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Title: Candy Man (1/3)

Author: Gilesbabe

Pairing: Giles/Buffy

Rating: R - I think that’s too high, but better to be too high than too low and offend someone. A couple of naughty words. Making out and mention of partial nudity, but no detailed descriptions. Marital nudity mentioned, but no detailed descriptions.

Synopsis: Ripper turns Buffy's world upside down.

Alternate universe - that becomes pretty obvious

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to the characters created by Joss Whedon and so beautifully portrayed by the actors, especially Anthony Stewart Head. I am making no profit from my story and no copyright infringement is intended.

Authors Notes: Escargoat was asking in her journal on livejournal.com if there have been any stories based on Band Candy with Giles/Buffy instead of Giles/Joyce. The point was stressed that to follow cannon there had to be either no sex because Buffy is still underage, or move the episode to after her 18th birthday. This story popped into my head.

I decided to go with same time frame in Season 3, so no sex, but plenty of kissing and touching. After all 17-year olds do that all the time, and Giles does know that she is no longer a virgin. (g) Fair warning, there is ick factor. I made it Joyce/Snyder. Hehehe.

The story diverges from the episode in Giles' apartment; just after he and Joyce got Buffy to leave.

Chapter 1 - Buffy Meets Ripper

"Do you think she noticed anything?"

Giles turns from the mantel, a cigarette in his mouth. As he lowers his head to light the cigarette, he looks out the window, following Buffy until she is out of sight. He smiled. "No. For such a smart girl she can be really stupid at times."

Joyce frowned. "Buffy is not stupid."

"Didn't I just say she was smart? But really," he sniffs the air, "I can smell the beer, even though it's closed now, not to mention the cigarette smoke from before. With her enhanced Slayer senses she couldn't have missed them. Just because in her pretty little brain 'Mom and Giles and beer and cigarettes' don't go together, she wouldn't let herself smell them."

Giles frowned. "I'll have to scold her about that. Ignoring her senses just because someone is doing something unexpected could put her in danger."

Joyce gets up from the sofa and walks over to Giles, putting her arm around him. She leans in close to his face and says, petulantly, "Buffy, Buffy, Buffy. That’s all you ever want to talk about. I thought we were going to have some fun." She ran her hand up his back and tickled the nape of his neck.

"She's my Slayer. She always comes first, she always will. If you don't like it, shove off." He pulls away from her and walks over to the record player.

Joyce pouts, but it doesn't have the same effect as when Buffy does and Giles ignores her. After a few minutes she shrugs and joins him at the record player. "It's just that she's my daughter; I shouldn't have to compete with her for a man's attention."

"Well, she's not MY daughter, and there's no competition. She's first." Giles glares at her. "Do you want to listen to this record, or do you want to argue?"

Joyce glares back. "If she's so special, why didn't you go with her? Some vampire might be sneaking up on her as we speak."

"Not bloody likely, it's still daylight. Time enough to go after her when it gets dark. Now do you want to listen to this or not?" He takes another drag from his cigarette.

Joyce shrugs again and goes to the end table, reaching under it to pull out a bottle of beer. She opens it and takes a swig. "Sure, why not."

Buffy pulled up outside of Willow's house and honked the horn. Willow stared in astonishment when she saw Buffy behind the wheel.

"How did you get your Mom to let you have the car?"

Buffy smiled brightly. "I didn't even ask, she just gave me the keys. Said that Giles could drive her home later. Pretty cool, huh?" She put the car in gear and zoomed away from the curb.

Willow quickly fastens her seat belt and braces a hand against the dashboard. "Giles was with your Mom? Did he say why he wasn't at school?"

"Giles said they decided to set up a schedule for me and that was more important than school." Buffy frowned. "Something felt weird, Will. They were acting like they were trying to get rid of me. Mom just handed me the keys and told me to drive carefully."

She turned to give Willow a serious look. "Just yesterday she was all paranoid about me running away if she let me use the car. And she brought all that up about me failing the written test. Then today she just hands me the keys and practically shoves me out the door."

Willow gives a panic stricken look ahead. "Buffy, road!"

Buffy swerves just in time to keep from hitting a parked car. Once the car is going straight again, she turns back to Willow. "I tell you Will, something was wrong. If I didn't know better I could have sworn that I smelled cigarette smoke in Giles' apartment."

Willow, keeping her eyes firmly on the street ahead, frowned. "But, Giles doesn’t smoke, and neither does your Mom, so how could you have smelled cigarette smoke?" Her frown cleared. "Oh, someone else must have left just before you got there."

Still frowning, Buffy turned her attention back to the road. "Maybe, but something just felt, I don't know, off. Like it wasn't really my Mom and Giles that I was talking to."

"Do you think we should go over there and check it out?"

Buffy thought for a few minutes, then her frown cleared. "Better not. Mom might change her mind and take back the car. Let's go see what the guys are doing."

Later that evening, back at Giles' apartment, things look very different.

Giles has changed clothes. He's now wearing a pair of tight, faded, blue jeans and a white t-shirt. His hair is styled differently, he's wearing an earring in his left ear, and he's not wearing his glasses. He is lying on the floor, smoking yet another cigarette and listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. An empty beer bottle rests next to his other hand.

Joyce is lounging back on the sofa. She has obviously been home for a change of clothes. The short skirt, knee high boots, and blouse with most of its buttons undone, looks like something Buffy would wear. She is wearing a lot of bangle bracelets and large hoop earrings. She has re-styled her hair as well and has applied more make-up than she normally wears. She takes a drink from another beer.

"I'm bored. I thought we were going to have some fun, but all we're doing is listening to your records. Let's go to the Bronze."

Ripper sat up, glaring at her. "That place is nowhere, I wouldn't be caught dead there."

"Well, the kids think it's fun, and I want to go." Joyce glared back.

"I'm not stopping you, go ahead."

"But it's dark out there. What about all the vampires?"

Ripper heaved a big sigh. "All right, I'll walk you to the Bronze. But you're on your own after that." He sat up a little straighter. "I should find Buffy and make sure she's safe too." He stands, goes over to Joyce and grabs her hand, pulling her to her feet. "Let's go."

They head for the door, Ripper automatically detouring to grab some stakes from the weapons chest. Joyce takes some as well, putting them in her purse.

As they walk down the street, Joyce puts her arm around Ripper's waist, getting as close to him as possible while still moving. He looks down at her in irritation, then shrugs and puts his arm around her shoulder. Joyce keeps trying to start a conversation, but Ripper isn't paying attention. His eyes are scanning the streets and sidewalks around them.

"Are you looking for vampires?"

"No, I'm looking for Buffy. She should be patrolling, but I don't see her. I hope she hasn't run into any problems."

