“No… Ethan, no!”
Buffy woke up in time to catch Giles’ elbow before it could connect with her nose. “Giles! Wake up!” She pushed his arm close into his body and trapped it by draping herself across him. “It’s just a dream… only a dream.”
His eyes opened wide, and he stared at her for a moment before recognition set in and he relaxed into the mattress. He squeezed his eyes shut with a muttered, “Fuck,” before opening them a second time to look at Buffy. “Please tell me I didn’t break anything this time.”
“Hey there. You may have a touch of Slayer in you now, but don’t think you can catch a fully-powered Slayer twice with that trick.” Though her eyes were filled with concern, she gave him a sunny grin. “Note the whole lack of a broken nose this morning.” She reached up to caress his cheek. “And it’s a good thing for you, mister, especially with Dawn’s prom tonight.”
Giles sighed and lifted his hand to touch the nose in question. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am about that. I still think it would be best if…”
“Don’t even go there,” she said, the threat in her voice very clear. “You are not going to suffer through this alone. Trust the voice of experience on this one… alone sucks when you hurt.”
“I shouldn’t hurt, though, not after all he’d done.” His brow furrowed, he added, “I should be grateful it’s over.”
Buffy chewed lightly on her bottom lip. “It doesn’t change what you guys meant to each other.” When he started to object, she put a finger over his lips. “Once upon a time, you meant something to each other. The fact that he turned out the way he did… it doesn’t change history. You miss the Ethan who made you happy once.”
Giles took a deep breath and nodded. He looked at her with curiosity. “When did you get to be so wise?”
Buffy looked at him tenderly. With a gentle smile, she said softly, “When I got my very own textbook with arms.”
Giles stared blankly at her for a moment, then growled and attacked her ribs mercilessly.
In the kitchen, Dawn stood at the counter near the stove, stirring pancake batter. At the sound of a faint shriek from upstairs, she rolled her eyes and complained, “I thought that soundproofing spell was supposed to be forever.”
Willow took a sip of her orange juice, not looking up from her textbook as she answered, “It needs to be renewed every four weeks.”
Xander glared at her. “You couldn’t have taken care of that yesterday?”
She shrugged absently. “I had my lesson with Elspeth yesterday, and it’s on my calendar for today. Anyway, I thought you were going to take care of the physical soundproofing.”
Dawn dribbled batter onto the griddle, saying, “Yeah, Xander. What happened to that little project?”
He held his hands up in defense. “I’ve been a little busy!”
“Soundproofing their room is way more important than a stupid desk,” said Dawn as she poured batter for a second and third pancake.
“Easy for you to say,” Xander grumbled. “You don’t have Pisspot calling you from the mother country every other day to see how it’s coming along.”
Giles grinned as Buffy’s giggles turned to moans when he slipped his hand between her legs. “Feel good?”
Her eyes glazed over with desire, she shifted restlessly. “Giles…”
He dropped a kiss on her lips. “Let me hear how good it feels.”
Buffy’s whimpers grew louder in response to his efforts.
“Does Percy know you call him…” Dawn stopped speaking as a louder scream came from upstairs.
The noise was enough to distract Willow from her studying, and she glanced upward with a frown. “Maybe I should go take care of that spell now.”
Xander raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. “Ya think?”
Buffy lay there catching her breath. Then she caught sight of Giles’ smug expression. "Just you wait, mister. Payback’s a bitch.”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about," he said, looking innocent.
With a sudden move, she pushed him onto his back and straddled him. She put her hands on his shoulders to push him into the mattress. “We were talking about your nightmares and Ethan, and you tried to distract me.”
“Don’t even try to deny it.” She absently shifted her hips as she settled onto his groin, and he moaned lightly in response. “Every time I try to get you to talk about him, you give me an orgasm. Do you know what that means?”
He put his hands on her hips and shifted his own against her. “That you’re easily distracted?”
“No, doofus. Haven’t you ever heard of Pavlov’s dogs?” She rocked slightly.
