Back To High School

Back To High School

By Gwynnega

Rating: NC17
Summary: Willow knew Giles loved her. But somewhere inside her, that girl cowered - the girl no one wanted.
Notes: Post-"Chosen." The ninth story in the "This Will Be Our Year" Willow/Giles series.
Disclaimer: It's Joss's world - I'm just in love with it.

***

One day, he just showed up at the Council offices. Willow was alone in the front room, eating a turkey sandwich and planning out a lecture she was giving to a local wicca group. Giles, Buffy and Spike were in the exercise room, training the two new Slayer interns who'd just come to Cleveland.

The front door opened, and he walked in. He looked just the same as the last time she'd seen him, years ago - maybe a little thinner. His hair was cinnamon-colored. He smiled, that special smile he always had for her, except with that hint of apology, of sorrow, that had crept in when things had gone wrong.

"Oz," she said.

He sat at the table with her as if he'd been gone for only a minute. They talked easily, as they always had. He was road manager for a band, he said, in town for a gig. She told him all about the Council.

"I was so sorry when I heard about Tara," he said.

"Things were really tough for awhile - beyond tough. But things are good now."

"I'm glad." They smiled at each other. "And I heard Sunnydale fell into a crater?"

"Something like that."

"And I heard this crazy story about you and Giles, that you guys got married. But I figured the guy who told me got his wires crossed, and maybe Giles got married to somebody else, or it was just about the two of you working together or something." That was a lot more words than Oz usually used.

"No," Willow said, "it's true. Giles and I are married. See?" She held up her hand with the ring on it.

"Huh," Oz said.

It wasn't lost on her that Oz found her and Giles getting together a lot harder to believe than Sunnydale falling into a crater. She could only imagine how he'd react if he found out they were trying to start a family.

"You're not going to turn all wolfy, are you?"

He smiled slightly. "No, I can deal."

She wondered if he had someone in his life, but she didn't ask. She hoped he did. Somebody nice, not like that Veruca bitch.

Giles came out of the exercise room. He took in Oz's presence with a gravity that Willow couldn't read. "Hello, Oz," he said, and put his arm around her. Subtle, Willow thought. Okay, she could read him just fine. She began to wonder whether it was Giles who was going to morph into a wolf.

"Hey, Giles." Oz took them in, the married couple. "I hear congratulations are in order." He held out his hand for Giles to shake. They shook. No one turned wolfy, but Oz didn't stay long.

***

"You can't really be jealous of him."

Giles sulked in bed. "Why not? You loved Oz very much, didn't you?"

"Well, sure - he was my first real boyfriend. My first lover."

"Right." He moped.

"Why should that bother you, Giles? You know how much I love you." She kissed him.

"I know..."

"And it's not like you didn't have girlfriends before."

"True. But would you be overjoyed if, for example, Olivia showed up here?"

Willow remembered the way he used to nonchalantly put his hand on Olivia's shoulder or the back of her neck. "Definitely not!"

"I'm glad to hear it."

She looked up at his suddenly contented expression. "You're glad I'm jealous?"

"Absolutely." He smiled, reached up and turned out the light.

She snuggled against him. Maybe she was glad he was jealous, too. She had loved Oz so much, and it had hurt her so deeply when he cheated on her. But nothing like that would ever happen again. Giles's love for her was powerful - she could feel it as he held her in the dark. She knew she could trust him, and that was very good. She let the rise and fall of his breathing lull her to sleep.

***

She stood by the bed. She had a horrible feeling of foreboding. At first they were in shadow, but then she saw them. Giles was moving on top of someone. It was Olivia, but she looked like Jenny Calendar, and she moaned and threw her head back against the pillow. She smiled lasciviously. She put her hands on Giles's ass and pushed him deeper into her.

"Giles," Willow squeaked.

He glanced back at her. "Oh, there you are," he said in a weary tone.

"I thought - you promised - "

"We agreed," he said. "Go and be with Oz. You have Oz." He turned back to Olivia. He fucked her harder.

"Okay," Willow said. She walked down the hall. She wasn't sure exactly where she was going, but then she found the other bedroom. Oz was on the bed - but there was someone under him too. At first she thought it was Veruca, but when she got closer, she gasped.

Oz was moving inside Tara. Her hair was spread all over the pillow. She smiled.

"No!" Willow cried. Neither of them noticed her. Oz sped up his fucking.

She turned and ran. She had to get back to Giles. She wandered through the dark halls. She couldn't remember how to get to him. But finally she was in the bedroom again. He was still on top of Miss Calendar. He looked unbelievably sexy, pumping into her.

"Giles?" she said. She was sure that when he saw her, he'd want her, the way he always wanted her.

He ignored her. So did Olivia. But it wasn't Olivia. She squinted at them. Tara gave him that seductive little smile she'd thought was just for her, and gave him an open-mouthed kiss.

The sight of them moved her very much. They were so beautiful, and she had never been able to watch either of them make love from this remove. Always, with each of them, she had been in the midst of it. He thrust into her again and again. His body was so powerful, so sexual. Tara wrapped her legs around him, the way Willow liked to do.

Willow was crying. They didn't notice her. She was too lonely standing there. "Hey," she said, but her voice sounded funny, small. They didn't look up. Tara was coming now, groaning loudly, writhing on the bed. Giles sped up, thrusting hard and deep. He froze above Tara, his mouth open, the spasm of pleasure visible on his face.

She was shaking. Something was shaking her.

It was dark. Her eyes were wet. "Willow, sweetheart, wake up." Giles was gently shaking her shoulder.

"Bad dream..." she murmured. Her mouth was dry.

"I know. You were whimpering in your sleep. I thought to wake you." He put his arms around her. It was still with her, that desolate feeling. She reached between his legs. His cock was soft inside his shorts. She pulled them down. "Need you right now," she said, the panic subsiding as he hardened in her hand.

She pulled him on top of her. Only when he was moving inside her did she say, "I dreamed you were having sex with...with Olivia, but she didn't look like Olivia." She wasn't going to tell him she looked like Miss Calendar. She didn't want to upset him. "And then you were having sex with Tara."

He stopped moving. "With Tara?"

"You were so sexy, both of you. You looked so beautiful together...but you were ignoring me, and I felt so left out."

He rocked into her again. "Willow, it was only a dream. Surely you don't feel left out now?"

"Sorry, I'm being silly..."

"It must have been a dreadful dream, to upset you so."

"Just made me feel like...like who I used to be, a long time ago." She was a grownup married lady now, with a husband who adored her and wanted to make a baby with her. She was the one, the one he made love to, the one under him in the bed. She put her arms around him.

"You know how much I love you," he said, fucking her harder. "You know it's only you..."

She did know. But somewhere inside her, that girl cowered, the one who felt left out. The girl Oz had cheated on, and before that, the girl Xander hadn't wanted. The girl no one wanted.

***

A few days later, Willow and Giles were the only ones at the Council offices one afternoon. They were doing some research on recent, fairly run-of-the-mill Hellmouthy activity, when the front door opened. Willow wasn't facing the door, but Giles was, and she saw his expression before she heard: "Hello, Ripper."

God, was this old home week or something?

As she turned to see Ethan Rayne standing in the doorway, she got another surprise. "Hey, Willow." Amy Madison stood next to Ethan. His arm was around her. This was very bad.

Ethan wore, of all things, a red silk shirt and tight black pants. Did he have to advertise I'm Flamboyantly Evil? Amy, on the other hand, wore a white peasant top and jeans. She smiled at Willow. Ethan grinned, in a cat who ate the canary way, at Giles.

Giles stood. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't immediately report you to the authorities, Ethan? A reason, that is, that doesn't include my simply beating you to a bloody pulp instead."

"Wow," Amy said, turning to Ethan. "You were right. I had no idea he could be so..."

"Exciting?" Ethan asked.

Amy shrugged. "And here I thought he was just Librarian Guy. I guess I missed all the action while I was Rat Girl."

Giles's fists were clenched, and he stood poised as if he might launch himself at Ethan at any moment. "Ethan, you haven't answered my question," he said quietly.

"Why shouldn't you report me to the authorities? You mean, why am I not still in a government detention facility somewhere in Nevada?" He stepped forward. "Because I work for the government now, dear fellow. Special operations. Can't you tell?"

Willow and Giles exchanged glances. "Well," Willow said, "I can believe that."

Giles gave a weary sigh, and seemed to stand down. "You still ran quite a risk coming here," he said. "Why did you?"

"And what are the two of you doing together?" Willow burst out.

Amy grinned. "That's a funny question coming from you, Willow. I mean, look at you - married to Giles? You've sure come a long way from that little bookworm you used to be. Although - " She noticed the musty tomes on the table. "I suppose for a bookworm, marrying the school librarian must be a dream come true!"

"Not that it's any of your business," Willow said, "but marrying Giles has been a dream come true." Her voice trembled. She didn't know why Amy was getting to her.

Giles put his arm around her. "For god's sake," he said, "just tell us why you're here."

