"Willow , slow down."
Buffy and Willow had met up after their classes and were crossing the commons toward the parking lot. While the two women were walking at a fairly moderate pace, Willow's mouth was racing on ahead.
Willow huffed and started over. "I said, her name is Dorothy Forrester and she's a visiting from the University of Wisconsin who's here to do a three week lecture series. And she's also planning on continuing her research on reproduction and infertility while she's here. She's like world renowned and to top it off, she's openly bi."
"Really," Buffy muttered, her eyes still locked on the green inked comments covering her latest creative writing assignment. While the pages were doused with ink, the comments were very positive, culminating in a nicely-penned B+ at the bottom of the last page.
"Are you even listening?"
Buffy looked over to give her friend an adamant affirmative, only to find the space next to her vacant. She stopped and turned, looking around until she found Willow standing behind her, with her hands on her hips and a glare on her face.
"Of course, Will. Uh… visiting ... fertility something or other. Oh, and gay."
"No. Not gay. Bi." Willow frowned. "And openly so." Willow's frown quickly disappeared, however, chased away by her eagerness to share her good news. "Do you know what this means?"
"She was on her way out of the closet and got her foot caught in the door?"
"Buffy!" Willow tried to look offended, but a few chuckles escaped.
"I'm sorry, Will. I tried to resist, really. And I didn't mean anything by it. Oh no," Buffy snorted. "By it. Get it? Bi... it." She burst into a fit of giggles.
"Buffy. Please be serious. God, it's like I'm talking to Xander or something."
"Hey! All right. Serious Buffy at your service." She took a deep breath, cleared her throat, looked up in search of her theatrical motivation, and then flashed Willow her best somber face. "See. All serious," she insisted, her efforts compromised by the corners of her mouth that trembled in an attempt to curl upwards.
"Buffy," Willow whined.
"I'm serious," Buffy said. "And I love you, no matter who you're lovin'. I haven't done anything to make you doubt that, have I?"
"No. Not you, but others... oh, I don't know. It just seems worse to be bi because you get stones thrown at you from both sides of the fence. And sometimes it just gets to me. Why should I have to define myself with someone else's words? Even bi isn't my own word. Can't I just be Willow? Not Willow, the bi girl. I don't go around thinking of you as Buffy the straight girl, or Xander, the seriously-confused guy."
Buffy's eyes popped open.
"I'm only kidding, Buff. Geez."
"Oh, for a moment there… anyway, you were saying."
Willow rolled her eyes. "I wish I could just be sexually non-denominational or something."
"You could start your own group," Buffy said. "Are you straight, gay, bi, or a Will?"
"Nah. I'm happy just being a free agent." Willow shook her head. "But see, that's what makes Professor Forrester so cool. We were having this really great discussion about sexuality and she said she hates labels, too. She really knows where I'm coming from. Oh, and you wanna know the best part? She asked me to be her research assistant while she continues her infertility study here. Me! A junior."
"That's great." Buffy smiled.
"Not just great. Incredible! Unheard of, even. She had posted the position already, and it was only open to seniors. But when we were talking, she said she'd already heard about me and checked out my test scores and past work. She thinks I have it in me to be a brilliant doctor. Can you believe that? And she said she'd work around my schedule at the bookstore, so I can keep my paying job too."
"I'm happy for you, Will"
"And the best part is that it's all lab time. And dissections on real cadavers. None of this redissection of the same cadaver that some Anatomy Class has been hacking up all year."
"Damn. That is awesome. And you're totally like C.S.I. woman when it comes to working with dead bodies. Human and non-human. The ewwsome and gruesome don't even faze you."
"Yeah, well unfortunately, I can't really use ‘fights well with demons' to pad my resume. But this'll give me some legitimate experience I can use."
"Cool. So you'll be like a real life Doogie Howser... only older... and not a boy... and way smarter."
"Thanks. I think. Anyway, I just hope I don't screw it up. It's like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Professors of her caliber don't normally come to satellite campuses like this. I mean our med school is pretty well known and all, but it's still a real treat."
"Speaking of real treats, what's for dinner?" Buffy asked. "It's your turn to cook, right?"
"Yeah. And I'm making pasta. Figured I'd do something easy enough to reheat. Dawn's studying late at a friend's house, and Giles has that faculty reception thing."
"Without Giles' glare at the table to fend off Xander's grubby hands, we're gonna starve!"
Willow giggled. "Don't worry, Buff. Pasta's one of the easier things to make in bulk."
"Good. But I swear he's eating us outta house and home. Xander needs just as many post-dinner snacks as he does pre-dinner ones."
"It sure would be easier, and cheaper, if we could just feed him some Alpo," Willow said.
