Hallelujah

“Buffy, I can't.”

“Why not? You promised you'd at least try to do the honourable thing.”

“That was before you decided you wanted me to look like...I don't know what...and to well…you know…”

“Giles, you look great. Would you have preferred tweed? I mean, I actually thought you were getting close to cool there for a while. And you do actually have some nice clothes of your own, now.”

“Yes, but my own clothes at least allow me to sit down and still speak in a voice somewhere below alto-soprano,” he growled, trying to pull subtlely at his inside leg. “And in an interesting twist most of my shirts have collars that actually go around one's neck.”

He stepped off the bottom step and came into the living room with his hands spread wide.

Buffy ran her eyes over the long legs encased in skin-hugging blue designer denim, the outline of his hips, small, firm butt and the expensive black, wide-necked, short-sleeved, blousy shirt she'd found to complete the look. With his hair slightly gelled and no glasses, Giles looked incredibly sexy in the gear she'd bought for him and the look she'd created over his objections. The only parts that actually belonged to him were the Doc Martens under the jeans. Buffy hadn't even attempted to ask what Giles was doing with his own 'Docs'.

“Very sexy. I don't know what your problem is, mister. You didn't even have to pay for this stuff. Are you ready?”

“Must I?”

She nodded, smiling. Vengeance was going to be sweet. “That's what you get for trying to be big superior guy, not listening to your Slayer, not to mention making stupid bets.

Giles rolled his eyes. “Yes, well, I know my demons and I knew that thing was a Metakis demon…”

“…And you just knew he was going to spit up acid all over my clothes, right?”

“Our clothes,” Giles replied, turning a bright shade of red.

Buffy snorted. “So there we are in the middle of the docks, where anyone could have seen us with Metakis vomit all over us and you're telling me it's strip or burn…”

Giles colour deepened. “I've already apologised five times. It isn't as though I didn't strip as well.”

Buffy scowled at him. “Funny how my JAG shirt is just fine now that the purple goop has been washed out of it.”

He looked away. “Y-yes, well, I couldn't know without checking my books that a juvenile Metakis has all the potency of a half-sucked lemon, could I?”

Buffy's eyes took in every impressive inch of him, remembering what that body looked like unclothed except for tiny navy blue satin boxers. It had been an eye opener in more ways than one. His body, which she had never really seriously considered before, was not middle-aged, or soft or gone to seed.

She had been surprised to find herself hard-pressed not to stare at the nicely defined pectorals, wide shoulders, strangely compelling pattern of golden brown, grey and dark hairs across them and trailing down to his navel, the smooth, but firm contour of his stomach and hips and the long, gorgeous legs that completed the picture.

He'd stood there holding his muck covered pants and sweater, waiting for them to disintegrate, only to die of embarrassment when they didn't, leaving Buffy facing him with her hands on her own near-naked hips, clad only in a matching soft crock top and briefs, high cut, but, thankfully, not too revealing.

“Giles?” she'd demanded, metaphorically tapping her foot.

“Well…um…I…I…I really…don't understand,” he'd stammered, staring at the clothes.

“Neither do I. If you were anyone else…and especially if you were Xander…you'd be in so much trouble right now…”

He looked up, his face glowing, then looked down again swiftly. “I-I know…sorry about that. I sh-shall have to research the Metakis more thoroughly. I-I don't know what to say.”

“How about: 'you can get dressed again in your clothes, now, Buffy, even though they happen to be covered in surprisingly non-corrosive purple snot?'” she'd teased.

“Buffy, really, I….”

“I know. But you owe me. When I said it looked harmless but gross, you said I didn't know what I was talking about. Pay up on your bet.”

“My bet? You don't seriously want me to act on a wager made in a moment of stress?” he asked, alarmed.

“You bet me it was corrosive…worse than hydrochloric acid, you said. You said you'd bet me anything…anything I could name.”

Giles snorted. “You bet me that it wasn't,” he corrected. “What do you want? I'm not letting you drive the car.”

Buffy had made a face. “I should, just for that. But that's not what I want. I never got to hear you sing. Last year the guys talked about it all the time. I want you to sing for me, BUT,” she added, just when he was going to relax, relieved, and agree to her terms. “But, I want to choose your outfit and the songs, and I want you to do it in your apartment.”

