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His body’s timing was bad, as always. Was it disastrously bad? Did he need to beg off from the demon hunt now? Giles gnawed on the earpiece of his glasses and counted days. It would be close, but he had a margin for error. They should be done and back to Sunnydale in plenty of time, more than twenty-four hours before it would start. And if the demon gave them any trouble, if there was any sort of delay, he had ways of coping. Staying home was unthinkable. He couldn’t beg off, not so soon after the unification spell and the renewal of their friendship. Not so soon after his Slayer had accepted him as part of her team again. It would be fine. All he had to do was plan, and he was good at planning.

Giles pulled open his bedside drawer and put together his emergency kit. Plug, lubricant, discreetly wrapped in a t-shirt and tucked into the back corner of his bag, tools to help him get through the heat if it started while he was with them. The suppression drug would ruthlessly damp the worst of it, though he’d be logy and tired under its influence, and then the plug would satisfy the urges that survived even the drug. That mindless urge to be penetrated, to be seized and claimed by someone. Strange that anything survived that horrible drug. Bloody stuff. Brutal stuff. He hated having to resort to it, but there was no way he was opening himself up to that risk again. Not with those two near him.

Xander he could cope with well enough, but Buffy, Buffy was difficult. She had blossomed into an alpha in the second year he’d known her, to his deep dismay. Of course his sodding Slayer had to be an alpha. The Council had seemed unsurprised. They’d sent him a parcel of the drug and ordered him to take it. Not that that he’d needed the order. Once a month he’d swallowed the drugs, be damned to the long-term consequences, just to avoid the hell of having her turn her head and sniff. If she’d crooked her finger he’d have been doomed. If she hadn’t, it would have been worse.

Better that she never, ever know.

And for that reason, this trip had to be quiet and this demon had to die on schedule. Fortunately he had enough advanced intelligence to know how to kill the thing. He knew the species, the nesting spot, the line of approach. It would take fire. Xander had the oil torches they’d made yesterday; Willow had done the magical prep work; Buffy would provide the brawn. Giles’s own role would be to hang back, observe, and tweak the plan if needed. And afterward to give Buffy feedback on her performance. She’d asked him to work with her more closely through the summer. Was he going to muck that up by not going with her on this trip when she’d asked him to? He was not. The timing would damn well have to be good enough.

He carried the bag downstairs and let it drop noisily by his front door. One last thing and he’d be ready. The drug was in his medicine cabinet, inside a prescription box for painkillers. He’d take one of the pills with him, just in case. It likely wouldn’t matter. If all went well, he’d be safely back in his flat with the door locked when this month’s heat came. Take the suppressor, ride out what it couldn’t damp down, use the plug and masturbate when it crested anyway. It was miserable and lonely, but it was safe.

Damn, it would be difficult to be near two alphas and unable to let either one of them touch him. He missed sex with a proper alpha. Olivia had been a beta, not completely satisfying, but at least he hadn’t been alone. Going through it with a beta was good, but being with an alpha was best. So sweet. Ethan, back in February, that disastrous visit, no doubt timed for when it would have been rising in him, had had the masterful touch Giles craved. He’d always had it. That had been good sex, intense sex. The last sex he’d had, for he’d made certain to have the suppressor at hand in the months since. Bloody opportunistic Ethan. His own Slayer had nearly killed him. A fine humiliating end that would have been.

His front door slammed open and Giles nearly jumped out of his skin. Buffy, followed by Xander and Willow, all in mid-conversation about some movie they wanted to see. The pair of alphas, so dangerous, along with his safe friend Willow.

Giles shut his medicine cabinet. He drew in a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and went out to greet them.


All was well on the long drive up the coastal highway to the famed state park where the “grizzlies” were eating people. All was well on the first night, when they were a happy talkative group in a single motel room. Giles listened to his Slayer and her friends chatter in the dark long after they ought to have fallen asleep, and felt himself happy. His Slayer was safe; his young friends were getting on together; and he himself was welcome in their lives. He had purpose again. He was happy enough to listen that he didn’t bother grousing at them to shut up and sleep, as they likely expected him to. They woke readily enough in the morning when he rousted them out of bed, at least. All three demanded to be driven to the Denny’s in town for a breakfast that might dismay even an Englishman.

The drive to the state park was uneventful, and so was the hike up to the scenic overlook where the chaos demon had made its nest right out in plain view of horrified hikers. Which it then paralyzed and bundled up into its nest, like a digger wasp. A very large digger wasp with slimy deer antlers. How had anyone mistaken it for a bear?

Finding the nesting spot was no difficulty indeed. The four of them stood on the trail contemplating the slimy egg cases.

“Yup, that’s a nest,” Buffy said. “And can I just say that I am never watching Alien again? Yes, I can say that.”

“Face-hugger!” Xander raised a clawed hand up at her, which Buffy swatted away.

“Jerk.”

Giles turned away and scanned down the trail back the way they’d came. If the demon were following the reported pattern, it would already be hunting them, having mistaken them for more unprepared hikers. Did he see movement in the underbrush off the trail to the left? He did. He shouted.

His Slayer ran past him with her sword already drawn. He opened his mouth to warn her to be careful, but she was already well down the trail. The demon was there, grappling with her. It was a big one. The sword flashed but the thing did not fall; the pair rolled together and separated. They clashed again. Giles ran down the trail, to help, but it was over as suddenly as it had begun. The sword bit home. Buffy swung again and again. It was dead.

Buffy marched back up the trail with demon head in hand. Green blood dripped from the severed neck to the ground and it smoked where it struck. Buffy held it well out to the side, where the blood couldn’t get on her clothing. She wore a disposable poncho just in case. Into the nest it went. Giles and Xander followed more slowly, each with a demon leg in hand, dragging it up the trail on a tarpaulin. That went into the nest as well, along with the ruined tarp.

Buffy said, “Grossness level about seven out of ten. I have killed grosser things.”

Xander snorted. “Can I say that I’m glad I haven’t been there to help for those?”

“Shut up and give me the torch.”

Xander handed it over. Buffy held the business end out to Giles, who carefully lit it with a long wooden match. The flame was pale in the sunlight. It wavered, then flared up. The oil had caught. Buffy turned and paused with the torch poised over the nearest egg.

“Are you sure this isn’t going to burn all of Big Sur? Because that would suck.”

"That’s what I’m here for,’ Willow said. She had already begun the casting, Giles saw. Little clouds had already begun to gather over her head.

Xander said, “And are you sure that stuff won’t blow up and cover us with goo? Because I saw a movie like that once.”

Giles glared at him briefly, then turned to Buffy. “Do it.”

The torch dipped and the oily slime caught fire instantly. Flames roared up into the sky, shot through with green and blue from the otherworldly flesh they burned.

Xander and Giles stepped back. Willow’s chanting rose in volume; the clouds swirled around the nest and rained upon its circumference. Dark oily smoke roiled up from the burning corpse of the demon. The heat was intense. It burned white-hot with demonic fire and then everything collapsed into flaking ash within minutes. Giles took Willow’s hand and lent his strength to the spell for the final wash of cooling rain over the embers.

It was over, and it had gone exactly according to Giles’s plan. No one was injured, not even his resilient Slayer, and no more civilians had lost their lives. And as a bonus, he would indeed make it home safely well before his heat began.

The four of them packed up their tools and began the hike back down toward the coast. Buffy led the way, with most of the gear strapped absurdly to her backpack. She didn’t seem to notice it.

“Giles plans like an omega general,” Xander said, with admiration in his voice. Giles flinched and schooled himself to look away from Buffy, but Xander’s comment seemed to have been entirely innocent. It was a common saying, he knew: you wanted omegas planning your battles, alphas on the front lines, and betas in your capital city negotiating the rest of the idiots out of the war. He hated the cliche, if only because it was exactly how things were for Watchers and Slayers. Well, Slayers, anyway. He had his suspicions about how often Slayers turned out to be alphas. And as for Watchers– every one he’d known.

“Well,” Giles said, “this plan went well enough. For once.”

“Celebratory dinner?”

“So long as we’re home early tomorrow. I have–”

“Yeah, yeah, your appointment.” Xander elbowed him cheerfully and, Giles suspected, even affectionately, then loped ahead to join Buffy. Giles watched them walk together, his Slayer and her friends. They were getting on again. That was good. If the unification spell was to have any long term effects, he would prefer it to be that one. He’d hated watching them at odds with each other. He’d hated being at odds with them. And now he had his Slayer back. His prickly, distant, endearing Slayer. She really was quite a lovely woman now. And so was Willow. And Xander too, handsome indeed with all that dark hair. The three of them, most attractive.

Giles shivered. It was unseasonably cold for May. Or rather, ordinarily cold. The California coastline was a hell of fog and brisk wind even in the spring. He curled his fists and pulled his hands up into his over-long sleeves. Handy things, these baggy jumpers. He felt quite odd. Had the thing been poisonous despite everything his text had said? Or perhaps he was simply coming down with a cold. He slowed his pace and let the others pull ahead of him.

Willow noticed and hung back to let him catch up. She plucked at his sleeve.

“You okay?” she said.

“Feel a bit peaky.”

She took his hand in hers– slim cool hand, capable hand, soothing hand. Giles clasped it and walked with her down to the parking lot at the trail head. Xander and Willow were already at the car, talking. Xander was waving his arms around, imitating something. Giles shivered.

Willow stepped into his path and brought him to a halt. She laid her hands on his arms and looked into his eyes. “Giles. Are you going into heat?”

Giles opened his mouth to snipe at her for having dared speak it aloud near the other two, then he snapped it shut again. Hot flashes, dizziness, prickles on his skin. Bugger.

“It’s early.”

Willow cast a glance over her shoulder at the other two, bickering even yet. “Do you need to get away from them?”

