written by Liz

Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Early S4, sometime Wild At Heart/The Initiative-ish.
Summary: Rumours start to fly about the handsome, older man seen coming out of Buffy's room early in the morning.
Thanks: Special thanks to Gail for her valuable beta assistance and encouraging feedback!
Author's Notes: With all due respect to the wonderfulness of Tara, Oz and Willow are still together. Which skews the timeline just a bit, but I wanted to avoid the whole painful breakup issue and keep the story pre-Pangs/SB/Hush.
Feedback Author: Liz
Author's Website: Oakpark Street

Yet another all-night vigil with nothing to show for it. They'd kept at it straight through dawn, patrolling the entire campus several times over, but Buffy and Giles had yet to find hide, hair, or tazer of the mysterious commandos. Which was not to say the evening hadn't been eventful. Apparently word had gotten out that Sunday's position as UC Sunnydale's resident Big Bad was vacant. A new gang of vampires had moved into the old Psi Theta house with plans to resurrect the "freshman burn-out" scheme, and when Buffy and Giles stumbled across them, the ensuing dust-up royale made both Watcher and Slayer immensely grateful for each other's company.

Fortunately, in a rare display of learning from their mistakes, Buffy and Giles had begun patrolling together after the near-disaster weeks before. Buffy had proven herself capable of handling Sunday's gang by herself, just as Giles knew she would, but the moment he'd sent her away, he had felt it: the sure knowledge that his place was, and would always be, at her side. Withdrawing from Buffy wouldn't make his feelings fade, so he would be there - for her, with her - however she might need him.

Though Buffy didn't usually need back-up on routine patrol, nights like this one proved how quickly the routine could spring a nasty surprise. **Besides**, she reasoned, **if he's out with me, I don't have to worry about finding strange women wearing his clothes and feeling up his cheese.**

Not that she worried about it, exactly, it was just... seeing that woman - Olivia, he'd called her - standing there all gorgeous and glowy and satisfied...it gave Buffy an icky feeling in her stomach that she was quick to stash in the "old and gross" jar she kept handy for just such occasions. Of course, the way he'd leapt into the fray at the Psi Theta house, sword flashing as he took out several burly henchvamps with ease... she was having trouble cramming that into the aforementioned jar. So without lingering too long on the dangerous yet sexy gleam in his eyes, or the way he moved with such lethal grace, she resorted to the other one labeled "father's love" that Travers had so thoughtfully provided.

After all, if that was the way Giles felt about her, then the matter was obviously settled, and nobody needed to explore strange tummy feelings.

With the night's patrol behind them and still no commandos in sight, Giles walked Buffy back to her dorm. Dubious as it sounded, Buffy's offer of "hot plate tea" seemed a culinary experiment not to be missed, and now that they were spending time together again, he was in no hurry to part company.

Buffy had enjoyed the evening, dusty mayhem notwithstanding, and as she watched Giles pretend to appreciate her take on Twinings English Breakfast Tea, she decided that she definitely liked starting the day this way. Or ending it. Or whichever one they were doing at almost 6:30 in the morning.

"Seriously, Giles," Buffy teased, "I had no idea you were such an swashbuckler!" Giles raised his hand to fend off the compliment, but Buffy continued. "Of course, you did skewer a pretty mean Mayor-kebab, come to think of it."

"Yes, well, that was s-simply..." he began, blushing crimson at receiving such high praise from her, still mortified that a simple taunt from Wilkins had made him lose control so completely - and at what he had very nearly betrayed with his futile, furious gesture. Truth be told, Giles had hoped Buffy would avoid examining that moment too closely, and he blinked furiously as he tried to explain his actions. Fortunately Buffy came to his rescue.

"Hey," she interrupted. "He said he was gonna eat me. You took exception." Buffy grinned as she sipped her tea. "Highly impressive outburst, by the way." She didn't say it out loud, but the look in her eyes told him just how much the gesture had meant to her.

"Impressive, you say?" Giles took a moment to ponder her choice of words. "I could live with that."

"Damn straight," Buffy insisted. "Nobody better mess with my Watcher."

"Or my Slayer," he added, softly.

They spent several more minutes talking over rapidly cooling tea before Buffy noticed the clock by her bed. "Aw, crap," she moaned. "I gotta get ready for class."

"I suppose I'll leave you to it, then," he said reluctantly.

"It's no big," Buffy said, not wanting him to go just yet. "I'll be out of the shower in a minute if you wanna stick around."

But the image of Buffy wrapped in a towel, her wet hair falling around her bare shoulders - as well as his unbidden response to said image - convinced Giles that it was definitely time to be on his way. Leaving his sword in her care for the day (no sense carrying it around in broad daylight, even in a town as willfully blind as Sunnydale), he stepped out into the hall, admonishing Buffy to at least try to rest before they met again that evening, and she followed him to the door.

"Well, if you're going to keep me up all night again," she teased, "I expect donuts for breakfast. Jellies."

Giles rose to the bait. "Keep *you* up all night? If I recall, you were the one who said you wanted to have another go at it before we turned in."

"Yeah, well," she reminded him, thinking of the Psi Theta infestation, "I'd hate to think of what we'd have missed if I hadn't. And I don't remember hearing you complaining."

"Fair enough," he admitted, conceding the point. "Of course, I'll likely be sore for days, you realize. It's no easy feat, keeping up with you."

"Oh, please," Buffy rolled her eyes. "You were amazing, and you know it. Now stop fishing for compliments, and let me get dressed. I'll see you tonight."

