The Pump At Nine
written by Liz


Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Through late BtVS Season 5.
Summary: Buffy takes drastic action to improve her love life.
Dedication: To Gileswench, for her wonderful support and encouragement, a very helpful beta, and an especially perfect suggestion :-)
Feedback Author: Liz
Author's Website: Oakpark Street



One well-placed blow with the end of his quarterstaff was enough to send Buffy sprawling to the mats. She landed with an 'oof', uninjured but clearly annoyed. Giles extended his hand to her, and she accepted it with a frown, pulling herself up to begin again.

They circled one another, each looking for a weakness, an opening to exploit. On most days, their sparring was a fluid dance of give and take. Anticipate and counter, lunge and retreat. But today they were decidedly out of synch. Buffy launched a kick at his chest, which he easily sidestepped. He swept out at her supporting leg, and she went down again in a tangle of limbs and frustration.

Buffy sat up and folded her legs under her, in no hurry to get up again. Her face still wore a distracted frown, and she exhaled harshly. "Sorry, Giles. Kind of off today, I guess."

"So I gathered," he sympathized, setting aside his weapon. He took a towel from the bench to wipe the sweat from his brow and grabbed them each a bottle of water, handing one to Buffy as he leaned down to sit beside her on the well-worn mat. "Something on your mind?"

"Not really," she mumbled noncommittally, thereby guaranteeing his rapt attention. While she took a sip of her water he stretched out on his side and leaned against his elbow, content to wait for Buffy's inevitable decision to fill him in on the source of her frustration.

Willow may have thought her 'resolve face' a formidable weapon, but it was nothing compared to the caring look on Giles' that simply offered to listen. Buffy could usually fight off the 'resolve face' at least long enough to mount a strategic retreat, but her defenses crumbled at the concern in her Watcher's eyes. She took a deep breath and spilled her news. "I've got a date tonight."

Buffy studied Giles' face for a reaction, but the shadow she thought she saw flicker across his features was quickly replaced with a look of casual curiosity.

"I see," he said, seemingly unaffected by her news. "And this is what's got you so, I believe your description was, 'off' today?"

"Well, it's a first date," she said, as if that was explanation enough. Which it might have been, had she seemed remotely excited about it, but Giles had seen her more enthusiastic about demon dismemberment detail. He couldn't pretend to be overjoyed at her news, but if she was happy... except she didn't appear to be.

"I'm guessing you weren't the one to do the asking," he ventured.

"I kinda did, but not really. I mean, I started it, but he did the actual asking. Or accepting. Whatever."

He waited for further explanation, but none appeared to be forthcoming. //Always the same,// he thought to himself with equal parts exasperation and affection. //Obviously wishes to talk about it, but she still makes me draw it out of her, piece by baffling piece.//

"So you have a date tonight with someone you 'kind of' asked out, except that he both issued and accepted the invitation." He could see her fighting with herself about whether to clarify or evade altogether, so he simply sat and waited, unsure just how much more information about her evening he truly wanted anyway.

Buffy flopped onto her back, stared up at the ceiling, and let out a mighty sigh of resignation. "Iputanadinthepaper."

"Sorry, once again?"

"I put an ad in the paper."

"An advertisement? I don't under-" And then came the lead weight in his stomach as comprehension struck. "A personal ad."

There was no accusation in his tone - no hint of emotion at all - but she still cringed inwardly. Now that the cat had shredded the bag and gone screaming out the door, she hurried to explain. "I made this stupid comment a few days ago about how since Riley left, the only person of the male persuasion who's even *tried* to get my attention is Spike. And I'm sorry, but 'Love me or die' isn't exactly the phrase that pays. So Dawn says 'If they're not trying to get your attention, then maybe you should get theirs instead.' Said I used to tell her to carpe the stupid diem all the time, so I should stop pouting and do something about it. Fair enough, I guess, but the next morning she comes downstairs with this personal ad she's written for me. She's so proud of it too, holding it up with this big, goofy grin, and I just couldn't tell her no.

"Anyway, it got me thinking; there's got to be at least one guy in this town I can just go on a stupid date with - just *one stupid date* where I don't have to squeeze in an apocalypse between dinner and dessert or worry about his expectations... or whether he's gonna try to eat the waiter when the check comes." Buffy looked over at Giles, trying to judge his reaction so far. He didn't look mad or anything. Just... understanding. Which wasn't what he was supposed to do. He was supposed to tell her what a dumb thing she'd done and talk her out of going. He was supposed to disapprove. He was *supposed* to be jealous.

//Whoa... jealous?//

Giles spoke up, mercifully derailing Buffy's alarming train of thought. "So you went ahead with it to make her happy," he said.

His soothing tone relaxed her in spite of herself, and she continued. "Yeah, well. Soon as it came out, I knew it was a mistake. All these creepy jerks started calling and asking if I expected them to buy me dinner before they got to 'do' me, which, *so* not the guys I wanted to meet."

She heard his sharp intake of breath at that. His lips were set in a cold, hard line, the only emotion he'd yet betrayed, and she hastened to reassure him. "I wanted to nix the whole thing, but Dawn was being all 'back on the horse' at me, giggling about it and asking me if I'd made a date yet. Finally, a decent-sounding guy called who just wanted to meet for coffee sometime, so I said I would.

"Giles, you should have seen her face when I told her I had a date. This whole thing... it was the first time since..." Buffy trailed off sadly, then took a deep breath. "It's the first time since Mom died that she's actually been excited about something. She's acting like a teenager, Giles. Like she's finally herself again." She smiled wistfully and looked up at her Watcher, and the affection that shone in his eyes told her that he truly did understand. "I really don't wanna go, but it's not like it's going to hurt anything for me to have some coffee with this guy. A little conversation, a little 'maybe I'll call you sometime', and Dawn gets to feel good about bullying her big sis."

Giles was more relieved than he cared to admit that Buffy had only agreed to the date to please her sister. "So how will you recognize this..."

"David," she supplied.

"...David, when you see him?"

"We're meeting at the Pump at nine," she sighed. "He said he'd be wearing jeans - like that really narrows it down - and he's supposed to be carrying some kind of flower. Might have said something about an earring too, but I wasn't really listening."