As if struck by the same lightening bolt, both turned to each other and simultaneously squealed, "Scooby Snacks!" Their giggles followed them all the way to the student parking lot.
Myrna found Rupert studying a small painting on a wall near the hors d'oeuvre table, a freshly filled wineglass in one hand and a small plate of brie and crackers in the other. She came up behind him and whispered, "Not too painful I hope?"
Giles turned, almost spilling his glass of wine. "Oh, Myrna, I'm sorry, you startled me." He looked around the room. "Painful? Try excruciating. But I'm sure the wounds will heal in time." He grinned and took a sip of wine to wash down the crackers.
"Rupert, with that sense of humor, I'll have you married off in no time."
Giles choked on the Merlot, just as Mr. Bryant arrived.
"Myrna, leave the poor man alone." Arthur Bryant smiled and smacked Rupert on the back in an attempt to help clear his windpipe. Giles had already met Mr. Bryant three times in the past hour, and each time the man had felt compelled to assault Giles' back.
"Oh hush, Arthur. Rupert knows I'm only kidding. Don't you, Rupert?"
"Well I was hoping," Giles offered with a smile. To deter any future attempts at matchmaking, Giles made a rare offer of personal information. "Actually, I'm currently seeing someone."
"Oh really?" she asked, managing to somehow look both excited and disappointed at the same time. "Wait, it's that young woman in the photo, isn't it? I just knew it."
Giles' face flushed. "Uh no. As I said, she's just a friend."
"Then who is this mystery woman? Do I know her?"
"I don't believe so. She's not affiliated with the University."
"How convenient." Myrna folded her arms and eyed Rupert.
"Myrna!" her husband admonished. He put a hand on Giles' shoulder and said, "I apologize for my wife."
"Not necessary, Arthur," Giles said with a chuckle. He turned to Myrna, "On my honor, Myrna, I am not lying. Her name is Joanne Christianson, and she runs a shop up at the Coven."
"The Coven? Oh, then she really must be a dear. Those women are always doing such nice things for the community."
"Yes, they were a great help to us when we first arrived, and Jo is quite wonderful," Giles said.
"Speaking of wonderful women, have you met your fellow guest of honor yet?" Myrna asked.
"Not formally, no."
"Well let me introduce you. Actually, she's been asking me about you all evening. I guess I can reveal that now, since you're unavailable. She's going to be just heartbroken."
"Myrna, please do leave the man alone!" Art laughed as he followed his wife over to the new professor. Giles took a moment to set down his plate and gather himself before following.
When he finally came upon the trio, they were all laughing, and Giles had the uncomfortable feeling that he was at the crux of the joke. His discomfort multiplied when the visiting professor's gaze fell on him. Something in her eyes gave him a sudden sympathy for lab rats.
"Ah Rupert, there you are." Myrna took his arm and yanked him to her side. "I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Dorothy Forrester. Dorothy, this is Professor Rupert Giles."
Giles hesitated, but his deeply ingrained manners quickly forced his hand outward. She took it and unfortunately kept it, covering it with her other hand. She began tracing her thumb across his hand beneath the shelter of her concealing hand. Giles tried to pull his hand free, but her two-handed grip tightened. His eyes flew up, unflattered and completely unamused.
Unfazed, the woman drawled, "Well, Rupert Giles of the History Department and fellow newcomer, it's a pleasure to finally meet you."
When he failed to answer, Myrna prodded him, "Uh, Rupert?"
"Hm? Oh yes," he said, with an apologetic glance at Myrna. Attempting to remain as civil as possible, he turned back to the woman. "It's nice to meet you as well, Dr. Forrester. I do apologize for my distraction. I was... just admiring your necklace. It seems quite old."
Giles casually wiped his hand on his pants when the woman finally let go of his hand to reach for her necklace.
"That's our Rupert." Myrna chuckled. "Always on the clock."
Giles watched as Dorothy Forrester fondled her necklace with the same ardor she had just used on his hand. It was ornate, with several silver chains woven together to support a cobalt-colored pendant that dangled at the end. He hadn't seen anything like it before. It seemed to mix styles not normally found together. There was what looked like a Celtic design on the pendant housing the stone, and there was an Egyptian hieroglyph of an eye etched onto the stone itself. It was odd, and except for its obvious age from the wear and discoloring, Giles would have pegged it for some hack gift shop attempt at producing an antique looking necklace.
"I'm not sure of its actual origin," she said, "but I stumbled on it about 5 years ago at an antique shop in San Francisco. It seemed to speak to me, and I've rarely taken it off since." The woman hesitated until she had Rupert's attention. "Except when I'm in bed, of course."