"Tonight, then," Giles grinned, and Buffy closed the door as he turned to go. Making a mental note to stop by the pastry shop that afternoon, he passed a student on her way to the shower. Yawning and flexing an aching shoulder, Giles didn't notice the stunned look on her face. Nor did he catch the appraising look she gave him when he walked by.

Laney Douglas was floored. She may have only been half awake, but there was no mistaking the exchange she had just overheard. Not that she was eavesdropping, of course. But when some hot, older guy - who was clearly still wearing yesterday's clothes - came yawning his way out of a girl's room at 6:30 in the morning, grinning about being "up all night"...?

Unless Buffy and her handsome, British companion were members of some late-night sports league... **sheyah, right**... it was pretty obvious what was going on. As Laney made her way to the shower, she met Buffy coming out of her room and gave her a sly thumbs-up. She had to hand it to Buffy - the girl did a pretty good job of looking confused and innocent. But Laney wasn't fooled for a second.

What she heard in the bathroom only confirmed her suspicions. Apparently Buffy's roomie had just come back from her own "late night out", and the two girls made cryptic small talk about Buffy's date.

"Hey, was that Giles I saw leaving the dorm?"

"Yeah, late night kind of turned into early morning."

"So everything went okay last night?"

"Totally okay. And Giles was amazing."

"Well, duh."

"Seriously, Will, you should have seen him. I mean, I knew he had the Watching part down, but active participation? Definitely a plus."

Laney damn near choked on her toothpaste. This was too good not to share.

* * * * *

Willow nudged Buffy a couple times during Psych, but Riley, the TA, still noticed her momentary snooze. He gave her a conspiratorial smile, her lack of awakeness safe with him, and she redoubled her efforts to stay alert, picturing the gigantic mocha she was going to treat herself to when class was over. Fortunately for Buffy, Professor Walsh and Riley both got paged - probably some departmental thing - and class let out early, bringing her that much closer to caffeinated goodness.

Hushed whispers followed Buffy through the tiny space that UC Sunnydale insisted was a cafeteria, but after three years of people murmuring behind her back, she tuned it out as background noise. It wasn't until she noticed a few people actively leering that the whispering even registered. Then somebody pointed, and she definitely heard her name.

Buffy's shoulders sagged; she should have expected this. No way a user like Parker would let her humiliation stay private. Rumours of weirdness and weapons were one thing - that stuff was hardly her fault - but she was horrified at the thought of complete strangers knowing what an idiot she'd been to fall for Parker's routine. She turned and left, mocha long forgotten, and made her way back to the dorm. Her other classes would just have to manage without her for the day.

That evening, after a good, long cry and an even longer nap, Buffy was looking forward to patrolling with Giles. He was probably on his way over to pick her up already - and since when did she actually *look forward* to patrolling? A couple years ago maybe, when "patrol" was pretty much code for sneaking out of the house to make out with Angel, but she was surprised to realize that lately, it had become an honest-to-God highlight of her day. Buffy checked the mirror, satisfied to note the absence of any telltale puffiness around her eyes. **Not that a little makeup would hurt... maybe do something with my hair...** but she decided to take Willow's advice and mentally invite Parker to go straight to hell. Tonight, she was just going to enjoy being out with Giles.

Soon makeup, hair, and clothing had all passed inspection. Giles was due any minute, and the sudden flutter in her stomach was obviously hunger. There wasn't enough time to eat, so she settled for some juice. With a straw, of course. She didn't want to smudge her lip gloss. Because of the patrolling.

* * * * *

As Giles made his way through the lobby of Stevenson Hall, he noticed a pair of young women in the corner looking his way. One of them was vaguely familiar, and she seemed to be whispering animatedly to the girl next to her and pointing his way. Before he could wonder why, however, his attention was caught by a young man's voice coming from the stairs around the corner.

"Who, Buffy? Yeah, we had a thing," the boy said haughtily. "Girl's a total screamer." Giles felt his temper flare stopped, willing himself to count to ten. Not that it would help if his suspicions about what was likely to follow were correct.

Heedless of the danger just around the corner, Parker Abrams prattled on, eager to impress his assembled audience. "The word is flexibility. I swear the girl's, like, a gymnast or something. Totally worth a second dip if she wasn't so clingy. Heard she's givin' it up to some old guy now, which is fine with me. Already got myself a piece of that ass, and let me tell you..."

Riley Finn balled his fist, decidedly unimpressed and ready to knock Parker flat if he said so much as another word, but Parker's expression suddenly came over all gleeful. "Well, well," he smirked, "this must be the 'old guy' in question."

Riley followed Parker's gaze to the man who had just appeared behind them and relaxed his fist, convinced that Parker had just bitten off a whole lot more than he could chew. The man stepped forward into the circle, eyes gleaming cold, and if Parker had a second brain cell to rub against the one that worked his lips, he'd have kept his fool mouth shut. But the idiot was more than happy to dig his own grave.

"Gotta warn ya, Old Guy. Buffy spreads 'em pretty easy, but if you don't give her the cab fare up front she's just gonna-"

There was a wet, snapping sound, and blood came pouring from Parker's flattened nose. He moaned in agony, cursing as he crumpled to the stairs, and Giles crouched down next to him.

"On the other hand," he said menacingly, raising an open palm to the boy's profusely bleeding face, "I could have struck upwards, like this. Done correctly, the broken bone can actually pierce the brain." He paused a moment, relishing the stunned, scared look on the young man's ashen face before continuing. "Now, then. I believe you were saying something about Miss Summers?"

