkness and that I belong with him.”

Giles felt her shiver and drew her close. “You and I both know that's not going to happen, and regardless where your power came from, only you can choose whether you control it, or it controls you. You've already proved that, many times, love. You're not Faith…and you never will be.”

“Not while I have you, anyway,” she said, love in her eyes and her voice as slid back down and turned her face into his shoulder. “If I lost you I think going postal would be a mild way to put it…”

“And that's not going to happen either,” he added gruffly and kissed her hair softly. “Go to sleep. “I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a long day.”

“Bossy,” she muttered, already drowsing.

Giles closed his eyes and smiled a smile of perfect contentment. A few minutes later they were both snoring very softly, in a deep, peaceful slumber.


*******


“By the way, where the heck were you two last night? I went to your place before work this morning and it was deserted.”

Giles looked up from the eggs he was scrambling. “We…ah…”

“We found a good place to be somewhere that's else while Drac and Ethan are still in town,” Buffy told Xander easily. “Remind me to tell you about it later…five stars,” she teased.

“Ooh, sounds lovely,” Tara and Willow said almost in unison.

“Oh, yeah,” Buffy grinned. “Anything on Ethan's miraculous escape from our so-called military, yet?”

“Not yet,” Willow said, rapidly punching keys. “Not so easy breaking U.S. military encryptions. Not exactly city hall, you know.”

“Sorry,” Buffy said meekly.

“I've got everything for the spell though,” Tara offered helpfully and Willow grinned at her before flicking her gaze straight back to her screen.

“When do you want to do the spell, Giles?” Buffy yelled.

“Later,” he growled. “When I'm not likely to let the eggs catch or the toast burn.”

They all chuckled.

“Sounds like a plan,” Xander yelled.

The response was a resounding humph from the kitchen.

When they had all eaten except Willow, Tara and Giles started on the preparations for the spell while Buffy and Xander sorted weapons. And when Anya complained of being left out, Tara whispered in Willow's ear for a moment, then turned and asked the ex-demon to help her do the relatively simple spell on Giles and Buffy

It was another half an hour before Willow finally decrypted whatever she was working on.

“I'm in,” she squealed. “Now, it just has to be the right…Whoa…”

They watched her work at speed.

“I'm into the administrative records of the place Riley told Buffy that Ethan was being taken to. I mean, I'm good, but even I can't access secret or top secret stuff…I mean the protections on that stuff is just scary…”

At which point everyone realised that there was only one way she could know that…and Willow coloured a little.

“Willow!” Giles prompted shortly.

“Oh, okay. Like I started to say, Ethan's name appears in several places in the admin records. They had to move him to the infirmary three times. Twice it was very bad. And there's a lot of official correspondence with some address in Manchester in England. The last reference is in an inventory of damages and their replacement costs, after he escaped.” She gave a date, only a couple of months previously. “By the look of it, he didn't hurt anyone. He just vanished, but after they discovered him missing they found broken locks, glass cut out in places, and the tyres on six army vehicles slashed,” she listed. “Oh…damn, I've been detected,” she pouted as the connection was severed and her browser complained of not being able to find the URL. She logged off and huffed in frustration.

Giles sighed heavily. “Well, at least we know he hasn't been out long. And by the sound of it, he had a get away vehicle, hence the slashing of the tyres of the others. That means he was definitely helped.”

“By Dracula?” Xander offered.

“Possibly,” Giles conceded, “but why on earth would Dracula deliberately seek out or choose Ethan…and how the devil would he know about him?”

Xander shrugged.

They all sat in silence, contemplating.

“Oh, oh!” Willow's voice eventually broke the silence. “I ran a check on the hotel Ethan stayed in last time. There's no one there registered under his name, but there is a Phillip Randall. Wasn't Phillip the name of the guy who came to see Giles…y' know, when Eyghon…?”

“Yeah, we got it. And Randall was another one,” Buffy said darkly, watching Giles and remembering the significance of those two names, particularly the last one. “That's him all right.”

“Yes, yes, it probably is,” Giles said distractedly, his mind obviously in a far different place. “Ethan would hate staying in a damp, draughty castle…and he doesn't much like vampires, either.”

“Okay,” Buffy said when everyone else fell silent. “We're outta here. I'm going to teach Ethan the meaning of the word Slayer,” she growled, grabbing the back of weapons she and Xander had assembled, and marching toward the door.

Giles got up and looked at the others apologetically. “We'll be fine. It's only Ethan. I'll call you when I can. Continue to try to find out what you can about Ethan's associates and anything we might be able to use against Dracula.”


********


Buffy kicked the hotel door down without pausing.

