Things That Make You Go Hmm...
By Elyse C. Perry

...A sequel to WorstWitch’s "Mesmer"...

DISCLAIMER:  everything Joss Wheadon thought of first is all his, and whoever elses who can legally claim it;  all references to "Mesmer" are WorstWitches, including the title of the book--I am simply borrowing them for awhile, in a fun, non-profit sort of way.  Becca Solomon and Riston Gage are mine, but you can use them if you ask nicely.  oh yeah, and the lyrics to "Broken Wings" belong to Mr. Mister.


"TO MY CLEVER HACKER

"Watching Her"

by Jeremiah Defoe"

 

Willow smiled in anticipation as she began reading the final manuscript of "Jeremiah Defoe" a.k.a. Rupert Giles’ new book. The last one had been so good, practically everyone in the school had read it (even principal Snyder), and no one could stop talking about "page ninety-eight’. Willow herself was practically drooling already for this one, and she hadn’t even gotten past the dedication page. Yes, she had been a "clever hacker", using her unique computer "talents" to break into Giles’ publisher’s computer and finding out all she’d ever wanted to know about one Jeremiah Defoe. She had approached Giles with her discovery, and in return for her silence, he had promised her a look at his next manuscript before he sent it off to the publishers. Oh yes, and the dedication in the front had also been part of the deal. Willow’s grin widened. "This should be good." she thought excitedly as she turned the page.

************************

Her name was Rebecca Solomon, but her guardian just called her "Becca", which was fine with her. Riston Gage was her hero; somewhere near the age of forty, with wavy light hair and piercing eyes, he’d been a friend of her parents for years; when they’d suddenly died, he’d been named as her legal guardian, Becca being just 15 when the tragedy had occurred. But even with the aching hole left in her heart with the death of her mother and father, she still found a place in it to find joy in the fact that now she would live with the man she had idolized since she was five. The last two and a half years had been relatively pleasant ones, spent in the company of her guardian...

*************************

Oh, good, a girl-and-her-guardian story, Willow thought with pleasure. She loved those kind--where the mature, older man falls in love with the younger, but mature for her age, girl. There could be a lot of angst in a story like that, and Willow loved angst. She could really relate to it, what with her long-time love of a certain Xander Harris, who never seemed to realize that she existed, outside of chumming around, that is. Yes, it appeared that this story was replete with angst.

****************************

No, Riston, I won’t do it!" Becca insisted vehemently. "you’ll just have to find yourself another little spygirl!" She was reeling from the shock of the revelation he’d just given her, and now he was telling her it was her duty to take their place? She stalked around the room, eyeing the punching bag and suddenly feeling a desire to attack it till the stuffing came out.. But she held it in. She’d rather do it to Riston’s face, anyway. She headed for the door, but in seconds, Riston was there, blocking her way.

"You must listen to me, Becca!" he plead with her. "This is your duty! You were born for this responsibility!" He took her by the arm, seeing the impulse to escape in her eyes. Gently, he lead her back into the room. She didn’t fight him, which was a good thing, he thought absently. He would have had a devil of a time catching her. For a moment he put himself in her shoes. She was just seventeen, and suddenly the weight of the world had been dropped upon her shoulders by the summons to the S.S. complex. She alone had the skills and abilities that Her Majesty’s Secret Service required--her parents had trained her well, though she had no knowledge of their motives. They were just beginning to prepare her for the great responsibility she’d been born for, when the assassin’s bomb had taken them away from Becca forever, leaving Riston with the charge to continue her training.

His heart ached for her as he looked into her blue eyes, which were dangerously close to welling up with tears. "Oh, Becca..." he whispered as he pulled her into his arms. It was the first time he had done so in several years, Becca having recently gone through a "teen rebel" stage. It felt good to hug her again. His arms tightened around her.

Despite her anger at him, Becca accepted the embrace, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face in his shoulder. She remembered when she was a child, and he would hug her just like this and she drew so much comfort from it. And she felt it again, only this time...something was different. A strange, dizzy feeling came over her as she touched the back of his hair. The familiar smell of him, always a simple comfort before, reached into her with a different vibration, causing a strange tingle to move down her spine. She turned her head slightly and her nose and mouth brushed against his neck.

The sudden contact sent an electric charge throughout Riston’s body. "Wha...?" he wondered dazedly as he felt her warm breath on his neck. Abruptly, he let go of her and stepped back, finding a chair thankfully close by. He sat down, unable to meet her eyes for a moment.

"Riston?" Becca questioned softly. The sensations she’d felt confused her, but she pushed them out of her mind. His abrupt break from her left her with a niggling fear that he was about to tell her something else she didn’t want to hear. "What’s wrong? Is there something else you’re not telling me?"

"Oh, no-no, certainly not," Riston stammered , finally raising his eyes to her gaze. "Nothing else," he finished lamely. Thankfully, she didn’t question him. He quickly stood to his feet, feeling the need to get out of the workout room with great expediency. "Listen, Becca," he began hastily. "I’m going to let you think about this by yourself for awhile, alright?" He barely waited for her reply as he started for the door. "I’ll meet you in the study at eight, hm?"

"Certainly," he heard Becca reply as he went out the door. God, what is the matter with me? he chided himself as he marched down the dark hallway, still feeling the heat of her breath on his neck and the imprint of her body against his.

********************

"Hmm." Willow thought as she read further. "Why does this story sound so familiar?" She continued to read, into the wee hours of the morning, until she was finished with the manuscript. "Hmm," she repeated to herself at the end. Only now she knew where she’d heard it before. Most of it anyway. The rest began to unfold like a prophecy out of one of Giles’ old musty books. She looked at her alarm clock. 4am. Only a couple more hours, and she could go talk to the secret-keeping librarian-Watcher. "Hopefully without yawning." she thought as she drifted off to sleep.

-------(--------(---)@

Rupert Giles leaned against the bookshelf, watching the deceptively slight form from across the library as she went through her early morning training session. She used the second floor guard railings as bars to lift off from, vaulting across the room, performing various acrobatics as the music pounded in the background. Giles objected to the "hard rock" sounds that she favored during her workout. "Of course you do, Giles," Buffy would reply to his frequent complaint. Then she’d beat the tar out of him with her quarterstaff. Thank heavens for body armor, Giles would sigh, finding himself on the floor again.

He smiled to himself as he remembered her unwillingness at first to take the responsibilities of the Slayer. "Sorry, been there, done that," was her reply, but she’d changed her mind with the sight of the first vampire victim. Since then--Giles felt intense pride rise in him. There had never been a better Slayer. His smile faded as he mentally added: "But her Watcher is certainly wanting." His failure to give her sufficient warning and protection had caused her death--although, thanks to Xander and Angel, it hadn’t been permanent. But he remembered the way his heart had dropped into his shoes when he’d read the prophecy for the first time: "And the Anointed One shall come, and the Slayer shall not know him, and he shall lead her down to Hell; and the Master shall rise and the Slayer will die." The dread that had coursed through his body was completely understandable, and when he saw her standing there, absolute shock evident in her expression after just overhearing he and Angel talking about her immanent demise, he had had no words, no useful ones anyway. "Does it say how he’s gonna kill me?" she’d asked in a quiet, trembling voice. "Do you think it’ll hurt?" Giles had almost rushed to her and scooped her up in his arms at that. Her fear was palpable and he wanted to make it all go away . But just then Angel had attempted to go to her, and she had pulled away fiercely. No, it would not have been the best move, right then.

"All right, Buffy, I think that about wraps up your session for this morning." Giles commented wryly as she sprawled onto her back, panting with exhaustion. She’d been working for a good hour without taking a break--her stamina was amazing.