Joyce pulls away in a huff. "Buffy, again. She's all you ever want to talk about. Maybe she should live with you for a while, and then you would see how hard it is to be the parent of a Slayer. I don't know where she is half the time, staying out all hours of the night." She starts to stalk away.

Ripper grabs her hand, turning her back to him. "Listen, you stupid bint, I'll only say this one more time. Buffy is not my daughter. And if she did live with me I wouldn't have any problem knowing where she was at night." He smiled suggestively.

Joyce gaped at him for a moment, then decided that he wasn’t implying what he seemed to be implying. She jerked her hand away and started back down the street, only to stop in front of a store window. "That is so pretty."

Ripper looked at the feathered wrap on the mannequin, imagining it on Buffy. If he got it for Joyce, maybe she'd let Buffy wear it. "That would look good on you. Do you fancy it?"

Joyce looked around. "The store's closed."

Ripper gave her a wicked grin. "No problem." He picked up a nearby trash can and threw it through the window. Joyce looked around nervously as the sound of breaking glass echoed in the street. Ripper climbed into the display and took the wrap off the mannequin. As he prepared to jump out of the display he grabbed a hat that was there and put it on. Jumping out he placed the wrap around Joyce's shoulders. They start to walk on down the street.

"Hold it right there!" The voice came from behind them. They turned and saw a police officer pointing a gun at them.

Joyce gave a little scream and grabbed onto Ripper's arm. He shook her off, pushing her gently away. He grinned mischievously, moving away from her and towards the officer.

"Don't come any closer!" the officer demanded, the gun shaking.

"Ripper, be careful." Joyce warned.

"He's not going to shoot me, are you?" Ripper taunted, moving slightly to the left as he stepped nearer.

The officers' hand started shaking harder. "Yes, I will if you come closer. Just stay right there." His voice was filled with panic. Down the street another window was broken and he jerked his head toward the sound.

Ripper rushed the officer, butting him in the stomach with his head. When the man folded over in pain, Ripper hit him in the chin with his knee. The officer fell, unconscious. He grabbed the gun as the man fell, putting it in the back of his pants. He grinned at Joyce. "I told you he wouldn't shoot me."

Joyce rushed over, throwing her arms around his neck. "Ripper, you were terrific!" She kissed him.

Ripper kissed her back. His hormones were in overdrive from the fight, demanding release. He moved her backward, trying to find something to push her against. They reached the police car and he laid her down on the hood. Just as Ripper started to follow her down, the small part of him that was still Giles demanded that he stop. Confused by the conflicting messages, Ripper pulled away and looked down at the woman lying there. Nice bit of skirt; beautiful, sexy, and obviously willing, but not the one he wanted. Not his Slayer. He stepped back.

"We don't have time for this. I need to find my Slayer."

Joyce opened her eyes to see him walking quickly down the street. She gave a shriek of indignation, jumped off the hood of the car and started to follow him. As she passed the downed officer she saw the handcuffs that were fastened to his belt. On impulse she grabbed them. There was a vague thought of cuffing Ripper to her bed so he couldn't get away. All she had to do was get him to her house. She ran to catch up.

"Maybe Buffy's at home, why don't we go check?

"Not likely, she's got your car. She'll be driving all around town." He paused. "That's it, she's doing her patrol in the car. I should be looking for it instead of her." He spun on his heel and headed in another direction.

"Wait for me." Joyce hurried after him.

Ripper stopped. "You said you wanted to go to the Bronze. There it is." He pointed across the street.

"If Buffy's using the car on her patrol, it won't take as long. Maybe she's in the Bronze. You should come in to see."

Ripper frowned. "I'm not going in there, besides she can't be here, your car isn't in the parking lot. Get in there where you'll be safe." He continued down the street.

Joyce watched him for a few minutes, then stomped her foot in frustration before crossing the street to enter the Bronze. She stood on the edge of the crowd, looking over the possibilities. Most of them were so old.

Wait a minute, what about him. Joyce strolled across the room, intent on her prey. She had always considered him a bully, but suddenly something about him appealed to her. Maybe it was the ears; they were kinda cute. She wondered if the old wives tales applied to ears the way they did to noses. She walked up to Snyder. "Hi, do you want to dance?"

Ripper continued down the street, headed west away from the Bronze, subconsciously noticing that there were no vampires prowling as they usually did at this time of night. The small part that was Giles was worried, but Ripper shrugged it off. He was only interested in finding his Buffy, his Slayer. It was time she knew how he felt. He grinned; his little Slayer was going to see what it felt like to have a living, breathing, man make love to her. Ripper turned the corner, heading for the first cemetery.

Two blocks east of the Bronze a jeep zipped around the corner, it's tires protesting the speed the vehicle was traveling. The back door panel on the drivers' side was dented, and there were several scrapes in the paint. The jeep zoomed into the parking lot for the club, brakes squealing as it came to a stop. Buffy hopped quickly out of the drivers' side. Willow, rather pale, emerged from the passenger side and Oz exited from the back seat.

"You guys are my witnesses, right? He ran the stop sign and hit me, then refused to give me his insurance information. Promise you'll back me up with Mom or she'll never let me have the car again." Buffy was talking as she walked into the club, not noticing that Willow and Oz were still at the car.

"I know I should tell the truth," Willow said as she leaned against Oz, "but I don't think I can ever ride in a car that she's driving again."

"That's okay, even if we tell the truth, I don't think Mrs. Summers will let her have the car again." Oz paused. "I still don't understand why she let her have it this time. Something's not right, and not just with her. Have you noticed how all the adults are acting?"

"Yeah, starting with Ms. Barton at school. And Giles, skipping a class." Willow shook her head. "Something is major wrong. We have to talk Buffy into going back to Giles'. We need to research this." Oz nodded and the two walked into the club.

Willow almost ran into Buffy, who had stopped just inside the door. They stared in shock. The Bronze, that ultra hip hangout for the teens and young adults of Sunnydale, has been over run with adults. Adults that are not acting very adult like. Four of the towns leading business men are on the stage belting out 'Louie Louie' while they strip. Teachers from the school, Ms. Barton among them, are cavorting around the floor to some imaginary music.

Willow gasps and blinks, not believing her eyes. "Buffy," she taps her friends' shoulder, "isn't that your Mom over there?"

Buffy turns and looks in the direction Willow indicated. The shock is so great she almost falls down. Her mother is slow dancing with Principal Snyder. They are clutching each other tightly, and with the added height her mother has due to the boots she is wearing, that means that Snyder's face is plastered between her breasts.

Buffy stalks over to her mother. "Mom, what are you doing?" She grabs Snyder and pulls him away. "How can you be dancing with him? He kicked me out of school!" She notices the wrap her mom is wearing. "Where did you get this?"

Joyce preens, smoothing her hands down her body. "Isn't this cool? Ripper got it for me."