“I’ll just take the suppressor. I have it with me.” He thrust his hands into his pockets, searching. Rental SUV key, house keys, a few coins, motel entry card. Back pocket? Wallet. No little plastic strip of pills. Bugger again. “Back in the motel room. If I can last until we get there, it’ll be fine.” He tried to speak reassuringly as much for himself as for Willow. She looked doubtful.

“If those two don’t tear each other to shreds before we get back. You’re probably already signaling it. Giles, they’re going to figure it out.”

“Bloody hell. Help me cover. Drive us back now.”

“You should just tell her. She won’t be upset with you.”

Giles hunched over in misery. “She thinks I’m beta. Nice safe unthreatening boring beta. Not in the game.”

“Giles–”

“Not going to argue with you about this. Get me back to the motel and keep them away.”

“If you want.” Willow did not argue with him further, but merely tugged at his sleeve until he found it in himself to stumble into motion again. In motion toward those two, toward his Slayer, toward certain doom. Damn his body to hell and back.

“Guys, Giles is feeling sick. We need to get him back to the motel and let him sleep.”

“Aw, poor Giles. He’s going to miss the swimming party. Xander and I have decided we’re going skinny dipping in that river back up the trail.”

“Not ‘miss’ as such,” he said, because it was what they expected him to say. He tried to give them a wide berth on his way to the car, but Buffy was too solicitous for once. Why couldn’t she be indifferent as she’d been all year? But no, she was there taking him by the arm. Touching him. He shuddered and then Xander was there as well, being helpful at exactly the worst moment. Their scent overwhelmed him and his body responded. His head swam. He went down on his knees between the two of them. His hand reached for his collar; his clothes chafed him.

“He’s not sick,” Buffy said. She and Xander looked at each other. Their nostrils flared. In the next moment they were upon him, hands plucking at him, each of them seeking to tug him closer to themselves.

“Don’t touch me. Don’t bloody touch me.”

Buffy and Xander both moved away instantly, though there were near-identical wounded expressions on their faces. Giles snarled at them and they shied away again.

Willow stepped between him and the pair of them. “Okay, guys. Stay away from Giles. Ten feet away. Good. I’m going to drive us all back to the motel now.”

She reached into Giles’s pockets with a murmured apology and pulled out the keys to the rental SUV. Her touch was completely unlike the touch of the two alphas: soothing, not arousing. She helped him to his feet again and led him to the car. Giles had regained enough self-command by that point to buckle his own seatbelt.

Willow drove them back out along the fire road away from the trailhead. When they got to the main road she looked at him and he pointed left, the way back to town. She shook her head at him and turned right. Bugger again. The pair of alphas in the back were already quarreling over him. His erection, already bothersome, responded by becoming almost painful. He hunched up in the seat. Damn this heat. Damn how it stripped his dignity from him.

Xander said, “Which one?”

“Me.” Buffy was firm about it. Something inside Giles leapt with joy even as he cursed his stupidity in allowing her to find out.

“He gets to pick.”

“He’ll pick me.”

“Maybe he likes me better.”

“You already lost that fight.”

That last was punctuated by a thud. Then Willow’s voice cut through it all. “Guys. Stop. Now. Giles decides. And what he’s decided is that he’s going to take a suppressor. So chill out or I knock you out. Don’t make me do it.”

The pair of them went silent. Giles wrapped his arms around himself and clenched his fists in his jumper. He was a rational man. He was a modern man. All he need do is hold onto his self control until they got back to the motel. He could do that. All he need do was count to ten. And do it again, in Latin. Again, in Greek.

The passenger-side window whirred down. He thrust his head out and breathed deeply, slowly, of fresh clean ocean air. No alpha scent. Behind him in the car he heard voices bickering again. They were tempting voices, but he mustn’t pay attention to them. Breathe. Count.

Willow made them wait outside the door while he rummaged in his bag for the pills. He couldn’t find them. His hands were shaking and he could barely think. Willow sat him down on the bed and unzipped the bag further.

“There’s just the regular medical kit in here, Giles. Are you sure you packed them? Do you have another bag in the car?”

“Not in the shaving kit?”

“No.”

Giles bit back the obscenity he wanted to snap out; there was no use inflicting his frustration on Willow. He’d left the pills at home. He was already in heat; there was nothing he could do. Willow stroked his hand, but it was no comfort at all.

Something smashed against the door.

“Oh, blast it.” Willow was gone from his side. The motel room door came open and Xander and Buffy came tumbling through. Buffy had Xander in a headlock, but he was flailing at her.

“Mine!” he said.

“No way. He’s my Watcher and you’re not touching him.”

Willow stamped her foot and shouted. “Quit it! Right now. I’ll call the police if you don’t calm down and you can get fined and spend a whole weekend in therapy with a bunch of other jerks and you know you’ll hate that so don’t make me.”

The two separated. Xander stood up and straightened his shirt out. He looked furious; Buffy looked calm.

“Giles chooses. You know that.”

“Giles chooses whichever one of us wins,” Xander said.

“Which is me.”

Willow stood between the two of them and pushed Xander away from Buffy. “Giles, do me a big big favor and pick one of them right now. I know you don’t want to but it’s too late. Choose. Now.

Choose, choose one. Giles couldn’t look away from the both of them. They were ungodly beautiful to him at that moment, strong, commanding, potent. Both of them. But his Slayer– He stepped toward her and fell to his knees before her.

She reached out to him but did not touch him. “You want me to take you? You submit to me?”

“Yes.”

Xander made a strangled noise. “Come on,” Willow said. Giles was vaguely aware of her dragging Xander away. He had no attention to spare for the loser in the war for his body, however. Buffy was upon him. Her fist twisted in his jumper and hauled him even closer. Her hold on reason was even more tenuous than Giles’s own. He had many more years of experience with this than she did, after all. He wrapped his arms around her waist and didn’t strip himself right then, in front of the other two.

Xander and Willow were saying something, but he had no idea what. The door closed. Now. Now he could do what he needed to. Giles struggled with his jumper until it somehow came off over his head. Then Buffy seized him by the back of the neck and bit at his mouth. She thrust her tongue in. Her free hand unbuttoned his jeans and pushed them down over his hips. She cupped her hand over his erection and he struggled to rub himself against her.

“Hold still.”

He obeyed instantly. She bent down and kissed him again, deeply. She thrust her tongue into his opened mouth. They kissed for a long time just like that, his hands on her waist, her hands in his hair pulling his head back to expose his throat.

He felt so much calmer now, so much less frantic, now that he was properly on his knees for his alpha. Those first kisses always settled him when a heat had begun. Something in the saliva, they said, more pheromones, transferring from one to the other. Letting the blood know that they’d each found a mate. Whatever it was, it was the way his alpha always started: tongue in the mouth, hand on the throat.

She was calmer now too. “Stand up,” she said. “You need to be naked.”

Yes, he did. His body was chafing all hidden away like this. Buffy methodically undressed him. He cooperated but otherwise remained standing where he was. She tossed his shirt at the corner. His boots and socks followed, then at last his jeans and his damnable shorts.

She pushed on his shoulders and he sank to his knees. Giles sighed and settled himself properly, knees spread wide, presenting himself as completely available and ready for her. She sat on the edge of the bed and tugged him over to kneel between her spread thighs. Giles wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his head against her stomach. She petted his hair and scratched at the top of his head. Soothing him, for he was still trembling against her.

“You cut it close,” she said.

“It came early.”

“You were in a car with two alphas for hours. Of course it came early.” Her voice was chiding and there was an edge in it. Was she angry with him? He shivered.

“Sorry,” he said. “I thought it would– We couldn’t let this demon live another day.”

“We could have handled the demon without you.”

Giles flinched. “You don’t want me?”

“Don’t be silly. Of course I want you. You smell amazing. Best omega I have ever smelled. So good.”

She pressed her lips against the top of his head. Love-talk from alphas, telling their omegas how good they smelled. Giles disbelieved it more often than not, particularly afterward when sanity returned. It might even be true in the moment for them. It was true for him at this moment, though it was easy to say it to Buffy. He’d known this since she’d first matured, since her first mating. Even when not near heat he’d known it. She smelled wonderful to him, as desirable as any alpha had ever been. More so even than Ethan, with whom he’d been in love. And now that he was in heat, he was overwhelmed.

He shuddered.

“I’ve got a lot of time to make up for. You’ve been avoiding me way too long.”

He wanted to ask her what she meant by that, but in the next moment she took him by the hair and pulled his head back. He yielded to this and exposed his throat to her. She set her teeth in him and bit, hard. He trembled and stayed very very still, waiting. Submitting. God, yes, submitting at last. She bit again, marking him just under his jaw, then sat up again. The bite stung. He wanted her to bite him again, harder. He moaned.

“That’s right,” she said. “You’re mine now.”

He leaned his face against her thigh. Jeans rough on his cheek, mud on the knee from the fight on the trail, the scent of alpha over that. He felt dizzy with relief and desire at once. Soon, it would be soon, and it would be a proper encounter. She would satisfy him and he would do everything his body could to satisfy her. He wondered what Buffy would like. She would of course allow him to be inside her at some point; neither of them would find peace until that happened. Would she fuck him? He hoped she would fuck him.

Buffy petted his head again. “You want to be fucked, huh?”

He’d said that out loud. He pressed his face into her leg and tried to stifle the urge to whimper.

“Of course you want to be fucked. I’ll find something to fuck you with if you need it.”

“My bag. I brought something.”

Buffy stood. Giles resettled himself on his knees and watch her stride over to his bag. She ripped it open and scattered the contents over the bed. His plug and the little bottle of lubricant came tumbling out. Buffy seized them and carried them back to him. She held up the plug, which was made of black silicone, and stroked it. He whimpered again to see it.

“You like it thick, huh? This is almost as big as you are.”

