Title: In The Dark of The Night

Author's Name: Laura Sichrovsky

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rating: FRM

Pairing: Rupert/Willow

Warnings: None really.

Season: After the series ends, so maybe a non-comic book season eight?

Spoilers: Some mention of seasons one and two and six.

Disclaimer: This is where I put the statement saying that I do not own Buffy, Giles (Heh! I wish!), Sunnydale, or anything relating

to the show. No one is paying me to do this and if you feel the sudden urge to send me gifts, you might want to talk

to someone about that. Joss Whedon owns all things Buffy and has not given me permission to use these characters

as I have so if you have problems with the story, please send the pretzel bombs to me, not him.

Summary: Rupert seldom dreams anymore. So a vivid nightmare bothers him a bit. Especially as it came from a wish he made.

Author's Notes: Thanks need to be given, and here is where they go. Thanks to Joss for creating characters so fun to watch and

to borrow for a bit. Thanks to Tony Head for making Giles so amazing. I tried to fight it, but he was just too

remarkable not to fall for. Big thank yous to my other half and best friend Ann for all the love and support. I

could never write without her help and I would never want to try. Thank you to my wonderful betas, Michelle,

Jess, and Jen for helping me put this is readable form.

In The Dark of The Night

The night air was cold, a slight breeze caressing his skin. Rupert looked up into the sky. On any other night, he would have been at least slightly awed by the countless stars that dimly lit the darkness as he walked across the Slayer compound. Tonight he barely noticed. He looked around the little village they had built within the walls of the castle, houses for Watchers and Slayers who did not wish to live in the main fortification, outbuildings and an exercise yard. They had come to the middle of nowhere, refugees from a war no one should have had to fight, and now they struggled to build a brave new world. He shoved his hands into his pockets and picked up his pace, approaching one little house set apart from the others.

He stood in front of the door, suddenly unsure of what to do. It was very late and the darkness within told him that she was asleep. Yet he couldn't shake the empty, forbidding feeling that his dream had left him with. Normally, Rupert gave little credence to his dreams, shunting the darker ones upon waking. But tonight… He hadn't felt this haunted since just after Xander had rescued him from the mansion; those long, empty nights when he would wake screaming into an unforgiving darkness, unsure where he was and what secrets he'd revealed.

He looked up again, his mind automatically finding constellations in the blackness, grounding himself in those pictures painted by the heavens. He drew in a deep breath, taking comfort in the fact that her house was here. He wasn't used to being this unnerved by a dream. Most of his dreams these days weren't this unsettling, this…real. He'd banished those dreams long ago. Perhaps it was all the worse because the dream had played on a wish he'd made. After so many years living on a Hellmouth, he should know better than wishing aloud. But this one had seemed harmless; beneficial really. Who knew that it could play out in such a dark and disturbing way.

And so he'd been tortured by his own mind, once again a victim of his endless guilt. When he'd woken, sitting up in his bed, his whole body trembling, a scream trapped in his throat, he'd gotten up and dressed without really thinking about where he was going. He'd needed to know that she was safe, that it had all been in his head. Now he stood, looking at her house in the moonlight, feeling exceedingly foolish. He pictured her face when he told her that he was sorry to wake her, but he had to be sure a vampire hadn't gotten her when she was fifteen. He silently chuckled to himself and shook his head.

It was enough to pull him from his panic and with another sigh, he turned to go. He hadn't even gotten a step when he heard the door open behind him.

"Giles? Is everything okay?"

He turned to face her, noticing how the moonlight robbed her hair of its fiery colour, making it seem almost as black as the night around her. She was pulling her robe closed and looking at him with some concern. He wanted to laugh, to tell her that there was nothing to be worried about, but he couldn't take his attention from her. After seeing her features distorted into that of a demon, he needed to see her for what she really was, to drink in the soft beauty that was Willow.

Over the years he had known her, she had aged from awkward teen to a graceful woman and while he told himself that he could never notice her in that way, his gaze was drawn to the delicate curves of her body, the lushness of her cleavage, just visible beneath the opening of her robe. He took in the fine lines of her wrists and arms and the mature contours of her face. When he came to her eyes, deep green pools of pure emotion, such a contrast from the cold, yellow eyes of the vampire in his dream, he was pulled from his contemplation by the worry he saw there. He looked at the ground, ashamed of how blatantly he was studying her; more guilty that he was enjoying it so much. He shoved his hands deeper in his pockets, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

"Giles?" Her voice was gentle, soft in the vastness of the night.