Buffy stared at her. "Ripper? You mean Giles? Is he here?" She looked around frantically.

"No, he didn't come in, he's out looking for you." Joyce gave an exaggerated sigh. "He looks so hot, but he was boring. All he wanted to do was listen to his records and talk about you. My Slayer this and my Slayer that. I wanted to have some fun so I made him bring me here." She giggled. "Although it was a little exciting when he broke the window to get this for me and the cop tried to arrest him."

Buffy froze and slowly turned back to her mother. "He broke a window and stole that? Giles? He was arrested?"

"No, he beat the cop up and we came here." Joyce gave a petulant shrug. "I don’t want to talk about him, I want to dance." Joyce turned around, looking for Snyder. He strolled over from the bar, waving two candy bars in front of him.

"Look, I was able to score some candy. Do you want any?"

Joyce grabbed one of the bars from his hand. "You are so cool. I just love this stuff." She rips the wrapping off the bar and takes a big bite. "Mmmmm. This chocolate is so groovy. Was there any more?"

Snyder frowned. "Nah, that was all they had." His face brightened. "I know where the distribution center is. We could go there and get some."

Joyce beamed, threading her arm through his. "Let’s go." She turned back to Buffy. "If you’re here that means the car is here. Let me have the keys." She held out her hand.

"Mom, what is wrong with you? You don’t do things like this." Buffy backed away. "I am so not letting you have the car keys in your condition. You could get hurt."

Joyce stamped her foot. "I want to have some fun! You always get to do fun things, stay out late, slay demons, date vampires. Why should you be the only one to get to do the fun things? I want some more candy! Snydie is going to take me to the distribution center, so give me the keys. Go find some vampires to stake, or better yet, go find your Watcher."

Willow comes up behind Buffy. "All of the adults are under some kind of spell. I can see it in their auras."

"It must be the candy. Everyone is eating it and they’re all acting like they are high." Buffy looked at Willow and Oz with concern. "Mom keeps calling Giles ‘Ripper’ and she said he beat up a policeman, so he must be effected too. We have to find him. Snyder said he knows where the distribution center for the candy is. If we go there maybe we can find out who's doing this, and why."

"That’s one option," Willow said. "I think we need to go to the library and research this. Maybe Giles is back to normal and is waiting for us there. We should go see."

Buffy thought about this for a moment. "It might be better if we divided our forces. Willow, you and Oz head for the library. Call Xander and Cordy and have them meet you there. See if you can find any kind of spells that use candy to control people. I’m going to go to this distribution center and see who’s in charge."

Willow, relieved that she didn’t have to get back into the car with Buffy, nodded quickly and turned to leave. As she and Oz were going out the door, Buffy could see that she was talking on her cell phone.

Good, Buffy thought, the gang will be safe in the library researching the problem. Now I just need to find Giles. She turned back to look for her mother saw her and Snyder plastered together again. She shuddered. ‘Snydie’? How could her mom find Snyder attractive?

"Mom," she said sharply, "we don’t have time for that. We have to find out who is doing this to all the adults, and why." She shuddered again. "Besides, that is just wigging me out." Buffy grabbed her mother’s hand and yanked her toward the exit. Joyce held onto Snyder and he was pulled out the door as well.

When they reached the jeep, Buffy waited for Joyce’s reaction, but she just climbed into the back seat with Snyder, giggling. Buffy made a face and got in the drivers' seat. She started the jeep and peeled out of the parking lot, tires squealing.

Ripper was checking out the Desert View cemetery. This was the third one he had gone through, and the small part of him that was still Giles was growing more worried. No vampires. Where were they all? His pace quickened. He had to find Buffy.

He paused. He felt a zinging sensation up his spine. Vampires. They were close. For an instant he was distracted. Is this what Buffy’s ’spidy sense’ felt like? Why was he feeling it? He never had before.

His attention returned to the task at hand when four vampires rushed at him from the shadows behind a crypt. He grinned. Good, he had been looking for a fight. Ripper charged the nearest vampire.

Buffy, following Snyder’s directions to the distribution center, saw a disturbance in the Desert View cemetery as she was driving past. She stopped the jeep and turned to the couple in the back seat. She winced at the sight that met her eyes. Her Mom and Snyder were kissing, their hands roaming over each other.

"Mom!" she said sharply. When the two broke apart to look at her she handed her mother a large cross. "Stay here and shove this into the face of anyone who tries to get in. I’ve got to go stake some vamps." Her mother nodded and took the cross. As soon as Buffy left the jeep, Joyce dropped the cross on the seat and went back to kissing Snyder.

Buffy ran towards the fight, but stopped in astonishment when she saw how well the ‘victim’ was handling the vampires. He moved smoothly, his body a blur of motion. One by one the vampires were dusted. When the last vampire had been dispatched, the man turned to Buffy and she caught her breath. "Giles!" she exclaimed.

He ran over to her, and picking her up, spun her around. He laughed, "The name’s Ripper, luv. I knew I’d find you on patrol." Ripper put her down and started to lead her out of the cemetery. "Come on, Slayer, let’s go find some more vamps."

Buffy dug in her heels. "Giles, we need to go this way, my Mom’s waiting in the jeep. We’re on our way to where the candy is being made."

Ripper’s eyes lit up. "Cool! I could really go for some more of that candy, it was really good." He changed directions and headed for the jeep.

Buffy led the way back to the jeep, but when she started to open the driver's door Ripper pulled the keys from her hand.

"You may be the best Slayer that ever lived, but I'm not letting you drive any vehicle that I'm in."

Buffy frowned, started to protest, then ran what he had said back through her mind. "You really think I'm the best Slayer ever?"

"Of course," he smiled possessively, "none of the others come close to you, you're MY Slayer."

Buffy blinked; the tone of his voice and the expression in his eyes made her feel strange. Hot.

No. That was ridiculous. She couldn't be getting turned on by Giles.

Buffy walked around the jeep and got in the passenger side. Ripper smiled at her again, a strange smile that was equal parts mischievous little boy and predatory male. She gulped and looked away. Ripper started the jeep and roared off down the road.

Buffy glanced into the back seat to ask Snyder to repeat the directions to the distribution center. She gasped. Snyder and her Mom were lying on the backseat, moving in a very suggestive manner. "Mom! Stop that, it's disgusting!"

Ripper looked in the rear view mirror. "Blimey, Joyce, I thought you had better taste than that."

Joyce pushed Snyder off and sat up, straightening her blouse and hair. "You're just jealous because I'm with him instead of you."

"Oh, please, I'm the one who walked away." Ripper turned his gaze to Snyder. "Alright mate, where do we find the candy?" Snyder started to answer, but Ripper cut him off. "And for God's sake, wipe that lipstick off your mouth. It makes you look like a ponce."

