In Your Dreams

The wind was cold, and he could feel it despite the full visor on his helmet, despite the protective clothing, heavy boots and new jacket. He didn't mind. There was a kind of freedom he hadn't known in years about cutting through the air like that, tearing along the highway like there was no tomorrow, nothing and no one to worry about.

He sighed and opened up the throttle a little more.

The small ski lodge was perfect. It fit his budget for a start. It was more like a cosy village than a resort. Just a few low, subtle chalets, an equally low, subtle central building housing the management, a kiosk, a ski store, bar and restaurant, and no ski lift and no crass commercialisation or overdevelopment of the area. He liked it, though the lack of a lift didn't bode well...spending half his weekend climbing back up hills didn't really seem like the thing...

He dumped his black helmet with its dark full visor, the heavy leather jacket and his duffel on the king-sized bed and stretched his back. The room was simple but comfortable. On his budget, improving the bed-size to accommodate his large frame was the most he could stretch to. The rest of his meagre stake for his weekend adventure was committed to hiring quality gear and feeding himself.

He hadn't skied in years and the yen had only grown stronger since things had started to deteriorate in Sunnydale. It was like his own small rebellion, being up here doing something purely for his own pleasure, when a part of him knew he should be back there, being responsible, being ignored, taken for granted...

Being lonely...he admitted for the first time in a long time.

It took only a couple of hours to kit himself out and set off, late in the afternoon, for the main ski field, where there wouldn't be too many challenges while he was breaking his muscles back in and familiarizing himself with the latest skiing technology. As was his wont of late... more rebellion, he supposed...he'd chosen black ski pants and a well cut black ski jacket with two thin metallic gold stripes down each side, a black ski cap with gold lettering and what he considered to be some mean looking skis.

It didn't take long for him to begin to enjoy himself. The sun was shining, and the air was sharp and clean, and his mind was focused solely on the challenge of mastering the very fast skis and convincing his body that it was enjoying the workout as much as he was.

On his third run down the steepest hill he found himself swerving in a huge arc to miss another skier who'd fallen and was tumbling down the hill. He was still watching the figure when he suddenly crashed into another skier in the middle of his slewing arc, the plume of snow he'd been ploughing out splattering all over his hapless victim.

By the time they'd untangled themselves his 'hapless victim' was in a rage. Giles looked up, startled, from brushing the snow off himself. He would know that voice anywhere, but she obviously hadn't recognised him. He cleared his throat.

"Cordelia," he said, cutting across her diatribe on ski etiquette, doltish clumsiness and men in general as she clicked her boots expertly one at a time back into her skis.

She stopped and lifted her goggles. "Giles?" she squeaked. "God, it's been so long...what the hell are you doing on a ski slope? Who's watching the Hellmouth?"

Giles grinned and lifted his own dark goggles. "You haven't changed a bit, Cordelia," he said fondly. "I'm having a weekend off, if you must know. Buffy has more than ample backup these days. She's not going to miss me for a couple days."

Cordelia looked at him strangely. She didn't think he was aware of the level of bitterness in his voice. It didn't suit him. And she didn't like it. The one great comfort about Giles was his predictability.

Her beautiful eyes met his and held them. "Why don't you take me out to dinner and tell me all about it?" she suggested dryly.

Giles looked at her for a long moment. She meant it. One thing about Cordelia was that she never said anything she didn't mean...only a great many things she should never have said at all...

He smiled to himself and nodded. "I'd like that," he said. "And you can tell me about life in Los Angeles and how the agency is going."

"Cool," Cordelia said, looking extraordinarily pleased. She looked around furtively for a moment. "Okay, let's go," she said, turning her skis and lowering her goggles. "Last one to the bottom of the hill buys the first drink." And she was gone before he could even click his right boot back in to the ski he hadn't been able to keep still and lower his own goggles. He shook his head and followed.

When he came to a halt ten seconds before Cordelia arrived, he felt pleased with himself. She slewed to a halt with her hands on her hips and her poles sticking out.

"How did you do that?"

"Many, many suicidal match races with Ethan, among others, in my reckless youth," he told her. "We used to make the channel crossing by ferry in our barely serviceable Morris and ski as often as we could in winter. Our gear was appallingly maintained and out of date and we generally did without food for most of the weekend because there was no money for anything except fuel for the car, the ferry and lodgings. Later there were rare and infinitely more comfortable trips with friends from the Council..."

"Wow, and here I thought that except for channelling homicidal demons who killed your friends all you ever did was read books and drink tea," she observed without guile.

