“Is everything okay?”
Giles sighed, his fingers still resting on the phone. “I don’t know.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
He lifted his eyes, but didn’t look at her. “I don’t know.”
He finally looked at her when he saw her sit down out of the corner of his eye. “Leah, really…not now.”
“How long have we known each other?”
Giles chuckled and removed his glasses. “Considering we were born two days apart, all of your life.”
“Cousins, colleagues, but most importantly…friends, yes?”
Giles nodded slowly. “Yes.”
“You know that I can read you. Always could.” She stated with a smile.
“So, you know that I already know – what it is that you’re not admitting to yourself, yes?”
Giles sighed heavily and leaned back, resting his head against the back of the chair. “I shouldn’t have left. I’ve made a huge mistake.”
“While accurate, that’s not what I’m talking about, Rupert. And you know that’s not what I’m talking about.”
Giles slowly looked at her and shook his head. “I can’t go there, Leah.”
“You’re already there, darling.” Leah reached over and placed her hand on his forearm. “You’ve been there for a while. And then…”
“She died.” He whispered, lowering his eyes.
“She came back.” Leah supplied, gently squeezing his arm.
“I shouldn’t have left. I shouldn’t have lied to her.” He blew out a breath and stared at a picture on the mantle. “Well, I didn’t lie…technically. She did need to stand on her own, to prove to herself that she could. But, I left out a rather large piece of information, didn’t I?”
“That you love her?”
Giles nodded, still staring at the picture. “That I love her.”
She watched him carefully, rubbing her thumb over the back of his wrist as his eyes began to glisten. “Is that the first time you’ve said the words aloud?”
He hesitated just a moment before turning his eyes to hers. “Even sitting at her grave, I couldn’t say it. I wanted to, but…I couldn’t. It was far too painful.”
“It’s terrifying.” He swallowed and then cleared his throat. “And painful. But, mostly…terrifying.”
“I think you should go back.”
“And what? Profess my love to her? She won’t even accept a phone call from me.”
“Because she’s upset, you idiot.” Leah said good-naturedly. “You have to know she feels the same.”
“Actually, I don’t.” Giles replied. “We fought before she died.”
“And she ran to you when she came back. Right? That’s what Willow told me – that she ran straight to you.” Leah smiled warmly, removing her hand from Giles’ arm. “She said that she thought for a moment that you were going to kiss her.”
“You and Willow speak too often, obviously.”
“Perhaps. But, Willow and I see the same thing…in two different countries, within two different people. What does that tell you?”
“That you both meddle.” Giles grumbled, running his hand over his face.
“Rupert, think about this scenario.” Leah paused for a second and then continued when she was sure Giles was listening. “You have feelings for someone and that person drops everything to come to you when you return from…a very long trip. That person stays for a while and then, seemingly out of the blue, says they’re going back to their home country. And staying in their home country indefinitely. And you ask why…and they say ‘for your own good’.”
Giles met Leah’s eyes, but said nothing.
“Are you telling me that wouldn’t upset you?” She watched him process and tilted her head slightly. “Would you accept their calls?”
“I’ve fucked everything.” Giles muttered, leaning back against the chair again.
“I wouldn’t say that. I’d say you made a huge mistake, but I think it can be rectified.” She leaned forward and picked up the phone. “But, you can’t fix things over a phone line, Rupert.”
He nodded slowly, thinking over her words. His eyes darted back to her when he heard her turn the phone on.
“Who are you calling?”
She merely waved a hand at him and focused her attention on the call. When he heard her booking a plane ticket, he knew exactly what she was doing. And he felt the panic begin to well almost instantly.
“Leah, no…no, this isn’t the right…”
She lifted her hand up and sent him a glare. He stopped talking. As she made the reservation, he felt more than panic begin to rise. There was frustration…and anger…at being forced to face his emotions. She’d done this to him once before. And it had ended horribly.
He sighed and then shook his head to himself. Yes, it had ended horribly…after five years of happiness. So, he couldn’t really hold her responsible for the pain of the ending. To be fair, he probably should have ended the relationship six months earlier than he had. They’d had five wonderful years together…but, they’d grown apart while he studied. And she had ventured down a path with someone else.
