Giles slid into the driver’s seat of his rental car and let his shoulders relax into the leather. He sat in silence for a few moments before letting out a breath and calmly stating, “You can end the spell and come up to the front now.”
“How did you know?” Willow pouted as she appeared in his rear-view mirror.
“Come on up here,” he hid a smile and waited for her to change seats. “And while I do like the idea of you having a Chameleon spell in your repertoire,” he continued as she climbed in beside him, “I’d appreciate you not attempting to use it on me again.”
“I didn’t want Oz to see me. We already said our goodbyes and I didn’t want to hurt him again.” She received an understanding nod as the man next to her started the car. “And, by the way, if you knew I was here, you didn’t have to leave me all alone out in this scary parking lot for so long.”
“You were invisible, remember. I knew you’d be safe. And it serves you right. Being a stowaway never turns out to be much fun.”
“How was he?” Willow asked quietly.
The Watcher looked over at her with kind eyes. “I believe he will be fine. Oz has a whole world to explore now. I know he’ll live his life to its fullest.”
The girl nodded with a little sadness in her eyes as Giles pulled out and turned onto the highway. “This isn’t the way back home,” her head popped up.
“No,” he chuckled. “I want to show you something. Besides, it’s likely the authorities haven’t restored the power after our little act of sabotage yet, and I can think of better things to do than sit at home in the dark. Did you have something to hurry back for?”
“Oh… It can wait. Now I’m curious about what you’d want to drive me out into the desert for. Should I be concerned?” she asked teasingly.
“That is a point,” he teased back. “What could a man like me possibly do alone in the middle of nowhere with a little girl like you?”
“Don’t call me a little girl,” Willow muttered, then scooted over to lean against his warmth as the cool night wind rushed past her open window. “It makes me feel icky for having sexy feelings about you.”
“You’re right,” he murmured, moving his arm from her just enough to shift gears. “You are a young woman. And a lovely one at that.”
Willow looked up at him with a grin. “Yep, there they are. Those sexy Giles feelings.”
He shook with a chuckle. “You behave, or I’ll turn this car around.”
After nearly half an hour of nothing but dark, straight highway, Willow let out a yip when the Watcher turned off onto a dirt track. He gave the engine just enough power to let the back wheels slide around on the loose surface. Fond memories from his youth returned as the young woman beside him grasped his arm a little tighter. The joy they brought with them overwhelmed him for a few moments. So lovely that he almost forgot to feel guilty over the love he carried for the comparative child clinging to him.
“You’re doing that on purpose,” she squeaked as they swung around another bend. She glanced up to see the grin gracing his face and laughed, “Do it again!” Her hold on him tightened even more as he spun the car in a full doughnut before sliding it to a halt. “I didn’t know you could drive like that,” Willow breathed, her heart-rate slightly elevated.
“Well,” Giles cleared his throat and put on his most pompous librarian voice, “It would be highly irresponsible to go tearing through the city streets with a car full of impressionable youths.” He chuckled, “Besides, my old car never had enough power.”
“Does that mean you’re not afraid to be a bad influence on me anymore?” she gazed up at him with her most falsely innocent look.
Giles knew it well enough to see the horns under the halo. He sighed, “I’m not sure it’d be possible for me to corrupt you any more than I already have.”
His young friend could see the guilt deep in his eyes. It hurt her heart that he still felt like he had wronged her, and still was for caring so much for her. “Giles, do you think I’m a bad person?” she whispered.
“Of course, not. Why ever would you ask if I did?” His expressive features shifted to pure confusion.
“Well… because I’ve never felt like you obviously do. Everything that happened between us, and has happened since, was just as much my doing as yours. But all I feel is lucky… that I have a wonderful man like you who’ll always look after me, who’ll always love me. And there you are, always putting yourself down, and always feeling like everything you do is wrong. I can’t help wonder which one of us is… having the wrong reaction.”
