Title: Pictures of the Past
Timeline: Two months after Addition.
Synopsis: Ethan and Michael hit a small bump in their relationship. Can Giles and Buffy help them?
Buffy lay in bed, staring at the ceiling as she gently rubbed her abdomen. She was now two months pregnant and had just started showing within the last few days. Giles was asleep and had been for the past two hours. But, the thoughts racing through Buffy’s head were keeping her awake.
Rolling onto her side and facing him, she smiled. He was lying on his stomach, his left arm curled under his pillow and his right resting between their bodies. His hair was mussed from sleep and as her eyes travelled over the scratches on his bare back, her smile grew. Sleep wasn’t the only thing that had mussed his hair…her fingers had done their part as well.
She gently prodded his shoulder with her left hand, sighing as he mumbled unintelligibly. “Giles…”
His brow furrowed and then smoothed, but he showed no signs that he was awake…or even close to waking. Buffy gently shook his shoulder and whispered his name again.
“Mm?” He murmured without opening eyes. “What?”
“How can you sleep?” She questioned softly.
“I’m tired.” He answered, sliding his right arm over her hip. “Go to sleep, Buffy.”
He opened his eyes slowly and looked at her. “Perhaps you should close your eyes.”
“We’re going to have five children, Giles…” She stated, ignoring his comment.
His brow furrowed as his eyes focussed. “Yes, we are. We’ve known this from the time we decided to have Declan.”
When she hesitated, he shifted onto his side and gently squeezed her hip. “Buffy? What is it?”
She bit her lip and averted her gaze from his. “Can we cope with five? I mean…that’s a lot of children…and…”
He interrupted her with a gentle kiss. His fingers caressed her cheek as he pulled back slightly and caught her eyes again.
“I remember you being worried about the same thing with Lucas.”
“No.” She shook her head quickly. “That was me worrying that I wouldn’t have enough love to share with Lucas…I don’t worry about that with Declan. God, I love him so much…I have from the moment he was conceived. This is different, Giles…”
He pushed himself up and sat back, wincing as the fresh scratches pressed against the wood of the headboard. He shook his head lightly, quickly waving her concern to the side as he pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms loosely around her.
“Talk to me, Buffy.”
“Is your back okay?” She asked, lightly fingering the golden hoop in his left ear.
“It’s fine, love. Now…talk to me. Tell me what your true concern is here.”
She settled herself into a more comfortable position, her fingers tracing the thick scar tissue on his chest as she took a deep breath.
“It isn’t a question of whether or not I love him…”
“I know.” Giles whispered, sliding his left hand to the gentle swell of her stomach. “I know how much you love him, Buffy.”
“It’s not financial either. I mean…” She laughed nervously, rubbing her left thumb over the healed gunshot wound on the right side of his chest. “We’re not really having financial difficulties…”
He smiled softly and shook his head. “No, we’re not. So, what is troubling you?”
“I remember when I
was in high school…in
He placed two fingers over her lips, quietening her as she became more upset with each thought that went through her head. He shook his head and offered her a gentle smile.
“We’ll cope, Buffy. We’ve coped with four…in fairly difficult situations. You’ve fought thousands of vampires and demons since we’ve had children. You’ve been able to keep up your training at least twice a week…we have obligations with our friends and their families that we’ve upheld over the years…”
He placed a tender kiss on her lips as he curled a strand of her hair around his finger.
“We’ll cope…I have no doubt in that. And Declan will feel just as loved and wanted as Braden, Lucas, Haddie, and Evan do. I have faith in us, Buffy…and I have faith in our abilities as parents. You have nothing to fear in this, love. I promise.”
Buffy’s eyes glistened as she looked into Giles’ warm eyes. “How do you do that?”
He tilted his head slightly. “Do what?”
“Make me feel all not panicky over things. You’ve always been able to calm me down…no matter what it is.” When he raised an eyebrow, she grinned. “Okay, sometimes it takes longer to calm me down…but, you’ve always been able to do it. How?”
“At the Academy, we were told that patience would be needed with our Slayers. We were told that Slayers tend to be more spontaneous…wanting to rush into battle instead of holding back and thinking out their plan. For that reason, we were taught patience and level-headedness. And we were to excel in those lessons if we wanted our Slayer to live.”
He paused for just a moment before smiling warmly at her.
“I wanted my Slayer to live…and so I paid very close attention in class. It also helps that I’m very much in love with you.” He rubbed his thumb along her jaw and smiled. “You do the same for me, you know.”
“I do?” She asked, leaning into his touch.
“Mm-hm.” He carefully removed her from his lap and laid her down next to him, lowering his body to the mattress and lovingly caressing her stomach. “Whenever I feel like my life is tumbling out of control, all I have to do is look at you. Just a glimpse of you is all I need to ground myself once again.”