"What... are you kidding?" Buffy said between breaths. "I’m just...gettin’ started!" She returned his smile with a grin and took his offered hand to hoist herself up from the floor. Giles regarded her rather intensely as he held onto her hand just slightly longer than necessary. Even dripping sweat and not exactly smelling like a rose, she was beautiful, Giles found himself thinking. A wave of warmth spread over him and his grip tightened slightly as he released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

"Giles? Helloooo Giles..." Buffy called to him through the fog that had gathered in his head. She had to use a little force to extricate her hand from his grip, and it brought him around.

"Oh...sorry..." he stepped back, his reverie broken.

"Gee, I’d almost say it was you doing the workout, Giles...you seem a little not with it. Maybe you’re getting up too early in the a.m." Buffy observed. "I know I am." she muttered under her breath as she turned to get her water bottle. He’d had the weirdest look on his face a second ago...real intense. She’d noticed that look directed at her a few other times recently, since the Hellmouth incident. He would just stand there and watch her. "Well," she thought, "he is the Watcher, after all. But it gave her kind of a funny feeling, just the same... "Hmm." she shrugged it off. She just tried to follow his instructions...sometimes, she amended with a mental grin. But that didn’t mean she understood what was going on in that British mind of his.

------(-----(----)@

"Yo, Mr. Defoe!"

Giles whirled around in his seat, nearly knocking the dusty tome he’d been studying to the floor. His face flushed scarlet with embarrassment, then relief, as he saw who greeted him.

"Oh, hello Willow," he managed nonchalantly as he picked up the book, noting her sly grin as she walked up to him. "Don’t ever call me that again." The corner of his mouth bent up into an answering smile, unable to be too stern with the girl.

"Sorry, Giles, it just slipped out," Willow explained. Then she sat down in the chair facing him. She silently studied his face. He was looking a little uncomfortable under her gaze.

"Is there something I can do for you, Miss Rosenburg?" Giles asked, clearing his throat. She continued to regard him quietly. He squirmed in his seat, his eyes falling to the yellowed pages of the book before him.

Finally she spoke. "I read the manuscript all the way through last night, Giles." She smiled absently. "It kept me from the more boring aspects of my life...like science, english, history..."

"Well, I am flattered," Giles began, removing his glasses to rub his eyes. "But try not to let the adventures of Becca Solomon and Riston Gage interfere with your school work, hm?"

"Sure, I’ll try," She was quiet again, trying to figure out how to start. "Say," she finally began, " did you notice that Becca Solomon and Buffy Summers both start with the same initials?" she regarded him inquiringly. "Did you do that on purpose?"

"Hmm?" Giles replied blankly. "No, no I don’t believe so. But yes, you’re right." he realized as he thought about it. "Yes, isn’t that funny?"

"Yeah, funny." Willow repeated. "Did you also notice that Riston Gage has the same initials as you?" She looked pointedly at him.

"No, actually, I hadn’t given it much thought" Giles replied. He chuckled softly. "The characters, the whole story, really, were just suddenly there in my mind one day," he explained. "It was like the story had a life of its own..." his voice trailed off, his gaze focusing on a point above Willow’s head. He sat there, seemingly lost in thought, for a few moments.

"It’s a great story, Giles," Willow told him, the gears in her head whirling. She had decided at the beginning not to confront him directly. He needed to figure it out himself. "It almost sounds like a Watcher/Slayer thing, except Becca’s a teenage superspy and Riston is her Guardian..."

Giles ran his hand through his hair. "I really hadn’t noticed," he responded truthfully. "but, I suppose it’s natural, anyway, for certain aspects of the author and his life to show up in his stories."

"Yeah, I guess it would be, " Willow replied. She suddenly grinned impishly, for the moment forgetting her main objective, remembering some of the things "Jeremiah Defoe" had written about in his last book, "Mesmer". "So, does that mean that page ninety-eight came from personal experience, Giles?" she raised her eyebrows delicately at him. She watched as Giles flushed bright red again. "Never mind," she said quickly, not waiting for an answer (since it probably wouldn’t be coming in her lifetime, anyway). "I don’t want to know."

-----(----(--)@

"Hey, Buffy," Willow greeted her friend at the reading table, Xander close behind, as always. "Is that the new Jeremiah Defoe novel you’re reading?" Giles had turned in the manuscript shortly after Willow’s discussion with him about it, and it had just hit the bookstores today. She grinned playfully as she took the seat next to her friend. As if Buffy would be reading "A Tale of Two Cities" or something.

"Yeah, and I’m totally engrossed. This Becca character is really cool. And that Riston?" Buffy fanned herself with her hand. "Be still my beating heart" she sighed, and then giggled along with Willow.

"You mean it doesn’t bother you that he’s, like, twenty years older than her?" Willow questioned, eyebrows raised.

"It sure bugs me," said Xander as he plopped into the chair next to Willow. "Major bleck factor. How can the girl be interested in someone who probably knows all the words to the songs on my "Retro 60s" album?" He made the Gagging Face and sent Willow into giggles again.

"Oh, I don’t know--there’s something about an "older and wiser" man that has appeal." Buffy replied thoughtfully.

Willow looked knowingly at Buffy. "And of course you’re talking about a particular sexy vampire who likes to follow you around at night." A thought passed through her mind. "Aren’t you?"

"I’m now officially not listening to this conversation," Xander interjected, pouting.

"Not necessarily..."Buffy began, ignoring Xander.

"Hello you three, "Giles interrupted as he came out of his office. "Since when did you start taking your free periods at the same time?" He’d caught the tail-end of their conversation, and was intrigued despite himself.

"Oh, hi Mr. Giles," Willow turned to face him. "We were just talking about the new J.D. novel." She winked at him slyly.

"Oh, I see. How riveting."

"Actually, it is," Buffy offered. "Here I was expecting the usual bodice-ripper" --she saw Giles roll his eyes upward-- " which I wouldn’t’ have minded, by the way, but instead it’s this really cool spy thriller/ romance thing all rolled into one. I ‘m impressed so far." she finished.

Xander snorted. "Yeah, but what’s with this old guy/young girl thing? It just seems kinda sick and wrong to me." He wiggled his eyebrows at Willow and Buffy. "Besides, isn’t there a Law or something?" he snickered.

"I don’t know, Xander, but I do think there is a law against your sense of humor," Willow replied. "Me and Buffy think it’s real romantic, don’t we Buff?"

"Oh yeah, Buffy likes ‘em real old." Xander scowled. "How old is Angel, anyway? Five hundred or so? I bet his 401k is doing well."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "He’s only about 240 years old." she replied indignantly. "But he doesn’t count anyway. He doesn’t look a day over 25..."

"Not like that Riston dude. I’m sure he looks his age," Xander said, folding his arms across his chest.

"Oh no," Willow replied earnestly. "The book describes him as ‘ virile, with wavy hair untouched by grey, piercing eyes, and the body of an athlete.’ Doesn’t sound old-looking to me."

"Me neither" Buffy seconded. She glanced over at Giles, who was looking at her strangely again. "I’d go out with him."

Giles looked away suddenly, clearing his throat. " Well, as fascinating as all this may be..." he walked around the table to the only other chair available, next to Buffy. He caught a whiff of her scent as she tossed her hair back over her shoulder and turned to him. Lilacs, he thought.

"Giles, did you want to finish that sentence?" Buffy asked when his gaze fixed on a spot across the room and he didn’t go on. (my goodness he’s getting absent -minded, she thought. All these "fixed gazes"...)

"Hmm? Oh, yes, of course," he replied absently. He managed to meet Buffy’s gaze without too much problem. "I wanted to speak with you about your training..."

"Oh great, Giles" Buffy interrupted, rolling her eyes. "are you gonna start havin’ me working out during school hours, too?"

"If only that were possible, considering that you are usually distracted by...outside interests... before and after school," Giles replied coolly. "Actually, now that you have the, ah... physical skills down rather well, I suggest we begin more in-depth sensory training."

"Ooh, that sounds cool," Willow piped up. "What’s sensory training?"