"Holy crap," Parker whimpered, trying valiantly not to wet himself. "T-these guys are witnesses, and-"

"I didn't see anything," Riley jumped in. "How about you guys?" He looked around at the others, who were more than willing to play along. Truthfully, Riley was disappointed to see that Buffy was obviously spoken for, but older guy or no, Buffy's boyfriend was pretty damn cool.

"Leave him to us, sir," Riley said. "We'll get him over to the clinic. Shame about that door he ran into."

"Oh, yeah," Graham volunteered. "Definitely a shame." He and Riley stepped forward to haul Parker to his feet. Giles pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the blood from his hand, giving the young men a grateful nod before turning to walk up the stairs.

Across the room, Laney Douglas gaped, open-mouthed.

**Oh. My. God.**

* * * * *

Giles radiated outer calm, but his insides were churning furiously. The very notion of Buffy giving herself to such a boorish lout was upsetting enough, but Giles berated himself for allowing the boy's words to so enrage him. All it had taken was a sideways comment about his Buffy, and he'd flown off the handle, yet again. Fortunately, the assembled students seemed more than pleased with the young man's comeuppance, or he could have very well caused both himself and Buffy a great deal of trouble with his outburst.

**Still,** he grinned, **it had been awfully satisfying.**

Any remaining anger evaporated when Buffy opened the door, greeting Giles with that special smile she reserved just for him. "Heya, Giles! Ready for our slaydate?"

"Practically," he answered, returning her smile just as warmly. "Just need to grab my sword." He crossed the threshold, knowing better than to ask permission to enter, and Buffy finished getting her weapons bag together while he slid the sword down his back, into the scabbard beneath his jacket.

"Need a stake?" she asked.

"Thanks," he patted his pocket, "already packing." He took the weapons bag from her and hefted it onto his shoulder. "Shall we go, then?"

Giles placed his hand on her lower back as they walked down the hallway. Buffy wasn't sure what the sudden chivalry was about, but she definitely liked it.

* * * * *

True to expectations, Buffy was thoroughly enjoying their patrol. Still no joy on the commando front, but it was amazing how quickly time flew in the right company. Overall, the night was relatively quiet compared to the previous one, and they dusted a couple of vampires without breaking a sweat, chatting as they went. Giles still stammered a bit when she complimented his technique, and Buffy found herself grinning oddly at the way his ears turned red when he blushed.

There was one move in particular she hadn't remembered seeing before, a kind of hip-twisting shoulder thing he'd used to dislodge the vampire that tried to grab him from behind, and she asked him to show it to her. "The principles are fairly simple," he explained, moving into position behind her. "It's actually a variation on Aikido, so the motion begins in your hips before carrying through to the shoulders." He leaned his sword against a tree to free his hands, which he placed lightly on her hips.

"Now don't try to block me," he said. "Just direct my approach. Join it, instead of resisting, and bear in mind... Buffy, are you listening?"

"Hmm?" Buffy shook her head, trying to banish that weird tummy feeling that had suddenly returned. It seemed to be happening a lot lately, Buffy noticed. Not that it was particularly unpleasant - far from it, she mused - but she didn't understand why-

Any further deliberation was cut off when an overly sibilant voice behind Giles interrupted their exercise. "May I cut in, or is this a 'lovers only' dance?"

A soft nudge from Giles' right hand was Buffy's signal. He ducked, rolling to the side as she spun, and her boot connected with the vampire's jaw. He rocked back on his heels, dazed, but smiled as he hefted Giles' sword. "I suppose that explains why you brought this lovely trinket on your date. You must be the Slayer," he said, bowing too deeply. "I am Gorin. It will be an honour to drink of you."

Buffy raised her eyebrow, bemused, and easily identified Gorin as more bark than actual bite. She chanced a peek over at Giles, who furtively motioned for her to keep her flamboyant opponent occupied, but the vamp in question was having far too much fun playing Dracula to need much prompting.

Rather than charge, Buffy circled to the right, away from Giles. Sure enough, the vampire turned, ignoring the Watcher completely as he blathered about 'drink you down', 'final words', and the ever-popular 'eternal embrace'. Buffy tried not to laugh, but the only thing missing from Count Wanna-Be's act was the velvet cape. He finished his opening speech, raising the sword with a flourish, but before he could attack, Buffy's patience was rewarded by Gorin's look of impotent confusion at the stake that suddenly protruded from his chest.

She was about to fire off a quip to celebrate the vampire's dusty end, but Giles beat her to it, catching the sword as the vampire crumbled. "I believe that's mine," he deadpanned, pulling the blade across his thigh to remove the dust before returning it to its scabbard.

Buffy burst out laughing. For a moment Giles looked affronted, assuming the laughter must naturally be at his expense, but the warmth in Buffy's smile was infectious. "Now *that* was fun!" she giggled, stepping forward to brush the dust from his jeans. "I am so loving the tag-team slayage. Nice finishing move, by the way. Very badass."

"Yes, well, he did seem to call for a more theatrical exit than most." Giles felt himself blush - which he seemed to be doing with alarming frequency in Buffy's presence these days - but Buffy's flattery was only partly to blame. The greater culprit was the rush of awareness that Buffy was doing an extremely thorough job of un-dusting his jeans.

Still giggling, Buffy continued to paw at the offending particles. "Geez, Giles, you've got powdered vamp all over you." She circled behind him, brushing her hands over the taut denim, trying to remove the last of it. If she lingered a little too long on his backside it was only because she wanted to make sure she got all the dust. Certainly not because she had been pleasantly surprised by the firm, round muscle tone that tapered so alluringly into his long, lean legs. And definitely not because she couldn't resist the urge to run her hand across those curves once more to confirm her assessment.