"I'm sorry to have bothered you," he murmured, stepping back, needing to put distance between himself and the emotions she was stirring in him.

"You didn't, but…What's wrong?"

He dared to look up at her, thrilling in her concern for him, yet berating himself for being so pleased. He shook his head, preparing to return to his rooms, but she stepped back in silent invitation. They had all learned their lessons from Sunnydale. None of them would verbally invite someone in, especially someone they cared for; it was too easy to be blinded by emotions. Rupert looked at her, wanting to accept, to take comfort in her presence, yet terrified she would see his weakness.

"I…I really should be going," he said, looking away again. When he turned back, she was still standing, waiting for him to come in. He sighed, telling himself this was a mistake; he walked past her anyway.

The main room of the house was dim, but not dark, illuminated by candles. As his eyes adjusted, he noticed that the candles were on a table next to an overstuffed chair. A book was open draped over one arm of the chair to hold its place and he realized that she had been reading by the candlelight. No wonder the house had seemed dark to him.

Willow crossed around and stood next to the chair, looking at him. He wordlessly pointed to the book and she nodded, smiling.

"Just relaxing."

"In the dark?" he asked quietly.

"It's a habit I got from you, you know," she replied, stepping closer to him. "I remember that when you were studying, you wanted the brightest light possible, like you were trying to chase away the shadows, reinforcing the seriousness of the situation. But when you read for fun, it was always by candlelight, as if you wanted to be as far away from the harsh glare of study as you could."

"I didn't think anyone had noticed that," he said, unable to take his eyes from her.

"Oh, I did. I didn't get it at the time, but I do now. It's quiet, peaceful, away from the real world."

"Quite," he nodded. "All you need now is a cup of…"

He was cut off as the tea kettle screamed from the kitchen. He turned and looked at her, incredulous. She just smiled back.

"Hey, I learned from the best. Would you like a cup?"

He nodded, watching her as she walked off to the kitchen. The man he had been berated him for even being here, reiterating how foolish he was being, how wrong this was. But the man he was now rejoiced that he had such an influence on this woman and wanted nothing more than to reassure himself with her company. He moved to sit on the small sofa that was across from the chair, settling in and looking around. The room was pure Willow and he felt himself relax as he studied it.

She had decorated in earth tones, warm and inviting with dark wood accents gleaming in the candlelight. In typical Willow fashion, she hadn't wanted to fuss, purchasing the furniture from a second hand store. It was in good condition and she'd covered it with dark green slip covers. The rest of the look was achieved with swaths of soft material and many well placed plants. It was alive and soothing; all things Willow, and he reveled in it.

Rupert turned as she came back into the room carrying a tea tray. He tried not to notice that her robe had slipped open, displaying her silky pajama pants and the tank top she wore. She set the tray down on the coffee table and settled on the couch next to him, tucking her legs up under her the way he had always remembered her doing. He looked away as he noticed that her tank top was slightly transparent. He wanted to feel ashamed, but all he felt was a warm arousal.

For the next few minutes, they sat in silence, making their tea. It took all Rupert's willpower not to look at her. He jumped when he felt her hand touch his and he looked up into her eyes.

"Are you going to tell me what's got you so spooked?" Willow asked gently.

"It was nothing, really," he replied, unable to look away. "Just…just a nightmare."

Willow frowned, her fingers absently stroking across the back of his hand, sending warm shivers through him.

"But you don't really have nightmares," she said, her face troubled. "Not even after Sunnydale. I never understood how you did that. The only time I ever remember you having bad dreams was after Angel."

He nodded, looking down and stirring his tea, his thoughts as turbulent as the milky swirls in his cup.

"I shouldn't have bothered you." His voice was just above a whisper and even he had trouble hearing it.

"You didn't. I was the one who opened the door." At his questioning look, she went on. "I heard a noise and I was just seeing what it was. Your back was to me. You'd have never known if I just went inside. I wanted to talk to you."