It had hurt him deeply. But, that wasn’t Leah’s fault. And that was years ago. It wasn’t as if she was continuously pushing him towards women.
She only pushed when he was too afraid to take the step. But, she hadn’t been wrong then. Perhaps she wasn’t wrong now either.
He grumbled to himself as she continued with the reservation. She made a few quick notes before ending the call. She tossed the notepad onto his lap with a smile.
“You’re leaving tomorrow. You should probably go pack.”
“Why do you do shit like this to me?”
“Because you’re more of a brother than a cousin. And I love you dearly.”
“Nothing says I love you more than a plane ticket to another country…” He said, a bite in his tone that showed more anxiety than he had hoped.
“I want you to be happy, Rupert.” Leah said softly. “And you’re not happy here right now.”
When he merely stared at her, she gestured towards the photograph on the mantle.
“You look at her picture more than you realise. I hear it in your voice when you talk about her. I see it in your eyes when her name is mentioned. You’re miserable, Rupert.” She smiled warmly and stood up, leaning over to place a kiss on top of his head. “So, you’re going back to California.”
“Where the weather is sunny…and boring…” He huffed.
“You couldn’t care less about the weather. And you know it.” She retorted with a laugh. “Would you like me to stay tonight?”
He sighed heavily and shook his head. “No…there’s no need to for you to hear me curse you repeatedly while I’m packing.”
“You know…” Her eyes sparkled as he looked up at her. “You’re not fighting this at all. It leads me to believe that you feel this is the correct thing for you to do.”
“Or I’m just resigned to the fact that there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Ah…that’s the spirit.” She laughed brightly, causing him to smile. “I’ll pick you up in the morning. Try not to get too maudlin tonight, yes?”
“Maudlin? No, I was thinking of performing a dance of joy once you leave.”
Leah chuckled and picked up her bag. “Just remember…she’s as miserable as you are.”
“That’s comforting.” He mumbled.
Leah paused at the door, her hand on the knob as she looked at him. “You know that if I didn’t believe she was harbouring the same feelings as you, I wouldn’t push you. You know that, right?”
“I know, Leah.” He said, pushing himself out of the chair. “However, that doesn’t quell the intense urge for me to vomit.”
She studied him closely, then pulled her hand away from the doorknob and dropped her bag back on the table next to the door. He narrowed his eyes in curiosity.
“What are you doing?”
“Staying.” She replied, gesturing towards the kitchen. “Making tea while you turn the stereo on. Helping you pack. You know, just to make sure you remember important things.”
When she playfully arched an eyebrow at him, he rolled his eyes.
“This is going to be a long night, isn’t it?”
She nodded, her eyes sparking with amusement. “Yeah, it is. But, I’ll be here to keep you company.”
“Perfect.” He grumbled, then offered her a nervous smile. “Thank you.”
She gave him a wink and then headed down the hallway towards the kitchen. He scratched the back of his head, swallowed the thick lump in his throat…and headed to his bedroom.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles exhaled a deep breath, doing his best to calm his nerves. He slipped the keys to the rental car into his jacket pocket and slowly made his way along the path that led to her front door. He paused on the first step, tilting his head in concentration.
He couldn’t sense her…not like he’d been able to in the past.
Before she died.
He swallowed and took two large steps to stand directly in front of the door. He stared at the door, almost willing it to open on its own. And then he lifted his hand to knock…hesitating for a moment, nearly dropping his hand.
He wanted nothing more than to simply turn around and leave.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, shaking his head slowly.
No, that was somewhat of a lie. He wanted nothing more than to see her, to talk to her…fear and anxiety made him want to run in the other direction. And Leah would have his head if he gave in to the fear.
Before he could stop himself, he tapped his knuckles on the door…four times.
Because he always knocked four times.
He wasn’t sure why that was…but, it had always been the way for him. Knock four times, not three…not the musical five knock pattern that Xander had a tendency to use. Four quick knocks, led with the knuckle of the middle finger on his left hand. He wasn’t sure why that was either. Maybe because…
His rambling thoughts trailed off as the door opened. And he suddenly felt like he forgot how to breathe as her eyes met his.