At her words, Giles' distraction came to an abrupt end. His head shot up and met her now darkened eyes. Despite his efforts to look away, his gaze remained trapped by hers. "Well it is quite striking, Dr. Forrester."
"Please. Call me Dorothy. Everyone does."
"You'll have to keep on top of Rupert about that, Dorothy. He still insists on calling me Mrs. Bryant."
"Oh I can't think of any place I'd rather be," Dorothy Forrester said, as she swept her eyes up and down Giles' body.
This time Art couldn't keep from choking. Myrna remained apparently oblivious to it all. She was clearly trying to figure out why her husband was suddenly choking.
While Myrna continued to smack her husband's back, Dorothy Forrester placed her hand on Giles' forearm, drawing his attention back to her. Her eyes bored into him and she began to stroke his arm. Giles clenched his jaw, willing himself to remain cordial, but when the woman leered at him and slowly wet her lips with her tongue, Giles pulled his arm back.
Amid his wife's attempts to help clear his airway, Mr. Bryant noticed Giles' discomfort and tried to help. "So Rupert, Myrna tells me you're one of the famed ‘Sunnydale Survivors.'"
Giles turned to Arthur thankfully and stepped away from Dr. Forrester. "Yes, that's correct," he cleared his throat. "There were others of course, but they mainly survived because they were not present at the time of the disaster."
"Yes. And Rupert was only there because he insisted on helping rescue as many people as possible." Myrna's face beamed with pride.
"Why Rupert," Dorothy purred, stepping back towards him and reaching out again for his arm. "Does that mean that I'm in the presence of a real life hero?"
"Hardly," Giles said, dismissing his own actions. He paused and then continued softly and seriously, "People often pull together at such difficult times, and I was not the only one offering assistance. In fact, many of those who died, did so helping others escape."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." Dorothy began stroking his arm again. "It must have been quite traumatic for you. I hope you didn't lose too many loved ones."
Giles swallowed slowly, as a wave of familiar faces rushed through his mind. He blinked and glanced up at her. "I'd rather not talk about it actually." His voice was almost even, but thick with emotion. "Unpleasant memories." Giles moved to put down his empty glass, conveniently removing his arm from her reach.
"If you'll all excuse me for a moment, I need to uh … freshen up." He glanced at Art, who returned an understanding smile. Giles headed to the door.
Once outside in the hallway, Giles stepped to the side and leaned back against the wall. He took a deep breath, exhausted from the long day and even longer evening. With a glance at his watch, he muttered, "Enough's enough. Time to head home."
"I can't believe this. I'm going to be working with the Dorothy Forrester," Willow's excitement couldn't be contained as she stopped in mid-serving to reiterate the information to the gang at the dining table. "Author of Labeling Culture and the Politics of Gender and Infertility and the Myth of the Modern Madonna. And me... Junior Willow Rosenberg working side by side with none other than the brilliant..."
"We can't believe it either, Will. Even after the eighth time hearing it, the news is just so riveting. Alert the media, stop the presses..." Xander paused with the miffed expression in the redhead's face. "Please... for the love of Prego, just let me have some pasta." Willow released her dominance over the main dish and handed the serving tongs to her ridiculer.
"I think what 'Xander the Tactless Wonder' is trying to say is that we've got it, Will. Once in a lifetime, miracles do happen, one small step for man... one giant leap for Willow-kind goodness." Buffy concluded with an understanding smile.
"It's way cool, Willow," Dawn added, focusing her attentions on her twirling fork buried within her heaping mound of parmesan covered spaghetti. "It's nice to work with someone you hit it off with. Someone you see eye to eye with, that appreciates your hard work and your maturity. Someone who treats you like an equal and shows you the respect you deserve..." she stopped when she realized all eyes were on her and utterly confused. She offered and awkward smile. "It's way cool Willow ."
"And now back to our regularly scheduled programming..." Xander smirked and ripped into a piece of garlic bread. "You think Giles will thrill us with tall tales of his exploits at schmoozeapaloosa later?"
"He really didn't want to go to that reception. I've never seen him so unmotivated before. Well... except for the prom." Willow amended while reclaiming possession of the pasta.
"What about the prom?" Buffy asked.
"Giles tried to get out of going. But then, with the hellbeasts and you having to make it a work night... he figured he should be on the clock too." Willow shrugged. "I remember that he mentioned something about not liking the fit of his tux."
"What? I loved that tux!" The entire gang looked up startled at her sudden outburst and Buffy blushed. "So, Willow ... tell us more about Dr. Forrester."
A few minutes alone rejuvenated Giles sufficiently for him to be willing to make his rounds one final time before heading home. As he turned back towards the reception, however, he ran smack into the very source of his discomfort.
"Oomph." Giles grunted and the impact sent the woman stumbling backwards. Instinctively, he reached out and caught her arm, steadying her.
