"Buffy, behind you!"

The blond immediately turned and saw the creature coming at her. It was tall, brownish in color with ram horns and a ragged loincloth around its waist. She ducked, dropping under it's outstretched arm before delivering a blow to its back. It flew a good few feet, right onto Xander. He crashed into the ground and the creature took the opportunity to seize him. It lifted the brunette boy by his shirt collar and buried it's fangs into his neck, drinking.

"HEY!" Buffy looked indignant. She doused the thing with holy water and it didn't stop. She ran over to it and grasped its body and twisted it's neck with a satisfying crack. Even that failed to stop the demon. Xander lay bleeding as the hulking brown thing turned and adjusted its broken neck before considering its attacker. Giles moved to the boy's side and pressed a cloth to his wound. It rushed at Buffy and she slammed a stake through its heart. It looked down to the wooden shaft through its chest and looked back up at her.

"Lemme guess, that doesn't work either?" He voice dripped with sarcasm but really, she was worried.

By way of a response it pulled the stake out and tossed it away. It immediately started advancing again. She backed up, thinking about improvising. This thing took a beating, all right. Only one chance really. She saw Giles dragging Xander back to safety and she took off running in a short spurt. She opened the stone door of a mausoleum and get inside just to be trapped by the demon. It smiled, if you could call it that, and reached for her. With a grunt she connected with a blow to the chest, knocking it back to the ground and making it slide a few feet. She ran forward, keeping it down with it's head between the door and the door frame. With a quick jerk she shut the door. The head severed from the body and it twitched before going still.

"Ok, ew?"

She pushed the corpse back with her foot, away from the door and a fountain of red blood rushed forth. She made a sound of disgust and opened the door again. Whatever it was was dead now. She walked back to her Watcher and her friend.

"I got it."

Giles looked up and took off his glasses, wiping them with his handkerchief. "Good show, Buffy."

Xander whimpered. "Man down, kids!"

Buffy jumped. "Oh, yeah!" She bent down to help him up, supporting him.

"Can we figure out what that was, please?" he asked as they limped back to Giles' car. "I don't want to have demon babies."

"Oh, don't be silly, Xander." Buffy responded. "You're not having demon babies."

"Quite right." The Watcher pitched in. "There's only breed of demon that impregnates through the mouth and they're, well, not what bit you. Most demons that bite just infect their host. The Lorokite demons, for example, nasty buggers. They bite their victims and inject them with a venom that slowly liquifies their innards for easy digestion, not unlike spiders. Horrible way to die, very painful."

"Not helping." Buffy glanced sideways and gave him a look as Xander blanched.

"Oh, right, so sorry. I'm sure it's nothing. No reason to be worried."

They drove back to the library where Willow was waiting, with Cordelia. The school was closed for the night and they were alone. Buffy burst into the room first, the swinging double doors flung wide. Giles helped Xander in next and when Willow saw the bloody cloth pressed to his throat. She made a small "eep" and rushed to his side. Cordelia closed her eyes and sighed. "Great, Xander, how am I supposed to explain this to anyone that sees you?"

He rolled his eyes. "Gee, Cordy, don't let my life threatening injury keep you from your social life."

"A vampire bit you?"

"Demon. Largely on the badass side. Brown, hard to kill." That was Buffy.

"Oh, God! Are you gonna turn all ishy now?"

"My girlfriend, everyone!" he called out sarcastically. "Her concern for me is overwhelming."

They slid the boy into a chair around the table and everyone took a moment to pause. No one answered Cordelia's question. Giles was browsing the stacks, looking for a few choice books. Willow stood close to her best friend and was staring at the other across the table. Buffy watched all three of them. "What the hell was that thing?" she demanded, though no one knew.

"Research time?" Willow asked. The blond nodded. Giles descended the stairs and carried with him several volumes. He set them on the table.

"This is what I have in the stacks that may help. Willow, if you can get on that machine and do whatever it is that you do, it would be most useful. Xander can fill you in." He paused. "Buffy can fill you in."

She sighed and pulled a book closer as Giles moved into the back room, toward his private collection. Xander slid a book over to himself and made a sound of concern. "If it wasn't bad enough worrying about Mr. Evil Beyond All Reason showing up and torturing us, now we have to deal with ginormous demons that are insane to kill. Say, anyone else looking forward to some time that isn't now?"

Willow kicked him. "Owwie! What's with the kicking?" and then he noticed the look in Buffy's eyes when he mentioned Angelus and got the hint. She was barely keeping it together though they all knew the situation. Angel was the new Big Bad and with their ghostly freak out last week his name was the new taboo word. The evil vamp had crawled into hiding, as freaked as Buffy was, but no one knew for how long.