Rupert sat, not knowing what to do. He desperately wanted to open up to her, to share the images that haunted him, to take of the comfort she offered. But he had been in the role of mentor so long that he wasn't sure he could assume any other. He didn't even know where to begin bringing down the wall he had lived behind for so many years. Again, she lightly stroked the back of his hand, sharing her strength with him.

"Tell me," she said simply.

He opened his mouth to argue, but need overcame prudence and he found himself telling her how he came to be standing in front of her house at two in the morning.

"You know that I still write in my journal every night," he began, putting his cup on the table and settling back into the couch. "I know that there really isn't a point anymore, but it's a habit. Tonight I was thinking about you and Xander and I found myself writing down a wish. I only want you to be happy. I thought about how you two became a part of this insanity and it occurred to me that you would have been better off if I had insisted you stay out of Buffy's fight with the Master's minions. And that was my wish. Perhaps I spent too much time with Anya, but when I went to sleep tonight I dreamed that she granted my wish. Everything changed and I never allowed you into this fight to begin with. It should have been a good thing."

"But it wasn't?" Willow asked, her fingers still tracing along the skin of his hand.

"It seems the Hellmouth has its own brand of revenge and no one comes out unscathed. Anya allowed me to go back to that moment where you told me that you needed to help. Instead of asking you to help me with research, I insisted that you and Xander leave the library and never return. You were not to associate with Buffy. I was determined to keep you safe." He paused, taking his hand from hers and removing his glasses. He took a deep breath, looking across the room at the flickering light of the candle, struggling to keep his emotions in check.

"What happened?" she asked, her voice gentle.

"In my attempts to keep you safe, I didn't teach you how to protect yourselves or how to avoid demons. When the Kleptes-Virgo went after Xander, he didn't understand there was any danger. Buffy was so far removed from the two of you and your problems that she wasn't there to save him and he died."

"That's awful!" Willow said, reaching out and touching his shoulder. "I can see why you were upset."

"That was just the beginning. You'll remember that when we came across the puppet demon hunter, Xander saved me from having my head cut off. He was dead, and there was no one to help me. Buffy was fighting the monster and I…well, I died."

"Giles!" Willow seemed genuinely upset. "You actually felt your head being cut off?"

"I was watching from the side, so I was spared that. But I will say that it was rather unnerving to see ones own death."

"I would think so. Giles, that's just terrible."

"The council of course sent Buffy a new Watcher. But he wasn't very understanding of her special circumstances. In fact he made Wesley look relaxed."

"Oh, that couldn't have gone well," Willow said, moving closer to him.

"It didn't. He pushed her, trained her, denied her any freedoms in an attempt to break her spirit. Instead he drove her to the edge and she was killed fighting a vampire. The next Slayer was called and Kendra and her Watcher were moved to Sunnydale."

"Well, that's good, right?" Willow asked. "I mean, Kendra was a pretty good Slayer."

"It was Kendra who had to face the Master, not Buffy. And she wasn't strong enough. He killed her and there was no one to bring her back. The Master rose and took over Sunnydale."

"Like in that world my vampire double came from?"

"Exactly. And just as in that instance, you were turned."

"I was a vampire?" Willow's eyes were wide.

"And a very good one," Rupert replied, quietly. "I woke up just after you killed Faith. The worst part was watching you bathe in her blood."

"Okay, officially eeww." Willow said, making a face. "That was one nasty dream."

"That wouldn't be the word I would use," Rupert answered, replacing his glasses. "It was so real. When I woke up, I wasn't sure if it had happened or if it was going to happen. I didn't know where I was or even when I was."

"That would be frightening," Willow said. She looked at him and he saw understanding in her eyes. "That's why you came here. To be sure I wasn't a vampire."

"Of course when I saw your house I felt foolish," he said. "But I couldn't calm down until I knew that you were safe."

"And all this because you didn't learn from Cordelia and you had to go and make a wish." He could tell from the tone of her voice that she was teasing, but after a moment, her expression became serious. "Why would you ever make a wish like that? Were we really that much trouble that you didn't want us around?"

"Willow, no," he said, taking her hand again. "I just…it wasn't fair what I did to you. I stole your childhood, made you and Xander into soldiers when you should have been simply teenagers."

"I notice Buffy wasn't a part of your wish."