“We may have to pay for that,” Giles sighed.

“My treat,” Buffy muttered, striding into the room.

Ethan was watching BBC America and eating Indian take out. He leaped up and back-pedalled, spilling Lamb Korma all over the floor and knocking his beer flying.

“Shit!” he yelped, then back-pedalled a little more. “Ripper, fancy seeing you here…even the Nancy-boy vamp couldn't find you two last night.”

“Where is he?” Buffy demanded.

Ethan shrugged. “Probably pissed off back to Romania. He was climbing the walls after you left. Hunted for you until dawn, and came back so distrait he didn't even eat me…which I gathered was the original plan... He said he couldn't feel you any more; that he'd lost you. 'Course he bloody lost you…I knew I should have used Obsidian Demons instead of stupid Fyarls.”

Buffy, however, thought she understood, that she knew what Dracula had sensed. “Then he's gone,” she said, more as a statement of fact than a question.

Ethan grunted. “This morning: castle, concubines, the whole lot…gone. There was nothing but ankle-biters playing baseball on the vacant lot when I went back a couple of hours later to tell him you were nowhere to be found.”

“What exactly was in it for you?” Giles asked dangerously.

He shrugged again. “A chance to do for you, for a start. Power…and possibly something better than this banged up middle-aged carcass of mine.”

“You were going to let Dracula turn you,” Buffy guessed. “He offered you eternal unlife…”

Ethan looked uncomfortable. “Well it had its drawbacks, but the benefits were irresistible. I've grown rather tired of being me…especially after my little visit with your military mates.”

“Yeah, well being you just got a little more tiresome,” Buffy announced, closing on him.

“Ripper, mate, you wouldn't let her attack an unarmed, unwell man?” he yelped, alarmed.

Giles crossed his arms and smirked. “Wouldn't I?”

“Shit,” Ethan said again, and scrambled over the furniture between him and freedom, only to have Giles block the door.

A moment later Buffy collared him by the scruff. “I should make you bleed,” she said through her teeth. “But Rupert taught me a lot of things, not least of which is that I don't ever want to become you!”

She jammed him in a chair, picked up the brightly coloured travel strap from his luggage and put it around his chest and arms and the back of the chair, drawing it painfully tight before locking it down

“Call them,” she told Giles, who quite happily called the others to ask them to arrange a pick up for Ethan.

Ethan looked up at her pitifully. “I know you hate me, but you don't know what it's like…they didn't ever intend to release me…or any of the others. They were experimenting on us…interrogation techniques…torture,” he whimpered, his eyes haunted.

Buffy saw Giles' head come up and the look in his eyes.

She moved away from Ethan and drew Giles to the other side of the room. “You think he's telling the truth?”

Giles nodded. “Ethan is an excellent liar, but not when he's terrified and I can tell you now that he's terrified out of his wits.”

“I'm guessing you're not thinking 'good riddance'?” Buffy asked grimly.

Giles shook his head, his eyes still almost as haunted as Ethan's. “Not even him,” he whispered.

“You can't want me to just let him go?”

Giles ran a hand through his hair.

“How about Willow 'poofs' him to another dimension?”

“Buffy, you're not helping…”

“Sorry,” she said contritely.

Then her eyes lit up.


*******


“Well, I thought we handled that well,” Buffy announced when the apartment was quiet again. “And Wes has changed so much. He's actually bordering on hot now.”

Giles shot her a look, then chuckled. “He's certainly much more self assured and confident.”

“Nice of him to go, seeing as the Council aren't paying him.”

“Well at least they paid for the ticket. He'll be able to go home, visit family, friends,” Giles sighed, “so his time won't be entirely wasted.”

“The Council was fast,” Buffy observed.

“Bloody fast. I should have known they'd have a standby team here…probably in preparation for unforseen circumstances, such as Faith escaping, or being released prematurely, or you getting…well, a new slayer needing to be called…or either of us turning rogue…”

“You mean now that you have all their money?” she teased.

He smiled back. “Something like that. At least they took Ethan off our hands quickly. And Wesley will see that he actually makes it all the way home.”

“Not that you wouldn't really mind someone pushing him out of a plane?” she teased.

He chuckled. “Such lovely visual imagery you conjure, love.”

“Actually, I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather be conjuring…or doing right now,” she growled and walked into his arms.

“As can I,” he agreed, his mouth meeting hers in a passionate greeting, just as the lights failed.

“Fuck!” Giles' extremely irritated voice growled in the dark.

“Put me down for at least one of those,” purred a much lighter female one.

“You're not helping.”

“I wasn't trying to. Is there a fuse thingy somewhere?”

“The streetlights are out too. It's a blackout.”