"Well, just so long as you're looking forward to it," he teased.

"Tell me about it," she rolled her eyes. And then she added, thoughtfully, "Dawn really wants me to go, though. It's like, if I go out and at least pretend to enjoy myself, then she can start to live a little again too."

"You're probably right," he said, "and I think what you're doing for her is very sweet." From his spot beside Buffy, Giles rested his hand on hers. "Dawn is lucky to have you."

She looked up at him to say 'thank you', but something stole her voice. He was smiling at her so tenderly, the pad of his thumb stroking the back of her hand in soft, soothing circles, and the idea of just staying here with him seemed so much more appealing than coffee and small-talk with a stranger. A stray bit of Giles' hair, still wet from their workout, fell forward, and she instinctively reached up to brush it away from his eyes. His glasses might be a part of who he was, but he was so handsome without them...

It took several moments before she realized that her fingers were still curled behind his ear. And another to fight the sudden impulse to draw him closer. There was a look in those green eyes of his that she'd never seen before, and she caught her breath, unable to look away.

Then the fragile spell was broken. The store's front bell sounded, and they could hear Dawn's cheerful voice as she said hello to Anya. With her younger sister in the next room, Buffy was suddenly fully aware of just how closely she and Giles were lying together, and she sprang to her feet before Dawn could walk in and get the wrong idea... or the right idea... Whichever idea it was, it left Buffy feeling very flustered and self-conscious.

If Giles was bothered by the sudden break in the mood, Buffy couldn't tell. He stood and retrieved his quarterstaff, silently returning it to its place on the wall. When he turned back to her to see her still blushing, he couldn't help grinning to himself. "Looks like we've finished for the day," he said. "Dawn will no doubt want to help you get ready for your date."

Buffy groaned at that, and his smile widened as he imagined his Slayer enduring her sister's style tips and pre-date pep talk. Of course, the greater part of his smile had to do with Buffy's obvious lack of enthusiasm about that date.

That and the fact that... unless he'd been much mistaken... Buffy had very nearly kissed him.

He decided to press his luck, just to gauge her reaction. Calmly as he could manage with a hoard of butterflies ransacking his insides, he peeled off his damp t-shirt and toweled off, hoping Buffy wouldn't spot him peeking at her from the corner of his eye. She didn't notice. She was too busy staring at his chest, and from what Giles could see, she was actually enjoying the view.

"Buffy."

"Huh?" she said distractedly.

"Have fun on your date." That snapped her out of it, and she shook her head, raising her eyes to meet his.

"Right. Date." She blushed even more furiously and started to stammer. "I have a... a date... I-I should go. On my date... that I have." She turned on her heel and headed for the door.

"Buffy," he said again softly, and she stopped in her tracks. "Even if someone hasn't tried to catch your attention?" He held his breath an anxious moment before continuing. "It doesn't mean that you've not caught his."

She opened her mouth but couldn't quite find the words to say.

"Don't worry about patrolling tonight," he told her. "I'll see to it. Go have some fun."

* * * * *

"'Go have some fun,' he says," Buffy muttered to herself as she finished drying her hair. "Like I'm really gonna go whoop it up with Random David after that... that... God, that chest!"

She exhaled and set the hairdryer on the dresser, pulling her hair up into a simple twist. She reached for her favourite clip, but it wasn't in its usual spot. "Dawn!" she hollered impatiently. "Hair clip!"

The younger girl bounced into the room and unfastened her ponytail. "Busted," she said sheepishly, handing the silver clasp to her sister. "I thought you'd probably wanna do something different with it tonight."

"Yeah, well," Buffy said, fastening her hair into place. "He's never seen me before, so it'll be different to him, right?"

Dawn plopped onto the bed and pouted at her sister in the mirror. "But you always wear it like that. Don't you wanna try something else?"

Buffy saw Dawn's dejected reflection over her shoulder and knew the hairstyle itself wasn't really the point. "Tell you what," she said, turning to face the bed and holding a comb out to her sister. "I kinda want to leave it up, but could you help me pull out a few strands? You're better at that part."

True or not, Dawn giggled and grabbed the comb, happy to help. Buffy had to stifle a giggle of her own at Dawn's serious expression as she concentrated on the task at hand, but when she turned back to the mirror, Buffy was pleasantly surprised.

"Wow, that looks great! Thanks." Buffy applied a little hair spray to preserve Dawn's work, and the teenager flushed with pride.

"So that's what you're gonna wear, huh?"

Buffy scowled at her. "Don't push it, mister."

"And don't call me mister, sister," Dawn returned the scowl before they both broke out in identical grins. "You look great, Buffy. Gah, you must be so excited!" Then the doorbell rang, and Dawn raced to answer it. Buffy heard Xander's voice downstairs and did a final mirror check. Everything was in place; she'd made some effort... but not too much effort... yeah, that'd be fine. She took a deep breath and went to join the others, doing her best to look as excited as Dawn wanted her to be.

Xander's eyebrows rose appreciatively when Buffy came down the stairs, and she smiled at the compliment. "Mind if I take this gorgeous brunette back to my place?" he asked.

"That depends," Buffy teased. "What are your intentions?"

"I dunno. A little drinking, some reckless endangerment..." At Buffy's look he amended the plan. "Or we could rent a video."

"Sounds like a winner," she said. "Guess I'll see you guys later, then." Dawn surprised Buffy by grabbing an overnight bag from the living room. "Wait, you're gonna spend the night?"

"Yeah," Dawn shrugged. "Beats having to schlep back over here later. Xander said it was cool." Her voice was casual enough, but there was a pointed gleam in her eyes as she added, "Have fun on your date."

"Whoa, mister. I'm not gonna have *that* much fun."

"Again with the mister," Dawn groused and kissed Buffy on the cheek. "Whatever, I'm gone."

"See ya, Buff. Have fun," Xander added and followed Dawn to his car.

Buffy closed the door behind them and leaned against it, sighing heavily. She'd agreed to this date to make her sister happy, but after that... whatever it was... with Giles this afternoon, all she could think about was that look in his eyes. And how she'd very nearly kissed him.

