Sunlight streamed in the bedroom window and illuminated the restless sleeper in the bed below.

Buffy struggled up out of her nightmare breathing heavily. She hated revisiting the unpleasant past, especially in dreams.

And she particularly hated her seventeenth birthday…

As consciousness extinguished the last remnants of her nightmare she filed it distastefully at the back of her mind and began to plan what she was going to have for breakfast, what she was going to wear…

In the same moment she remembered where she was and why. A flush of sheer joy swept over her. She opened her eyes and turned over…to find the space next to her empty, the covers thrown back. The colour drained from her face and her eyes closed again.

She was alone.

Then she sat up. For long seconds she stared at the walls, her face slowly draining of colour and expression, her eyes dead, then she slid out of bed, dragged on the shirt she'd taken off Giles the previous night and went downstairs.

The apartment was quiet, as she expected. She went to the kitchen, hoping in her heart that he was boiling a kettle, or making an omelette or something but it, too, was deserted. The numbness crept up and seized her by the throat.

She leaned against the kitchen arch and closed her eyes against the traitorous tears that rose in them.

Giles emerged moments later and came down the small hallway, the way to the only bathroom in the apartment, and stopped when he saw her, his smile turning to shock. She had no colour…and she looked so tiny, so vulnerable, and so alone…

“Buffy,” he said softly. “What's wrong?”

Her eyes flew open and she ran into his arms, buried her face in his robe. “You were gone,” she shuddered.

He threw his head back, his face contorting with rage at himself and more, at the other, and anguish at his stupidity. A moment later he slid an arm behind her knees, lifted her into his arms and carried her upstairs, where he slid into their bed without letting her go, lay down and drew her into his arms, held her close.

For a long time she didn't move, or speak, only held onto him and wept softly.

Then, when he thought she must have gone back to sleep, she raised her head and spoke without looking up at him.

“I'm sorry,” she said tremulously.

He eased himself into a sitting position and stroked her hair, then rested his palm against her cheek. “Look at me, Buffy,” he ordered.

She looked up slowly and drew a soft breath when she saw the depth of the love in the tender eyes looking down at her.

“I went to the bathroom,” he explained. “It was as simple, and as stupid, as that. I'm not him,” he added dejectedly. “Although I would seem to be just as thoughtless and insensitive.”

She sobbed and put her arms around his neck, her cheek against his. “No, it wasn't you. There was a nightmare…that nightmare… and then I woke up and…”

“Found me gone,” he finished hoarsely.

She drew back, touched his face. “You should be angry with me,” she told him, sniffing. “I would be. You're way too good for me.” She giggled damply. “The bathroom? Couldn't you have been doing something romantic, like breakfast in bed?”

He kissed the tender mouth. “I am angry with you,” he said softly. “For believing, even for a moment, that I could ever leave you now.”

She leaned against him again and slid her hands inside the robe, ran them slowly over his surprisingly solid frame, made a low, appreciative noise in her throat and grinned.

“Next time, it's your turn,” she told him.

“Next time?” he asked huskily.

She let her hands slide down further, watching his eyes close and his back arch against her touch.

She grinned again. “My mistake…”

“I…don't…know, I thin…I think you're doing rather…well,” he groaned, lying back slowly.

Buffy continued. It thrilled her to see that she could give him as much pleasure as he'd given her. And the newness of it thrilled her too. Her brief interlude with Angel hadn't included such tender play. It had been a meeting of needs, the collision of two people in a headlong rush to not be alone…rather than this incredible exploration of each other…this blending and sharing of heart and body…

Giles groaned again as her fingers explored and stroked, caressed and touched. If anything he wanted her more now than he had the night before, ached for her, making her soft, inquisitive touch a delicious torture.

She watched his face as she experimented, repeating the things that made him groan or arch his back reflexively, using her imagination and what little she'd picked up from 'sealed' articles in some of the more lurid women's magazines. Articles she'd giggled over with Willow, never suspecting she'd one day be making love to Giles, pleasuring him just because she wanted to...because she loved him so much…

She was finding it more and more difficult to concentrate. She'd wanted him since she'd first slid her hands inside his robe and felt his warm body respond to hers. And now that first conscious recognition had manifested itself as an almost unbearable desire to have him back inside her, to feel the size, the warmth of him, within her again…a part of her again.

In response to her thoughts her grip unconsciously tightened and her hand began to move faster. Giles' sudden upward arch and animal growls of pleasure thrilled through her body, and told her she'd done something good. She kept doing it, watching the sheer ecstasy on his face, adding variations and watching his response, the heat, the steel of him beneath the velvety skin, making it more and more difficult for her to be patient.