“Hm?” Giles frowned in concentration as he reached between them to touch her again.
“Pavlov. Psychologist. Behavioral training… yeah, right there,” she said, closing her eyes as his fingers stroked her softly. “I bring up Ethan, and you give me an orgasm. All it does is ensure I keep… oh, a bit harder please… keep bringing him up.”
Giles stopped all movement and looked up at her in surprise. “What?”
The phone rang as Willow left the kitchen, and Xander reached over to answer it. “ Scooby Mansion. You got a mystery, we got the van.”
He smiled widely. “Carrie! Light of my life! How the heck are you?”
“Half insane about tonight. I just realized I need to go to the mall, and my car won’t start this morning…”
“Do you believe me now when I say it’s time for a new one?”
“Hush,” she said in mock severity. “I love my car. It’s just a bit cranky this morning.”
“You need me to take you to the land where plastic is god?”
She paused long enough to make Xander lean forward, his shoulders tensing up. “I was kind of hoping Buffy or Willow might be going there today.”
“I’m not good enough?”
“To drive? Absolutely. To spend several hours in stores…?” Her voice trailed off suggestively.
Xander swallowed hard. “I think Buffy said something about needing to go there.”
“Great! She can pick me up!”
At that, he paled. “Buffy? Driving? With you in the car? Don’t think so. I’ll see if Will can do the chauffeur thing.”
Buffy opened her eyes and looked down at Giles. “You heard me. If you don’t want me to talk about Ethan, distracting me with sex is the wrong way to do it.”
“Bullshit.” She said the word with perfect diction. “You have a big brain. You know all about psychology. And you certainly know that rewarding a behavior is the best way to make sure someone does it again.”
Giles stared at her, his mouth open.
“Face it… you want to talk about Ethan.” She cocked her head to the side. “Even if you don’t want to.”
"That made no sense," he sighed. "Which doesn't at all explain this annoying feeling I have that you may be right."
Buffy leaned down to kiss him on the cheek. “It’s okay, you know, to want to talk about him but still not be ready to talk yet.”
Giles pulled her into a tight hug. “Thank you,” he whispered into her hair.
Dawn put the platter of pancakes on the table and said, “Tell Carrie we’re all going… Buffy, Willow and me… but I’m driving, because I need to practice.”
Xander held up his hand to her, listening to Carrie. Then he said, “She heard that, Dawn. What time will you be heading out?”
She sat down and reached out to snag two of the pancakes. “We’re supposed to leave around eleven, but if they keep on the way they did last Saturday, I think we’ll be lucky to get out of here by four.” Dawn looked up, panicked. “Wait! They can’t stay in bed all day. The prom’s tonight, and they’re both chaperones.”
“Carrie, they’ll be there by quarter after eleven,” Xander said, shooting a reassuring look at Dawn. “We’ll make sure of it… Okay… See you tonight.” He hung up and said, “I promise, we’ll pry them out of there by ten at the latest.”
“We’ll think of something.”
“If you’re not down here in ten seconds, I’m going to the store without you!”
“Mom!” Mark scrambled down the stairs, flushed and excited. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Wouldn’t I? Get in the car, or I’ll be picking up a powder blue polyester tuxedo for you to wear tonight,” she said, her mouth twitching with the effort to suppress a smile.
He rolled his eyes. “Like they even have those nowadays.”
“They do at Goodwill,” she said, swatting his butt as she encouraged him to leave the house.
Dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt, Giles looked down at Buffy in bewilderment. “But you’ve already found a dress. Why do you need to shop for another?”
“I love you and your big brain, but trust me on this… you’re never gonna understand it.” Buffy put on a light jacket and pulled her hair out from under the collar. “Anyway, even though I’ll be keeping an eye out for a dress, that’s not the real reason I’m going.”
“But you said…”
“I was winding you up.” She shot an impish grin at him. “Actually, today is the day I shop for underwear.”
Just as he opened his mouth to respond, Dawn came down the stairs. “Keys, please.”