But the bigger shock was the fact that she really hoped she'd get another chance.

* * * * *

Rupert Giles had just devoted the past hour to a relatively uneventful patrol through the cemeteries of Sunnydale. He'd hoped for a little action to keep himself occupied, but aside from the two newly risen vampires who never made it to their first meal, there didn't seem to be anything else amiss tonight.

Except for the fact that Buffy would be meeting her date soon, he corrected himself, but so far he'd managed to keep his anxiety about that to a minimum. She certainly hadn't been looking forward to it. Still, there was always the possibility that she and this David bloke might actually hit it off. Or that he'd simply imagined Buffy's interest that afternoon. Or maybe her interest was a fleeting response to the date she was dreading...

The longer he walked, the more "or maybe..." possibilities started to occur to him, until his anxiety wasn't quite as 'minimum' as previously advertised. He turned and started towards the Magic Box; perhaps a little training on his own would help keep the swarm of 'maybes' at bay. He stared at the sidewalk, kicking a pebble in front of him as he made his way there, in a world of his own until-

"Hey, watch it!"

"Terribly sorry," Giles said to the person he'd just bumped into. "Completely my fault."

"I already *know* it was your fault, dude." The young man brushed non-existent dust from his jeans for effect and fixed his hair in the reflection of a car window. Then he opened the door to fetch a ratty gas-station carnation from the passenger's seat.

Giles' eyes narrowed; he looked up and sure enough, there was a gaudy, fake diamond in the man's left earlobe. //Perfect//, he groaned. Then his glance shifted to the building they were currently standing in front of: The Espresso Pump. "Just bloody perfect."

"Yeah, what's that?"

"Sorry?"

"What's so 'bloody perfect'?" The young man snorted and went back to primping in the car window.

"Your, er... your hair. Looks great," Giles lied. "Enjoy your date," he ventured, and sure enough...

"That's the plan." Feeling cocky, this would-be suitor was more than happy to brag a bit. "Even got here early to scope the place out. Gonna grab a table before she gets here. Something nice and private in the corner, in case she can't wait."

//Can't wait...?// Giles was incredulous. "Not a lot of privacy to be had in an open-air café. I can't imagine she'll-"

"Oh, she will. Ladies can't resist The Dave-ster."

"Ah, yes," Giles said. That clinched it. But he wasn't sure whether ire or amusement was the appropriate response. "I hear they also love a man who refers to himself in the third person."

"In the what?"

"Nothing," Giles laughed inwardly. "Nothing at all." His mood had lightened considerably, now that he had one less 'maybe' to worry about: Buffy would *not* be hitting it off with 'The Dave-ster'. "So, ah... what particular charms did you use to ensnare this evening's lucky lady?"

David took a hearty squirt of breath spray and smacked his tongue on the roof of his mouth. "Hooked up through the personals. Figured all the other guys'd be all 'yeah, baby' and junk, so I played it cool. Asked her if she just wanted to have some coffee or whatever, and she *totally* bought it. Desperate chicks are so easy. They act all innocent and proper and junk, but a little small-talk, a little 'you're so pretty', and she'll be on her back by midnight."

Giles' lighter mood evaporated.

David dropped the carnation as he suddenly found himself lifted several inches off the ground. The front of his shirt was held tightly in the British man's fist, and the eyes that bored into his were cold and hard. There was barely restrained violence in those eyes as the stranger spoke.

"I must have heard that last part wrong," Giles whispered menacingly. "Care to repeat it?"

"Dude! What the *fuck* is your problem?!" He kicked his feet, searching for the ground, but Giles held him fast.

"My problem, David, is your lack of respect. And while Buffy is more than capable of defending her own honour, she isn't due for several minutes yet. Perhaps you and I can find a way to pass the time until then?" He released David, who landed with a thud on the sidewalk.

"B-Bu... you know Buffy?" he stammered.

Giles crouched down next to him and lifted the frightened man's hand. "I know a lot of things," he said casually. "For instance, did you know that a broken finger takes approximately three weeks to heal? And a broken wrist can take as many as eight. Now, despite your confidence with the fairer sex, David, I feel certain you... depend... quite often... on this hand, to see you through some lonely nights. The next two months could be very frustrating indeed." Giles took great pleasure in watching the other man's face attempt to blush and pale at the same time and hoisted him to his feet. "I believe we understand each other a little better now," he said, straightening David's shirtfront, "and I'm sure you and Buffy will have a *lovely* evening."

"S-screw that," David gaped, backing away from the Englishman. When he had put more than an arm's length between them, he broke into a panicked run around his car, flung himself into it, and sped away.

"Pillock," Giles spat after him, as his indignant rage subsided. It was several seconds before he even noticed the crowd that had formed, drawn by the fracas, and then Addie, who managed the Pump, stepped forward.

"Hell of a show, Rupert," she teased, and he flushed with embarrassment. "Almost as big a draw as your singing."

That flush reached the tip of his ears before Giles found his voice. "I-I'm so sorry, Addie, I didn't mean to cause such a scene." Behind a microphone, he could hold an audience in the palm of his hand, but after losing his temper in front of so many people, the only thing keeping Giles from wishing for the ground to open up and swallow him whole was the fact that on the Hellmouth, such a wish might just decide to take half the town along with him.

Seeing his obvious discomfort, Addie waved to disperse the crowd. The patrons inside continued to sneak the odd glance in Giles' direction, but now that the commotion had died down, most people went quietly back to their coffee and conversation.

"Don't worry about it, Rupert, you did me a favour," she said. "That jerk's been trolling here for weeks, hitting on my servers. And he's a terrible tipper." Giles grinned at that, and she added softly, "This Buffy must be pretty special."

"She truly is," he agreed. "Far too special to be with someone like that... that... 'Dave-ster' git."

Addie watched him knowingly. She'd heard him mention her on several occasions, always with the same tender look in his eyes. "How about for you?"

Giles let out a bark of laughter. "Too special by half, I'm afraid."