Giles flushed, but she didn’t seem to mind it. “Don’t have my harness with me, but I can fuck you all you need with this. Yeah?”

“Please,” he said, and he flushed more deeply.

“On the bed. Hands and knees.”

She’d pitched that as a command and Giles scrambled to obey. Up onto the bed, on all fours. She followed, gripped the back of his neck, pushed him into the position she wanted. She moved behind him and pushed his thighs wider. Giles knelt with his face down in a pillow, knees well spread, trembling, waiting for that first touch.

He heard the sound of the cap on the lube bottle opening. The bed shifted. Something being set on the table between the beds. Then Buffy was behind him again. She laid a hand on his backside and he shuddered. Her thumb rested on him just there and moved. Slick with lube, a little cold. He jumped. She steadied him and set her thumb against him again. He breathed deeply and as he exhaled, she pushed into him.

“Yeah, that’s right, open for me.”

His body yielded further on that command. Her thumb slid deeper inside.

“God, you’re sexy when you moan like that. Keep doing it.”

Not that Giles had control of himself enough to stop. She was working him open slowly, teasing him horribly, stopping to stroke his thighs and play with his balls. She paused to kiss the small of his back and lick her way down. He held his breath, wondering if she would dare to do more, then yelped when she sunk her teeth into his buttock. He begged her to bite him again and she laughed and said she would later, perhaps, if he were as perfectly submissive as she knew he could be.

Could he submit any more deeply than he was now? He would find a way. She’d returned her attention to his arse. Her thumb moved in and out of him, opening him wider. If she were a male alpha, she’d be inside him already, whether he were open or not. Though some of them liked doing this to their omegas, liked making them wait and prove their submission.

The plug’s tip nudged at his arse. Giles groaned. He wanted it so much. Needed it. Needed her. A stronger push and it breached him. Sweet Buffy, his Slayer, his alpha, penetrating him now, agonizingly slowly, filling him. He closed his eyes and let himself feel it. The promise of relief, the promise that he’d be taken care of, that his alpha had him.

“Yeah, that’s what you need,” Buffy said to him and he could only whimper in response. She knew. There was no point pretending otherwise. His alpha would have it out of him one way or another. She thrust it into him and pulled it out again, slowly. God it was amazing when he was in heat, being fucked, feeling his alpha moving inside him. It felt good even when he wasn’t in heat. He’d always liked being taken by Ethan this way. But when he was in heat– it was what he lived for. He could come just from this, though of course Buffy wouldn’t let him. She’d need him coming inside her. He’d need to come inside her. He was already thinking ahead to it, imagining it, wondering what she’d feel like around him.

She pushed it all the way into him, so the flare just below the base held it in place.

She rolled him onto his back. Giles let his hands rest on the bed palms-up, waiting for what she might ask of him next. He was in that lovely between-state, where he knew he was in the hands of an alpha he could trust to carry him through, but he hadn’t yet been given his first orgasm. He was stretched and full and he ached where she’d bitten him and soon he would be inside her.

Buffy smiled down at him. “Good man,” she said to him. “Now we both get our reward.”

“Condoms in my bag,” he said. “If you need them.”

“Always carry some,” Buffy said. But she found the ones in the mess she’d made of Giles’s luggage. He watched anxiously, then lay back when she returned to the bed. She rolled a condom onto his penis carefully, then took him in her hand and stroked him. That strong hand, his Slayer’s hand, on him– Giles thrust up into her fingers. She pressed him back down onto the bed with a hand on his hip.

“I’m a lucky alpha,” she said to him. “Love how big you are. You’re going to feel so good inside me.”

Love talk, more love talk that was the same every time. But Giles knew it was true anyway. He was a big man. He could satisfy her better than any other omega could. He was better than they, more desirable, more willing, more submissive, more fertile. All she had to do was look at his cock to see it. Or feel it. She was going to feel it soon. He was going to be inside her. He was going to come inside his Slayer, and he didn’t care that he’d just moaned with the need for it.

She held his penis in place under herself and shifted until it just brushed her own sex. Giles snapped his hips upward but she moved away instantly.

“Hold still.” She closed her fingers around his balls and tightened them painfully. Her point was clear. He whimpered and subsided onto the bed. He let his hands fall back down to his sides. He tried to radiate submission at her. He was hers; would she take pity on him now and let him inside? Yes, at last, she straddled him again and accept him. She sank down onto him slowly. Far more patience than he’d expected from her, far more patience than he had himself. It was all he could do to hold himself still as she’d ordered.

The plug filling him, his Slayer’s body surrounding him, her scent all over him, her hands on his skin stroking, her voice telling him to move now, to find his pleasure in her– this was perfect, this was what he’d been longing for.

It took time despite his pitch of excitement, time and her slow steady movement around him. It was almost too much for him despite the hormones in his blood, the very thought of it: his Slayer, that was his Slayer riding him, his Slayer moaning with pleasure from his touch, the woman he’d been obsessed with for good or ill for five years over him. At last she knew what he was, at last she’d accepted him, at last he had what he’d been longing for in secret since she had first come to her maturity.

There it was, orgasm, rolling over him in a slow wave from his prick on out, from the place where he was joined with her up to the top of his head. She followed him and trigger him into the second wave of orgasm, where he remained for long breathless seconds.

Then he came to himself again, breathing hard and sweating.

They remained where they were, alpha straddling omega, moving slowly on top of him. Her face had changed already, now that orgasm had had its way with her. She looked distant, distracted. Closed off from him again, as she’d been all year. Giles’s chest ached even as he lay beneath her, cock still hard inside her. Neither one of them wanted to make the first move to disengage, however, for the hormones were still their master. Now was when he would conceive, in these minutes after orgasm before his erection eased. If the condom were not in the way, that was. But they were responsible adults and therefore he would not bear his Slayer’s child as a result of this accident.

It was still pleasurable of course, this lingering union. It was merely that his head was clearing already and the haze of his arousal was lifting. For a couple of hours, at least. Then the second wave would hit and he would be even deeper in her thrall. But now he could look up at his Slayer and wonder what things would be like in the morning, when it was all over.

He could feeling himself softening at last. Buffy made the first move to separate. She knelt up over him carefully and rolled onto the bed beside him. She looked down at him, studying his body. Giles wanted to cup his hands over himself, but there was no point. She’d seen his body, had her fingers up his arse, and heard him beg for more. There was no salvaging his dignity now.

She said, cool and calm, “How many for you usually?”

Giles stared for moment. She meant waves. Orgasms before it ended. “Three. Sometimes four if they’re not very good.”

“I’ll make sure they are.”

With that she turned away from him and curled up around a pillow. She was asleep already. Alpha hormones again; she could no more stay awake after sex than he could refrain from getting hard when in heat. He was exhausted as well, and try as he might he could not find the energy to leave the bed to clean up.


Willow watched Xander uneasily. He was driving the van competently enough, with no outward sign of distress, but the hormonal shift triggered by proximity to Giles had to be troubling him. In an hour or two he’d be calm again; alphas had close encounters with omegas they couldn’t touch all the time, and an alpha who couldn’t handle it was an alpha that ended up in therapy or prison. But Xander’s temples were still wet with sweat from the clash with Buffy in the motel.

She’d let them fight longer than she should have. It was something they’d covered in health class, the one for betas that was different than the one for alphas, which was in turn different from the one for omegas. Once you knew what you were, once the school had confirmed it with a test, they zipped you right into your class and told you how to cope. Alphas got material on self control and aggression management, and a course on sex technique. Omegas got material on defensive planning and cycle prediction and birth control. Betas got practical tips on how to break up alpha fights, how to substitute in one role or another in a pinch. How to help your unfortunate friends adjust to their newly-unruly bodies.

That was in modern Californian schools, anyway. Willow wondered if Giles had learned anything like that in school.

The town a mile south along the Pacific from their motel had a coffee shop and a cafe-style restaurant on a promontory jutting out into the Pacific. Willow bought coffee for the two of them, extra-large, flavored syrup, and carried them over to the table by the window where Xander sat. Or fidgeted, rather. He was still all worked up.

Before she’d managed to slide all the way into her chair, Xander said, “Giles is omega.”

“Yup. You like hazelnut, right?”

Xander popped the lid off his cup looked at it, then put it back on. “Giles is omega.”

Willow ignored him and drank her latte. Decaf, of course, because she knew better now than to caffeinate herself. Xander drank some coffee and made a face at it. His was decaf as well, not that she told him that. The last thing she wanted was an overstimulated horny alpha on her hands.

“You knew,” he said.

“Yeah, I knew. He told me. We were talking about things. Back when I was first getting together with Oz. I’d just figured out what I was and I couldn’t decide if I was happy about it or not. I mean, yes, we run the world, but sex is a lot more fun for you guys.”

Xander popped the lid off again and stared at the foam for a while. “Sex is more fun if you get to have it,” he said. “Sucks to get revved up then have to stuff it all down. Sucks to have a crank just hanging out there waiting for anybody to turn it.”

He was still sulking. Still simmering over. Simmering so badly that Willow could almost smell it on him. That was the main difference between them, as she understood the current research: her pheromone glands were undeveloped, and the brain structures that processed the signals from the receptors were dormant. Xander was producing I-will-take-you signals like mad, but all she could notice that he was more attractive than usual.

“That’s kind of what Giles said. Only the way he put it was that the loss of control was disconcerting.”

“Stuffy. How the hell did he hide it, though? Damn, he had to have been going into heat the whole time, right under my nose.”

“The Council kept him supplied with suppressor so he could keep his head during, you know, apocalypses.”

Xander looked a little horrified. “Shit, that’s dangerous.”

“Sometimes he had somebody. Miss Calendar. Then Olivia. But mostly he takes the drug. Especially once Buffy, you know.”

“Damn. We’d have taken care of him. He knows that, right?”

“I think he was looking for somebody more his own age.”

