Act Three


The clock chimed 7:30pm and Willow hit her keyboard in frustration.  "Would you guys please be quiet?!" 

"Buffy started it," Xander whined.

Buffy snorted.

"And I'm supposed to be the immature one," Dawn said.

"I mean it," Willow pleaded.  "I have work to do."

"Way to go, Xand," Buffy said.

Willow rolled her eyes and grabbed her notebook, flipping the pages to the left as she scanned her notes so far.  She rustled the paper a little harsher than necessary, in an attempt to mute the bickering.  Tuning out the others as best she could, she scanned her notes while chewing on the end of her red pen. 

- 3 of 4 bodies missing pineal gland
- No physical evidence of removal
- Body 1 - delivered to Morgue on Tuesday 6:30 p.m.
- Body 2 - del. Wed @ 11:00 a.m.
- Body 3 - del. Wed @ 2 p.m.
- Body 4 - del. Thurs @ 4:30 p.m. 

Glancing at the delivery times, Willow jotted down next to the list in red capital letters: THEFT: B/T TUES NIGHT AND THURS AFTERNOON.  AT MORGUE.  As she returned to her lap top, the trio's arguing grew louder.

"Do you mind?" Willow asked, hitting the keyboard in frustration.  Buffy, Xander and Dawn froze, interrupting their argument over just who was to blame for Giles' bad mood.  Giles had returned from work even more agitated than the day before.  Before any of them could respond, there was a knock at the door.

"I'll get it," Willow huffed.  The argument resumed the minute Willow left the kitchen. 

"Hey Jo," Willow said as she opened the door.  "Goddess, I'm glad you're here."

"Trouble?" Jo asked, as she stepped inside and removed her coat.

"Just need some sanity to balance out the madness in there." Willow nodded towards the kitchen, taking Jo's coat from her and hanging it up on the wooden pegs along the wall.

Jo looked toward the kitchen, chuckling at the sound of Xander's vehement claim of innocence to Buffy's charge of Watcher Antagonization. 

"I didn't do anything to Giles," Xander said.   "I swear. I haven't even called him G-man in two days.  Do you have any idea how hard that's been?"

"I take it this means Rupert is no better?" Jo said.

"No," Willow scowled.  "Worse, in fact.  He just came in a little while ago and stormed upstairs without dinner again." 

Jo frowned.  "I'll go up and talk to him." 

"Oh, is that what they're calling it these days?" Willow raised an eyebrow and the matching corner of her mouth.

"Willow Rosenberg, you are incorrigible."  Jo rolled her eyes and hurried upstairs.

Willow watched Jo take the stairs two at a time and grinned. 

The shouting in the kitchen picked up again.   Willow took a breath and burst through the kitchen door.   "All right, that's enough!  We've got work to do."

Upstairs, Jo knocked on the door to Giles' bedroom.  "Rupert, it's Jo."

She heard a shuffling in the room and then steps approaching the door.  When the door opened, Jo looked up to find Giles standing before her in a pair of jeans and a T shirt.  His hair was ruffled, as if he had only just pulled the shirt on over his head.

When Giles finally cleared his throat to get her attention, Jo looked up with a lopsided grin.  "Sorry," she smiled.  "Hope I didn't interrupt, I was just in the neighborhood."

He raised his eyebrow.

"All right, all right.  So Salem isn't exactly in the neighborhood."

"Salem?  Jo, isn't that nearly an hour away?"

"I know, I know, but..., well, I was worried about you."

His face softened at her smile.

"So, can I come in?" she asked.

"Of course." He stepped aside and let her in, shutting the door softly behind her.  As he turned, he said softly, "Jo, I'm sorry if I was rude yesterday."

Jo turned to face him, putting a hand gently on his arm.  "You weren't rude.  Well, not as long as you have a good explanation.  And share it with me, of course." 

Giles started to chuckle, and then stopped abruptly at her serious look.  "Jo, I'm not sure I feel like discussing it with you."  When he saw the fire flare up in her eyes, he quickly added, "Or anyone, for that matter."

"Tough," Jo said, her arms folding in front of her. 

Giles' head jerked back, as if he'd been slapped.  

"Jo...," Giles began.

She cut him off.  "Rupert, I'm your girlfriend.  You're supposed to share things with me."