“On the hook,” Giles answered, even as he gave Buffy a puzzled look. “What…”
“Hey, Dawnie! Ready to show off your driving skills?”
Snagging the keys from the hook, Dawn opened the door and said, “Always! And isn’t it nice to know that at least one of the Summers girls can drive without being a hazard to the general population?”
“I’m not that bad!”
Willow picked up her purse from the side table and looked at Buffy. “Ready to go?”
“Just about,” she said, frowning as Dawn and Willow went outside.
Confused, Giles put his hand on Buffy’s arm before she could follow the other two out. “Wait… what do you mean today’s trip is for underwear? How can you possibly need more?”
Buffy gave him a pitying look and gently touched his cheek. “I need underwear that coordinates with the dress.”
“But no one will see it,” he stammered.
She raised an eyebrow. “No one?”
Xander was sanding a side panel for Percy’s desk when Giles entered the workshop. He stayed near the door until the young man turned off the sander and stepped back. “How’s the desk coming along?”
“Slowly, but surely,” he answered. “And you know, I keep extra safety glasses by the door for a reason. It’s no problem to come in for a closer look.”
“I do know. I also know how much Percy is hounding you to finish this.” Giles approached the workbench gingerly. “Were I to interrupt at a crucial moment and cause you to start over again… Well. Let’s not go there, shall we?”
“Let’s not. Instead, you can tell me why you call him ‘Pisspot.’” Xander grinned at Giles.
“Finish this…um, ostentatious escritoire, and I’ll tell you, alright?” Giles reached out and ran his fingers along the smooth finish of the wood.
“It’s a deal.” Xander walked back to the door and snagged a pair of safety goggles. He returned to the bench, handing them to Giles. “Put these on, and I can keep working while you figure out how to say what you want to say.”
“Am I really that transparent?” Giles put the goggles on over his glasses.
“Only to someone who’s known you as long as I have.” Xander turned the side panel over and reached for the sander again. After he turned it on, he spoke loudly enough to be heard over the whine of the equipment. “So what is it?”
“It’s Carrie,” Giles said. He jumped slightly when Xander abruptly pulled the sander away from the wood and turned it off, looking at him with fear.
“I knew it! She’s a demon!”
“What? Where do you… Xander, sit down!” Giles took the power toolfrom the younger man and guided him to a bench, forcing him to put his head between his knees. “How on earth do you come up with such absurd notions?”
Xander sat up and glared at Giles. “You do remember my track record, don’t you?”
Carrie left her house as soon as Dawn, Willow and Buffy pulled up in the SUV. She climbed into the back seat with Buffy, asking, “Shouldn’t you be in the front seat with Dawn?”
Willow turned around and said, “She’s banned from teaching Dawn how to drive.”
Dawn answered, “Buffy screams too much. She’s a total wimp.”
“I am not! And I don’t see why everyone thinks you’re so much better at driving than I am,” Buffy said as she hunched back in her corner, her arms crossed and her face set in a mutinous pout.
“I don’t get why everyone thinks you’re the adult of the family,” Dawn muttered as she looked around before carefully backing out of the driveway.
“Of course I remember your track record,” Giles said. “But that doesn’t mean you should jump to that conclusion now. Don’t you think it would have become apparent long before now if Carrie were other than human?”
“Okay, good point.” Xander took a few deep breaths, then asked, “So why do you want to talk about Carrie?”
Carrie hesitated for a moment, then said, “Buffy, can I ask you a favor?”
Shaking off her irritation, Buffy said, “Sure. Unless it involves trying to end the world or something.”
“No. Nothing like that,” she said.
“Carrie approached me with a request the other day,” Giles said hesitantly as he looked over Xander’s head.
Xander raised his hand. “Hello? Down here.” When Giles met his gaze, Xander said, “The way you’re acting, I’d almost think she asked you to break up with me.”
“Then what is it?” Buffy took a closer look at Carrie. “Why do you look so unhappy?”