A cough from Giles interrupted her silent appraisal. "Do I pass inspection, then?"

She pulled her hand away and flushed crimson. "Um, inspecting, I wasn't-"

"The dust, Buffy. Is it gone?"

"Dust. Right. All gone." She recovered quickly, if not smoothly, and suggested they call it a night. "Good thing it's Friday," she added. "We definitely deserve to sleep in tomorrow after a week like this."

Giles momentarily lost himself in the image of spending a lazy Saturday morning in bed with Buffy, but he abruptly shook it off. No sense daydreaming about things that would never be. At least he and Buffy had managed to prevent the rift that could have formed after Olivia's visit. Olivia was a good friend and an engaging companion - and there was no denying her beauty - but she simply wasn't Buffy. Still, the experience had been yet another forceful reminder that while Buffy and he had grown closer since, she would never see him as anything but Watcher and friend.

"I daresay you're right," he managed. "Hell of a week. But the company's been most enjoyable."

Buffy beamed and linked her arm through his. "That it has, Watcher mine." She leaned her head against his shoulder, and they walked back to Stevenson Hall.

Watcher and friend would have to be enough.

* * * * *

"Well, this is my stop," she told him when they arrived at the front steps of her dorm. "Patrol was really fun tonight. Thanks." Then she screwed her face up in mock confusion. "Huh. 'Patrol' and 'fun' in the same sentence. I'm pretty sure that's one of the signs of the apocalypse."

"Don't even joke," he admonished playfully. "But I'm glad you enjoyed yourself." Then he offhandedly added, "Care to get a bite to eat before patrol tomorrow?" A strange look crossed Buffy's face, and he hurried to amend the offer. "U-unless, of course, you have other plans..." Then the Abrams boy's taunts came back to him, and Giles forced himself to add, "a date, perhaps..."

"God, no," she spat. "I am so through with dating. Boys suck. Stupid users with their come-on lines and their four inches and their crappy gossip." Giles knew exactly to whom Buffy referred, but he opted not to comment, still embarrassed by his outburst. Then Buffy's features softened again. "No, I was just a little surprised," she said. "I don't think we've ever done that before. Unless you count pizza and all-night research, which I so don't." The more she thought about it, the more it started to bother her. "We should definitely do something about that. Dinner it is."

With a smile and a promise to call the next afternoon, they parted company, and Buffy made her way up the stairs, grinning at the prospect of more Watcher/Slayer quality time. Pondering what outfit would best suit a dinner/slayage outing, she didn't notice a very tipsy Laney Douglas weaving down the hallway until the two nearly collided.

"Buffy!" greeted Laney, a little too enthusiastically. "Hey, where's your super-suave boyfriend? I thought you guys had a date tonight."

'Um, hi," Buffy offered, confused. "I think you're thinking of somebody else. I don't have a-"

"Aw, come on," Laney drawled, slurring her speech. "What, is it a secret? Is he a professor? Omigod, is he married?!"

"Laney, what the hell are you talking about? I don't have a boyfriend."

"Oh, right. Well if he's not your boyfriend, then why did he break Parker Abrams' nose?" Laney leaned against the wall, crossing her arms over her chest as if daring Buffy to find the flaw in her drunken logic.

Buffy took a moment to appreciate the merits of a facially broken Parker and wished she'd been there to see it, but she didn't see where Laney was going with this. "So how does that make the guy my boyfriend? I'm sure there's tons of people who'd be more than happy to flatten that creep's face."

Laney nodded sagely. "True, but this was the same guy."

"*What* guy?"

"Your boyfriend, duh!"

"God!" Buffy willed herself not to slay the ill-informed drunk and tried again. "Laney, you're going to have to be a little more specific because I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

Laney sighed and rolled her eyes. "Look, it's not just me, okay? Heather said she sees you guys together all the time. And Leslie told Anna that Michael said he's seen you hanging out with him too, and he didn't think you guys were an item, even though the guy obviously digs you, but I told her what you said about how amazing he was and stuff and how you guys were at it all night, and that's probably why you looked so thrashed in the cafeteria today, so..."

Buffy stared in amazement as Laney droned on, ticking off a roll call of complete strangers who were avidly discussing her sex life with a boyfriend she didn't even have. At least this morning's scene in the cafeteria wasn't Parker-related - small mercy, that - but something Laney just said... She cut the other girl off and posed the question as directly as she could.

"This mystery boyfriend of mine. What does he look like?"

"Tall, long legs, broad shoulders. Ooh, and the sexiest British accent."

"Oh my God, you mean *Giles*?" Buffy's insides flip-flopped at Laney's intimation. "So that's why you were all 'thumbs-up' this morning." Laney bobbed her head fiercely in agreement, thrilled that Buffy had finally caught on.

"Yeah, that's his name! Remember, you were like 'Next time I want donuts' and stuff about him keeping you up all night?"

Buffy sighed heavily, wishing she had a better explanation for that than 'Well, see, we were out fighting vampires...'

"Look, Giles and I are just friends. Yeah, we hang out a lot, but... I mean, he just doesn't think of me like that."

"Whatever, Buffy," Laney retorted, unconvinced. "I know what I saw." Then her stomach lurched violently. She turned green as the night's drinking finally caught up with her, and she clapped a hand to her mouth. "I gotta go," she mumbled, turning and sprinting for the bathroom and leaving an oddly disconcerted Buffy in her wake.