"That’s where you train your senses to..." Xander began to improvise, "...see smell, hear, taste, and touch where the vampires are..." he stopped, pondering the significance of that idea. "Well, okay, let’s leave off the tasting and touching part," he gave Buffy a Look.

"Xander..."

Giles raised an eyebrow. "Strangely enough, Mr. Harris, you’re quite close to the mark," he began.

"You mean she gets to taste and touch him? I mean them?" Xander corrected himself quickly.

"No, not exactly..." Giles shook off the picture that had unaccountably formed in his mind of Buffy and Angel. "You see, the Slayer must use all her senses to track down her prey," Giles explained, "but they must also be honed so sharply that she can sense a vampire from across a room full of people. Ideally, she can "pick up the scent" by simply standing near a place that a vampire has been..."

"So are you saying that she’s supposed to be able to smell them?" Xander inquired, pulling a face. "I dunno, Giles, I’ve smelled them close up and I wouldn’t wish that on Principal Snyder...well, maybe..."

"I was merely using the phrase metaphorically," Giles replied, a trifle impatiently. "Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the sensory training involves developing the "sixth sense", as well as utilizing the other five to their fullest capacity." He leaned a little closer to Buffy, speaking in a subdued voice. "In reading the Watcher’s journals, I have run across some incidences of Slayers who’s intuitive senses were so attuned, that they were not only able to feel the presence of vampires, but they also had a mental connection with their Watchers..."

Buffy’s unusually rapt attention showed in her eyes as he held her gaze, and he suddenly thought about the consequences of Buffy having the ability to know what he was thinking. He turned away from her abruptly. "In any case, it would be wise to begin working on your mental powers as soon as possible." He cleared his throat again, and stood. "I’ll meet you here at eight, then," he said as he ascended the stairs to his office.

Buffy jumped out of her chair, a scowl on her face. "No, bad plan, Giles!" Buffy complained. "The Pencil Sharpeners’ll be at the Bronze tonight...me and the Slayerettes were gonna go..."

Giles gestured indifferently. "We have pencil sharpeners here in the library, Buffy," he assured her distractedly, and closed his office door behind him.

"Yes, and there are plenty more in my office." said a voice behind the three teenagers, dripping sarcasm.

"Principal Snyder," came the unison reply.

"We were just heading to class..." Buffy stammered.

"Yeah," Xander added. "Can’t wait for that history film. Come on, Willow, we don’t wanna be late."

"You just make sure you’re not," Snyder replied warily. He squared his shoulders. "I know you think you’re getting away with something," he said, pointing at them, gloating. "Well, this Friday after school, you’ll have plenty of time to discuss it...in detention."

"But..."

The principal walked back out before anyone could object. "Oh, just great," Xander grunted, flinging himself back down in his chair. "there goes the weekend. You know," he went on, "that guy acts just like a Klingon."

"Or a Ferrengi," Willow commiserated, grabbing her friend by the elbow. "Come on you guys, history awaits."

------(-(----)@

Buffy entered the library, anticipating a boring evening. She didn’t know what Giles had in mind with "sensory training", but, knowing him, it was likely to involve lots of reading out of some crumbly leather-bound book or other. Maybe some mumbo-jumbo about "searching your feelings"--geez, it could turn into an all out Jedi-use-the-Force thing. Yawn. "Giles?" She looked around the room, peeked into his office window. The Watcher was nowhere to be seen. "Hmm...weird. He’s usually on my case about being late." She sat down at one of the old wooden tables and began rifling through her backpack, looking for something to keep her busy. She’d been reading "Watching Her" earlier this evening, and had been in kind of a funk ever since. Something about that story left her with a wistful feeling, like a dream just woken from, when it still seems real. Buffy sighed, feeling angsty. "Oh wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was really a guy out there like Riston Gage?" She grinned ruefully at the thought. "Get it together, girl...you’re goin’ all mushy over a fictional man..."

All at once, Buffy felt a familiar cramping pain in her abdomen. Vampires! she knew without even thinking, and in less than a second she’d whipped a stake out of her bag and was crouched in attack position, looking all around her for any sign. In the back of her mind, she also noticed another, different sensation, like a feather tickling her mind, but the vampire was much easier to feel, and she began to track it, following the psychic trail that the pain in her stomach lead her on, "kinda like Winnie the Pooh following his rumbly tumbly," Buffy had told Willow and Xander once, "only there’s no honey pots at the end." Buffy waited, her hand gripping the stake so tight she was getting splinters in her hand. And here was that funny tickling feeling again. It didn’t distract her, but she knew it was there...something familiar about it...

Buffy turned the next corner and found herself standing face to face with Angel, who was in full "game face". She yelped, startled, brandishing the stake in his face. "God, Angel, are you crazy? I could’ve dusted you!" she sputtered. She saw him eyeing the stake and she lowered it. "What are you doing here...and in that outfit?" she felt a smile begin to form on her lips in spite of herself. Then she felt that tickle again, this time more noticeably. She opened her mouth to mention this to Angel, but Giles suddenly appeared behind her, tapping her on the shoulder. She jumped, turning on him. "Yikes! What is this, a surprise party? I didn’t even know you were there." She got hold of her nerves, and regarded her Watcher with an expectant air.

"Yes, well, that is the point of this evening’s little experiment," Giles told her. He nodded at the vampire, who had resumed his human face. "Thank you for your help, Angel." He saw Buffy’s mouth drop open. "I’d ask you to stay and observe the training..."

"No, thanks," Angel replied, looking at Buffy. She was still staring at Giles, not understanding yet. "I...I don’t want to interrupt.."

"Oh, but you wouldn’t be interrupting!" Buffy assured him, breaking her gaze from Giles. "Come on, stay," she insisted.

"Well..." Angel was unsure, but Buffy had this way of talking him into almost anything...

"...but Buffy might find your presence a bit distracting," Giles finished. He gave Angel a pointed stare, which Angel understood without hesitation.

"No, I’d better get going." He saw Buffy’s face fall. "I’ve got to go...get something to eat, anyway."

"Oh," was the Slayer’s reply. She watched him turn quickly around and disappear from wherever he’d come from, then let out a sigh. "Okay, Giles, what was that all about?"

The librarian didn’t pretend to misunderstand what Buffy was talking about. "That was your first lesson in sensory training," he explained, walking down the steps to one of the reading tables. He sat, motioned Buffy to join him. She obeyed, a bit reluctantly.

"One of the most critical powers of a Slayer is her ability to sense when a vampire is near." Giles began.

"Okay, I have heard this before, Giles...and I did...I could tell that Angel was in the room, although...’

"You didn’t know it was Angel, correct?" he finished for her.

"Yeah--what’s up with that? Usually I can tell it’s him." her eyebrows knotted together in some bewilderment.

Giles cleared his throat. "Well, I, uh... I told him to pretend that you were not his friend and that he must either kill you or be killed by you," he explained, then saw a flash of anger light up Buffy’s expression. "It was necessary for the experiment," he continued hastily, placating her somewhat. "I couldn’t very well go ask just any old vampire to assist me..."

"No, I guess not," Buffy conceded, backing down. She grew thoughtful for a moment. "Angel certainly did a good job at pretending," she said softly, remembering his transformed features, and the look in his eyes. She shuddered. He’d felt just like all the other vamps she had faced--and dispatched.

Giles didn’t comment on that; the less he said about it the better, he figured. Angel was an exception to the general undead rule, but he was nevertheless a vampire--and someday, the demon could possibly overcome his soul. At the moment, Giles trusted him as much as he trusted anyone. But if Angel ever gave any sign of ...well, that would be the end of that.

"That’s something else to think about," Giles changed the subject deftly. "The fact that you weren’t able to sense that the vampire was Angel, even while he was transformed, points out a need for work in this area." He opened a book, scanning it’s contents as if looking for something in particular. "Even though there is somewhat of a change in a vampire’s "vibrations" when he shifts from one face to the other, so to speak, the Slayer should still be able to know the difference."

