Buffy finished putting away the last baking dish and pie plate and straightened. Giles finished wiping down the dining table and was coming back to the kitchen with spray and cloth in hand. She watched him put them away and put a hand to his lower back.
"I knew you were going to stick me with the clean up," he said through his teeth.
Buffy made a face. "Yeah, but I'm still here, aren't I?" She frowned. "Even after you didn't tell me about Angel being here, which, you better be glad I owe you so many secrets...because if I didn't you'd still be cleaning up...by yourself," she added nonsensically.
"Yes, well," he said uncomfortably. "I said I was sorry about that, but he did it for your own good. I did suggest he tell you." He turned slowly. "So why did you stay?"
She shrugged. "When all the others cut and ran I felt bad about leaving you with Spike and all this mess, so..."
After a beat he finally smiled. A year ago she wouldn't have blinked before leaving him with the lot. "Well, it's appreciated."
She smiled back, ignoring the drumming ache beneath her sternum the mention of Angel had caused. "What I'd appreciate right now is a mocha, extra sweet. I've been dreaming of it since dinner. Pity Will did her Will-o-the-Wisp thing again. It's no fun alone." She sighed. "I guess there's always patrol as a consolation prize..."
Giles removed the cloth from his waist. "You have a place you go for these 'mochas'?" he asked.
"Oh yeah, there's this great place...pity you hate coffee," Buffy mused.
"Would you like to go...for coffee, I mean? We've been at this in one way or another, for hours...it would be rather a relief to get out of the house for a while."
Buffy smiled at him with real affection. "You hate it, don't you...not having anything to do?" She sobered. "I'm sorry about the library. I wish there had been another way..."
He shook his head. "It had to be done. It's partly my own fault, this enforced lay-off. Once I get this muddle with Immigration sorted out and my work permits in order it shouldn't be too difficult to find some sort of gainful employment."
"I wondered why a brain like you was taking so long to get a job," she teased. "Even I got a job in Los Angeles"
"And when I want to distribute greasy fast food to people who want to slap me on the rump and pinch my bottom I'll ask you for tips," he shot back.
Buffy collapsed into giggles.
Infectious giggles. The moment the words were out Giles was equally struck by the absurdity of them and joined her, until they were setting each other off just by looking at each other.
"Are you lot quite all right?" a voice finally called from the bathroom.
"I thought you were trying to get some sleep," Giles yelled back between chuckles.
"I was until you two started doing hyena impressions. Do you mind? Some of us are shift workers."
"Coffee...?" Giles repeated softly and Buffy could see he meant it.
She nodded and went to wait at the door while Giles slipped upstairs to change his sweater, which had suffered rather from her blood, dishwater, pan grease, and a mysterious green something on the bottom of one sleeve.
He was back in minutes and Buffy watched him skip down the stairs, surprised. Most of his 'new' clothes since his forced retrenchment were actually old sweaters and stuff resurrected to replace the daily tweed, but she was certain this was new.
"Nice shirt," she said as they left, unused to seeing him in anything that wasn't either baggy or multi-layered.
"Oh? Oh, yes. I discovered that my meagre collection consisted almost entirely of rather...er...well used...business shirts. Some shopping seemed in order, but I have to say that tastes have certainly changed...all I seem to have ended up with this and a drawer full of polo shirts," he chuckled.
Buffy took another look at the obviously expensive, beautifully cut, dark blue-grey shirt and the way it accentuated his broad shoulders and lean torso in the glow of the security light and was amazed how good it...no, how good he looked. She stopped, surprised.
Giles turned from unlocking the car. "Something wrong?"
"Me?" She shook her head. "No. I...I was...just trying to remember if I turned everything off," she said lamely and winced, before hurrying to the car and climbing in.
The coffee shop was relatively quiet and they found a booth inside, the only one unoccupied, despite the Thanksgiving lull.
Giles ordered, surprising Buffy by ordering Expresso coffee for himself, even though she was sure she'd seen a continental expresso coffee pot in the apartment at one time or another.
"What?" he asked when he realised she was looking up at him bemusedly.
