The Twilight's Last Gleaming
written by Laura Shapiro


Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Anne, Band Candy.
Summary: Joyce invites Giles to the 4th of July picnic...for a variety of reasons.
Thanks: Special thanks to Jesse, Buffy tapemaster and treasured friend whose critical mind sharpens my own. Thanks are also due to Pares, who was enthusiastic, and to Spike, who suggested that more Ripper would be a good idea for all concerned parties. And finally to Joseph, who insisted I see Band Candy before starting.
Dedication: This is for Te, who started the whole thing with a sundress and the July heat, and finished it off with a nifty beta.
Feedback Author: Laura Shapiro
Author's LJ: Laura Shapiro


The heat woke her up. Floating unwillingly to the surface, struggling against something formless which coalesced into sweat-soaked sheets, Joyce left behind (and immediately forgot) a dream of a man's hands on her breasts, hot breath in her ear, hard heat and hair pressing against her back.

She flung off the sodden sheet and sat up, brushing matted strands from her cheek with sticky fingers. She had shed her nightgown at some unremembered point and it lay balled up at her feet. She could smell herself, ripe and insistent, and she was damp all over. Sunlight poked determinedly under and around her closed curtains. 8:37 am. Sunday, July 4th. Sunnydale, California. And her air conditioner was broken.

Joyce slipped her nightgown over her head and got out of bed. Today of all days, she thought grimly, heading for the thermostat. It cheerfully announced that the house was cooled to a comfortable sixty-eight degrees, a statement belied by the perspiration sheening Joyce's face, and had switched itself off accordingly. She fiddled with the dial, pushing the little red needle down to fifty-five and switching the lever from "auto" to "cool". A welcoming whoosh of cool air entirely failed to reverberate through the room.

"Goddammit," she muttered, and headed for the phone, before she remembered: a holiday, no service, you lose.

She had been looking forward to today for more than a month. Independence Day was a special one at the Summers home; not overly patriotic, they found it a welcome excuse to decorate the house, gorge themselves on picnic food, play party games, and watch fireworks. And this was going to be a special year, because Buffy...well, Buffy had missed the Fourth, last year.

A shudder rippled through Joyce in spite of the heat, raising the hair on her arms. And, as had been her ritual every morning for almost a year, she crossed the hall to her daughter's room and stood silently outside the door, listening. Listening for Buffy's breathing. And as always, the assurance that her daughter had come home last night soothed her, gave her courage. She sometimes chastised herself for needing this daily assurance, knew it would be far off the end of the overprotectiveness scale for any parent of a normal teenager. But Buffy's life was far from normal.

On the whole, Joyce had few regrets about the past year. She still resented like hell, on her worst days, that *her* daughter had been chosen for a life-threatening career -- why couldn't someone else's little girl be the Slayer? But for her daughter's sake as well as her own, she was working to be as supportive as possible, to accept Buffy's life (both what she chose and what was fated to be chosen for her) with good grace and, where possible, even with enthusiasm. That was why, along with Buffy's friends and some women she knew from the gallery, she had invited Rupert Giles to the Fourth of July picnic. Well, she told herself, it was the *primary* reason.

The sound of her daughter murmuring something in her sleep wiped away the glimmering sensation of Ripper's tongue stabbing her mouth, and she heard Buffy rustlingly turn over. The heat was probably getting to her, too. Joyce shrugged, willing her worry and frustration back into the nighttime corner of her mind, and headed for the bathroom.

Standing under the lukewarm spray, she began to feel almost human again. She mentally ticked items off her party prep list: chicken to be fried (oh god in this weather), eggs to be deviled, cabbage to be slawed. Buffy would help hang the red and blue streamers, set the picnic table. There would be, inevitably, a quarrel over the music. And, at some point, Joyce would have to take Mr. Giles aside and apologize to him.

"I don't blame myself. I blame *you*." She shut her eyes against the shame. She *had* blamed him, that was the problem. Irrationally, she had blamed him for every sorrow and terror her daughter had faced, had blamed him for the summer she'd spent wondering if Buffy was even alive. But mostly, and she could admit this now, she had hated him because he had known before she did that Buffy had -- that Buffy had had sex. Mr. Giles had been Buffy's confidant, Buffy had gone to *him*, not to her. And it still stung.

And just when she had begun to realize that Mr. Giles loved Buffy like a daughter and that (as her Watcher and as her friend) her welfare was paramount to him -- just when she was starting to trust him, well...then there had been the band candy incident.