"To congratulate you on your nuptials, of course," Ethan said. "Although we were hurt you didn't invite us to the wedding."

"Besides," Amy said, "last thing I heard, you liked girls."

Ethan snaked his arm around Amy's waist. "Oh, Rupert can be quite irresistible when he puts his mind to it."

"Hmm," Amy said, turning to Ethan, "I guess you would know." She looked meaningfully at Willow. Ah, she was trying to figure out if Willow knew that Giles and Ethan had done stuff together.

"But you wanted to know about us," Ethan said. "Amy and I met sometime after the destruction of Sunnydale."

"I'd evacuated," Amy said. "Wound up in L.A., where we met. We discovered we had so much in common. Magicks, of course, and..."

"And us," Giles said.

"Don't flatter yourself, Rupert," Ethan said. "Amy is a stunning young woman, and extremely talented in a number of areas."

Amy sent Ethan a slightly pissed off glance, but recovered her smile. "Older men really are the way to go, aren't they, Willow?" she asked. "And it's such a coincidence, you two hooking up, and us two. We should really double date!"

Silence filled the room.

"Or not," Amy said.

"Next thing you know, it'll be baby makes three, eh Rupert?" Ethan said. He and Amy watched their faces - then they burst out laughing.

"It's true!" Amy said. "They're planning on doing the whole routine." Her grin grew wide and malicious. "You're a braver woman than I, Willow. After the number my mom did on me, I think I'd be the worst mother in the world. Of course, all your mother did was ignore you to death. Hopefully you won't be doomed to duplicate her example."

"That is enough," Giles shouted. Why was it she felt like bursting into tears, even knowing what kind of a person Amy had turned out to be? Because my mom did mostly ignore me, that's why. And I'd sooner die than treat our kid that way. But what if I did it without realizing?

"Ah, Ripper," Ethan said, "you've turned into quite the patriarch. First with that band of children in Sunnydale, and now - well, with one of the children, somewhat grown up, with whom you can create...more children."

"Shut up!" Willow yelled. "Besides, Amy's my age. So...people in glass houses, and all that."

That only made the two of them continue their villainous chuckling.

"I know what you're trying to do," Giles said. "But it won't work. We know what we have, and how lucky we are. What do the two of you have to show for yourselves, aside from some dark magicks and some witless jibes?"

"You're quite right," Ethan said. "You're the one with the solid foundation for the future, for grandchildren and all that - not that you'll live to see them, old man. But the Ripper I knew would've sooner slit his throat than follow in his father's footsteps. And that's all you've done. First by becoming a Watcher, and now by settling down. I never would've believed it."

"Are you quite finished?" Giles asked absently, as if he'd already dismissed him.

"More or less. I suppose asking for a job at the Council would be quite out of the question? My special operations gig really isn't all I'd hoped."

Giles goggled at him.

"Very well," Ethan said. "Amy, my dear, why don't you give Willow her wedding gift, and we'll be on our way."

Those words hit Willow with a jolt of adrenaline. She remembered that "gift" Amy gave her when she was trying to cold-turkey the magicks - that spell that made pencils go bendy and household appliances vaporize. "Whoa, not so fast," she said. "A gift from Amy? No, thank you."

Amy reached into her pocket. "Don't be paranoid, Willow." She pulled out what looked like a compact - doubtless an evil compact. It was pink. Amy approached her with it.

"You stay away from her," Giles said, and stepped in front of Willow.

Amy shook her head. "It's just a little makeup kit," she said. "Goofy, I know. I thought it might remind you of when we were in high school. Back when we were friends. Before I turned rat." She looked almost wistful. "Did I ever thank you for taking care of me all those years? After all, you could've let me become some cat's meal."

"Willow would never do such a thing," Ethan said. "She's far too good. That is, when she's not attempting to destroy the world."

Willow stepped out from behind her husband. "I'll attempt to destroy you if the two of you don't get out of here," she said.

Amy looked hurt. "Fine," she said. She opened the compact. It had a mirror in it, some lip gloss and eyeshadow. She stepped past them and tossed it, still open, onto the table. "Congratulations on your wedding, Willow," she said. "And you too, Rupert."

"Get out," Giles said.

Ethan gave Giles yet one more smarmy grin. "Always a pleasure, Ripper. And congratulations to the both of you." They turned and walked out, Ethan's hand at the small of Amy's back.

Willow let out a relieved breath and fell into a chair. Giles locked the door behind them. "If we have no more unexpected visitors from the past in the next year, that'll be perfectly all right with me," he said.

Willow felt like saying that it was unfair to lump Oz in with those two - but she didn't. "I'm just glad they're gone. Although maybe we shouldn't have let them go. Maybe we should call Buffy."

"And possibly Riley," he said. "To check up on his story."

"The last time you saw Ethan, he turned you into a Fyarl demon. The last time I crossed paths with Amy, I'd turned into Warren. Now they're together? This can't be good."

He sat in the chair next to hers, and gave her hand a squeeze. "All that aside, I don't want what they said to upset you."

She shook her head. "Are you kidding? They're just jealous. Or, at any rate, they're working awfully hard at being evil." She sighed, and remembered back to a time when she considered Amy a friend. Not a best girlfriend, like Buffy, but still. She looked at the compact.

"We should probably get rid of it," he said. "It could be enchanted."

"The enchanted lipgloss," Willow said, and giggled. Her eye was caught by the mirror - typical female reaction, to check out one's reflection. She looked a bit pale after their encounter with those two. But there was something off about her appearance. She didn't want to pick up the compact, but she leaned slightly closer. What was up with her hair?

It was in braids.

She hadn't worn her hair in braids since -

She felt dizzy, and looked up.

She was in the library. The old library, the one the Hellmouth used to be beneath. The one they'd blown up at graduation. The one now residing at the bottom of Sunnydale crater. Her head swam.

She was sitting at that old familiar table, a book about demons open in front of her. For a moment she thought it was the same book she'd been perusing before Ethan and Amy showed up.

She jumped to her feet. Then she noticed what she was wearing - baggy yellow overalls with a yellow and blue sweater underneath. Her hair was indeed in braids. Oh shit. "Oh, this is bad!" she exclaimed.

"Willow?" Giles asked. Thank god, he was here too. He was sitting across from her, another hefty tome before him. But when he saw her expression, he leapt to his feet. "Willow, what's the matter?"

"What's the matter? Look at where we are. Look at my outfit. And...and braids. Look at me!"

Then she looked at him, and in spite of everything, she had to smile. "Look at you," she said. He glanced down at himself with some perplexity. "Mr. Tweedy Librarian. Oh god, this is almost worth it, just to see you like this again." He was a bit younger and trimmer, with those glasses he used to wear. His hair was slightly more plentiful, and darker. But what struck her most was his attire.

"Willow, what are you talking about..."

She had sidled up to him, and he fell silent. "I always wanted to do this," she said, and put her arms around him, inside his tweed jacket. Be still my heart, she thought, he's wearing the red sweater vest. "Oh, Mr. Giles," she cooed, hugging him.

Giles extricated himself from her grasp. He held her at arms' length.

"You're right," she said. "No time for fun and games. We need to figure out how we got here." It didn't take a genius to figure Ethan and Amy had something to do with it. Maybe that lipgloss was enchanted after all.

"Willow, there's no 'we' about it." He let go of her, and backed away. "I had no idea that you - I'm flattered, of course, but - " He cleared his throat. "I think you're a remarkable girl, but there's no way I could feel anything for you other than - I'm far too old for you, and - "

"Oh god, Giles," she said. Did he have amnesia? A sinking feeling told her that wasn't it at all. Perhaps this wasn't her husband. Perhaps this was Rupert Giles circa high school. And he had just rejected her.

She wanted so much to believe that this was her Giles. But she had no amnesia, so why would he? It must not be him.

Tears sprang to her eyes, and she sat down abruptly.

Giles's rather stern countenance melted. He knelt before her. "Willow, I'm sorry. I hate to hurt you, but you must know it's impossible." With him kneeling there, speaking softly, she remembered the day he'd proposed to her, and that made her snivel. She had to get back to her husband. At the same time, she wanted this Giles to hold her, to tell her he loved her and that everything would be all right. "Willow, you'll meet someone wonderful, someone right for you, of that I'm certain."

Amid her tears, she latched onto something - a clue. You'll meet someone. So she hadn't yet. This was pre-Oz. Okay, that narrowed it down.

As her tears subsided, he smiled encouragingly. "There," he said. "Are you starting to feel better?" The way he was looking at her - had he always looked at her like that? The tenderness in his eyes, it was exactly how her Giles...

She reached out and cupped the side of his face. He froze. She thought he might actually be holding his breath.

Just then, the library doors opened, and Giles scrambled to his feet. Willow wiped her eyes. Buffy and Xander bounced in. How young and adorable they looked! And Xander had both his eyes. At that, she almost started to weep again.

"You guys still making with the research?" Buffy asked. She was almost plump. Thin, but much more rounded than she'd been any time since.