* * * * *

Twenty minutes later found Buffy knocking on Oz's door. He opened it, yawning, and gave Buffy a sleepy nod hello. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah," she told him. "Sorry to wake you up. I just... I kind of need to do the roomie girl-talk thing."

"Well, I'll give it a shot," he offered. "But Willow's probably better at it." He gestured to his girlfriend, who was still sleeping soundly and muttering something about beef jell-o. "Go ahead and wake her up. She's pretty cute when she's disoriented." Then he grabbed a t-shirt and headed for the door. "I'm gonna go be elsewhere for a few. You guys talk."

Buffy turned on the bedside lamp and shook Willow gently. The redhead woke with a start, worried to see Buffy standing over her. "What is it? Is it Xander? Is Giles okay?"

"Giles broke Parker's nose."

Willow sat up, instantly alert. "Omigod, is he in jail?"

"No, no, he's not in trouble or anything. But Laney saw the whole thing, and she thought he was my boyfriend."

"Who, Parker?" Willow wrinkled her nose distastefully.

"No, not Parker. Giles."

"Oh. And...?"

Buffy regarded Willow with dumb astonishment. "Giles isn't my boyfriend!"

Willow winced at her friend's vehement statement of the obvious. "Allow me to restate my previous 'And...?'" True, Giles breaking Parker's face was pretty big news, but if nobody was in jail over it, then the news would have been just as big in the morning.

Buffy blinked furiously as she tried to put it into words. Her mouth opened and closed several times, but the explanation didn't want to come. Seeing her obvious distress, Willow patted the bed next to her, and Buffy sat down, wringing her hands while she tried to sort it out.

"Okay," she finally began. "Laney heard Giles and me this morning talking about how we'd been 'busy' last night, and she drew all these crazy conclusions. Like, she thinks we're totally dating. But, I mean, misleading comments aside, how could she even think that?"

"Gee, I don't know," Willow smiled. "A pretty gal, a good-looking guy, cryptic conversation about last night? The conclusion kind of draws itself."

Buffy frowned, but she had to concede the point. "All right, I'll give you that. But even if I thought about him that way, it's not like we'd be going out. I mean, he's totally older than me."

Willow nodded thoughtfully. "Good point. Angel was a lot closer to your age."

Buffy snorted. "Yeah, right." Then she scowled at Willow. "Okay, you know I hate it when you do that, right?"

But Willow played innocent, "Gosh, I guess you're right. Then the age argument doesn't really make much sense, does it?" She gathered her legs underneath her and faced her friend. "All right, then. What else have you got?"

Buffy rested against the headboard and sighed. Her first defense had been breached, but she had a sure-fire one to follow with. "Even if I thought he was charming and really sexy... and funny and smart and fun to be with... Giles doesn't feel that way about me, so there wouldn't be any point. Apparently he's got this whole fatherly love thing going."

Willow thought that one over. At first glance someone might see them like that, but... "Who told you that?"

"Quentin Travers. Giles' boss. Or his old boss, anyway. Before he fired Giles for interfering with their stupid test when I turned eighteen." Willow shuddered, remembering. "He said that Giles had a father's love for me, and then he fired him."

"For interfering or for loving you?"

"Either? Both? Take your pick. But he distinctly said 'a father's love'."

"Who did? Giles?"

"No, Travers."

Willow frowned. "What did Giles say?"

"Nothing. He just stood there looking wrecked and furious."

Willow sniffed disdainfully. "Well far be it from me to speak ill of a thundering moron, but it's obvious that Travers guy has no idea what he's talking about. If anything, caring about each other is what makes you guys such a great team. Besides, he saw you together for, what, all of six minutes? How would he know how Giles feels about you?"

"Well, duh, because Giles came to save me!"

"Xander and Angel went to save you when you went to face The Master. Were they your dads too?"

Buffy quieted, thinking about the two men who had come after her the night she died, how each of them had felt about her, and her carefully constructed denial started to crumble. "No. They weren't." Ever since her birthday she'd been more than willing to assume that Travers was right. That he must obviously know Giles well enough to see how her Watcher felt about her. But if he'd thought Giles would leave her just because the Council wasn't paying him to be there, then whatever he knew clearly wasn't worth a damn.

Then she remembered something and smiled. "You know, I actually thought Giles was going to ask me to dance at the prom. But then I got swept up in the whole 'last, perfect moment' with Angel and kind of forgot about it." She looked at Willow, who had a knowing smile of her own. "I guess... maybe it's possible... that he might like me?"

"Like you? *Like* you? Buffy, you should have seen him at the prom. Everybody was dancing and having this great time, and he just stood there watching the door. Like everybody's date was there but his, and he couldn't wait to see Cinderella make her big entrance."

"No way. Cinderella?"

"Oh, yeah, major Prince Charming vibe going on."

"Well, he did look pretty good in that tux."

Willow eagerly nodded in agreement, and they sat quietly, each remembering that night Buffy had fought so hard to give them all until Willow put it all together. Buffy's distress, her confusion, and the fact that she'd 'just happened' to have all these arguments ready to go before the subject even came up...

"You like him, don't you?"

Buffy opened her mouth to deny it, but the fluttering in her stomach returned full-force, demanding to be noticed. The excuses and justifications she'd spent the past few months relying on deserted her, and she gasped as the realization struck. She'd fought so hard not to face her feelings, but here they were, looking her straight in the eye and demanding to know what she was going to do about them. And oddly enough, they seemed to be wearing Willow's 'resolve face'.

Willow broke into a huge grin. "You do! You like him!"

