Chapter 2: Growing and Reacting

Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

A/N: Thanks to my betas, NeverTooOld, AshDawnSoulmates, Cristina and zigpal.

Warning: There are some mighty unhappy people coming up.

Timeline: Remember, this is an AU season 4. Oz never left because of Veruca.

Buffy & Tara

It was probably expected that Buffy would want to focus on her and Tara first as a couple. After all, she had already started down that road in her mind and heart. Plus there was the added freakiness of Giles getting…well, freaky with Buffy's mom the year before. Even though she knew it was because of the candy and Ripper didn't really have high standards for his partners, that didn't help her that much. If anything, it made her wonder again about Giles and Ethan way back when.

But Buffy and Tara…Buffy knew that she didn't understand the mechanics of girly lovin' but she figured she knew the basic equipment enough to muddle through. What she didn't know, Tara could help her out on. However, Tara had been serious about taking things slow on the smoochies front.

So they focused on building their emotional relationship without worrying about the physical. Which was easier said than done at times. That's where the hand-holding, cuddling and light make-out sessions came in. Surprisingly, that approach actually helped with the other two parts of the triad.

Tara & Giles

Given the verbal, emotional and sometimes physical abuse Tara suffered growing up at the hands of the men in her family, it wasn't surprising that she had a lot of issues to sort through to even let Giles touch her. At first, she'd only be okay if Buffy were in the room. Tara would keep a close eye on where the Slayer was. Giles knew this and was willing to take his time. Even if there weren't the matter of their triad to think about, this beautiful young woman deserved to be cherished, and she needed to believe that.

As she learned more about his history with Buffy, the more Tara trusted Giles. This man was willing to die for his Slayer – someone he was taught from childhood to view as expendable – after only knowing her for a few brief months. The other stories Buffy shared about his caring and selfless attitude only confirmed what a wonderful man he was. Even the few times he failed her were miniscule compared to the times he saved her, both physically and emotionally. He truly was a man to trust with her heart and body.

Giles & Buffy

Watching Giles care for Tara ultimately helped Buffy accept that while parts of Ripper still existed in Giles, he truly was a different man now. It wasn't like the difference between Angel and Angelus 'cause Ripper wasn't a sadistic monster; it was more like pre-Called Buffy and Slayer Buffy. Who she was back before Merrick changed her life was only a small part of who Buffy was now. It was that realization that helped Buffy open up to Giles.

She found she liked this version of Rupert Giles. He wasn't the stuffy Council drone when they first met, and he definitely wasn't Ripper anymore. He was…Rupert. Somebody she hadn't really met until now. Funny thing was, Rupert was a very funny, playful and – she had to admit it – very sexy man.

The Cord

The three of them together was quite simple to accept once they worked through their issues with the smaller pairings. They thought it would take more effort to ensure that nobody felt pushed aside: Buffy from the magick users, Tara from the Slayer/Watcher dynamic; Giles from the younger girls. The funny thing was though, it flowed naturally.

When Buffy needed extra assurance that she was more than the Slayer, Tara would remind her what a beautiful, charismatic woman she was and Giles would do the same. If Tara felt overwhelmed by memories of her family, Buffy and Giles would help her remember that she had a place with them. When Giles felt old and obsolete, the girls would remind him that he had a lot to teach them in many parts of their lives. And if any of them needed alone time, the others felt it and didn't push – even if that meant that occasionally all three were alone at the same time.

The reactions

About 4-5 weeks later…

Eventually it had to happen, though. Their happy little group had to come out of the closet, so to speak. And it just so happened to take place over Thanksgiving.

"Angel! What are you doing here?" Giles asked when he found the vampire on his doorstep.

Looking around furtively, Angel replied, "Doyle had a vision of Buffy in danger. Can I come in?"

Giles fought his anxiety about being with the creature who shared a face with the monster that tortured him. But this was about Buffy, so he brushed his concerns aside. "Fine. Now what was the vision about?" he asked again as he stepped away from the door.