Snyder didn't know what a ponce was, but from the other man's tone it wasn't good. He wiped his mouth with his shirtsleeve. Looking out the window he said, "Turn left at the light, go three blocks, turn left again and the street ends at the warehouse."

"Okay," Ripper said, sending the jeep into a screeching turn at the light. Buffy grabbed the dash to keep her balance and had a flashback of Willow doing the same thing while she was driving.

She owed Willow a serious apology.

A few moments later was another hair-raising turn soon followed by the squealing of brakes as Ripper stopped behind a group of people crowded around the warehouse loading dock.

Two vampires, in full game face, were standing on the dock but no one was paying any attention to them. The crowd was only interested in the candy bars the vamps were throwing to them.

"Oh, candy!" Joyce exclaimed. She and Snyder scrambled out the back door and headed for the crowd.

"Mom, no," Buffy started, but Joyce ignored her. She turned to the man still sitting in the driver's seat. "Giles, help me stop them. The candy has been cursed and they are under a spell."

Ripper reached over and grabbed the back of her head. He held her still as he pressed a hard kiss to her lips. He pulled back. "There's no Giles here, I'm Ripper, luv, and anything you want, just ask. I'm your Watcher, so I'm yours to command." He kissed her again, his tongue flicking out to lick her lips, coaxing them to open. When they didn't, he gave her lower lip a gentle bite and drew back, smiling smugly at her dazed expression.

Buffy blinked rapidly and nervously licked her suddenly dry lips. It didn't help. She could taste the beer that Giles had been drinking. She swiped her tongue over her lower lip again, watching his eyes heat as they followed her action.

No, she reminder herself, not Giles, Ripper. He had been effected as well. One good thing, he did seem to be willing to listen and help her.

"Gi—Ripper," she began, "there has to be a reason why someone would do this. We have to get into that warehouse."

"No problem." Ripper hopped out of the jeep and purposefully strode to the dock. Buffy rushed after him and arrived in time to hear him say something in Latin and then wave his hand. A flash of bright light flooded the dock area.

The vampires cried out, covering their faces. Ripper threw two stakes. Both vampires exploded into dust. Buffy stared. Giles, using magic so casually?

Since everyone else had closed their eyes when the light flashed, none had seen what had happened to the vamps. Not that they cared about anything other than the fact that no one was passing out any more candy. The crowd started fighting each other for what candy bars were still available.

Buffy grabbed Joyce. "Mom, you need to come with me, it's not safe out here." She headed for the steps leading into the warehouse. Since Snyder was holding Joyce's other hand, he came along too.

Ripper vaulted onto the dock, ran over and kicked the door open. He hurried into the warehouse ahead of Buffy.

Rushing into the warehouse, Buffy had to stop abruptly to keep from running into Ripper. He was staring at a man talking on the telephone on the far side of the warehouse. Ripper growled. Hearing the sound, the man turned.

With a panicked look the man said, "You had better hurry" and hung up the phone. He smiled weakly. "Ripper, old friend, it's good to see you again."

"Ethan Rayne," Buffy said in disgust. "Magic being used to control people? I should have known you were involved in this. What's the deal?"

Ethan gave a nervous laugh. "You know me, any chance to serve chaos." He spun around and ran for the back of the warehouse. Passing stacks of boxes, he shoved them over to block the path of those chasing him.

Buffy ran after him, but as she started to detour around the fallen boxes, they slid out of her way, giving her a clear path. Magic. Giles, no, Ripper was using magic again. Rounding a corner, she saw that Ethan had disappeared. Moving quietly, she closed her eyes, extending her senses to listen for any sound that betrayed his presence.

Ripper ran up behind her, opening his mouth to speak, then closing it when he saw what she was doing. Responding to instinct, he placed a hand on her shoulder. Magic flowed from his body to hers, and she could feel Ethan's aura. Buffy opened her eyes and looked at Ripper. His eyes were glowing, and unknown to her, hers were as well. They grinned at each other, identical, feral, grins. Buffy pulled away, walking straight to the box where Ethan was hiding. She punched a hole in the box, and pulled him out.

"Look what we have here, the prize inside the crackerjack box."

"Looks more like a gag gift to me," Ripper smirked.

Buffy tilted her head, considering. "No, I think it's a decoder ring. You know, the one that tells you the enemy's secrets." She gave Ethan a chilling smile. "That's what you are, aren‘t you? You're a decoder ring, and you're going to tell us everything we want to know."

Ethan gave a nervous little laugh. "I have no idea what you're talking about. My car broke down near here and I was using the phone to call for assistance. It was just an accident that you found me….." His voice trailed off as he was lifted into the air.

"Oh, I'll believe that, 'old friend'," Ripper said. He circled around the dangling man. "You never expected anyone to figure out that you were behind all this." He grinned wickedly. "You didn't count on my Slayer."

Ethan floated gently to the floor. "Now, Ripper, you know it's no good using magic against me. Anything you can do, I can do."

"Anything? I think not." Ripper punched Ethan in the face, knocking him down. "You always depend on your magic to protect you, but it can't protect you against me. You were never any good at anything physical, you always counted on me for that."

"Guys, save the testosterone for later. I need to know what the sitch is. Why is the spell aimed only at the adults? Just what are you planning to do, Ethan?" Buffy grabbed him by his shirt and hauled him to his feet.

"I don't know what's going on, I swear. This isn't my party."

Buffy exchanged disbelieving looks with Ripper, then backhanded Ethan. The force of the blow sent him reeling back into the boxes, and he slid to the floor, dazed. She pulled him to his feet. "Let's try this again, shall we? What are you planning, Ethan?"

"I'm not running this show." He flinched back as Ripper started to swing at him. "I'm just a sub-contractor; the person you need to talk to is a vampire named Trick. He hired me to cause a distraction."

"Trick." Buffy frowned. "Never heard of him." She turned to Ripper who shook his head. "What's his deal?"

"Apparently there is a demon named Lurconis that the mayor wants on his side until his ascension. Trick is arraigning the tribute, and he said that all the adults had to be incapacitated to keep them from interfering. It had to be done in a manner that would make the adults blame themselves when they found out what had happened. All the other vampires have orders to stay away from the humans. In the confusion they would be easy pickings, but it would have drawn your attention. Trick was hoping that you would be distracted by the adults' behavior, especially your Mother and Ripper. That's all I know."

Ripper knocked him down.

"I'm telling you the truth," Ethan said, in an aggrieved voice, as he lay on the floor rubbing his jaw.

Ripper smiled at him. "You probably are, but I'm sure you deserved it for something."

Buffy shook her head, rolling her eyes. "I need to call Willow. The gang is at the library researching this." She headed back towards the front of the warehouse.

Ripper levitated Ethan and started after Buffy, pushing Ethan's floating body ahead of him.