Ripper's arm thrown around her shoulders, the smoky taste of him, his casual brutality and the way it had shivered through her...she didn't want to think about how much she had enjoyed that night. It was beyond the simple carelessness of behaving like a teenager; all the intensity of an adolescent's emotions had come leaping to the surface when he kissed her. And, sprawled under him on top of the police car, she had wanted more.

And was entirely relieved, now, that there hadn't been time for any more. The resulting embarrassment over just those kisses had been enough to stall her attempts to gain his friendship, to show him her appreciation and trust. Well, no more. She was determined to overcome that today. It was important to show him that she knew they were on the same side.

"I owe you an apology, and my gratitude," she rehearsed, sliding the razor over her knee. Maybe she could break through a little of that British reserve, some of that stammering self-protection. Show him he was welcome. She smiled.

Joyce was starting to sweat again by the time she got dressed, slipping a sleeveless linen sundress, celadon with white flowers, over her lotion-moist skin. She pinned up her hair, relishing the air against her neck, slipped on a pair of sandals, and headed down to the kitchen.

She was filling the eggs when Buffy emerged, in her pajamas, and headed straight for the coffee.

"Why's it so hot?"

"The air conditioning broke. Do you want some milk with those?" Joyce indicated the box of cereal into which Buffy was digging.

"Oh, good. Not a hellmouth problem. And no, thanks," she munched for a while.

"What are we going to do about the party?"

"Keep everyone outside, I guess. And there's that old fan in the garage."

Buffy snorted. "If you can *find* it."

"I wish we had a pool. It's already eighty-five degrees out there, and not even ten o'clock yet. There's just no *relief* from it." Joyce finished the last egg, put the platter in the fridge, licked the yellow-coated spoon. "Maybe I'll turn on the sprinklers and you kids could --"

"Mom, honestly, we're not *twelve!*" Buffy withdrew a plastic toy from the bottom of the box. "Darth Maul. Cool. Anyway, if it gets too hot we'll go over to Willow's. She has a pool."

And her parents are never home, Joyce thought. "All right, Buffy. Now, how about helping me with the cole slaw?"

* * * * *

Party noises drifted in through the back door, opened with the optimistic idea of catching stray breezes. She and Buffy had at last agreed on Motown (after her daughter had objected to the Beach Boys and she had overruled Nirvana), and Smokey Robinson crooned under the chatter. Joyce was frying the chicken, hot oil occasionally sprinkling her arms with tiny, briefly painful spikes. Sweat rolled down her sides. She took a sip of her lemonade just as the doorbell rang.

Giles' discomfort was visible through the small panes in the door, and Joyce's smile was sincere as she opened it. No wincing, now.

"Mr. Giles. I'm so glad you could make it."

She met his eyes and her smile wavered as desire prickled her gently all over. She was certainly blushing. As for Giles, his face was tight with forced good cheer. He looked painfully warm in a buttondown shirt, slacks, and suspenders. She could see the top of his tee-shirt peeking out under his open collar. At least he'd left his jacket and tie behind.

"Ms. -- Joyce, er...thank you. Um, I -- I brought --" he handed her a six-pack of Anchor Steam. She was impressed.

"Beer? Thanks," she said smoothly, "maybe we can save this until the kids head over to Willow's. Come on in."

"It's--it's rather warm in here." He followed her in. Christ, she could smell him, a light spicy aftershave smell mingling enticingly with unmistakably male sweat. Focus, Joyce. This isn't Ripper. This is Giles, and he needs to be able to trust you.

"Sorry about that, the air conditioning broke. Just today, wouldn't you know it?" She put the beer in the refrigerator. "Lemonade?"

"Yes, thanks. Lovely." He drank the glass off thirstily at one go, sweat rolling down his cheeks. His hair curled damply on his brow. She took the glass and refilled it. He avoided her eyes.

"Look, Mr. Giles, I --" she began.

"Oh, the others are outside, are they? Thanks, Joyce. I'll just go say hello to --" and he was out the door, a trace of his scent lingering behind. And something else, something burning.

"Oh no, the chicken!"

* * * * *

The sun was slowly cooking the top of Joyce's head. It was after five, but it felt like high noon, and what little shade the few trees were offering was now landing on the fence and in the neighbors' yard.

Joyce was fed up. She hadn't had a moment to talk to Giles, what with the kids' demands for a constant stream of food and drink and the two or three eligible divorcees from the gallery flirting with him incessantly. Buffy and her friends had, predictably, headed for Willow's pool as soon as the food ran out, and then she had had a terrible time prying Sarah Goldberg away from the handsome librarian.

She stood as Sarah and the others made their goodbyes, and hustled them as quickly as she dared through the front door. She hadn't intended to be completely alone with Giles; she thought it would be too uncomfortable for him. But now it looked like their only chance to talk. She opened two bottles of beer and headed back outside.