"Buffy has a sacred duty, a destiny. She and I had no choice in this. You and Xander did. Fate didn't give you this life, I did. All the pain and death and heartache in your life is because of me."

"Oh Giles, that's not even true," Willow said, squeezing his hand. "You were the one who protected us from the monsters under the bed. Okay, this life isn't the safest, but it was a Hellmouth. Without you, I would have been demon food many times over."

"Willow, I appreciate that you see it that way, but if it weren't for me, you would have never gotten involved in magic."

Rupert looked at the floor, unable to face her, not wanting to see the realization in her eyes. He swallowed hard, her silence making him close his eyes against the knot of fear building in his chest. He had failed her and now she knew it too. When he felt gentle fingers on his face his eyes flew open and he almost fell off the couch as she turned him to look at her.

She was smiling at him, but there were tears in her eyes, making them over bright in the dim light of the candles. She lightly stroked along his chin.

"You are not responsible for what happened at the Magic Box," she said firmly.

"But if I had…"

"No. There are so many 'if onlys' along that road, but ultimately, the only person who could have stopped me, was me. I can't blame Buffy or Jenny or you, or even Warren. I chose to give in to the anger and grief. I let the darkness take me."

"You didn't know what you were doing." Rupert took her hand once more, holding it in both of his in an attempt to comfort her. "Your world had just come to an end. You lost the person who meant the most to you."

"That isn't an excuse. You taught me that."

"I did?"

"It was after Angel. One of those long sleepless nights where you pretended to read a book and we pretended to believe you." She smiled sadly at him. "It was my night to Watcher-sit and you were looking at some old boring book. I'm guessing it was boring because sometime around midnight you fell asleep. About fifteen minutes later you woke up screaming."

"I remember that," Rupert said, just above a whisper. "I remember waking up and you were standing there. I didn't know if you were real or…"

"Something Drusilla put in your head. I know. You looked at me with this trapped and panicked expression and asked if I was really there. I sat next to you, just like I am right now and took your hand, hoping to calm you down. I needed to distract you, so I asked you a question. Do you remember?"

"You asked if I could use magic to kill Spike and Drusilla."

"You told me that maybe you could, but that you wouldn't. I couldn't understand that. After what they'd done to you I thought you would want to get them any way possible. You said something to me that I never forgot. There are lines we don't cross. If we allow our anger to take us there, we become worse than the things we fight. It's our choices that make us human. When I crossed that line, yes, I was angry and hurt, but I let the power make me worse than Warren. I not only hurt him, but I tried to kill the people I love and I almost destroyed the world. What was worse; three lonely geeks causing localized problems or one angry witch intent on ending life as we know it? You were right and I'll never forget that."

"But you wouldn't have had that power if I hadn't allowed you to study magic." Rupert sighed, needing her to understand. "I should have taken the time to instruct you, to show you the dark side to the choices you were making. At the very least I should never have left you after you brought Buffy back. I could see that you were in over your head and I did nothing."

"You could see that I wouldn't have listened if you had stayed." Her voice was so gentle. "I was relying on the magic for everything and that wasn't your fault. I didn't get into Wicca because of you. I would have found it all on my own. My mistakes were mine, Giles. I'm just glad I have a friend like you to help me through it all."

He looked at her, taking in her beauty, the way the candlelight glowed in her hair and brought out the warm colours of her skin. His heart hurt, knowing that he wanted what he could never have and more for understanding what he had done to her. By bringing them into his world, Rupert had separated Xander and Willow from anything resembling a normal life. He had isolated them from friends and family, from normal relationships. With his selfishness, he had doomed them to a sad imitation of his own empty existence.

He was thinking of a way to apologize to her when she moved closer, touching his face again.

"Giles, it wasn't your fault. Please stop beating yourself up over what you couldn't control."

"But I could have and moreover I should have," he said, his voice strained. "I took away everything from you and left you with this nightmare."

"You saved us, protected us, and made us strong."

"You can't even have a relationship because of me."

He hadn't meant to say anything; it had just slipped out. If he were to be honest with himself, this was what had started it all. The news that he'd heard in the dining hall earlier this week had stirred the embers of guilt in him until they'd erupted into his nightmare tonight.