Ethan allowed himself to be moved without interference. As he had said earlier, he was a match for Ripper in the use of basic Magiks, but the casual way Ripper was using them now was disturbing. Even in their wildest times, Ripper had been hesitant to use magic outside of their apartment, preferring to work his castings in strictly controlled conditions. How, exactly, had the spell he had put on the candy effected Ripper?

Turning the corner back into the main warehouse area, Buffy groaned. Her Mom and Snyder were all over each other again. "When is this going to end?" she asked rhetorically.

She got an answer. Ethan chuckled. "About 10 hours from now."

"How do you know that?"

"The spell is set to last for 12 hours after the last ingestion of the candy, but the effects reverse slowly, just like they started. So people will be close to normal 10 hours later. Unless they go to sleep, then the effects will be gone when they wake up. From the wrappers on the floor, it looks like they just ate another bar."

"Gi-Ripper, when did you last eat one?" Buffy asked him anxiously.

He cocked his head to one side, considering. "A bit before we left my flat, hour and a half to 2 hours ago."

"Great, 8 hours before I get my Watcher back. I swear Ethan, if anybody dies because of this, I will kill you."

Ripper frowned. "What do you mean 8 hours before you get your Watcher back? I’m your Watcher, and I’m right here." He grabbed her arm and turned her to face him. "And you will not kill Ethan."

Ethan gave a sigh of relief then tensed again as Ripper continued.

"You’re the Slayer. You kill demons, not humans, no matter how evil they are. I’ll kill him."

Buffy looked at him in shock. She shook her head. "I’ve got to call Willow and tell her about the demon. Maybe the gang can give us a clue as to what the tribute is supposed to be." Buffy walked over to the telephone on the desk. As she began punching in the numbers, her attention was caught by her mother and Snyder. "Mom, please, you’re going to turn me off sex for life!" Her comments didn’t stop them and she shuddered, turning so she couldn’t see them.

Ripper walked over to his Slayer, standing close to her, his hand on her shoulder as she talked to Willow on the phone. Behind them, Ethan floated gently to the ground. He looked around, spotting a crowbar on a nearby table. Moving quietly, he approached the two, raising the weapon. He decided to take out the Slayer first; in a physical fight he would have a better chance against Ripper. He was two steps away when, moving almost too fast to see, Ripper pulled the gun from the back of his pants, spun around and pointed it directly at Ethan’s face.

"I think you had better put that down," Ripper growled. He glared at Ethan, his eyes cold.

Ethan backed up a couple of steps, bent over and placed the crowbar on the floor. He straightened slowly, placing his hands in the air. "Easy, Ripper. I was just trying to buy some time to get away. I wasn’t going to hurt her." Ripper’s eyes grew murderous and Ethan became very afraid.

"She’s a Slayer, not bloody Supergirl. If you had hit her head with that you could have killed her. And the last time you were here you almost got her killed by putting that bloody tattoo on her." Ripper contemplated Ethan for a moment, then cocked the gun. "Give me one reason why I shouldn’t blow your bleeding head off."

A hand pushed Ripper’s arm down, pointing the gun at the floor. "I can give you two. He’s not worth going to jail for, and we don’t have the time. Willow said that the tribute for Lurconis is newborn babies. We need to get to the hospital. We might still have a chance to stop this."

Ripper shook his head. "Don’t get your hopes up, Luv. The candy has been in effect for hours, plenty of time for them to have already taken the babies."

"Willow also said that the ritual stipulated that the tribute be given at midnight. I don’t think vamps could be around babies for very long without eating them, and that would kind of defeat the purpose of why they were taking them."

"Let’s go." Ripper started towards the door.

"What are we going to do with Skippy here? As soon as we leave he’ll probably call the others to warn them."

"We could kill him and dump the body. No one would know who did it, and quite frankly, no one would care."

Buffy glared at Ripper. "I’m not letting you kill him, so think of something else." Ripper glared back at her. They were startled by Snyder’s voice.

"Can’t we just tie him up, or something? If we’re going to save the babies, we should be going." Both Buffy and Ripper looked around, astonished. Joyce and Snyder were standing there and it appeared, at least for the moment, that they could focus on something other than each other.

"Does anybody know if there’s any rope around here?" Buffy asked as she did a quick scan of the room.

"How about these?" Joyce asked, pulling a pair of handcuffs out of her purse.

Ripper grinned. "Very kinky, Joyce. I wouldn’t have thought you had it in you."

Joyce smirked at him. "See what you missed out on? We could have had a lot of fun."

"Mom!" Buffy exclaimed, shocked. "Where did you get……No, I don’t want to know. Just give them here." She took the handcuffs, walked over to Ethan, and spinning him around fastened his hands behind his back. She frowned. "How are these going to keep him from calling the others? He’ll probably magic them off as soon as we leave."

Ripper walked over and calmly smacked Ethan in the back of the head with the gun. Ethan’s body crumbled to the floor. "He can’t do anything until he wakes up, and that won't be any time soon. Let’s go."

Buffy stood looking at the empty cribs in the hospital nursery. Joyce was softly weeping and Snyder had his arm around her, patting her shoulder, making comforting sounds. Ripper walked up behind Buffy, placing his hand on her shoulder. Buffy felt the surge of power that was becoming familiar every time he touched her.

"None of the staff remember seeing anything, but one of them says that a person was handing out free candy bars just after supper. That was around seven, according to the charts. It could have happened any time after that."

"I don’t think so, it took a couple of hours for the candy to start effecting you guys." Buffy placed her hand in one of the cribs. "The blankets are still warm. It hasn’t been that long since they were here." She slammed her hand down, breaking the crib. "So close!"

"Easy, Slayer, we’ll find them. You said the ritual was to be at midnight, it’s just 11 o’clock now. We still have time."

"How? We can’t search all of Sunnydale in one hour. We need more information, something to narrow down the search area. I’ll call Willow again, maybe they’ve found something else."

Ripper closed his eyes, frowning in concentration. "Lurconis means glutton. I think I remember something from one of my books, a passage. ‘Lurconis dwells beneath the city, filth to filth.’ Beneath the city would be tunnels or catacombs, and the filth to filth would seem to indicate the sewers. I think we need to look in the sewers, someplace near deeper underground tunnels."

Buffy looked at him in amazement. He was reasoning like Giles, but he still sounded and acted like Ripper. And there was the surge of power she felt every time he touched her. The candy was effecting him in different ways than it was everyone else in town. He seemed to be able to focus on the situation better than her Mom and Snyder. Was it because he had magical abilities of his own? Or maybe, just maybe, it was that every time he touched her the power transfer bled off some of the effects of the candy.

"Right, I’ll call Willow and see if she can hack into the city sewer specs. While they are doing that, I think we should take Mom home where she’ll be safe." Ripper nodded his agreement.

