You should have been there, Buffy. It was the most incredible thing. He just keeps getting better and
Buffy rolled her eyes again. She wanted to snuggle down and go to sleep. Since 'the incident,' she hadn't slept very well, and this was the third time Willow had brought up the subject of Giles' new job.
Whatever, she muttered, sliding down under her covers.
Willow frowned. Why did you say Giles singing was creepy? she asked suddenly.
Buffy looked over at her from pillow-level. That was unexpected. Because it is ? she offered facetiously.
Buffy, Willow growled, in a tone she only used when she was really ticked. Buffy reluctantly pushed herself up onto an elbow.
This is Giles we're talking about, Will. Not Ronan Keating or Ricky Martin. Giles. Singing. Earring. Giles.
And ? Willow demanded. You know, I'm tired of you dumping on Giles. You treat him like he's sixty instead of still being a 'guy' guy. Another frown appeared between her brows for a moment then she focused on Buffy again. Did you notice that you only dump on him when someone else says something nice, like how sexy he is ? It's like you only notice him when someone else wants him.
Eieww! You WANT Giles? Willow, you need help!
Willow's mouth drew into a flat line. See what I mean? You did it when Faith was being nice to him. You did it when Jenny was around. Now you're doing it with me. For all I know you did it when Olivia was around too.
Buffy suddenly became very interested in a piece of lint on her blanket.
You're kidding? What did you say to him? She was disappointed but not surprised.
Buffy shrugged. That he was very, very old, and it was gross.
Willow snorted. You know, you can be a real bitca, sometimes.
Normally Buffy would have laughed at Willow's use of Xander's joke word, but this time she looked up at her friend uncomfortably. It's Giles she said helplessly.
And Giles is ? Come on, Buffy. Just for once I want a straight answer. I'm tired of the big productions every time someone actually sees Giles as a guy instead of just this this whatever it is you and Xander think he is. At least I know Xander really loves him
Buffy rolled her eyes again. Gross, Will.
Shut up, Buffy, she snapped, wishing she hadn't started the whole discussion in the first place. If Giles hadn't been there these last three years, do you think Xander would have made it to graduation? The only reason he didn't let his father push him out into a job, or just plain give up, is because he didn't want Giles to be disappointed in him.
You wouldn't let him do that, either, Will.
I would have tried to talk him out of it, but Giles didn't have to say anything.
Buffy seemed to look inward for a moment. No, I guess not, she said softly. He mostly doesn't, does he?
Have to say anything
Willow's expression softened a little. No, he doesn't. That's the thing about Giles. We all love him, and we all take him for granted.
Love him ? Buffy said softly, trying out the words. She looked inward again, then up at her friend. You really love him you and Xand?
Willow nodded. And so do you, whether you see it or not.
Buffy's eyes widened a little, a thousand small moments from the last three years pouring through her mind at the speed of light, then spinning down like a roulette wheel and coming to a halt on just one
The clear, undiminished memory of her fear as she stood at his door at the end of that terrible summer, waiting for it to open, hung, vivid in her mind. Then the door opened and she could see his face and remember the endless moment that followed
I see it, she whispered, finally. She rarely let herself remember that moment. It only made what she'd done seem even worse. What happened to us, Will?
Willow wasn't completely sure who 'us' was, or if Buffy even knew who she meant.
Everything, she said quietly. Angel came back. Faith came, she rolled her eyes. You and Giles quitting the Council the world almost ending again there, a time or two, er three; growing up
Buffy scowled. I don't think I like growing up very much. I'm not good at it.
Willow smiled wryly. Everyone's noticed. You've been so weird since we started college. Scary, almost.
It's true. You were more together more grown up back when you started at Sunnydale, Buff. Since we started college I don't know what happened to you but you're not you any more.
I'm not? I mean, I'm not, Buffy frowned. I know I'm different. But I'm really trying. I'm trying to be grown-up, take charge Slay-girl, fun college girl and everything, and
It's not working, Willow said succinctly.
