"Giles? I'm here, " Willow called as she entered his apartment. They had agreed over the phone to meet there instead of at the library. It was easier for Giles, and all of his private papers were there anyway. Plus, Xander was more likely to walk in at the library, and they were having enough trouble keeping him out of the loop as it was. "I'll be down in a minute," he answered from upstairs. "Make yourself comfortable. I believe there may be some soda in the icebox." Willow tossed her backpack on the couch and set her laptop on the coffee table. She made her way into the kitchen and grabbed a can of soda out of the fridge. Her hand shook a little as she popped the top and took a drink. It felt strange, being here again so soon after... As she moved into the living room, Willow was transported back to that night. The restless feeling beneath her skin, the cool mist above it. Giles' hot mouth and masculine scent, his hard body next to her, over her, inside her...the brief burst of unwanted pleasure and the welcome pain that followed... No! Stop thinking about it, she silently scolded. She had promised herself that she wouldn't dwell on what had happened between them. It had served its purpose, driving away the nightmares and allowing her to move on. And that was all it ever could be. To think anything else was insanity. They had important things to do, important *work* to do. Buffy needed them; that was what she had to focus on. Nothing else mattered. She grabbed the journals off of the desk and stomped over to the couch, determined to put that night out of her mind. When Giles came downstairs, Willow was curled comfortably on the couch, a notebook in her lap, the journals spread out in front of her. He stared for a moment as she brushed a lock of hair away from her face, remembering its clean, rainwater scent from the other night. How soft it had felt between his fingers, brushing across his face. Giles suppressed a groan, irritated at the direction of his thoughts, then lowered his eyes when she glanced up at him. "Any luck?" she asked. There was nothing in her expression to indicate where her thoughts had been just moments before. Willow remembered when every feeling used to show clearly in her face, the archetypical "open book". Xander had always been able to take one look at her and know exactly what she was thinking. With very little effort, he could determine what she'd gotten him for his birthday and Christmas, how much money she had in her pocket, which cards she held in her hands...even the exact moment when PMS set in. Amazing how things had changed in just a few short weeks. Now she had a poker face so good she could take it to Vegas. "Not as yet, no," Giles answered, careful to keep his gaze averted lest she see some telltale emotion in his eyes. He set down the box he was carrying and sighed. "Edwina loved being cryptic, damn her." Willow grinned. "Kind of goes with the job, doesn't it?" He gave her an exasperated look. "Yes, well, thank you very much, but that bit of truth does me absolutely no good." "Sorry, Giles." "Not your fault." He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "She and Damien were like little children, plotting intricate ways to outsmart the Council. Of course she would have wanted him to stay below their radar, to carry on his studies without interference. I just wish she'd thought to include me in her schemes." He placed the box on the coffee table and sat in the chair opposite her, rummaging through the box's contents. Willow could see the hurt in his eyes. "Were you jealous of their relationship?" she asked softly. Giles looked up sharply and automatically started to deny it, but her steady green gaze stopped him. "I...suppose I was a bit...envious...perhaps. After all, she was *my* grandmother. But I can't begrudge Damien the closeness they shared. I'm truly glad that he was there for her when I wasn't. It's my own bloody fault, I should have made an effort to keep in touch." "It happens." Her eyes darkened for a moment as she thought of her own upbringing. "I don't know if you've noticed, but my parents and I aren't what you'd call close. My mother hardly notices me - she never even bothered to meet Oz. Sometimes I think I was an experiment in childrearing gone wrong. Then the funding ran out and the scientists got bored and moved on to something else." Giles was taken aback by her admission. He'd always assumed that a young woman as intelligent as Willow would have grown up in a nurturing environment. He knew that Xander's home life left quite a lot to be desired, but it had never occurred to him that Willow came from anything but a happy, well-adjusted family. She covered it well. Too well. "Willow, I'm sorry. I had no idea-" he began, only to be cut off. "Not many people do. It's okay, really. I just don't like to talk about it. Can we change the subject, please?" Giles watched her withdraw, that damnable 'resolve face' taking over. "Of course," he told her. "I didn't mean to upset you." Perhaps one day, she'd be able to confide in him. With everything else they had to deal with, now really wasn't the time to push. He went back to looking through his files and Willow alternated between half-heartedly translating the journals and offering suggestions on where to search for information. It wasn't long, however, before Giles began looking at the clock and fidgeting. He'd get up every so often and make a pretense of stretching his muscles, but Willow wasn't fooled. She