This information didn’t really sink in to Buffy’s brain; she was mulling over the strange, new sensation that had been in the back of her mind during her ‘test’ with Angel. "There was something else I felt, too," Buffy said, as if Giles had not spoken. "It was weird--I don’t think I’ve ever felt it before, and yet it was almost...I don’t know, familiar, I guess," she told him as she sat down next to him.

Giles raised an eyebrow, not really surprised that the girl seemed to have "zoned out" on him. "Really? That’s interesting. Perhaps it was Angel...?"

"No," Buffy shook her head decisively. "No, it wasn’t him. I’m sure of it."

Giles’ brow furrowed. "Hmm. Well, at any rate," he turned the subject back to its original course, " you, as the Slayer, should be able to sense the vampire before it can surprise you." He picked up one of those old books-- "It tells in here of a Slayer who could feel the vampires on the outskirts of the city while she was in the center of it."

 

Buffy snorted in a decidedly unladylike fashion. "Giles, this is Sunnydale. We’re sitting on top of the Hellmouth. I don’t think I need to be able to sense vampires from that far away--all I need to do is go to the Bronze on a Friday night."

Giles felt his hand tingle and the sudden urge to give Buffy a good spanking came over him, even as he felt a grin bending up the corners of his mouth. "Yes, well..." he wiped the smile from his lips, trying to remain as serious as possible, "all the same, I think we should begin work on this." He stood, and offered Buffy his arm. "We’ll do some ‘trial runs’--no engagement of the beasties unless absolutely necessary. Shall we go for a walk, then?"

"Let’s shall," Buffy replied, and lead the Watcher out the door.

A lone figure watched them leave the school grounds. He saw the way the tall man walked beside the petite girl, arm in arm. He saw he look on the man’s face as he glanced down at her every so often, and the way her face lit up whenever he spoke--Angel shook his head, and turned away.

-----(-----(--)@

Buffy’s sense training had been going well, Giles mused as he prepared reluctantly for the evening. Too well, he thought, as he gathered the needed weapons into an old brown leather satchel. She felt very confident in her newly-developed abilities; He was afraid she might be a bit overconfident. It had only been a week since they’d started, and even though she was catching on very quickly, Giles had reservations about her ability to use them in battle just yet. He recalled their discussion earlier that day in the school library.

" Giles, what say you and I take a nice leisurely stroll through the cemetery tonight?" she had said casually, fairly bubbling over with pride in herself for thinking of it. She was excited to use her growing senses in battle. Giles had immediately put his foot down, a tendril of fear forming in the pit of his stomach.

"What? Are you out of your mind?" he exploded. He saw Buffy’s eyes grow wide as saucers at his outburst. Surprised himself, he paused, raising his hand to pinch the bridge of his nose in a familiar mannerism . He felt an irrational need to shake her. He forced calmness into his voice, instinctively trying to keep his true feelings ( true feelings? he wondered fleetingly.) in typical British check

"There are no prophecies to worry about tonight, things have been relatively quiet. I see no reason to let you risk your life unnecessarily." He took a deep breath before continuing ."It’s all very well that you have these new talents, and I’m most proud of your progress." He turned away from her then, to hide the fear and the...he was momentarily puzzled by his inability to name the feeling that rose with the fear and he pushed it down. "But you’re not quite ready yet, Buffy, so let’s not tempt fate, hm?." He turned back to her, hoping that his emotions didn’t show. "Of course, we will continue to train on a daily basis..."

But Buffy would not be swayed so easily. Maybe it was due to her increased sensitivity, but somehow, she found the right buttons, the right argument. "Giles, I’m not just out looking for a thrill here. I want a chance to prove something to you." She stepped up close to him and laid a hand on his arm. "I want to show you my trust in you. I know that with you there, I’ll be okay." her blue eyes gazed steadily into his shadowed hazel ones.

Giles found himself momentarily unable to breathe. After what had happened, after he had failed her at the Hellmouth, and she still trusted him? He felt unworthy even of the hand that touched his arm. He exhaled, taking that hand in his briefly. "Buffy, I can’t let you do it. You may trust me, but..."

Buffy interrupted. "You don’t get it do you?" she said, grinning, but her words all the more firm for that. "I am going out tonight to do some serious slaying. And I need my Watcher with me." She squeezed his arm, then abruptly let go. "See ya tonight," she finished, leaving him standing there alone in the library, her lingering scent the only indication that she’d even been there.

"Damn!" He swore now as he threw an extra wooden stake into the bag for good measure. "How did I let her talk me into this? ‘My Watcher" indeed." he sniffed, trying to be annoyed, but feeling a twinge even now as he pondered her use of that possessive name.

------(----(---)@

"Sorry to ruin your evening ,boys, but I’m just doin’ my job." One vampire turned to dust at her feet as another rushed forward to meet a similar fate. She turned to face Giles, who had managed to fend off one or two himself, but was now finding himself in some hot water with a female vampire. Buffy strode up behind her back with stake in hand. She tapped the lady vamp on the shoulder. "May I cut in? No? Oh well, too bad." she quipped, dusting the vampire as the she-thing turned around. "Nobody hits on my Watcher. It makes me jealous." She answered Giles’ relieved smile with a wry grin of her own. "Are you okay...?" In the instant before she saw Giles’ smile fade and heard his shout of warning, she felt the vampire behind her. Swinging around, she felt keen dismay as her brain registered the size of him. "Okay..."

The huge vampire lunged at her, trying to grab her around the waist. He missed, giving Buffy time to grab her last stake from her pantleg. The vampire laughed. "Try it, Slayer. I dare you." Before Buffy had time to think, he had lunged again. She aimed for his heart...

"Oops! Sorry, you missed!" the vampire crowed. He managed to catch Buffy off guard just long enough, and, so fast she barely had time to register it, the monster had her in his inhuman grip, grasping her hair to pull her head to one side as he lowered his ugly head to feed. She struggled, tried to get him to loosen his grip, but to no avail.

"Giles!" Buffy screamed. She was suddenly aware that he was nowhere in sight. Her panic rose as she kicked at the vampire’s legs. What if...?

"Yes, keep fighting me, Slayer--it makes your blood so much tastier!" Buffy felt cold, foul breath against her neck and she screamed again. Where was Giles? The fear she felt at possibly losing her own life paled next to the horror that something had happened to him. Then, in the corner of her mind, almost lost in the chaos , she felt a comforting , familiar presence as it moved stealthily behind the vampire.

"Sorry, but I don’t think Slayer blood is on the menu tonight." The cool Brit voice reached Buffy’s ears and she felt her spirits rise again. "Giles!"

Buffy felt the vampire’s grip relax in surprise and she took advantage of the opportunity. Swinging around, she aimed a high kick at his head...just as an arrow pierced him from behind, hitting it’s mark. The ashes fell at her feet, and she stepped over them, to Giles, who held the crossbow in his hands. They both just stood still for a moment, their gazes locked onto one another. Then Giles dropped the crossbow and covered the distance between them in two gigantic steps, and swept the Slayer into his arms. "Oh Buffy--thank God you’re safe." his voice was shaking as he spoke. Why was he so emotional? He was the Watcher; he knew the danger Buffy faced every time she fought the demons. Why did this time feel so different? Impatiently, he thrust away the unanswered questions , focusing down on his charge.

"Whew! You had me scared there for sec, Giles," Buffy laughed nervously into his shoulder, remembering her terror at the thought that something had happened to him. "I--I’m sorry" she began. " I should have listened to you..."

"No, Buffy, it’s all right, it was the right thing to do." Giles stroked her hair, rested his chin on the top of her head. "You needed to challenge them sooner or later. I was just hoping it would be later..."