Xander shrugged without agreeing. Typical behavior from an aroused alpha, that was. Smell omega in heat, take omega in heat. It wasn’t that they were stupid, the pheromone people. Giles had always been the smartest human being Willow had ever met. It was just that they stopped thinking when it was on them. Alphas had it worst, really. The saying was “stupid as an alpha in a crowded room,” and that got shortened to “stupid as an alpha” a whole lot. The fact that they got elected President nearly every time didn’t help; they all had beta VPs who were always said to be really the ones running the country. At least that was what betas told each other. What everybody hoped was true.

Xander had hated that part, once he’d gotten over the thrill of knowing he’d get to sire kids. He’d won the genetic lottery. Willow had lost it. There were circumstances in which she might yet win; betas did tip over one way or the other if stuck in circumstances with too many or none of a needed kind. But mostly she probably wasn’t going to.

She missed Oz. Oz hadn’t cared. He’d been happy to be off the merry-go-round, as he put it. It freed him to spend more time on math and computers. They’d started coalescing into a family troop, even, Willow and Oz and Buffy and Xander, with whoever Buffy and Xander were seeing that month. Willow had been waiting for those two to settle with steady omegas, then she might even have said something. Giles might have fit in, if he hadn’t been so reluctant to let Buffy know. And then Oz had been bitten and changed, and he’d been in a worse state than the worst of alphas. And he’d left.

Willow sighed and drank her coffee. She was mostly over him. Mostly. Times like this she missed him, because he’d have known what to do with a simmering Xander and a Giles who’d planned badly.

Xander was muttering, “Hate this shit. Mating. Survival of the species. Socio-biology. Fucking DNA. Need to fuck somebody willing, and there’s nobody.”

“There, there,” Willow said, even though that stung a little. She was fuckable, after all.

“Easy for you to say.”

“You should be calming down now, though, right? You’ve been away from him for a while now.”

Xander breathed in deeply through his nose with his mouth open. “Oh hell. There’s somebody else here.” He sat back in his chair and stared around the room boldly. An alpha responding to the call. “Woman over at the corner table.”

Willow peeked. “Girlfriend with her, arm around her shoulders. Stand down.”

“She should get the fuck out of here before she drives everybody nuts.”

“Xander. Not fair. You’re just on edge because of earlier.”

“Can we get out of here? I know we just got here. We can get this stuff to go, right?”

Out in the open air Xander was better. He breathed in and out steadily, just like they taught them to do. He was now rock-hard in his cargo pants, not that Willow was supposed to notice, which meant he’d had a stronger dose than she’d realized.

“C’mon. Let’s go back to the motel.”

“They’ll be there. It’ll be depressing.”

“We’ll get another room. I’ll take care of you. You know that, right?”

“Will, you don’t have to. I can, you know.” He made an unmistakeable gesture. “I hate making you do this.”

“You’re my bestest bud. It’s what we do.”

“No, really, it’s okay. I’ll get over it.”

Xander’s shoulders relaxed, but she still claimed the car keys back from him. She was glad she had, because he was twitchy and restless the whole drive back. He kept rolling down his window and rolling it up again.

“Wait in the car,” Willow said. She glared at Xander when he looked like he was about to protest and he subsided.

First she went to the motel office and got a second room. Then she went to the room where Buffy and Giles were. She knocked gently. No answer. She pressed her ear against the door; nothing loud enough to make it through. She opened the door with her card and tiptoed inside. The place wasn’t nearly as wrecked as Willow had expected. The contents of Giles’s bag were on the floor between the beds, but nothing was broken. The two of them were in the far bed, under the blankets, Buffy sprawled on top of Giles. They appeared to be asleep.

Willow snagged her bag and Xander’s. There was no way she was letting him sleep near Giles. Giles had been claimed for this heat so he would smell different to Xander, no longer maddening. But the room still smelled like sex. And most likely the heat wasn’t over; they’d wake in a few hours to mate again. And again.

She wrote a quick note explaining things, addressed to Giles, and stuck it on the floor by the door where he would definitely notice it.

Xander was still sulking when she led him to their new room. He went straight into the bathroom and ran the shower. He didn’t come out for a while. Coping with it by himself, then. It was a relief, because Willow so wasn’t in the mood for sex right now. She dug in her bags for the textbook she’d brought in case of quiet moments like this one. Organic chemistry, not an easy class, so she was glad to get some extra study time in. She deep into it when Xander finally emerged, a towel around his waist, his hair wet, but no tension on his face.

He changed into clean clothes right in front of her. Willow blushed and looked away. Alphas. Stupid poopy-head alphas, marching around blithely certain that everybody wanted them and their stupid bodies. Or maybe it was that she just didn’t register sexually: not another alpha to worry about, not an omega to impress. Therefore, ignore. Either way, stupid alphas.

Then Willow felt guilty, because, well, Xander. Xander wasn’t mean or self-centered or anything other than clumsy sometimes.

“Feeling better?” she said.

“Of the muchness.” He flung himself face-down on the bed next to her, so hard her textbook bounced. “What cha readin’?”

“O-chem.”

“Boring or interesting?”

“Interesting.”

“That’s my Willow. Brainiac.” He sounded genuinely proud of her, not digging at himself at all. Getting that construction job had been good for his self-esteem. Willow would never, ever say that to him, though.

“This is making me feel stupid sometimes, though.”

“Unpossible.”

“It’s good, though. I’m thinking this might be my major. Maybe. Computers are still interesting too.” Willow read through the next page aware of Xander’s close attention on her. Finally she gave up and closed the textbook. “So,” she said. “What’s bugging you?”

“I’m sorry about earlier.”

“I know.”

“Can I make it up to you?”

“Nothing to make up.”

“You’re a bad liar.”

“No, really. We’ve been friends since we were five. Not going to stop now.”

“Not even when I’m in full on hormone mode. God, it sort of kills me. Giles is omega. I am so going to enjoy fucking him next time.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “Assuming Buffy lets you.”

Xander made a face at her. “You think she’s going to monopolize him?”

“She’s always been possessive of him.”

“When she’s not ignoring him. She ignores him next month, zing! I’m in. She has to let me some day, anyway, if we’re a family troop thing. Rude not to.”

“Assuming we become a troop.”

“We already are. At least–” Xander flushed red. “We’re a troop. Trust me.”

“What? What aren’t you telling me?”

“You know how it works. It’s embarrassing, that’s all.”

That meant Buffy had taken Xander at some point. Probably recently. Probably after first beating him in a fight, a fight that had been hopeless for Xander from the start because who could beat the Slayer? Had they been fighting over somebody? Or just working out who was in charge?

She said, “Love you, but you’re an idiot. You know it, right?”

“She tied me up,” Xander said, all wounded outrage. “And then did it to me all night without letting me, you know.”

“I don’t need to hear this. Putting my fingers in my ears. La la la.”

“Anyway, troop. Buffy’s working her way through us. Me, Giles. You?”

“Not yet.” Buffy had yet to approach Willow sexually. Would Willow say yes? Yeah. Though until recently she’d have guilted herself out about Oz first. Maybe that was why Buffy hadn’t. She was a good friend when she wasn’t too stressed out by Slaying.

“She will. Soon. Now that she did Giles. I was sort of expecting it sooner than it happened, to be honest. After that unification thing it starting feeling even more right.”

Willow chewed on her pencil. As plans went it was decent. They were family already in many of the ways that mattered. The Slaying and the keeping humanity safe jobs tended to make it difficult to bring outsiders into the mess. And she already loved the three of them. But– “We need more. At least another omega so you two aren’t always fighting over Giles.”

Xander sat up, all eager and happy. “Your friend Tara. I know she likes us.”

“She’s kinda shy.”

“She came to me last month.”

“Wait, what? She didn’t tell me. And I thought she–”

“What?”

“I thought she was with this woman in our wicca group.”

“She said that chick been all into empowering her and groveling apologetically about her own alpha-ness and it had been the worst time ever.” Xander made a gesture of contempt. He had no truck with politics about biology. Assuming he knew they existed, which Willow wasn’t sure he did. “But she liked me and she knew I was good friends with you, so she wanted to know if I would be with her for her next time.”

“You took care of her?”

“You know I did. Didn’t say anything about it, cause, you know, she seemed like she was shy. Like you said. Also no guarantee she’d want to do it again. But I so would. I like her. I gave her my number and tried not to be, you know, too pushy.”

Which could mean anything, coming from an alpha. Though it was Xander, and that meant it had been good-hearted. Come to think of it, Tara had said something nice about him recently, on one of their coffee study dates that were maybe dates, maybe not, Willow wasn’t sure yet. Though she sort of liked this idea. If Tara joined them, if they were getting together as a stable family thing, she could maybe go out with Tara in the for-sure way. In the going to bed way. Willow felt her ears turning pink.

Just then the phone rang, and she went to answer it.


Giles woke some time later, clear-headed and miserable. The plug was still in his backside, his neck was sore, and he was thirsty. Buffy was still asleep beside him. Dead to the world. He extricated himself from her and slid out from under the blankets. Where had his glasses got to? He found them on the table between the beds. He tiptoed out to the little bathroom. There he washed up, removed the plug, then washed up again. She would want to take him with it again when the urge rose in him in the next hours, but for now he would give his body some relief. He studied himself in the mirror. She’d bitten him on the throat and shoulders, and once on his left buttock. It was deeply satisfying to see the marks, to know she’d give him deeper ones if he begged. And he would be begging before it was over.

He sighed. At least the sex had been good. She had thrown herself into it completely and it had been wonderful.

He ran a cool shower and stepped into it. He hissed when the water hit bruised and scratched skin. She’d been rougher with him than he’d realized. Slayer strength.