Addie hadn't known Rupert for long, but she knew he was a good man. He was handsome, he was obviously chivalrous, he was funny and intelligent... "Why don't you let Buffy be the judge of that?"

He shook his head. "I couldn't. She'd never..." But he stopped himself short. He'd been telling himself for months that she'd never be interested; it had become a mantra, especially since Riley left. But this afternoon, after the electricity that passed between them when she looked into his eyes... it seemed 'never' wasn't the right word anymore.

Giles took a steadying breath as he made his decision. He pulled out his wallet to show his friend the picture inside. It was of a lovely young woman in a pink dress. Her soft blonde hair shone to match her radiant smile as she held aloft a toy, gold umbrella. "This is Buffy," he said, trying to keep his mounting nerves at bay. "She should be here in a few minutes. Just... just please, don't let her leave until I get back, would you?"

"I'm on it," she said. "Just don't keep her waiting too long, okay?"

Fortunately for Giles, his convertible was parked behind the Magic Box. He hurried towards it, making a mental list of the things he had to do in the... he looked at his watch... ten minutes remaining until nine o'clock. He'd never make it in time, but with Addie's help he just might get back before Buffy left...

* * * * *

The Espresso Pump was busy when she arrived, but the manager led her straight to an empty table. Buffy kept her eye on the door, sipping a decaf mocha and waiting unenthusiastically for her date to show. There were about a million guys in jeans, with and without earrings, but nobody yet who was carrying a flower. After a while, she set down her empty mug and checked her watch. Quarter-past-nine and no David.

Buffy heaved an irritated sigh and thought back to high school, how everyone used to say that if the teacher was more than ten minutes late, they could all just leave. She was only here for Dawn in the first place, and now this David guy couldn't even be on time. Rude much? Growing more impatient with every passing second, by twenty-after, Buffy was ready to throw in the towel. That *had* to be long enough. But as soon as she stood up to go pay for her mocha, the manager came back over with another one and set it on the table. "On the house, Buffy," she said.

"Uh, thanks," Buffy said cautiously. "How did you know my name?"

Addie just winked. "Give him a few more minutes. He'll be here." Then she turned and went back behind the counter, leaving her customer alone with her mocha and confusion.

Whoever this David guy was, he wasn't exactly making the best impression by keeping her waiting. But the manager really seemed to really want her to stay. Curiosity - and the free mocha with extra foam - won out, and Buffy took her seat again. She'd give him a couple more minutes, she decided, but she probably wouldn't be the best of company even if he did show. Ever since this afternoon her mind had been seriously elsewhere: specifically, back in the training room with Giles. More specifically on what he'd said to her before she left.

//Even if someone hasn't tried to get my attention, it doesn't mean I don't have his.// Normally she'd have brushed it off as a little encouragement to cheer her up, but not today. Not after the look in his eyes. Or the way he stood there with his shirt off, the hair on his chest still damp with sweat...

//Or the way he's standing there right now, in those tight, faded jeans...//

"Giles!" Buffy jumped up so quickly, she nearly knocked over her chair. Sure enough, Giles was standing right in front of her, one hand nervously stuffed in the pocket of his button-fly jeans. The other held a bouquet of cherry-pink tulips. He'd abandoned his glasses for the night, and in his ear was a simple, silver hoop.

Slowly, her shock gave way to a warm rush of happiness. "You must be David," she grinned, and he ducked his head shyly.

"I'm, ah, I'm afraid David couldn't be here tonight. Perhaps you'd let me join you?" He was so nervous that he could barely feel his toes, but the smile on Buffy's face as she gestured to the other chair did wonders to put him at ease. He handed her the tulips, which she happily accepted, holding them to her chest and taking in their delicate aroma.

"Thank you, Giles. They're beautiful." Then her smile widened as he crossed behind her to hold out her chair.

"May I?" he asked. The question was simple but thick with meaning, and he could barely hear her whispered 'yes'. When she was seated he leaned in and said softly in her ear, "You look lovely this evening."

His voice, usually so soothing and reassuring, sent shivers down her spine, but she managed to mumble something about Dawn helping with her hair. He sat, and Addie arrived with a cup of black Ceylon tea for him. She left it wordlessly, not wanting to intrude - as if anyone could, the way those two were gazing so intently at each other.

"So," Buffy began, "I take it you met David?"

"Yes, well," Giles blushed slightly, unsure how much he wanted to tell her about his earlier meeting on the sidewalk. "Trust me when I say that you would not have enjoyed his company."

"Oh, really?" Buffy asked, curious.

Reluctant to mention the young man's boorish insinuations - or his own response to them - Giles simply said, "He called himself 'The Dave-ster'."

"Oh, *God*," she laughed. "Enough said." There was obviously more to it, but she decided not to press. "Well, I'd rather be here with you anyway, so it all worked out."

Giles beamed at that, and the two began to relax and enjoy the evening. Despite his feelings for her and the sparks between them that afternoon, Giles knew that Buffy had been hoping for a simple date, free of expectations, so he resolved to follow her lead.

They talked about easy, happy things. Buffy had him holding his sides with her impression of Snyder on 'band candy' night, and she sighed happily as he described the rolling hills and fragrant gardens of his family's estate in England. She loved the way his eyes lit up when he remembered the Irish setter that used to terrorize his mother's rose garden - and the way they gleamed with mischief when he confessed to once pulling his school's fire alarm to get out of an exam.

Buffy was entranced. While he talked, her eyes kept wandering to the stray bit of hair peeking over the top button of his shirt. Then they would flicker past his lips to the silver hoop in his ear and back again to those gorgeous pools of green, like smoky emeralds with a splash of glowing amber that sparkled when he laughed. She could have listened to him talk for hours.

"Buffy?"

She shook her head and realized that she'd been so caught up in listening to him talk that she'd completely lost track of what he was talking *about*. "Sorry, Giles," she said. "Guess I got a little distracted." Disappointed, he asked if she was ready to go but was surprised by her vehement 'No!'. "I mean, no," she said more softly. "I'm having a wonderful time. I guess I was just thinking... never mind."

"Never mind what?"