"Coffee? I thought you hated the stuff."
"I hate bad coffee. A good cup of coffee, like a good cup of tea, is something to savour. The Dutch...now they know how to make coffee..."
Buffy shrugged and was about to ask whether the Dutch were into making or drinking when laughter from the next booth washed over into theirs. She rolled her eyes and opened her mouth to start again when an amused, hateful voice cut across the laughter.
"Did you see who she came in with? First it's that overgrown hayseed from Psych...and I still owe him one, by the way, and now it's 'day out with grandad.' I'm telling you if she wasn't the best piece of a..."
Giles, who'd been watching Buffy's face slowly freeze and drain of colour, moved to stand up, but was stayed by her hand on his arm.
"I don't know who he is," the voice was saying, "but I've seen him on campus with her and the red-head and that guy from the Bronze. That ditzy room-mate she used to have...Cathy, I think her name was...she thought there might be something weird going on there. Huh? No, definitely not her father."
"Parker," Buffy mouthed, restraining a now visibly angry Giles again and wondering why Poop-head hadn't gone home for Thanksgiving.
Something inaudible was said and more laughter followed. Then Parker's sneering voice continued.
"Nah," he opined. "Too old. There's no way a guy like that could satisfy her...must be relative or something."
Buffy made a noise her throat, halfway between hurt and outrage.
Giles made a ferocious noise under his breath, but his hand closed around Buffy's. "Enough," he whispered. "Let me knock the pillock's head off. I promise I'll take him outside first, so we don't break anything...of the shop's," he added, trying to ease the misery from her face.
She half smiled, and looked into his concerned face. Parker was so a creep. It was one thing for her to rag on Giles about his age, but Parker was just wrong. Giles wasn't old and, she reminded herself, mom had already given away his other trade secrets...if Parker only knew...after all, Mister pick-them-up-and-throw-them-away-when-you're-done hadn't been anything to write home about, that was for sure...
"What?" Parker was saying. Anotherfemalevoice repeated her opinion, audibly this time, that Giles still had some mileage in him. Parker laughed. "Yeah, right. With something that young and hot my grandfather could still"
This time it took all Buffy's slayer strength to stop Giles from pulling away.
Her eyes flashed with the same rage that burned in his but Parker was spiteful and she didn't want to see Giles arrested, or sued...
"You'll just get arrested if you hit him," she hissed, an outrageous idea forming as she spoke. "Follow my lead." She raised her voice just above normal pitch.
"I'm bored. Can we go back to your place? I don't think I want to be alone tonight," she purred.
Giles did a classic double take, opened his mouth then sobered at the glint in her eye. He slid an irritated glance toward the next booth then Buffy saw something almost dangerous flicker through the normally gentle green eyes.
He left some money for the waitress, drew Buffy to her feet and slid his arm around her. She leaned into his warm body, silently cheering his quick uptake and trying to ignore the sudden rise in her heart rate as Parker's face came into view. She turned away from it to look up at Giles, painfully aware that Parker wasn't the one who was flustering her.
He looked down at her and smiled. Buffy trembled a little and her lips parted slightly in surprise. To the onlookers they looked exactly like two people who wanted to be somewhere on their own, sooner, rather than later...
Buffy, however, just wanted the world to click back to its normal, boring self. Everything was suddenly not quite...real.
This Giles was disturbingly different somehow. He wasn't exactly Ripper, but he was more than just her mentor and friend. She saw real passion smouldering in his eyes, underlaid by a sense of restrained violence she'd only seen there before on very rare and desperate occasions. She pitied Parker if he tried to make a scene or shoved his foot any further into his mouth.
"Let's go home, Ripper," she barely managed to whisper.
"My pleasure, love," Giles grinned back, eyes still flashing, leaned down and brushed her mouth with his.
It was all Buffy could do not to gasp at the fire, the electricity in that touch. Instead she decided to pay Giles back in kind, aware of her captive, and almost hypnotised, audience as they moved past Parker's table.
"Not yet," she growled and touched his thigh. "But it will be soon."
