This Time Around
Chapter Ten - Your Actions Will Follow You Full Circle Round

written by Rainne

Buffy was beaming when she let herself into her mother's house. The evening had ended so well. Giles had walked her to the door when they arrived back at the house on Revello and they had stood there talking in the warm yellow glow of the porch light.

"So, Giles," she asked him, "what's with the Escalade? I mean, don't get me wrong, it's very nice, bordering on the swanky, even; it just doesn't seem like you. You strike me as more the. sporty red two-door convertible type." She grinned.

He blushed, pulling his glasses off and cleaning them before responding. "Well, I must confess, Buffy; I very nearly chose a black BMW. But then I saw the Escalade and somehow it reminded me of you."

"It did?" she asked, genuinely surprised. "How so?"

He turned and looked out toward the street at the vehicle in question. "It's a very expensive automobile, Buffy," he explained, "which by extension means that it is valuable and precious. It is also, one must admit, a very attractive automobile." He paused and smiled at her. When she smiled back, he continued. "It is flashy; it stands out; it is larger than life; and I find that you are all of these things. And. I rather thought. that you would like it."

Buffy was staring at him in wonder, her eyes glistening. "Really?" she asked him softly. "You really think all that good stuff about me?"

Giles nodded, reaching up to cup her cheek with his hand. "I do, Buffy. You are all those things. You have always been all those things to me."

A tear trickled down Buffy's cheek even as her face creased in a brilliant smile. "That's the best thing anybody's ever said to me. Like, in my life. Ever."

He cocked his head slightly, mildly perturbed. "You've dated boys before, Buffy, and men as well. Surely they've paid you similar flowery compliments."

She gave him a tolerantly fond look. "Let's run down the list of men I've dated - and I'm using the terms 'men' and 'dated' fairly loosely," she warned. Then she began ticking off a list on her fingers. "First there was the string of football and basketball players in middle and early high school. Then there was Pike who, while sweet, was not high on poetry. Other things, maybe, but not poetry. Then I moved to Sunnydale and there was Mr. Broody Mc King-of-Pain, who was too busy with his personal little black cloud of doom. Then there was Parker Abrams, who actually gets an award for being the only human being on the planet whose attention span is shorter than that of a housefly on crack." Buffy rolled her eyes, gratified when he giggled.

She ticked a third finger. "Next up, we have the Corn-Fed Iowa Boy himself, Lieutenant Finn, whose idea of a romantic evening started with patrol with his squad and ended when he got his happy, whether or not I got mine." Her sour expression spoke volumes about how often she 'got hers'. She rolled her eyes again. "And then there was Sp-" she froze, her eyes taking on a deer-in-the-headlights expression as she realized what she'd almost said.

He watched the color drain out of her face and felt his gut clench: he knew what she'd been about to say. But she was going to have to tell him herself. He took her hands, drawing her with him into the shadows and sitting next to her on the bench at the end of the porch. "Buffy," he said softly, "whoever it was, whatever it is, it is in the past. Don't let the shadow of that past keep you in fear. Whatever it is, Buffy, tell me."

She bowed her head. "Spike," she finally said softly, her voice thick with guilt and shame. "I was sleeping with Spike. After. after I came back. I couldn't feel anything. He made me feel. I didn't like what I was feeling, but it was better than being dead inside." She paused, swallowed hard, and added in a near-whisper, "I broke it off, finally. but he wouldn't stop coming around; he wouldn't stop wanting it. And then he came in the house one night when I was alone. I'd taken a headstone in the kidneys about an hour earlier and I was really feeling it, so I wasn't moving very fast. And h-he c-cornered me and he w-wouldn't take n-no for an answer." She shuddered hard. "I. I finally got enough leverage to throw him off me, but." she shrugged, shaking her head. She wouldn't look at him. She was too afraid of what she'd see in his eyes: anger, disappointment, disgust.

Giles put two fingers under her chin and nudged her up to face him. There was a deep sadness in his eyes, but there was also love and understanding. "I'm sorry, Buffy," he murmured. "I'm so dreadfully sorry that you had to experience that. But it was not your fault. You must listen, and you must believe me. From what you tell me, you had just been through a serious trauma and he played on your weakened emotions. I do not believe you were at fault in anything that happened with Spike, no matter what your motivations may have been. And I will give you no recriminations or guilt. I told you: it's in the past. Outside of making certain that you heal, what happened before no longer matters."

With a small sound of distress, she lunged forward suddenly and wrapped her arms around him. He laid one arm across her shoulders, the other hand moving up to gently caress her cheek. His voice was soft, whispering reassurances in her ear.

A motion in his periphery caught his attention and he glanced up to see Joyce peering out of the living room window. She took in the sight of Buffy and Giles's embrace expressionlessly for about thirty seconds before locking eyes with Giles. One of her eyebrows went up questioningly. Giles smiled slightly, never ceasing his light stroking of Buffy's cheek or the soft reassurances he was whispering. Joyce watched them for a long moment, her face unreadable. Then Buffy lifted her head, looking up into Giles's eyes. Joyce dropped the curtain. A moment later, the living room light dimmed.