He reached his hand the few inches necessary to lightly take her fingers in his.  "I was going to say... that I think you're right.  Sharing has just never come easy to me."  He put his hand up when she began to interject.  "But, I promise to work on it."  She slowly relaxed her battle stance and when he gave her fingers a light squeeze, she finally managed a smile. 

"Shall we sit?" he asked, extending his hand toward the bed.

She nodded and he led her to the edge of the bed.  He pushed his suit and jacket from the day off to the side, to free up some space for them.  As she sat down, he began to say something and then stopped.  He stood there before her, starting and stopping twice more before finally confessing, "I guess I'm a little nervous about telling you, Jo.  I'm not at all sure how you're going to react."

Her eyes narrowed.  "Rupert, I am not some fragile little girl that needs to be protected from the truth.  I prefer it actually, and I'm more than strong enough to handle it.  So share."  

Giles smiled at her determined look.  "Actually, I'm not as worried about you as I am about others, when you hear what I have to say.  And, for the record, I am *quite* aware that you are in no way a little girl.  Or fragile, for that matter."  His voice was slightly husky and Jo caught her breath.  They stared at each other for a moment before Giles turned away.  "Yes, well now that we've got that cleared up..."  He broke off and shook his head.

Jo reached up and pulled him down to sit beside her.  She placed her hands on his cheeks, caressing gently the worry lines with the pads of her thumbs.  Her voice softened for the first time since she'd entered his room.  "Rupert, please.  Tell me."

He covered her hands with his own and gave them a gentle squeeze.  He turned his face to place a kiss on one of her palms.  When he looked back at her, he managed a small smile. 

"Jo, something happened at work the other day."

"So I gathered," Jo said.  At his wince, she apologized, "Sorry, please continue."

"Remember the reception I had to attend on Monday?"

"Yes, and I'm sorry I couldn't go with you, but I had to work."

"I know."  He reached over and gave her knee a squeeze.  "And to be honest, I'm not at all convinced your presence on Monday would have been any more effective than the knowledge of you was at preventing what occurred."

"The knowledge of me?  What occurred?  Rupert, I'm getting lost here."

"Sorry.  I told you, sharing isn't easy for me."  He laughed bitterly.  "As Buffy would say, Cryptic Guy strikes again."

"She sure has a way with words."  Jo forced a smile.

"Yes," Giles agreed.

"Well, you don't need to be cryptic with me, Rupert.  Take your time."  With a soft smile, Jo added, "Just not too much."

Dawn pushed through the door and entered the kitchen, humming some pop song. 

Buffy looked up at the cheery teen. "Feeling better?"

"Yeah," Dawn said.  "The nap helped a lot."

"Great. Then you can get back to the books," Buffy said, pushing a stack of books toward her sister.

Dawn looked down, here eyes initially excited about doing some research, until she saw the titles: English Literature, Chemistry I.  "Hey, these are my school books."

"The better to study with," Buffy said.

Dawn looked up with a frown, "But I thought I could help."

"Pass your classes, turn into a braniac and stop having headaches.  That'll help us all.  Immensely."

Dawn pouted and threw herself back into her chair.  With one last glare at Buffy, she opened the English Lit book, the hard cover hitting the table with a thud.  When Buffy looked away, Dawn reached over and stole a handful of Cheesy Poofs from Xander's bowl. 

"Hey," he whined.

Willow shot him a glare.  "Don't even start, Xander."

"How's it going, Will?" Buffy asked, turning back to the Wicca after sending both Xander and Dawn a warning glare.  "Find anything about other deranged people stealing body parts?'" 

Willow quickly continued, trying to head off any further bickering.  "Unfortunately, my surfing hasn't turned up too much."

"Not even stories of organ snatchers who drug people, cut out kidneys and stuff to sell, and then leave the victim in a tub of bloody water with a post-it saying 'Call 911 when you wake up!'" 

Buffy rolled her eyes, picking up her demon anthology text and resuming her own search.  "That's just an urban legend," she said.

Willow continued surfing, "At this point, I'd even settle for a sub-urban legend.  I haven't found a darn thing."

"Xander, could you please crunch a little more quietly," Dawn whined. 

"Sure," he mumbled, his mouth overflowing with another hand full of Cheesy Poofs.

"How about you?" Willow asked Buffy.  "Any luck yet?"

"No," she said, scanning the next age-yellowed page of Giles' book.  "Wait, how about a Vurlitzer demon?"  Buffy shoved the book in Willow's face.

Willow took a second to scan the page and then she rolled her eyes at Buffy.