Buffy was working out to be the most intense alpha he’d ever been bedded by, and he’d been bedded by Rayne when they were both young and stupid and in love. There was something about her that made this encounter something different even from that. That she was his Slayer? Now that he thought about it, it made some sense that they were alphas. The destiny ensured they could sire children if they wished, but would never be dangerously vulnerable from bearing them. And Watchers– Giles had always assumed they were betas, and that his condition had been an aberration. But then Pryce had turned out to be an omega like him. He’d seen the suppression drugs in the man’s attache. And Giles’s father had never mentioned it, but he was fairly certain that he’d been the one to bear Giles, not his mother. He’d only worked out years later that the woman who’d raised him as his mother had been beta anyway.

Family relationships were tangled and not worth untangling. That was proverbial in most cultures. But he did wonder. Had his father been taken by his own Slayer, back in the day? Had his father’s Slayer been Giles’s own sire?

Unknowable now.

What would happen in the morning? Was this a union of convenience for her? Would it shatter the partnership they’d only just begun to repair? Or would it bind them closer than ever before? More unknowables, at least in the moment.

Giles turned off the taps and rubbed his face into a rough motel towel. It all depended on Buffy. If she considered this a one-time coupling, something done to sate the urge with no deeper mating intended, there might be no change at all. He had no idea what she felt about this. He barely understood what he felt. Did he want Buffy to take him again?

God, yes. Again and again.

“The heat speaking there, Rupert,” he said to his foggy reflection in the mirror.

Giles slipped out of the bathroom quietly. Where were Willow and Xander? They might have returned to the room any time in the last few hours and he wouldn’t have noticed.

On the floor by the door was a piece of paper with his name written on it. Willow’s handwriting. She and Xander had rented a second room. She hoped all was well and reminded him to call them if they needed anything, such as perhaps dinner. So polite and circumspect, Willow was. A sweet girl. Giles sat and thought for a moment, calculating how much time he had before it rose in him again, how hungry he was. He could feel it in the distance, like rain clouds on the horizon on a summer day. Best to plan now to ensure they would all be fed later. None of them were in any fit state to head out to a restaurant. Giles yielded to expedience and dialed for a pizza delivery from the local restaurant that had left flyers in the room.

He picked up the phone a second time to dial the room number she’d left in the note. She was awake and able to take the call, and happy to hear he was okay. She’d wake Xander and bring him by in a few minutes. Giles rang off and considered the timing again. He should be able to eat before it began. He hoped. His body was erratic and unreliable this month. Or his head wasn’t entirely in the game; he was reluctant to examine the question further.

Time to wake Buffy. He went to the bed and laid a hand on her shoulder. She stirred. “You were on the phone?”

“Ordering pizza.”

“Good. I’m starving.”

She sat up and tugged him down onto the bed next to her. One hand moved up to grip him by the throat, the other down to cup his balls. He wasn’t hard, but she wouldn’t expect him to be. He spread his legs to give his alpha better access to whatever she might desire of him, even in this between-waves state. He wanted her to know his body was hers.

Buffy let go of him. She fiddled with her hair, which was a mess. She seemed to realize this and give up. “Where are they?” she asked him.

“They took a second room for the night.”

“Xander couldn’t hold out, huh?”

Giles frowned. It wasn’t done to refer to rejected alphas that way. Buffy didn’t seem to be malicious, but even if was kindly meant, she was still celebrating her conquest at Xander’s expense. Her conquest of Giles’s body. He flushed; damn this. Damn his hormones.

All he said was, “They’ll join us for pizza.”

“Think you’ll last that long?”

“Should do.”

She smiled at him with an innocent cheerful Buffy smile he’d seen a hundred times before, but now it made him shudder. “If I ordered you to stay naked when they come over, would you?”

Giles hung his head. Yes, he would. The urge in his blood was to be naked for her, and the urge to obey her was nearly as deep. Ethan had often liked to keep him naked. Back then Giles hadn’t minded being shown off to their friends. It had all been a great game, flaunting it to everyone around them. Now it was more than he could take. “Please don’t,” he said, to her bare feet on the floor. “I beg of you.”

“They wouldn’t mind. You’re one of us.”

“Xander would mind.”

“Xander will do what I tell him to do.”

Giles looked up at her sharply. Was it that way with them? An understanding between them? If so, this encounter would change more than he’d thought.

“Yeah,” she said, to his unspoken question. “Xander and me, we have an alliance. After that spell thingie it just made sense.”

“Oh,” he said. The three of them were together, then. That did not surprise him. She stroked his face. Giles closed his eyes and breathed in her scent. She’d abandon him after tonight, more likely than not, but she was magnificent right now.

“I’ve been wondering what to do about you. Whether I should just take you or what. I was getting sick of pretending not to notice.”

Giles opened his eyes in shock. “You knew?”

She snorted. “I’ve known since I matured. Came in one day and smelled it on you and I knew. But you obviously wanted to avoid me. So I played along. Was conveniently slacking off on your heat days.”

“I– oh God.”

“I thought it was because you weren’t attracted to me, you know? Maybe Watchers weren’t hot for their Slayers. Like maybe we’re related? But you don’t smell like you’re related.”

“Far more complicated,” he said. His voice was all strange and hoarse.

“So you were hot for me?”

“The whole bloody time.” The confession was a miserable one.

“Good to know.” She was staring at him, eyebrows together. “Well, you’re taken care of now. Xander will take care of you if I don’t next month. If I let him.”

He pulled away from her. “If you let– I get to choose.”

“Poor Giles,” she said, but her voice wasn’t sympathetic. “Not tonight you don’t. Put on your jeans and nothing else. I’m going to take a quick shower.”

And with that Buffy vanished into the bathroom. Giles pulled his jeans on over bare skin. A compromise, granting him his modesty but only just. She wanted to flaunt him to Xander. Wanted to make the point to him. Slayer and Watcher, such a sodding farce. He’d never had any authority over her, not even before she’d matured, certainly not after she’d passed Cruciamentum. He hadn’t wanted it. She’d never tolerated it. Society and his body agreed on that point; he would do as she commanded. His head might be clear but he was her omega until the heat was over.

He occupied his hands with cleaning up the shambles she’d made of his bag and her own. Found the rest of his clothes where she’d thrown them, folded them, tucked them into his bag. He wasn’t likely to be allowed to wear anything more than these jeans until it was over. He’d just finished remaking the bed when there was a knock at the door. He flipped on the light by the door and opened it onto the night. Moths flitting about the light, Willow standing there smiling uncertainly at him, Xander hovering behind.

Giles stepped back, polite but cautious as ever. Willow hesitated on the threshold. Xander collided with her.

“Is it okay?”

Giles smiled at her wanly. “Should be.”

She hugged him on her way in. Xander gave him a wide berth, out of respect for Buffy’s superior claim on him. And her position over Xander, he suspected. An arrangement, she’d said. An arrangement Xander had challenged when making a play for Giles earlier, though who knew if Buffy would be upset about that. Alphas had their own rules.

“Yo, Giles. Where’s the pizza?” Xander said.

“Here soon.” Giles felt something inside him relax. He could cope with a food-obsessed Xander. He could not cope with being fought over by two alphas again.

“Hey, guys.”

Buffy had emerged from her shower. She marched into the room wearing nothing but a towel, which she casually undid to rub at her hair. Arrogant alpha. Xander stared at the floor. Willow looked at Buffy then blushed. Giles stared at the floor, then let himself look at her. He ought to be admiring his alpha, oughtn’t he? It was only polite. Right and proper, even, since she was his alpha. She was thin, some might say too thin, but she was all lean muscle. Slayer muscle, which was the sort he liked best. Small breasts, not as much as a handful each, but he liked them. Perhaps she would let him bite her nipples in the next round, if she wasn’t too busy biting his. His cock reacted to this idea. He liked being bitten.

Damn, she was putting proper clothes on and hiding that body away. He knew he ought to approve of her discretion in front of Xander and Willow, but a corner of him didn’t want it. A corner of him wanted his jeans off, so he could show her his re-awakening body.

The pizza had best arrive soon.

Xander relaxed a little now that Buffy was dressed again. He flung himself onto the bed across from Giles and made it bounce. “So, hey, Giles. You’re omega. You never said.”

“No,” Giles said. He looked at the floor rather than meet Xander’s gaze. No, he hadn’t told Xander, because then he’d have been rolled onto his face and buggered into oblivion on his very next cycle by a man more than twenty years his junior who’d never read a book willingly in his life. The hormones didn’t care about Xander’s age or his literacy level or his sweet nature. They cared about Xander’s muscles and his shaggy dark hair, though. And his prick. Everything about those was quite pleasing. If he had first encountered Xander as a stranger, he could have submitted willingly. But he hadn’t. And there had always been Buffy, looming between them with her claim on his attentions.

“Somehow I thought Watchers were betas. You know, power behind the throne types. Never thought you were hiding this from us.”

Giles shrugged. He’d be hiding it still if he could. Though if what Buffy said was true, that she’d known all along, Xander had been unusually unobservant.

“Are Watchers ever betas?” Willow said. Then she made an apologetic gesture at him. He understood her curiosity, however.

“Travers was,” Buffy said. “No smell at all.”

“I have a theory,” Giles said. “That the ones who end up with Slayers are not. We’re omegas. I’ve known three for sure and I have my suspicions about another woman I knew.”

“You, Wesley, who else?”

“A man who died years ago.”

“Oh jeez, Wesley,” said Xander. “It was so hard not to just take that guy.”

“He would quiver when I stared at him.” Buffy flopped down next to Xander, who shifted aside to give her room. She was still pushing on him, apparently. Giles watched this with curiosity. Would Xander fight back at any point?

Xander said, “He would flinch when I came near him, like he was gonna go down on his knees any second and start begging me.”

Giles frowned. “He was on the drug.”

Buffy and Xander both shrugged. “You covered a lot better.”