Buffy stopped babbling. I know, she said unhappily. I can't be everything. I just don't have the stuff to go around, you know? If I have to get the job done I can't risk falling to pieces because I'm scared A memory of Giles in terrible pain, both physical and emotional, vivid, horrible scratches standing out on his face, while she made herself calmly plan to save the world yet again, twisted her insides. And I get so scared...
Is that supposed to explain why you stopped having time for any of us, especially Giles? Why you suddenly became GI-Buffy and we all got so invisible?
Buffy looked away. You're not going to let me forget that, are you?
Willow shook her head. Nope. It hurt, Buffy. A-And not just me I mean, I know I was having my own wallow-fest there for a while, y'know, after Oz, but you you hurt everyone, especially Giles.
Especially Giles? I thought after he did the big demon thing that he was just mad about being out of the loop? That I needed to talk to him more about stuff
Willow slid out of bed suddenly and prowled across to her computer, her fists clenched. Finally she turned back to her friend.
What's wrong with you? she demanded, her voice a mixture of anger and despondency. He he loves you and you you treat him like like crap, she yelled, suddenly, unexpectedly.
Buffy sat up straight, shocked at the strength of Willow's feelings. She'd heard Willow swear before, but it wasn't normally the girl's weapon of choice for dealing with issues.
And then it slowly began to sink in.
He loves you
She closed her eyes. Of course she knew. She knew only too well had known since her eighteenth birthday, if she hadn't already known long before that
A memory of Giles hitting the floor with a thud and Jenny Calendar looking up at her appeared from nowhere
Giles who, even then, had been willing to die for her
Buffy opened her eyes and faced her friend, who had returned to sit cross-legged on her bed.
He loves you too, Will. He'd never say so in a million years, but he cares about all of us, Buffy said slowly. We're all of us we're family more even than blood. I mean, let's face, it our own families aren't exactly Brady Bunch material
Willow sighed. She should have known Buffy wasn't as clueless as she appeared to be.
You know that only makes it worse, she said quietly.
That you've known all along how much he cares about you, and you still did what you did what you've done to him. You know what I mean!
Buffy screwed up her face. Not really, Will, she said dryly. But I'm guessing you're going to tell me anyway.
Damned right! Willow scowled. Maggie Walsh for one since when iswas she smarter or better than Giles? And the Initiative for two; three years we were a team, the four of us. We may not have had guns and radar and all that hi-tech stuff but we always got things done And you dump us without even so much as a 'what do you think?' for the testosterone patrol shoot first and 'uh, what's a question?' she mugged and rolled her eyes. You as good as told us all we were obsolete, not good enough for you and you hurt him, Buffy. You hurt him bad.
It was Buffy's turn to get up and prowl the room. How can you know that? Giles doesn't
He does, Willow said quietly. If you're there to listen. He may not advertise like we do, but he gets lonely, he hurts and he needs to talk, like anyone else.
And he talks to you? Buffy demanded angrily.
Sometimes, Willow retorted. A little when we're researching, or even when I make cookies
Buffy stopped suddenly. You're still making cookies?
Willow coloured violently. I have very deep guilt a-and he likes them. I-It'll bottom out soon. Besides we're not talking about cookies. We're talking about Giles noticing the big Buffy no-shows the big Buffy no-caring. I heard you, you know.
Buffy put her hands on her hips. Willow upset was harder to follow than an invisible demon. Heard what?
At your birthday. I heard what you said to him.
Buffy shook her head helplessly. Said what? I didn't say anything
Willow's eyes glistened and red splashes glowed in her pale cheeks. You said Maggie was the smartest person you knew and why would anyone who's forty want to hang around a bunch of kids
Well why would ? Oh Buffy's righteous indignation drained away leaving a hollow in the pit of her stomach. God, Willow, can't you, like, stuff something in my mouth when I'm being that big of a moron? She stopped to remember the rest. Oh, no. Riley asked him if he was retired and later, Professor Walsh No wonder he was so
Yeah, Willow said. He was so and where were you?