She shifted. Her body ached with anticipation. She wanted him more than she'd ever wanted anything or any one. More than that, she wanted to give him pleasure, hear him gasp and groan, as he did now, her fingers wrapped around him, her thumb massaging the tiny ridge she'd found. And suddenly she knew what else she wanted to do, but he was so incredibly aroused now, surprising him was going to be a bad idea. The memory of his bloodied lip the night before was proof enough of that.

Instead she let go and trailed her hands up to his broad chest and ran them deliciously all over it, enjoying his sighs and gratified to see him relax back into the bed. She drew herself up on her knees then and found him watching her every move. She removed her shirt slowly, his eyes glowing with anticipation as it slid off, revealing the beautiful, slender body beneath. Then she lowered herself to find his lips with hers, to share again the sensual oneness of the merging of their mouths.

And then Buffy lifted her head and touched his face, tracing his jaw with loving fingers while she waited for his eyes to open. When they did, they took her breath, as they seemed often to do now, the combination of their beauty, his desire and the glow of love that never seemed to extinguish, almost more than she could bear.

“I love you,” she said softly and watched him grin. “Having fun?”

“Mm…never seen such a quick learner,” he confirmed hoarsely.

“Good,” she purred and kissed his chin, his jaw, the base of his throat, smiling to herself when she felt him tremble as her lips slid over his sternum and back down to his still-firm stomach.

Beneath her, Giles was barely able to breathe. Her soft, smooth hand was holding him again, her mouth warm and moist against the sensitive skin of his lower abdomen as she toyed with him. The anticipation was unbearable. He moaned impatiently and strained to her.

Buffy stopped teasing. She wanted him too much to wait much longer. Instead she shifted slightly and caressed him with her lips, enjoying the shuddering groan that seemed to start in his belly and vibrate upwards. And found several more ways to elicit the same sensuous sound from him before finally giving him her gift.

“C…C…Chr…Buffy…!” he gasped.

And continued to gasp as she taught herself how to pleasure him that way too, though there seemed to be little she did that didn't bring satisfying moans and shivers of ecstasy from him. Each sound, each quivering tremble of his body made her want him more, so that when, at length, he reached out a hand and stroked her hair, she shifted her body so that it lay at right angles to his.

And groaned a moment later, as the same hand slid over her back and stroked the length of her body while she continued to drive him to distraction.

Giles shuddered again. Distraction was right, but the feel of her body beneath his hand was doing even worse things to his self-control.

He bit his lip…

But couldn't resist sliding his hand inside her thigh and caressing the soft silkiness of her, as she brought him perilously close to losing control for the dozenth time, despite their previous night's activities. Buffy felt the fingers move across her stomach and down her groin…unable to stop herself from arching towards them, meeting their touch as she continued to tease and claim him.

She jolted and cried out, half moaning, half gasping as bolts of desire rippled outward like lit fuses from his expert touch, lifted her head and shifted over him in one smooth movement.

She was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen; he wanted her so badly he physically strained toward her and his breath caught as she rose above him and brought herself down to meet him.

The warmth, the moist softness against his own arousal was almost his undoing. A part of his mind listened to his own strangled cry and the panting half-groans that followed, and was amused, distracting him just enough.

Like a bloody teenager again…it mused before being drowned out as Buffy moved back and forth in slow, sensuous, massaging strokes, drawing a desperate animal growl from him.

He slid his hands around her waist and tilted his pelvis, but Buffy wasn't having any.

“Hey,” she whispered, taking his hands in hers and lifting them to her breasts, quivering as he cupped them obediently, massaging them very softly. “Who's in charge here?”

He half chuckled and his eyes danced, but she could see the unfocused blur of barely controlled desire in them.

She took a deep breath instead and shifted just a little so that he was poised against her, and paused, for just a moment, to look down at him again.

His eyes had closed again and he looked gorgeous lying there, still in the open robe, his mouth open slightly in almost unbearable anticipation, small noises issuing from his throat with every slight move she made.

There was an exquisite torture in holding back just a little more, making herself wait, making him wait, knowing that this time she was going to take him, to make love to him

Then a slight movement on her part caused him to enter her just enough to send shudders through both of them.

“Buffy…please,” he begged, almost sending her over the edge.

Instead she filled herself with him, gasping and crying out at the tidal wave of pleasure surging through her, accentuated by Giles' incredibly intense, low, shuddering groan as they were joined once again.

It was all he could do not to take control, not to give himself to the frenzy she was stirring in him.