He was collecting the discarded paper plates and cups into a plastic bag.

"You don't have to do that."

He glanced up at her and then away again, studying intently the greasy patterns in the coleslaw bowl. "It's no bother, really."

She came toward him, reached for the bag. Her hand brushed his. "But you're a guest."

His hand trembled and he jerked back from her awkwardly. "No, no, I insist, really." He stacked the bowl on top of a few platters and headed for the house.

"Mr. Giles...please...can I talk to you?"

He stopped, set the dishes down on the picnic table. Looked everywhere but at her, his eyes darting, crinkling against the glare. He had undone not a single button all afternoon, although he had rolled up his sleeves. The shine of sweat highlighted the firm muscles of his forearms. She dropped the trash bag and went to him.

"Let's -- sit down." She dropped into a chair, the plastic burning and sticking to her shoulders and the backs of her calves. Giles sat, his legs shifting under the table.

"Mr. Giles..."

"Just Giles, please, Joyce."

She smiled hesitantly. "Giles. I want to apologize. I've been meaning to for some time --"

"You've done nothing to apologize for. It was my fault. I've been -- I've been appalled with myself. That side of me," he nervously swigged his beer, "that...Ripper...it's--"

Joyce almost laughed. "I don't -- Giles, I don't mean that."

He looked at her then, bottle glass eyes searching her in surprise and something she wasn't sure she recognized. Something that looked like it might be hope. It looked good on him.

"I was talking about, well...blaming you, for Buffy's running away. I've regretted that ever since, and I never got to tell you that."

His whole face relaxed, then. She could see him settling, his body subtly shifting, leaning back a bit, joints unkinking, still with an intensity glowing in his gaze. Something fluttered in her belly as she saw in his relief a hint of the feral young man she hadn't been able to forget. Hastily she raised her bottle to her lips, the bitter, blessedly cool effervescence tickling her throat.

"You know that I only want what's best for Buffy. Her safety is my first concern."

"I do know that now. That's what I wanted to say. I know that you're on my side -- on our side."

He smiled then, a smile she hadn't seen before, sweet and warm.

"I trust you," she continued, and then watched the smile evaporate.

"I'm not sure you -- I mean, I don't know how you can. After --" Perversely, she wanted him to go on. But they were making progress here, and if she wanted him to be her friend she couldn't let him continue.

"Giles, I don't have any regrets about that night," she said levelly, and his face radiated amazement, and...happiness? She didn't mean to say "I had a wonderful time." It just came out. She was acutely aware of the way the sweat was plastering her dress to her body.

"You --" he looked at his hands, then back up at her. "I did, too."

She held his eyes for a long moment, and then she could tell by the way he started fidgeting that she was going to lose him again, he was going to bolt if she didn't do something, so she kissed him.

A soft, gentle, sidewise teasing at first, nibbling the saltiness of his upper lip, the beeriness of his lower. He was still and silent under her mouth, so different from Ripper, just letting her taste him -- or maybe he didn't want this. She pulled back, trembling, searched his face. Panic? Or just surprise?

"It's -- it's very hot out here," he whispered.

An idea flew through Joyce's mind and she had to bite down on a giggle. "Yes. Yes, it is." She stroked his slick cheek and his expression softened. Maybe..."I'll be right back." And ran across the grass. And turned the sprinklers on.

Giles gave a yelp and flung himself out of the chair, lunging toward the house as the first droplets dotted his grey shirt. Joyce allowed herself an outright laugh now, and yelled "Don't you dare track water into my house."

She ran into the blissful coolness, rushing in and then dashing back, recalling a thousand childhood summer days. She leaned down and let the spray wash the oily residue of the day from her face, loosening her hair. Then she flung it wetly back and leapt over the sprinkler to Giles. Dripping, she took his hand.

"Come on."

"No," he smiled.

"Oh, please. It'll be fun."

"No."

"You know you want to."

"Uh-uh."

"It feels wonderful."

"All right," and he gave an absurd little cry and sprinted into the shimmering water.

"Oh! Giles! Your shoes!" she cried in alarm, but he was already pulling them off, hopping and laughing. He peeled off his damp socks as well, laid them on the picnic table with his glasses, and then ran back, dragging her with him into the spray.

Water had darkened his shirt to charcoal and his pants stuck to him, outlining his strong thighs and bottom. He shrugged out of his suspenders and they flapped loosely at his hips as he bent to face the water, slicking his hair back and letting the drops run down his face and neck.