"You know," Xander said, "all work and no play makes Willow a homicidal maniac. No, wait - that was Jack Nicholson."

"I..." Willow said. The homicidal maniac comment threw her - for a minute she thought Xander knew what she'd done, years later. But no, he was just making with the funny. She glanced at the book in front of her. What were they researching, anyway?

Giles looked flustered. "It's all right, Willow. Why don't you go on home?"

"Home?" She could barely say the word. Home was with him. She couldn't go back to her childhood home. Thomas Wolfe, at any rate, had clear ideas on that score. Back to her little room with the laptop and possibly an aquarium full of doomed tropical fish. Back to her mother ignoring her.

No, she couldn't freak out about this. She had to think it through, figure out how to get home.

"You okay, Will?" Buffy asked. "You look as though you've been crying."

She and Xander hovered over her. "It's nothing," she said. "Just stress over a...history test." My own history, she thought.

"It's a scary thought that Willow Rosenberg could be reduced to tears by schoolwork," Xander said.

"Yeah, I thought that was my department," Buffy added.

Willow smiled. Look at them, all young and perky and quippy. No wonder she'd been so sweet on Xander - he was quite a dish, all boyish and slender.

He hadn't yet lost an eye, or Anya. Judging by Buffy's demeanor, Angel hadn't lost his soul yet. Buffy had only died once, and hadn't had to kill her lover, and it looked good on her. And Giles - she looked at him again, handsome man in tweed - Giles hadn't lost Miss Calendar.

Her stomach lurched. Were they seeing each other? She didn't think she could stand it.

Oh, this was ridiculous. For one thing, Miss Calendar was dead, so it was in really bad taste to feel jealous of her. More importantly, she needed to focus on getting back to her own time zone, not get tied up in knots over the past.

But Miss Calendar - shouldn't Willow warn her, tell her to get out of town before Angelus snapped her neck?

"We Bronzin' it tonight?" Xander asked.

"I'm supposed to meet Angel there later," Buffy said.

Xander curled his lip. "Oh, Angel."

"But Mom has a gallery opening, and I'm supposed to babysit for Dawn." She gave a weary sigh. "I'll have to wait for her to come home before I can do a sweep and then make it over to the Bronze..."

"Right," Willow said. And then it - well, yes, it dawned on her. This was how she remembered the past, with Dawn in it, but this was not the way her past had really happened. Those monks had put the Dawn memories in all their minds. So this was not her past, not exactly. That was good - it made it less likely that whatever she said or did here would have some chain reaction effect that would make her wind up married to Xander with five kids in Poughkeepsie (or some other place with an equally funny-sounding name, or some other future equally outlandish).

"So have you turned up any new info on Spike?" Buffy asked. So that's what they were researching.

"Nothing as yet," Giles said. "I had hoped we would glean some useful information from these new volumes."

"Don't worry, Giles," Buffy said. "With or without new info, Spike's going down."

Willow choked back laughter.

"You okay, Will?" Buffy asked.

"Fine," she sputtered.

"You really should go home, Willow," Giles said. He couldn't quite look at her.

"Tears, hysterical laughter," Xander said. "Are you having a little nervous breakdown, Will?"

"Maybe just a tiny one," she said. "It's okay. I think Giles and I should keep hitting the books. Who knows what we'll turn up."

Giles's eyes widened. It was as if he were afraid of her now.

Willow felt so detached from all of them. She knew so much. Shouldn't she warn them? And not just Miss Calendar. Buffy, you'd better not have sex with your nice, souled vampire boyfriend. And by the way, the sister you have to babysit for? She's a ball of energy. Your mom's going to die of an aneurysm, and you're gonna die again too if you don't watch out for this hellgod. Just remember, Ben is Glory. Oh, and Spike's going down is going to have a whole new meaning in a few years...

It was making her head spin.

Xander and Buffy looked from Giles to Willow and back again. "Well, okay," Xander said. "I, for one, am going home."

"And I, for two," Buffy said.

"Those of us without lives, proceed with the research," Xander continued.

"That would be me," Willow said. I've been temporarily banished from my life, she thought.

"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response," Giles said.

"Testy," Xander said. "Willow - Bronze later?"

"Not sure," she said. Would she still be here tonight? "Talk to you later."

He and Buffy sauntered out. Giles disappeared into the stacks. Apparently he couldn't even stand to be around her now. Meanwhile everything she knew, all the things she could fix, spun round and round in her head. Not just Miss Calendar, not just Angel. Tara was still alive, still living with her parents. If Willow could keep her from coming to Sunnydale, maybe she wouldn't have to die.

But no. This was not her past, and even if it were, she had spent enough time playing god with people's lives and memories to know it would be wrong to try and pull the strings of everybody's fate. The only thing she needed to do was get home to her husband and the life they were making together, the child they were going to make together.

She decided she couldn't tell Buffy or Xander what was happening. If they believed her, they'd want to know the future. It was hard enough being around then, the sweet kids they'd been, so open, not weighed down by all the battles and losses to come.

But she was going to have to tell Giles some of it, enough so he'd believe her, so he'd help her get back.

He emerged from the stacks carrying a couple of thick books. He looked at her with some apprehension. "Willow, I trust you understand how I feel about - "

"Giles, I need to talk to you. And it's not what you think."

He seemed to relax a bit. "Are you saying I misinterpreted your advances?"

"No, you interpreted them correctly."

He raised his eyes heavenward.

"Giles, please sit down and listen to me." He hesitated, then sat across from her. "What I'm about to tell you may sound farfetched, but I guarantee it won't be any weirder than the stuff we've dealt with already."

He gave her a quick smile. "Go on."

"I'm not the Willow you know. I'm from a few years into the future - maybe not your future exactly, because so far I've identified at least one thing that's different from my past. I don't know whether I'm borrowing the body of this Willow, or whether my body's been altered by a spell, or..."

His eyes were starting to glaze over.

"Giles?"

"And you expect me to believe this because...?"

"Since when don't you trust me?" she burst out. "I did say it might sound farfetched."

"You're saying you're not really sixteen." His brows crinkled. "I must say, Willow, you do look sixteen. Possibly younger."

"Hey!"

"Sorry." He ducked his head.

"No, you're right. It's these damn braids and these crazy overalls. What was I thinking? They make me look about twelve. But really I'm twenty-three." He was looking at her as if she were insane. "Giles, we deal with vampires. You find it that hard to believe that I might be older than I look?"

A faint smile played at the corners of his mouth. "You do have a point. But..." and the smile vanished, "what do your...overtures...have to do with all this?"

"My overtures. Well, I'm glad you're sitting down. In my present, we're a couple. We're married."

His mouth dropped open. It stayed open.

"Maybe you don't believe me, but it's true. Giles, in the future, you're my husband. You gave me your grandmother's engagement ring."

"How do you know about that ring?" He looked dizzy. "And you...what, now that you're here, you just wanted to pick up where you left off?"

"No - I thought you were my Giles, my husband. I thought you were sent here too. But he - you - my husband...he must be out of his mind with worry. Assuming they didn't do something to him, too. I need you to help me get back. I'm a powerful wicca, but I don't know exactly where I am. It could be a different dimension even. I'm afraid to try to send myself back until I know more. I don't even know if my powers are still intact." She stared at a book on the table before Giles, and made it float.

Giles stared at the book, then at her. "When did you learn to do that?"

She let the book waft back onto the table. "Okay, I can still do that, at least. But counteracting Ethan and Amy's spell is going to be a whole lot harder - "

"Ethan Rayne?" He clutched the table with both hands. "But he just left town."

"You mean, the stuff with the Halloween costumes? Or..." She didn't want to mention Eyghon, in case that hadn't happened yet.

"It was Eyghon," Giles whispered.

Okay, that narrowed it down even further. Poor Giles - that had only just happened to him. "I understand. And yes, it was Ethan, and Amy Madison. They did this to me - I'm sure of it."

"Amy, the witch's daughter?"

"And a really powerful witch herself."

He shook his head. He looked pale. Willow got up and rounded the table. "Giles, are you all right?" She put her hand on his shoulder. He flinched.

"Please don't," he said.

She backed away. "I'm sorry."

"This is going to take some adjustment," he said. "You and I...and your powers...and Ethan, in the future..."

"I know. I know it's a lot."

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them. "All right. Of course I'll help you, Willow. You'll tell me everything that happened right before you found yourself here, and we'll research. Time travel spells, portals, alternate realities..." His voice trailed off. He looked positively ashen. "But please stop looking at me in that disconcerting manner."

Tears sprang to her eyes again. "Sorry...I'm sorry...it's hard not to look at you that way, when you're...when I love you so much."

He turned away as if she'd struck him. "What do you expect me to say, Willow? You're a young girl. Even if you were in your twenties, I'm still more than twice your age."

"Yes, yes, we've been through that a million times!"

He turned on her. "We haven't. Perhaps you have...with some version of me...but the Willow I knew had no such feelings for me, any more than I had for her."