"Willow!" Buffy tried to protest, but they both knew it was useless. She broke into a grin that matched Willow's own, and they both started to giggle.

"Buffy and Gi-les, sittin' in a tree."

"Shut up."


"Shut up!" Buffy grabbed a pillow, whapped Willow with it, and the fight was on.

Hearing raucous laughter when he returned, Oz figured it was safe to enter. He opened the door to see the two girls engaged in a full-blown pillow fight. They were both flushed and giggling, trading playful blows as Willow teased her friend, and Oz couldn't suppress his smile. "You do know you guys could sell tickets, right?"

Buffy turned to look at him, and Willow got in a lucky blow to the back of her head. "Hey!" she objected, but Willow just stuck out her tongue. Buffy gave her a look that promised retribution and tossed her pillow to Oz. "You're in," she told him, jumping off the bed. "I gotta go see a man."

* * * * *

Buffy took a deep breath and knocked on Giles' door, heart thudding her in chest as she tried to picture his reaction. Would he stammer and blush? Take her in his arms? Or would he send her away? For a moment she nervously debated turning around and going home, but the door swung open before she could retreat. Giles was standing there with the oddest look on his face, and she couldn't help but smile. In that one look she could read so many things that were intrinsically Giles. Happiness to see her, concern that something might be wrong, his training and discipline suppressing his instinctive urge to invite her in... She also saw his affection for her shining brightly in his deep, green eyes and couldn't believe it had taken her so long to admit that the fluttering in her stomach was clearly all his fault.

Stepping inside, she hastened to reassure him. "Don't worry, Giles, nothing's biting. I just... I had to come and see you."

"O-of course, Buffy. Is there anything... can I get you something?" He ushered her to the couch and made to go to the kitchen, but she caught his hand and pulled him to sit next to her. When she didn't let go of his hand, he looked at her curiously. She didn't seem to be upset, but there was something in her eyes...

"Apparently there was some excitement in the dorm tonight," she began. "And word has it you were the star of the show. Care to fill me in?"

Giles cursed inwardly. The young men in the lobby had seemed more than willing to keep a lid on things, blame the incident on that noisy pillock's clumsiness, but he'd forgotten all about the girls in the corner. Giles tried to insist it was nothing, that the girls must have been confused, but Buffy already knew better. She fixed him with her own version of Willow's infamous glare - throwing in a sternly raised eyebrow for good measure - and waited for him to crack. It didn't take long.

"I'm afraid I had a... a bit of a run-in with someone..." Giles sighed, defeated, "a young man... on my way to your room this evening. He felt compelled to open his mouth about you. I closed it for him."

He looked down at his hand, still held in Buffy's, and braced for her reaction. He chose not to go into specifics about just what Parker had intimated, but the explanation seemed satisfactory to Buffy. More than satisfactory, in fact, because when he looked up, he saw her smiling radiantly at him.

"There's been some talk on campus," she told him. "A lot of it. And it seems to be all about this handsome, older man who was seen coming out of my room this morning." Giles groaned, the young lout's insinuations ringing in his ears, and he tried to apologize for causing Buffy so much trouble. But she cut him off, not through with what she had to say.

"Word is that we were up all night, and that you were amazing. Between that and the way you handled Parker, I'm rumoured to have myself one hell of a guy. Well, the girls might have misunderstood what they saw, but it turns out they knew more than I did. Or more than I was ready to admit I knew..." She let go of his hand to trace his cheek with her fingertips, and he leaned into her touch, unable to believe what he was hearing. "You give me butterflies, Rupert Giles. And I don't know if you feel the same way about me, but I'd really like to kiss you."

Softly, tentatively, her lips brushed against his, and he didn't pull away. Instead he deepened the kiss, cupping her face in his hands, and the sparks that danced between them sent her senses reeling. Giles poured his heart into that kiss, showing her all the love he'd been afraid to reveal, and he rejoiced to feel her melt into his arms, returning his passion in equal measure.

His lips parted, an invitation, and Buffy eagerly accepted. When he twined his fingers through her hair she moaned, pressing closer to him, and he drank her in. If Buffy had any doubts about her feelings for this man, what she felt in his kisses answered each and every one of them. He was gorgeous, he was giving, and in the space of less than a minute, he'd somehow managed to turn her knees to jelly. "Wow," she said breathlessly. "So I guess you kind of like me too?"

"Just a little bit," he grinned. But his face grew serious as he looked into her eyes. "Buffy, are you sure this is what you want?"

She returned his gaze every bit as seriously and asked, "Are you?"

His eyebrows furrowed at her question. Of course he was sure. He'd never *been* more sure. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"Well, why wouldn't I be?" she countered, daring him to argue.

"Fair enough," he granted, smiling. Odd that the very traits he'd found so infuriating when they met were some of the qualities he most admired in her now, and chief among them was the fiercely defiant heart she so proudly offered him. "So am I to assume I'm not so old and gross after all?"

The words were meant in jest, but the hurt on her face made him instantly regret them. Before he could apologize, however, Buffy placed her finger on his lips and spoke. "You've never been either of those, Giles, and only a very foolish person who was waist-deep in denial would ever say you were. Now," she said resolutely, "let's make this nice and simple. I have a thing. You maybe have a thing... how do you feel about Mexicans?"

He beamed at her, understanding. Taking her hand in his, he kissed her palm before placing it over his chest, and his voice was thick with emotion as he spoke. "I love them, Buffy. Dearly."