She saw the worry in his eyes and hastened to reassure him. "There's nothing wrong, Giles. I promise." Then she added, "I guess I was just thinking about your voice. How nice it is and how... how jealous I am that all the others got to hear you sing."

He smiled and gestured to Addie. "Perhaps we can do something about that." When the manager reached their table he asked, "Do you think I might borrow Lucius' guitar?"

"Ooh, two shows in one night!" she said excitedly and went to retrieve it.

"*Two* shows?" Buffy asked.

Giles demurred, "Some other time."

Buffy reluctantly let it go, making a mental note to get the whole 'Dave-ster' saga out of him later.

When Addie returned with her brother's guitar, Buffy gave Giles a quick kiss on the cheek. "For luck," she said, and he crossed to the stool and microphone in the corner. A few of the regulars clapped excitedly when they saw him tuning the guitar and turned their chairs to watch, making Buffy all the more jealous that she hadn't heard him until now.

"I, ah," he said hesitantly, testing the microphone, "I hadn't planned on singing tonight, so I hope you'll all forgive me if it's a little unpolished." The regulars appeared to dismiss the very idea as rubbish, and despite the uncertainty in his words, Buffy could see a strange calm come over him as he started to sing.

//I can't remember when you weren't there
When I didn't care for anyone but you
I swear we've been through everything there is
Can't imagine anything we've missed
Can't imagine anything the two of us can't do//


Buffy recognized the song as an old one she hadn't heard in a long time. She watched his fingers play over the strings, so deftly and gently, and he sang as though they were the only two in the room. His voice seemed to wrap around her like a warm, safe blanket, and the chorus brought tears to her eyes...

//Through the years
I've never been afraid
I've loved the life we've made
And I'm so glad I've stayed
Right here with you
Through the years//


He could have left any number of times, she knew. She'd even run away herself. But every time she needed him, he'd been right there beside her. She thought about that 'stupid date' she'd asked for, with no apocalypses or expectations. But if there was an apocalypse, she and Giles could fight it together. She'd never have to worry about his expectations because he'd never ask for more than she could give. Buffy didn't know what she could have possibly done to deserve such a devoted Watcher and friend, but as his voice caressed her, she knew she wanted more. Because he already had her heart.

Buffy stopped thinking then and just let it wash over her. The song was a little old-fashioned, but his voice was so light and free, and she couldn't remember feeling this happy. When he finished his song to a hearty round of applause, she stood and clapped the loudest. He tried to take his seat again, but the crowd wouldn't hear of it. He looked at Buffy, and his heart leapt to see her smiling at him, joining the crowd as they called for more.

He found his way through three more numbers, not even noticing that Addie had dimmed the lights to match the romantic mood he'd set, but they came up again brightly as he led the crowd through a boisterous rendition of 'Hotel California'. Even the patrons who didn't know all the words joined in where they could, and several lifted their lighters in good-natured salute.

They finally let him off the impromptu stage with his promise to come back and sing again soon. Unable to remember the last time she'd had such fun, Buffy stood to give him an enthusiastic hug. "Giles, you're amazing!" He returned the hug and was utterly surprised when, instead of letting go, Buffy gave him soft, sweet kiss. He was too caught off guard to return it at first, and Buffy drew back hesitantly, worried she'd made a mistake. But he pulled her to him and kissed her again. She moaned against his lips, and the world around them fell away.

At least, it did until the crowd's applause grew to include several whistles and hoots of approval. Those who'd been there all evening knew this was obviously the girl whose honour he'd so staunchly defended before she arrived, and several women in the crowd sighed dreamily and nudged their dates.

Blushing furiously, he and Buffy disengaged themselves, but she stubbornly refused to let go of his hand. Not that he minded, of course. After collecting Buffy's tulips from the table, they went to pay for their mocha and tea, but Addie held up her hand in protest. "Just keep that promise to come back and sing, okay?" With Buffy's added promise to come back with him, Giles called it a deal.

When they walked out together, the crowd's applause began again, and feeling bold, Buffy kissed him once more. Less surprised this time, Giles returned the kiss eagerly, much to her (and the crowd's) delight. Then with a final bow to their assembled audience, they turned and walked towards his car.

Once inside it, they collapsed into giggles over everyone's reaction to their kiss. Giles hadn't seen Buffy so radiant since her prom. And she clearly seemed to like the sides of himself he'd finally shown her today. "Did you want me to drive you home, then?" he asked, but she was just as reluctant as he to see their evening end.

"Nope," she said confidently. "Dawn's staying at Xander's for the night, and I'm suddenly feeling the need for some *long* overdue Watcher/Slayer bonding."

"Bonding it is," he said with a smile and pointed the car towards his flat on Oakpark Street. Then she started to giggle again, and he cast her a curious look.

"I just realized," she told him, a half-hearted groan breaking through her laughter. "I'm gonna have to thank Dawn for making me go on this date after all." Giles took her hand and raised it to his lips. The soft kiss he brushed across her skin gave her goosebumps, and she let out a tiny sigh. "Make that big-time thanks," she breathed. "Possibly some sort of cash reward."

* * * * *

Giles tossed his car keys into a bowl on the kitchen counter and put Buffy's tulips in a vase, joking with her while she left a quick message for Dawn. Buffy was still giggling when she finished the message, but when she said goodbye and hung up the phone, the sudden silence that surrounded them was thick with uncertainty and anticipation.

Despite holding hands during the whole ride over - one of the first arguments he'd found in favour of automatic drive - he'd wondered if she might be more tentative now that they were here alone together, away from the glow of the crowd's applause. But when he stepped towards her, she didn' t shy away. He cupped her cheek gently in his hand, and she closed her eyes, leaning into his touch. Slowly, he bent his head to hers. Then he brushed her lips with his own, and she sighed, slipping her arms around his waist. He deepened the kiss and thrilled to feel her respond.

Soon she pressed herself to him and parted her lips, and it suddenly took every ounce of self-control he possessed to pull away. Buffy frowned, confused. She knew he wanted this just as much as she did. "Why-?"