Giles laughed aloud.


Cordelia has asked him to meet her at the bar, rather than call for her at her chalet. Giles sipped at his brandy and shifted again. He hadn't come prepared for socialising, really, and had to settle for dark pants, his v-necked black shirt, and the new waist length gun-metal grey and black leather jacket, which was good enough, at least while new, to dress up or dress down.

She was late. He was just beginning to wonder if he'd been stood up for some well built ski instructor when she finally arrived. She looked beautiful, but all his, what Buffy called 'Spidey senses' pricked at once when he saw her face. She was frightened. He rose as she approached the quiet booth and watched her slide in without comment.

"Cordelia?" he said softly when she hadn't spoken for a full thirty seconds.

She focused. "Oh. Sorry...S...sorry I'm late..."

"Cordelia, what's wrong? Whatever it is, you can still talk to me about it. I haven't changed that much since we last saw each other."

At that she suddenly came back from wherever she was and looked him up and down. "Not changed? What planet have you been on? Have you looked in a mirror lately?"

Giles coloured a little, self-conscious and suddenly feeling as though he was making a fool of himself. No, Cordelia hadn't changed a bit…
Cordelia's eyes narrowed just as she was about to go on. "Giles...? Oh God, Giles, I'm sorry. I wasn't...I only meant you're different. You look... great...better than great. Look, I know what I was like at school, but I've learned a lot working for Angel, and a lot more...from people...even demon people. I wasn't—"

She stopped when Giles touched a finger briefly to her lips. It went through her like an electric current. It was all she could do to sit still and look at him without doing any more than blinking, especially when he was smiling at her like that.

"Thank you," he said gently. "Now, tell me what's wrong. I've never seen you so frightened before...except perhaps when the Hellmouth opened..."

"Yeah, well, that was an experience," she muttered. "Look, Giles, I came here with someone. I thought...he seemed charming and sweet, and..." she sighed. "I found out he's married...I saw a picture in his wallet in our..." she flushed, " this morning. He got really angry. Psycho angry. First about me being anywhere near his wallet...I mean, he tried to hit me, then when I tried to leave, he got even angrier. I guess he doesn't like changing his plans..."

Cordelia's hand was playing nervously with her fork. Giles' reached out and covered it comfortingly.

"Then where are your things? How did you manage to evade him?"

She shrugged. "He's a psycho, not a postal worker. When he calmed down and finally went to the bathroom I just took everything and left. It's in a locker up at the main building. I did lose my toothbrush and a brand new hairbrush. I was going to call Wesley to come and get me, but then I got angry and decided...because I'm basically stupid...that I'd have my weekend anyway, that I was going to ski at least once before I went home with my tail between my legs."

Giles winced. "Please don't talk about tails," he muttered.
"Why? Did you grow one?"
Giles blinked. Typical, blunt, Cordelia. "As a matter of fact, yes. Not large, but bloody uncomfortable." "Oh. I haven't talked to anyone down there in weeks. What happened?"

"Ethan turned me into a Fyarl demon," he said simply as she began scanning the room again. "We heard about Wesley being back."

"I know. Angel told me he called you about it." Her eyes narrowed again. "You still don't like either of them very much, do you?"

He looked down at his drink. "I wasn't aware that it was that obvious," he said softly.

"Especially not to someone like me," she finished equally softly.

He looked up, startled. "I'm sorry, Cordelia...its've never...we've never..."

She smiled. "I know. It was so totally uncool to be associated with a librarian, I mean the others were bad enough, and let's not even talk about the tweed and the...Well, the truth was I liked you a lot. I liked you always being there. Even when the world was falling to pieces and chaos was abounding...old Giles was still there, fumbling around trying to put a sentence to together, knee deep in books...never judgemental and ever and always accessible."

He smiled. "I rather think you cornered the market on the former," he observed dryly, "and as to the later, you all were very important to me. I had to at least try to see that you came to no harm simply because I couldn't even manage to keep Buffy's identity a secret for more than five minutes after she arrived."

"Thanks for the reminder about my high school charm," she said dryly. "I'm so glad that's over. I never want to have to work that hard at being noticed, ever again. There was way too much not to like about that me."

Giles was about to comment on the changes in her when she suddenly stiffened and slid further into the booth. He followed her gaze to a tall, wide-shouldered man of about thirty-five, with fair hair swept back from a high brow and striking pale blue eyes.


Cordy nodded. "I think he's looking for me."

