"Tara doesn't understand," Willow pouts. "She doesn't understand that I worked for this. I mean, it's not where I get it from, it's how I use it."
Giles runs a hand through his hair in growing irritation. Why do they never listen to him? "Willow, she's worried about you. And, honestly, so am I. What you're dealing with is dark. Primal. You'll think at first that you're controlling it, but believe me when I say, eventually it will control you."
She looks startled. Betrayed. Then she shakes her head, her mouth a firm line. "No, it won't. I control it. I've studied it and…and, Giles, I can do the most amazing things. And, yeah, it's scary sometimes, but I'm prepared." She sighs. "I thought you'd understand because you did this, once. You didn't let anyone tell you how or why, you just studied and learned. I know it went wrong for you, but that doesn't mean it's going to for me. Giles, don't you remember how it felt?"
She's pleading with him, her head tipped just so, and he's torn between trying to slap some sense into her and pulling her into his arms and apologizing.
With a force of will, he does neither.
"Willow," he says carefully, "I was like you once. And that is why I tell you that you need to stop what you're doing." He takes off his glasses and meets her eyes, hoping she'll see something there that will make her think twice. Something that, for once, will make an impression. "I don't want you to see the things that I saw. I don't want you to have to go through the things that I did. I don't want that life for you."
She steps toward him, shaking her head slowly. "I don't either, Giles. But I'm not going to make those mistakes. I promise. Just…remember how good it was? Before things went wrong?"
She reaches out for him and he doesn't think to pull back until it's too late—her fingertips brush his forearm just below the tattoo.
Her power hits him like a blow—focusing on the Mark and then burning through his veins, bringing him to his knees and closing his throat around a strangled cry.
He's sure she's killing him, and then the pain fades slightly and he's…acutely connected. Warm and euphoric, and the world is at his fingertips. Anything he wants—any place, any person, any object…all he needs to do is reach out.
Oh, yes. Now he remembers.
He looks up, wanting to tell her to stop, that she doesn't know what she's doing—and stabbing pain doubles him over again.
He wants her. God, he can't breathe for wanting her. He wants to hold her and stare into her eyes and fuck her until her face flushes and she cries out beneath him. He wants to feel her magic rip into him and he wants to rip back.
He tries to tell himself that it's her power that's doing this, creating this, but he knows magic too well. Even she, as powerful as she is, can't make emotion from nothing. There was always something of this in him.
"No," he manages to whisper.
She crouches down to look at him, lifting his chin with her fingertips. Her smile is innocent and tinged with worry. It makes him want to cry.
"Don't fight it," she tells him. "I don't want it to hurt. I just need you to remember."
"Willow, please. You don't understand…" The magic is climbing, eating, burning and screaming and tearing open doors he forced closed years ago.
"You're wrong," she says firmly, and she takes his face in her hands and strokes her thumbs along his cheekbones. "I understand you better than anyone. I know how hard it's been. I know how you've fought and tried and pulled away from people. But you don't need to do that. You thought you had to give up what you had to be what you are, now. But you don't, Giles. Look at me."
She meets his eyes, concerned and loving, and he wants to vomit because she's still as beautiful as ever but she's not her…and he wants her anyway. God help him, he wants everything she's offering.
"You can be good, Giles, and still have power. Do you feel it?" She moves one hand to his chest and slides her fingers between the buttons on his shirt.
He shudders when her fingertips touch his chest; her magic sows promises under his skin.
"Let go," she whispers, and then her lips meet his and he feels like he's exploding.
"Will—" He tries to plead into her mouth, but it's too late—he's gone and everything is black.
It lasts a second. A nano-second. And then he's back and clear and her lips are against his and his magic is free like he never locked it away. Her power slides through his, colors swirling and dancing around them and he can feel all of her at once, against all of him, and he feels like he might blow apart with the incredible fullness of it.
She laughs softly—delightedly. "Oh, Giles, do you see? Together we can do anything. Buffy won't have to fight anymore, you don't have to stand by and watch. No one ever needs to hurt again. It's what we always wanted, isn't it? To have the power to help?" Her fingers pop the buttons off his shirt and he presses forward.
She's right. They can do anything now. Anything they want.
"Come here," he growls. She giggles as he kisses her, long and deep, dragging the power from her and then pouring it back again as she bites his lip and pulls him closer.
He tears her clothes off because it's fun—because he wants to. He revels in the sound the cloth makes as it rips; the little catch in her throat as he pops the seam of her sweater and then her plaid skirt.
Her bra catches before he breaks the clasp and she whimpers, her hands tightening in his hair as he soothes the mark with his tongue.
"Oh, God," she whispers, and her magic pulls at his shirt and then his belt.
He soothes her with his mouth and his power and then, with just a thought, there's no more clothing to worry about it. It's that easy, his skin against hers—enough to drown in, soft and smooth and ready.
They fit together like they were made for this—magic filling every pore, his body fitting every one of her curves. When he slides inside her it's like coming home, and their magic flares as they both cry out. The lights flicker once and then go out and he senses the chaos of their magic burning through Sunnydale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego—using power lines like wicks to diffuse the energy of their lovemaking.
"Oh, God, Giles," Willow whispers in awe.
"Sweetheart," he murmurs, moving slowly so they can savor the exquisite pain of bodies and powers merging. "Call me Ripper."