She felt the tremor go through him and heard his swift intake of breath, but his poise was immaculate all the way to the exit, still in full view of their built-in audience, and a few others curious about the unusual but charismatic pair.
Buffy stopped in between the empty sidewalk tables and turned into his arms, raised her blue eyes almost defiantly to the green ones and found them darkened, as though he was wrestling with some deep inner devil.
"Let's finish this properly," she said, almost trembling at her own temerity, and the knowledge that she wasn't just doing it to get at Parker, reached up and slid her arms around his neck.
For a long moment Giles simply gazed down at her, but made no comment. Again Buffy was certain that he was wrestling with something. Then he nodded, almost imperceptibly, put his arms around her and lifted her off the ground, crushing her against him
For what seemed like forever, Buffy forgot Parker existed, forgot she was in Sunnydale, forgot her own name. She didn't want the kiss to end, didn't want his warm arms to release her, and mourned when he finally lifted his head and lowered her to the sidewalk again. She raised a hand and touched his mouth with trembling fingers, without even being aware she was doing it.
Giles closed his eyes then gently took her hand in his. "We've given them their show," he said hoarsely, looking over his shoulder. "The git looks like he did after you clubbed him. Time we went home."
Buffy opened her eyes again and met his. They were Giles' eyes again. Her Giles. The world had snapped back into place. She stared back for a beat, lost and fighting tears, then nodded.
The drive back to the apartment was a silent one. Even Buffy's tears were silent. By the time they reached the kitchen and Giles flicked on a light, however, they were gone.
"You didn't get your coffee," he said softly, switching on the kettle but not turning to face her.
"Lost my craving for it," she drawled, the casual lost when her voice caught.
Giles didn't turn. "If that little prat gives you any more trouble I swear I'll give him an orthodontist bill he can't jump over," he muttered.
"T...tea would d...do."
Giles turned then. "I'm sorry so much has been ruined for you today," he said gently. "Not much of a Thanksgiving, I'm afraid."
Buffy silently disagreed even as her blonde head nodded. It had been a spectacular Thanksgiving, one she would never forget.
"Not much of a one," she agreed aloud. "Even Angel didn't even bother to say Happy Thanksgiving. Me and celebrations...not a good combination."
Giles accepted the opening with enthusiasm. "Y...yes, unfortunate pattern of convergence, though I daresay..." his voice faded when his gaze finally met hers.
For a moment the tension was almost painful, then Buffy was turning away.
"I can't believe Angel didn't at least say good-bye," she said quietly. "Will you and Xander patrol for me if I go to L.A. for a couple of days?"
"Buffy...!" The objection was torn from him.
She didn't turn back, couldn't turn back. "I'm going, Giles. I'm not asking you to trust me. I'm promising you: I won't endanger any lives; not for me, not for Angel, but I have to go...I have to do this. I'll stay with my dad...he asked me to visit, anyway."
"Very well," he said flatly. "I'll patrol for you. If Xander is free, well and good, but I'm quite capable of handling a routine patrol with the right weapons."
"Then make sure you have them...and stay away from guys dressed like commandos," she told him tremulously and ran out of the apartment before he could say another word.
Buffy stepped off the bus lost in thought and shouldered her overnight bag. It had been fun seeing her father, and he'd actually managed to make time to take her shopping, to go to dinner, but the trip itself had an almost surreal quality to it.
From the moment Xander had blabbed about Angel she'd been determined to see him, to prove to herself that he still loved her. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders. Well, she'd proved something, hadn't she? It was over. Way over. Several passengers side stepped her before she finally moved out of the way and looked up, wondering what was holding her mother up. Joyce wasn't anywhere in sight.
She sighed and started toward the terminal lounge only to halt as Giles came through the glass doors apace, still putting his car keys away. That was the other good thing about the trip. While she was with her father, or planning her confrontation with Angel, she hadn't had time to think about him...
A moment later he looked up, scanning for her, and stopped momentarily when his eyes lighted on her.
They both started walking at the same time.