After he entered the apartment, Angel caught a whiff of something that made him take a deeper sniff of the air. "First, why don't you tell me why you're sleeping with my mate and another woman?!" the vampire all but shouted. "I can smell them all over you and this apartment! You were just waiting until I left before swooping in on Buffy when she was vulnerable, weren't you? And you couldn't have the decency to treat her like she deserves? If you weren't satisfied with just one woman, Ripper, then you should have left Buffy alone!" Angel snarled, starting to stalk towards the Watcher.

Who, despite the shiver of fear he felt, couldn't help retorting, "You're a fine one to talk about treating Buffy like anything. You abandoned her! However, I actually want to thank you for that because your relationship was doomed from the start, and your leaving just helped Buffy realize that."

Anger overruled Angel's actions and he vamped out. "I knew it! You were waiting to prey on her!"

Right at that moment, Tara walked in and saw a vampire in full game face approaching Giles. Without thinking, she used her magick to push him to the other side of the room and held him against the wall. She knew that a vampire couldn't enter without an invitation, so she waited for an explanation before staking the creature who threatened the first man she ever trusted. "Uhh, Giles? Why is there a vampire in your apartment?"

"'Cause that's Angel," Buffy commented, having followed Tara in. "Doesn't explain why he's in Sunnydale though. Care to make with the 'splainy?" she asked with a raised eyebrow at her ex.

Angel just mimicked her tone and shot back, "Care to explain why you're screwing your Watcher? Do you even care that he's screwing someone else?"

Guessing he was trying to stir up trouble with his comments, Buffy gave a small chuckle to throw him off. It didn't matter that he was wrong about the sex part. They were still working their way up to that. They had managed to get to cuddling/smooching on the couch during movies. "Okay, first of all, it isn't any of your business. You left so I could be happy, and I am very happy…with both Giles and Tara. And how do you know anything? Have you been spying on us?"

"I can smell your scents all over him and the apartment," Angel explained, wondering why she wasn't more upset about hearing Giles had another woman. He had completely blocked out her statement about being with two people.

Buffy's nose screwed up. "Eww! That's really disgusting. Did it escape your vampy sniffer that her and Giles' scents are on me, and Giles and mine are on Tara? We are a happy triple couple. Umm, I think the term they used was triad," she said with a look at the others, who nodded.

Rolling his eyes at her naiveté, Angel chided her, "And you fell for that? C'mon, Buffy. Since when are you so gullible?"

She had enough of his condescending attitude. "You know what? I'm sorry that you're hurt, but we're good together, and if you can't accept that, then you should leave. And next time you need to tell us something, use the phone," Buffy told him, not even caring why he was here.

Angel's eyes narrowed in anger. "Fine! Don't come crawling to me when this falls apart and you need help picking up the pieces." Then he simply glared at them and stomped out of the apartment.

That should have been a clue that not everyone would be excited about them. Okay, they kind of already knew that. Which was why they were waiting to share the 'happy' news with the others. They wanted to be sure of themselves before subjecting the relationship to the scrutiny.

The first one they talked to was Buffy's mom.

Joyce was so angry and upset that she refused to stay in Sunnydale for Thanksgiving. Instead, she invited herself to her aunt's house for the holidays. When she left, she declared that this was sick, and Buffy had better get over this phase quickly if she ever wanted a home to come back to in the future.

Whether it was a surprise or not, Xander's reaction was much the same as Angel's. Buffy and Giles decided to announce their part of the triad as a way to ease the others into the news.

Without stopping to think about what he was saying, Xander blurted out, "You're kidding, right? This is some weird English version of a prank? Come up with the most disgusting thing to see if people fall for it?"

Hurt that he would say something like that, Buffy growled, "That's enough, Xander. It's not disgusting, and you are way out of line!"

"Oh please! He's like your father!" Xander snapped back, his opinion clear from the expression on his face.