Cordelia picked up a book and Buffy gave Willow the Cliff's Notes version of their demon encounter. "Brown, loincloth, bites people and seems to enjoy blood but doesn't die from stakes. Also, not fearing the holy water." Willow nodded and started typing away. After that no one spoke much as Giles piled more books onto the table. Cordelia slammed the first book shut.

"Nothing in here about our poser vamp."

Buffy sighed. "Nothing in here, either."

Xander blinked, closing his book as well. "Hold on. I think I remember something."

Everyone turned to look at him. He gave them an impish look. "What? I can think occasionally. I had my Wheaties today."

He disappeared into the stacks for a few minutes and came out with another book. He set it on the table and flipped it open, thumbing through the pages until he came up with the right page. He pointed to the illustration. "There, this looks familiar. And I wasn't just looking at the boobs, I swear." In the picture demons like the one they encountered were entwined with long haired women with bare breasts in a tangle of limbs. Buffy read the caption.

"Bacchae and Maenads?"

Giles looked up from his own book. "Of course, why didn't I think of that in the first place?"

The blond gave him a look. "Giles, explain. You're the encyclopedia of all things weird. What's a maenad? Or a Bacchi for that matter."

"Bacchae is plural, I'm afraid. The singular is Bacchus, from their God. Dionysus, the Greek God of wine and hedonism."

"Heda whata?" Xander piped in.

"Hedonism. The act or compulsion of seeking pleasure be it physically or mentally."

"Don't they usually call that masturbation?"

"Xander!" Cordelia didn't sound amused.

"Hedonism is any act that can bring pleasure from drinking to sex to drugs and even massage."

"Ok. Weird much?"

"What are maenads?" Willow looked up from her computer screen as Buffy spoke.

"Maenads are the female worshipers of Dionysus. In mythology Dionysus was only half God and not recognized by his family for his divine blood. When he developed worshipers, it was considered a cult. Maenads were his female followers. They're usually depicted as wild and kinda crazy, what with the nudity and the blood lust. They organized meetings in his name, Bacchanalia. Usually boiled down to ritualistic parties and orgies."

"So your basic frat house Saturday night?" Cordy asked. Xander squeezed her hand. "What? I've been out with college guys. Hello?" Buffy interrupted.

"What's a Bacchae then?"

"The Bacchae started off as male followers of Dionysus that became cursed. They tried to steal the wine of the god and ended up being punished to live on the "wine of life" specifically, human blood. I wasn't aware there were any left in existence but it does explain the bite." Giles sounded very sure of himself as he came over.

"Oh, good. So I'll be ok? No babies or weird growth anywhere that I may need to hide in shame?"

"No, nothing of that sort but you're not out of the woods."

"Huh? Come again?"

"You've been bitten by the demon. You'll become one by the next moon rise if we don't do something."

"What do we have to do?"

"I don't know."

Willow piped up again, face lit by the computer monitor. "Oh! I do. According to a couple of websites the only thing that cures a Bacchae bite is to...oh." She trailed off and Xander looked at her, expectant.

"Let's not keep the folks at home waiting, Will."

She continued after a moment. "The only way to break the curse is to have Dionysus take it off of you himself."

No one spoke. Buffy growled in frustration. "How do you summon a god? I'm not losing anyone else, not for my mistakes."

"This wasn't your fault, Buff."

"I threw him into you!" she shot back, angry with herself to let them down, again. First Jenny and now Xander.

"The Rites of Dionysus." Everyone stopped and stared at the older man who spoke.

"I think I speak for everyone when I say Huh?"

"An old ritual. Complicated and, well, unconventional to say the least but it should be able to summon the God."

"We're going to try to summon a God?" Willow didn't sound very sure.

"No, not we, I'm afraid. I will, with Buffy for back up, of course. The rest of you should go home."

"You sure, G man? I mean, I'm the one all bitten and infected."

"Yes, quite certain. Please, all of you, go home. If we fail tonight we'll need you fresh and ready for more research tomorrow."

Slowly the trio left and only Buffy and he remained. He was both grateful and intimidated by this. They weren't on the best of terms with Jenny's death and the threat of Angelus' torture hanging in the air. He resented her, still, for his love's death, and love was now something he was quite certain he'd not want to delve into again. As much as he tried to keep his hope despite sensibility, in this he was quite resolved. Love on the Hellmouth was doomed. He wasn't ever going to feel this way again. In that sort of heart wrenching way he knew Buffy and he were perfectly the same.