“Out of necessity. They read me the riot act. I was not to reveal it to you until you were of age. I was to maintain control as often as possible. He was probably under the same orders.”

“So that was why,” Buffy said, quietly. She was staring at him. Giles took off his glasses and made a show of polishing them. It was why, yes, but it was only part of the reason. When she’d come of age it had been such a mess between them. Angel, dark brooding Angel, back from hell. It had taken Giles some time to forgive her that. And by that time she’d been busy with college and ignoring him and things had begun to fragment. “The other guy who was omega– who was that?”

“My father,” Giles said. He saw Buffy register that and think it through.

Someone knocked at the door. The pizza had arrived. Xander popped up and snagged the cash from the table to pay. He seemed quite himself again, relaxed and cheerful. Attractive. Giles wouldn’t mind being taken by him, not really. He objected on principle, but his body knew better. He’d enjoy it. If Buffy weren’t there. He’d thought about it before. Then he felt a wave of guilt. He paced across the room, away from Buffy, where she was putting more than her fair share of pizza onto a paper plate, so she couldn’t detect that he’d thought about another alpha even for an instant. Then another wave of emotion came over him. He knelt next to Buffy because the idea of being anywhere else was impossible. He had to be near her, touching her, sheltering against her. And on his knees, because he couldn’t be naked as he ought to be. Buffy petted his hair and fed him pieces ripped off from her slice of pizza. He ate them from her hand. He would possibly be ashamed of the memory in the morning, something told him, but he couldn’t imagine why just then.

Certainly it was making the other alpha, the one he didn’t belong to, glower, and that was lovely to think about. He came fully erect just thinking about that. He squirmed a little where he was kneeling, because his jeans were binding. He reached into them without thinking and adjusted himself so his prick was upright against the fly. Much better.

“Is it starting again?” his alpha said to him.

Giles stroked a hand over the bulge in his jeans, showing himself off a little. “Yes.”

“Sweet,” she said to him. She gave him another piece of pizza crust. He licked her fingers. She tasted good, his alpha did. His Buffy. And it wasn’t just the pizza. She slipped two fingers into his mouth and he sucked on them eagerly. She wasn’t male, so there was no point in showing off his skills, but he wanted her to know he was willing and ready and completely hers.

“What a mouth,” the other alpha said, the one hadn’t won him. Xander. That was his name. Giles flared up in anger.

“Shut up. Show some respect.”

“I respect Giles!”

“He’s mine and you can’t touch him.”

Another wave of need rippled over his skin, prickles of desire. He had no dignity left at all, now, not a scrap of it, because Buffy was stripping him in front of the other two and he could not bring himself to protest. He needed her too much. He was angry anyway, because she ought to have thrown Xander out first. Alphas and their damnable games with each other, with panting omegas as their pawns. Damn him for eating from her hand. He would have his revenge later when he maneuvered them as he wanted them, but for now he was on his knees on the bed, with his hands clasped at the back of his neck, arching his back and spreading his thighs wide, showing himself off to his infuriating Slayer. Damn her.

She kissed him and he almost forgave her. Soft lips, delicate tongue in his mouth, thrusting into him. Her hands were all over him as well, pinching his nipples, tickling his stomach, stroking over the insides of his thighs. She wasn’t touching his cock yet, frustrating woman, but she was touching everywhere else. His balls, the line leading back from them to his arse. God, yes, touch him there, please. The wave was on him fully now and that meant his entire body was sensitive and alive and any touch from his alpha would give him pleasure. But there especially, his arse and his cock. He begged her to touch him there, to give him what he needed.

She knew it. She moved around behind him and spread him wide. Dignity, to perdition with his dignity, he wanted her fingers inside him again. And yes, there it was, the cool slick lube on him, then the pressure of her thumb. He opened for her immediately. If she were male she’d be inside him now, but of course she wasn’t. She was female. He’d be inside her soon.

“Hold onto your hat, cowboy. You’ll be inside me when I say you can be, and not a second earlier.”

“Sorry,” he said. He wasn’t sorry, though. He wanted her. Damn, he’d said that aloud, for she was laughing at him.

“You want me, huh?”

“Course I bloody well want you. You’re my bloody Slayer. My infuriating, difficult– fuck!”

She’d penetrated him, hard and fast, giving him no time to adjust, no time to breathe, even. She pushed him down with a merciless hand on the back of his neck, so he was face down on the bed with his plugged backside in the air. And now she was fucking him with the plug, just as roughly. He braced himself as best he could, fingers dug into the sheets.

“Difficult? I’m difficult?” she said.

“Yes, dammit! Oh fuck, please–”

“Please what?”

“Please let me inside you. If I’m gonna come, I want it to be inside you.”

“Take it back. Tell me I’m not difficult.”

“Can’t. Won’t lie to you. You’re bloody difficult. Infuriating, contrary, disobedient, frustrating, lovely, desirable, brave, strong, sexy–”

She slammed into him on every word out of his mouth, but he wouldn’t stop. His body was hers but damned if his mind was. She was his Slayer. “My property,” he said. “Mine.”

“Yours? Haven’t you got that backwards?”

“My Slayer,” he said. “My alpha.”

She’d stopped fucking him. He let his head drop down to rest on the bed. He was covered with sweat and breathing hard. He’d almost come, had no idea how he’d managed not to. Desperation. He would come inside her or not at all, if it killed him he’d hold off for that pleasure. Breathe, Rupert, breathe. Count. English, Latin, Greek.

He let out a long breath. The wave of impending orgasm had receded.

Buffy’s fingers were in his hair, not entirely gently. “Yours, huh? I always thought you were mine.”

“Mutual. All tangled up with each other. Been that way since I met you.”

“All tangled up,” she said, softly, echoing him.

She nudged him over onto his back. Her eyes were on his cock, curving up over his belly, as hard as it ever got. She stroked it almost idly. Giles breathed in and out, slowly. His control over himself was even more ragged than it had been through the first wave. He could remember her name and his own name when he concentrated. Count from one to ten in English, in Latin, in Greek, in Japanese. He couldn’t do it. Why was he trying?

She had put a condom on him, and that meant he was about to get what he needed. He lay back and waited. But she was lying down beside him and tugging him onto his side.

“Come here. I want you on top this time. You can do all the work. Since I’m yours.”

Giles knelt up again between her thighs and looked down at her body. Lovely. Ready for him, wet and open. He took his cock in hand and leaned over her. “As hard as you were fucking me just now?”

“As hard and fast as you want.”

“As slow as I want?”

She smiled up at him. “As slow as you want. You don’t want slow, though.”

Giles snarled. “You have no idea what I want.”

The surge of defiance rose in him. He was going to make her wait for it. To take her slowly, deliberately, giving himself time to enjoy each push into her, to squeeze down on the plug inside him as he moved and let that pleasure spark through him. To at last bend his head to her breasts and bite at her nipples and make her gasp. It took almost more self-control than he had to do it slowly, to make her whimper and complain and plead with him to go faster, to bring them both off already. Orders from his alpha, so tempting, so important, less important than her first order to go as fast or as slow as he wanted. And he liked hearing her moan under him. A little added spice, a little naughty transgression, this business of doing all the work while his alpha lay passive under him panting.

It was no surprise to him when she eventually lost patience and rolled him onto his back unceremoniously. It was going to end as it began, hard and fast and brutal. He rose to meet her as she slammed down on him, giving her what she wanted as she gave it to him. There was no stopping it in him now, no more delays possible. The orgasm exploded through him, from his balls to the tip of his cock, running up and down his body, long moments of shuddering as he emptied himself into her.

Then the slow come-down, while she remained astride him and the aftershocks finished. His breathing returned to normal, slowly. Second orgasm, more shattering than the first. This one had been– God, it had been soul-destroying.

“Bloody hell,” Giles said. He let himself fall back onto the bed. What was the next one going to feel like if the second was like that? “That was–”

“Yeah. It was. Next time I know exactly what I’m going to do with you.”

Giles pushed himself up onto an elbow to ask what she meant by that, but Buffy was already asleep.


Xander was watching Buffy and Giles have sex without seeming in the least embarrassed about it. Willow couldn’t say the same about herself. She looked away, if only because Giles deserved some respect and would probably appreciate it once his heat was over. Once he’d regained that control he so prized. She couldn’t stop up her ears, though. She’d never heard Giles moan before and now she was never going to be able to unhear it and it was sexy but embarrassing. She would never ever mention it to him, not even in the face of certain doom.

She tugged at Xander’s elbow. “We need to go back to our room.”

“What?”

He was hard again and his hands were shaking. His temples were wet with sweat. Pupils wide, face flushed. Oh, damn, that was a bad sign. The pheromones had done it to him again. She should never have let him go back into the room with those two, no matter what he said about it being okay. It wasn’t okay.

“Come on, Xander. You can have sex when we get back to our own room.”

“Yeah? With you? Really?”

“With me. Come on.”

She took him by the sleeve and led him out. He followed eagerly, his hands wandering. She fended him off just long enough to walk along the length of the motel block to their room.

Xander was grabbing her the moment the door closed behind them. She distracted him for a minute by telling him she needed to use the bathroom first. She locked herself in and washed herself and drank some water and listened to him pacing. She loved Xander. Always had, as long as she could remember, and always would. She could do this and it would be okay. She opened the door. He leapt on her, picked her up, and carried her to the bed.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened with her and Xander, but it had been a long time since that once. Oz had been too hurt by it. He’d understood, because every beta knew it was something you did for your friends sometimes, but he’d hated it. Xander and Willow had both quietly made sure it hadn’t happened again and they’d been successful until now. Today had been too much, Willow could tell. Exposure to Giles had been too much. Too long in one car together, too long in one motel room together, too long fighting with Buffy over him. Damn Giles for letting this happen. Then Willow felt guilty, because Giles hadn’t wanted it either and he’d gone a long long time without any slip-ups. Her college friends were always messing their cycles up. And high school had been chaos.