Then she was moving, making love to him, marvelling at how different it felt, how much deeper, how much more erotic…how much he filled her…

His groans turned to strangled gasps, his hands clasping her hips, his own moving in time with hers, until she started to move faster, changing angles, moaning and whimpering as he found new places inside her with each shift and tilt…

It was too much for Giles, his own vocalisations turning to urgent guttural cries and then to a strangled:

Oh God… Buf-f-y…!”

But she didn't hear him above her own frenzied: “Giles…!” as they both careened headlong into another crescendo of completion, Buffy convinced she was going to explode from the sheer, uncontrollable intensity of it.

Then, in the dying throes of her own passion, she realised that Giles hadn't stopped, and that if she continued to move, to squeeze hard enough she could turn the small tremors and shudders that continued to rock his body into convulsions of pleasure.

At length his hands tightened on her hips, and she knew it was over. She collapsed against him gratefully, nuzzling her face into his chest, wanting to be close, to hold him, and sighing blissfully when he slid his arms around her and drew them tight.

“How did you do that?” she mumbled contentedly.

“I had very little to do with it,” he replied humorously and kissed the top of her head.

“Fast learner, huh?”

“I'll have your diploma ready in the morning,” he teased.

She grinned without opening her eyes. “I was good…” she sighed.

Giles laughed. “You were positively stunning,” he confirmed. “But I wouldn't get too comfortable there if I were you.”

She made a small, disapproving noise then her eyes opened. “Oh-h-h, ick!” she exclaimed. “You're gonna have to stop doing that,” she muttered and scowled when he laughed again. “Now what?”

In a blink she knew what. Giles had rolled both of them over, still together, separated himself, slid out of bed and picked her up in one almost seamless manoeuvre.

“I like this. Where are we going?” she asked contentedly as he headed down the stairs.

“Shower,” he replied, concentrating on his balance and direction, since Buffy had all but drained every last ounce of his usual strength and energy. She was as light as a feather, but he was fairly certain a feather could have knocked him down at that particular point…

It was another new sensation for Buffy, one she immediately fell in love with: showering with someone you loved…except when that someone turned the wrong way and water deflected off an arm, a shoulder or his back and it hit you square in the face…

The part she loved best was the look on Giles' face when she started to wash him, moving a soapy sponge in gentle circles over his back, behind, legs, then up the front of his legs to his stomach, his chest until she looked up to see him gazing down at her, a little amused and a lot moved.

“What are you doing?” he asked softly, flushed and relaxed under the stream of hot water.

“You don't like?”

“Of course I like. I just…you give of yourself so freely, Buffy…I'm not used to…”

“Being spoiled?” She frowned a little. “Or me giving…?”

“Very much the former,” he confirmed. “And perhaps a little of the later. You were …preoccupied…for such a long time; now everything you do surprises me.”

For a moment a combination of sadness and regret flickered in her eyes. “The word you were looking for was selfish,” she told him honestly, then smiled suddenly. “But I'm glad you like. You deserve a lot of surprises…nice… surprises,” she added tenderly and handed him the sponge. “Now it's your turn.”

By the time he was done Buffy had vowed never, ever, to shower alone again.

“There,” he said, smiling and shelving the sponge, then sighed contentedly when she stretched and leaned back against him, growling appreciatively.

“What are we doing today?” she asked, her hands wandering delightfully, then turned and put her arms around him, resigned to the water that invariably diverted over her head and down her back when she rested it against his chest.

“Getting out of the shower shortly, before we completely run out of hot water, for one,” he chuckled. “After that, we have a clean slate.”

Buffy kissed the centre of his chest and looked up as he turned off the faucets. “Wow, both of us not doing anything at the same time. This has to be a first.” Her smile faded. “And surprisingly scary…”

He laughed aloud.

She stuck her lip out but her eyes danced. “Well, it is. When's the last time you can remember that one of us wasn't either worried about the other, or some big evil, or both. Or…or someone else, caught up in work or school, or committed to being with other people?”

Still amused, Giles frowned a little in thought. “You know, you're right. And it is…scary…the thought of relentless hours of your company. I suppose one can be thankful your music collection is elsewhere.”

He spluttered and laughed when the sponge hit him in the face, then reached around her and lifted her by her seat until he could kiss her mouth thoroughly. “We can do anything you want to do, today,” he told her fondly.

Anything?” she purred suggestively.

He laughed and kissed her again before putting her down. “Yes, anything,” he told her, and chuckled again when she caressed him provocatively. “But not right now. There are limits, you know.”

“There are?” she murmured and put her arms around him contentedly.

He chuckled again. “I'm afraid so. Would you settle for breakfast…?”

* * *