Still holding her cheek in his hand, Giles gazed into her eyes. "I know you wished for this evening to be free of expectations," he said, "but I can't be casual about this, Buffy. Not with you. I need to know what this means before-"

She silenced him with a soft kiss, understanding his reservation and wanting to let him know that she took this every bit as seriously as he did.

"It means I've been going crazy today thinking about you, Giles," she said, "and I can't believe I've been so blind. That just sitting and listening to you sing tonight made me happier than I've been in a long, long time. It means I can't get enough of the way you kiss me and the way you make me feel, and I was so proud that everyone there tonight knew that the gorgeous singer up there was *my* date. It means I love you, Giles. And I really hope you love me too."

Giles' heart soared at her words. He'd seen her watching him with new eyes tonight, but he hadn't dared to hope that she might actually..." Of course I love you, Buffy," he whispered. "With everything I am." They kissed again, and this time when her lips parted, he eagerly accepted their invitation.

He lifted Buffy in his arms to set her on the desk, planting kisses along her jaw. She bared her neck to him, and he nibbled his way down it, her appreciative whispers urging him on. Wanting to explore the chest she'd been thinking about since that afternoon, she pulled the bottom of his shirt from his jeans. She started to undo the buttons as well as she could with his mouth doing the most distracting things to her ear and throat, but he made one last effort to still her hands.

"Be sure about this, Buffy. If at any point you wish me to stop, just say the word, but I intend to make love to you."

If he'd thought that would make her hesitate, he sorely underestimated the effect of his voice, so earthy and deep with desire. Buffy let out a jagged breath at the images his words conjured and knew she'd never been so sure of anything in her life.

She'd only undone the lower buttons of his shirt, but she pushed the fabric away from his stomach. Planting a kiss above his navel, she felt him quiver and heard his sharp intake of breath. Moving slowly, she kissed her way upwards until she encountered a still-fastened button. Buffy looked up at him expectantly, holding his eyes with her own, and he reached to slip it free. She nipped and kissed her way up to the next one, then looked up again to see Giles still watching her intently. His eyes were dark and heavy as he unfastened the next button for her, and Buffy's lips continued their climb. Feeling his shallow breath, hearing the soft sighs of pleasure that escaped his lips, she unhooked the next button herself and then the last before she slid the shirt off his shoulders to cover his chest with kisses.

"God, Buffy..." Unable to withstand her deliberate, delicious assault much longer, he pulled her to him with a hard, crushing kiss. She matched him strength for strength, and they drank each other in. Soon he pulled her legs around him and lifted her from the desk. Understanding, she clung to him, kicked off her sandals, and rained kisses across his broad shoulders as he started towards the stairs.

His senses reeling, Giles' knees felt like jelly as he climbed the steps. He took them slowly, one at a time, careful not to drop Buffy, even as her inquisitive mouth threatened to take those knees out from under him completely. She assumed he was making his way to the bed but was surprised to feel the hard wall of the loft at her back. Not letting go, her legs still wrapped around his waist, she felt his hand snake upwards to undo the silver clasp in her hair.

Blonde hair fell around her shoulders, and he slid his fingers through it, cupping the back of her head as he covered her throat with hot kisses. His fingers deftly unbuttoned her blouse, and he pulled her away from the wall just long enough to let her shirt fall to the floor. Then he slid his hand tantalizingly up her side. Buffy held her breath, anticipating, and when she felt his fingers graze the soft curve of her breast, she shivered in ecstasy.

Eager to explore her beautiful body, Giles carried her to the bed and laid her down. Buffy welcomed the chance to catch her breath, and she smiled as she watched him take off his shoes and socks. Only twenty-four hours earlier, if someone had told her she'd be here right now, she would have erected a wall of denial that refused even to entertain the possibility. But that was yesterday. Today, that wall she used to hide behind had crumbled to the ground. She'd given this wonderful man her heart, and she in turn held his.

Giles could see the thoughts swimming behind her eyes, and the look of contentment on her face told him clearly enough that they were happy ones. He lay down next to her, propped up on his elbow much as he had been that afternoon, but this time Buffy didn't hesitate to reach up and draw him closer. He kissed her forehead, then the end of her nose, finally reaching her eager lips.

"I really do love you, Giles," she whispered, then smiled at the twinkle in his eyes.

"Then I suppose you want me to kiss you again," he said playfully.

"You bet your cute ass, I do," she laughed.

"Oh, so it's cute now, is it?"

"Hey," she objected. "I may have been blind, but I wasn't, y'know, *blind*. It's always been cute. Haven't I mentioned that before?"

"Must have slipped your mind," he said dryly before he kissed her pouting lips. Buffy opened her mouth to answer, but when Giles' fingers began to trace slowly across her collarbone, she forgot whatever it was she'd meant to say. She closed her eyes, waiting to feel where those fingers would touch her next. Her neck, cheek, shoulder, even the inside of her elbow - his touch wasn't overtly sexual, but she gave herself over to it, arching, stretching, even shivering as his fingers played across her skin.

Giles watched her intently. Dreams of her had kept him company through too many long, lonely nights, but they were nothing compared to having her here in his arms. She was already a much more responsive lover than he'd imagined, and he longed to feel her lose control...

He slid his hand beneath Buffy, and she arched off the bed. It took just a moment for him to undo the clasp, then he slowly drew back the lace that covered her breasts. Leaning over her, Giles cupped her gently in his hand, kneading her softly as he kissed her snowy curves. Buffy's breath quickened. His touch was somehow both soothing and electric, and she looked down at him, amazed that this man who'd once seemed so staid and reserved could be such a sensual, talented lover.

Her contemplation came to an abrupt halt, however, when he drew her peaked nipple into his mouth. "Oh, God!" she gasped, and Giles couldn't help but grin at the compliment.

"Liked that, did you?"

Regaining a measure of her composure, Buffy answered his teasing tone. "Not sure," she grinned back at him. "You're the research guy. What do you think?"

He quirked his eyebrow at her mischievously. "I think it requires further study." Giles covered her body with his own. He kneaded her again, feathering kisses across her other breast until she writhed beneath him. Knowing what she was waiting for, he let her anticipation build, teasing her with his lips and tongue. It wasn't until she started to whimper, wordlessly pleading for more, that he finally showed her mercy. His warm mouth closed around her nipple, and she cried out again. "I'll take that as a 'yes'," he whispered against her skin.