But here she was, being stripped naked by a hyper-attentive and scarily focused Xander, who seemed incapable of even imagining that she might not follow his orders. Or be sent into a haze of desire by what he was telling her they’d do next. He was puzzled by her slow responses, in fact. Too decent a human being not to notice them, too much an alpha not to take them as a challenge to his technique.

Finally she tipped over the edge from wary obligation mode to turned on in the moment mode. Xander noticed instantly and smiled, showing all his teeth, and then he nipped at her throat. Bitey, he had been bitey last time too. Was that a thing? He was nipping his way down her throat, bite and lick, bite and lick, until he found his way to her breasts.

“Nice breasts,” he said. He bent his head to them and kissed each nipple. A little teeth, a little tongue. Willow liked the tongue and he did more of that. He rolled himself all the way onto her and got himself ready to penetrate her. Willow squeaked at the first touch of his penis on her body. It had been so long since Oz.

He pulled back immediately. “Condom. Do I need a condom? Dammit, am I screwing up?”

“It’s okay, Xander. No condom.” He’d forgotten she was a beta, which was nice.

“Fuck yeah. Gonna come inside you.”

The idea obviously made him almost wild with excitement, which was a turn-on for her though it wasn’t her paradigm, as Oz might have said. A little twinge of guilt for thinking about him right now, over in another moment because Xander was urging her to come so he could too, he was right on the edge, ready to pop. Willow needed a little more before she could get there, though, a little eyes-closed concentration, a little bit of fantasizing, a guilty second of imagining what it might be like to touch Tara’s breasts, and then she was coming. Xander followed immediately, triggered by her. And of course he wanted to lie on top of her, still inside her, for a while afterward, all heavy and hot and itchy, but it would be impolite to object. After a while, though, she nudged him off. He didn’t object. He fell asleep right away, though, half on top of her with his hand on her throat. She nudged him away. He grumbled but didn’t wake up.

Willow got out of bed to do all the things she needed to do, like put on pajamas and brush her teeth and comb out her hair and wash off her makeup. This changed– what did it change? If Xander was right, it would change a lot. It was all up to Buffy, though. Xander on his own wasn’t about to found a family. Definitely when he was older. Many people never ended up in troops. Betas paired off, as often with omegas as each other, but alphas floated around. Nobody would judge them for it. There was a lot of romantic movies about alphas settling down with that one true omega. Everybody liked that idea. In action movies they didn’t, though. They screwed the good-looking willing omegas and then rode out of town afterward with their cowboy hats on. Ronin alphas.

Xander was the settling type. Buffy was not. She was ronin cowboy super-spy ride out of town all the way. Except there was Giles and that was an emotional entanglement Buffy would never escape. Or want to. Giles protected her in ways that omegas never protected alphas. Buffy ought to protect him that way in return. Troop? Only if Buffy wanted it. She might want to pair off.

So. It all depended on what was going on in the other room. They had seemed sort of angry with each other when she’d dragged Xander away. She hoped they’d gotten over that.

Xander was awake when she came back into the main room. He was sitting up in bed with the blankets over his lap. He’d grown more hair on his chest than the last time Willow had seen him naked. How had she not noticed that earlier?

“You good?” he said. He sounded anxious. Willow did her best to reassure him: she was okay, he hadn’t pushed her into anything she hadn’t wanted or enjoyed, he’d been great, he should just chill out and feel okay. Finally he agreed that yes, Willow was okay.

He rumpled up his hair and sat forward in the bed, elbows on knees. "Think there’s any pizza left?

Willow smiled at him. “You ate the last slice just before we took off. Besides, you’re not going back in that room until it’s all over.”

“Damn. I’m hungry.” He flopped back on the pillows. “C’mere. Cuddle with me.”

Willow was okay with that. She’d been cuddling with Xander for a long time. Cuddling was good. She got settled comfortably with her head his shoulder and his arm wrapped around her. She was a little sleepy now but apparently he wasn’t.

“If I asked you if you wanted to make love again, what would you say?”

Willow shrugged. “I would say maybe. I would need to be persuaded.”

“Huh.” Silence for a while. Then, “You wanna know what’s weird?”

“What?”

“You can have sex any time.”

“Well, yeah. So can you.”

“Technically. But I don’t. No sweet pheromones, no sex. Doesn’t even cross my mind. There’s usually somebody around going into heat often enough that I can fake it. But you, you can be persuaded. You get into the mood without somebody being around smelling good.”

“So that question was just theoretical.” Willow felt a surprising pang of sadness at that. She’d felt wanted for a little while, and now she knew better.

Xander looked uncertain. “Um. Maybe not?”

“No pheromones, no sex.”

He disentangled himself from her and leaned over her. Nose to her neck, a long sniff and a lick. He sat up again and he looked even more puzzled than before.

“You smell good to me. Mostly betas smell, I don’t know, meh, like nothing? I mean, I can smell that it’s you and we had sex recently but it’s not the same as, you know, usually, except you smell good right now. I want you. Yeah?”

Which jumble Willow eventually untangled into a repetition of his earlier question, only not theoretical this time. Even as she said yes to him, Willow’s mind was filing away a resolution to go back and read that paper on troop formation dynamics her replacement psych prof had mentioned a couple of classes ago. It was relevant. Probably. Later. Right now, she had a happy aroused alpha on top of her.

Xander was in his right mind this time and it was a lot better. Tons better. Some of the best sex she’d ever had, though she felt a little like she was betraying Oz’s memory by thinking that. She was slower coming this time because it was soon after the first time, but Xander didn’t seem to mind. He seemed to consider it a challenge to his skills. He was really good at observing what she reacted to then doing more of that, bringing her right up to the edge and holding here there, then backing off and doing something else entirely. He was still bossy in ways that Oz had never been, but that was something she could ride along with.

The orgasm was good and it lasted a nice long time, seconds of feeling those waves of pleasure, and that sent Xander to his. And then Willow let herself fall asleep at last.


Giles surfaced to wakefulness. Buffy was on top of him, most uncomfortably, and most deeply asleep. He needed to use the loo. He extricated himself from her and was happy that she did not wake, for it gave him time to regroup. He was sore all over, sore where she’d bitten him, sore where she’d taken him so roughly with the plug. He would feel worse in the morning, for it wasn’t over yet. One more wave, if he held true to his usual pattern, and this one would be the most intense. He could feel prickles washing over the skin of his arms and his stomach, which meant it was not far off. What little remained of his control over his emotions and his actions would soon be stripped. He would be groveling and begging his Slayer to take him, to sire children upon him, to do whatever she wished with him. His entire body would be an erogenous zone and he would then experience, according to Willow’s textbooks, the most intense orgasm human beings normally experienced. The blessing given to omegas, that orgasm. Consolation enough? For many, yes.

For him? This time… perhaps. It was Buffy this time. That changed everything. She’d said she wanted to do it again. Did she mean to claim him? She hadn’t used the word. If she asked would he agree? He shuddered. He would agree to anything. It was so fraught, this business of mating with the people one loved. It was so much easier with strangers. One thrashed around, had orgasms, said things that no one took seriously, and walked away in the morning.

If she walked away it would break him. God, he needed her.

It had already started. Giles swore and washed his hands hastily. He almost ran back to the bed. She was awake and waiting for him. He climbed up and knelt beside her the way she liked. He saw her nose wrinkle, then she breathed in deeply. She smiled: alpha scenting her mate. He spread his thighs wider to better show off his body, heavy balls, thick cock rising before her gaze, assets any alpha could appreciate in an omega. His backside was also something she would like, and it was there her hands went first, fondling, squeezing.

Every touch was erotic now. It wouldn’t take much. But he had to be inside her. Now. He begged her for it, pleaded with her. She teased him, squeezed his backside, laughed at him, and asked him what he wanted from her.

“Take me, take me please. Sire your children on me. I’m ready now. See me? Ready for you. All yours.”

“I thought I was yours.”

“Both ways. My Slayer.”

“My Watcher.”

“You know it. Take me, please. I can’t bear waiting any longer.”

Then she thrust her tongue in his mouth and silenced his begging if not his whimpers. He clung to her and kissed her desperately. She kissed him back, just as desperate, hold him tight against herself. Soothing kisses, as always. She was here, she had him, it was going to happen. He would not go unfulfilled and desperate. No lonely masturbation this time. Buffy was going to take him.

“It’s time,” she said. She shoved him down onto the bed. No submission games now, no time for that. She was in charge and she would do whatever it took to make it clear. He was hers and he would do whatever it took to prove it.

There was something they were forgetting. What? It came to him.

“Condom,” he said. His voice was hoarse. Buffy snarled at him but got one from the bedside table. He lay on his back, palms up, and struggled not to thrust up into her hand while she rolled it onto him. Even that felt wonderful to him, almost enough to make him come all on its own.

And then she was astride him and he was inside her and in heaven. No mercy, no slow gentle union, this. She rode him hard and fast, driving them both to the brink and beyond, until he couldn’t bear it, he was going to burst out of his own skin, he was going to catch fire, he was surely going to die. Die the little death, which he did, losing himself in her, giving his essence to her so that she might give it back and change him.

He lay under her and breathed. His mind was slowly returning to him. Aftershocks of orgasm ran through him, little shivers as she moved slowly on top of him. He wouldn’t dream of asking her to separate from him. Not now, not ever. Fill him, sire children on him, make him hers forever.

Fading, fading now. He felt himself begin to soften. Buffy rose away from him and collapsed onto her back. Giles sat up and dealt with the condom. Blessed invention of blessed civilization, for indeed he had begged her to sire children on him. Love-talk from omegas to their alphas, best not treated seriously because they rarely meant it once the hormones had faded. Giles would not have wanted anyone to ask him now if he’d meant it. The answer might disturb him. She was his Slayer, after all, and his suspicions about Watchers and Slayers were very likely correct. He couldn’t even make resolutions this time. He might swear to himself that he’d have the drug at hand next month, that he’d bar his doors against her, but he wouldn’t.