"But he isn't!" Buffy reminded him. "He's somebody who cares more about me than his own life."

Xander just scoffed, "Yeah, didn't help me when I wanted you back in high school. What's different now? Is it just because Deadboy's gone? Should I have waited until then to make my move?" he asked, missing the hurt on Anya's face when he threw out the question.

Trying to keep her anger under control, Buffy ground out, "It wouldn't matter when you asked; the most I have ever considered you was a friend. If you want that to continue with that much, you'll keep your mouth shut until you can be civil about this."

"I just don't understand why you can't find somebody our age," Xander complained.

Even though things weren't going the greatest so far, Buffy decided that this should be like taking off a Band-Aid. They were already stinging from the pain of Xander's words; it couldn't get much worse…right? "Well, that's actually the other thing we needed to tell you guys. This relationship isn't just me and Giles; Tara is the final piece to our puzzle. The three of us complete each other," she explained, holding hands with both her partners.

Any hormone-driven fantasies of Buffy with another woman were overridden by the addition of Giles to the mix. "That's just sick! Do you even understand the concept of normal, Buffy?" Xander yelled at her.

Buffy saw the pain flash in both Giles and Tara's eyes and her control broke. "That's it! I won't have you hurting either of the people I love. Giles is one of the best people we have ever known – which you personally know! And Tara is the kindest soul I have ever had the privilege of meeting! She doesn't deserve any of your jealous hatred. Of the three of us, I'm the one who isn't normal! I'm a mystically chosen warrior for crying out loud! They are the ones who can do better!"

Squeezing her girlfriend's hand, Tara reassured Buffy, "No, we can't. You are who is best for us."

Giles caressed Buffy's cheek as well while looking into her eyes. "Tara's correct, luv. Xander is the one who is wrong here. We have accepted his relationship with an ex-demon and Willow's relationship with a werewolf. By his standards, those aren't normal relationships either, but Anya and Oz are more than just an ex-demon and werewolf; they are our friends. Real friends would remember that before casting stones."

But like the broody brunette before him, Xander stormed out of Giles' apartment, not even realizing that Anya didn't follow him. Despite the fact he gave her good orgasms, she didn't like this side of her bedmate. If he couldn't accept this triad, did he really accept her past? Or did he just overlook it for the sake of sex? When she thought about it, the sex wasn't enough for her.

Of the Scooby Gang, Anya probably took it the best. "This just isn't a sex thing for you three?" They shook their heads warily. "Good! I saw a lot of triads when I was a vengeance demon, and the true ones – the ones that weren't just about threesomes – were the most content people I had ever come across. No woman in one of those triads was ever scorned. Still, I hope that you have many wonderful orgasms together," she declared.

"Umm, thanks Anya." Buffy replied bashfully. It didn't look like either Giles or Tara were going to be saying anything anytime soon.

Once she stopped gaping like a fish out of water, Willow immediately starting her hypersonic babble, which none of them could understand. When she would take her gulping breaths, they tried to figure out her expressions, but then the chattering began again.

Oz didn't know Tara, but figured that it was only a matter of time before the Watcher and Slayer got together. After all, they shared a destiny, why not a romance? "So, the three of you…that's different. You're all good with it?" They nodded. "Cool."

Giles looked fondly at the young werewolf. "Thank you, Oz. That means a lot that at least two of you accept this. Maybe when Willow stops babbling we'll find out her take on it."

"I'm sure she'll be okay with it. There's just a lot for her to process right now," Oz said with an amused expression. Poor girl had to deal with Buffy with a girl, with Giles, and with the idea of all three of them. But he had no doubt that her love for her friends would win out in the end.

So when Thanksgiving happened the next day, it wasn't quite so festive for the small group. On the plus side, the ghost spirits were the highlight of the day. Gave them something else to focus on for a few hours.

A/N: That is it, folks. This is just a mini challenge that NeverTooOld and I came up with for fun. To write about a three-way relationship that wasn't a PWP.