"So, Rites of Dionysus?" she asked, looked at him, toying with a book cover.

"Please, sit down a moment." He asked her, looking uncomfortable and bound in his tweed suit. She did after giving him a questioning look. They sat eye to eye across from eachother at the table. He took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose and she knew whatever it was they needed to talk about, it wasn't pretty. Pinching his nose was usually Giles speak for "this is very bad." Usually, though, he was too British to say that out loud.

"Buffy, we must talk. These Rites were meant to call down the god and were created originally for those that wished to become part of his closest followers. Those that wished to become maenads or the male equivalent though I don't think that occurred often. This spell, that is to say, what we have to do...it's not the conventional spell with burning herbs and chanting couplets."

"It's Xander, Giles. We have to do what we have to do." she responded evenly.

"I don't think you understand, Buffy. To complete these Rites I'll need a consecrated alter, lots of wine, and...well...ah..." He trailed off and not very gracefully.

"And?" she prompted.

"Sex, Buffy. Part of the summoning ritual is sex done in very specific ways with, I've heard, rather intense results. I didn't think. What I mean to say is that I didn't think you'd appreciate...the others."

"Not sure I'm processing this. Wait a minute! You want us to? Are you out of your mind?"

He stared at her, frankly surprised by her outburst...and yet not. She was a young girl, after all, and her very evident protest against the idea did little to ease his tension and discomfort talking to her about it. He sighed, wondering if they should try to find an alternate route. Then, again, that would take time and they had exactly seventeen hours and counting.

"Buffy, I realize this must be a different idea for you..." The blond cut him off immediately.

"Different? You're suggesting that we have sex. You're so British...and stuffy...and old."

"Old?" he looked at her, offended. "Need I remind you that your last lover could have fathered your great, great grandfather?"

"It's hard to convict someone without a pulse, Giles."

"Or without a soul." She flinched and he felt sorry he'd not restrained himself. He hated that they weren't on the best of terms but there were unspoken issues between them that neither could seem to express. She sighed and spread her hands on the table. He suspected a protest was forming.

"The last person I had sex with went psychotic on me. He wants to kill me and my friends." Sure enough. Oh well, best to have out with it, the both of them.

"I know all too well the consequences of your sexual history, Buffy. That monster killed Jenny, the woman I loved. I'm not saying I'm relishing the idea but if we want to attempt to save Xander with this it has to be done in full and when it comes down to it you're the person I trust."

He realized at the last minute he'd said entirely the wrong thing. His face fell, softening from resolute to confused and concerned in a matter of moments. The bottled resentment had popped its top for a moment and he was sorry to have caused her more pain. By the look on Buffy's face he didn't need to remind her of the consequences of her actions. But something else was hidden behind her eyes as well, a vague resentment of her own against, he supposed, Jenny herself for lying. For the millionth time in recent memory he counted the distance between them and reckoned it larger than before. He couldn't lose her, nor she him and yet most of his heart wanted to kill Angelus for everything he'd done to Slayer and kin.

He took off his glasses and rubbed the skin just under his eye sockets with his thumb and forefinger. He was tense, unbelievably so. He couldn't force her, obviously, but there was no one else to ask. Surely not Willow in her shy ways or Cordelia in all of her snobbish glory. And even if he were the type to try and hire someone, who would stay to have sex with a young girl in attendance on an alter etched with archaic symbols? And if, for a mercy, someone did stay through all that how would they explain the god? He sighed, back to his original conclusion.

"Buffy, you're the only one." he said simply, at last. "You're the only one I can ask to do this. I promise you, no harm will come of it. Not by my hand, ever."

She sighed, turning in her chair to face away and gathered her jacket around her body a little tighter. He couldn't imagine what was going through her mind. "I can't, Giles." she whimpered, "I wish I could. There's so much I wish I could say to you right now but I can't."

He could tell she was almost in tears again and came forward from his own seat. She turned and looked at his approach, bringing her hand up to stop his progress toward her. Her eyes stared into his and he felt a connection surge between them, closer than he'd felt to the girl in weeks. She opened her mouth to speak and no words came. Her eyes were wide and pleading, calling to him to forgive her. Once words came they matched the same desperate tone of her eyes. He wished he didn't have to hear them.