Joyce's nipples were rising in response to the cold wetness and she knew they were clearly visible beneath the sodden linen and thin cotton bra. The dress itself was becoming a bit of a problem, clinging soggily to her legs and impeding movement. She gathered the skirt up to her thighs and knotted it. She looked up, and Giles was watching her...hungrily.

She bounded away from him and danced through the water, the droplets catching the sunlight and refracting it back in a rainbow. Her freed legs adored the coolness. Impishly, she lifted her skirt a little and stood astride the sprinkler, and sighed as the refreshing blast soaked her panties.

"Hey, you're nicking all the water," Giles' voice was at her ear, and then he shoved her gently out of the way. He had removed his shirt at last, and his white tee-shirt clung to him and leaned into the spray. She raked her eyes over him, taking in copper penny nipples raised to fine points, vagaries of hair trailing south over the small, firm pot of his belly. Just a white tee-shirt, and she was under him on the police car, running her hands over his cotton-clad back as he kissed her and kissed her. More.

Now.

She stepped in front of him and drew his face down to hers. As their lips met she thought of asking, do you want this? but didn't. She didn't want to risk a "no". Not until she'd tasted him again.

He opened his mouth to her this time, stroking her tongue with his own, but the kiss was still languid, gentle. Giles, she thought. Not Ripper. Giles. And perhaps it's better this way, and then he deepened the kiss, laving warm swathes inside her mouth and she thought, oh, if not better, then at least very very good indeed.

She clutched at his head, his hair slithering wetly through her fingers, hot, so hot at the scalp and cool at the tips, and she pressed herself against him. The kiss, inevitably, broke, and she dove for another before he could change his mind. A rumble sounded deep in his throat and she grinned around his tongue. Good. No mind-changing.

And then he was stroking her jaw with his thumbs, and then pressing little sucking kisses to her throat, and his hands were oh god on her ass, stroking and then gripping and then stroking again. She felt him hard against her hip and suddenly the wet clothes, as exciting as they'd been a moment before, were beyond intolerable.

Giles had the same idea and was unzipping her dress as she slid her hands under his tee-shirt. She moaned at the texture of his chest, smooth beneath a light sprinkling of fine soft hair, then an abrupt ragged scar, then smooth again, the whole wet and cool at the surface and suffused with a deeper heat below. Reluctantly, she moved back to step out of her dress (which was more a matter of untangling it at this point), and then struggled out of her bra and panties. Cooling droplets fell on the last of her unrelieved flesh.

The sight of Giles' arms straining over his head as he pulled off the tee-shirt was more than she could be expected to take, and she buried her face in his rich, pungent armpit, kissing, moaning, and fumbling with his trousers. She found another scar and licked along it until she encountered his begging nipple, which she drew into her mouth. He moaned and ran his hands down her slippery back.

His hands were warm, firm, strong along her body, handling her gently but bespeaking an intensity that lay coiled below, in a darker place she had once visited and hoped to again. Very soon. And then his finger skidded over her clitoris and slipped inside her and she bit down, maybe too hard, on his nipple. She heard him gasp, but it was a good kind of gasp, and she was doing a little gasping herself at the insistent stroking and plunging of his finger. So good, and she squeezed herself around it and finally, *finally*, got his pants undone.

And slid down, pushing the offending clothing down with her, and took him into her mouth, losing his delicious finger from her pussy but gaining, oh, gaining so much in the hot heft of his cock on her tongue. She wrapped her fist around the base of him and sucked hard, then swirled her tongue, then slid her mouth slowly over his length in slow, even strokes, savoring his saltiness, his musk, the firm fleshiness of him. When she tasted him weeping there she backed off to accompaniment of his groans, helped him pull his pants all the way off, and led him down to the sodden grass.

She was kissing him again, savoring his tongue, felt him shiver as he tasted himself in her mouth. Astride him now, and stroking his cock along the length of her slit, so slippery, so good, and then...

"Joyce," warningly.

Damn. He was right, of course.

"I'll be back," she whispered in his ear, "in just a minute. Don't. You. Move."

He smiled. "I won't."

She fairly flew through the house, up the stairs, rummaging in her bedside table. Ted was the last time she'd had to think about this, but hopefully -- yes, there they were. A bit old, but still usable. And lubricated, not that it seemed necessary. She grinned and raced downstairs.

Giles lay naked on the lawn, eyes closed to the sun, his head resting on his right arm. His left hand was stroking his cock. The sun painted him golden, the sprinkler showered him with shimmering silver light.

Joyce dove in, covering his hand with hers and squeezing, scraping his earlobe with her teeth. She wanted to tell him how beautiful he was, how divinely sexy, and all she managed was "ohhh." She couldn't wait.