"Oh, Dr. Forrester, I'm terribly sorry. I didn't see you standing there."
Instead of responding, she glanced down at his hand on her arm and then looked back up at him. At her leer, Giles jerked his hand back. "Um, did you need something?"
"Actually Rupert, I was looking for you. I wondered if I might have a moment of your time. I have a favor to ask. You know, from one new faculty member to another."
Giles felt the sudden desire to run. His eyes darted up and down the hallway, noting all available exits.
"Rupert?" She returned her hand to his arm. When he finally looked back at her, she wore a simple smile, nothing like the predatory one she had donned earlier.
The gentleman and optimist in him won out and Giles hesitantly agreed. "Certainly. What can I do for you?"
"Well, actually it's quite embarrassing. If I could, I'd rather discuss this in private." Her voice was nonchalant, as if she were asking him to carry her groceries.
"Uh... all right."
"Thank you so much." She looked around and walked over to try a nearby door. Giles stifled a curse when it opened. "How about in here?"
Giles hesitated and then followed her into the room. It was dark, and he quickly sought out the light switch. Before he found it however, the door shut, taking with it what little light they had from the hallway. "Uh, I can't seem to locate the light switch."
"I've got it, Rupert. Don't worry, I won't attack you." She chuckled and switched on the light.
"Oh look at that, this must be their sitting room. And just look at that beautiful chaise lounge. How convenient."
Giles swung around to now find her standing between him and the door. The tiny hairs on his arm stood on end. "I would prefer to take this conversation elsewhere. Let's return to the party."
"Rupert, you're so tense. Let me help you relax." As her hands reached for him, he leaned back. She pressed on and his body moved still further back, as if they were two like-sided magnets repelling each other. Unfortunately, it forced him past his balance point, and he fell back into the wall with a soft thud. She continued until she was mere inches from him, her hands reaching up to his chest.
Jo waited on the front step of Scobie Manor, hoping Giles would answer the door. They hadn't been able to see each other in a few days, and their last kiss was still lingering in her mind.
Dawn giggled when she opened the door to find a dreamy eyed Wicca. "Hey Jo. Giles isn't back yet. But there's an ice cream eating contest underway in the kitchen, if you're interested. Well, it wasn't supposed to be a contest, but then we realized how fast we had to move to keep Xander from inhaling it all." Dawn shut the door and Jo joined her as she hung up her coat.
"Sounds great." When Jo turned to follow her into the kitchen, she tripped over a backpack on the floor. She leaned down to pick it up, but Dawn stopped her.
"Leave it," Dawn said. Jo looked at her confused. It was obviously Dawn's from the "DS+BT" written in marker on one of the pockets. "Buffy doesn't like me leaving it on the floor."
"Ahh," Jo chuckled and shook her head as she followed Dawn through the door.
When they entered the kitchen, they were greeted by silent waves from Buffy, Xander and Willow, each with a bowl and mouth full of ice cream.
"So, you and Giles going out tonight?" Dawn asked as she began dishing up a bowl for Jo.
"Not officially. I couldn't make the reception tonight, and he had to go alone. He seemed a bit disappointed, so I just thought I'd stop by and...," Jo hesitated.
"Make it up to him?" Dawn eagerly finished for Jo, with a wriggle of her eyebrows.
"Dawn, grow up." Buffy smacked her sister lightly on the back of the head, and then pushed Dawn's ice cream back towards her. "Here, stick this in your mouth. With any luck it'll freeze shut."
"Hey, teenager abuse!" Dawn winced dramatically. When she looked down at the bowl her eyes flew back up to Buffy. "And where'd all my chocolate chips go?"
"I don't know," Buffy mumbled innocently.
"Dr. Forrester, please! I'm sorry if I somehow gave you the wrong impression, but I am not interested. Not to mention that I am quite unavailable."
"I don't see a ring on your finger," she chuckled, continuing to reach for him. "Besides, I'm hardly asking for a commitment here."
Giles eyes grew dark. He caught her wrists. "I've tried to be patient with you, but this stops now."
"Rupert, please. Now you're just being rude." With that, she tried to pull his face down to hers, pressing her lips toward his.
Giles tugged his head to the side, away from her lips, and maneuvered her around so that they switched places. Unfortunately, this left her blocking his path to the door. "Stand aside. I'm leaving."
"If I don't, do you plan on moving me? I bet you like to get a little rough," she said, her voice dipping lower.
Giles glared. He reached angrily for the door handle and to his surprise, she moved of her own freewill. As he walked out, however, she called after him, "I'll be in touch." Her laughter followed him down the hall, tapering off with a muttered, "And I do mean ‘in touch.'"