"I hated her, Giles! I wanted her to die! When I knew the secret she'd been hiding from us and when I knew that what happened to Angel could have been spared if only she'd talk to us, I hated her. You loved her while I hated her and now she's dead and my mistake has robbed you of being happy. Why is it I can have dreams to stop other people's pain but I never seem to have the strength to stop my own?"

She was crying now, the tears sliding down her cheeks in rivers. His heart softened and he wanted to end her misery but knew he couldn't. The only thing he could do was be honest with her in return. She was opening the gate over her repressed emotions, then perhaps his time to do the same had come. He forced his hands down by his side and looked at her, studying the top of her head since her face was bent down.

"You should have let me die in there that night with Angelus. If I could have offered my life to take his I'd have counted myself happy."

"What would I do without you?" was her reply, quiet, her body guarded.

"You'd have lived on. Oh, Buffy, I've tried to be a pillar of support for you. I've tried to be there to help you along and pick up the pieces but part of me resents waiting for you to come to your senses. That demon wears your boyfriend's mask. It isn't him. And the longer we wait for you to come to grips with that, the longer the people you love are in danger. If you could have just put your heart aside and killed him, Jenny might still be alive. In a small way I seem to hate you for making me live without her, now that she's gone. Just as some moments I hate myself for not preventing it and I hate her for not being honest."

"You don't think I know that? All of it?" She looked up at long last, her eyes begging for absolution, still. "You don't think I know how much my weakness cost you? I hate myself, Giles. I dream about it at night, all of it, and I hate myself. I'd rather do anything in the world. I'd rather die than see you unhappy and I have to live knowing I caused it. How do you think that makes me feel? I know I'm a monster. I'm suffering for it, believe me. If I could have brought her back, I would!"

He pulled her forward, yanking her hand, and settled her into his arms. He smoothed her hair and felt the distance lessen in time. As it was so often these days he was conflicted between self pity, denial, the need to lash out, and the need to nurture. In moments he went from admitting his feelings stemming from his self loathing to wanting to comfort his hurting Slayer. Whatever anguish he was battling he still loved her as much as if she were blood.

"You silly girl. You can't carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Not everything is your doing alone. As it always will be with life, the twists and turns of paths aren't meant to be seen until they've passed. I'd give up anything to have Jenny again but I cannot bear this distance between us. You are my Slayer and I love you. Nothing will change that. We were chosen for each other. Remember that. You cannot go about thinking everything is your fault. The only thing to do is strengthen yourself up for the challenge ahead, whatever it may be."

She looked up at him, tears unshed still shining in her eyes. "I'm trying." she promised.

He felt a strengthened now that the time had passed and the air was cleared between them. They weren't alright, far from it, but for the first time he believed they could be. He hated to bring it up again but he couldn't stop. Time was passing and unless they wanted Xander to become part of the demonic fold, they'd have to act quickly. "Our next priority has to be Xander. I know it's awkward for you, Buffy, but there may be a healing to it, to know you're capable of physical interactions that don't end in pain. I want to show you that, at least, even if I am old and stuffy and wear tweed."

She looked up at him and almost laughed but instead she looked resigned. "Alright. I'll try."

"Good girl. I'll get what we need but we need an alter, something large and smooth and preferably stone."

"I know somewhere, an old church that had an alter like that. We can go there."

He nodded. "Good. I have wine. I daresay that will serve to ease our nerves at least. There are candles and things I'll need from my office. Wait here a moment and I'll get them."

She watched him walk away and hugged herself again. She hated being most anywhere these days. Nowhere felt safe. Out of some misgiving she went to the cage and grabbed a stake, slipping it up her sleeve. When her mentor emerged with a duffle bag she didn't ask. She simply followed him out to his car. As she got to it she felt a cold ball sweep through her and shivered, scanning the parking lot. She knew he was there, watching her. "Not tonight, Angel. Please." she whispered feverishly. It was the last thing she needed.

"Buffy? Are you coming?"

"What? Oh, yeah, coming." She climbed into the passenger seat and locked the door. The older man blinked.

"Anything the matter?"

"Girl's gotta be safe nowdays, Giles. Let's go."

She directed him to the church and for the most part they drove in silence. She hated feeling like Angel was one step behind no matter where she went. It seemed like the only men she could count on, always, were Xander and the Watcher by her side. She was grateful for that now and scared for them. As the lights of Sunnydale flashed by in the quiet car she leaned against her arm and looked out at the darkness. It was later than normal, no one walking outside…at least not many live someones. She tried not to think about that.