saw how he always drifted toward the window, gazing anxiously at the street below. "She'll be here soon, you know," she told him, smiling at his look of surprise at being caught. "What? I wasn't-" he started to protest. "Yes, you were," she said firmly. "Buffy is fine, Giles. She sounded good on the phone - happy, even. I know it's hard for you to accept, but she does love Spike. They've come this far in spite of their differences, doesn't that say something?" "How do you do that?" he asked, clearly out of sorts. "Do what?" "Sit there all calm and mature while I come off like a petulant five-year-old. It's damned annoying." He stomped over to the files and pretended to be engrossed in what he found there. He knew that he was only proving his own point, but he couldn't seem to help himself. Willow watched him, realizing just how much their relationship had changed. They were no longer student and mentor, adult and child. She was much more his equal now, unafraid to voice her opinion, or to put him in his place if the situation warranted it. She'd grown up a lot in the last few weeks, lost the naivete that was once a large part of who she was. She wasn't quite sure that the loss had been a good thing. Death had the knack of doing that to you, she supposed. Death and sex, the ultimate innocence killers. "I'm not, you know," she said softly. Giles looked up. "Not what?" "Calm. Mature. I might look it on the outside, but inside I'm just as worried as you are, and I'm scared for Buffy. We don't know what we're dealing with, or if these journals are actually foretelling the future. We don't know what this pregnancy will do to her..." Willow bit her lip and fought back tears at the thought of losing her best friend. She took a deep breath and continued. "What I do know is that she needs Spike. And I think he needs her, too. I've seen how miserable they both are without each other, and I've seen how much he cares about her. We have to trust that, Giles. We don't have a choice." "Trust?" He threw down the file and stood up. "What happened the last time we trusted a vampire, Willow? Are you so anxious to go through all that again?" "Of course not!" she cried, surging to her feet. "How can you even say that to me?" "And how can you advocate Buffy's relationship with that - that thing!" "I'm not advocating anything, I'm merely trying to be a good friend! I'm not going to presume to think I know what's best for Buffy, only *she* knows that. She's not a child, Giles, and there's no way you and I could possibly understand what she's going through." Giles sighed. "I'm well aware of what the life of a Slayer entails." "Oh yeah?" Willow asked indignantly. "And I suppose you have complete understanding of what it's like to be a seventeen-year-old female, too. Give me a break, Giles, you don't have the first clue what it's like! I can't imagine facing what Buffy has to face every single day, can you? Think of it... From the moment she was called, she never had a chance at a normal life. Why should her lovelife be any different? How could it?" "Am I wrong for wanting her to fall in love with a human? *Two* vampires, Willow! Bloody hell, how can I not be upset? How can I not want her to make a better choice than this?" Willow looked at him sadly. "Oh, Giles...haven't you learned yet that love isn't a choice? It's not something you can control, or plan, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes...sometimes someone just comes along when you least expect it. They might be the opposite of everything you ever dreamed of, seem completely wrong for you in every way..." Her voice trailed off as she looked up at him, and for a moment it was hard for her to breathe as all of her emotions fought to break free. Wrong, she thought, so very wrong for me. She trembled, and her voice grew throaty with repressed desire as she continued, willing him to understand. "...And somehow, against all logic, that person that you thought couldn't possibly fit into your life...ends up being exactly what you needed all along." Any thought that Giles had of continuing the debate was driven away by the look in her eyes and the husky timbre of her voice. Was it that simple? Giles wondered. Need? He stood there, caught by the simple truth flung at him by a girl less than half his age. Need was what drove the human race, wasn't it? You yearn and hunger for something and your mind and body automatically seek it out, no matter what common sense might dictate. The other night, Willow had satisfied something within him that he had barely been aware of. And in doing so, she'd unwittingly released his pent-up urges. Now the hunger seemed to surge forth whenever she was near, and he was dangerously close to giving in - giving in to the desire to taste her innocence again, to thrust into a body so young and firm and tight... It frightened him, the ease with which he could so readily slip back into destructive behavior. After all, Ripper was never far beneath the tightly buttoned facade that he so carefully cultivated. That had always been his downfall, that thing that few people ever suspected about him. That underneath all that tweed and fatherly concern there was nothing more than a selfish bastard chasing after a glimmer of his youth. Always yearning for what he didn't have, and never quite strong enough to resist temptation. Temptation like this. So bloody easy, he thought, leaning forward slightly, lured by trembling, moist lips... "Hey, guys!" The moment