“Xander and I had a fight the other night.” At Buffy’s soft sound of surprise, she added, “It’s kind of the same fight we’ve been having for the last month.”
“No, no. Nothing like that.” Still looking very uncomfortable, Giles added, “She asked me to…”
“…teach me how to fight,” Carrie said in a rush. “Xander is totally against the idea. Says he doesn’t want me to get hurt, but that’s…”
“…not really the way to look at the situation, Xander. Carrie’s right to want to learn how to handle herself under combat conditions.” When Xander started to object, Giles overrode him. “You know perfectly well she…”
“…can’t stand by while all of you fight the forces of evil.” Carrie stopped, blushing slightly at the amused snickers coming from the others in the car. “Okay, that came out a little too much girl-hero, but you know what I mean.”
“I know. It’s just…” Xander sat there for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “I want Carrie to know what’s going on with me, but I don’t want her involved.”
Giles sat next to him on the bench. “It’s too late for that, Xander. She’s seen too much… done too much to be a mere observer.”
“She was so scared with the whole zombie thing, but she hung in there.”
Smiling slightly, Giles said, “Indeed, she did. And she’ll do so again, whether or not you want her involved in the action.”
“I don’t want to lose her. She means too much to me,” Xander said softly.
“What did Giles say when you asked?” Willow had turned around as much as she could while wearing a seatbelt.
“That he’d have to think about it,” said Carrie, sounding dejected.
“She means a great deal to all of us.” Giles paused for a moment, then added, “It’s why I’m going to train her in basic defense.”
“Don’t worry, Carrie.” Buffy reached over and took her hand. “Even if Giles says no… and I don’t think he will… I’ll teach you some easy moves.”
“I don’t get a say in this?”
Giles sighed. “No more than I did when you and Willow decided to help Buffy back in high school.”
“That’s totally…” Xander stopped speaking, and his shoulders drooped. “Not fair using logic.”
“I know. I’m a terrible monster that way,” Giles said dryly. He looked at his watch. “By the way, it’s time to go pick up your tuxedo.”
“Young man, I realize this is a trial and tribulation for you.”
Mark nodded but continued to fidget in front of the mirror as the tailor plucked at the left pant leg.
The tailor sighed. “If you do not settle down at once, I assure you that you will miss your event.”
Blushing, Mark was about to apologize when he heard, “Don’t piss off a tailor, Mark. Trust the voice of experience on this one.”
Mark turned excitedly. “Xander! And Mr. Giles! You’re here!”
“Mark, would you please turn around again and let the nice man finish? I have other things to do today,” said his mother. To the other two men, she said, “Hello. I understand you’re both chaperoning tonight?”
“Yep.” Xander rocked on his heels slightly. “And I’m here to get my monkey suit.”
“What about you, Mr. Giles? Are you picking one up as well?”
“Hm? Oh no. Not I,” he said, looking up from the display case of studs and cufflinks.
“He has his own tuxedo,” Xander said with mock petulance.
Buffy held up a pair of sheer black panties. “Well? What think you?”
“I think I really don’t want to be thinking about you and that underwear,” Dawn said, looking through a selection of equally provocative panties.
“Wow! Those are almost as good as this,” Carrie said, holding up a thong made of deep blue silk.
Willow raised her eyebrows. “Just what are your intentions toward my oldest friend tonight?”
“I plan to prey on his innocence and seduce him,” she answered in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Oh.” Willow thought about it for a moment. “That’s okay, then. Just as long as you have a plan.”
Giles and Xander stood at the foot of the stairs, with Xander tugging at his collar. “I hate these things. They never fit.”
“They do if you actually buy the right size.” Giles stood there, looking at him with faint amusement.
Xander shot him a dirty look. “It’s not my fault they were out!”
“But it might be your fault that you gave them bad information to begin with,” Willow said as she came down the stairs, camera in hand. She wore a champagne dress with thin straps and carried a matching shawl.