They pulled up to the abandoned church and he halted the car with a lurch. It didn't take long to get everything together to head inside. The inside of the church was dark, moonlight filtering through large windows coated with years and years worth of dust so that the light was diffused. It was enough to see the details of the gothic structure. Vaulted ceilings echoed every sound of their intrusion. Buffy shivered though the inside wasn't particularly cold. She wasn't sure why they never tore down the building after it was abandoned but she didn't like being there.

"Ah, good." Giles was at her side and she glanced at him.

"Good?"

"The altar is perfect, Buffy, just as you said it would be."

He, apparently, had no misgivings about the place. The altar stood in a raised dais. It was made of a smooth gray stone and was about sex feet long and four wide, large enough to accommodate two adult bodies easily. They moved forward with purpose and Giles set his bag down beside the altar. He began pulling the things he needed from it, placing candles around the base of the thing and using a temporary ink on the surface to etch out a reasonable rendering of Dionysus' symbol. He consecrated it with part of one of the bottles of wine he had with him before drinking several long gulps for himself. He offered her the bottle. She shook her head.

"I'm not sure me and wine mix, Giles."

"You have to have some, Buffy, as part of the ritual. The bodies of the lovers must run with the wine of the god."

"Please don't say things like that." She begged. "I'm wigged enough as it is."

He nodded. "I'm fairly…wigged…myself. The wine will help. I'm not supporting underage drinking, understand, but it is part of the ritual and we need it to help Xander."

She took the bottle, taking a long and healthy swig from it. The contents burned her throat going down and it was bitter on her tongue. She swallowed and took another drink. Then she handed the bottle back to her Watcher. He proceeded to take a few more drinks and the bottle was gone. He set it aside.

"This will kick in soon." He warned. "Keep me focused, please."

She nodded and he flipped open the book in his hand to the proper page. "I need to chant in Greek to prepare the altar."

"Wait!" she cried out suddenly. He looked at her, alarmed. "What about, you know, protection?"

"Oh, ah…" he trailed off, tempted for a moment to call the whole thing off rather than face his embarrassment. "You see, Buffy, my…ah…I'm supposed to…oh bugger me!" He paused, taking a deep breath and trying to gain some semblance of composure. "Strictly speaking, I'm supposed to uh, come, on the altar and not…inside you."

"Oh."

The word echoed through the room and sounded louder to her than she'd have liked. They lit the candles silently and a ring of fire burned along the bottom of the giant stone table. Her Watcher took another bottle of wine and poured a little into his cupped hand and chanted in Greek while moving his hand over the god's symbol in a specific pattern, sprinkling drops of wine here and there. The symbol lit up for a split second and the man nodded, satisfied.

"It's time." He whispered. "Come here, Buffy."

She went, trembling as she did. Suddenly the reality of the situation hit her like a ton of bricks and she felt short of breath as he took her hands. Her eyes moved up to consider his face. His gaze was heavy on her, concern showing despite an obvious inebriation. Giles saw the hesitation and fear in her eyes and felt a little heartsick. He slid a hand up to catch her chin, tilting her face up to look at him.

"Darling, it'll be alright. Believe me. No harm will come of this."

She nodded, trying to believe him. The truth was that she didn't trust herself. He bent his head down to kiss her. It was a gentle sweep of his lips against hers, a test. She closed her eyes and tensed, feeling him as he tasted her lips for the first time. It was the initiation of contact, an invitation. A shiver went up her spine and she pulled away.

"I can't do this!" she protested.

He frowned. "I know, Buffy, this isn't ideal for either of us. We're wasting time. We must hurry now or the moment will be lost."

She sighed and steeled her resolve. Her lips sought his again, more accepting this time. She wrapped her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss and ignoring the trembling of her body. His arms swept around her waist and moved her onto the altar. He paused a moment, breaking the kiss to cup her chin in his hands and look into her eyes. His pride was shining clearly back at her along with his love and affection.

"You're an amazing woman, Buffy Summers. I feel very privileged right now."

She tried to smile but ended up blushing instead. "Let's not, Giles. Just...just kiss me."

He obeyed, kissing her again. They were light kisses of affection and he felt them ease into a deeper state of acceptance. He didn't know what she was thinking but her kisses were getting deeper, more languid and wanting. He slipped her shirt over her head and lost himself to the feelings of power radiating from the symbol behind them. He stripped her with the talent years of practice brought. For all his reputation as a stuffy tweed clad librarian, he was a wild youth and had more than enough practice at getting girls out of their clothing to know how to do it simply and easily. His hands touched her naked body as he positioned her over the deity's symbol. His own quickly followed suit and he mounted the dais to join her on top of the marble surface.