Snyder spoke up. "Here, take my cell phone. That way you can start looking while your friends are on the computer. I’ll make sure Joyce gets home safely."

Joyce wiped tears from her eyes. "Yes, go find the babies. I’ll go home so you don’t have to worry about me." She and Snyder walked out of the nursery, arms around each other. Their heads were together and Buffy could hear whispering and giggling.

"Do you think it's safe to let them go alone?" Buffy asked Ripper.

He grinned. "Your Mum is a big girl, she knows what she's doing."

"No, she doesn’t." Buffy glared at him. "She's under the influence of the candy; you all are."

Ripper glared back. "Then you've got a choice, don't you? Keep your Mum from getting shagged or keep the babies from getting eaten. What's it gonna be, Slayer?"

Buffy sighed. "The babies, of course." She looked down the hall, seeing her mom and Snyder kissing in the elevator. The doors slid closed, blocking them from her sight. "Do you really think she'll be alright?"

Ripper bent and gave her a swift kiss. "She'll be fine, Luv." He took her hand and led her from the room.

45 minutes later they stopped to check the third of the possible locations that Willow had found for them. Buffy slid the sewer access cover to one side, listening carefully. She could hear voices below. "Someone's down there. This had better be it, we're out of time."

Ripper pulled her to her feet, encircling her with his arms. "Extend your senses. The voices you hear; is it people or vamps talking? Are the babies there? What can you feel?" he whispered in her ear.

Buffy shuddered. The power enveloped her, cocooning her in Ripper's essence. It was an intoxicating feeling. For the first time she understood the attraction of magic. "The babies are there, all six of them. There are a dozen vamps. There is one human, talking to one of the vamps. Something else is nearby, something very powerful."

Ripper released her. "That must be Lurconis. Let's get down there."

Buffy finished pushing the cover out of the way and climbed down the access ladder. Ripper followed. As they moved towards the light and sounds, they heard a voice say, "I smell humans. Stop them, no one must interfere." Four vampires came at them through the sewer tunnel.

Buffy and Ripper split apart, taking two each. They dusted them with almost ridiculous ease. Running through the sewer tunnel into the larger room, they saw a sight that made them pause. Five vampires stood between them and the rest of the room. Across the room a vampire stood next to the mayor, who turned and disappeared through another tunnel even as they watched. The two remaining vampires were moving the babies from a makeshift crib to an altar across a small moat. The moat was fed by a stream coming from a tunnel that accessed the sewers from the rear. A roaring, rumbling noise was coming from the tunnel.

Buffy looked at Ripper. "I'll take the vamps. You get the babies." He nodded. They charged the line. Ripper took out one vampire and kept moving, heading for the two that were handling the babies. Buffy dusted the first, and stayed stationary, daring the others to attack her. When they did, she dusted them easily. Obviously the mayor and his gang had felt that the city was in enough chaos that the Slayer wouldn't be able to interfere, because the vamps they had used as guards were not good fighters.

Buffy looked around, two vampires left: the one who had been talking to the mayor, and the one next to the altar, still holding one of the babies. Ripper dove into the moat, reaching for the baby in the vampires' arms. Buffy headed for the other; the one who must be the vampire called Trick.

Buffy was happy that Trick was a good fighter; she needed to get rid of some of the frustration from the events of the day. She had him down and was getting ready to stake him when there was a loud roaring sound mixed with screams. She jerked her head around.

A large demon snake had emerged from the tunnel behind the altar. The screams were coming from the vampire wriggling in its mouth. Buffy was relieved to see that the baby the vampire had been holding was in Rippers' arms as he bent protectively over the other baby on the altar. Relief turned to horror as the demon swallowed the vampire and opened its mouth to grab Ripper. Trick took advantage of her distraction to kick her off and scamper away. Buffy sat, helplessly watching, as the demon's mouth closed around Ripper.

She blinked. Lurconis roared in frustration. There seemed to be an invisible barrier between Ripper and the demon. It tried, and failed, to grab him again. Ripper looked at her and she could see the strain on his face. "Buffy, hurry!"

Buffy looked around frantically. She noticed the gas pipes running across the roof of the tunnel. Jumping up, she broke one of the pipes, twisting it around towards one of the torches the vampires had brought to light the tunnel. When the gas fumes touched the flames it created a giant blowtorch. Buffy aimed it at the demon. The demon caught fire, and with a howl of pain and rage, it retreated. Buffy pushed the pipe into the tunnel, letting the flames create a barrier. She turned back to Ripper, who hadn't moved.

As she got close, she could see that his t-shirt had been burned away, and that his back was red and blistered. "Oh, God, Giles! What happened?"

"What the bloody hell do you think happened? You got me when you got Lurconis. Call Willow."

"Why do you want me to call Willow? Did the babies get burned too?"

He tried to straighten up, but hissed in pain and curled back over. "No, the babies are fine. I want you to call Willow because we are going to need help. Tell them to bring something we can use to lift the babies out, instead of trying to carry them out while climbing the ladder. Ropes, blankets, something like that. And tell them to hurry. The babies have been put under a sleep spell so they wouldn't cry or fuss. The longer it lasts, the more it's possible that it could damage them."

Buffy nodded, watching him in concern. "What about you? Do you want Willow to bring something for the burns?"

"No, just tell them to get here." He lowered his head, hiding his expression from her.

Buffy opened the cell phone and punched in the number for the library. "Will, it's me. Yeah, we found them, at the last location you gave me. I need you guys to come help us get them out of the sewers. Bring some blankets and ropes, or something like that, to lift them out, you know like those rescue baskets on helicopters. Giles says to hurry, that they are under a spell and we need to get them back to the hospital. We can't leave down here, but Mom's car is next to the sewer access, so you shouldn't have trouble finding us." She paused, listening, "Okay, see you soon."

"Giles," He turned his head to glare at her. She sighed. "Ripper, give me those two. I'll put them with the others." He handed her the baby that was in his arms, muttering a steady stream of words that she didn't understand under his breath. "What are you saying?"

"You bloody well don't need to know," he snapped.

Buffy giggled.

"I'm so happy that my pain causes you amusement. Too bad Angelus didn't video tape my torture session, that would have given you plenty of laughs."

Buffy stared at him in shock. "Giles, I would never…it wasn't….I didn't mean…..I'm sorry." She turned away, blinking back tears. There was a long moment of silence, then behind her she heard splashing and more of what she assumed was cursing. Warm arms circled her waist and she was almost overwhelmed by the emotions sweeping over her.

A husky voice whispered, "I'm sorry, Luv. Forgive me?" A gentle kiss was pressed into her neck just under her right ear. It was the last straw. Tears overflowed, running down her cheeks. A soft moan was breathed against her neck. "Oh, Luv, don't cry." She was turned and gathered into his arms. He pressed her face against his chest.

"I'm a right bastard, I am. I'm not worthy of your tears."