Giles said something under his breath. “Done, as long as it involves rather more clothes than I'm wearing now. Aren't you cold?”

“No promises.” A distinctly mischievous Buffy had looked him up and down. She grinned. “And yeah. Nearly as cold as you are,” she teased.

Giles looked down at the puckered flesh of his nipples and the goose-pimples across his chest and down his arms.

“Ha, ha,” he growled and finally looked up again. “Circuit-breakers giving you problems of your own?” He grinned almost smugly, his amused smile widening as she looked down, made a noise, and her arms crossed her body over the rigid peaks beneath the soft pink and grey cotton stretch top.

Buffy had then snatched up her clothes and shaken the excess goop off them before gingerly dressing, Giles following suit.

“A bet is a bet,” she'd warned him as they had headed for home on foot, Giles refusing to allow either of them into his nice clean car in their condition.

Buffy's thoughts returned to the present and the man standing in front of her. It was kind of disturbing to find herself appreciating the view quite so much. What had started as a fun joke, to make Giles pay for embarrassing them both, now seemed to be much more.

He was still Giles, and yet…well, he was a guy. Giles had never been a 'guy' guy before. Not to any part of her, except when she'd seen him with Olivia, or kissing Jenny…or when they were training at the Magic Box and she could smell his sweat, his cologne… the herbal shampoo he used…

She swallowed. Where had that come from? She'd never even thought about his shampoo…or his sweat…or that cologne…the cologne he'd been wearing for as long as she could remember…all mixed up with…

“Giles, you don't have to do this,” she said suddenly. “It's okay. It was a joke, and I care about you too much to…”

“Buffy?”

“I-Im sorry,” she said uncomfortably.

Giles smiled slowly. “Thank you. I certainly wasn't looking forward to removing my clothing again, even one piece at a time.”

Buffy shrugged. “And you don't have to sing Big Spender or Touch-a Touch-a me, either,” she added. “Like I said, I got carried away with the joke…it was stupid, and it's over. Except, I really did…”

“Really did what?” Giles asked, his voice warm with affection and tenderness. He knew when he'd got off lightly.

Buffy looked up slowly, her eyes, soft bluish-grey today, as they often were, meeting his.

“I really did want to hear you sing. But you don't have to…not any more. We could just do, like, tea or something…talk about training, maybe?”

Giles' brow knitted slightly, trying to work out what was really going on. It was neither like Buffy to change her mind about making him squirm…any more than Jenny ever used to relent when she had the chance to do the same thing, nor was it at all like her to have such a high colour or look so uncomfortable around him for any reason.

“Y-you would really like to hear me…play?” he asked awkwardly.

Buffy nodded.

His perplexed frowned deepened a little, but he stepped over to where the guitar was resting near the fireplace and picked it up.

Buffy watched him sit down and begin to tune it, more confused than ever. A part of her felt a swell of affection for the man who had been such an irreplaceable part of her life for so long, but another part of her was watching his jeans strain almost to breaking…or ripping…point as he sat down. It was giving her a headache…this apparent clash of hormones and her usual taking for granted of this complex individual who was so much a part of her…

After a beat she went and sat on the other end of the couch, content to watch his bent head for the moment.

When he was done gently coaxing the strings into cooperating to his satisfaction, he looked up and smiled.

Buffy's heart banged against the wall of her chest, dazing her even more. It was just too weird. His smile…his real, open, unconscious smile, was something she couldn't ever remember seeing. All they ever shared were those little moments of subdued amusement, the slight curving upwards of those sensual lips, in approval, affection or again, amusement. What was even weirder that she could never remember Giles truly grinning with pleasure. Not for her…not ever.

Not like that.

She managed to smile back, unaware that her heart was in her eyes.

He faltered for a moment, then fell again to extracting a song from the old guitar, trying not to think about the look he'd seen in eyes that normally only regarded him with tolerant fondness at best, amusement and irritation at worst.

Buffy listened to his beautiful voice blending with the strings as he sang. She found it difficult to believe it was Giles bringing the haunting, melancholy tune to life. She knew it and she knew how difficult of a piece it was, despite her limited ability to keep up with normal things like music, television, cinema and the like. The first time she'd heard the artist in question singing the song, Hallelujah, she'd been transfixed.