"Buffy, welcome back. Your mother has lost a shipment for her gallery somewhere between here and Ghana. She sends her apologies...and me, as a substitute," he explained lightly, but not quite comfortably.
"Ghana, huh? I hope there aren't any more fun masks on the way."
"Indeed," he agreed fervently.
"Like Wyndham-Pryce with a backbone," Giles muttered.
Buffy snorted. "In American?"
"He whines constantly, but he's still dangerous enough to keep tied up now that he's been fed."
"Unlike knock-me-down with a feather Wes," she finished.
Giles chuckled ruefully.
Buffy found herself exhaling a long held breath at the sound.
About halfway through the drive home she realised that they weren't going to Ravello drive. "We're going to your place?" she asked, breaking a long silence.
He nodded. "There's a hot meal waiting. You mother er...fussed. Apparently your refrigerator is bereft of nutritional sustenance at the moment."
Buffy nodded. "It's a strategy," she explained without real interest. "If it's not in there we won't eat it. So what have we got?"
"Coq au vin, I believe."
Buffy chuckled. "No kidding? Mom made the chicken?" And at Giles' curious look:
"It's one of my favourites. Mom doesn't do visits to dad very well, and with work and the guilt whammy..."
Giles nodded and made a noise that doubled as a reply and they fell silent once again.
Spike was reclining on the couch watching television when Giles unlocked the door.
" But" Buffy exclaimed, wondering where the ropes went.
The vampire held up his right wrist. Buffy recognised the handcuffs. Given a lack of solid anchor points it appeared that Giles had cuffed him to the metal frame of the sofa so that the only way he could leave was to take the whole thing with him.
"It's temporary," Giles said quietly.
"Have a good trip, Slayer?" Spike enquired without taking his attention completely from the film he was watching.
Buffy squinted at it. The end credits were just starting.
"Trainspotting," Spike told her, flicking channels. "I liked it. A classic, really."
"Pillock," Giles muttered under his breath and went to the kitchen to check on the chicken.
Buffy rolled her eyes, turned and followed him.
The moment she walked into the kitchen, however, she could feel the tension back between them.
"Giles, are you angry with me?" she asked quietly.
"Mm? Of course not," he replied, closing the oven. "What made you think?"
"Oh I don't know," she said sarcastically. "Apart from the thousand things before it, me going to L.A. to see Angel and putting everyone at risk again...and then there's Thanksgiving..."
"No, I'm not angry with you," he said quietly. "How did things go...in Los Angeles...Your father was well?"
She nodded without smiling. "Dad was great. Best time we've had in ages." She looked away. "I saw Angel for all of ten fun-filled minutes," she said flatly and didn't see Giles' eyes close momentarily or the silent breath he exhaled. "Nice office. Cordy is looking good and I don't know about Doyle...kind of a weird vibe there."
She turned back to him, eyes overbright. "I don't understand," she said softly. "How can it just die like that? I loved him so much...and just...nothing."
Giles grew very still as she spoke. "Yes you do understand," he said softly. "And so does he."
Buffy closed her eyes and half turned away, but had the good grace to nod. A moment later she felt his warm fingers brushing the moisture from her cheeks. The same ripple of electricity shot through her again.
"Buffy, I wanted to apo"
Giles halted when her eyes opened and looked up into his again. He snatched his fingers away from her face and cleared his throat before beginning again. "What happened...before you left...I wanted to ap" He froze again as Buffy's fingers traced his sensuous mouth. "Buffy...you don't..."
"Don't I...?" she whispered tremulously and traced his jaw, his ear, slid her fingers through the hair around it and felt him shiver.
"This isn't right," he managed and covered her hand with his, took her fingers in his.
Her face fell and she tried to pull her hand away but he wouldn't relinquish it and she didn't press the issue. Then, suddenly, he let it go.
"What do you really want, Buffy?" he asked unexpectedly, his voice weary. "Do you really know?"
The overbright blue eyes glistened, and moisture spilled over and trickled down pale cheeks splashed with hot red.