"So you heard that Kennedy and I aren't together anymore." It wasn't really a question. Willow shifted, putting her hand over his.

"I did hear that she had moved into the main castle," Rupert said, not able to look at her. "Was it…I mean with the stress and your position here…I can't help but feel…"

"It just wasn't working out. Don't get me wrong. She's a very nice girl, but it just wasn't right. We aren't angry at each other. Everything ended amicably. And it had nothing to do with Slaying or Wicca or any of this."

"What…that is, if it isn't too rude of me to ask…how did you decide…" He had no idea how to ask this. Even all these years later there were still uncomfortable parts to their relationship. He'd worked so hard to be an example, a teacher, an adult for them that he had isolated himself, even from the people he loved the most. "If there wasn't a fight, why…"

"There's someone else," Willow said simply.

"Oh Willow, I'm sorry." He put an arm around her, hoping to give her comfort. "I didn't think Kennedy would ever cheat on you."

"She didn't," Willow replied softly. "It wasn't someone else for her."

Rupert pulled back, looking down at her in shock.

"Oh, no, I didn't cheat on her either." Willow smiled at his perplexed expression. "We were getting along fine, but I've started to think about someone else and it wasn't fair to Kennedy to keep being with her when my affections were somewhere else."

"No, you are right, it wouldn't be."

"I never acted on this new attraction. I wouldn't have done that to her. But if I was thinking about the other person, I wasn't in love with Kennedy."

"Are you going to tell this person?"

"I'm thinking about that," Willow said seriously. "I'm not sure how the person will react."

"I'm sure she would want to know," Rupert replied.

"Well, see, there's the thing," Willow said, leaning back on the couch and sighing. "It isn't a she this time."

"I'm sorry?" Rupert tried not to sound as confused as he felt.

"Turns out I'm more complex than even I thought. I was sure that I was gay after Tara and all, but I guess I don't fit into a category. I loved Oz and Tara differently, but it felt the same. Does that make sense? I guess I don't really look at the gender of the person so much as who they are. It wouldn't have mattered to me if Tara was a man or a woman, I would have loved her anyway."

"And this new person is?"

"Well, this time it's a man. Do you think this is going to confuse everyone? I'm really hoping Buffy and Xander will understand."

"I'm sure they will once you explain it to them," Rupert replied. He was mentally going over all the new Watcher trainees, wondering which of them had caught her interest. He was also trying to push down his mounting jealousy.

"I'm not sure it matters anyway," Willow sighed. "I'm pretty sure he's not interested. But then, really who can blame him when I come off as busy and, well, gay. Then there's the fact that I know he sees me as a child."

Rupert blinked. He now knew who she was talking about and was surprised how deeply it hurt. Of course it made sense. It couldn't be any of the new Watchers. None of them would ever look at Willow as a child. They all saw her as a powerful witch. Not to mention that most of them were her age. No, the only person who would see Willow as a child was the boy who had grown up with her. He would remember her playing with dolls and wearing overalls; his memories of her would overlay who she had grown into.

He wanted to be happy for them. If there were any of this group that deserved to find happiness together it was Willow and Xander. He supposed this was inevitable. She had loved Xander since they were children. If only Rupert hadn't let himself love her. He could deny his feelings for Willow, but they were still there. Would he be able to look at Xander and not envy him? It was easier when she'd loved a stranger. A part of him began to hurt.

"I'm sure when you tell him, he'll be able to look past that," Rupert said, almost choking on the words.

"But I don't think he's even attracted to me," Willow said, staring at him intently. "He hasn't shown any interest."

He knew Xander had been wrapped up in his work lately, helping to build the compound and working with the new Slayers. But he also remembered that Xander had definitely noticed Willow in high school. He had vivid images of catching the boy watching her with interest when he thought no one was looking.

"I'm sure he's attracted to you, Willow. You should tell him how you feel." He was surprised that those simple words could steal his breath. He wanted her to be happy, so how could he begrudge her the man who could give her that happiness?

"Do you think I should?"

"Absolutely," Rupert said quietly. "He'd want to know."

Willow was nodding as she sat in the shadows. After a moment, she shifted and sat up, moving over until her knee was touching his.



"I think I'm falling in love with you."