But I did have feelings for him when I was sixteen, Willow thought. Maybe it had been just a crush - but in retrospect she thought it had been more. It was only natural that when you ended up marrying someone, you would view the crush you used to have on your future husband as significant, even if you had been a teenager at the time. And you couldn't help but hope, or even assume, that he'd had feelings for you too. But now she knew that hadn't been the case. Wasn't, now, the case.

"I'm sorry," she said. "Let's hit the books. I promise I won't pester you with the other stuff. Let's just get me home." She started to cry.

"Willow..." He put his hand on her arm, but she shook him off. She didn't want his paternal comfort. She wanted her husband Giles who loved her and desired her. But she wasn't lovable or desirable - not here, not now. She was a brainy little geek in yellow overalls.

Amy knew just where to send me, she thought - or, rather, when. She's sent me to hell.

***

She told him what had happened with Ethan and Amy and the evil compact. She edited out as much future information as she could - just told him that they were married, and not in Sunnydale. Giles didn't ask a lot of questions about the future - he knew it wasn't information he should have. But he did ask, "Is Buffy still alive?" There was such hope and fear in his eyes. It touched her, but it also made her jealous. He cared more about Buffy than her.

"Yes, she's alive." She wasn't going to explain the whole dying and resurrection thing. Giles looked like he might cry, he was so relieved. "Don't get me wrong," she added, "there are tough times ahead. At least, there were when I went through it."

He gazed at her. "Willow," he said, "I'm glad you got through it, too."

His trying to be kind almost hurt worse than his not loving her. "Thanks. It's nice of you to say that."

"Of course I care what happens to you. Just because I don't - "

"I know," she said. "It's okay." Nothing was okay.

So they hit the books. Hours passed, and her eyes began to burn, but they couldn't find any compact-mirror-time-travel thingy.

"Why don't you go home?" Giles said. "I'll keep researching."

My home is with you, she thought. "All right," she said. It was unbearable, but she went.

***

It was strange to be in her old house. It was strange how easy it was to go back there, to greet her parents, who barely looked up from whatever each of them was reading in the living room. I swear, she thought, when Giles and I have kids, I will not ignore them like this. If anything, I will embarrass them with my interest and love. The thought of a little child that looked like some combination of her and Giles made her smile, the way it always did - and then a surge of panic hit her, as she walked into her old room.

It seemed so much smaller than when she'd lived there. The phone rang as soon as she shut the bedroom door. "Willow, I've been calling you for the past hour. Where've you been?"

She took a deep breath to try and dispel the terror of being here, being a teenager, rather than home where she should be, in bed with her husband, making a child to love and not-ignore. "Sorry, Buff. I was at the library."

"You should tell Giles not to be such a slave driver. It's not like it's super-urgent or anything. No offense, but I can kick Spike's ass with or without your research."

"Right," Willow said absently. She heard a gabby little girl in the background.

"Dawn, would you be quiet?" Buffy yelled. "Mom had better be back soon. Then I'm heading for the Bronze. Though I guess I better do a sweep first. I hope Angel waits for me..."

"I'm sure he will."

"So I'll see you there later?"

"I don't think so, Buffy. I'm not feeling well. I think I'm gonna go to bed early."

Buffy sounded disappointed. "Oh, I'm sorry. Didn't know you weren't feeling good. Must be all that damn reading Giles made you do."

"I'll see you tomorrow," Willow said, and hoped she would see her twenty-three-year-old friend tomorrow instead.

It occurred to her she hadn't eaten - but she couldn't have been less hungry. She unbraided her hair and looked in the mirror. Well, she still looked like a kid, but she looked a lot better without those damn braids. She went through her backpack, trying to figure out what would be expected of her at school if she had to stick around for any amount of time. Then she got in bed and turned out the light. It was only ten p.m., but she thought maybe if she went to sleep, she'd wake up back home.

Falling asleep wasn't easy, however. Lying there, she reflected that it hadn't been just a crush, back in high school. She'd loved Giles, even if she hadn't dared ever to use the word, not even to herself, because she'd known he couldn't feel the same way. And now she knew it was true - he didn't love her, not now. She didn't know if she would ever be able to forgive him for that.

But that was just the effects of this time zone. Her Giles loved her. He would be working to bring her back. He would doubtless be beating up Ethan Rayne right about now. He missed her as much as she missed him. But somehow that was hard to hold onto, now that she was back in her little room, the little bed where she'd learned to masturbate at twelve. She'd checked out a couple of books on the facts of life (from the public library, not the school one) and worked on herself like she was a science project, until she came for the first time. But she didn't make use of her new knowledge much. It made her feel lonely, somehow, touching herself alone in bed. It hurt, because she feared she'd never have anyone to touch her but herself. It felt like cheating, like a sham, to make herself come with fantasies of Xander or Giles or whoever, when they didn't want her, when no one wanted her.

Now she was crying again. It was so easy to slip back into that feeling of being unwanted. But no, it wasn't true. Her husband loved her.

She put her hand between her legs, and flicked her nipple with the other hand. She tried to picture her Giles making love to her, but somehow she couldn't, not here. So she thought of this Giles, in the library. She imagined that she climbed onto his lap while he was reading a book. He objected, but she unzipped him, and (in the fantasy she wasn't wearing those stupid overalls, she was wearing a miniskirt with no stockings) she sank down onto his cock. "Please...someone might come in..." he protested, but she moved up and down on him. He stopped protesting, started thrusting up into her. He threw her down on the library table and fucked her hard. Then everyone did come in - Xander, Buffy, Cordelia, the whole football team. "Wow, look at them go," they said. "Who knew? They're really hot." She came, imagining Giles coming inside her, and then she cried herself to sleep.

***

That night, back in Cleveland, her husband didn't sleep at all. Like his counterpart in Sunnydale, he spent most of the night researching. Alone at the Council offices, he tried to push down the terror that he might possibly have lost his wife. No, he thought, we've been through worse, we all have. She won't be gone for long, she's not dead. Not dead.

The phone rang, and he grabbed it. It was Buffy with another progress report. The rest of the Cleveland group searched for Ethan and Amy, and they waited to hear back from Riley as well. "We'll find her," Buffy said, her voice determined, but with an edge of controlled hysteria.

"Damn right we will," he said, opening another volume.

And then he found it. The mirror. It was a charm, and it led to other realities, other versions of one's life, past, present, or future.

"Giles? You still there?"

The book said nothing about a way back.

***

The next day, Willow scoured her closet for something to wear that resembled anything in her current wardrobe. No luck there. Okay, if she was a teenage girl, she might as well go for the gusto.

She put on an olive green sweater with matching tights, and a black miniskirt. It had been years since she'd worn anything so short. At any rate, this outfit looked a lot better than those overalls. It might even make this Giles take notice. She knew she shouldn't care about that, but she did. The idea of any Giles not being attracted to her filled her with despair. She had to get home quick, before she really did turn back into a sixteen-year-old.

Her dad had already left for work, and her mom barely looked up from the newspaper when Willow went into the kitchen and poured some cereal. "Hi, mom," she said.

"Morning, dear," her mom said, without lowering her paper.

What is it with her anyway? Willow wondered as she poured milk on her cereal. She had half a mind to sit down and give her mom a lecture about parental neglect and how it may or may not have shaped her future life decisions, like trying to destroy the world. But why bother? She would make it right with her own children. She took a big disgusted spoonful of cereal.

***

Outside school, before first period, Buffy was talking about how she'd gone patrolling with Angel after the Bronze last night. Xander was fuming about some bitchy thing Cordelia had said. Yeah, Willow thought, I guess that's why you're about to start making out with her on a regular basis. Still, it gave her a pang to see Cordelia, all long legs and big smile, chatting with her friends - and look, there was Harmony, pre-vamp, in the sunshine. Poor Cordelia, pre-demon, pre-coma. For that matter, poor Harmony. That put things into perspective. Willow might be in the wrong time zone, but she was alive, not a vampire, not in a coma. She could put things right.

She saw Giles walking briskly across the lawn. "There's Giles," she said, interrupting Xander's anti-Cordelia rant. "I need to talk to him. About...research."

"If you spend any more time in that library, you're going to turn into a librarian," Xander said.

"And just in time for Career Week," Buffy added.

Aha! Career Week. Now Willow knew where she was situated, time-wise, although not necessarily dimension-wise. And ugh, she did not want to relive the Order of Taraka - though she'd also met Oz that week (and he'd gotten shot for his trouble).

"I can think of worse occupations than librarian," Willow said. "I like books." I like librarians, she thought, her eyes riveted to Giles, who was walking towards...Miss Calendar. It was a shock to see her, alive again. It was a different kind of shock to see Giles fawning over her. Even at this slight distance, she could see the way he went all meek and nervous around her, the way he leaned towards her.

Miss Calendar was having none of it. She stood straight and tall, kept her distance from Giles and didn't meet his gaze for more than a few seconds at a time. Giles began to slump dejectedly. It pissed Willow off. Miss Calendar was a gypsy spy - who was she to act all high and mighty? A little case of inadvertent demonic possession didn't give her the right to hurt Giles's feelings. That bitch.