"From here, my dear, I'm afraid it's rather by the book. I'll go slow if you need me to."

She shook her head, pulling him down to her. She liked him close to her body and she found she liked his kisses. They were unassuming and sweet, not the hungry need she'd felt with Angel. "Are you drunk?" she asked softly as he kissed the inside of her thigh drawing his tongue up the soft skin.

"Very much so, yes." he assured her. Just to be safe, though, he picked up another bottle of wine and pulled out the cork, drinking down as much of it as he could. Buffy took a few healthy pulls and they set about their task.

"There are, ah, different positions I'm supposed to assume until the intended affects happen. The summoning ritual needs the herbs, wine, and our mixed pleasure to work. It'll be intense, so I've read. I'm afraid once its started I cannot stop the feeling."

He tested her opening with a finger and found her far more accepting than he'd have imagined possible. She was slick already even as nervous as she was and her core was scorching hot. There were things Rupert Giles blessed about youth. This was one of those things. He kissed her one last time, letting his lips linger against hers. He entered her an inch at a time worried about hurting her. She whimpered and flexed internally and his body flooded with fever and desire. This was beyond anything he ever imagined could happen. He'd be sacked if the Council ever found out. Sacked, or arrested, or even murdered if Joyce ever found out. He tried not to think about it. The point was to make her come once in each of the positions he needed to shag her in before he could come himself. He knew, by reading, that the orgasms would get progressively more powerful as they went along.

For a moment, he couldn't move. She was so excruciatingly tight he found he couldn't imagine moving. Her arms were around him, holding him tightly. Her blond hair was splayed out on the stone behind her, droplets of wine coloring it here and there. He slowly came to his senses and moved his hips, pushing into her willing body over and over as she whimpered beneath him. She closed her eyes and he didn't say anything. Maybe she needed her own thoughts. He was encouraged by her throaty moans of pleasure and increased his pace. He felt connected to her now. He felt her body as surely as his own and felt them becoming one. He drew in a shuddering breath as her energy surged through him. She must have been feeling the same effects because she half sat up and buried her face in his shoulder to stifle the growing sounds she was making.

He felt her come a few minutes later with hardly a warning or other marker. She only gave a small cry and threw back her head. He knew by the way her inner muscles flexed over him and how the flood of her near virgin body coated his member and dripped down onto the stone below them. The symbol started to glow but Giles only changed position and kept going, near groaning as his own pleasure mounted. In quick succession she came beneath him and he changed position until the last of her orgasms overwhelmed her. It was more powerful than any of the others and by then he'd overcome his fears to delight in the sound of his name being drawn out of her lips on the wave of pleasure. He felt himself drift into rapture and pulled out of her in time to spend himself on the symbol, mingling with the proof of her climax, the herbs, and the ink. The symbol glowed and the altar began to shake.

Buffy leaped off of it, looking mildly confused. All of the candles extinguished and the symbol glowed in their stead. Buffy reached out to Giles immediately and he held her, waiting. Nothing dire seemed to be happening. Buffy bent down and grabbed up her pants, shoving them on before searching for her shirt. The Watcher took up her lead and by the time they'd dressed the shaking had calmed.

"Did it work?" Buffy asked softly since all that was left was the glowing. There was applause in the back of the room and the blond was immediately afraid to turn around. A cruel voice soon accompanied the clapping.

"I would never have believed it if I didn't see it with my own eyes!" Buffy turned at last, hard as stone.

"Angel." The vampire continued unaware that name was spoke.

"The Watcher is getting it on with my sloppy seconds! It's so pathetic I just can't even laugh! You'd think some things would still be sacred but I guess Buffy's just dying to get around. Who's next? Spike? Or that little puppy dog of a friend...Xander?"

Giles placed himself between the vampire and the Slayer, momentarily distracted from their true purpose here. His eyes narrowed dangerously and Buffy felt an unknown energy pulsing through him when she touched his shoulder. When the man spoke, his voice was a low growl that could be heard perfectly well with the acoustics of the old church.

"You will not speak of her in such a fashion. Whatever love she bore for who you used to be, you are no longer him and…"

The blond cut him off. "And I have no problems killing you, Angelus."

She would have moved forward but then the entire church seemed to lurch forward and everyone tumbled to the ground. Giles sat up first.

"Dear me. I knew I was drunk but I didn't think…" he trailed off. There on the altar, glowing and redolent with grapes and herbs, lounged the god Dionysus accompanied by two beautiful attendants, a boy and a girl. Buffy turned to look and knew she'd never seen anyone so beautiful in all of her life. People she loved far better, even Angel, paled in comparison to the god or his unlikely servants.