"Don't worry," Giles said gently. "He can't do anything while we're together. Let me handle it." He touched her shoulder with a kind hand and was surprised to see her wince. He pushed the sleeve of her black dress off her shoulder enough to see the bruise that was just starting to bloom into its full colours.

"You didn't say that he'd actually struck you," he said in a voice coloured by anger.

Cordelia looked away. "How do you know it's not from skiing? Or when you ran into me?"

He put a finger under her chin and brought her eyes back to his. "That's why," he said softly. "Besides I'm sure if I'd caused the bruise I'd have heard about in no uncertain terms long before this," he teased, smiling reassuringly.

She looked into the gentle green eyes and almost came to tears. There was something infinitely comforting about Giles that made her wish somehow that he was still there all the time, with his library, his books, his tea, his gruff retorts to her barbs.

"Damned straight," she parried in her best Cordy voice, then felt her lip tremble. "I've never been...even the jocks I used to date who weren't like that, even the ones who turned out to be pigs. I guess some of them were in training to be him, but they never tried to hit me...not even during fights."

Giles could feel the hand he'd just covered again trembling as the stranger came towards them. "Slide around here," he told her calmly.

Cordelia slid around the back of the small table until her shoulder was up against his and closed her eyes when his arm went around her shoulders briefly and squeezed before withdrawing again, his hand returning to the table to cover hers.

"Hang on," he said softly.

"Cordelia," the stranger said, grinning with infinite charm.

Giles wanted to remove every cap on his perfect teeth one at a time...preferably with the teeth still in them...

"Leon, I told you I don't want to see you any more," she managed in a credibly indignant voice.

"It was just a little spat, darling," he crooned. "Why don't we go and have dinner and I'll buy you something really special to make it up to you."

"The lady says she doesn't want to see you any more," Giles said quietly.

"Nobody asked you. This is between me and my lady. I suggest you stay out of it. In fact why don't you go find yourself another table?"

Giles looked him up and down as though he were something vile and nasty and detestable, which of course, he was.

"Why don't you take your own advice?" he asked without raising his voice. "Cordelia has no intention of going with you, or adding to the bruises she already has." His voice hardened, now low and infinitely dangerous. "Now leave before I push that smarmy grin of yours down your throat."

The other man stared at him for a long moment. Startled, Giles thought. Then the handsome face twisted and hardened.

"Find your kicks somewhere else," he drawled. "You're poaching on other people's property, old man."

"Excuse me, but since when did I become property?" Cordy demanded, her eyes flashing angrily, and not just for herself. "And for your information Rupert is ten times the man you'll ever be. He's strong and kind and gentle and he doesn't hit women...and he's not old, he's good looking a British sort of way, and sexy and I'd rather...I'd rather have him out in the snow than have you lay one of your sleazy fingers on me ever again!" she shouted.

The pale blue eyes glittered cruelly and the thin mouth stretched into a sneering line. "He wouldn't last two minutes in a fight...or in bed. You're pitiful Cordelia. You could have had it all this weekend and look at you, hiding behind some no name loser hanging around, waiting to pick up other people's crumbs."

Less than a second later Ripper's hand was clenched around the man's windpipe. "Would you like to say all that again a little louder? I don't believe the man over near the cigarette machine quite heard you."

Leon clawed at Giles' arm, but, despite his lean, six foot frame, his feet were off the ground. And then just as suddenly, he was down again and Giles had released him.

"Get out," he hissed.

Still choking and rasping, Leon looked from Giles to Cordy, far from ready to let it go, but lacking the courage to challenge the larger man further. Giles had at least twenty pounds on him.

"Pathetic," he croaked, sneering at both of them, and skulked away.

Giles sat down again next to Cordelia and turned to her. "Are you all right?"

She nodded. " thought that part was only for Ethan. I mean Ethan was even bigger than Leon, and you..."

Giles looked away, but not before Cordelia saw the haunted look in his eyes. "That part of me is Ethan's fault. I'm sorry you had to see it again. It was unforgivable of me, but that should have had his teeth knocked down his throat and his Gucci shoes shoved up his—"

"Giles!" Cordy exclaimed. "I get the picture, but since when did you get with the bad attitude and worse language?"

Giles sighed a long sigh. "Why don't we order dinner and I'll fill you in on life in Sunnydale these days, as seen through the eyes of an unemployed librarian with a tendency to get knocked about the head."

Colour was slowly seeping back into Cordelia's cheeks, and a new flush rose as she laughed at his description of himself. He was making it easier to cope. She'd already stopped shaking, despite the fact that her heartbeat was still galloping and she had a hysterical urge to dive into the librarian's arms and hide there.