"For the first time in a very long time I know exactly what I want," she told him, stunned at her discovery. "And I know what I've been looking for all semester, what I thought I'd lost...after Olivia, after you told me..." She paused for a beat. "I realised while I was away, that I've known...without being smart enough to recognise what was right in front of me...since the prom."
Giles paled. It wasn't possible. Not after all these months, not after all the relentless grieving for Angel, the hiving off to Los Angeles, chasing him yet again...not to mention her college misadventures with that sodding little...
He halted his own thoughts and looked down at her again.
"What have you known?" he asked very gently, his voice deep and blurred by the sudden and foolish hope that seized his insides.
"That it's you. That what I wanted...what I've been trying to find...it's you."
He took her face in his hands, turned it up so that she was looking at him. "Do you understand what you're saying?" he forced himself to ask. "A little play acting in a coffee shop is no basis for making a decision like this."
For a split second hurt chased the light from Buffy's eyes, then she reached out with her free hand and touched his face again, trailed her fingers down his neck, felt his shudder.
"Play acting?" she whispered. "When were we play-acting?"
And gasped when she was suddenly pulled into his arms, his mouth finding and claiming hers with a ferocity matched only by her own longing. She kissed him back, matching need for need, until both of them paused, breathless, without opening their eyes.
Then Buffy felt his lips touch hers again, tenderly, exploring, teasing, until they were both playing, both trembling at the enormity of their discovery, of the tumult of emotions each moment together was arousing in them.
In a little while Giles lifted his head, drew a jagged breath and let her go.
She watched him drag a hand over his face.
"I'm sorry...this...it's too fast...I...I can't think straight."
Buffy knew exactly why he couldn't think straight, knew why he was hesitating and wasn't afraid. Not any more. She stepped back up to him and touched the spot where his shirt opened, smiling at the small noise he made, then let her hand slide down over his stomach to where his jeans were graphically telegraphing his feelings and rested it there, and smiled at his guttural exclamation before her other hand slid behind his neck and drew his head back down to hers.
"Then don't think," she whispered and brushed his lips with hers. "Just feel... Just... love me...as much as I love you."
And then both her arms were around his neck, their mouths one again, their urgent plundering of each other growing into an unquenchable fire. When Giles lifted his head Buffy could see the blur of desire burning in his eyes and his struggle to focus on her.
"All I've done for months is love you with all my heart," he breathed. "But I couldn't tell you while..."
She leaned against him. "While I was chasing shadows and looking for substitutes for you."
"Oh, for God sakes get on with it, you two. You're worse than Days of our bloody Lives. And you're ruining a perfectly good film. I like this Anthony Hopkins chap. He's good. Now be a good fellow, Watcher, and take your crumpet upstairs before little Jodie Foster comes back after the sodding commercials, and I won't even mention the dinner I haven't had yet."
"Bloody hell," Giles muttered.
It was suddenly all too silly. Buffy started to giggle into his shirt. And then Giles was laughing too, and sweeping her into his arms, carrying her out of the kitchen, still giggling.
Spike watched from the sofa as they passed and caught a glare from Giles as he opened his mouth to speak.
"Not one word," the Watcher warned, trying to keep a stern face and disappeared up the stairs.
"Half his bleedin' luck," Spike muttered to him-self then grinned. "Hope I'm around when Angel finds out."
Then the commercials were finished and he went back to wondering what fava beans tasted like.
Giles slammed his loft door closed with his foot and looked down at Buffy, intending to ask her one last time...but he didn't need to. The eyes that looked up at him told him all he needed to know, humbling him with the intensity of the love, the desire in them. Instead he claimed the tender lips again, his body thrilling to the power of her response.
And then she was down on her feet again, without relinquishing his lips, and they were unbuttoning, undoing, unzipping...their lovemaking growing more urgent with each touch, each new part of the other revealed.
Giles shuddered as Buffy's hands wandered over his body, pulled her hard against him as her jeans fell to the floor, and crushed his mouth once more into hers.
Buffy arched against him, wanting him with a ferocity she'd never known before. She raised her head and slid her arms around his neck. "Lift me," she demanded.