Buffy shifted uncomfortably. Trying to get a life trying to make sense of mine
Willow looked at her speculatively, anger making the green eyes flash and the red patches in her cheeks burn even brighter.
With Riley? You know, it's not my place to say this, but frankly I don't give a flying f er leap, any more. The truth is, you're not being fair to Riley, either.
Oh...really? Buffy said dangerously.
Willow, however, didn't care. You're just using him you you know he won't hurt you you know he loves you and you can play the love game all you want without getting hurt yourself because you don't love him. It's mean, Buffy.
Buffy's blue eyes clouded and her mouth set mutinously. I love Riley.
Willow shook her head. He's like Parker just there so you don't have to be alone. With Angel there was passion, there was chemistry with Riley it's like two little kids playing sweethearts no fire like none of it's real, at least not to you.
I love Riley, Buffy said again, but it sounded hollow even to her ears.
Willow sighed heavily. It was going to take more than talking to wake her friend up.
You know, she said, resigned, this discussion is going nowhere and we were turning in early for a reason. She opened the bedside drawer and took out a miniature cassette player, stood it on her side table. Tara and I went to see him again the other night. I made this so I'd have something in case he quits or something. She pushed the play button, turned off her overhead light and curled up in her blankets.
Buffy, who hadn't bothered to turn on her own overhead light, stood silently in the dark, listening to the gentle voice and the lonely notes of the accompanying guitar.
When, eventually, she turned and picked up her jeans from the end of her bed, the moonlight streaming in the window glinted on moisture, sparkling like silver shards on the smooth, pale cheeks
He had one set left to play at least he liked to call them sets the informality of the Espresso bar didn't really lend itself to structure. Sometimes he didn't do more than one or two numbers when it was really quiet.
He pulled a little at the collar of his new, open-necked shirt, shifted again then started to play. There was the usual gratifying cessation of cup rattling, background murmuring, and chatter as he completed the intro in the intimate light.
This had rapidly become his signature song. Even the regulars behind the counter expected to hear it now, before his evening was over. He wasn't sure he was pleased about that. There was a raw truth to it that still managed to touch sensitive places at times
He looked up from contemplating the strings of his guitar, an ache once again in his soul, as he sang:
I have time, only lonely
And found himself looking into the grey-blue eyes of a figure standing in the shadows. Eyes he knew as intimately as his own
With difficulty he continued the song as they watched him, unblinking, unmoving, until he was done. Immediately he finished, he put down the instrument and got up, but she was gone. It hurt, more than he believed possible more than it had any right to
The tap on the door came just as he lifted the Scotch decanter. He put it down again and went reluctantly to answer it. Nobody he knew bothered to knock any more, and the last thing he needed was to deal with strangers now. After the last few days or last several months, actually, when it came to her all he really wanted to do was wallow in some good, rather comforting, self-pity
The blue eyes looked up at him, just as they had all those months ago after that nightmare bloody summer silently, pleadingly. He couldn't help the warmth that spread through his body and glowed brightly in his eyes, just as he couldn't then. He just couldn't
Buffy ? he said finally, when the memory of his exquisite relief, joy, and exaltation in that single, brief moment, had subsided.
C-can I come in?
He nodded dumbly and opened the door further, watched her through it, closed it behind them.
You were good, she said as she turned.
I mean, really good. Willow said you were.
Giles tilted his head to one side. And it's appreciated, he said softly. To what do I owe the honour of this unscheduled visit?
She looked away again. We had a fight At Giles' mild snort she turned back. Will and me. We we argued about you.
She nodded awkwardly. Will Willow thinks She shrugged. She likes the new you a lot.
But you don't?
She coloured beautifully, but held his gaze this time, before her eyes travelled slowly to his new silver hoop, down the line of the soft, light blue shirt to his jeans and the new boots he'd finally been able to buy for himself. They lifted to his again.