"No, I'm not worthy of you. You've gone through so much for me, because of me. I was just laughing because you sounded like my Giles when he gets cranky." She put her arms around him, then backed away quickly when her accidental touch caused him to hiss in pain. She looked at him with tear filled eyes. "See, I'm doing it again. I’m hurting you."

Before he could answer, they heard a faint, "Guys, are you there?"

Buffy wiped the tears off her face and moved to the tunnel leading to the sewer access. "We're down here." A moment later Oz entered the room, followed by Willow. She turned back to lead them over to where the babies were laying in the makeshift crib.

Ripper was leaning heavily against the crib, hunched over slightly. "Willow, come here." When she reached his side, he placed a hand against her forehead. There was a small burst of light and Willow stepped back, momentarily dazed. Oz actually growled, and rushed to her side.

"No, it's okay," Willow said. She took a deep breath and stepped around behind Ripper. She gasped, "Are you sure I can do this?"

"I wouldn't have given you the knowledge if I didn't think you could handle it."

Willow swallowed nervously, then placed her hand a couple of inches above the burns. She started chanting softly and her hand began to glow. She smiled and her voice grew stronger. After a few minutes she stopped and Ripper straightened, stretching the muscles of his back. "Ahh, much better. Thanks, pet. Now, let's see about getting these babies back where they belong."

"Why didn't you do that yourself?" Buffy asked.

"Cause you can't heal yourself with magic. I don't know why, just that everyone I know who does magic says the same thing; you can heal others but not yourself. And it's not completely healed; I'll still need to put ointment on it. Now it's about the level of a bad sunburn instead of 3rd degree burns."

Buffy went behind him, looking at his back. She touched it gently and he shivered. "Sorry."

Ripper watched until Willow and Oz had left the area, then turned to her and said, "It didn't hurt, Luv." He gave her a look that was openly sexual.

Buffy blushed. "We need to get the babies back to the hospital." She picked one up and went to the access tunnel. She heard Ripper chuckling behind her.

Xander had taken the words 'rescue basket' to heart and had rigged up a plastic laundry basket with rope. Lined with a couple of blankets it was a safe and efficient way of lifting the babies out of the sewer. The ride to the hospital was a little crowded; six babies, five teenagers and Ripper, but it was made without difficulties. With the hospital staff still under the influence of the candy, it was easy to sneak the babies back into the nursery. Ripper released the sleep spell and the gang spent some time heating bottles and feeding the hungry babies. It was after 2 in the morning before Xander, the last to be dropped off, was left at his door. Ripper headed the jeep towards his flat.

When Buffy noticed the direction they were headed, she protested. "My house is back that way."

Ripper gave her a quick look. "Most likely Snyder is there. Do you really want to go home?"

Buffy groaned, putting her face in her hands. "Oh, no! Do you really think that they are……..? That is just so gross!"

"Well, you saw how they were acting with you right there. What was goin' to stop them when they were alone and near a bed?" He grinned at the muffled moan beside him. "Anyway, I need your help with my back. I can’t exactly put the burn ointment on myself."

Buffy sat upright. "I forgot. You should have said something while we were at the hospital."

‘It wasn’t bothering me then. Babies are safe, danger over, so now I notice the pain." At Buffy’s indrawn breath he continued, "Not all that bad, but enough to feel. Get the ointment on it and I’ll be fine."

By now they were pulling up in front of Giles’ apartment building. Buffy jumped out of the jeep, striding quickly up to the door. When she tried to open it, she got a shock. She turned to Ripper, amazed. "It’s locked. You never lock your door."

"Of course I locked it, this is a bloody Hellmouth after all." Ripper waved off her comments. "I’m thirsty, why don’t you get us something to drink and I’ll go get the ointment." He continued down the hall to the bathroom.

Buffy stood staring after him for a few minutes, then went to the kitchen. She filled the kettle and put it on the stove. She jumped when a shirt flew past her into the trash. Turning, she saw Ripper lounging against the kitchen doorway, arms crossed over his chest. Ripper without a shirt. Giles, without a shirt. When had Giles become so sexy? She blinked and gathered her thoughts. "I’ve got the water on for tea."

"Don’t bother, just grab me a beer, will you, luv?" He turned and went back into the living room.

Beer? Giles wanted a beer? Buffy looked in the refrigerator and saw two beer bottles. In the two years she had know him, she had never seen beer in his apartment. Wine, yes, Scotch too, but never beer.

Ripper called back to the kitchen. "Grab the other one for yourself if you want it. Come on, luv, times wasting."

"Ripper, you do remember I’m only 17, right? I’m not old enough to drink."

"You kill vamps every night and save the world on a regular basis. You can have a beer if you want one."

Buffy shook her head, grabbed one beer and a bottle of water, and then headed to the living room. Ripper had pulled the desk chair over near the coffee table and was straddling it. The tube of burn ointment was on the table. She handed him the beer. "Thanks, luv."

Buffy picked up the ointment and moved behind him to put it on his back. She drew her breath in, shocked. The torches that had lit the tunnel hadn’t given her a very good view before, but now she saw that his back was a mass of scars. "What happened?"

Ripper took a deep drink of his beer. "I’ve lived a hard life. A few are from my time with Ethan. The others are courtesy of Angelus." He shrugged, the muscles moving smoothly under the skin. "They don’t bother me any more."

Buffy felt sick. In a strained voice she asked, "What did he do?"

"It doesn’t matter, it’s over. I survived."

Buffy went to stand in front of him. "It matters," she said fiercely. "I need to know what he did to you."

"You want to know?" Ripper looked at her, his eyes blazing. "Remember, you asked. He beat me with a baseball bat, breaking several of my ribs. He used a whip on me. He cut me with my own dagger. He put cigarettes and cigars out on my chest. He broke all the fingers in my left hand." Ripper grabbed her hand and placed it on the scar at the top of his left shoulder. "And when none of that broke me, he started to cut my arm off with a chainsaw. Spike stopped him; I’ve never understood why."

Buffy closed her eyes, swaying. "Because I made a deal with him."


"I made a deal with Spike. If he could get you away from Angelus and out of the mansion alive, I wouldn’t come after him or Drucilla."

"I don’t believe you. You made a deal with Spike? He could have killed you. I’m not worth your safety."

"Yes, you are! I had to get you out of there so I could go after Angelus. You had to be out of the line of fire, or I couldn’t concentrate on stopping him." Buffy started sobbing. "I had to know you were alive, that he didn’t have you. I’m the Slayer. I’m supposed to protect you, not the other way around."

Ripper surged up off the chair, pulling her into his arms. She caressed the scars on his chest. "I’m sorry I couldn’t find a way to get you out of there sooner. I’m so sorry."