“Oh…blackout…you know what they say about blackouts,” she said playfully. “There's only one thing to do…”

“Mm,” he growled provocatively and slid his hands underneath her top.

“Sing,” she teased.

“Do what?” he exclaimed, exasperated.

“Willow says you're sexy when you sing. Sing while you're making love to me…I'll make it worth your while,” she promised in a sultry tone.

“When you put it like that,” he groaned as her fingers closed around the aroused member she'd already liberated from his pants. “But I don't sing well a Capella.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all—”

The audible whack of an open palm on bare skin followed.

“Um…poor choice?”

“Uh-huh.”

He slowly removed her top, and the sport bra underneath, and ran his hands over her soft curves before starting to sing softly, and with deadly seriousness:

It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain
What I hear when you don't say a thing

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me whenever I fall
You say it best… when you say nothing at all…

He finished two full choruses before his own shirt was off, and his pants on the ground, both their mouths far too busy to worry about singing.

They ended up on the couch, Giles sitting and Buffy straddling his lap. For all that they couldn't see each other, the sensation and the forbidden nature of making love in the living room…right out in the open…was so erotic for both of them that they swiftly came to orgasm.

Buffy was slumped, her arms around Giles' neck, her face buried in his hair as they basked in afterglow, when she heard something.

She lifted her head.

“Giles…?”

“I heard it.”

They separated. Giles grabbed his jeans off the back of the couch and they moved hand in hand across to the archway leading into the hallway and the kitchen, where he located the hall closet by feel and after a few seconds, his camping torch. As an afterthought he hefted the big chainsaw lying in the bottom of it.

“Wouldn't a crossbow be better? And why do you have a chainsaw in your closet, anyway?”

Giles chuckled. “Contrary to popular belief I do use my fireplace from time to time, you know. And I haven't been on speaking terms with an axe since I was a boy, chopping wood for my grandmother.”

“So what are you going to do if there are bad guys? Rev them to death?”

“Actually, my intention was to make a noise so that if it's simply looters they'll know someone is home and hopefully move on,” he explained, amusement in his voice.

“Oh, yeah. Looters. I was kind of thinking vampires of the campy cape type, or Fyarl demons. I forgot about the regular bad.”

They crept back down the hallway and across the living area to look out the window. Giles couldn't see anything outside, so they waited a few moments until they heard murmuring again, and movement…and then scratching at the front door.

Everything happened at light speed after that. Giles had already primed and choked the saw, which he kept in perfect condition.

The front door opened, he started the saw first attempt and flourished it as Buffy swung the light at the door, hiding her naked body behind his larger one.

“Hi…Giles…”

The apparition of Willow stared, as did the discernable faces of Tara, Anya and Xander.

Willow's entire attention was taken up with a half naked, chainsaw wielding, Giles, dressed only in jeans hastily pulled on, the fly still hanging open, revealing the top of the dark male hair underneath.

“They were worried about the power failure…Xander thought it might be Dracula, come back for Buffy…” Anya managed, infinitely less phased than the others and growing more amused by the moment.

“No…no Dracula…we're um…fine,” Giles finally managed, having killed the saw as soon as the light had revealed their intruders.

“Actually, the main reason we um…”

Everybody froze as the lights came back on.

“Oh my God…” Xander muttered as the women gasped.

“Oops,” Buffy squeaked. “Can you all, um, close the door and wait five minutes?”

Willow pulled the door closed almost catatonically.

Both Buffy and Giles roused from their mortification and scrambled for their clothes, Giles not bothering with his underwear, kicking the boxers under couch instead. When they were both dressed they turned to look at each other, breathing hard, their eyes wide.

A moment later they were both laughing. Buffy threw her arms around his neck and they kissed lovingly.

“I don't care what they say,” she told him. “Whatever they say, it's not going to stop me from loving you.”

He touched her face and smiled tenderly. “They're just going to have to cope, because I have no intention of loving you any less, either.”

Buffy's face glowed and she grinned back at him. “Well, we better let them in then, and find out why they all came back.”

When the door swung open again, they were all pretty much standing with the same expressions on their faces as they were when it closed. They filed in, wide-eyed and silent, except for Anya, who was smiling smugly.

“So,” Buffy said. “Comments anyone?”

“Is he good?” Anya asked immediately, Xander turning the colour of a tomato and Willow and Tara developed a sudden, giggling, interest in the floor.

“Better than good,” Buffy confided playfully. “Look, everyone, we're in love, just like you guys are with each other. I mean really in love…”

Willow and Tara both looked up at the same time, and their eyes lighting up as the romantic nature of the situation gradually became apparent.