"Buffy, after Gachnar, I'd would think you'd have learned to at least read the captions beneath the pictures before you waste my time."

"What?" she asked.  "It said something about organs."

Willow pulled the book over and read it.  "It says the demon is sexually aroused by the sounds of organ music."  Willow huffed and pushed the book back at Buffy.

Buffy frowned as Xander burst out laughing and sent Cheesy Poof bits all over Dawn's homework.


"Sorry," Xander apologized, his mouth already refilled.

"God, you're like a garbage disposal," Dawn said.

"Please!" Willow shouted.  "We need to focus here.  Just because we're not on a Hellmouth doesn't mean demons are any friendlier.  Well, except for the shrink guy.  So keep looking," Willow instructed. 

"What the heck would anything want with glands anyway?"  Buffy asked annoyed.

"I don't know.  They basically regulate the production and secretion of certain hormones.  And some people call them the third eye and believe it is the tool we use to communicate with the higher planes."   Willow checked her notes.  "The pineal gland is found in animals and humans.  It produces Melatonin which regulates reproduction. In fact, in animals, it's been found to control the biological clock.  Like seasonal mating.  When it's turned on, well, the animal's turned on."

"All right, so pineal glands do something with hormones and tells animals when to get their groove on.  That still doesn't help us figure out why or what is stealing them from dead people." Xander noted.

Willow shrugged and turned back to her computer.

"I'll kill her." Jo hopped to her feet and began pacing angrily.  

Giles smiled.  "Jo, something tells me revenge is not on the list of activities endorsed by the Coven."

"Damn," she said softly.

Giles reached up and took hold of one of her arms, stopping her in front of him.  "Jo, please."

Her eyes finally met his and lightened a bit. "I know, I know," she said.  "I can't.  But it doesn't mean I don't really, really want to."

He smiled and gave her hand a gentle squeeze.  "Believe me, I know how you feel.  When I found her in my office after class, I was annoyed.  But when she pulled that stunt in front of Myrna, I found myself hoping she'd sprout a horn or something.  Anything to reveal herself as some demon that I could slay."  Giles pushed himself up to his feet.

"Rupert," Jo reached forward and put a hand on his arm. 

He looked down at her.  "I'm supposed to meet her tomorrow night or she goes forward with this charade." 

"What?  That manipulative bitch," Jo said.  "I'm sorry.  I know that's not helping."

Giles pulled away.  "Jo, what am I supposed to do?  This woman could not only cost me my job, but she could get me kicked out of the States."

"We'll figure something out, Rupert.  I promise," she gave him a hug.

Giles held on for a moment and then pulled back to look her in the eye.  "Like what?"

"I don't know just yet, but I'm not going to let that conniving little whore get away with this."  She grinned at his shocked _expression.  "And before you say something macho like 'you want to handle this all by yourself,' let me just cut that nonsense off right now.  You need help with this, Rupert, and I'm your woman."

He smiled, drawing strength from her confidence.  "Yes," he said, raising his hand to her cheek, "I believe you are." 

"I'll get it."  Xander grabbed the phone before anyone else could answer. 

"Hello.  This is 

"Carrie Whedon."  Xander smiled as he leaned his shoulder against the door.  He stuck his tongue out at Dawn.  "And you just cost me kitchen clean-up for a month."

There was a pause.  "Just how did I do that?"

"Dawn and I had a bet about what time you'd call to check on her."  He glanced at the clock  "Another seven minutes and she would have been doing my laundry for a month."

Carrie laughed.  "I understand that washing your own socks helps build character."

"Must be some sort of secret ingredient in the detergent.  It brightens, whitens and gives you a spring-scented sense of purpose."

Carrie laughed again.  "Other than being corrupted by gambling, how is Dawn?"

"Fine.  Her headaches always go away after she sleeps awhile."

"I'm right here," Dawn whined in the background. 

Carrie heaved a sigh.  "It's so frustrating not being able to help."

"We all appreciate everything you've done."  He took a deep breath.  "I wish we could have met this afternoon.  So, I could have thanked you in person," he added hastily.

"I'm sorry I got called back to the office.  That would have been nice.  Not the thanking part, the meeting part."

"Really?"  Xander's voice rose half an octave.

"Dawn's told me so much about you  "

"If it's something good, you should believe every word," he said quickly.  "But if it's bad, you should know that one of her nicknames is Demon Spawn."