She'd been on her own for so long now, even with Angel, Doyle and now Wesley, as friends, wonderful friends, she still went home alone...even Dennis couldn't take away the lingering ache that was Doyle, the nightmares about her demon pregnancy or her fear of failure every time she was rejected at another audition, or the sheer, unadulterated loneliness of living alone, no one to share with, to talk to, to touch...

And Leon, well, Leon had seemed like the answer to a lot of dreams, and had deliberately set out to present himself that way. She should have listened to her inner alarms, the ones which had always stood her in good stead before...the ones she'd deliberately ignored for a chance not to be lonely for just a little while...

"I'd like that," she said finally, a tear caught in the corner of her lashes, dislodging and flicking off to fall on the table.

Giles saw it and instinctively put an arm around her again, drew her against him, as he would Willow or Buffy, felt hers circle and hold on to him.

"If you want to go home I'll take you," he said gently, resting his chin on her hair. He felt her shake her head against his chest.

"I'm not going to spoil your weekend. I'll go when you go...only..."

"Only what?" he asked, holding her a little away from himself.

"Only Angel hasn't paid me for a month and I don't have the money for a room here, even if they had one that hadn't been booked for a month."

Giles closed his eyes. "Yes, well, that does make things rather awkward doesn't it..."

She looked up at him imploringly when he opened them again and he sighed. "All right," he finally agreed in that harried tone he always had when Buffy was being difficult. "But I expect you to be discreet. The others, including Wesley and Angel, don't need to know you spent a weekend in my bedroom."

She giggled, making her seem far younger than the sophisticated young woman he'd watched walk into the room earlier. "Get over yourself," she retorted, but there was affection in her voice. "Like they're going to believe I did anything with Giles."

He snorted, but his eyes were bleak. "Is that so? Do you know I'm starting to get extraordinarily tired of people telling me I'm old and useless and ridiculous. Perhaps I should just take you home."

Cordelia sat up straight and extricated herself from the comfort of his embrace and looked up at him, somehow feeling as though she'd repaid a kindness with real cruelty. It wasn't at all like Giles to rise to a bait. He usually gave back better than he got.

She touched his cheek impulsively. "And maybe you should tell me who put that bug up your butt, Mister. This is me, remember? Tact of all people, usually know better than to take me seriously."

His severe expression shifted through three different versions of sheepish and settled on rueful. "Yes, well...I'm sorry, Cordelia. It's just...with the Initiative monopolising both Buffy's life and the majority of the workload hunting demons, I seem to be rather at an impasse at the moment."

"Impasse," she repeated, testing the word. "I can empathize with that," she said softly, still seriously considering the idea of swearing off dating forever. "It's more than that, though," she realised suddenly. "You're not the type to get worked up about being between jobs. If the Giles I know wanted one he'd have one. This has Buffy written all over it."

"Buffy?" he squeaked.

"Yeah...little Miss I'm-so-important-I-can-break-all-my-friends'-hearts-as-often-as-I-want-without-ever-bothering-to-really-say-sorry Buffy Summers. I used to be jealous of how you and Xander and Willow...even Angel...all loved Buffy so much you'd let her walk all over your feelings, lie to you, treat you all instead of friends. Now..." she said, her thoughts wandering to the two men who were her best friends. "Now I look back and cringe. Giles, if you care at all about her you've got to do that hard love thing. She's gotten way too used to taking. It's time she started giving you guys a little bit back."

The green eyes, which had been momentarily startled by the criticism of Buffy, and then annoyed, had now softened and were looking at her with great affection. "When did you grow up so much, Miss Chase?" he asked wryly. "I would never have guessed that you were so observant."

Cordelia smiled. "You guys always underestimated me because I didn't conform. I didn't worship the Slayer and I didn't always play the game....'course some of the time my game wasn't even in the same ballpark as the rest of you...hello the airhead moments of my life...but mostly you were all so busy being Buffy chew toys...You know: kept around, paid attention to occasionally and abused at regular intervals... that you never even noticed that I was anything but a flake with good taste in clothes."

"I'm beginning to see that," he agreed dryly. "Perhaps something to eat might mellow you?"

She grinned. "Maybe, but don't count on it. Not after seeing that look on your face, before." The smile faded. "Nobody should be allowed to hurt someone they love like that. It's not right," she said, almost to herself.

Giles' eyes widened. "Love?" he whispered.

Cordelia blinked and focused. "Oh...yeah, well you already knew that. They all love you: Buffy, Willow, Xander...Xander maybe most of all. I never saw a worse case of hero worship except maybe for the nauseating way he idolized Buffy."