"Big yes," she breathed heavily.

Still kissing and caressing, Giles slid down her body. When his hand reached her still-fastened jeans, Buffy answered his hesitation with a soft moan. He unbuttoned them and slid them over her hips. Once the jeans had fallen to the floor he started at her feet, nipping and kissing them, even tickling them a bit, just to hear the bright sound of her startled laughter. His strong hands played over her ankles and calves, and his lips followed, treasuring the small gasps and moans that told him just how much she enjoyed his touch.

Kneeling between her thighs, Giles felt them quiver when his lips reached the edge of her panties. His fingers replaced his lips, tracing along the line between skin and satin while he kissed the soft swell of her belly, just below her navel. He glanced up at Buffy, and the sight of her nearly took his breath away. Honeyed hair spilled across the pillow beneath her. Her eyes were closed tightly, and on her face was an expression of almost disbelieving need.

Giles pressed his lips to the moist satin that still covered her. His tongue darted out to explore her through the thin fabric between them, and her hips rose to meet him of their own accord. Then his fingers slipped beneath her panties to trace the path his tongue had just taken, and her hunger was punctuated by the wordless sounds that fell from her lips, urging him on.

He slid her panties down until they joined the denim on the floor. Then Giles dipped his head again and tasted her. He worshipped her with his mouth, each swirl of his tongue drawing a gasp of pleasure from deep within, and she clutched at the blanket, writhing. Just when Buffy thought she might burst, he slipped one finger, then another, inside her. With a thrust of his fingers, she was gone. Something bright and golden shattered deep inside her, and she screamed his name as waves of ecstasy tore through her.

Giles continued to stroke her, drawing out her pleasure until she was spent. When at last Buffy opened her eyes to smile at him, he accepted the invitation of her outstretched arms. Resting against his pillow - he'd already begun to think of the one she lay against as 'hers' now - he held her to him and kissed her tangled, blonde hair.

"Wow," she breathed. "That was... wow." Buffy wished she could think of something more eloquent to say, but with the powerful orgasm he'd just given her still echoing beneath her skin, talking at all felt like an accomplishment. Giles took her lack of eloquence as the compliment it was intended to be, more than content to let her rest against him for as long as she wished.

Buffy looked up to see Giles gazing lovingly at her. Once upon a time, it would have made her feel self-conscious, but not tonight. Her hair was tangled in knots, her lipstick had long ago been kissed away, and she could feel the sweat on her forehead. But at the look in his eyes, Buffy knew that she was beautiful.

Still leaning against him, Buffy's hand was drawn to his chest, to stroke the crisp curls she'd longed to touch since that afternoon. Giles sighed happily, enjoying the attention, but as far as she was concerned, he was still too overdressed.

Her searching hands found their way to the buttons of his jeans. He was obviously still aroused, and when her fingers traced the length of him, he hissed sharply. "Liked that, did you?" she asked him, grinning as she waited for his reply.

"Might require further study," he answered, and she was happy to oblige. Buffy sent his jeans and boxers to join her clothes on the floor and knelt between his thighs as he had done. She grazed him lightly with her fingertips and heard him moan. It was a sound she hadn't thought to hear before today, and she wanted to hear it again. So she bowed her head to take him in her mouth.

Giles' exploration of Buffy's body had only fueled his arousal. Now that she turned her attentions to him, it didn't take long for his own excitement to mount. She wrapped her delicate, strong fingers around his length and drew him deeper with every stroke, soft lips sliding over velvet hardness. Every moan that fell from his lips urged her on, and she massaged him with her tongue, wanting to taste his release. But before she could, a firm hand on her shoulder made her pause. Understanding, she was only so reluctant to let him slip from her mouth. Because as much as she wanted to taste him, she wanted to feel him inside her even more.

When she started to shift, Giles opened the drawer in his bedside table. He started to withdraw a blue, foil packet, and Buffy asked, "Is there anything I should know?"

"No, nothing," he answered with a smile. "Believe me when I say that the physical the Council subjected me to upon my re-hiring was *most* thorough. But I didn't want to presume."

"They probably used an extra-long needle, just for spite," Buffy laughed. "But if you're good, then so am I."

She watched his eyes, already so dark, gleam with delight when she straddled his hips. Buffy pressed her hands to his chest, and he held his breath in anticipation. Slowly, torturously slowly, she lowered herself onto him. Giles fought to keep himself still, letting her adjust to his width, until he felt her tight warmth surrounding him. She started to move then, sparks dancing beneath her skin as he stretched her so deliciously. When at last she found a rhythm of her own, he thrust against her, burying himself deep inside, and she gasped in ecstasy.

She rode him faster, her own pleasure building, and Giles was in heaven. Nearly overwhelmed by the incredible feel of her, he slipped his thumb between her soft folds, caressing her as she moved against him, and Buffy's moans soon became a hoarse, desperate cry. "Giles, oh... God! Giiiles!" He had never seen anything so beautiful - or felt anything so fiercely passionate - as Buffy was at this moment. Her whole body tensed, she gripped him tightly, and Giles surrendered. He pulled Buffy to him, answering her cries with his own as they rode out their release together.

After a long while and all too soon, Buffy laid her head on his chest. Both were utterly spent and wholeheartedly contented. Neither could have imagined what this evening had in store for them, but for something that came as a complete surprise to them both, it seemed so natural. Buffy's skin still hummed, and the hair on Giles' chest tickled her cheek when he breathed.

Dreamily, she turned her head to face him and folded her hands beneath her chin. "You know, I could stay here, just like this, forever."

"That sounds wonderful," Giles agreed happily. "So could I." He wrapped his arms around her, and she kissed his chest again before resting her cheek against it once more.

"I love you, Giles," she whispered.

"I love you, too," he answered with all his heart.

Soon Buffy's soft breathing told him that she'd drifted off to sleep, and Giles knew it wouldn't be long before he followed. He glanced at the clock and couldn't help but smile when he saw the time; it was just after midnight. And here he was, on his back - beneath Buffy.