"Hey," Dawn protested. 

"Demon Spawn," Carrie laughed as she repeated the name, "said that she thought of you as her terrific big brother."

"Then obviously the Dawnster is an astute judge of character with impeccable taste," Xander said. 

"Damn straight," Dawn muttered in the background.

"Then you'll also agree with her complaint about always being cheated out of her share when the two of you split a pizza."

"Never come between a man and his pepperoni."  He took a deep breath.  "And that certainly sounded a lot more innuendoey than I intended."

"Don't worry about it.  It's nice to talk to a man who can successfully mix mozzarella and insinuation."



"If you guys are going to talk dirty can you move it to the phone in the living room?" Dawn asked.  "This is a PG rated kitchen."

"I heard that," Carrie said.  "Tell Spawn I'm glad she's feeling better and that I'll see her tomorrow at school."

"Okay.  Bye."


Xander turned around to find the three women in the room staring at him with open approval.  "What?"

"Nothing," Buffy said.  "It's just good to see you smile again."

Giles leaned down and placed a soft kiss on Jo's lips.  He lingered for a moment, and then deepened the kiss, sliding his hand up to cup the back of her head and using the leverage to mold her lips to his.  When her mouth opened with a gasp, he took immediate advantage. 

At the feel of his tongue assaulting her mouth, Jo's hand instinctively dropped to his hips, tugging him closer, erasing any remaining space between their bodies.  She smiled when she heard him groan in response.  When he finally pulled away, Jo whimpered.

"Mmmm," he agreed, leaning his forehead down to rest against hers.

"Something tells me we can't put all this aside for now, huh?" she said, staring at his lips that hovered just out of reach.

"Unfortunately, no."

Jo stood back.  "Fine, but tell me the name of the woman after my man."

Giles chuckled, his head shaking from side to side.

"I swear I won't touch her," Jo said.  He tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.  "Fine," she conceded.  "I promise I won't sic the Coven on her either."

Giles smiled.  "Forrester.  Dorothy Forrester."

Jo's eyes flew open. 

"What's going on up there?" Dawn asked.  "How am I supposed to do my homework with all that banging and yelling?"

"Oh, Jo's just trying to get Mr. Happy Giles back again," Xander said with a grin.

Buffy choked on the glass of water she was drinking.

Xander's laugh was cut off as the kitchen door burst open to reveal a very determined and visibly upset Jo. 

"Jo?" Willow said.  "What is it?"

"Willow.  Living room.  Now."  Jo said.

"We're in the middle of researching a demon, Jo.  C-can't it wait?" Willow stuttered under the weight of Jo's gaze.

"No, it can't wait.  It's Rupert." Jo said.

Buffy took a determined step toward Jo.  "What about Giles?"

Jo met Buffy's gaze and held up her hand.  "I found out what's been bothering him, and it's kind of private.  But right now I need Willow to help sort some things out."

"I don't care from private.  What's wrong with Giles?" Buffy asked.

"Please, Buffy.  Keep your voice down.   He's in the living room waiting for me and Willow.  Once everything's sorted out, I'm sure he'll tell you.  But I'm not going to betray his confidence."

"Willow?"  Jo asked.

Willow looked from Buffy to Jo.  The betrayal in Buffy's eyes made her hesitate for a second.  "I'm sorry, Buffy, but it's Giles we're talking about.  I'm sure he'll tell you later.  You guys keep researching.  I'll be back in a sec."   Willow quickly saved her research and followed Jo out to the living room.

When she left, Buffy and Xander looked at one another.  Without a word, they moved forward and pressed their ears up against the swinging kitchen door. 

"Uh guys?" Dawn said.

Buffy and Xander tensed up as they turned around.  Dawn held two empty glasses out to them.

"It really does work better with a glass to your ear."

Giles looked up from the couch and saw Jo enter with Willow.  "What does Willow have to do with this?"

"Rupert, please.  Just give me a minute and you'll see."

"But Willow doesn't need to know..."

"Rupert.  Sit!" 

Giles dropped back onto the sofa.  

Jo took a deep breath before continuing.  "Now I know you probably feel embarrassed, but you shouldn't.  You were a victim.  Unfortunately, if my suspicions are right, you weren't the only one."

"What?"  Giles asked.

"Yeah, what he said." 

"Listen Willow, I know you told me some things in confidence yesterday, and normally I wouldn't tell anyone." 

"You told him?" Willow yanked herself free from Jo's supportive hand.