He opened his mouth to say ‘hello’ or something similar, but no words formed. Instead, he stood there…staring at her as she stared expectantly back at him.
She arched an eyebrow at him. “Let me guess…an apocalypse? It’s been a good eight months since the last one…I guess we’re due for one. What is it this time? If it’s another god, you can count me out because I just – ”
He moved quickly, leaning down and kissing her. It was more than a brush of his lips, but not a frenzied shove a tongue in type of kiss. It was warm and slow, deep and lovely. Passionate.
So much passion.
It was a kiss that took her by surprise. But, it was also a kiss that she quickly became an active participant in. And when he felt her palm rest on the side of his neck, he gently ended the kiss and looked into her eyes.
“We’re all going to die, aren’t we?” She whispered, sliding her hand to the back of his neck.
“I’m sorry?” He responded.
The first words he’d said to her since he left Sunnydale months earlier. Apt words, a different meaning than he had intended though.
“You come here, out of the blue…say nothing…and then kiss me. Like that. Like…really kissed me. It can only mean that we’re all going to die some horrible death. And probably soon.”
“Christ, I fucking hope not.” He whispered, lifting his hand to cradle her cheek in his palm. “I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t survive your death again.”
“Well, if we’re all going to die…that wouldn’t be an issue.”
He stared at her, unsure of what to say. And then she offered him a slight smile.
“I should be really pissed at you. And I probably am on some level.”
“I know.” He said, refusing to lower his gaze from hers.
“But, mostly…I just really fucking missed you.”
“I…am so sorry, Buffy. I know I made a huge mistake. I never should have left.”
“No, you really shouldn’t have. But, you did. And now you’re back? For how long? For…why?”
His brow furrowed. “For why?”
“Why are you here? Why now? Why did you kiss me? Why did you really leave me?” She asked rapidly, shaking her head as her eyes began to glisten. “So many goddamn whys.”
“I’m going to do my best to answer each and every one of them.”
She regarded him closely and then gave him a gentle nod. “Okay. Would you like some tea?”
His eyes began to glisten as well. “I’d love tea.”
“Then come inside and I’ll put the kettle on.” She reached down and took hold of his hand, gently tugging him over threshold as she backed her way into the house.
He closed the door, still holding her gaze. “You kissed me back.”
“Why?” He whispered, searching her eyes.
“I’ll go get the kettle started…”
He wrapped his fingers around hers as she started to pull away. “Why?”
She blew out a breath and lowered her eyes for a moment. Then her shoulders slumped – a gesture that he remembered meant that she had resigned herself to something she wasn’t entirely sure about. When she lifted her eyes back to his, he understood that she had resigned herself to give him an honest answer. He braced himself, suddenly very uncertain if he wanted to know that answer.
“Because it’s something…” She paused, swallowing nervously. “Because I love you, Giles.”
“We have so much to discuss.” He said quietly, lifting his free hand to the side of her face.
“Can wait.” He murmured, eyes darting briefly to her lips before returning to her eyes. “I’m in love with you. You should know. You should have known. What I mean is…I should have told you. Instead of running, I should have…stayed. For you.”
“I kissed Spike.” She blurted, biting her bottom lip and waiting for him to pull away.
Instead he pulled her closer to him, enveloping her into his arms and holding her closely against his chest. “Do you have feelings for him?”
“God, no.” She replied without hesitation, sliding her arms underneath his jacket. “I was just…I was hurt and angry and…scared. And all I could think about was you. And I didn’t want to think about you. And he was there…”
“And now?” He asked softly, closing his eyes when he felt her hands slide around to his back.
She curled her fingers into the back of his shirt and exhaled a deep breath. “And now the bastard won’t take no for an answer.”
“What can I do?”
She was quiet for a long moment and then leaned back just enough to look up at him. “If you’re serious about how you feel about me…then you can not leave again. Because I need you, Giles. I’ll take care of Dawn and her issues…I’ve been doing that since you left. But, I need you here.”
“In what capacity?”
She moved her right hand to his chest, resting directly over his heart. “All of them.”