Resolutions were pointless anyway. She might not even come to him.

He lay back on the bed and swore very quietly to himself. He needed a shower but he was too sore and stiff already to want to walk across the motel room. That enviable orgasm had its downsides; he would be even more sore tomorrow. Drained. Nothing left in him. Now was when the alpha was supposed to be wakeful and protective. Protective? In romantic fiction. As often as not they fled as soon as they’d recovered from their own post-orgasmic haze.

Buffy was stirring now, and sitting up. He kept his face as blank as he could. Whatever it was he felt about her, it would have to be bottled up again. There was no telling how she would react now that the pheromones were gone. There was no obligation for her to stay with him. They’d used a condom. He had no hold on her. She would likely not mock him, but she might return to her prior attitude of indifference and distance. It would break his heart if she did, but he was determined to give no sign.

Buffy pulled her tank top over her head and got out of bed. She paced the length of the motel room, door to bathroom, and back again. Giles watched her pace, bare legs and slim backside. Why had she put on the shirt but not covered her sex? He remembered how she’d felt when he’d been buried all the way inside her, so hot and wet. What would it have felt like to be bare inside her, flesh to flesh? Exchanging seed with her as they lay joined together afterwards? He bit his lip. He wanted it, though he suspected it would never happen, even now as the heat faded away he wanted it. What was she working up to tell him? That this ended his relationship with her as her Watcher? Please, not that. He’d give up everything else to keep that.

Damn his rationalizations to himself, to risk coming on this trip, to have let this happen to them. He’d never forgive himself if she disengaged now.

Then she climbed back onto the bed and straddled his hips. Giles lay still below her, waiting for her to speak.

“I’m claiming you,” she said at last. “Slayer claims her Watcher as a mate. Do you submit?”

Giles was grateful to be on his back, because he’d begun trembling when she’d said the word. He was silent, trying to think despite the emotion that made his chest hurt. She’d said claim. Formal language, the stylized language of the proposal of alpha to omega. And she’d said Slayer and Watcher. She meant more than just the monthly night of lust. Her face was still, her brows furrowed, and she was focused on him. Poor Buffy. So little luck with her partners. He’d sworn to be faithful to her even when the rest of the world was not. He’d sworn to be her Watcher until death parted him from her, and that oath was binding on him. There was, he realized, no way he could ever have refused this once she asked it. He must have known that all along. The Council must have known it. Bastards.

Only one thing frightened him. He swallowed.

“Are you going to sire children on me?”

Her face changed. Giles knew Buffy well enough to read what he saw there, or at least to guess at it. She was as taciturn as he was about the emotions that mattered, but they leaked through sometimes. Then her chin set. “Yes.”

He shivered underneath her. Very well. He would take his place in the long line. He would bear the next generation of Giles Watchers.

“I submit to your claim.”

She smiled at him, very briefly, then went solemn again.

There was a ritual for this in every culture Giles had ever studied in his long career as an historian. The modern world was more casual than most of what had gone before it, but even Californian Buffy wanted to treat the situation with the gravity it deserved. And it deserved a great deal. He’d just handed himself over to her and agreed to bear her children.

He offered his throat to her. She leaned over him and sank her teeth into the flesh just below his jaw. She was being careful with her strength, he knew, but even so the bite was deep and painful, just short of breaking his skin. He moaned half in pain, half in ecstasy, for now he had secured an alpha for himself. He was, to his utter shock, half hard again.

She released him and sat up. He raised his hand to the sore place on his throat unconsciously.

“I’ll give you a token when we get back to Sunnydale. Probably a bracelet, if you’ll wear one.”

“I’ll wear whatever you give me,” he said. It would have her name on it, and he would take it off only under duress. She would spent the next month courting him, giving him little gifts, taking him out to dinner. And he would spend it waiting in fear until his next heat when they would solemnize the relationship. Some pairs postponed it so they could invite family to a formal dinner on the night of the heat, but he suspected she wouldn’t wait. And he had no family left but the the three of them.

She helped him out of bed and half-carried him into the shower. She’d been rough with him, far rougher than even Ethan had been typically. Slayer strength, wielded by an alpha in the throes. Buffy must have terrified that poor boy she’d bedded back in the fall. Giles smiled wanly to himself. His bruises would fade. The bite marks would fade. In another month she’d renew them all, inadvertently. He’d love every moment of it, beg her for more. And then, if luck were with them, he’d bear her child.

She was gentle with him now that that it was over. She washed his hair for him, used a light touch on the places where she’d bitten him. Still, he was at the end of his endurance. She laid him back down onto the bed and pulled the blankets over him.

“I’ll deal with the mess,” she said. “You sleep.”

Giles obeyed.


Willow let herself sleep in the next morning, with a gently snoring Xander wrapped around her. They’d been up a long time having sex, talking, then having sex again. And now it was the morning, and time to pack up and head back to Sunnydale, where her final exams were starting to loom. She had a paper due that week and would be happy to get back in time to get it started. She kicked Xander out of bed– literally, because he complained but didn’t open his eyes when she took the pillow away– and got everybody wrangled and packed and out to the truck.

Giles seemed shy to see them, but calm and collected again. He was moving slowly and gingerly, and there was a spectacular hickey on his neck. He was making no attempt to hide it, which meant it was deliberate. Buffy was still showing him off, then, still taunting Xander. Xander was in a good mood, though, more or less un-taunt-able. He’d gotten himself laid last night after all, more than once. Willow could understand, after that, why Giles was sore. Alphas were unrelenting when the pheromones were in their noses.

Not that she was complaining. It had been good sex. More orgasms in one night than she’d thought possible.

They packed the truck with their stuff and piled in. Xander drove this time and headed straight for Denny’s. They got a booth, because Buffy wanted Giles right up next to her. He was quiet, a trifle withdrawn and thoughtful, but he seemed content enough to do exactly as she asked. She even ordered his breakfast for him, which he let pass with only a raised eyebrow. It was the same one he ordered normally anyway, as Willow remembered it, so this was just Buffy in hyper-protective mode. Maybe making up for leaving that hickey on him.

The waitress swung by and topped off their coffee cups. Caffeinated, because Willow had forgot to say anything.

“So,” Willow said. “Everything good?” She was looking at Giles, who didn’t answer. Instead he looked at Buffy. The two of them stared at each other for a bit, until Giles finally nodded to Buffy.

She said, “We have some news. We’re– I’m claiming Giles. He’s mine.”

“Congratulations,” Xander said to Buffy, with a surprising amount of grace.

But it was Giles Willow looked at. He’d flushed and hung his head when Buffy had made her announcement, but he looked happy. That was what mattered to her. She nudged his shin with her toe under the table.

“Congratulations, Giles,” she said. He met her gaze and nodded to her.

“I’m claiming you guys as well,” Buffy said, magnificently indifferent to whether they wanted to be claimed or not. But Xander had been right. They were in Buffy’s troop already, Xander because of that incident that still shocked Willow a little bit, and Willow because of, well, close connections. And because she wanted to be there.

“Okay,” she said. And that was one.

Buffy pulled a serious business face. “Been thinking it was time to set up a household. I know I’m supposed to wait until I’m out of college, blah blah, but whatever. I might not last that long.”

Giles made a harrumphing sound that Willow echoed, because it was good form to object. As alphas went, Buffy would be a very strong leader as long as she lived. That was the painful part. Giles would plan things for them all, including what would happen if Buffy died again. In a couple of days, that was. Once he was fully calm again. Then he’d be giving Xander orders and Xander would be obeying, with even more snap than he’d had before because now they were officially together.

“I guess we’ll have to find a place for us all,” Willow said, to change the topic.

Giles cleared his throat. “I’ll cope with that. Shouldn’t be difficult. Sunnydale’s real estate market is a bit, er, depressed. Just the four of us, or, um, the traditional household?”

“I’m gonna ask Tara,” Xander said.

Buffy looked at Willow for approval, to her surprise. Willow said, “That would make me happy.” Happy and a little wriggly with nerves, because she and Tara had kissed maybe a couple times, but not much more. But now they would be closer for sure.

“Okay then. Need one more. Somebody for Willow.”

“No rush,” Willow said. “We’ll meet somebody.” The implication was, Oz wasn’t coming back any time soon. Giles would hear that message for sure.

Xander said, “We’re overlooking something vitally important here.”

Buffy tilted her head at him. “What are we overlooking, Xander?”

“I get to kiss Giles now.”

Xander wriggled out of the booth and went around to Giles. He looked at Buffy for permission, then when he got it, he half-dragged Giles out onto his feet. When he kissed Giles, he did it alpha-style, with a hand curled around the back of Giles’s neck and another gripping his belt. Giles yielded with good grace, perhaps even with pleasure. The kiss went on open-mouthed for some time, until Buffy announced that that was enough. Giles was hers for the next several months, and so was Xander for that matter. Giles went back to her side immediately, flushing bright red.

He liked being fought over, secretly. Willow could tell. She winked at him and he made a face at her. Buffy stretched out a hand across the table. Willow took it and squeezed. That was Buffy’s way of saying they’d talk soon. And probably do more than talk, which made Willow feel all goopy and strange inside. In a good way.

The waitress showed up then, with a tray full of plates. “Who gets what now, hon?” she said, addressing no one in particular.

“Grand slam’s mine,” said Xander. “You know it.”

“No, it’s mine.” Buffy reached for his plate.

Giles said, “You both ordered them. Stop bickering.”

And wonder of wonders, they shut up. Willow grinned at Giles and he grinned back.