I like the old you my you she said self consciously. Pre-Hugh Hefner, pre-Olivia, pre this. Her hand gestured toward his clothes. Giles, weapons, library, training, tweed, tea, she listed a little wildly. I want him back.
Things change, he said gently. You've changed.
So Willow tells me, Buffy muttered.
Giles' eyebrows rose.
Don't be so surprised. Your groupie wants to brain me.
Your number one fan, Buffy drawled. She who thinks your voice is so sexy
He cleared his throat. Why would Willow want to 'brain' you? he managed.
Do I really have to count the ways or the reasons? You know better even than Will why I should be beaten to death with my own stake.
He couldn't help a choked laugh. Yes, well, as evocative and satisfying as that image might be, I think perhaps you're being a little hard on yourself.
She turned to him fully then, looked into his eyes. No, I'm not, she said quietly. And neither was Willow.
He watched her silently, wondering what was going on in that beautiful head.
Why can't things be the way they used to be? Why does everything have to change?
Good question, he said, almost sadly, and one I've asked myself frequently in recent months.
He smiled at her genuine surprise. I have, he confirmed softly. You didn't think I would miss you?
Buffy's eyes widened for a moment. No, I didn't think you'd miss training, or my callisthenics music
He snorted again. That wasn't music.
Neither was the Bay City Rollers, she retorted. And I didn't think you'd miss researching all night, running interference for me with Snyder, getting hurt all the time
Or having me around to bug you, she finished wistfully.
Giles tensed, then turned and moved back to the Scotch decanter.
Buffy watched him pour a drink, wondering what the hell just happened, her mouth drawing even tighter as he downed it.
Why do you do that?
He didn't turn. Because there isn't anything else, he said too softly to be heard.
I'd have thought you lot were enough to drive any man to drink, he said aloud.
But Buffy was used to listening for whispers in the night. She had heard him the first time
Her blue eyes stared at the rigid back, still at a loss.
Not all of us, she said tremulously. Just me. Witness my mom when she threw me out of the house and when I came back and with Spike, when Willow's spell not to mention you and Ethan I'm a regular Pollyanna.
He half turned and shook his head. It has nothing to do with you.
He wheeled back. Buffy!
She stepped toward him.
Liar, she repeated, searching the darkening green depths for perhaps the first time since she'd almost killed him while he was in demon form.
Believe what you want, he said harshly, the raw hurt so fleetingly visible in them extinguished by the shutters that slammed down on his face.
Fine, Buffy growled. I will.
He made a noise in his throat and turned back to the decanter.
No! The word was torn from her.
He stopped, his shoulders hunching, startled, but didn't turn.
It bothers you that much?
She nodded. Last time last time I I saw you, when Eyghon you Giles, please, I don't want to see you like that hurting like that, again
He made another disbelieving noise under his breath and slammed the decanter down again, glass still empty.
Will you allow me no peace? he growled and stalked to the kitchen without waiting for an answer.
Buffy blinked. Peace ?
She turned when she heard him slamming tea mugs on the counter, turning on the electric kettle and slamming drawers. And when a big hand stretched out as she watched moments later, to switch off the whistling kettle, she realised it was trembling.
She shivered, a hollow, sick feeling in her stomach. What was she doing there? And why was she doing this to him? Another tremor went through her. Doing what to him?
He was assembling the tray, reaching up into a high cupboard for his 'biscuit tin' as he insisted on calling it. Something fell out of the cupboard as he pulled the tin down and he bent to pick it up. When he straightened he was still looking at whatever was in his hand, and a moment after that had grown very still, too still.
He still hadn't moved when she came to his side and looked down at the tattered item in his hand. It was a handbill from her attempt to run against Cordelia for Homecoming Queen.
Buffy gazed at it. Of all the dumb things God, I look horrible, she said, finally breaking the silence. I thought we burned all those things?
He looked at her silently, expressionlessly, then slowly crumpled the piece of paper and handed it to her, before picking up his tray and heading back into the living room.