Dionysus himself had pale skin with a golden tone and deep auburn hair that framed his face perfectly. He had soft features, almost cherubic in likeness and very little on to cover his perfect skin. He was draped over the altar, leaning up to take a grape being offered to him by the hand of his male servant. Indeed, both attendants were fair and pale and ambiguous in appearance. Both were golden haired, like herself, with slightly fuller figures popular in the age. She stared in open mouth awe as did her mentor.

The vampire was the first to break the silence. "You summoned a god, Buffy? You must be getting desperate."

The god himself turned to look first at the blond's back since she turned to face her foe and then at the vampire. He was about to speak when the Slayer did it for him.

"Angel, meet Dionysus. In case you're not up on Greek culture, he's the god of wine, hedonism, and"

Angel paled, if that was possible, and stared in horror. He completed her sentence in a small voice, all his previous swagger gone. "Vampires."

"Pretty demon." The god cooed. His voice had the same effect as a cool breeze on a hot day or the first sip of water after a long jog. "You are not like my Bachhae, mindless. Come join me and serve me. You are much too pretty to be destroyed."

Angelus lurched forward and Buffy could see he was struggling. She backed up in terror as he passed. Giles seemed too stunned to move or speak this long while, perhaps too drunk to take it all in. She wished she had a stake, to end it all now while he couldn't move. She heard Angel's voice grating as he addressed the god.

"I won't serve you." Despite his words, his body bowed all the same at the edge of the dais.

"Oh?" the god responded, sounding amused. "But I can make you human again, if that is your wish."

"No!" he growled out the word. "Don't infect me with a filthy soul. I'd rather do anything else."

"I could destroy you…" the other mused and Buffy could almost see the idea rolling around in his mind.

"No!" she cried out this time, coming forward. "Please."

Both god and vampire regarded her. Little did she realize her Watcher did, too. Angelus sneered, gaze heavy on her. "Still can't do it, can you? After all I've done to you."

She tore her eyes away from his, trembling, and focused on the god that watched her with no small amount of amusement and desire. He seemed to be waiting for an explanation.

"Let me do it. I owe him that much for the pain he caused the people I love."

"You're one of the lovers that summoned me. I sense power…" the God reached out a hand. "Come little warrior, I wish to know you better."

Buffy took a step forward and immediately she was clad in the Grecian style, pale linen draped over her body and secured by ethereal ribbon. Her hair was gathered up on her head and strung with seed pearls. She reached out to Dionysus and his attendants lifted her gracefully to be at his side. The god's pale hand stroked her cheek, lovingly.

"You are a beautiful creature, mortal." He paused. "Such fire and innocence, I love it. You're a little too thin for my taste but such is the body of a warrior. Be mine, child, and I will grant you anything you request of me."

"Anything?"

"I promise. Be mine. Obey me, serve me, love me and I will grant you whatever is in my power to grant."

"Could you bring someone back from the dead?" she asked softly and immediately her Watcher jumped to his feet.

"Buffy, no, stop this! You can't consider it!"

"Why not? You can have her. You can have her back."

She looked at the god. "All I would want is for you to give Angel back his soul, take the Curse of the Bacchae from my friend Xander, and to bring Jennifer Calendar back from the dead. Can you do that for me?"

"NO!" both Watcher and vampire roared at the same time. The god interrupted.

"The boy, Xander, was bitten by one of mine, was he not? That's why you summoned me?" She nodded. "It is a steep price you ask, little one, even with all you have to offer." He paused. "The woman, Jennifer, is yours and your friend. The soul of this vampire remains out of reach for you. He's no concern of mine."

The fiend wearing her boyfriend's skin grinned. He couldn't move but he taunted her all the same. "I'm not going anywhere Buff."

The god looked nonchalant and waved a dismissive hand as an attendant offered him more wine. "Vampire, you no longer amuse me. Leave us now and don't come back."

Against his will Angelus stood and walked toward the back door of the building. He'd be cutting it close for sunrise. Once outside the vampire cursed his close call and ran back to his own sanctuary seething that the teenaged Slayer was one step ahead of him again.

Giles ran to her, yanking her to him and holding her tightly. "No! Buffy! I can't let you do this. I can't let you give yourself up! You can't leave me. I can't do this on my own."

She was crying as she looked up at him, tears streaking her cheeks. "I can make it right, don't you see?"