Buffy smiled up at him, studying his face. She recalled her surprised relief at seeing him standing behind the vampire with the just-fired crossbow in his hand. "I really appreciated the James Bond thing you did, though. You’ve been practicing without me, haven’t you?" she accused playfully. Then she remembered the odd sensation of the comforting presence. Realization dawned. "It was you! Giles, I felt you behind me. I couldn’t see you, but I knew you were there. Only I didn’t know it was you until..." she hugged him tighter. " I told you I’d be safe with you."

Giles felt his heart constrict unaccountably, and he found himself unable to speak. This girl, this Slayer, whom his life circled around completely--she had given him back something that he thought he’d lost that night at the Hellmouth. A rush of feeling that he was not prepared for, nor that he could name, rose in his chest. He pushed it down, finding his voice, barely: "Come along now, it’s time to go home." The practical British librarian finally took over. He took Buffy’s hand, placed it in the crook of his arm, and they walked that way, back to his car.

-------(----(---)@

Giles entered the library and headed for his office. He glanced at his watch. 6: 37 a.m. "Damn, I’m late," he said under his breath as he approached the door to his office. He glanced down just in time to keep from tripping over a binder that had been left on the floor. It looked like one of Buffy’s. "That careless girl..." he thought as he opened it up .Oh, wait, this was his own notebook, and he’d handed it to Buffy to put away .. His mind drifted back to last night, when they’d stopped at the library before he’d taken her home. He remembered asking her to take the binder to his office, and as she took it from him, her fingertips had brushed his, sending a jolt through him...

Giles shook his head, going into his office and leaning his head on the door as he shut it behind him. What had gotten into him lately? he asked himself as he went to his desk and sat down. The cup of tea in front of him was left over from last night, but he reached for it anyway, distracted by his thoughts, and took a sip. Wherever he went, something always reminded him of the Slayer...of Buffy. Searching through an ancient tome on mythology, walking past the weapons locker, standing in a place she had just vacated. The whole library, for that matter, was permeated with her presence, even when she wasn’t there. Giles supposed that was possible because she trained here, spent a great deal of energy here--there could conceivably be "shadows" of that energy still hanging about. But it had never bothered him until now. When he’d seen her in the grip of that huge vampire last night, his vision had turned red and the gnawing fear he’d felt all evening suddenly erupted in anger and outrage that this beast was going to hurt Buffy. That’s when his hands had found and closed around the crossbow. It was like he’d been someone else for a moment. Thank goodness he’d been of help, he thought for the thousandth time.

His thoughts meandered away from this particular line, as thoughts often do, until the memory of his talk with Willow, before his book had been published, pushed to the forefront of his mind. She’d mentioned something about the storyline --what was it? Oh yes, something about the characters’ initials. They were the same as Buffy’s and his own. Giles hadn’t really thought consciously of Willow’s discovery before, but now he did. He opened the top drawer of his desk and pulled out his own copy of "Watching Her". The cover depicted a lovely young blonde woman holding a dangerous looking handgun, standing next to an equally dangerous-looking older man, who had his arm around her waist and was looking down at her, well, dangerously. Typical artist’s interpretation, Giles thought. He opened the book up somewhere in the middle and began to read...

*******************************

"Riston, I’m so nervous!" Becca confessed, playing with the ring on her finger. "Good heavens, I can face murderous Iraqi guerrillas with nothing but a Walther PPK and a smart remark," she said self-reprovingly, moving closer to Riston’s secure presence, "But look what happens to me when I have to go to some formal affair?" she flung her arms around her Guardian’s waist and held tight. Ooh, wrong move, she thought suddenly as he put his arms around her in response, and she felt the warm comforting feelings begin to melt away into some that were even warmer, and more distracting. She tried to push the feelings away and continued with an unsteady voice, "I don’t even know how to dance properly, not to mention the fact that I haven’t got a decent thing to wear to such an occasion." She began to laugh softly at herself, and then found her breath had stuck in her throat when Riston moved one of his hands down her back and pulled her a little tighter.

"Oh, I think I can help you out on both counts, my dear," Riston replied with a catch in his own voice. Becca’s impulsive embrace had a shocking effect on his equilibrium, and he found himself resting his cheek against hers, her scent filling his brain and setting off warning alarms up and down his body. He allowed himself one more moment of feeling her in his arms, and then he pulled away gently, trying to get hold of himself. He glanced quickly at Becca’s face and noted her disconcerted look, then spoke, a bit more steadily, "Yes, we’ll go shopping in the morning, and," he took a deep breath as he thought about what he was getting into, "I’ll teach you some basic dance steps. Sound good?"

Becca nodded, releasing a sigh. This should be interesting. " Sounds great. When do we start?"

Riston shrugged nonchalantly. "How about right now?" He quickly turned around, heading for the stereo . "We’ve got the music, we’ve got the space," he chuckled as he went on, "there are even some icepacks in the freezer if you step on my toes too often."

"Very funny, Riston," Becca replied, grinning.

"Now, what will it be first..." Riston asked, running his index finger over the shelf of CDs. " ...fox-trot, two step, tango..."

"Ooh, yes, teach me how to tango," Becca interjected with excitement.. "I’ve always wanted to learn."

Riston’ cocked an eyebrow. "Tango, hmm? Very well..." his finger stopped on a CD spine, and he pulled it out. " This isn’t authentic tango music, but it has the correct rhythm," he explained as an American pop tune began playing:

Baby, I don’t understand

Why we can’t just hold on

to each other’s hands.

This time might be the last

I fear

Unless I make it all too clear

I need you so...

Riston took Becca’s hand and led her to the center of the floor. "Just try to follow me the first time, okay?"

Becca nodded, and he pulled her close with his right arm ,holding her hand out with his left. The essential steps were simple enough, and it took Becca just a few moments until she could follow him without stepping on his toes, more than once or twice, anyway. She smiled to herself, then looked up into Riston’s face. He was smiling too...and then their eyes locked.

Baby, I think tonight

We can take what was wrong

and make it right...

Baby, all I know

Is that you’re half of the flesh and blood

that makes me whole.

The music swirled around them, giving life to the steps of the dance, and they moved as one, even their breathing was in sync. Riston was unable to pull his gaze away from Becca’s, and his movements became more deliberate, more sensual. Becca followed him without a misstep, the space between them narrowing to almost nothing. She felt as if she were under a spell, his magic; she felt the warmth from his hand at her back radiate into her spine, giving her strength even as it made her knees feel that they were on the verge of collapse.

Take these broken wings

And learn to fly again

Learn to live so free

And when we hear the voices sing

The book of love will open up

and let us in...

Riston felt the confusion of the last several months begin to melt away. He now knew the answer to his troubled questions about the strangeness of his feelings for Becca. It was funny he hadn’t figured it out before, but he was always pushing those feelings aside to attend to more urgent matters--like dodging bullets and watching her back to make sure she didn’t take any either. He would gladly take a bullet for her, he’d always known that, but he’d chalked it up to simple loyalty...now he knew the real reason. He stopped dancing suddenly, causing Becca to trip and fall against him. He grasped both her shoulders to steady her, then with one hand, he tilted her face up to his.

"Becca..." he whispered. Then with a deep groan, he covered her lips with his own, kissing her with a passion that he hadn’t realized was so close to the surface.

Becca was astounded--she could not register that Riston, her hero, the man she had loved since she was a child, was kissing her. Slowly her brain began to receive the signals that were coming from her lips, and her hands moved up around his neck to pull him even closer. Was this really happening?

Riston felt Becca’s belated response and exulted within himself. His mouth moved from her lips, placing flaming kisses down her cheek to her neck. "Becca..." he whispered again. Yes, he would tell her. "Becca, I love you..."

************************

Giles slammed the book shut and dropped it onto his desk like it was on fire. He shoved away from his desk and out of the chair--the thoughts he’d been struggling with, that had baffled him, were beginning to coalesce in his brain. He shook his head, trying to dislodge them. No, this couldn’t be true. It must be a mistake. But it was right there, in black and white. His story had bared his soul, and he hadn’t even realized it until now. He felt his knees begin to give way. "My God," he whispered, grasping the edge of the desk to steady himself. "I am in love with Buffy!"