Buffy stared after him, her own hands less than steady as she turned, deposited the crumpled page in the sink and purposefully made another cup of tea.
Giles didn't even look up when she sat alongside him, hands clamped around her mug to keep them still, not noticing that he was doing exactly the same thing. They drank in uncomfortable silence, Buffy determined to stay, desperate to make things right.
Giles ? She finally said, very softly.
He turned his head and found her looking at him with troubled eyes.
Are you the way you sang that song to me tonight She put her cup down with still less than steady fingers. I-Is that you ? Behind blue eyes ?
His eyes widened in surprise then narrowed. What do you think?
Her expression wavered for a moment, then she frowned. I think that's kind of the problem, why Willow is mad at me. I don't know. I don't know who you are any more; I haven't known since the first day of college
Are you sure you want to, now? he asked carefully.
She looked down at her cup again. I think so.
Why? After all this time why now?
Why not? she muttered.
Giles stood up suddenly, went to his fireplace, put his hands on the mantelpiece.
Don't play games with me, Buffy, he said softly, knowing she would hear.
She closed her eyes. No games, Giles. Just me being scared to death.
He turned. You afraid?
She nodded without opening her eyes. I've been scared since the first day of college scared of being alone, scared of losing the people I love scared of everything changing so fast She finally opened her eyes and looked up. I never wanted to be 'take charge' girl I never wanted to do it without you, Giles.
You had to, he whispered. I couldn't be there you had to be able to do it without me.
She looked up at him with those eyes again and his heart almost broke. But you stayed
I had to.
Even when I was such a such a bitca? she asked bitterly.
Even then. I couldn't leave you, Buffy. You are my He stopped, reddened and turned back to the fireplace.
Buffy came to her feet, not sure what to do, not sure what was happening, but certain of one thing.
I am, she said softly. And I always will be.
His head dropped, but he didn't turn. You're wrong. You don't need me any more, he said harshly. If you moved my library to Xander's basement I would never see you.
Buffy's mouth dropped open. The hurt in his voice almost throbbed. But the part that made her heart ache was that he was right. Suddenly everything Willow said made perfect sense everything
She closed her eyes again, her heart pounding. She didn't know what to do, what to say didn't even know what she wanted, except that she couldn't bear to see him in so much pain.
I'm sorry, Giles, she said quietly, really sorry it's just, 'take charge girl,' you know Buffy trying to stand on her own two feet and tripping over them instead. I never meant to hurt you not ever.
And that helps no end, he snorted and finally faced her. Why did you come, Buffy? What do you want from me now? he demanded, his tone growing harsher and harsher.
Riley busy tonight?
She stepped back. Riley has nothing to do with this.
He went and deliberately poured another drink, threw it back, turned slowly. No I don't suppose he has.
Her eyes narrowed. You don't think it's real, either.
I beg your pardon?
She stared at him for a long moment debating whether to answer or not.
Willow says I don't love him. That I'm with Riley because he can't hurt me.
Giles was suddenly very glad of the second drink. And you? he managed, surprisingly calmly.
I thought he was the answer to everything, she said slowly. He's sweet and gentle, strong and funny and he'd never She looked up suddenly, her voice tapering off into stunned silence. No I don't love him, she managed, startled at her own honesty, her voice little more than a dry whisper.
Giles neither moved nor spoke, searching her face for answers, his soft green eyes, his handsome features gradually relaxing back into the strong, gentle lines she knew.
Buffy swallowed, clenched her fists to stop her hands from trembling. Willows words echoed crazily through her thoughts He loves you he loves you he loves you he loves you
And you love him, whether you see it or not
I see it
I'm sorry to bother you, she half choked, mortified, and fled toward the door.
Before she could get it all the way open, however, two large hands took hold of her shoulders so that she froze and let it close again.
Giles' fingers continued to hold her gently as she stood, her eyes closed, trying to understand the maelstrom of emotions and feelings racing through her. She didn't know who she was any more...