"I kind of love them too," she whispered, and the space between them disappeared. This time she claimed him with her kiss, offering, promising, giving her heart. She undid the buttons at the top of his shirt and slipped her hand beneath the fabric, raking her nails lightly across his skin, fascinated by the crisp curls that dusted his chest. Giles' head spun with the realization that the dream he'd fought so hard to bury was actually coming true, and he held her tightly, showering her with kisses. Then he felt her lips, so warm against his throat, nibbling and nipping him as she worked her way from his earlobe to the base of his neck.

"Buffy, you've no idea what you do to me."

"Maybe not," she chuckled as she explored his chest, "but I know what I'd *like* to do to you." Giles responded instantly to her suggestive tease, but things were already moving so quickly... surely she didn't mean...

As if to answer his unspoken question she pulled away and slowly began to unbutton her blouse. He watched transfixed as the shirt fell from her shoulders. Then her fingers trailed between her breasts to unhook the clasp to her bra, but he reached out to still her hand. This moment would only come once, and he wanted to savour it.

Giles covered her throat with feathered kisses. Slipping his pinky beneath a satin strap, he slowly pulled it off her shoulder, and she gasped as the cool air touched her skin. His fingertips traced her soft curves, leaving goosebumps in their wake. He touched and teased with lips and hands, and a tiny whimper escaped her lips, quietly pleading for more. Finally he undid the clasp and drew back the lace to reveal her.

Buffy thrilled in his adoration as he cupped her breast. His thumb gently traced her nipple, sending a jolt of pleasure straight through her, and she arched into him, wanting, needing. Giles groaned with delight, his mounting hunger urging him to taste every inch of her skin. Eager to share the pleasure she felt, Buffy pulled his shirt off and sent it to join hers on the floor. She leaned into him, pushing him gently back until he lay on the couch, and planted a line of long, slow kisses down his belly. Then her hand brushed against the hardness in his jeans, and when he felt her start to unbutton his fly it took all the self-control he could manage to stop her before he lost himself completely.

He clasped her hand to his chest again and sat up, breathing heavily. His lips asked her if she wanted to slow down, but his eyes, clouded darkly with desire, told her clearly enough that she was free to tell the gentleman in him to take a hike. "I know what I want," she told him simply. "I know *who* I want, and it's you. So unless you have doubts you need me to hear, I don't want to waste any more time."

"Buffy, are you sure.?"

"For the last time, yes," she smiled at him. "Now don't make me sass you again, Giles, because you know I'll do it." He held up his hands, admitting defeat, but they both knew it had been a half-hearted effort at best. "I'll tell you what, though," she murmured, leaning in to whisper in his ear.

"What's that, love?" he answered hazily.

She took his earlobe lightly in her teeth, teasing it with her tongue before simply saying, "I'll race you."

And with that she vaulted over the back of the couch, giggling at the confused, startled look on his face before he caught onto the game. He scrambled after her, catching her halfway up the steps and threw her over his shoulder. Buffy squealed, delighted, and when they reached the loft he tossed her playfully onto the bed and covered her body with his own. He pinned her wrists with his hands and triumphantly teased, "Looks like I've got you."

"Yeah, well you do have those long legs," she conceded. "Plus I kinda wanted to be caught."

Giles released her wrists and rolled onto his back, pulling her with him. Straddling his waist, she could feel him still hard beneath her and hastened to resume her exploration. Buffy retraced her earlier path, licking and teasing her way down. She unhooked one button, then another, wondering whether he would be a 'boxers' or 'briefs' man, but when he was finally divested of his jeans, she was pleasantly surprised to find the answer a resounding 'neither'.

She encircled his shaft, and he hissed, ardent approval written plainly across his face. First lightly, then with firmer and firmer strokes she caressed him, watching his pleasure mount. Then she cupped her other hand against him scrotum, massaging it gently, and he held his breath, mere inches from heaven. But if he thought he knew pleasure it was nothing compared to the agonizing beauty that gripped him when Buffy bowed to take him in her mouth.

Giles' eyes rolled back in his head, and he fought to keep his hips from bucking into her. But her mouth was so warm, so tight around him. "Oh God, Buffy...Buffy, please..."

She took him in her hand again, still licking and teasing him as she spoke. "Please what, Giles? You have to tell me. Please stop? Or please let you come?"

"Please... come... come here..." he managed, and Buffy reluctantly acquiesced. Seeing her normally restrained Watcher writhing in such obvious ecstasy had turned her on more than she could have thought possible, but he didn't mean to stop - far from it. "Good lord, Buffy, that was..." Words failed him as he caught his breath.

"Easy, big guy," she smiled at him. "We can cool it down if you want."

"Cool down, nothing," he said emphatically. "Merely a change of focus." Her eyebrows quirked, questioning, and he was more than happy to demonstrate his point. "I happen to be a firm believer in 'ladies first'."

"Well I do like to respect other people's beliefs," she said. "Especially the yummy ones." She leaned back and opened her arms to him, and he lavished attention on her body, covering her with kisses and touches both feather-light and firm until she ached for more. He mirrored the same path she had taken, tracing a lazy line down her belly, and her hips rose to meet the touch she so eagerly sought.

Then his hand hovered above her zipper. Permission was asked and breathlessly granted, and he slipped her jeans off, taking her panties with them. Giles gazed with open reverence at the vision in his bed. Her skin was flushed, and her chest rose and fell in anxious breaths as she waited for him to come to her. It was a sight he would treasure for the rest of his days.