Willow reminded herself that it was so not okay to think such mean thoughts about poor Miss Calendar. But it hurt to see Giles look at her that way. Miss Calendar walked off, leaving Giles staring after her.

"Need to talk to Giles," Willow muttered. Buffy and Xander were looking at her funny, but she hurried to him.

"Willow," he said. "Are you still...?"

"Twenty-three years old? Yep."

His face fell - even further than Miss Calendar had made it fall. "Sorry to disappoint you," she said.

"No, it isn't that. It's just..." As students passed nearby, he lowered his voice. "I spent the better part of last night researching, and I'm afraid I've come up rather empty-handed."

"You didn't find anything?" Suddenly she didn't care that Giles wasn't checking out her legs in her short skirt. She felt like sinking onto the grass and howling for her husband to find her.

"Well, I did find out about your mirror."

"Amy's evil compact?"

"Exactly. It appears to be a device that sends the viewer into another time and space. But how to reverse the process, especially as you don't possess the item in question..."

She felt like she couldn't breathe.

"Willow." He put his hand on her shoulder. "I haven't given up. We're going to find an answer." He gave her an encouraging smile. She wanted to throw herself into his arms, in front of the bustling Sunnydale student body, and be comforted. Instead she made herself smile back.

"Thanks," she said. "I guess I better get to class. Last night I went through my backpack and managed to figure out my schedule, more or less. Only problem is, I can't remember my locker combination. Luckily, I seem to have most of the books I need in my backpack. You know, I actually do have a history test tomorrow. What are the odds?"

He looked puzzled. "Hadn't you better spend all your time researching, rather than go to class?"

"I can't exactly cut all my classes, Giles. That would really raise suspicion. Besides, I don't want to mess up young Willow's GPA. She'd never forgive me."

"I wonder where she is," Giles said, and his mouth went thin with worry.

"You're worried about her - about that Willow." She didn't know whether to be flattered or insulted. At least he cared about one of them.

"Make no mistake, I'm concerned about both of you," he said. "Very well, go to class. I'll resume my research. Come to the library when you can."

I love you, she thought. "You're the greatest, you know," she said.

That seemed to surprise him. "It's kind of you to say so," he murmured.

Just then Buffy and Xander came up. "Enough research talk!" Buffy said. "It's time for class." As Willow hurried off with them, she thought she felt Giles watching her, and it was a rather pleasant sensation - even if it was just wishful thinking.

***

That afternoon she was finally heading towards the library, when she saw Amy in the hall. She almost tackled her before she remembered that this Amy hadn't done anything to her.

"Hi, Willow," Amy said with a pleasant smile. "How's it going?"

"Okay." Willow stared at her. Amy looked so unassuming, so benign. What happened to you? she wondered. Did your rat-time do this to you? Or did it really start with your mom stealing your body? Clearly that could give a person issues.

She remembered that Amy had already been practicing magic back then. She contemplated asking her if she knew anything about lipgloss-time-travel thingies, but she figured that was too advanced for her. Heck, it was too advanced for Willow, and she was pretty damn advanced. So she told Amy she needed to get to the library, and off she went.

***

When they burst into the motel room, Ethan was on the bed, on top of Amy.

"Eeewww..." Buffy said.

The two on the bed turned around. Ethan was fucking the girl from behind and smacking her ass. "Rupert, old chum," he said. "I'm almost finished, if you'd just give me a few moments..."

"Get dressed," Giles said.

"For the love of god, please," Xander added. "Before I have to put out my one good eye."

The room smelled of sweat and sex. Buffy couldn't open a window fast enough. Ethan sauntered naked across the room and picked some clothes off a chair. Amy couldn't seem to decide whether to smirk or hide her head. She did a little of both as she hunted for her clothes.

"No sudden moves," Xander said, as they dressed. "And Amy, no sudden invoking of Hecate. No rat-making of any kind."

"Oh, I'm so past that," Amy sneered as she buttoned her blouse.

"Right," Spike said, "you've moved on to shagging old geezers."

"Besides," Giles said, "with a spell of that magnitude, your powers are likely burnt out at the moment, right, Amy?"

"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Amy said.

"And I'm not old," Ethan added.

"Well, just in case your powers are up and running," Buffy said, "we've got someone doing a nifty counter-spell." Dawn was doing the honors outside the motel room door. Vi and Kennedy were out there as well, in case Ethan and Amy tried to escape by more conventional means. Kennedy had been so worried about Willow, she'd dropped her usual bravado and simply said: "Put me where you need me."

"A counter-spell?" Amy scoffed. "That's not too smart. What if Willow tries to come back, and the counter-spell prevents her?"

"The counter-spell is specifically for you and Ethan," Giles spat. "Now, sit down, the both of you." They sat on the disheveled bed and looked up at him like bad children. Giles pulled the compact, safely closed, out of his pocket. "Tell me," he said.

The two of them were smiling. "You think this is funny?" Buffy asked. She reached Ethan in one bound and smacked him across the face.

Ethan touched his face, grinning around the pain. "Lovely to see you again, Miss Summers."

"Enough," Buffy said. "Tell us about the compact. Tell us where Willow is."

Ethan gave a bored sigh. "The mirror is simply a catalyst for memory," he said. "What does a small mirror do? It makes you look small."

Giles put the compact back in his pocket. "Go on," he said, his hands making fists.

"It's obvious," Amy said. "Willow's gone to wherever she remembers feeling the smallest. At any rate, that's the spell I did."

Ethan giggled. "Wouldn't it be ironic if she were now an embryo inside her mother's womb?"

Giles's legs almost buckled. He looked from Buffy to Xander - their faces registered the horror that he felt.

"Why don't you hit him, Rupert?" Spike said. "It'll make you feel better." Oh, things were very bad if Spike felt the need to comfort him.

"Oh, don't all look like it's the end of the world," Amy said. "I have a pretty good idea where she's gone. Back to where the two of you met. Isn't that romantic?"

"Back to when she was a teenager," Buffy said. "That makes sense."

"How do we bring her back?" Giles asked.

"We don't know where she is," Ethan said. "We can't bring her back. Only she can do it."

"What does she have to do to come back?" Giles asked through gritted teeth.

"Who knows if she'll figure it out?" Amy said. "The two realities have to align."

"What does that mean?" Xander asked.

"We don't exactly know how it works," Ethan said.

"I think I need to kill him now," Giles muttered.

"Stand in line," Buffy said. "But we can't, yet. Not until we figure out how to bring her back."

"Weren't you listening?" Ethan asked. "We can't bring her back. Only she can do it. Perhaps she will. She's a smart girl. Or, if she hasn't been born yet, it might take a few years. Sorry, mate."

Giles backhanded him. He tried not to start crying. "I don't believe you. Not even you would be so cruel..." He turned away from Ethan.

"Giles, we're going to get her back," Buffy said. "I promise you."

"She can't be taken from me..." He began to sob. "She's everything..."

"That's so sweet," Amy said. "Ethan, when are you going to start talking about me that way?"

"It is touching," Ethan said. "But it's not for the likes of us, my dear."

***

"Buffy is starting to suspect something's amiss," Giles said, looking up from yet another musty tome that didn't contain the answers they were looking for.

"Darn tootin'," Willow said. "Heck, since when do you tell her she doesn't need to bother with training?" She rubbed her eyes and looked up from her current useless tome.

"I couldn't come up with a more plausible excuse. God, I'm a terrible Watcher."

"No, you're not. You're just trying to help me." Willow did feel bad about hiding things from Buffy and Xander. They had asked her if she was going to the Bronze tonight, and she'd said she needed to study for her history test. That was actually true, but it was so far from what was actually happening in her life - and they seemed to sense that. She had gone through periods of estrangement with her friends over the years, and she was glad she wasn't in one of them now, back home. She didn't just miss her husband - she missed her grown-up friends.

Giles stood. "I need to consult some volumes I have at home. Why don't you run along?"

She stared up at him. "Run along?"

"Yes, go home. You're obviously exhausted, and you have a history test in the morning."

More pesky tears started battling to make their way from her eyes. "Giles, we need to figure this out. I need to help. I can't just go home to this place that isn't even my home anymore, and I can't go hang out at the Bronze with my friends, because I know too much to really be friends with them..."

"Willow," he said.

"And I know you probably feel uncomfortable around me, and I can't blame you, but unfortunately you're the only person I feel close to around here, which is really ironic, I know, but..."

"Willow," he said. "Why don't you come with me."

"With you?"

"We'll continue our research."

At the thought of being alone with him at his place, her heart started to pound - even though she knew all he had planned was more eyestrain. "Okay," she said.

***

He was silent in the tiny car, driving to his house. Once there, he hunted around for some books, and the awkwardness of being alone together in his living room subsided as they buried themselves in research. After awhile, he even made some grilled cheese sandwiches and tea, and they ate and drank and read.