“Look at you, Will! You decided to do the chaperone thing after all!”
“Not a chance. Buffy and Dawn made me do the dress up thing, and as soon as we take prom pictures, I’m going upstairs to put this on a hanger so I can take it back tomorrow,” she said with a grin.
“You’re sure you don’t want to join us?” Giles looked at her with concern. “There’s nothing wrong in going without a date.”
Looking a bit sheepish, she said, “Yeah, I know, but…”
“Let the trumpets sound!” came Dawn’s voice from upstairs.
“Enough, already,” said Buffy as she headed down to join the others. “We all know how fabulous we look, and soon, we’ll have the pictures to prove it.”
Giles caught his breath at the sight of her. She wore a strapless black gown that hugged her figure all the way to the floor. When she reached the bottom step, she did a small twirl, revealing a slit in the back that went up to the middle of her thigh.
“Interesting,” he said, the word sounding a bit choked off.
“Trust me. I learned my lesson about needing a good slit in a straight skirt like this.” She called up, “Okay, Dawn. Time for your grand entrance.”
Dawn moved down the steps slowly, looking very regal and composed in her light blue halter dress. The skirt was somewhat fuller than the one on Willow’s dress, and the bodice was snug against her torso. Her hair was piled on top of her head.
Midway down, she stopped, saying, “Am I, or am I not the most beautiful woman in the room right now?” When no one answered immediately, she prompted, “Lie to me, people, I’m only human!”
There was a quick chorus of agreement combined with soft groans, and Dawn grinned the rest of the way down the stairs. At the bottom, she said, “Who’s going to take the picture?”
“Just a moment, please,” said Giles. “Buffy, you look lovely of course, but something’s not quite right.”
“What?! I spent hours…” Buffy sputtered.
“Yes, I’m well aware of that, particularly since I was forbidden to use my own bathroom the entire afternoon. I would have done this earlier, in private, except I was not permitted a moment alone with you.”
Buffy looked at him with suspicious affection. “Okay, I’m sorry, but you know you’d have probably just have distracted me like you always do.” She grinned. “So what’s wrong with my outfit, Giles?”
“Your neck is bare. It’s a lovely neck, but perhaps you’d consent to wear this?” Giles pulled out a small heart shaped locket on a gold chain. “To cross the line over into extreme mushiness, you’ve captured my heart, Buffy, and I love you very much.”
Dawn ‘awwed’ behind her, and Willow sniffled softly as Xander reached over to squeeze her hand.
Buffy gave him a teary-eyed smile and pulled him down for a deep kiss. She then released him and hit him lightly on the shoulder.
“Ow! What was that for?”
“You should know better then to be so sweet and romantic just after I’ve finished doing my make-up!” Buffy sniffed, turning her back towards him. “Now put that on me, so we can get the picture taken while I still look presentable.”
“Can we go outside please? The flowers look so nice and I want a shot of us in front of our home,” Dawn pleaded. “Please?”
“Sure, no problem,” answered Willow as she opened the front door. “Just let me get the tripod set up.”
Xander and Dawn followed her out the door as Giles finished clasping the necklace. He leaned down to kiss her gently on her collarbone. “You look lovely,” he whispered.
"And you are extraordinarily handsome. That earring is driving me wild," she whispered back. "Now," she continued in a normal voice, "let's go memorialize this Kodak moment."
They walked out the door together to see Willow adjusting the camera on the tripod. She frowned and said, “Okay, for this first family shot before Carrie and Mark arrive, I think we’re going to have to risk the timer…” A breeze ruffled her hair, and she added, “Hedwig? Are you out of the house?” Another breeze answered her. “Okay, everyone, get in place and leave a spot for me while I show Hedwig what to do.”
A moment later she joined the others, saying, “Big smiles!”
The shutter clicked.
Xander drove Carrie’s repaired car away from Scobie Manor. He was about to turn toward the high school when Carrie touched his arm. “Keep going straight.”
“But the school is the other way.”