It took a moment for the words to sink in and when they did he was sure he'd heard her wrong. He turned and looked at her, seeing a smile playing around her lips and he felt a rush of warmth. He could hear his blood pounding in his ears and he felt a bit dizzy. This couldn't be happening. She loved Xander, not him. He swallowed hard, trying to get his breath back.

"Giles?" She was looking at him with concern, obviously expecting an answer or at least a reaction.

He realized that his just sitting and staring might be unnerving to her. He tried to say something, but no words came to mind. He swallowed again, struggling to think of some way to make sure of what he'd heard.

"I…I'm…Could you please say that again?" It wasn't elegant, but it was to the point.

She smiled at him and took his hand.

"I said I think I'm falling in love with you."

"With me?" Why wasn't he able to come up with anything better than this? He felt stupid, like he'd been hit on the head yet again. He should be charming her with his eloquence, yet he was lucky to put two syllables together.

"Yes, you." She was still smiling, her face showing understanding of his shock.

"But…why?" Oh yes, that was much better. Had his brain really deserted him to this extent?

"Mostly, because you're you," Willow said, rubbing the back of his hand. "But I'm guessing you want specifics."

He nodded, knowing he could never find the words to tell her what he needed to hear.

"The first time I walked into the library and saw you, you took my breath away. You are brilliant. I've always been impressed by how much you know and how easily you learn things. I can talk to you about anything for hours. Add that to your sexy smile, your beautiful eyes, your amazing voice, and your muscular body that has always distracted me in the best ways and how could I not love you?"

"And what has made you realize this lately?" He asked, impressed with himself for forming a complete thought. "You did after all have a girlfriend."

"There wasn't any thing in particular, no blinding flash of realization, per say." He arched an eyebrow at her and she smiled. "I was attracted to you the day I met you. Of course I'm pretty sure neither of us took that crush seriously, but even then I knew you were something special. Over the years I watched you give up everything you wanted for us and I think I loved you all the more. The summer I stayed with you after Tara died…it was the worst time of my life, but you were there. You kept me safe, even from myself, and you cared for me. By the time I went back to Sunnydale I realized I'd never stopped loving you, but I was still hurting and it just wasn't the right time. After that, everything feels like a blur. You were running all over the world risking your life to protect the Slayers and the rest of us were just fighting to survive. And then there was Kennedy and settling down here, figuring out our place in the world. About a month ago I was walking across the compound and I saw you out sparring with the Slayers. That was when it clicked into place."

"What did?" Rupert asked, looking at her in the dimming candlelight.

"You're in charge now. You don't have to do that stuff anymore. But there you were, out there with a quarterstaff, just like you were in high school when you were training Buffy. And it hit me that after eight years and so many near death moments, you are still the same man who took my breath away in the high school library. And I still love you."

Rupert smiled, reaching out to gently stroke her face.

"And I love you." He saw the surprise flicker across her face. "I have always admired your intelligence and grace. The summer you were in Bath I watched you overcome something devastating and mature into such an amazing woman. After all the time we spent talking and getting to know each other, I couldn't help but become somewhat enamoured with you."

"Giles, I was gay."

"Yes, you were." He smiled at her confused expression. "You may have been unattainable, but that didn't mean I could stop my feelings for you from evolving. I've always loved you in some form. When you were in school it was the love of a mentor. Recently that love has grown into something…romantic. I tried to tell myself it was inappropriate, but my heart has convinced me otherwise."

"Even after I tried to kill you?" she asked quietly.

"Well, there is that," Rupert replied with a grin. At her frown he continued. "Willow, you lived through something no one should have to, losing someone so dear to you. You didn't choose the best way to deal with it, but in the end you conquered your darker impulses. I have watched you work so hard to make amends and if I didn't hold a grudge when Angel tried to kill me what makes you think I would hate you?"

She just looked at him, her eyes dark in the candlelight and he wondered if he'd said the wrong thing. Before he could ask, she was leaning forward and then she was kissing him.

This moment was everything Rupert had ever wanted. He loved her deeply, but he'd never dared hope that she would return that love. When she said the words, he'd thought he was hallucinating. He wanted to believe her; his doubts ate him whole, but in the end, his love for her overcame his fears and he took her in his arms.