was broken as they jumped, startled by the slamming of the door. Guilt and uncertainty marred their features as Willow and Giles struggled to regain their composure before facing the Slayer. Buffy tossed her duffle bag on a chair and came forward, running fingers through her still-damp hair. "Sorry I'm so late, I just..." Her greeting trailed off as she noticed the tension in the room. "Am I interrupting something?" Giles was the first to recover, turning toward her with a smile. "N-No, of course not," he stammered slightly. "We were just having a slight disagreement about research methods, is all." He gazed into her eyes, searching for signs of distress. "You told him? You're all right?" Buffy nodded. "I'm fine, Giles." She turned away and headed for the kitchen to get a soda. "Of course, that doesn't mean he took it well. That whole soul thing?" she called out over her shoulder. "Wig city." Soda in hand, she entered the living room, taking a sip. "He tried his level best to convince me that he's more evil than The Grinch, Attila the Hun, and Principal Snyder all rolled into one." Giles turned sharply toward her, and she hurried to clarify. "*Verbally*, Giles," she told him, rolling her eyes. "I don't have a mark on me." None that I'd show you, anyway, she smirked to herself. "So, what's new on the research front?" "Not so fast. What happened with Spike? What did he say?" The Watcher was curious about Spike's reaction to having a soul and being a father. He couldn't imagine that it was as non-violent as Buffy made it out to be. Buffy threw her hands up in the air. "What do you think he said, Giles? He freaked, okay? He said things - told me things I'd rather not know - just to prove he's still a demon. It wasn't pretty." She ran a hand through her hair agitatedly. "I still don't think he believes me about his soul. It's going to take time for him to accept it." "And your..." He cleared his throat. "Your condition? Did he believe you about that?" She gave him a lopsided smile. "Yeah, for some reason, that was a little easier for him to swallow. After the initial shock and denial, which I suppose was just a typical kneejerk male reaction. After that he was fine, if a little...stunned. Anyway, he knows this is his child, I haven't been with anyone else." "Well, yes, Buffy, but I'm surprised that he was willing to just accept you telling him that. He's not the most trusting sort, and in truth, no man can ever really know for sure if a woman is faithful." "Giles, hello? Vampire, heightened sense of smell? Trust me, he knows." Giles blushed and turned away, uncomfortable with where the conversation was headed. He looked up to find Willow smirking at him, and threw her a dirty look of his own. "Yes, ahem, well, you were inquiring about research? Why don't we concentrate on that for the moment, all right? Safe, reliable, mundane research." The two girls grinned at each other behind his back. Ruffling Giles had always been one of their favorite pastimes, and even though things were far from normal at the moment, they still found themselves able to derive pleasure from his visible discomfort. Childish, yes, but far too much fun for them to want to give it up. He made it way too easy for them. Buffy sat down on the couch and motioned for Willow to join her. They clasped hands briefly, each giving a gentle squeeze, then Buffy looked up at her Watcher. "So, Giles, let's hear it. Have you found anything new?" "Not information, no, but I may have a new possible source, or at least some form of help." "Source?" she asked, eyebrows raised. Giles sat down on one of the chairs. "There's an old friend of mine..." he began, and proceeded to tell her about Damien Carstairs, renegade demon expert. He spoke at length about their relationship, then informed Buffy that Damien had gone underground, so to speak. "I'm doing everything I can to try to track him down," he finished. The Slayer nodded slowly. "And you think he can help?" she asked hopefully. Giles wanted more than anything to be able to give her absolutes, but there was no way he could mislead her. "I'm not certain, Buffy. Right now, he's the only person connected with the Council that I trust. There is no one more knowledgeable about demons, and he is a doctor. At the very least, we'll need his medical skills." The reminder of all of the uncertainties that Buffy faced cast a pall over the room. There was a moment of awkward silence as a variety of unpleasant, and sometimes downright terrifying possibilities occurred to each of them. Trying to drive off a feeling of utter helplessness, Willow suggested hitting the books again. She picked up her pen and continued translating, while Giles and Buffy grabbed more files and continued the search for Damien. ********** >From the Diary of Lucien Aubry 10 August 1435 It appears that I must put aside my plan to follow Anne this evening. Claudine DeLacey's time has come and Marie-Therese is to act as midwife for her. It is far too close to nightfall for her to go alone, so I must accompany her. I shall have to take care of this business with Anne tomorrow. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ >From the Journal of Anne LeMaire 11 August 1435 Something has happened, something so terrible, I almost dare not speak of it. Marie-Therese is dead. Murdered. Viciously drained of her blood, right before Lucien's eyes. And I was not there to stop it. They were on their way to Claudine DeLacey's to help with the birth when they where set upon by vampires. Lucien's stake found two of them, but Marie-Therese was already held captive by the others. Her throat was nearly torn out, and Lucien would have been next if not for the arrival of a group of drunken English soldiers. The vampires ran off, and one of the soldiers was sober enough to go for help, but it was too late. I should have been in the city, patrolling. Instead, I was lying in my lover's arms, oblivious to the sacred duty that I am entrusted with. I was wantonly sharing my body with a vampire - a creature I am sworn to destroy. What have I done? Guillaume swore to me that his clan is forbidden to hunt in the city. Such a large number of vampires hunting together - they could only have been his. He had said that he'd kill anyone who tried to part us. Dear God... He would not, he could not... I do not know what to believe anymore. How could I have forsaken all that I am, all that I was born to be? Lucien looked at me with such hatred, such contempt. I cannot fault him for it, for I hold myself in contempt as well. I failed them both. Marie-Therese was the only mother I have had for the past ten years. She was the dearest person in Lucien's life, and now she is gone. Forever. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 12 August 1435 Another life lost, another death that ultimately was my fault. We received word today that Claudine died in childbirth. Without Marie-Therese and Lucien to help with the difficult labor, she bled profusely and could not be saved. She delivered a healthy babe, a boy. Motherless, due to my incompetence. Motherless - just as I am. Will my babe also be motherless? Will I die in childbirth? I have never felt so frightened, or so alone. ~~~~~~~~~ 13 August 1435 Marie-Therese was cremated today. It is common practice to burn the victims of vampire attack, as a precaution against their rising. It is not possible unless there is an exchange of blood from the host, but the villagers will not risk it. I was reminded of Jehanne again, and so very thankful that Marie-Therese could not feel the flames devouring her body. Lucien is inconsolable, and speaks little. There is nothing I can say or do to comfort him. I have not seen Guillaume since that night. I cannot face him in my present state, filled with such distrust. I fear what might happen if I saw him now. Lucien raged at me to find the vampires and kill them. I searched, but could find no sign of a renegade band. I cannot go against all of Guillaume's clan by myself. There are far too many of them. And I have little enough strength in my condition. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 15 August 1435 I have tried so hard to stay away from Guillaume. I can feel him lurking outside my window at night, but I resist his call. It is not easy. My body hungers for him and my soul cries out for his touch. And yet, I hate his kind for what they have done. And I hate myself for wanting him. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 17 August 1435 Tonight, I stopped resisting and went to Guillaume. He was concerned, for he had heard about Marie-Therese. I would not let him touch me, and though I could see the hurt in his eyes, I railed at him for allowing his minions to hunt in the city. He denied involvement, saying that there had been a rebellion within the clan, and that he had destroyed those minions who disobeyed him. I screamed that it did not matter, that Marie-Therese was still dead, that I had still betrayed my calling by lying with him. I remember hitting him, crying, and I remember that he let me, that he held me until I had no tears left. He said that he would never do anything to hurt me. He said that I - and the life that I carry - are more precious to him than life's blood itself. He wants to take me away from here, but I cannot leave Lucien, not now. He has no one. I cannot turn my back on my responsibility. *************** Willow passed the translated entries to Giles with a shaking hand. He scanned them quickly, then looked up at her pale face. "Willow..." He handed the papers to Buffy, then turned to the redhead, clasping her cold hands in his. "Are you all right?" "It's the same, Giles," she whispered brokenly. "Just like Oz." Her face crumpled, and tears that she thought had long been shed came pouring out again. "I - I can't...I'm sorry, I can't...I can't read anymore..." "Shh," he whispered, pulling her close. "Don't apologize." He glanced up, catching Buffy's pain-filled eyes with his own. "We'll continue this another time." Willow rested her head on his shoulder and let the tears fall. After reading the entries, Buffy joined them on the couch and rubbed Willow's back as she cried, trying to sort out her own thoughts. The journal entries were mirroring her own life so closely - what else did they have in store for her, and for those around her? If the possibilities were anything like what she'd imagined so far, then she didn't want to find out. Ignorance was bliss, right? After calming Willow, Giles urged the girls to go home and get some rest. He could easily work on the journals himself, and had several leads for places in which to try contacting Damien. All he had to do was send out messages and wait for at least one of them to be answered. Buffy and Willow gave token protests, but left just the same, each of them having their own reasons for wanting to leave the journals behind for one day. There was always tomorrow. For now, anyway, there would still be a tomorrow.