He did his best to control himself, but he could tell by the small smile on her lips that she’d felt his heart rate increase.
“Don’t leave me again, Giles.” She whispered.
He gave her a slow nod. “We…should talk.”
“Mm-hm.” He licked his lips, lifting his hand and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “We have tea…we talk – where I promise you that I won’t leave, that I’ll be here for you in whatever capacity you need me. But first…I really want to kiss you again.”
“I’m really angry with you.” She said softly, fingers toying with the collar of his shirt.
“I know. And you have every right to be.”
“You really hurt me.”
“I’m so very sorry.” He whispered emotionally.
She regarded him closely, watching his expression drift and change in his eyes. “You hurt yourself as well, didn’t you?”
“I’ve been truly miserable.” He admitted, a nervous smile twitching at the corner of his mouth. “Moreso than usual. Leah sat me down and had a long heart to…”
He trailed off when he saw the look in Buffy’s eyes. He was confused for a moment and then made a quick realisation.
“Leah is my cousin, Buffy. More like a sister, really. We grew up together, joined the Council together. She’s my best friend – and she’s very happy to knock sense into my head when needed.”
“I know this isn’t going to be an easy road, Buffy. I’m not naïve enough to think that I can just show up, say I love you, and everything is perfect. But, I want to try. I want to give us the opportunity to become…more.”
“Do you have baggage?”
“Tons of it.” He replied automatically.
She snorted a laugh and shook her head. “No. Luggage…or did you just hop on a plane without anything?”
“Ah.” He smiled shyly, the skin behind his ears reddening. “Yes, it’s in the car. I came straight from the airport.”
“Do you have reservations somewhere?”
He nodded, opening his mouth to tell her where he’d be staying. She gently patted his chest and exhaled a breath.
“I’m sorry?” He said, his confusion evident.
“Stay here.” She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat. “With me.”
“Buffy, I…I don’t know if – ”
“You know that’s where we’re heading, right? I mean, yeah…we’re going to have tea, we’re going to talk. We’ll probably each do our fair share of yelling and I’ll most likely cry at some point, so just expect that.” She paused for just a moment. “But, after all of that is over…I’m going to kiss you and tell you that I love you…that I want you to stay with me. And you will. You know why?”
“Because I can’t say no to you.”
“Even though you have?”
“And look where that got us? I was an idiot for leaving, even though I maintain I was trying to help you…it was an idiotic thing to do. As such…I can’t say no to you.”
She started to reply, but hesitated as a thought occurred to her. “Do you want to though?”
“Want to…what?” He asked, allowing his fingers to glide down her side.
He stared into her eyes for a long few seconds and then shook his head. “No. I want to say yes…to everything.”
“Then stay here with me.” She glanced up the stairs and grimaced. “I guess, technically with us. Willow and Tara are still here too. And Dawn. That’s a lot of females and one you. You okay with that?”
He smiled warmly at her as she moved both hands up over his shoulders. As she laced her fingers behind his neck, she raised up on her toes and kissed his lips.
“We’ll need to go shopping tomorrow.” She murmured against his lips.
He kissed her softly before replying. “For what?”
“A new bed for starters. You…are very tall.”
He laughed deeply and pulled her into a tight embrace. He held her for what felt like hours before finally loosening his hold. She grinned up at him and let her hands move back to his chest. Her fingers tapped against his shirt as she gestured towards the kitchen with a nod of her head.
“Go get your stuff out of the car…take it up to my room. I’ll get the tea started and then we’ll…hash all of this out, okay?”
“Okay.” He said, taking a step back towards the door.
“You won’t run?”
He shook his head slowly. “I’m done running, Buffy. I’m here – for you…with you – indefinitely.”
“Good. Because I’ve really missed you.”
They shared a warm smile before he turned to walk out the door. She sighed softly, turning towards the kitchen.
Yes, they had much to talk about…to yell about…to clear the air about. But, there was a light at the end of the tunnel now. Bright, warm…filled with love. She could see that light clearly, where yesterday it was dark, cold.
She made a mental note to ask Giles more about Leah.
She had a feeling that she’d like her a lot.