Buffy and Willow sat on the floor of Willow’s room, Willow going over the study questions with her friend for the third time. Nothing seemed to be sinking in, Willow thought, sighing. She’d just asked her about what time the Dark Ages began, and Buffy had answered distractedly something about them being after the Lite Ages...

"Okay, Buff," Willow said, putting down her book, "what’s up with you?"

Buffy looked sheepish. "Geez, you’re going to think this is sooo stupid," Buffy began, suddenly regarding her blue nails with great interest. She considered hemming and hawing, but then decided to jump right in. "See, it’s like this, Willow..." she sighed deeply before going on-- "I am just so involved in this story!" she pulled "Watching Her" out from her backpack and waved it in Willow’s face. "I can’t concentrate on anything else, I can’t study...man, I can barely Slay! This is real bad," she finished, frowning.

"Hmm," Willow commented thoughtfully. "you’re right, that is pretty bad. Maybe you should tell Giles..."

"Ha! You are kidding, right?" Buffy laughed derisively. "If he found out, he really would make me train during school hours. Besides," she confided in her friend, "I think I have a major crush on "Riston Gage"." This last in a whisper. "Pretty not the real world, huh?"

Willow found herself biting hard on her tongue, wondering what would happen if she just let it slip that someone Buffy knew, quite well actually, used the pseudonym "Jeremiah Defoe". But, no--she couldn’t, she reasoned with herself. She’d promised Giles. If only there was some way she could get Buffy to figure it out on her own...

"You know what, Buffy," she reassured her friend, " don’t even worry about it. It’s perfectly natural to develop crushes on people who we know are unreachable." She grinned. "I otta know, considering..."

Buffy just nodded her head in agreement, not feeling a reply was needed.

"Say, I’m going to go downstairs to get something for us to eat," Willow said as she got up off the floor. "Could you do me a favor and get my history workbook out of the top drawer? Thanks!" she finished as she vacated the room with haste. Now if Buffy would just take the bait...

Buffy shrugged at her friend’s weirdness-- "she’s just being Willow" as Xander would say--and went to the drawer, immediately spying the workbook. It was about 2 inches thick, in a red cover. Buffy opened the first page, wondering at the sheer volume of notes Willow must’ve taken in class. She scanned the front page. Typewritten. It took a moment for Buffy to realize that this wasn’t the workbook. She was about to put it back, when the words at the top of the first page caught her eye: "TO MY CLEVER HACKER "Watching Her" by Jeremiah Defoe."

Where did Willow get this? Buffy wondered, flipping through the pages. "This is a manuscript version of J.D.’s book," Buffy realized. She noticed some margin notes, but didn’t pay close attention to them. What finally did catch her attention was a sticky note on the last page--a familiar one, with familiar handwriting: " Let me know what you think--G." The clincher was the printed text on the notepaper itself-- "From the desk of Rupert Giles".

Willow chose that very moment to re-enter her bedroom. Before she could get out a word, Buffy spoke.

"Willow, you have got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do..."

-------(--(-----)@

It had been an interesting week, to say the least. Buffy sat in her sixth period class, not paying attention as usual. Her mind was on other, more...pressing matters...

The revelation from Willow about the true identity of "Jeremiah Defoe" had at first made Buffy laugh in extreme disbelief. Then, as the truth began to sink in, she started to remember things about the story that had seemed familiar, and also the "coincidence" regarding her and Giles’ initials...

"Willow, I gotta go..." Buffy had told her friend suddenly that night. She had to get out of there, she had to go somewhere quiet, where she could think, sort out her thoughts.

She’d run out the front door without even saying goodbye, and about five minutes later, she’d found herself at the school, standing outside the library window. She could see a light burning in Giles’ office, then saw him pacing the room, reading a book. She concentrated, searching for the mental bond that linked them together...and suddenly she was overwhelmed with feelings and images--confusion, hidden desire, fear, joy--feelings so strong she could not contain them, and she felt a sob escape her lips. She saw Giles look up from his book; she didn’t think he’d actually heard her, but if that connection went both ways...Buffy ducked down quickly, instinctively knowing that Giles had peered out his window but had seen nothing. Suddenly another image was pressing into her mind, an image from Giles’ mind. It was her face, and then two hands gently cupping it between them, and then a kiss...

Buffy inhaled sharply at the image, the sensations almost physical, and she stood up and started to run for home. If any vampires had been around to see her, they would have decided to save their fight for another time. Buffy was not in the mood to mess around.

She reached her home, and stood panting on the doorstep for a few moments, trying to understand what she had "seen". She shook her head, and went inside. "Thank God mom is working late tonight," Buffy thought. "I don’t think I could handle a mother-daughter talk right now." The bed beckoned invitingly, and Buffy crawled in, not even changing into night clothes. She was asleep before she even closed her eyes.

Dreams have a way of pointing out the obvious. Maybe not always-- that dream about forgetting to get dressed for school never really did come true (well, maybe once, but that didn’t count because it wasn’t her dream.). But this dream meant something, Buffy knew. She knew it because she knew she was dreaming, and whenever that happened, it always meant something important. In the dream, Buffy was Becca Solomon, teenage superspy. And she was dancing with her hero, Riston Gage. The feelings were intense, swirling, and the music carried them along as they kissed passionately. "Becca, I love you," Riston had just told her, and her heart sang, for it was what she had dreamed of since she was a child. "Oh, Riston--" she breathed, after he finally pulled away. She looked up into his face, a very familiar, handsome, heart-melting face. She smiled up at him, and realized what had been hidden for so long. "I love you too...Giles..."

Buffy jerked awake, the alarm blaring. She could NOT go to early training this morning. She was not sure she could even face him at all, she realized. How could she be in love with Giles? The thought boggled her mind. He was sweet and all, and cared about her, put his life on the line constantly for her...but that was because he was the Watcher, and she was the Slayer. Wasn’t it? She remembered the feelings she had sensed from him last night. It seemed kind of obvious that he was having some kind of feelings for her that were not fatherly by any stretch of the imagination. Still, what if she had only projected her own hidden feelings onto him, and he wasn’t really feeling that way at all? Oh what a total complete nightmare!

And what about Angel? Buffy considered her feelings for the vampire with a soul. She loved him, yes, but what kind of love was it? There was certainly an allure about putting your life on the line every time you made out with a guy, and Buffy knew that she was instinctively drawn to the "dangerous" types. But how long could a relationship like that last? Sooner or later, something was going to explode, she knew. "Angel," Buffy sighed, with with tears forming in her eyes. "I don’t know how I’m going to tell you..." She wanted to skip school today, pretend to be sick or something, but deep down she knew she couldn’t do that forever. And despite her acute embarrassment at the mere thought of seeing Giles at school, she knew she had to, despite the ache she felt at parting with Angel. She had to the librarian’s adorable face, and watch him run his hand through his hair nervously, and pinch the bridge of his nose. She smiled softly at the picture in her mind. Yes, she had to see him, but actually speaking to him would be another matter entirely!

-------(-----(---)@

"Buffy, the bell sounded," Willow said, shaking her friend by the shoulder. Buffy was just sitting there, lost in thought. She came around with Willow’s words.

"What? Oh yeah..." Buffy stood, giving herself a mental shake. She was not looking forward to this. She had told Giles earlier in the week that she wasn’t feeling very well and was going to need a couple of days off from training. Giles had been surprisingly obliging, and seemed more distant to her than he ever had. So much for him returning my feelings, Buffy mused, as she trudged down the hallway to the library.

Willow was concerned. "Buffy, are you okay?" she questioned. Buffy hadn’t confided in her the reason for her funk, but Willow wasn’t blind. She had seen how Buffy was around Giles, and how Giles acted around her. It was like they were walking on eggshells when they spoke to one another. But the giveaway was when they weren’t speaking. Willow saw the looks that Giles cast in Buffy’s direction, when they were studying in the library, and sometimes Buffy would intercept the looks...