"No, Luv, no. I am your Watcher. It is my honor to serve you. My purpose in life is to guide you, protect you. I would gladly endure it again, as long as I knew you were safe." He pulled back, cupping her face in his hands. "My Slayer, my Buffy." He kissed her.

The now familiar feeling of power surged through her, intensifying the sensation of his mouth covering hers. His left hand moved to the back of her head, changing the angle, as his lips caressed hers, his tongue pressing to gain access. She moaned and opened her mouth. Ripper growled, his arms tightening around her as his tongue swept into her mouth. He lifted her off her feet and moved to the couch.

Buffy was dazed, overwhelmed by the taste of him. Beer and magic. Was it possible to taste magic? Somehow she could; his mouth had a tang that was composed of wildness and power. And his hands. His hands should be declared illegal, the way they made her feel. She felt overwhelmed by the warmth of his body pressing her into the couch.

Buffy pulled her mouth away, trying to concentrate. Pressing her into the couch? She opened her eyes, seeing the ceiling of Giles’ apartment and the top of his head. His mouth was moving down her chest. Her bare chest. When had she lost her top? He pressed an open-mouthed kiss between her breasts, then lifted his head.

Ripper looked down at the most beautiful sight he had even seen. His Slayer, her body flushed with passion, open to his gaze. He lifted his eyes to hers. The look in his eyes caught her breath. Passion, desire, but most of all, love. Angel, for all his declarations, had never looked at her with such devotion. Ripper smiled, his voice a contented purr, "Mine." He lowered his weight back onto her, and took her mouth in another mind melting kiss.

Buffy was drowning in sensations. His kiss, his hands, the feel of his chest hair against her bare breasts, but most of all, the heat. His body was so hot; it almost burned her to touch him. And his heart. She could feel it pounding against her, could feel when he drew breath. How could she have ever thought that Angel would be the only man to make her feel like this? In fact, Angel hadn’t made her feel even a fraction of what Giles did.


Oh, God. She had to stop this. Giles would hate himself tomorrow if things went any further.

Buffy pulled her mouth away again, gasping for air. Ripper chuckled as he kissed down her neck. Buffy frowned. She grabbed his head and lifted. "Why aren't you out of breath?"

Ripper's eyes gleamed with mischief. "If we weren't meant to breathe while kissing, we wouldn't have a nose." He bent back down and nibbled on her neck. He found a spot that no one else had before and she shuddered. He chuckled again and murmured; "When I first started reading the Watchers' diaries I found it amazing to learn that Slayers throughout history have always had sensitive necks. More than a few Watchers have written about how they could get their Slayers to climax from just biting their necks."

Buffy pushed him away again. "What?"

"Why do you think I've never let you read the Watcher diaries? Especially the older ones. A hundred years ago it was common for the Watcher and his Slayer to be married, to be lovers. Some of the details are pretty explicit. You don't know how many dreams I had of you as my wife." His eyes glowed hotly into hers. "Mine." He kissed her again, his body moving suggestively against her.

Buffy was in shock. She would have never seen this coming. Giles wanted her; desired her? The only part the candy was playing in this was that as Ripper he was more honest, more open about his feelings. Oh, God, he was biting that spot again. Her body was responding automatically to his, her legs parting to accept his hips thrusting against her. The feel of his fingers unfastening her slacks brought her back to her senses.

She had to stop this, at least for now. She needed time to think about what had been happening, the things he had said, and Giles needed to be in control. This couldn't happen while he was Ripper; it would be tainted, spoiled. She grabbed his hand.

"Wait. We need to slow this down a little."

Ripper continued nibbling her neck. "I can do slow. Slow can be a lot of fun."

"No, I mean we need to stop. This is too sudden. I need to think about this."

Ripper looked at her, puzzled. "I want you, you want me. What's to think about?"

"You just said it yourself. You've thought about this, about us, before, but I haven't. I need some time."

For a long moment Ripper continued to lay on her, staring into her eyes, not moving. Buffy was afraid that she was going to need to use her Slayer strength against him. Suddenly he relaxed, leaning down to give her a quick peck on the end of her nose before pulling away to sit on the edge of the couch. His eyes swept over her bare torso and he smiled. "Sorry, Luv, I'm afraid I ruined your top. I'll go get you a shirt of mine to wear."

As he climbed the stairs to the loft, Buffy sat up, her arms crossed in front of her chest. Almost before she could gather her thoughts, he was back, handing her a shirt. Not the t-shirt she had expected, but one of his white dress shirts. Buffy gingerly took it in one hand and turned her back to put it on. She felt his hands on her shoulders an instant before he turned her around to face him. He took the shirt from her.

"Your body is beautiful. You should never be embarrassed about me seeing it." He calmly uncrossed her arms, putting them in the sleeves of the shirt. He smiled gently at her as he buttoned it. Reaching the top button, he tugged on the collar, pulling her to him for a quick kiss. "There, you're all covered up, feel better?"

Buffy blushed, ducking her head. "I need to go home." She started rolling up the sleeves of the shirt.

"Please stay." The request was quiet, almost inaudible. Buffy looked at him and almost gasped. The way he was standing, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, head down, it was as if Giles were standing there. Maybe the candy was wearing off faster than Ethan thought. He looked up.

"You can take the bed, I'll stay down here on the couch. We can talk after we've had a little sleep."

"I'll stay on one condition; you take the bed, I'll take the couch."

He grinned. "Deal." He gave her another quick kiss and headed to the loft. Halfway up the stairs he stopped, not turning to look at her. "You promise, you won't leave until we talk?"

"I promise. Wait a minute, I didn't get the burn ointment on your back."

Ripper looked at her, grinning widely. "Trust me, Luv, my back isn't bothering me now. I'll be fine. Goodnight."


Buffy locked the door, turned off the lights, and then sat back down on the couch. She could hear Giles rustling around in the loft, then the sound of him settling in the bed. A few minutes later her Slayer hearing heard his breathing deepen and even out. He was asleep.

Part of her wanted to go home and check on her Mom. Was Snyder really there? What would she say to them if he was and they were still awake doing….things? Eieww. Just the thought made her feel nauseous. But she couldn't leave, she had promised. And she had a lot to think about.

Giles loved her, desired her. It was almost too much to take in. He had never given her the slightest hint. Or had he? Had there been clues, but she had just been too wrapped up in Angel to see? Her mind whirled, flitting from one memory to another, but not settling on any one long enough for her to examine it. She needed to get some sleep.

Instead of lying down, Buffy found herself climbing the stairs to the loft. It was like she was being controlled by someone else, or like she was watching it happen to someone else. She entered the bedroom and stood for a long time beside the bed, watching him sleep. Still in the trance-like state, she took off her slacks, carefully lifted the covers, and eased into the bed beside him. Buffy lay, watching and thinking, until the sound of his breathing lulled her to sleep.

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