The condom went on more smoothly than usual and she was astride him again, and he was holding her breasts in both hands, and his cock was nudging against her clit, and then he was slickly inside her and hard, so hard, pushing her open, filling her full.

Riding him now, his hips moving in time to her snapping thrusts, so fast, too fast, but she couldn't wait, needed him, needed this, and he moved his hands to her ass and squeezed and she said "yes."

Said yes and circled her clit with her fingers, fast, too fast, too hard, but she needed it like this, needed him like this, eyes open, mouth open, breathing heavily and thrusting and strangely silent. She worked him relentlessly, leaning back to change the pressure, his cock just *right* against her everywhere, hard and fast and his hands on her ass and she was coming, and she didn't know what sounds she was making but he seemed pleased, smiling, and that made her flicker in skidding aftershocks for longer than usual.

Joyce lay unmoving against his chest, getting her breath back. She didn't really want it back. She wanted to lose it. She wanted him to lose his.

"Giles."

He was still so hard inside her.

He kissed her neck hungrily, burrowing. "Yes?"

"Giles, I want..." God, she might be making a horrible mistake. Please don't let him be angry. Please let him trust me. "God, that was wonderful, Giles...but I want..." she pulled back from him, studying his face, a mask of wanton pleasure as she slid slowly back and forth against him.

"What is it, Joyce?"

"I want to see Ripper again." His face changed, from pleasure and pride to...something unreadable. Damn her big stupid mouth, damn her crazy ideas, damn damn damn. "I-- I'm sorry, you don't --"

His hand covered her mouth and he flipped her over, slipping out of her in the process. He held her back against his chest, shoving her onto her knees, and she realized she'd forgotten how strong he was. "You want Ripper?" he whispered hoarsely in her ear. She opened her mouth under his hand, trembling, nodded yes. Oh please yes. She could smell him all over her.

And then his hand was on the back of her neck, forcing her head down, and his cock was shoving into her pussy, hard, from behind. Gained entry, rough and hot, almost painful, so deep. His fingers dug into her shoulder, pulling her to, and he slammed into her, grunting, grazing her cervix and sending an aching vibration through her. Again. And again. Battering her. Ruthless. The ache spread from deep inside her, from her very vitals, sucked her whole body into a black hole of want. She felt his thumb pressing against her asshole, and she was so open, so open, and she swallowed him up without a thought and god it was almost too much, lightning blazing through her, his thumb and his cock working in tandem.

Ripper was snarling, a harsh animal sound, and when his thumb slipped inside her so easily it seemed to change its tenor, become louder or fiercer or something, more frightening, and then he was gone from her, and she fell naked and bereft to the wet grass, panting. The sun, glaring rudely in her eyes, was starting to go down. The sprinkler rained down on her back and she shivered, needing his heat.

But he wasn't through, he was back, she could hear him grappling with another condom, and then she knew, and she was a little afraid but not too much, and then he was back, kneeling astride her, push push pushing against her eager muscle. And she thrust herself back, inflamed by his naked need, willing herself to open, open, worked her hand under herself and stroked her cunt. And she opened and he parted her and slid in, fire and ice stinging through her, and Ripper groaned as he sank to the hilt.

His hand was back at her neck, digging in, she would have bruises and they would make her smile. He was grinding her down into the lawn, and she was so hungry, she wanted to thrust back against him but she was pinned, pinned under the merciless pounding of his cock, blades of grass imprinting her flesh, writing Ripper's name, she thought whimsically, across her flattened breasts.

And then whimsy was beyond her as the fire raged, she tried to pull him in, greedy around his hardness, her hand working her, working her, knuckles digging into the lawn, and she could smell the grass, could smell the dirt, could smell herself, could smell his animal smell as he snarled and she grunted and yes, god, it was Ripper, and she was coming again, and then she heard him roar.

Roar and plunge deep, and she felt him grow and pulse inside her, and the tremors took him almost out and then in again, gentler this time, and then he collapsed on top of her.

But for their breathing, it was quiet, a strange unspeaking, unlaughing, ungroaning quiet. Crickets were just beginning to sound, and the sprinkler pattered gently on the ground. The sun was almost gone, the sky just beginning to purple. Her hand was numb, and she pulled it awkwardly out from under them. It was covered in pussy, dirt, and stray blades of grass. She needed a shower.

He slid out of her, pulled the condom off. Was this Giles or Ripper now, she wondered, and rolled toward him, snuggling up against his chest. She looked into his eyes, and he looked back, but she couldn't tell.

In the distance, the evening's first firework crackled, shrieked, and boomed.

END