His hands were warm and strong on her shoulders and when she started to tremble as the enormity of it all began to hit her, they drew her back against his equally warm, strong body.
A part of her wanted to pull away, to run, to scream 'no' at the top of her lungs. Instead she let herself relax into the warmth of him and leaned her head back against his chest, her trembling ceasing as his arms drew around her, covering her hands and holding them gently against her waist.
For the longest time they stayed like that, she too confused to do anything but stay there, safe and warm and comforted, and he too afraid to move, to let go...
In the end it was Buffy, unable to stand it any longer, who turned slowly in his arms and looked up at him, her eyes large and luminous, and widening even more when they saw his face.
She reached up and touched the corner of one eye. They're so blue, she said tremulously as they closed and he made the smallest of noises in his throat. Surprised, she let her fingers trail experimentally down the side of his face, felt the tremor that went through his body and the answering one that went through hers.
Willow said I loved you, she said softly, tracing his jaw with her fingertips, and and that you loved me
His eyes opened suddenly, everything he was, everything he was feeling in those intense green pools.
Buffy almost drowned in them before she realised that he was doing the same in hers. Gradually the hurt subsided and they suffused with warmth, and Buffy knew then that he had seen into her soul.
I love you, she whispered. I love you, she repeated, louder, and again, more desperately, as her arms slid around his neck, and his around her, lifting her off the ground. I love you!
Buffy Giles breathed as their mouths met, his covering hers possessively, demandingly and hers responding hungrily, desperately, trying to tell him everything she could never say with words.
It took forever for them to finally part, neither able to bear to relinquish the other. Finally, Giles lifted his head, and, suddenly self-conscious, allowed her to slide down.
The glow faded from her face and she started to step uncertainly away, only to have her hands caught by his, drawing her back, close to him again. He took her face in his hands.
Are you sure ? he demanded hoarsely.
She nodded against his long fingers and watched the slow smile that lit up his face.
I love you so much. She reached up and touched his mouth. I wanted to hurt you for not being there for hurting me I'm sorry sorry about all of it.
I never meant to hurt you, he whispered.
Buffy moved the fingers to still the velvety lips. I know. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you love me and
She was cut off by another kiss, this one slow and tender, turning her legs to jelly as she lost herself in it.
Eventually, Giles lifted his head and looked down at her flushed, glowing face, scarcely able to believe it was happening; that she could have even the remotest of feelings for him but the truth was there, in her eyes where no lies were told:
She was truly his
Suddenly it was all too much. He'd waited such a long time so long that he'd given up, cauterised the wounds on his heart and withdrawn into the background, where everyone seemed more than happy to consign him, anyway, especially her.
He stepped away, moved to sit down hard on the sofa, elbows on knees, head silently in his hands, trying to make sense of everything.
Buffy followed him, the hurt emanating from him almost palpable. When he didn't look up, she stroked his hair gently. I'm sorry, she whispered, her hand shaking. I'm so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you I love you
Then, suddenly, his arms circled her small waist and drew her between his knees, her arms circling his neck automatically as his head rested against her breast.
My God, Buffy I never expected
She looked up at the ceiling, her eyes glittering with unshed tears of anguish. She kissed his hair. I love you, she told him and kissed it again. I love you. I love you...
Giles shuddered and sighed a long sigh before shifting to draw her down into his arms, so that he was holding her in his lap, her arms around his neck. He ran a large finger down a tender cheek.
For a long moment they just looked at each other, then Buffy reached up and caught his lips, her kiss a declaration of love, desire and most of all, sorrow, letting her lips, her mouth, merge with and become his, giving herself completely.
When they parted, both were aroused and breathless and happy. Buffy reached up and touched his gently smiling face.
It's going to be okay now, isn't it?
Is it? he countered softly and drew her even closer.
She nodded. I can tell, she smiled contentedly and caressed the soft skin below his beautiful, glistening, sea-green eyes.
They're not blue any more
Giles didn't reply. He was too busy kissing her again