"Yeah, I’m fine," Buffy assured her. "I just don’t feel like working out is all."

"Sure, I understand," Willow replied, "I’m sure it’s especially hard when you have to do it around someone you have really strong feelings for, but you are uncomfortable when he’s around, because you’re afraid he doesn’t feel the same way, and he’s at least 20 years older than you, for heaven’s sake..."

Buffy stared at Willow in shock, her mouth dropping open. "Willow!" She exclaimed, grabbing the girl by the arm. "Do you read minds much??" She shook her head. "How did you know--it’s not like I’ve written this in my diary or anything, so you couldn’t have read it..."

Willow smiled at Buffy. "It doesn’t take a Watcher to see the signs, Buff." she replied. "And really, I wouldn’t worry about him not feeling the same. Trust me." her smile widened. Sure, it was a little weird, her best friend being in love with the school librarian, and there would certainly be some concerns about the age difference, but really, it made a kind of sense--he was the Watcher, and she was the Slayer. They were destined to be together anyway. Maybe it was good that something extra could blossom from that relationship.

Buffy felt a funny fluttering in her stomach, and a determined look appeared on her face.

"Thanks Willow. You have set my mind at ease." the wheels turned visibly in her mind, and she grinned back at the girl. "Would you tell Giles that I’ll meet him here tonight instead of after school? I’ve got some things to do"

------(---(---)@

Sundown. Buffy usually got her second wind at this time of day, anticipating the hunt, reveling in the fear that was almost always evident on the faces of her prey when they realized who she was. But tonight, she was only hunting one vampire--and even though she wasn’t going to use a wooden stake, she had a sinking feeling that when she was done with him, he’d have a large hole in his heart anyway. She drew in a fortifying breath as she approached Angel’s apartment. By now, he probably knew she was coming, and so she wasn’t surprised when the door opened before she could knock.

"Angel--"

"Buffy," he replied, a dark look on his face. He managed a small smile for her, but he knew this wasn’t going to be good. He remained silent, deciding not to make it too easy on her.

"Angel, we need to talk." She walked into the dark room, and headed for the sofa. Angel followed, and sat down at one end, leaving a great gap between the two of them. "So, talk," he invited.

Buffy sighed again. "I...I...don’t know what to say, really," she stammered, looking down at her hands. "Something has happened, something that changes...you and me..."

Angel gritted his teeth, and looked away. He’d seen it coming a mile away--especially after that night of "training" at the library. "I know," he stated tersely. He felt a sudden urge to escape, to drown the emotions that were swelling up into his throat--he wanted to feed. The heartbeat of the young girl beside him did not escape his notice. I could just take her blood right now, and change her, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not she’s "moved on to the living.’ he thought. The idea had merit, and if it wasn’t for that inconvenient soul of his, he would have acted on the impulse long ago. But...

"It’s Giles," Buffy told him, realizing as she did so that he probably already knew that too. "It’s really strange...I don’t know how it happened, really," she tried to explain.

"Maybe it was meant to be," Angel replied, shrugging. It wasn’t the first Watcher/Slayer relationship he’d seen--although Buffy was the first Slayer that he had ever loved. He closed his eyes, and stood.

Buffy took the hint, and followed him to the door. "Angel, I do love you still..."

The vampire held up a hand. "You don’t need to say anymore, Buffy." He did not want to hear her say "can we still be friends?" At some point, they could be, but right now...

"Just know that there will always be someone around to watch your back." He reached out and touched her cheek, then kissed it softly. He opened the door.

"Goodbye, Angel," Buffy whispered. Angel didn’t reply--he just took one last look at her, then closed the door.

Buffy turned away, and headed for home. She still had a lot to do in the next hour, she told herself, she didn’t have time to cry. "Yeah, right," she chided herself out loud, her boots clicking on the sidewalk, as a large tear rolled down her cheek.

--------(----(---)@

Giles was waiting by the weapons locker, his palms sweaty with nervous perspiration. He hadn’t actually trained with Buffy since before his "personal revelation," and the thought of her here, alone with him, was driving him crazy. He reached into the locker and pulled out the quarterstaves and his body armor, trying to still the trembling in his hands.

"We won’t be needing those tonight, Giles," Buffy spoke from the doorway. Giles turned to face her... and felt his heart skip a beat.

Buffy was standing there, not in her usual sweats and ponytail, but with her hair flowing loosely over her shoulders, and dressed in a black silk sheath of a gown--short, sleeveless, but with a surprisingly modest neckline that came to just below her collarbones. It was a stunning combination of sexy and sweet, and Giles found himself looking for the nearest chair. God, could she be any more beautiful?

Buffy smiled, trying to push down the nervousness she felt. She brought a small boombox from behind her back, and set it down on the reading table, pushing play to start the c.d. that was already loaded. She moved deliberately toward her Watcher, who could not take his eyes off of her, and held out her hand. "Giles, teach me to tango...I’ve always wanted to learn."

Giles heart finally started back into its normal rhythm as he took her hand, hesitantly. He ran his other hand through his hair and pushed his spectacles up further on his nose as he replied, "I...I’m afraid I , uh,.. don’t know how to um, to do the, ah...tango..." He noticed the music that was playing-- "Broken Wings." His heart began to beat faster as he realized what the girl had in mind. Buffy had stepped closer to him, and now he became aware of her scent. "Buffy...."

"It doesn’t matter," Buffy said. "We’ll just dance." She stood there, waiting for him to take her in his arms, feeling a little apprehensive despite her forwardness. She sighed in relief when Giles put his arm around her waist and took her hand in his, and felt shivers move down her spine, and a quiver formed in her belly.

Giles shuddered, wondering what he was getting himself into. Instinctively he drew her closer to him, and rested his cheek against her hair. The music wove a magic web around the two of them as they moved, both with eyes closed and in tune with the bond that connected them. He felt a strange lethargy come over him, willing him to just go along with the scene they were playing out. It would be so easy, he thought as he held the girl in his arms. But--(wasn’t there always a ‘but’?) he knew this couldn’t happen. He pulled himself reluctantly out of Buffy’s arms, not sure what to say, and looked down at the floor.

"What’s wrong, Giles?" Buffy asked in a throaty whisper. She’d been really getting into the dance, and her body suddenly felt cold at his withdrawal. She moved closer to him, and took his hand.

"Buffy..."Giles searched for words. "I don’t understand...I was not expecting...oh, damn!" He released her hand abruptly, and turned away, his thoughts in a jumble.

Buffy just stood still, feeling a hot red blush slowly creep up into her face. What an idiot I am, she thought. "I...I’m sorry...I read your book--that is, I found out from Willow that it is your book..." she saw Giles put a hand to his eyes, "no, it’s not her fault, I accidentally found her copy of the manuscript..." Buffy put her hands up to her face. "God, I am such a fool! Giles, I thought...from what you wrote..." she hesitated, afraid of what he would think of her. "...I thought that it was your way of telling me you loved me." There, she’d said it. Now could the Hellmouth please open up again and swallow me in it? She waited with a anxiously for her Watcher to turn around. Now he really will think I am an idiot, Buffy thought, cringing. She fought the impulse to turn around and run.

Giles’ fists clenched in anguish as he felt his Slayer’s emotions wash over him. How could he let Buffy go on thinking he held her in contempt, or worse, didn’t care at all outside of their "working" relationship? They were going to be spending a great deal of time together throughout the entire rest of their lives, and the trust between them had to be complete. He could not lie to her about his feelings, or there would develop a barrier that would only get thicker and more impossible to break through as time went on.