And now, again, the beautiful range of Giles' voice, the emotion and the passion with which he was bringing it to life moved her almost to tears. Tears not least because her only previous reaction to the idea of Giles singing had been childish and stupid.

She looked at his bent head now as he held a note with poignant clarity and wondered how she had managed to be so blind.

Oh Giles

Buffy closed her eyes for a moment and just listened. It was easier that way. After everything that had happened to them…and so much had happened since they came together…not just this horrible year where the world had come apart around them, where the only good thing to come out of the chaos had been Dawn…here they were, after all of it, together, as ever, as though their places in the universe would always be alongside each other. She shivered…but alongside each other how?

Giles was her Watcher, her friend…perhaps her very best friend, now. Travers had once implied that he was her father figure…but the old Watcher was clueless…clueless enough to turn around and make lewdly suggestive inferences about their training on his last visit…

She wrinkled her nose at her thoughts, even as Giles' voice seeped all the way down to her bones, making her almost sigh out loud as he held the last note for an amazing amount of time, just like the original arrangement.

When his voice finally faded he lifted his head slowly.

Buffy found herself staring into the softest green eyes, half smiling, half self-conscious as they waited for her verdict, but all Giles. She immediately wondered why she'd never told him how much she loved them, but the answer was immediately there. It always seemed too icky to talk to him about anything so intimate...

Well, it didn't feel icky now. It felt…it felt like she'd wasted a great deal of time…and, God, made some horrible mistakes since the day she'd found Olivia in his apartment for the first time.

“Th-that was beautiful,” she croaked. “Y-you…I…Giles…I-I love your eyes,” she evaded feebly.

Giles' head tilted a little and his grin widened a little lopsidedly as his colour rose.

“Buffy? Are you quite all right?” he asked, almost bashfully.

She blinked, then swallowed, and finally nodded. “I'm fine. Really I am. I just…I never told you…I haven't told you…”

His smiled faded as she ground to a halt, too flustered to continue.

“Would you like something to drink?” he asked quietly.

She shook her head. “Giles, h-have you ever had…like…a sudden revelation…something so big you couldn't make the words…come out right?”

Again the dear head tilted, his eyes bright with curiosity, puzzlement, and perhaps the slightest hint of anticipation. His brows drew together in the endearing way they always did when he was perplexed, making that little divot above the bridge of his nose.

“ I'm not sure I understand,” he said softly. “We all have epiphanies, or moments of clarity, at some time in our lives…and I suppose they are a little overwhelming…”

She nodded vigorously. “Very.” Then, when their eyes met again, she grew very still for a moment. “Very,” she repeated, and moved toward him, surprising him again.

He was still looking up at her when she halted just a few inches from him and reached out, hesitantly at first then with conviction, to touch his face.

It was warm to her fingertips, and soon grew warmer as colour flooded into it, the green eyes refusing now to relinquish hers.

She caressed the stubbly cheek, traced his brow with a forefinger before following the line of his jaw to his mouth and touching his lips, parted as they were, slightly, in stunned surprise.

A moment later he stood up, swallowing hard.

“Buffy?” he whispered.

Her hand dropped to her side. “My epiphany,” she told him, allowing her trembling mouth to form the semblance of a smile. “Crazy huh?” She shrugged, trying not to show the depth of her hurt at his withdrawal.

Giles' mouth dropped open a little further and his expression grew…complicated.

Buffy tried and failed to read it, and felt like bursting into tears. Instead she waited, silently.

Finally, he cleared his throat and his colour subsided a little. “Not crazy,” he said almost too softly. “Unless you want it to be.”

Her eyes widened and her palms suddenly felt wet, her chest an agony of thumping from her out-of-control heart. She shook her head and heard his swiftly indrawn breath.

“I…I don't know what I want, Giles. I don't know who we are any more,” she heard herself say.

He grew very, very still. “We are the same people we were five minutes ago,” he said in a voice that held her riveted. “I am still the man you never see when you look at me and you are the woman I…” His eyes slid away.

“Say it, Giles,” she whispered.

The silence stretched.

“I love you,” he managed, finally, still without looking up.