He kissed her soft curls, delighting in the blissful sounds that poured from her lips. When his finger slipped inside her, Buffy's cries became more fervent, and he worshipped her with his tongue, giving, tasting, loving her. Several times he brought her to the brink, but when her climax began to gather, he would allay his efforts, easing her down. It was slow, deliberate torture, and she loved every minute of it. Each time the wave was turned back it gained momentum, building on itself until it was simply too much to hold inside. The wave crested, surging through her. She screamed his name, a high, keening wail that filled the apartment, and he urged her on, stroking her, holding her tightly as she came.

Flushed and panting as her orgasm receded, Buffy looked down to see her new lover gazing at her with rapt adoration. She beckoned to him, and he was quick to curl alongside her.

"What the hell did you just do to me?" she laughed breathlessly. "I swear my teeth are buzzing, and I'm pretty sure I just woke up the neighbourhood."

Giles blushed, but he didn't mind a bit. "Did I not get it right?" he teased. "Because I'd be more than happy to try again."

Buffy was sorely tempted to take him up on the offer, but if he did that again, she thought she just might explode. "Not unless you wanna explain to the nice paramedics why the naked girl in your bed can't feel her arms and legs." She grinned and reached down to caress him provocatively. "Would you mind terribly if we had sex instead?"

Giles smiled at her boldness. "Well, if you insist," he said, fetching a condom from his nightstand. He knelt in front of her and tore open the package, and Buffy watched hungrily as he sheathed his erection. He guided himself to her entrance and found her more than ready for him. Slowly he sank into her, stretching her deliciously. Buffy held her breath, and he stilled, allowing her to adjust. Soon she began to rock beneath him, and Giles let her set the pace, luxuriating in her warmth. Then she wrapped her legs around him, drawing him in deeper, and he groaned in ecstasy.

Sensitive as she still was, his touch was fire, and in no time she was writhing beneath him, consumed by the impossible sweetness that coursed through her veins. She tried to hold on, to wait for him, but he thrust so deeply, touching the spark that flared inside her. Buffy threw her head back, overwhelmed, and cried out hoarsely, her insides quaking. Her obvious rapture did him in, and he made no effort to fight it. He followed her, howling in joyful triumph, hips driving into her as he rode out his release.

They held each other breathlessly until the waves subsided. Then with great care and no small amount of reluctance he reached between them, holding himself at the base as he withdrew. Buffy sighed at the loss, and he chuckled in agreement, kissing her tenderly. He lay on top of her, head resting against her breast, and the supported him easily, relishing the feel of him. The warmth of skin on skin, the light tickle of his breath against her chest, and the overwhelming knowledge that she had never in her life felt so perfectly contented.

Much as they both wished to stay that way forever, necessity soon dictated that he move, and he rolled to the side, flinching as he removed the condom. Once it was disposed of he collected her back into in his arms. She reached up to trace the lines of his face, wondering how she could possibly have been so blind for so long. "I love you, Rupert Giles," she whispered.

He kissed her soundly and held her to him, lips pressed to her forehead. "And I love you. So very much." Buffy smiled broadly but suddenly broke into a giant, sleepy yawn, and Giles couldn't help but laugh. "I thought it was the man's job to fall asleep first," he teased.

"Yeah, well I'm unconventional," she said and snuggled closer to him.

"That you are, love," he replied, kissing the top of her head as he pulled the blankets over them. "That you are."

Soon Buffy's breath came slow and even. Giles fought to stay awake, not ready for the night to end, but it wasn't long before sleep overtook him as well.

* * * * *

When morning came Buffy was still wrapped tightly in his arms. With no interest in moving, she was content to watch him, studying his face as he slept, but an echo of voices from the courtyard penetrated his sleepy haze. He felt Buffy's weight against him and smiled. She was still there. Giles tightened his embrace and opened his eyes to see her looking back at him with the most beautiful smile on her face.

"You're even gorgeous when you're asleep," she told him. "How do you do that?"

"Years and years of dedicated practice, I assure you." He chuckled, sure she was exaggerating, but he couldn't have been happier. He ran his fingers through her disheveled hair, still barely able to believe that the previous night had been real. "You are so beautiful," he whispered.

He kissed her lightly, and they held each other close, neither of them wishing to get up. But certain needs demanded to be met. Buffy moaned petulantly. "Damnit, I gotta pee." She rolled from the bed and grabbed a baggy plum-grey sweater from his chair. Pulling it over her head, she planted a kiss on Giles' lips before heading down the stairs.

When she returned her hands were full. She greeted Giles with gifts of juice, the morning paper, and the box of jellies he'd picked up the previous afternoon. "My God," he beamed, "I was right. I *do* love you."

She settled back in bed next to him, and they divided up the paper, happily munching on donuts and toasting each other over a shared glass of juice. Buffy leaned against him as she read the comics, commenting disdainfully on the lack of actual funny in the funny papers. "Ooh, hey," she perked up, remembering, "are we still on for dinner?"

"Of course," he said with a smile. "Assuming we're out of bed by then."

"Well, we gotta go patrol eventually," she grumbled, but they had hours and hours of lazy Saturday to fill before then. "And you still need to show me that that thing you did with your hips last night." Giles raised his eyebrow playfully, and she swatted his arm. "The Aikido throw, gutter brain, not the... actually, scratch that. I'd much rather see the other one again."

Giles laughed and collected her in a passionate embrace. "I'd be happy to show it to you," he murmured as he lay her down.

The butterflies in Buffy's stomach finally had a name, and she couldn't have been happier. And to think, she might never have admitted it to herself if that busybody Laney hadn't opened her big mouth... Buffy abandoned her train of thought, gasping as Giles' hand slipped beneath the sweater to caress her breast. Maybe gossip wasn't such a bad thing after all.