"No, I didn't.  But you need to."

"Why?  It was nothing.  No need to tell; no need to share."

"Perhaps not then, but there is now."  Jo held Willow's gaze.  "Rupert needs our help.  Tell him the name of your new professor, the one who just hired you as her research assistant."

"Dorothy Forrester," Willow said, her eyes fixed on Jo, missing the look of shock on Giles' face.  "But I still don't get how that's supposed to help Giles."

"That woman is your professor?"  Giles asked. 

"What are you guys talking about?"  Willow asked.

"Wait," Giles's voice suddenly dropped as a horrified look dawned on his face. He looked from Jo to Willow and then back again.  "Jo, you said something about there being another victim here.  Are you telling me that she..., that Willow...?"  Giles couldn't even articulate it, but the look in Jo's eyes gave him his answer.  

"Oh Willow, I'm so sorry."  Giles reached for her hand.

Willow pulled her hand away.  "And I repeat, what the heck are you two talking about?"

"It's all right, Willow," Giles said.  "The woman made advances toward me as well."

"Huh?" Willow asked, completely lost now.  She turned back to Jo. "Just what are you trying to do here, Jo?"

"Do?" Jo asked.  "Nothing, Willow.  Nothing except get at the truth."

"Willow, it's all right to not want to talk about it, but..."  Giles again reached out to Willow and again she refused the offer, this time jerking her hand away as if burned. Giles' eyes flashed with confusion and anger.

"To talk about what?  There isn't anything to talk about!  I already told you that, Jo.  In confidence," Willow said.

"Willow, this isn't just about you anymore.  And while you may still feel your encounter with that woman wasn't offensive or harmful, she wasn't as understanding with Rupert's rejection as she apparently was with yours."

"Are you suggesting...?  This is ridiculous.  She's a highly respected doctor and world renowned for her research.  She wouldn't... Giles, you must be mistaken."


"Yeah," Willow's certainty wavered somewhat under Giles' heated glare.  "I mean maybe she was just being friendly?"

"Friendly?  You think I don't know the difference between friendly and harassment? The woman has sought me out three separate times and this afternoon, she cornered me in my own office and proceeded to force herself on me.  When I refused, she staged a public scene."  

"But she only asked me out.  She didn't harass me majorly or anything," Willow said.  

"Well then you were more fortunate than me."  Giles turned from her, folding his arms.  

"I'm sorry Giles.  I'm trying to understand this..."  

"What's not to understand Willow?  We've known each other for seven years.  You've known this woman for how long... a few days?  How can you be so quick to believe that I'm making this up?"

"Not making up.  There's no 'making up' accusations here.  Just... mistaken maybe?  I mean,  she's like so into sexual freedom for everyone..." Willow sputtered.  She couldn't hold Giles' gaze and looked away.   "She didn't try to force me or anything, and she's so..."  Willow's voice dropped to a whisper.  "Giles, I just don't want to believe..."

"I don't know what's worse, that woman's abhorrent conduct or your utter lack of trust in me."  The anger in Giles' face couldn't hide the hurt.  

"Giles, it's not like that," she protested. 

"Oh no, then tell me how it's like." 

Jo put a hand on his arm and spoke softly.  "Rupert, please calm down."  

"Calm down?"  Giles pulled away angrily.  "This woman makes some kind of inappropriate overture toward Willow and then basically attacks me.  What's worse, she's trying to coerce me into acceptance with threats of assault charges.  I could lose my job and be deported.  I think you will understand why I'm finding it a bit difficult to calm down."

Giles looked one last time at Willow, seeing only confusion and hurt on her face.  "I need some air."  He turned his head from her and then headed for the door.

"Rupert, please," Jo called.  "Where are you going?"

Giles stopped halfway out the door, but didn't turn around.   "I don't know.  Just somewhere that... I'm sorry, just somewhere that isn't here."  He left the door hanging open and stalked down the path.  

Jo went to the doorway and watched as Giles got in the Suburban, backed out of the driveway and drove off.  She turned back to the living room and shut the door gently behind her.

"What's going on?" Willow asked, still utterly confused.

Jo didn't have time to answer before another voice seconded that question. "Yeah, just what the hell is going on?"  Willow and Jo looked to the kitchen to find Buffy standing there, her hands on her hips and fury in her eyes.  Xander was right behind her, apparently stunned into silence. 