"I may have found something," he said finally. They were sitting side by side on the couch. "It says the person who travels as a result of the charm does not need the charm to get back to his or her original location."

"Giles, that's wonderful. Does it say what I need to do?"

He read further, and then he frowned. "I don't understand. It says the two realities must intertwine."

"Huh?" He handed her the book. That's what it said, all right. "Oh, that sounds easy. All I have to do is make two realities intertwine." She handed him back the book. "This is hopeless."

He put the book on the floor. "It's not hopeless. You're just tired. Are you still hungry?"

She turned her head to look at him. She smiled. "No, the sandwiches and tea hit the spot. Thanks." She looked around. She'd missed this place, although the apartment where she and Giles lived resembled it somewhat. "I always liked this place," she said. "It always felt real homey. Despite that time when we were almost massacred by Chumash Indians..."

Giles gawped at her.

"Sorry...future stuff."

"Chumash, did you say?" He seemed vaguely cheered by this - or, at least, intrigued. "So how are you holding up?"

I miss you, I love you, I want to go home, I'm terrified I'll never get to go home. "I'm all right," she said.

"How are you, really?" His gentleness, with her - it always undid her.

"It's rough. It's really rough, Giles. This is the longest we've been apart since...I'm sorry. You don't want to hear about that."

"No - I did ask."

"It's just...I miss you so much. I mean, I miss him, my husband..."

He gazed at her. Then he put his arm on the back of the sofa. "Come here," he said.

She felt woozy with longing for him. But he doesn't mean it like that, she thought. "You don't have to..."

"Willow, it's all right."

She moved closer, and he put his arm around her shoulders. She let out a breath that she felt like she'd been holding since the previous afternoon, and she relaxed against him. She even let herself rest her head on his shoulder. He felt so good, so strong, so hers.

"Does it help?" he asked faintly.

She nodded against his shoulder. "Feels...like home." She lifted her head and pulled away slightly, although that was the last thing she wanted to do.

He cocked his head and scrutinized her. "But why would you, as a sixteen year old, or as a twenty-three year old, be interested in me, Willow? You're an intelligent and attractive girl. You're quite extraordinary, and you could meet other extraordinary people who, I'm certain, would love you."

He said I was attractive, she thought. Yay for the miniskirt! "I did meet some extraordinary people," she said. "People who loved me, and who I loved. And then I took a good look at you, Giles."

He bridled. "And saw what, exactly? A man somewhere in middle age who lets his youthful missteps hurt the people he cares about - "

"Oh, are you still going on about that Eyghon stuff?"

His eyes flashed indignantly. "Willow, it only just happened a few days ago."

"Right, sorry. In my time frame, it's so over. Listen, I've done things that totally dwarf the whole Eyghon thing."

"You, Willow?"

"Terrible things. And you always managed to forgive me." She smiled. "Forgiveness is good."

He seemed to really see her then. "I should think you would be very easy to forgive."

"And you wonder why I love you so much?" She touched his cheek. He let her. She brought her face close to his and kissed him softly.

At first he didn't respond. He kept his lips shut tight. She tried to ignore the acrid feeling of rejection, the feeling that she was ugly, undesirable, nothing but a big geek. She dotted his lips with light kisses, her lips caressing his.

He reached up and stroked her hair, the side of her face, and then his hand slipped to the back of her head, and slowly he pulled her into a serious kiss, a kiss like a question.

When he broke the kiss, he looked startled. Then they were kissing again, and this time she wasn't sure who started it, only that they were in it, well and truly. They kissed and kissed, and then she wandered over to his neck, and found his favorite and most sensitive spot with her tongue. "Dear God," he murmured, and she grinned into his neck. She gave him a little pressure of teeth, and he groaned.

She moved back to his mouth, and he kissed her hungrily. She took his hands and placed them on her breasts. He looked at her with astonished eyes, and she nodded. Gently he caressed her. "Yes," she whispered between kisses, "touch me." His thumbs fluttered across her nipples, just the way she liked it. She slid her tongue into his mouth. God, she was making out with Giles on the sofa in his Sunnydale home. It was an old fantasy of hers. His tongue was in her mouth, his hands on her breasts, and she felt like she was liquefying from the waist down.

He pulled away. "Must...stop...before I get too carried away."

"Want you to," she said. "Want you to get so carried away." She made her way down his body, nuzzling as she went, until she knelt on the floor. She rubbed her cheek against his crotch.

He took a shuddering breath, and put his hands on her shoulders. "Willow, what are you doing?" She unbuckled his belt and unzipped him. She smiled up at him. "I mean, I know what you're doing, but you mustn't. We mustn't..."

She freed his cock. He was already hard, and a surge of pride went through her. She licked the tip, salty and wet, and he moaned. It occurred to her that it had probably been a long time since he'd had this kind of seeing to (unlike her husband, who got this treatment on a regular basis). She took him in her mouth.

"No, we mustn't..." Giles kept saying, seemingly unaware that he was thrusting into her mouth with slow, shallow thrusts, and that he cradled her head in his hands. "Willow, must stop..." Then he fell silent and gave himself over to her.

When she looked up a little later, his head was thrown back, his eyes closed. Clearly he was feeling very good, but she felt a pang. Perhaps he had his eyes closed because he wanted to pretend it wasn't her sucking him off. Maybe he was pretending it was someone older - like Miss Calendar.

As if he'd heard her thoughts, he opened his eyes and looked down at her with such tenderness. "Willow..." he whispered. He caressed her hair, massaged her scalp with his fingertips.

A great joy bloomed in her. She mouthed him faster, a vast love roaring through her, wanting his pleasure. He cried out and spurted into her mouth, and she swallowed it all, every drop of his pleasure.

She climbed back onto the couch and curled up against him. Breathing heavily, he put his arm round her. When he'd recovered, he tucked himself back into his trousers and zipped up. She wondered if he would freak out about what they'd done. Instead he said, "I hope I wasn't too rough. You just felt so...it was as if you knew exactly..."

She smiled, still tasting him. "But I do. I do know, exactly."

"And I really please you, in the future? I'm good to you?"

She loved him so much, it made her ache. "You're so good to me, Giles. You make me so happy."

He smiled rather shyly. "But when you were Willow's age...a teenager, I mean...you didn't think of me this way?"

"I kept a picture of the two of us in my locker. Did you know that?" He shook his head. "And when you used to lean over so close behind me at the computer, I'd get goosebumps."

"I had no idea."

"You still do that - lean close to me when I'm at the computer - but sometimes you'll pull my hair aside and kiss my neck."

He reached out and pulled her hair aside, as if experimentally. He leaned forward and kissed her neck. She gave a sigh of pleasure.

"So did you always think about doing this? About us being...intimate?"

"Well, there were other guys on my mind, of course - and I wouldn't have known what to do, really. My fantasies were mostly vaguer. A lot of kissing and hugging."

"Like this?" He gave her a lingering kiss, and folded her in his arms. If she hadn't already been crazy in love with him, she would've fallen for him on the spot.

"Yes..." she said, breathless.

He held her at arms' length. "I'm afraid I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, never having made love to you before."

She shook her head. "I'll never forget our first time - I mean, our first first time. The way you touched me..." She took his hand and placed it between her legs.

He hesitated. "Like this?" he whispered, as he touched her, first with his fingertips, then with his whole hand.

"Yes, just like that..." The upheaval she felt as he rubbed her through her panties and stockings was volcanic. It was the first time anyone but she herself had touched her sixteen-year-old body there. "Yes," she whispered harshly between kisses, "yes, god, don't stop!" He smiled, apparently delighted by his ability to please her.

He pulled down her stockings, but was careful to leave her panties on. She guessed he wasn't ready to tackle that frontier yet. It still felt perfect.

"You're very wet," he said.

"See? You know exactly how..."

He reached under her sweater and began to flick her nipple through her bra, his other hand still working between her legs, and she came, hard, bucking against him.

When she came back to herself, he was smiling. He brushed some strands of hair from her face and kissed her.

Willow began to pull her stockings back up, but he covered her hand with his. "Why don't you take those off? I'd like to take you upstairs and make love to you properly."

The prospect made her feel weak. "You mean, in your bedroom?"

He kissed her again. "If you'd like."

"I'd like." She kicked off her shoes and peeled down her stockings. Then he seemed to have misgivings.

"You're sure?" he asked.

"Yes, of course I want to. But you know - I'm - I mean, this body - still a virgin."

"I know," he said. "That is, I assumed."

"I'd never even been kissed before, you know. Back then. Back now."

"We don't have to do anything you don't want to do," he said.

"I want to do all of it with you." She kissed him. But there was that other thing that had thrown ice water on their first encounter, back in that motel room. "And also...birth control? Do you have any? Because, in case this really is her body, I don't want to get younger Willow all knocked up." And if it is my body, she thought, Giles my husband should get to be the one to make me pregnant.

"Actually I do have some," he said. "Until recently, I'd rather thought I might have cause to..." He trailed off. He wouldn't look at her.