She stared back at him, slowly becoming aware that he really hadn't known at all. No wonder...

"You big stupid," she said softly. "Even Buffy loves the stuffing out of you. Didn't you know that? You think I wasn't jealous of that too? Watching you love them so much, and them loving you so was sickening."

After another stunned beat Giles started to laugh. Really laugh. "Oh, God, Cordelia, we really didn't know you at all did we, love?" he said fondly. "If only you'd been a little would have been so much easier."

She made a face at him. "You know most people would have seized the moment and said something nice like: 'I really did care for you Cordelia, or 'we all loved you Cordelia, really,' but not you. You just had to rub it in."

Giles paused for a moment to quietly give an order from the small, bound menu he was handed, to the waiter who'd materialised from nowhere and was hovering at his shoulder. He turned back to her again when the waiter departed.

"This from the girl who so comfortingly referred to me not so long ago as 'still hanging around like a big loser,' just to brighten my day," he retorted. "Of course you were cared for, Cordelia, but you know as well as I do that you went out of your way to antagonise most of the time, when you weren't putting your foot in it with that infernal bluntness of yours."

She smiled very slowly. "You know, I'm getting really good at the between the lines stuff these days. You really did like me, didn't you?"

He smiled back. "Not always," he teased. "But there were times..."


They had reached the door of Giles' chalet when the figure appeared out of the darkness.

Cordelia screamed when she was grabbed from behind, losing her footing in the soft snow and stumbling as she was hauled backwards. Then Giles was there and the harsh, hurtful fingers let go of her arms.

She got to her feet and watched for a moment as Giles grappled with their attacker, taking a lot of punishment to the face and body before seemingly gaining the upper hand.


Then the dark figure managed to swing and connect with Giles' jaw, knocking him off balance. He'd landed one vicious kick to Giles' side before Cordy was there, hitting him with a big chunk of snow and punching him with her house keys between her knuckles before she was grabbed again.

Giles struggled to his feet, groaning audibly in pain, and kidney-punched Leon as he tried to manhandle Cordelia back to their chalet. The other man staggered and released her.

She immediately turned and punched him in the face with the keys that were still in her fist, then watched with satisfaction as Giles finished him off.

They stood over the figure sprawled in the snow, Giles holding his side and bleeding from the mouth and scalp, and Cordelia shaking despite her best efforts to ignore the Reaction that was beginning to setting in.

"What are we going to do with him?" she whispered.

"Pity he isn't a vampire. I could stake him and no one would be the wiser," Giles muttered, grimacing with pain.

Cordelia opened her purse and took out the small crucifix she always carried, bent and placed it against Leon's cheek. Nothing. She picked up a handful of snow and rubbed it in his face.

He groaned and started to move, but gave up quickly.

"You'd better leave," she told him distastefully, "or my friend here will give you another taste of what happens when you forget how to treat a lady."

Leon made another effort and managed to gain his feet very unsteadily. He looked from one to the other through a rapidly swelling eye and swore before staggering out into the dark.

When she hadn't risen after a few moments, Giles reached down, grunting loudly, and lifted her to her feet.

"You couldn't have known," he told her and swayed a little.

"I should have," she said quietly, putting her arm around his good side and her shoulder under his arm. "After what happened last time."

Giles put on the light after he opened the door, and allowed Cordy to help him across to the bed.

"Last...time?" he grunted as she removed his jacket.

"You didn't hear about Cordy's big date?"

"Apparently not," he said, screwing his face up in pain. "Obviously your friends are the souls of tact and discretion."

She leaned over and pulled the back of his shirt out of his pants. "I dated this guy who was working for a demon. Bottom line, I ended up mommy to a litter of baby demons, which, thanks to Angel and Wesley, I didn't have to deliver. Up," she said, and pulled the dark shirt over his head when he gingerly and grumpily raised his arms enough for her to do so.

Then she was bending down and blithely checking the bruises on his chest, his stomach and the horrible purple, blue and black spreading along his right side between his lowest ribs and his hip.

"This is bad," she said softly, and traced it with a forefinger, stopping when Giles made a strange noise. "Does it hurt much inside? Could he have damaged anything...ribs, kidney...?"

", I don't think so," he said in a voice pitched slightly higher than usual. "Thank you, Cordelia. I think I can—"

"Giles, shut up. I'm assuming you've got that first aid kit you carry everywhere with you?"

He rolled his eyes ceiling-ward. "Yes, yes, it's in the bathroom," he muttered. "But I'm perfectly capable..."