He brought his hand up to cup her cheek in his warm palm. “You are an exceptional and loving person, Luv. I’m sorry if my… unease with our situation upsets you. Please know that I will never be anything but grateful to have you in my life as you are. My guilt stems from failing to protect you as I should, nothing more.”
“But you didn’t fail--”
“And I did not bring you all the way out here to have this, rather depressing, conversation once again. I brought you here to show you something. Come with me.” He shut the engine off, and slid out of the car with bright anticipation lighting his eyes.
Willow frowned at the lack of resolution to their discussion, but couldn’t help but be intrigued by his sudden excitement. She got out and walked around the front of the car to meet him. The desert was amazingly bright under the nearly full moon, and her eyes were drawn to the cheerful smile on his face. She nearly jumped when he grabbed her hand and began leading her up a sandy path. They emerged from between two giant boulders onto a stony outcropping.
Giles turned and held both of her hands, gazing down at her expectantly. It took the redhead a few more moments to realize the buzz she was feeling along her skin wasn’t coming from how cute he looked that night. It was in the air all around her.
“I feel it,” she gasped, her eyes wide. “What is that?”
“Power,” he grinned. “Latent mystical energy. The native holy men and mystics used this as a sacred place for meditation and growth. But, can you blame them?”
He gestured out over the ledge, and for the first time Willow looked to see the magnificent view of the colorful and sparkling desert stretching out below them. However, the awesome landscape wasn’t half as spectacular as the blanket of light above. With no man-made illumination within miles, the true majesty of the night sky shown in all its glory. The Milky Way painted a wide swath overhead, forming a river of light from horizon to horizon. Glowing jewels in more colors than Willow had ever imagined twinkled above and around her. She couldn’t breathe for the beauty of it.
“Oh, Giles. It’s… amazing!” She swallowed hard and pulled her eyes back down to his sparkling gaze. “How did you know how much I love the stars?”
He smiled fondly at her. “I’ve caught you, um… star-dreaming a few times.”
“Star-dreaming?” she giggled. “I like it. Why didn’t you ever tell me this place existed?”
Giles chuckled. “For the past four years I’ve been constantly surrounded by chil… young people. I needed a few places that I could escape to.”
Moisture glinted in Willow’s big, green eyes. “And you decided to share this escape with me.”
“It seemed…” the Watcher shrugged. “We were nearly here anyway, and I knew you’d appreciate it.” He let go of her hands and turned away to sit on the smooth stone ground against the curving wall of a boulder.
Willow grinned and went to sit next to him. She discovered that the spot had been worn into a comfortable seat over hundreds of years. However, that didn’t stop her from snuggling under Giles’ arm to lean mainly against him. To her, that was the nicest spot of all.
“Also,” Giles murmured, settling his arm comfortably around her, “I know what you did today wasn’t easy. Watching Oz have to leave again after all he meant to you must have been painful.”
“A little,” she sighed, laying her head back against his shoulder to gaze up at the sky. “But it wasn’t a bad hurt like last time. It was the best thing for both of us. Oz could never be in control like he wanted with me around. And it wasn’t fair to him that I had...” Willow trailed off.
“He told me that you do have someone else. And, yes, we clarified that person isn’t me.” He chuckled as the redhead wiggled deeper into his warmth.
“Did…” she bit her lip, “Did he tell you who?”
“No. He thought that was something you should do when you were ready. But, Willow, Luv, I want you to know that you’ll always have my support and respect. I’m not sure if you fear me reacting like some overbearing father, or some, heaven forbid, rival lover. Whoever you choose, as long as he treats you right--”
“Giles, it’s nothing like that,” she stopped him. “And it’s not just you. I hadn’t even told Buffy before… Never mind. It’s just been all so new, and I wasn’t ready to share yet. I just hope you like… who it is.”
He gave her a quick squeeze. “I’m sure I will. Anyone special enough to earn your notice must be exceptional indeed.”