Giles looked down into the wide hazel eyes, made larger by the thinness of her face. She was studying him carefully, her eyes darting back and forth between his. "Giles?" she whispered.

"Yes, Buffy?" he asked her, his voice low and velvety.

"Is my mom gone?" she asked with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

He smiled. "Yes. I believe she's gone upstairs."

"Good." She continued to study him for a long moment. "Would you do something for me if I asked you to?" she asked him softly.

"In all likelihood, Buffy," he responded. "What would you like me to do?"

She lifted her face to him. "I'd like you to kiss me."

"Buffy, I told you, I don't believe you're ready for -"

She silenced his protests by laying her index finger lightly across his lips. "Giles, I'm not asking you to sneak upstairs and make love to me in my mother's house. I know I'm not ready for that. I don't think you are, either. I'm just asking you to kiss me. Please?"

Giles swallowed hard, looking down into those huge, hypnotic eyes. His hand moved to cup her cheek and she leaned into the caress, nuzzling slightly. His hand slid back, his fingers sliding into her hair at the nape of her neck. Buffy's head fell back slightly, her lips parting just the tiniest bit. His thumb swept idly across her cheek, feeling the sweet softness of her skin, and he slowly lowered his mouth to hers.

Giles's lips touched Buffy's with a gentleness that reached right in and wrapped itself around her heart. At first his lips barely brushed hers: seeking, questioning; and she whimpered low in her throat. His lips brushed hers again, a feather's gentle stroke, and then a third time, more firmly. Buffy pressed herself into him, his warmth and nearness making her dizzy. She gasped when she felt his tongue gently touch her lips, then tentatively reached out with her own tongue to touch his.

All he could think was that she tasted sweet. God, she was so sweet. Her hands clutched at his waist and her mouth opened beneath his sensual assault, inviting him to enter and explore the warm cavern; he did so with pleasure, sliding his tongue against hers and tasting the faint echo of the wine they'd shared at dinner. A whimper slipped out of her and his hand tightened on the back of her neck, his other hand splayed wide across her back.

There was a rushing in Buffy's head, the kind of giddy dizziness of a small child just off a merry-go-round that went a little too fast. She felt as though the world was spinning around her and all she could do was hold onto him, clutching desperately and falling into the delicious sensation of his mouth on hers.

When he finally released her mouth, Buffy's eyes were dilated and her lips swollen. Her hair was a little mussed from his hands being buried in it, and her breath was coming in quick, shallow pants. Her heart was beating so hard in her chest that she was afraid it would burst out at any moment, and all she could think was that she wanted more - so much more.

He soothed her cheeks with his thumbs until her breathing had calmed down, then smiled down at her, his own eyes dark with his desire. "You'd best go on inside now, Buffy," he said softly. "Your mum's probably waiting up for you."

She wanted to protest; she wanted him to kiss her again. But she could see on his face that his control was slipping. Neither of them was ready for this to go to the next level and if she pushed it, there would undoubtedly be badness. She nodded, standing. He walked with her over to the front door, waited until she had stepped inside, and then took her hand, bringing the palm up to his lips for a final kiss. "Good night, Buffy," he whispered. Then he was gone, down the sidewalk and headed for his car.

She watched him get into the Escalade and drive away, then turned away from the front door, shutting and locking it behind her, a huge, silly grin on her face.

She felt like she was floating in a dream. His kiss had been unlike any other she'd ever experienced. God, but that man was just exactly what she needed. She took two steps forward, heading for the stairs, and then fell to her knees on the rug with a soft thump as an excruciating pain wracked her body.

She wanted to scream. She wanted to scream out her pain to the world; she had never felt pain like this before in her life. It was as though every cell of her body were on fire. She would have screamed, but she couldn't draw breath through the pain.

At first, she thought the blackness before her was due to her lack of oxygen and that she was passing out. Then she looked down slightly and realized that it was not: it was actually coming out of her. It was a smoky, tarry substance and it was probably that, according to some analytical part of her mind that kept functioning through the agony, which was causing her pain. It was definitely that which was causing her fear.

The pain ended as abruptly as it had begun the moment the smoke finished pouring out of her body, leaving a tingling sort of sensation behind it. She dropped to all fours, panting, then looked up toward the thick, oily cloud which hung above her, menacingly. "Wh-what.?" she panted.

A voice she recognized only too well screamed out at her from the thick cloud. "You cannot escape me! I will have you!"

She coughed slightly. "Looks. like I did," she said softly, baring her teeth in a frightening grin. "You're over there and I'm over here."

The cloud flew at her, obviously intending to re-enter her body forcefully, but was deflected at the last moment, almost as though bouncing off an invisible force field around Buffy. It screamed in fury and tried again and again, battering itself against whatever wall was there, trying to get to her. It could not. Thwarted, it roared out its fury and vanished out into the night, pouring itself through the wooden front door.

Buffy remained on her knees for a long moment. "Well," she finally said aloud to herself. "That was something entirely new and different." She reached for the banister, pulling herself to her feet shakily. Then she took one step forward and collapsed on the stairs, her head striking the risers with a sharp thump.

Read the next chapter: Boldly Going Where No Buffy Has Gone Before