"This isn't right, Buffy. Bringing Jenny back like this wouldn't be natural. I need you, Buffy. You're the Slayer. If you became his consort you'd be immortal but you'd be far away from here."

"Giles?"

Dionysus watched the two like he was audience to an improvisational play. The antics of mortals fascinated him, truly. They had the habit of making every single problem more significant than it ought to be because their lives demanded it.. Unlike his unaging years, their life spans were short, dramatic and complicated. For a while he watched the show and then amusement gave way to boredom and he yawned, motioning for more wine. "Make your choice, mortal." he demanded simply.

She looked at him. "I choose to stay." she said plainly. "But I need Xander. I need you to take your curse off of him."

The god called for more wine and his boy attendant fed him the drought. He was clearly put off by her refusal but stayed with them, gorging himself on the delicacies that seemed to appear out of no where. Swirling blue smoke wafted out of a pipe between his lips. Opium. Both mortals watched him take his sweet time before he finally deigned to answer her request.

"I can't just give him to you. There's no fun in that." he responded, pouting as he took another long pull from his pipe. "Entertain me, Slayer." he demanded. "Defeat my maenad and I'll take my curse off of your little friend. You did kill one of my children..."

"Your children? You cursed it to be a vampire!" she protested. The god smiled.

"Yes, to live off of the intoxicating blood of others. Imagine what it is to truly taste those around you, to have them inside of you."

"Oh my God." she muttered. Dionysus looked pleased with himself.

"Defeat my maenad and I'll give you your friend's freedom." he sounded firm on that offer.

"Alright. Fine."

She appeared at once behind the altar, wild and primitive. Her long hair was free and lose and looked like it might be alive. The woman wore next to nothing but had none of the grace or beauty of the god's attendants. The look in her eyes was as wild as her hair and just as insane. Buffy had very little time to react as the woman lunged at her, moving to take the Slayer down. She sidestepped and brought her leg out to counter. Only part of it worked. She connected with the hit but failed to get far enough out of the way. The pair of them toppled to the ground.

Rupert leapt in to action himself, pulling the howling demon-woman off his beloved Slayer. "Don't you touch her!" he demanded. The woman spun and grabbed the Watcher. She lifted him while the blond scrambled to her feet. She growled when she saw the Britishman hoisted in the air with the bitch's hands around his throat. She tapped the maenad on the shoulder.

"Hey!" she shouted and the wild woman turned. Giles was dropped to the ground in a heap, groaning. Buffy glanced in his direction to see if he was alright. "No one lays a hand on my Watcher." she gritted out, determined.

Without warning the blond reached out and twisted the fiend's neck until she heard a very loud crack. The demonic woman crumpled to the ground and lay still. Dionysus applauded.

"Bravo! Bravo! Very entertaining, warrior girl. I am very amused. Are you sure you wouldn't like to be my consort? I could dazzle you with the things you'll experience."

She looked at him, clearly stating without words what she thought of the offer. The god once again looked like he was about to laugh. "No?" he queried. "Very well. I can see why you became lovers...so protective of one another. That love runs deepest when it seeks to cherish and protect. Very well, your friend Xander need not worry about the coming night. I release him."

Without fanfare the god flicked a hand and disappeared. His presence lingered on, though, too big for the room to really encompass. Buffy leaned on Giles for support, mentally and physically exhausted. Her Watcher felt much the same way and enjoyed the woman being in his arms. The last words of the god hung heavy in the air. The older man smoothed the Slayer's hair.

"He's right about one thing. I do love you, Buffy. I promised no harm would come of this and I kept true to my word. You are capable of giving yourself to someone in a physical sense without any damage resulting. Promise me you won't let this ruin that gift you have. I saw a glimpse of it tonight and I can't imagine being the last to see all of you shining out. It's lovelier than I have words to describe."

"Giles..." she sighed, blushing. She wanted to tell him to stop but actually, it was nice to hear. "I love you, too." she responded instead. She loved him like a friend and a confidante. He loved her like a protege and friend. It was enough for them. It would always be enough.

"I'm dead." she whimpered, moving out of the church and into the morning light. Despite the inherent jerk of fear those words placed in her Watcher's stomach he found he matched the sentiment.

"I feel much the same way."

"And now I have school all day. Oh, God, I don't even want to imagine chemistry..."

"You can sleep in my office for a while. I'll write you a note. Let's say we get you to the second half of your classes this afternoon. I think a day without chemistry is a proper reward for a friend saved, wouldn't you?"

"Giles, I don't deserve you." she sighed happily, already drifting off in the car seat next to him.