“…And we have been for a lot longer than we realised. Can you…can you just deal…for our sakes? I mean, in a way we're all family…we're all still here for each other, aren't we?”

“Yes,” Giles joined in. “We're sorry you were given such a shock, but we weren't expecting anyone to return tonight. We thought we were going to be alone. Of course no one was expecting a power failure, and—”

“Rupert, babbling,” Buffy said softly, kissed his chin and leaned against him so that he slid an easy arm around her.

“So…you two are together now,” Xander said dazedly into the new silence.

“We got that part,” Anya told him. “So are we going to give it to him, or are we going home? I think I want to go home now and do what they've been doing.”

With that, Willow and Tara seemed to snap back to normal. “We came back because it was Giles' birthday yesterday, and we all forgot.”

Buffy turned a little to look up at her lover. “You didn't tell me it was your birthday,” she told him slightly miffed voice.

He looked down at her and smiled indulgently. “I-it never seemed to come up in the past. I'm afraid that the only one who ever realised before today was Willow.”

“How did you find out, Will?” Buffy asked, suddenly feeling incredibly stupid…and guilty.

Willow went even redder than Xander and regarded the floor again. “I…um…well, I used to have this…um…” she stammered.

Tara looked at her lovingly. “Willow used to have a huge crush on Giles when she was a kid.” She looked up at Giles. “She kind of broke into the school records to find out how old how you were and whether you had a…um…significant other,” she said shyly.

After a beat Giles smiled placidly. “You never told me,” he told Willow's bent head.

She looked up slowly and swallowed. “It was a crush. I'd have died if you found out,” she said sheepishly.

“Hey,” Xander suddenly spoke up. “I was of the impression that a certain other impressive male type was your main pinup back then?”

Everyone grinned except Willow. “Not pinup, Xander. I would have run over Giles' crumpled body…” She looked around momentarily. “Sorry Giles.” Then she turned back to Xander. “…To get to you if you'd only asked me…even once.”

Xander had the good grace to look guilty. “Maybe we should do the present now?” he muttered self-consciously.

“So you guys can deal?” Buffy asked when they fell silent again.

The girls nodded, Anya's grin widened, and Xander's shoulders scrunched just a little.

“Me? More like rewinding and erasing,” he told them. “With a little denial on the side.”

Everyone laughed and a large gift-wrapped box was produced, hefted by Xander.

“Isn't that the gift-wrapping from the Magic Box?” Giles asked suspiciously.

“Yes,” Anya said cheerfully. “It's from all of us. Everyone paid…except Buffy.”

He sighed, and gave it up, releasing Buffy to accept the extremely heavy box and carry it to the coffee table.

“What's in here?” he asked, amused, as he tore the paper off. “A statue of Isis? Matched bowling balls, perhaps…? I say…”

Their grins widened.

“What on earth made you decide I needed one of these?”

“Because you don't have one, and we can't live without ours now. “How can we make popcorn when we're here, or cups of coffee and hot chocolate, or heat the TV dinners really fast?”

Giles snorted softly and looked at the smallish machine.

“You have to like it,” Anya went on. “We especially looked for one without lots of buttons and things so you could work it all by yourself. See…just a little dial and one button to start it.”

Xander's looked like he was going to die of embarrassment. Everyone else almost exploded trying not to giggle.

“Yes, thank you, Anya,” Giles muttered. “It's a very thoughtful gift, and I thank all of you. And you can rest assured I shall certainly be able to operate it. I don't know why I've never bothered before, except that I am a creature of habit, and well settled into mine. I shall still make my tea with leaves and a kettle, but I look forward now to instant hot chocolate, a warmed blueberry muffin for breakfast occasionally and er…popcorn …whenever I fancy a bowl while I'm watching the telly.”

“Whenever we're watching the telly,” Buffy corrected softly.

Giles turned around swiftly and scanned her face.

After a couple of beats they both smiled at each other.

“Whenever we're watching the telly,” he repeated as she came to his side and slid her arm around his waist. He curled one of his around her shoulders and drew her close, deciding suddenly that this was possibly the best birthday he'd ever had, bruises and all...

Everyone smiled, genuinely happy for them, especially Giles, except for Xander, who was still busy muttering about bad visual places and being scarred for life.

At that point Anya produced bags of popping corn and bullied the incoherent Xander into carrying the microwave to the kitchen, with the other two tactfully bringing up the rear.

In fact…Giles decided as they automatically turned into each other's arms and Buffy reached up to kiss him with eyes so filled with love it frightened him…

…After all was said and done, he would have consider buying bloody Ethan Rayne a beer the next time they met…

…as they inevitably would…


* * *