For just a fraction of a second it looked as though all the bones in Buffy's body had disintegrated at the same time, then she caught herself and straightened, her mouth again trembling and her eyes growing almost luminous with emotion.

“I saw a man tonight,” she said hoarsely. “And fell in love with him on sight. That's what I was trying to tell you…help me, Giles…I-I don't know how to…I'll just mess it up…”

His head came up and he came to her, closing his eyes as she moved into his arms and their embrace melded them into one.

It continued for an almost endless moment, neither of them willing to become islands again, now that, finally, they had both come home…

Eventually they both moved to separate and the awkwardness returned.

Giles snorted silently at his self-consciousness. No other woman had made him this idiotically…idiotic. It stopped now.

“I know I'm not suitable and I'm too old…I know you deserve better, Buffy, but I want you to know how much I love you…have loved you since…well, let's just say its seems an eternity,” he managed to stammer.

Buffy stopped panicking and looked up at him, saw the fear in his eyes. “Anyone else but you and that statement would be wigging me out to the max,” she said gently. “I've always loved you, Giles. I can't believe I only realised today that I'm in love with you. I feel like I should ask someone to tattoo 'Duh, Buffy,' across my forehead.”

He chuckled, but his emotions were in his eyes. He touched her creamy brow.

“I like it just the way it is.”

She leaned into the fingers and closed her eyes for a moment, before opening them again and looking up at him. With anyone else she would just let things take their course, would want them to, but with Giles, it was so new, so…

“What do we do now?” she blurted, an almost panicked note in her voice.

For a moment so fleeting that Buffy missed it, hurt darkened his eyes and extinguished the glow in them. Then he chuckled.

“What do you want to do?”

“This isn't funny,” she retorted, feeling stupid.

“Of course it is,” he said, the amusement still not reaching his eyes. “Every boyfriend you've had…each one of whom I've hated with a passion, by the way, has had the benefit of your spontaneous affection, even in plain view…now here you are dumbstruck because you'd discovered you have feelings for someone you think is-is out of the bloody Ark.”

That did it. Buffy stepped forward and drew his face down to hers. Her mouth demanded the attention of his, melting into it, even taking his bottom lip between hers.

For a moment Giles stood frozen, then his arms slid around her and held her as he assumed control of the kiss, tilting her head back and caressing her lips with his before covering them with his own.

It was a long time before the kiss ended.

Buffy drew back first. “I told you I loved you,” she growled in a tone that sounded more like: 'now see what you made me do!'

In reply Giles took her in his arms and kissed her again, this time fiercely and possessively, until he released her, both of their colours high, both of them breathless.

“And I told you I love you,” he retorted.

“So does that mean I should make with another spontaneous gesture of affection?” she asked facetiously.

He finally smiled again. “Many, many of them,” he said with feeling as Buffy walked back into his embrace.

“I think something can be arranged,” she purred and kissed the base of his throat.

Giles swept her into his arms.

“What are you doing?” she huffed.

“Spontaneously carrying you upstairs,” he said matter-of-factly as they traversed the small distance to the steps.

Buffy giggled. “I like a man of action.”

Giles reached the landing, breathing very heavily. “And I like a woman who knows how to giggle,” he said with great affection.

It had been a very long time since Buffy had giggled about anything. Her expression grew tender and she touched his exertion-flushed cheek. After a moment of charged silence she grinned again.

“C'mon old guy, before you burst something.”

As though on cue Giles staggered forward, through the doorway and dumped her on the bed.

“Oh…dear God,” he muttered, still bent, and holding his lower back as she untangled herself, and looked up.

“Giles!” she jumped up, mortified, and immediately started massaging the offending area until the silence prompted her to look at his face, or at least his profile. He was grinning like a smug Cheshire cat.

“You!” she muttered. “There's nothing wrong with your back!” Without thinking she started to tickle his sides with a vengeance.

“Buffy!”

Giles jumped and wriggled and tried to free himself, unable to restrain his laughter as she continued to use her Slayer strength to wreak revenge. Eventually he squirmed enough to turn around and grab her before pulling them both, laughing, back onto the bed, so that Buffy ended up sprawled on top of him.

A moment later they were lost in a passionate kiss, and then they were just lost, the little apartment settling into a smug, contented silence as life within it changed forever…



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