He turned back to face her, and suddenly Buffy was in his arms again, and he was stroking her hair, feeling a lump form in his throat. He knew he must tell her what was in his heart, even if it was wrong; he could not go another second without saying it, not with her here, waiting, expectant, yet on the verge of running away at the slightest hint that she might be turned away. He put his fingers under her chin and tilted her face up to his. "That’s just the problem, my dear Slayer..." He felt her tremble at his touch. "You see, I do...care for you...very much."

Buffy’s eyes widened, but she was still unsure. "Yeah...like a sister, or a daughter..." she prepared for what he was sure to say. After all, she was only 17--what would a man like him want with a girl like her?

A low chuckle sounded in Giles’ throat. "If that were the case..." he began, maneuvering her into dancing position again, her body searing him where it touched his. The music wound slow and languorous through his head and he felt himself moving almost against his will, his arms tightening around her waist. "...would I be trying to fight the incredibly strong urge I have to do this?" and he leaned down and covered her lips with his own.

The contact sent jolts of molten energy down Buffy’s spine, turning her knees to jello...she couldn’t believe this was actually happening to her; she found herself responding instinctively, her hands sliding up around his neck and into his hair. It was thick and wiry in the back and yet incredibly soft. Buffy marveled at the bombardment of sensations: Giles’ warm mouth covering hers with searing kisses, the feel of his tongue tasting the edges of her lips then exploring more deeply; he tasted of something minty with another tang underneath... ah, must be the Earl Grey, Buffy thought fleetingly. His cheeks were scratchy with a 5 o’clock shadow, but instead of finding it irritating, she reveled in the roughness against her tender skin.

Giles could no longer control the passion that he’d kept in check for so long. Seeing her at the school everyday, even just the short glimpses he’d gotten, had become a challenge since admitting his feelings for her to himself-- he constantly found himself wondering what it would be like to caress her shoulder, or kiss that part of her neck that was exposed when she tossed her hair just so--and now, here she was, standing in his arms, yielding to the demands of his mouth and giving it back as good as she got. Her lips were so soft, she tasted so sweet...and one good taste deserved another, he thought as he began tracing a hot trail from her lips over her jaw and to her throat. He heard her sharp intake of breath and exulted in her response. He began to nibble the pulsing vein at the base of her neck, teasing with his teeth and tongue and lips. His hands roamed freely now, from the curve of her lower back, slowly up to her shoulders, his fingers winding through her honey-silk hair, ravishing it as he rained hot kisses over her cheeks and onto her lips once more. "You are intoxicating..." he murmured into her hair as he breathed in the smell of her. "How could I have resisted you for so long?"

Buffy’s hands were making forays of their own, moving form his hair down to his chest, then lower. She felt, rather than heard, his groan as she tugged at his shirttails, pulling the white oxford shirt from the waistband of his pants. "Buffy..." his moan was much more audible as her hands slipped under the shirt and contacted warm skin.

The Slayer stopped, wondering if she had gone too far. She’d been carried away by the music, and all of a sudden her hands were on his smooth, well-toned back. Mmm...

She looked up into his face, and her breath caught. His eyes were dark pools gazing down at her; she could see the emotions on his face, and could feel them as well--she knew he was not sure he should be letting her do this. And yet, she knew that he also wanted her...that thought made her go light-headed as she imagined them together, sharing absolutely everything...

Buffy suddenly withdrew her hands, and stepped back a little, Giles still holding her in his embrace. She snaked her arms up around his neck again, and laid her head on his shoulder.

Giles felt the initial rush of passion recede a bit, and a calmer, more protective feeling enveloped him. He adored the girl, despite their age difference, and he knew that they shared an unbreakable bond. But more practical matters began to demand his attention. Gently, he drew away from Buffy, taking her hand and leading her over to one of the sparsely-cushioned couches in the reading area. They sat, and he cleared his throat, not sure what to say exactly, but knowing he must say something.

"Buffy," he began, all of a sudden finding that he could not meet her eyes, "you must know by now that my feelings for you have...changed..."

"Major ‘duh’, Giles," Buffy teased him softly, reaching out to touch his cheek. She watched him as he closed his eyes, knowing that despite his seriousness at the moment, passion burned in those hazel depths. It gave her a heady, powerful feeling to know that she was the cause. She pondered on that for a moment, feeling a niggling doubt at the back of her mind. Not that she doubted her Watcher’s feelings for her...she waited for Giles to speak. She was still overwhelmed by the passion she had experienced, standing in his arms...she didnt know what she could say, or even if she should say anything.

Giles opened his eyes and reached for Buffy’s hand, clasping it and studying their twined fingers. He felt his heartbeat begin to return to its normal rhythm, the hazey passion clearing somewhat from his brain, leaving behind a few stark realities--they lay exposed in his mind like broken shells on the sand after the tide has washed over them and retreated back into the ocean. He cleared his throat, groping for words. "Buffy..." The words seemed to stick in his throat. "I...we..." How could he tell her that this could never happen again? He regarded her silently, unable to ignore the picture of her sitting there so close to him, her mouth pink and swollen from his kisses, and he could not keep himself from leaning toward her and kissing her one last time, gently, tenderly--it was like she was as fragile as one of his treasured old books, and he was even more careful of her as he cupped her face in his hands.

Buffy felt Giles struggle with his feelings even as he kissed her, and she felt herself instinctively tune in to him, to the raging emotions that he valiantly kept in check. After an endless moment he pulled away, and she could still feel his heartbeat in her body, could feel the passion that he tried to contain as the determination to do the right thing warred with the desires of his heart. Gradually, Buffy felt her own blood cool as these insights into her Watcher’s thoughts began to transform her own. She could feel him gathering up his courage speak, and she put a finger to his lips.

"Shh," she told him, trailing her finger from his mouth to his cheek. There was wetness there, and she heard Giles let out a long sigh. Then he turned his face toward her palm and kissed it, leaving a warm imprint there that Buffy would feel long after they had parted. She withdrew her hand and dropped her gaze to her lap. "I...I know...I need to say something..." she raised her eyes to his, blue gaze meeting hazel through misty tears. "We can’t ever do this again...can we," she stated plainly, ignoring the tear that trickled down her cheek.

"No... we can’t," Giles replied hoarsely, and the words sounded harsh to his ears. He could not leave it at that--the look on Buffy’s face was too poignant, too desolate for him to just leave those words hanging in the air between them. He reached for her hand and clasped it between his own. "But there...there is something I want you to know, no matter what else happens..." he squeezed her hand and leaned closer, his gaze fixed on hers in earnest. "You are a...a singular young woman, Buffy...." Giles struggled for words. "I...feel very proud and...and honored to be your Watcher..." the emotions welling up in his chest were more than he could express with mere words, and he cupped her face in his hands, his gaze burning into hers in a futile effort to fully express himself. In the back of his mind he knew that even the most deep and intimate physical bond could not express what he felt for this extrodinary girl. "I...you...are in my heart...and you always will be."

A wave of warmth washed over her from head to toe as Buffy absorbed her Watcher’s words. Her lips trembled into a slight smile, and she wiped her tears with the back of her hand, feeling a stirring in her spirits, a lightening. She knew what Giles was trying to tell her, despite his difficulty in expressing himself. She felt herself blush a little as she replied softly, "I love you too, Giles."

The Watcher felt himself grin despite the heaviness that occupied most of his heart. It was enough for him, for now. But someday... He took a deep breath and stood, still holding Buffy’s hand. "This isnt going to be easy...I’m not sure what happens next..." he drew her to him, and kissed her forehead. A thought occured to him. "I do know some spells of forgetting...I could..."

"No way, Giles!" Buffy cut him off, and wrapped her arms around his middle in a fierce hug. "I don’t want to forget this...I can handle it, I promise." And someday things will be different, she thought. But for now...she looked up into his face. "There is one more thing though, ..."

"What is it, my darling Slayer?" Giles replied, the corners of his mouth bending up into a grin, unable to resist the beseaching gaze she raised to his. His arms tightened around her as he read her thoughts.

"Will you dance with me one more time?"

"Of course."

----(---(---)@

END