But Cordelia had already disappeared into the small ensuite, to reappear with a cloth and the kit.

Giles closed his eyes as she worked, trying not to think about the almost surreal nature of their current situation. The last thing he expected to be doing this weekend was sitting shirtless and banged up yet again, on his bed, being tended by Cordelia.

"Ow," he complained as she began cleaning the cuts on his temple, cheek and finally the corner of his mouth.

"Baby," she said, dabbing the split in his scalp just above his right ear with antiseptic and smiled when he hissed rather than complain about the stinging, and continued to make strangled noises as she applied the strong-smelling liquid to each of his cuts and grazes.

"Cordelia, didn't finish...something about a litter of demons?" he remembered suddenly, when she went to put the cottonwool she'd been dabbing with, in the wastebasket.

She turned slowly. "Oh yeah, well, that was a big for me, let me tell you. My first pregnancy and it was septuplets."

He held her gaze, saw what he expected to see and didn't pry any further. "I'm sorry," he said softly.

She half smiled. "You would have been proud of Wesley."

He smiled back. "I'm sure I would. I'm rather impressed that he's actually left the Council. That took courage."

"Yeah, well, you did it."

He cleared his throat. "That's not what I meant...besides I was fired. That's not quite the same thing."

"Oh yeah, was he actually."


"Wesley was fired, same as you."

"Good Lord."

"No, just Buffy again."

Giles was watching her with slightly narrowed eyes. "You seem to have survived you ordeal reasonably well," he said quietly.

Cordelia sat very still for a long moment then looked up at him. " long did it take you?" she asked very softly.

He closed his eyes for a moment. He could tell her the truth, or he could lie soothingly...

"That's what I thought," she said before he could speak. "I hate it, you know...the fear, that you'll never be clean you'll never..."


"Don't do that."


"Keep calling me Cordelia in that voice of yours. You make it sound like a title instead of a name. My name is Cordy. At least, it used to be."

Something from before, Giles thought to himself. "Cordy," he said, trying the name. "How did I do?"

She giggled in spite of herself. "You sound like you're describing something. Like it's woody or salty or smelly or...Cordy...but it's still better than Cordelia," she told him, mimicking his accent.

He smiled and searched her face. "Are you all right?"

"I think so...I don't know," she admitted. "But mostly I just don't want to talk about it."

He nodded. "I promise you it will get better...eventually."

She came and sat next to him. "I know," she said softly, "but I don't know if I can do the relationship thing again. I mean, enough already. In high school I really got serious...really serious...just twice. One got filleted by demons, and one of them deserved to die...except all he really did was break my heart into little pieces. Now he's got someone and I'm still alone." She looked away when she realized Giles was well aware of who she was talking about. "Then Doyle comes along and makes me love him, just so he can die and leave me too..."

"And Leon?"

"He made me feel safe, cared for. She ran a hand through her beautiful hair. "It felt so good I didn't want to see what was right in front of me. Bastard," she said, her voice breaking at the end.

Giles slid an arm around her shoulders and squeezed. After a beat she leaned her head against his chest and sighed.

"Why can't I find someone like you?"

"Like me?" he asked, amused. "A worn out old ex-watcher, good looking in a British sort of way, who's been knocked about the head one too many times?"

"Well no, not that part. What I said to Leon...the other part. I want someone like that."

"It's very cold out in the snow," Giles pointed out dryly.

Cordy looked up at him speculatively. "You really don't get it, do you? I meant what I said. You are strong and kind and gentle...and kinda sexy. And if you say you're old once more I'll...I'll..." She stretched up suddenly and kissed him, her mouth soft against his startled one.

Giles lifted her away gingerly and held her there while he searched her face. "Cordelia...?"

"Rupert," she retorted in the same tone. "I'm tired of being alone, Giles. Just for a little while, I want to be with someone. Someone I care about, someone I trust, who won't turn into something evil, or do something bad to me. Is that so bad?" she asked softly, trailing her fingers down his throat, his chest, to his navel.

Giles released his swiftly indrawn breath. "Not...bad," he agreed. "Just not right." He touched her hair. "You are a beautiful woman, Cordy, and any man would want you, but you've been through a great deal and I care for you too much to take advantage of our situation and the vulnerability you're feeling right now."

"Vulnerability?" she repeated. "Yeah, I guess, but isn't that the point?" The fingers moved to his face, traced his jaw. "I want to be with you tonight. I want you to show me that it doesn't have to be bad every time. Please Giles...just make me believe it's possible...just this once?"