The large hands slid down her back and cupped her seat, lifted her swiftly, moaning as her legs closed around him and her hips wriggled down his torso until the pale blue of her lace underwear pressed hard against the black stretch fabric of his.
He groaned again. She was moving against him, whimpering as he pulled her even closer, and moving her hips even more.
"Giles..." she groaned.
In response he turned and brought them both to the bed, still locked together, and lay her down, moving in a slow rhythm against her, within the beautiful legs still locked around him, enflamed by the small whimpering, wanting, noises she continued to make as she arched to him again.
Then her hands were sliding down the length of his torso until they reached his briefs. He felt them rip and slide away and grinned against her mouth, reached down and pulled at the tiny hip of hers until it gave, slid his hand inside the fabric.
Buffy gasped, her body exploding in response to his touch, waves and waves of desire coursing outwards from the caress of his fingers, the touch of his lips as they trailed down her throat, to the soft flesh of her breasts.
Nothing...nothing... could have prepared her for the intensity of her response to him, or his to her...
And then he was kissing her again, his hands moving to support his weight before his lips trailed across to her ear.
"Buffy..." he groaned, his breath sending thrills through every sensitive nerve ending in her small lobe, the plea in his voice bringing her hips to him, her soft thighs curving around his, bringing him hard against the heat of her desire.
Buffy kissed his face, his throat, struggling to breathe as he pressed against her. "Now. Giles...please," she demanded in a strangled whisper.
"Oh, God," he shuddered, pushing further into the softness of her, reached down and tore off the remnants of the blue lace, then gasped, his breath coming in short, staccato bursts. Buffy had shifted deliberately so that they took each other in one incredible movement, then raised her hips even higher as they both gave themselves to the ecstasy of the moment.
For long minutes their love making continued to intensify, each discovering the other, each wanting the small world of their union to last for ever, and each desperately aware that they could no more hold back the coming tide than stop the sun from rising.
It took all of Giles' experience to wait, to hold back as he strove to bring her with him, until she shifted beneath him, urgency in her movements, her cries, her hands raking down his back.
"Giles!" she gasped, "I can't...I can't wait any longer..."
"Bloody hell," he muttered as she moved frantically beneath him, half-amused, half exasperated, then choked on his own chuckle. "Bloody hell...!" he gasped, his own relentlessly repressed completion exploding from nowhere in the midst of hers and claiming him. In the midst of his gasping cries he was vaguely aware of her arms circling his chest, her hands on his hips, pulling him even more deeply into her, until both of them collapsed together.
"God, Giles," she breathed, moments later, turned to the head whose brow was now resting on her shoulder and kissed an ear. "What was that?"
The head lifted and tender green eyes looked down at her. "Apparently it was me, waiting for you, waiting for me," he said whimsically and kissed her nose. "I thought it worked out rather well, all things considered."
Buffy giggled, but her eyes grew very bright. "God...I've been so stupid," she whispered, and pushed a stray lock back into his now adorably dishevelled rumple of hair. "I love you so much..."
He kissed her very gently. "Not nearly as much as I've loved you since that bloody prom. Do you know how much I wanted that dance with you? I told Wyndham-Pryce he had the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone and then promptly all but ran to get to you before it started." He brushed sudden moisture from the corners of her eyes. "But it wasn't to be..."
She lifted her head to catch his lips again. "But it will. I want to dance with you," she told him between kisses, "every day for the rest of my life..."
Spike watched the last of the credits roll through at the end of his film and gingerly lifted the cushion off his ear. Silence upstairs...
"At last," he muttered. "I don't suppose you two are ready for supper up there?" he shouted, then sniffed. "Forgotten about your fancy Frog chicken, haven't you? Well I haven't." He sniffed again and wrinkled his nose, still flicking channels. How could I?
"Bloody nothing," he griped as workout music filled the room, and threw the remote over his shoulder. Then the music faded. For a few seconds he stared at the screen.
Then he rattled the cuffs. "It's not fair. Bloody Watcher gets a shag and a feed and all I get is some great poofter telling me how to aerobicise my arse off while I slowly starve to death...!"