His mouth caressed hers, as he lost himself in her kiss. The scent of her, the intoxicating taste of her mouth, filled his senses, causing a shiver to run through his body. She felt so wonderful in his arms; he'd dreamed of this for so long, never had he thought she would be his.

He gently ran his tongue across her lips and she opened her mouth to him, her tongue seeking his. He sucked her lower lip in, nipping it slightly and she moaned into his mouth. This was almost too much to bear. It was every amazing dream he'd ever had; the woman he loved was in his arms, kissing him passionately and moaning at his touch. He wasn't sure how this had happened, but he silently thanked every god he'd ever heard of for it.

His whole body began to react to her as he pulled her against himself, his hands going to her hair, tangling in the silky strands. Her tongue found his again and the kiss became something powerful and desperate. His lips massaged her mouth as his tongue rocked against hers. He broke the kiss with a gasp as her hand inadvertently brushed against his erection.

He looked down at her with wide eyes, his body trembling. She smiled at him, leaning closer, her mouth finding his throat. Rupert closed his eyes, as she kissed and nibbled along the sensitive skin on his neck. He felt her delicate fingers run across his hip and his breathing became more erratic. His better angels were telling him that he should end this here and now before he found himself shagging her on her couch, but his body begged him for just a few more minutes of paradise. Before he could collect his thoughts further, he felt her hand move lower and all thought ceased as his head dropped back and he groaned loudly.

His body was on fire, he wanted her so desperately. He shifted, pinning her against the couch, his hips moving under her touch, breathless moans pulled from his lips. He pulled back, bringing her with him. The next minute she was sitting in his lap, his mouth finding her neck, his hands moving to her chest.

Willow gasped, shifting her hips so they brushed across Rupert's and the realization of what he was doing broke through the hormonal haze of his brain. He moved away from where he was nibbling on her jaw and gently lifted her from his lap to the couch next to him. She was looking at him in complete confusion.

"Willow." He looked at her and when he saw the worry on her face he reached out and lightly touched her cheek. He was sure she hadn't really thought this through. It was one thing for her to admit her attraction for him, but acting on it was something else entirely. Touching him, kissing him, she would see how old and used he was and he wasn't sure he could emotionally survive her changing her mind. He wanted to voice his fears, but all that came out was, "Isn't this rather sudden?"

Willow was looking at him, her face a study in disbelief. Suddenly she broke out laughing.

"I'm sorry," she said, trying to stifle her giggles. "It just struck me as an odd thing to say after eight years of foreplay."

"Willow, I would have never pursued this when you were in school." He needed her to know that he wasn't that man.

"I know." Her voice was gentle and he forced himself to relax. "I was talking about from my side."

"I just…I don't want to rush you into anything you aren't ready for."

She reached out and took his hand, looking into his eyes.

"Rupert," His eyes widened at the rush of desire he felt at hearing her call him by his name. A part of him could imagine her saying it in the throes of passion and he had to force himself to pay attention to what she was saying. "I want this. I want you."

She was looking at him, her eyes sparkling in the dim light, her voice so calm and sure. She knew him better than anyone had for a long time and he swallowed back his fears, trusting that she could love him as much as he loved her. He stood, turning to face her.

"Perhaps we should move this somewhere more comfortable?" he suggested casually.

Willow stood, stretching and he found he couldn't take his eyes off her chest. Her laugh made him blush.

"See something you like?" she asked playfully.

"Well…it's just…" He swallowed hard. "Yes, very much."

"Good." She was still grinning at him. "I'd really like you to take a much closer look."

He looked at her standing there, smiling and happy to be with him, and something shifted inside him. All his years of being alone, of having to put what he wanted aside for the good of the world; all the hurt, fear, and loneliness that he carried every day seemed to dissolve. In her eyes he saw acceptance, want, love and he felt happiness building inside him. With a wicked grin, he stepped forward, easily sweeping her up in his arms.

"You know I've always enjoyed research," he whispered, his lips against her ear. He was gratified to feel her trembling in his arms.

"You've always been good at it too," she replied, her voice heavy with double meaning.

"And I'm extremely thorough," he said, moving towards her bedroom. "I wouldn't want to miss anything. This could take the rest of the night."

"I certainly hope so," Willow murmured, her lips against his as he kissed her deeply and carried her down the hall.

The End