He stared into the beautiful eyes for a long time, then leaned forward slowly and covered her mouth with his.

Cordelia trembled at the tenderness of the kiss, the strength and sensuality of lips that could be that gentle and still make her bones suddenly feel as though they were rubber. Her arms slid around his neck and she kissed him back, her mouth, her tongue inviting and being accepted. And then he was taking control again, making her want more, much more...

No one had ever kissed her like that before, had ever made her body burn so quickly with need, with desire.

When they parted, both breathless and flushed, she could see the desire in his green eyes. She could also see that the graze in the corner of his mouth was bleeding again.

She touched it with a fingertip.

"It's bleeding. Does it hurt?" she whispered.

He shook his head and trailed his fingers very lightly down her throat. "Are you sure...?" he rasped.

She looked down at the restrained evidence of his desire and back up into his eyes again, and nodded.

"Are you?" she asked.

In reply he put his arms around her, found and unzipped the black after-five dress, pulled the bodice off her shoulders and slid the long sleeves down her creamy arms.

"Oh lord," he whispered when her magnificent breasts were freed, and traced one with trembling fingers. "You are beautiful, Cordy, so very beautiful."

She moaned softly and leaned in to his hand, closing her eyes as he stroked and caressed her, tenderly, sensuously at first, until her flesh was straining for his touch, then harder, responding to her demands as she groaned and pushed against his hands, wanting more. And then he was bending his battered head and taking a hard, straining peak into his mouth, enjoying her cries of pleasure as he alternately sucked and caressed, shifting from one to the other until she was groaning again and sliding her fingers into his hair.

"Giles..." she breathed at last. "Please..."

He laid her back and slid the dress off, drawing an appreciative breath at the sight of the black silk g-string and silk stockings. She truly was beautiful...

Cordelia sighed as his hands slid up the sides of her body, over shoulders to her throat, then again as both sets of fingertips trailed down over her sensitised breasts, her abdomen, her tender thighs, electrifying her skin, tantalising her every nerve. He was leaning forward again when she heard him gasp, and take several short breaths.

She sat up quickly, touched his shoulder worriedly. "Giles?"

He looked up apologetically. "It's nothing," he assured her. "My side. It just surprised me."

Cordelia looked down at the evil-looking mass of black and purple and bit her lip. It was her fault he was in pain...again. She was as bad as Buffy...

She looked up at him again and smiled before pushing him down onto the bed. "My turn," she said softly and watched as he smiled back almost self consciously before bending and kissing him hungrily, her breasts brushing the skin of his chest, and making him moan against her lips.

Then she was kissing each of his bruises, working her way down his chest, trailing her lips very tenderly over the darkened area, continuing downward to the belt of his pants, until Giles felt the warmth of her breath through the fabric of his trousers just before she mouthed the hard curve that was straining against them, making him shudder and gasp and arch toward her.

She smiled and ran her teeth over the twitching hardness before her fingers deftly undid the belt, the button and found the small hook inside the band before sliding the zipper down very slowly.

"Cordy..." he breathed, and arched again.

Her smile widened and she slid her hand inside and ran her fingers greedily over the powerful arousal beneath the black briefs, squeezing, stroking, rubbing, enjoying the small sounds of pleasure he was making as he thrust against her hand. The sounds, the feel of his desire were making her own body burn with need, her own fierce arousal to ache with desire. She didn't wait any longer to free him, lifting the big shaft from the briefs and wrapping her hand around its bulk before drawing herself up to taste his mouth one more time as she stroked and caressed him to the point where he uttered a strangled gasp and turned her over, despite his injuries, his hand seeking and finding the burning heat of her, stroking the soft silk, caressing the tender contours beneath until she moaned and lifted her hips demandingly.

The big fingers obligingly slipped beneath the wisp of silk, Cordelia gasping in ecstasy as they expertly explored and teased, until he bent his head again, eliciting another gasp when she felt his hot breath through the flimsy fabric. A moment later she screamed as his tongue slid under the edge of the silk.

"Oh God, Oh God," she gasped as he continued, playing along the edges of the fabric, teasing, caressing, momentarily slipping across the tiny hardness her, then withdrawing again until she she whimpered and writhed with pleasure

And then he was over her, the jeans and the briefs on the floor at the foot of the bed.

She was still breathing heavily, her eyes blurred by passion as he pulled at the silk. She lifted her legs sensuously and allowed him to draw them up their beautiful length, the beauty of her revealed fully as they came away, then he was parting her thighs and moving between them, wanting her as much as she wanted him.