* * * * *

Xander drove Dawn home in the morning. Anya was still sleeping, so they left her a note telling her where they'd be. Dawn bounced up the front steps, looking forward to hearing all about Buffy's date with David. She'd been joking - mostly - about making sure Buffy had the house to herself for the night, but she did a quick check first to make sure weren't any strange cars parked outside before she and Xander stormed the castle.

Xander had proclaimed this the perfect morning to try and schmooze some of Tara's famous pancakes, and Dawn heartily agreed. She called out to her sister as they came through the door. "Buffy! I'm home!" When she didn't get an answer, she checked the machine to see if Buffy had left word. Sure enough, its red light was beeping. Dawn grabbed a box of cereal, stuffing a handful of toasted oats in her mouth as she pushed the button.

"Hey, Dawn," Buffy's voice sounded from the machine. "I'm, um... I may be late, so, um... then again, you're out all night, so..." A low voice said something in the background that made her giggle. "So I guess I'll see ya when you get back from Xander's. 'Bye!"

Dawn was psyched to hear Buffy enjoying her date and was about to go tell Xander about it when she realized that her sister had sounded like she'd be home long before now. Dawn frowned. Buffy had been hyper-careful about checking in, ever since their mom had first gotten sick. It wasn't like her not to call back if she was planning to stay out all night.

She picked up the phone and went back to the living room to fish the number Buffy had given her out of her overnight bag. Xander had already flipped the television to Cartoon Network and made himself comfy on the couch. "You calling Will and Tara?" he asked when he saw her dialing.

"No, David," she mumbled. Buffy's supposed to be home by now, and it's not like her not to call."

A drowsy David answered the phone after several rings, clearly not expecting the voice on the other end to ask, "Hi, um, David? Is Buffy there?" He was instantly awake, fervently denying that he'd ever seen Buffy. Never saw her, never touched her; tell her to lose his number. Then he slammed down the receiver, and then the line went dead.

* * * * *

A few minutes later they burst through Giles' front door. He was standing in the kitchen over a pan of bacon and eggs, wearing a pair of low-slung sweatpants and a look of surprise at the sudden invasion.

Dawn and Xander started to ramble at the same time. Their voices overlapped, but he caught the gist of the story.

"Said he never even met her-"

"Couldn't get off the phone fast enough-"

"Why would he deny-?"

"Sounded really spooked about something-"

Bemused, Giles tried his best to allay their fears, telling them that Buffy was fine. That they'd just spoken a few minutes ago, and she was perfectly safe. He omitted certain details, feeling it was Buffy's place to decide what she wished to share about their evening, encouraging them to go home and wait for her to call.

In the face of a nearly cooked breakfast, however, Xander conveniently missed the 'go home' part of Giles' suggestion. "Lotta bacon there for just one guy," he hinted hungrily.

Giles sighed. "Of which you'll be eating exactly none." He added again - more firmly this time - that he and Dawn should leave and wait for Buffy's call. Dawn seemed to agree. After all, if Giles said Buffy was fine, then she was. But Xander only had ears for the sizzling bacon and eggs. Even Xander's one-track ears, however, couldn't help but catch the sound of Giles' bathroom door opening.

"I kinda hogged the hot water," Buffy's voice floated down the hallway as she towel-dried her hair, "but it should be hot again after breakfast. I should give Dawn another call before we eat, though. She's probably worried by now, since-"

Buffy rounded the corner into the living room completely unprepared for the sight in front of her: her sister and Xander were staring at her with twin expressions of shock and disbelief. "Or maybe not..." she mumbled self-consciously. Giles' maroon robe was bunched loosely around her, almost reaching her ankles, and she had a glow on her face that had very little to do with the steamy shower she'd just taken. That glow was nearly outshone, though, by the blush that crept all the way to the tips of her ears.

The three of them stood like a cluster of deer caught in bright headlights, nobody knowing quite what to say. Then a loud *clank* behind Giles caused them all to jump. "Toast is ready," he supplied cheerfully and smiled at Buffy. Faced with the ridiculous, he opted to roll with it, and Buffy was grateful for his cue.

"Great, I'm starved!" she exclaimed, then stifled a laugh at how quickly Dawn and Xander started to scramble for the door.

"Yeah, we have, um-"

"Bacon."

"Pancakes!"

"Right, pancakes, so we'll just-"

"-be leaving, so..."

Xander reached the door first and made a hasty exit, but Buffy caught Dawn before she could leave. "Are you okay with this? You're not freaked, are you?"

Dawn could see that it really did matter to her sister whether this sudden development was something she could cope with, and she gave Buffy a reassuring smile. "Did you enjoy your date?" Buffy nodded happily. "Okay, duh. Obviously. Details never, please."

Buffy had to laugh at that. "You have my solemn word," she swore, and they both giggled at the 'hear, hear!' that echoed from the kitchen.

Dawn was just thrilled to see her sister so happy again. "So basically," she wheedled mischievously, "you're saying that I was right, and you owe me one?"

Buffy grinned broadly and made Dawn wish desperately that she had a tape recorder. "Yes, Dawn. You were right, and I owe you one."

"Ooh, then I can get that tattoo?"

"Don't push it, mister."

"Still with the mister," Dawn pretended to grumble. Then she gave Buffy a quick hug and bounced down the sidewalk after Xander.

Buffy turned to see Giles setting out their breakfast on the kitchen counter. She gathered his robe around her and hopped up onto the stool. After a bite of eggs, which she pronounced 'officially yummy', she turned to Giles and saw him watching her intently.

"So Dawn really is okay with this?" he asked.

"With finding me in your bathrobe or with you being my boyfriend?"

"Either. Both. Boyfriend?"

"Yeah," she said, grinning wide.

"I like the sound of that," he said, leaning across to kiss her. Then at his soft chuckle, Buffy's eyebrows furrowed.

"And kissing me is funny because why?"

"Only because now it appears I'm in Dawn's debt as well," he said. "And I find myself suddenly afraid of just what that might entail."

"You have no idea," Buffy laughed. "Absolutely no idea."

END