"That witch!" Buffy sprang from the couch and began pacing.

"Hey!" the resident Wiccas protested.

"Huh? Oh right.  Sorry, guys," Buffy offered a slanted smile to Willow and Jo.  "Bitch.  I meant bitch.  I can't believe that woman."

"Well what we need to do now is figure out how to help Rupert," Jo said.

"I can't believe I trusted her, defended her.  No wonder Giles hates me.  How can he ever forgive me?"  Willow dropped her face in her hands. 

Xander put a supportive hand on Willow's shoulder.  "Giles doesn't hate you, Will.  He's just a bit pissed right now.  He's out there blowing off some steam, and he'll be back any minute to help us finish researching."

"You really think so?"

"I know so," Xander said.

"But I should have just trusted him immediately.  I mean it was *Giles,* and he was so upset.  I can't believe I was jealous or something, that if she liked me, she couldn't like him too.  God!  How egotistical could I be?"

"Maybe Will, but that woman was like your Yoda or something.  Granted, a Yoda corrupted by the dark side, but Giles will forgive you, and then he can be your Yoda again."

"If he even wants the job." Willow frowned.

"Of course he does.  Who wouldn't?"  Xander gave her shoulders a squeeze. 

"The best thing you can do right now is get back into Research Willow mode and find that demon," Buffy said.

Willow managed a half hearted chuckle.  She sniffled a bit and then smiled. "Thanks, guys."

"Anytime, Will," said Xander. 

Willow got up and headed back to the kitchen and her laptop.  She stopped at the door and turned back to Jo and Buffy.  "Will Giles be okay? He looked pretty mad."

"I'm sure he'll be fine," Jo said.  "But why don't I go find him?"

"Good idea," Buffy said.  "The minute we tell him about the gland demon, he'll snap right into Research Watcher mode."

"We?" Jo asked. 

"He may be your boyfriend, but he's still my Watcher."

Jo started to respond and then hesitated at the look in Buffy's eyes.  "Of course.  Uh, I'll drive."

As they headed for the door, Xander said, "Hey, after you find him, stop off and get some jellies on your way back.  That'll put a smile on his face, a warm feeling in his belly, and speed up the success of our research.  It always does."

"Will do," Buffy said, zipping up her coat. 

"Jellies?" Jo asked as she followed Buffy out the door.

"I'll explain on the way."  Buffy smiled to herself as she led the way to Jo's truck.

"I'll never understand science," said Dawn, furiously erasing something on a piece of paper.  "I hate this stuff." 

Xander absently nodded as he reached for another book on demons.  "But you'll never use it in the real world, so that's ok, Dawnie."

"Bingo!"  Willow shouted. 

"Damn, and I only needed B 14 for blackout," Xander mumbled.  Willow flashed him a quick frown.  "Sorry, please continue," he said.

"Funny, Xand," Dawn said.  "Not."

"Back to science," he said, shortly.  "You'll need it when I kick your butt out into the real world."

"There's been a series of missing organ reports in several university medical journals from schools across the U.S.  And get this, they were all pineal glands."

"So someone's stealing penile glands?  Wait, does that make it 'gland larceny'?" Xander asked, coming up behind her and ruffling her hair like a kid.

Willow groaned and rolled her eyes. "It's pin-e-al gland."

"That's what I said, penile gland," Xander said.

"Big surprise where your mind's at," she muttered, still studying the screen.  "Uh oh."


"Well, the most recent report was at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  That's the school Dr. Forrester transferred from."

"So she's the demon?" Xander asked.

"I don't know.  I need to do more research.  It could just be a coincidence."  Willow returned to her laptop and brought up a new search screen.

"And which federal law are we breaking this time, Will?"  Xander asked.

"Best if you don't know."

Xander sat down in the chair next to Willow and waited. 

"I'm in," Willow said.   Before Xander could ask where Willow had broken into, she turned to him.  "Xand, grab that pen and paper and write down these schools and dates, all right?"

"No problem, Will.  Just call me Super Scribe."

Willow gave him a grin.  "OK, here goes.  University of North Carolina, 1998."

Xander scratched across the pad of paper with one of Dawn's purple-striped pencils.  "Got it."

"University of Kansas, 1998."

"Check," Xander said.

"University of Texas, 1998, University of South Florida, 1999, and University of California at San Francisco, 1999."

"Hey, hold up a sec, Will.  I'm a Scribe not a voice-activated word processor."  He struggled to catch up, his penmanship suffering a bit.