“You earned my notice,” she whispered, taking the hand that was resting on her hip and bringing it farther around her.
He didn’t respond, instead keeping his eyes on the sky. Before long it became impossible for him to ignore what she was doing as she slowly ran her fingers along the surface of the hand she held. The nerve endings sang to life under her light touch and his skin flushed with heat. As she too gazed at the stars, she also explored every inch of his hand like it was a priceless treasure. Her tender touch seeking out the sensitive flesh of his wrist, his palm, and between each finger. Giles could feel the mystical energies surrounding them being called and excited by the intimate contact. Part of him knew he should pull away or bring attention to what she was doing to him. It was being fought, tooth and nail, by the part of him that craved feeling so good, and craved accepting these sensations from Willow.
The girl pressed against his body wasn’t as unaware as she let on. Willow knew his senses were as heightened as her own. She knew that her simple touch must be doing wonderful things to him. Being allowed to touch him like that was certainly doing things to her. After giving him plenty of time to stop her, she smiled and slowly brought his hand up to her lips.
The velvet skin brushed along the same paths her fingers had traced. Tiny kisses were place on his most sensitive spots, then on each fingertip, then on the pad of his thumb. She heard and felt his sharp intake of breath when she poked her tongue out to join her lips on his thumb. He jumped when her lips parted over its tip.
“Willow, please,” he whispered in a shaky breath.
She smiled and took his whole thumb into her hot, wet mouth.
Giles’ other hand searched for something to hold onto. The redhead pulled her lips up his thumb in torturously slow motion before take taking it into her mouth again.
“Dear lord, Willow, you have to…” he swallowed hard.
She left her pouted lips against his wet skin as she said, “Are you gonna tell me to stop, Giles? But you taste so good.” She licked him again for emphasis.
“Good god, woman. You know what you’re doing isn’t fair.” He swore under his breath when she giggled around his skin. “It’s… It’s not fair to your love interest, and it’s not fair to you, and, good lord above, it’s not fair to me.”
“You don’t like it?” she pouted playfully.
“You are about to make me have an accident of a type I have not had in many, many… many years.”
“I told you to stop saying you were old,” she said, her finger still stroking between his pointer and middle fingers.
“I didn’t say--”
“Willow, I’m serious,” he hissed, closing his eyes. Yet, he continued to leave it to her to let his hand go instead of pulling it away.
“You can, you know,” she whispered. “I’d never tell anybody. We’re all alone out here. You’re allowed to feel good, Giles. You deserve it. If you’ll let me… And I promise nothing you think would be bad. Just hands, maybe a little kissing.”
Giles’ eyes clenched tighter as she finally released his hand, only so she could turn enough to place soft kisses at the side of his neck. He so wanted to give her permission to proceed. He could blame it on the powerful magick of the place. On the emotionally charged day she’d had. On his own simple need for human touch. Any of those excuses might have worked with anyone else, but not with her. He knew, with Willow, it would all mean too much, would go too far. Her life was just getting back on track. He couldn’t get in the way.
Opening his eyes to see her beautiful, caring gaze, he sighed, “I can’t let…”
“What did you hope would happen if you brought me out here?” she whispered.
Giles cleared his throat. “I hoped you’d like the view,” he breathed truthfully. “If I had let myself imagine… Forgive me.”
Willow smiled kindly. “What are we going to do when you stop being the grownup?”
He released a relieved chuckle. “Probably something very foolish, and that we’ll have to live with afterwards. And please don’t make me imagine what that mistake might be like because I’m already on the verge of…”
“An accident?” the redhead giggled.
“Minx,” Giles responded teasingly. “We’d best be getting back. Who knows what’s happened in the blackout. And I’d wager there’s someone waiting to hear from you as to your status.”
“You’re right.” Willow nodded and stood, reaching down to help him. She laughed when he signaled he needed a few more minutes before he was ready. “Oh, that reminds me. Do you have any candles at your house I could borrow?”