She whimpered again softly and slid her arms around his chest as he moved over her, bending his head briefly to taste her glorious breasts one more time, then looking down at her tenderly, at her beautiful, flushed face, her dark eyes glowing with desire, and her mouth, slightly open, wanting him, needing him.

He smiled at her and waited until she smiled back, then kissed her very tenderly. "All right?" he whispered, as he lifted his head and brought himself to her warm softness.

She smiled back and nodded a little, curling her legs around his hips and lifting herself to him as he pushed into her, his sheer size filling her, making her cry out as he finally thrust into the depths of her. For long minutes they were lost in the pleasure of each other, the sensuality of their joined bodies, slowing, speeding up, changing angles, until she drew her hips up and felt him plunge deep inside her, opened her self even wider to him as a wave of exquisite pleasure radiated outward from those depths.

"More," she groaned, sliding her hands down to his hips and pulling him into her.

Her demands only inflamed his need, making him move faster and faster as her cries grew more and more insistent.

"Oh...Oh, God...Giles...God-d-d!" she screamed, moving frantically beneath him, her screams of ecstasy sending him over the edge right after her, the power and intensity of his orgasm convulsing his body so much he eventually cried out in pain, to be caught by her concerned arms.

He looked down at her, his chest heaving almost as much as hers, his side moving from painful to agonising as his orgasm faded.

She was magnificent, the beautiful, full breasts, the flush in her cheeks glorious against the dark rumple of her hair, and the brilliance of the green eyes searching his face with concern.

"Giles, what is it?"

"I'm fine," he said shakily, and grinned an almost convincing, sheepish grin at her.

She shifted, pushing him so that he let his body slowly come to rest alongside her, then reached over and grabbed several tissues from the complimentary box on the side table. When she was done Giles reached out and took her hand.

The gesture was so tender, so loving Cordelia felt moisture leap to her eyes as she slid down and carefully curled up in his arms.

"I was right," she said softly, pressing her face against the soft hair on his chest. "Why can't I ever meet anyone like you?"

He laughed and kissed her hair, ran his hand comfortingly up and down her smooth back.

"I think you just have," he pointed out gently.

"Oh yeah," she said sleepily. "But I can't take you home with me, can I?"

For just a moment his green eyes grew bleak, then it was gone, and he was smiling again.

"You don't need me, Cordy," he told her tenderly. "All of Los Angeles is waiting for you...there'll be someone for you...someone who can give you all the things you want, take care of you, make you forget you ever saw a demon, or vampire, make Sunnydale a distant dream."

For a several long moments she didn't speak. " know what the crazy thing is?" she finally said against his warm skin. "I believe you." She lifted herself to look at him, to lean forward and kiss his mouth one last time. "And the even crazier thing?" she said very tenderly. "I love you, Rupert Giles...and don't you forget it."

He laughed then, both moved and amused, and grimaced as the pain shot through his ribs.

"Damn," she said, holding his shoulder until the pain subsided. "How did you...I mean, didn't it hurt?"

He laughed again. "You'd be surprised what the male of the species can block out for the sake of passion," he said between chuckles and groans.

"I've got it," she said suddenly. "It's perfect..."

Giles closed his eyes, knowing that tone, and wondering what she was going to get him into next.


"You see," she said. "I was right. He was a wimp and Ripper scared him witless."

"It would appear that you're right," he said sighing blissfully and sliding down even further. "And you're saying this is already paid for?"

"Definitely. This is the peak season. No refunds for cancellations. It's Leon's treat."

"Cordelia, you're brilliant," he sighed again, closed his eyes and put his head back.

Cordy shifted closer to him and leaned back against his outstretched arm, luxuriating in the warmth, the bubbles and the blissful swirl of the water, and the knowledge of how much good it was doing him.

"I am, aren't I?" she grinned, and picked up the crystal flute from alongside the complimentary bottle of champagne Leon hadn't bothered to open after she left.

Giles opened one eye when he heard the clink. "You're not supposed to have that," he said sleepily.

"In your dreams," she drawled, "or maybe a hundred demons, vampires, Hellmouths, Ascensions, and dead friends ago..." She sipped the dry champagne, handed him the other glass and frowned. "Or maybe it's all the same thing...?"

Giles opened the other eye, shook his head a little, and sipped his drink. "I think perhaps this is the dream, love...and I'm not at all sure I want to wake up."

"I can understand that," she purred and slid a hand up the inside of his thigh, found the object of her search and giggled when he gasped and almost dropped the flute in the water.

"I don't think I want to either..."

* * *