She gave him a sly smile. “But my house is this way.”
“Your house?” He swallowed hard before putting the car in gear and driving straight. “What’s at your house?”
“Candlelight, soft music, private dancing and champagne. Best of all, there will be absolutely no teenagers around to spoil the mood,” she murmured as she ran her fingertips lightly along his thigh.
At the high school, Giles looked around. “I wonder where Carrie and Xander are. They should be here by now.”
“Not if Carrie has her way,” Buffy said.
“She never volunteered to chaperone tonight.” Buffy snickered. “This whole set-up was to make sure Xander dressed appropriately for a very important date.”
“You mean to say that she… and he…” He gave her a stern look. “That wasn’t very nice to do to him.”
“Maybe not, but given the whole lack of them being here, I’d say it worked like a charm.” Buffy glanced over at the doors. “Looks like Dawn survived picture night at Mark’s place.”
“Don’t change the subject,” he said with a note of severity. “You know perfectly well how anxious Xander has been about tonight.”
“He’s been upset because Carrie wants to learn how to fight,” she answered. “Speaking of which…”
“I’ve already informed him that I plan to accede to Carrie’s request.”
“How did he take it?”
“Not particularly well, though he understood the logic.”
The music changed and young couples on the dance floor pulled each other closer. Buffy's expression softened as she looked up at Giles. "I love this song. It always made me think of you."
He sketched a small bow and offered his hand. "In that case, may I have this dance?"
She slipped into his arms, and he moved them onto the dance floor with a series of slow twirls. "I thought you'd never ask."
Willow had just finished changing into jeans and a short-sleeved blouse when the doorbell rang. She went down and opened the door to find Jack and Becka standing on the porch. Surprised, she smiled at them and said, “Hey guys! What brings you by?”
Jack held up a six-pack of beer, and Becka held up a pizza. She said, “We came to kidnap you.”
“Oh?” Willow moved back from the door slightly, and Jack stepped easily over the threshold to grab her arm.
“Yes, oh red-haired beauty of our fondest dreams,” he said, leering suggestively. “Since you won’t decide which one of us to date, we’ve decided you’ll just have to date the both of us.”
Willow stammered, “Both of you?”
Becka nodded decisively. “Both of us. At the same time, even, to keep anyone from cheating and trying to woo you into bed without the other one being present.”
“Bed…” squeaked Willow. She cleared her throat and said, “Wooing?”
“And for our first date, we’re taking you back to our place for a night of MGM horror classics,” said Becka.
“We’re gonna watch horror movies?” Willow looked from one to the other several times, confused.
“Yep!” Jack pulled her out onto the front porch and grabbed her purse from the table near the door. “This is yours, right?” He handed the purse to Becka then reached around and locked the door. “Nothing gets a seduction going like a good scream flick.”
Becka chuckled as she led the way to their car. “Jack thinks you’re going to bury your face in his chest. He’s nuts, because, let’s face it, my chest is way softer than his.”
Willow’s eyes were drawn to the chest in question and she nodded faintly. “Oh yeah.”
Dawn swayed in Mark’s arms, her eyes closed as she hummed lightly to the music.
He cleared his throat, but his voice still cracked when he said, “Dawn? Would you like to… um… go up to Crystal Park and maybe walk by the lake after the dance?”
She caught her breath as she looked at him, a light blush rising on her face. “Um… sure…”
“I’ll have you back by two, just like your sister said, and we could…”
“Mark? I said yes.”
He stopped speaking and looked at her with equal parts longing and terror in his eyes. “Really?”
Giles looked at his watch before glancing around the gymnasium. He jumped slightly when Buffy came up from behind and slid her hand inside his jacket. As she dug into the inside pocket, he said, “Looking for something?”
She swung around in front of him and gave him a slow smile. “Nope. Leaving something.”
As she removed her hand, he asked puzzled, “What did you put in there?”
Buffy had already started walking away, her hips swaying. She paused and looked back at him. "My underwear. I'm going home. You coming?"