"You thought you and Miss Calendar were going to..." Willow said. It was in the past, and yet it still made her jealous. "It's perfectly all right, Giles. Shortly after all this, I got together with Oz. I mean, not sex, not for a long time, but - "

He looked at her then. "Who's Oz? I thought it was Xander you had feelings for."

Maybe it was her imagination, but he actually sounded jealous, just like her husband. "Yes...feelings...but Oz was my first actual boyfriend. I think I'm supposed to meet him next week." If she were stuck here, she didn't think she'd be able to stop herself from warning Buffy about that gun-happy Order of Taraka police lady. She would be tempted to boycott the whole event, Snyder be damned. "If I don't get back to my own time zone, young Willow might not get together with Oz."

"I suppose that's true," Giles said, with a look of dismay. "Well, we'll get you back where you belong, and young Willow's life can resume as normal."

God, she was so insensitive. "I'm sorry, Giles - I didn't think you'd care. I mean, until about an hour ago, you swore you didn't feel - "

He stopped her mouth with a kiss. "It's all very confusing," he said. "I swear, we will get you home. But you're here now, and I want you." And to her astonishment, he actually picked her up and carried her up the stairs.

In the bedroom, however, he set her on her feet, and stood there looking at her, looking at the floor, then at her again. She didn't think he had in him to undress her just now - so, suddenly shy herself, she pulled off her sweater, unhooked her bra. That kept his eyes on her. They undressed, watching each other, until both of them stood naked and a bit awkward. He was hard again, though, and he gazed at her as if the sight of her wounded him.

"Giles?"

"You're so lovely," he said.

She let out a sigh of relief. "I'm so glad you think so too." She was so glad, it hurt. The teenage girl in her - or rather, the teenage girl she was inside - could've wept for joy.

"But surely," he said, looking down at his own body, "you would prefer someone younger, and...well, younger."

And there it was - he was insecure, too. "Well, you are younger than the Giles I married," she said. "But you look pretty much the same." He had the same powerful build, with the slight softness around the middle that she'd always found comforting. "You both look really good to me." He did have some fading bruises - from Eyghon. She wanted to kiss them and make it better.

He put his arms around her. He held her, kissed her, stroked her body. He wanted her, young and geeky and previously unwanted in this time zone. They got into bed, and he ran his hands over every inch of her, as if he needed to learn her with his fingertips. His hands illumined her teenaged body, made it real, visible. He caressed her all over until she was purring.

He made his way down her body, kissing, touching. He kissed one knee, then the other - then he gently parted them. He kissed his way up one inner thigh, then, as her breath caught, he started over with the other thigh. "Giles...please..." she whispered. At last he settled between her legs, licking and kissing. He slid a finger inside her. It went in easily, but felt big as a penis to her, so tight was she. His tongue on her clit made her forget that somewhat disturbing realization.

He looked up. "Is this all right?" he asked.

"Don't stop!"

He smiled, and resumed the magic he was doing with his relentless tongue, his finger sliding in and out of her. It didn't take long before she arched and shattered. She pulsed deliciously around his finger. As she stretched and relaxed in the afterglow, he opened the drawer of his bedside table and tore open a condom. It had been a long time since they had used condoms, and while she didn't miss them, watching him unroll one onto his hard cock was awfully sexy.

He climbed on top of her and began to push inside.

"Wait," she said. "Hurts..." It really did. It occurred to Willow how much bigger than Oz he was. Her first time with Oz, it hadn't hurt at all, once she got over her nervousness. This time, she wasn't nervous, and she couldn't have been wetter, but she was very tight, and he felt enormous.

He poised above her. "We don't have to do this. I don't want to hurt you."

"No, I want to. Try again..." He pushed again, and despite the discomfort, it felt warm and full. He stared into her eyes just like he did their first first time.

"You feel so wonderful," he said, moving slowly and carefully inside her. She put her arms around him and moved with him. "Am I hurting you?"

"Hurts some," she admitted. "But it feels good, too. I don't want you to stop." She wrapped her legs around him, and he allowed himself to thrust deeper, to move faster. It was so familiar, yet so new. It overwhelmed her. "Giles, I love you..."

He looked at her in wonderment. "Willow...oh, sweet darling..." His face contorted as if in pain - then his expression changed to one of blessed release.

Afterwards there was blood on her thighs, blood on the condom. He stared at the blood for a few moments, then he got up and went into the bathroom. She was afraid he might not come back. There were some sounds of running water, and he returned. He sat on the bed and gently cleaned her with a warm, wet cloth.

He looked at the blood on the washcloth. "My God, I've just violated a teenage girl."

She stifled a laugh. "Giles, I seduced you, remember? Besides, I'm not really a teenager. I'm twenty-three."

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he put his head in his hands. "Oh, that makes me feel so much better."

She sat up and put her hand on his shoulder. "You seemed to be feeling pretty good a few minutes ago."

He turned to look at her. "You're a very wicked girl," he said. Then he grinned. Ah, there was that smile she knew and loved - the smile of utter satisfaction. He covered her hand with his. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"A bit sore...and still awfully worried about getting home. But that was...beyond good."

He nodded. "It really was," he said dazedly.

"But Giles...would you hold me? Because traditionally, after we make love, that's what you do."

His eyes went melty, and he squeezed her hand. "Of course." He climbed back into bed, and they assumed her favorite after-sex posture - he on his back, his arms around her, she snuggled into his side. It felt so good, though she couldn't help but think of her husband, who must be frantic with worry. What if Ethan and Amy had done something to him, too? And here she was making love with his slightly younger self. Would he think she'd cheated on him? But it wasn't cheating - it was Giles. Heck, maybe he'd be insulted if she hadn't wanted to sleep with his slightly younger self.

Please let him be all right, she thought, as she basked in his warmth. It was awfully confusing. He was here, with her - he was there, alone. She held him tighter, as though she could hug her husband through this Giles.

And what about this Giles? His attitude towards her had certainly changed fast. Had this been terribly unfair of her, since she was determined to go home to her husband, leaving this man with the teenage girl she'd been?

She lay curled into his side, and kept expecting him to say she should go home. But he just stroked her hair, and every once in awhile he pressed a kiss to her forehead.

Finally she spoke up. "I'd better be getting back to my parents' house."

"You can stay the night," he said softly.

"My parents probably won't notice I've been gone, but it seems a little risky for me to be seen leaving your place first thing in the morning. You can't exactly drive me to school. I'd love to stay, but I don't want to make trouble for you, or for Willow the Younger."

"It's a bit late for that, don't you think?" He hugged her to him, then let go. "Very well, let's get dressed."

"I'm glad you want me to stay, Giles."

He dressed silently, his face a mask.

When they were parked outside her house, Giles looked around for passersby and lurking parents. Then he kissed her passionately, the kind of yearning kiss you give someone when you have to part for the night. They'd never had to do that - they'd always been able to spend the night, even before they lived together.

"I'll see you tomorrow," she said. Unless I somehow wind up back in my time zone before then, she thought. She saw him thinking it, too. Then again, it seemed unlikely the two time zones would miraculously intertwine during the night, whatever the hell that intertwining thing meant.

"Goodnight," he whispered, and kissed her again. When she got out of the car, she was weak in the knees from his kisses.

When she was in her bed in her old room, she still wished fervently that she was home with her husband. And yet she loved this Giles, too. She imagined going back in time and visiting Gileses through the years, and loving all of them. The thought made her dizzy, but it also made her smile. Gingerly she touched herself, the soreness of her second deflowering. Giles had been her first lover tonight, and that made her happy.

***

The next morning she actually took the history test, and thought she did a pretty good job of it. What with classes and her friends, she didn't have a chance to go to the library until after lunch.

When she walked into the library with Buffy and Xander, he didn't look up from the book he was perusing.

"Hey, Giles," Buffy said. "We on for training after school?"

He looked up. "Training? Yes, definitely." His eyes barely flicked Willow's way, though she couldn't help beaming at him. He turned back to his book.

"So, Willow," Xander said, "now that you've taken your history test, it's definitely time for you to experience the fun that is life again. Are you with me?"

"Sure...fun..." She couldn't take her eyes off Giles. Why was he ignoring her? Didn't he see her short skirt? Didn't he know it was rude to ignore someone the day after you take their virginity?

"Willow," Giles said, without looking up, "would you help me with something?" He put down his book and headed for the stacks.

"Sure," she said. "Research beckons," she said to Xander and Buffy.

"Don't forget about the fun," Xander said. He looked a bit hurt. In fact, both he and Buffy were looking at her strangely.

"Hey, let's go to the Bronze tonight," Willow said. "I miss you guys." She didn't know if she'd be here tonight - and she hoped she wouldn't - but she loved her friends deeply. They were going to go through so much in the coming months. Truly they ought to have fun while they could.

They smiled at her. "Okay, you go be Research Girl," Buffy said.

Willow followed Giles up the stairs and into the stacks. He still wasn't looking at her. Had he completely flipped out about having sex with a teenage girl?