"Sorry," she said.  "Ready?"

"Go," he said.  "What is this list anyway?"

"These are all schools where Dr. Forrester has taught in the last five years.  It's long-there are at least ten more."

"Man, this woman switches universities more often than Buffy switches hair color," Xander said.

"I'm tellin'," Dawn said. 

"Please don't."

"I'm sure she'll be just thrilled with you," Dawn smiled, folding her arms across her chest.

"Fine," he said.  "When the others get back, I'll give you one of my jellies.  Just keep your mouth shut."

"Deal," Dawn said and then returned to her homework.

"Let me compare this list with the organ incidents."  Willow looked at Xander's list and then her earlier notes.  Her face lost a bit of color. "I don't believe it."

"What?"  Xander asked.

"They all match up.  Every single one for the past five years, starting with the one in San Francisco.  Even the time frames."

"So she is the demon?" Dawn asked.

"Looks like," Willow said.

"Cool.  Well, not cool as in your teacher's a demon, but hey, I been there, done that, and survived." 

"So how do we kill it?" Dawn asked.

"You don't," Xander said.  "You study."

"God," she whined, returning to her book.  "No one lets me do anything anymore.  At least when the world was gonna end, Buffy'd let me patrol.  Now she won't even let me walk to the mailbox without a written itinerary."

"That has nothing to do with being protective, Dawn," Xander said.  "It's more about worrying about those headaches of yours."  Dawn shrugged and went back to her book.

"I'm not positive she's the demon, yet," Willow said.  "And even if I were, we still don't know what kind."

"It's all right, Will," Xander said.  "Can't be that many demons that need pin-ee-ull glands."  He took great effort to sound it out correctly this time.

"Well if I can teach you to pronounce anatomical words correctly, finding a gland-eating demon shouldn't be too hard."

"That's the spirit, Will."  Xander said, then his smile fell. "Wait, did I just get dissed somewhere in there?"

Jo turned at the corner, heading down Scobie Boulevard in the direction of Crystal Waters Lake.  "You really think he'll be there?"

"Yeah," Buffy said. "When we all went to Indian Hills Park last month, he really liked it.  Said it was nice and quiet and reminded him of home.  Well, except for the Scooby Super Bowl, of course."  Buffy smiled at the memory of tackling Giles during the gang's impromptu touch football game.

"Of course."

The tone of Jo's voice caught Buffy's attention.  She looked over and saw the worry on Jo's face. 

"You really care about him, don't you?"  Buffy whispered.

"Yes.  I do," Jo said.  "I know we've only known each other for a few months, and we've been dating even less, but I do care about him, Buffy.  Quite a lot."  She paused, as if trying to decide if she should continue.  She finally did.  "I literally wanted to kill the woman the minute Rupert told me what she'd done.  I haven't had that strong an urge to defend someone in a long time.  To tell you the truth, it's a little scary."

"Well, Giles is like that.  Doesn't take much for him and his stuffy British ways to get under your skin.  Personally, I think I was a goner the first time I saw him polish his glasses."

Jo smiled.  "I was lost the first time he blushed and stuttered."

Buffy chuckled.  "What'd you do to set him off?"

Jo looked over and smirked.  "I commented on his nice butt in front of Elspeth."

They both laughed for a few moments, but then Buffy fell silent. 

Jo glanced over at Buffy and saw the concern in her eyes.  She reached out to Buffy, but Buffy pulled away, tucking her hair behind her ear to disguise her action.  "We'll get him out of this, Buffy."

Buffy nodded, her eyes fixed on the road.  "I just got him to stay.  I can't lose him now."

Jo forced a supportive smile.  "I understand.  I remember when I lost my father a few years ago.."

"There he is," Buffy interrupted, pointing down by the lake.  Jo pulled into the small parking lot. 

Before Jo could even fully stop the truck, Buffy was out the door and running down to the edge of the water.  Jo parked the truck and turned off the engine and lights.  As she stepped out on the driver's side, she saw that Buffy had reached Giles and was gesturing madly at him.  She stopped and watched them talk.  A few moments later, Buffy raised her arms and after the briefest of hesitations, Giles slowly stepped forward and embraced her. 

Jo could see their embrace silhouetted by the moonlight reflecting off the lake.  She turned away from the image and took a deep breath before opening the door and climbing back into the truck to wait for them.


Act Two   Act Four

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