"Hey, Giles, since when are the books on magic way back here..."

He took off his glasses. A brilliant smile flashed across his face. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

"Oh," she said. "You play it pretty close to the vest, don't you, Mister?"

"I've wanted to do this ever since I dropped you off at home last night," he whispered between kisses.

"You've just fulfilled an old fantasy of mine - making out in the stacks with you." Kisses, more kisses. "You're making me feel like a teenager..."

"I feel like one, as well," he said, and it was true, he looked positively boyish. "Willow, you taste sweet..."

"That's diet Coke," she breathed.

"Oh." He sucked on her lower lip. "You're delicious."

"So are you. Not surprisingly, you taste like tea." She sighed. "But we'd better get back to the actual research."

"I know..." He kissed her again - then he let her go. His face darkened.

"Giles? What's the matter?"

"It's nothing," he said. "We should get to work."

She waited.

"It's just that once you're gone...it seems bloody unfair that I should have to wait years before I can hold you again, or make love to you."

"Are you saying you want me to stay?"

He hesitated - then he nodded, looking shamefaced.

Oh, wow. She was beginning to understand why Anya didn't want her to put the two Xanders back together again. She was crazy about both Gileses.

"I know it would be wrong," he said. "The other, younger Willow belongs here - god knows where she is right now. And you belong there. It would be wrong to let Ethan and Amy get away with this. And yet I find myself hoping we won't find a way to send you back."

"I can't stay, Giles. I can't go through high school again, and all the things we've had to deal with. It would be impossible, knowing what I know. And besides, he and I - you and I, in the future - we have plans. We're trying to start a family."

She hadn't meant to tell him that, for fear his head would explode. He did gape a bit - and then he looked like he might start to cry. "But that's wonderful," he said. He smiled painfully.

"Giles, you seem to be forgetting something. I'll still be here. I mean, Willow will, the younger one. She's never been kissed, but I guarantee she'd enjoy making out in the stacks with you."

He smiled, the same painful smile. "I don't know, Willow. She's sixteen, really sixteen. I wouldn't want to frighten her."

"Giles, she adores you."

"She adores Xander."

"Well, yes..." She put her arms around his waist. "But I didn't end up marrying Xander."

"What am I supposed to say to her - oh, by the way, I slept with a version of you while you were away?"

"Tell her the truth. She'll be thrown at first - okay, she'll be shocked - but I know she won't be sorry to find out that you could be attracted to her. I'm not saying it would be easy for the two of you to be together. You might need to keep it a secret for awhile - a good long while. But I can't imagine that it wouldn't be...really nice. I know it would make her happy. She never thought she could have a chance with you, but if you want her - "

"Of course I want her. She's Willow." He gazed into her eyes. "She's you." Then his eyes widened, the way they did when he made some brilliant realization. "Willow, I love you."

"Do you mean it?" She couldn't believe her good fortune, that he should love her too, that he could love her like this, as the girl she'd been.

"I really do."

"Giles, I love you. I love you so much..." She kissed him.

"I love you, Willow. I - " Then he blinked, and looked dizzy.

"Giles? What is it?"

"What's happening?" he asked, and staggered backward. He shut his eyes tight - then opened them with a look of amazement. "Willow, I remember."

"What do you mean?" Had he been her Giles all along? "Are you my husband?"

"No...I don't think so. I don't remember everything. But us - I remember us, together, in the future." His brows crinkled. "Do we ever do anything besides shag?"

She laughed. "Not so much." And suddenly she understood. "Giles, I think the two realities just intertwined. When you said you loved me...and then you remembered...because you love me, the way he does..."

"But that means you're going to leave." He held her tightly.

"I'll still be here," she whispered.

She felt the ground shift under her. She looked up - and he was holding her, Giles, her husband. She was back in the Council offices. "Willow, I was so afraid I'd never see you again," he said, tears in his eyes. But then he blinked, exactly the same way as he had done in the stacks, and said, "But I remember...I remember us, there. Everything that happened...and I can still feel it, the other reality..."

Willow could, too. She felt her younger self suddenly in Giles's arms, in the stacks. She felt her confusion, but also the warmth and comfort of being held by him. The past days were a blank to her.

"He just realized it's her, not you," Giles said. "He's pulling away - he's afraid to touch her. He's afraid he'll frighten her."

"No," she said. "I think it'll be okay for the two of them. She's confused, but she feels safe with him." As she felt safe with her Giles. She held him tightly. "You brought me back," she whispered. "I mean, the other Giles did...because he loved me, too..."

"The two realities aligned," Giles murmured, "so you could come home."

Her connection to that other Willow began to fade, and then it was gone. She looked down at herself. She was wearing the black pants and green sweater she'd worn before she got sent away. And no braids - thank god. Although it occurred to her that her husband might have liked the little miniskirt she'd had on back in Sunnydale.

"I told you we should've left town." It was Ethan's voice. "You had to stick around and watch them suffer. Now look at them!"

"Oh, shut up!" That was Amy's voice. Willow turned - Amy was tied to a chair. And look, Ethan was tied to one, as well, and his face did look rather beaten up.

"Now we have two sets of happy Willows and Gileses?" Ethan lamented. "Crime really doesn't pay."

"You have no idea," Buffy said. "Riley's sending some guys to pick these two up," she explained to Willow. "It seems Ethan's stint working for the government didn't end on very good terms. And welcome home."

"We're so glad to see you, Willow," Xander said.

She'd been so wrapped up in being back with her Giles, she hadn't seen that they were here too, her friends, all grown-up. Now everyone piled on to her - Giles and Buffy and Xander, plus Dawn, who was holding some spell book but managed to hug her anyway.

"This feels like deja vu," Willow squeaked. "Might need to breathe sometime soon?" They all moved back - except for her husband, who took her hands in his.

Spike was there too. "Welcome home, Will," he said. "Not going to hug you - but perhaps I can punch Ethan once or twice in your honor? Unless Rupert wants to have another go."

"Hey," Ethan said, "she's back, safe and sound - no need to exact retribution. In fact, why don't you just untie me, and I'll be on my way..."

"Right," Spike said, chuckling. "that's really going to happen."

Giles didn't seem to notice any of them except for her. "Let's go home," he said. "But first..." He pulled that evil compact from his pocket, tossed it to the ground, and - amid Ethan and Amy's protests - smashed it with his foot.

***

They lay side by side in bed, facing each other. They'd just made love, and Willow was rather sore, but happy. Somehow it had been her body all along, when she'd lost her virginity to Giles, and she still felt the effects of it. She was glad, because she figured it would have been rather rude to have taken the younger Willow's virginity while she wasn't even there - although it would only have eased her own virginity loss, later.

"I wonder if that Giles will be her first lover," she said dreamily.

He stroked her back. "Are you still very sore?"

"Kinda...but it's nice. It reminds me of how it felt, for you to be my first." She grinned. "Although I would think you'd be aghast to remember sleeping with me when I was a teenager."

"Willow, no." He kissed her. "Don't know you I feel as though I've loved you always? And what we did, in that other reality - I'd never want to forget it. It was beautiful to be your first lover." He smiled. "Besides, I'd have been insulted if you hadn't wanted to sleep with me."

She laughed. "I thought so!"

Giles turned onto his back, and put his arm around her. "I guess Ethan and Amy inadvertently gave us a wedding present, after all."

"But really," she said, "do you think you - the other you - will tell her what happened?"

"It may take him a little time to work up to it - but I believe he will. He loves her - he loves you. It's not something he's going to willingly walk away from."

"I'm glad."

"Really? It won't be easy for them. And would you really want to deprive her of your experiences with Tara and Oz?"

She pondered that. "Well, maybe she'll have a torrid affair with you, and then move on to Oz and Tara. That would be a switch."

He glared at her. "Hey!"

"I'm kidding. Giles, after she had a taste of you, no one else would ever pass muster."

"You really mean that?"

She hugged him tighter. "We've known each other so long, and I feel as though everything has come full circle. I've never loved anyone the way I love you."

They lay together, resting. She hadn't slept well while she was away, so she drifted in and out of sleep. For a moment she thought she was back in her old bed, and she woke with a start. "It's all right," Giles said. "You're here."

She clutched at him, and her heart slowed. "Do you know that my mom never even noticed I was different? Buffy and Xander started to notice things were weird, but she barely noticed I was there."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart."

"I swear I'm not going to be like that, with our kids."

"I know you won't."

"You know, after this little sojourn in teenageland, I'm really ready to be a grownup. I'm ready to be a mom."

He looked at her as if that were the most marvelous thing she could have said. "Well, then, why don't we do something about that? If you're not too sore." He circled her nipple with his fingertips.

She leaned over and kissed him. "Let's make a baby," she said. Who knows, perhaps they already had when they'd made love just now? At any rate, she was sure she would conceive soon. Now that she was back, she wanted it wholeheartedly, with no fear or doubt.

"My first, my always," she murmured as he entered her. She was home.

---
The End

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