She yawned and snuggled closer to him. “Really?”
“Really.” He whispered, placing a kiss on her forehead as she closed her eyes.
“What if I’m not there?”
He smiled and rested his head on his pillow as he slipped his arm under her neck. “Then I look at our children…and I see the beauty that we’ve created time and time again. Our love for each other shines so brightly within them…”
She snorted sleepily and draped her arm over his side. “Cheesy, corny, sappy…and yet so very you. I love you too, Rupert.”
“Sleep well, darling.” He whispered, closing his eyes and allowing her gentle breathing to lull him back to sleep.
* * *
The next time Buffy woke, the bedroom was full of light and she was in bed alone. Yawning, she looked over at the clock on the bedside table and narrowed her eyes. She wasn’t sure what she didn’t believe most…the fact that she had actually slept this late or the fact that no one had woken her much earlier.
Sitting up, she stretched and smiled. The sleep had done her well, and she had a feeling that she had her husband to thank for the extra sleep. She glanced down at her stomach and smiled, gently rubbing the small swell as she climbed out of bed.
“What do you say about going to see what your Daddy and brothers and sister are up to? And…maybe coercing your father into cooking us a big breakfast this morning…”
The heaviness of the conversation she had had with Giles earlier in the morning was gone. She knew, thanks to Giles’ persistence, that their family would be able to cope with Declan’s arrival. And with a bright smile, she made her way into the ensuite and turned the shower on.
* * *
Giles smiled as he sat on the couch, flanked by his two older sons. Haddie sat on the floor, singing softly along with the song currently playing on the stereo. Evan was stretched out next to her, lying on his back and using Callie as a pillow, his eyes alternating between his sister and the television screen.
Giles held the controller in his hands, furrowing his brow as he stared at the television screen. “Alright, so what do I do now?”
“Press ‘x’…” Lucas supplied helpfully, ignoring Braden’s quick glance.
Giles pressed the ‘x’ button, his eyes widening as he watched his animated character jump from the cliff to the depths below. Lucas laughed maniacally, causing Evan to giggle.
“You wasn’t supposed to do that, Daddy.”
“Weren’t.” Giles corrected automatically as he glanced at his youngest son. “And thank you for that useful piece of information, Evan.”
Evan giggled again and sat up, reaching behind him and rubbing Callie’s soft fur. “Luke tricked you!”
Giles laughed and nodded in agreement. “Yes, he did. Which will teach me to be more wary of his directions in the future.”
His eyes darted to the hallway, his smile growing as Buffy walked into the room. “Good morning.”
“You let me sleep in…” She stated softly as Evan ran over to her and wrapped his arms around her legs.
“Thought you needed it.” He responded, watching Evan give Buffy’s stomach a gentle pat. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“Much better, thank you.” She gestured towards the television and grinned. “You got talked into playing?”
“Mm…yes. And then I was tricked into jumping off a cliff.” He answered, laughing as Lucas grinned. “Would you like something to eat?”
“I wouldn’t say no.”
He handed his controller to Lucas and stood up, motioning for Buffy to take his place. “Eggs, toast, sausage?”
“Mm…all of the above.” Buffy murmured as she gave him a tender kiss before sitting down on the couch between Braden and Lucas. “And maybe some hash browns? If it’s not too much trouble, I mean…”
Giles smiled down at her and shook his head. “Not too much trouble, love.”
Buffy watched him walk into the kitchen and sighed happily. Braden looked up at her and smiled.
“You feeling okay, Mum?”
“Yeah, I am. Why do you ask?” She questioned as she ran her fingers through her son’s dark hair.
Braden shrugged a shoulder and glanced at her stomach. “I remember you being a little sick when you were pregnant with Evan.”
“Well, it didn’t help that I got the flu with I was pregnant with Evan. But, I’m feeling fine right now.”
Braden smiled and turned his eyes back to the screen. His fingers pressed the buttons quickly, moving his character down the maze-like paths.
“Declan’s a good name.”
Buffy smiled and placed a kiss on her oldest child’s head. “Thank you.”
“Mummy? Can you help us?” Haddie called over, looking expectantly at Buffy. “Evan put glue on both sides of the paper and now it’s not working.”
“Why did you put glue on both sides, Ev?” Buffy asked as she carefully stepped over cords and sat down with Haddie and Evan.
Evan exhaled deeply and held up a colored piece of construction paper. “Because I was going to put orange on top of the blue right here. But then Haddie said she didn’t want orange on it. Don’t know why…”
Haddie narrowed her eyes at her younger brother. “Because I don’t like orange.”
“I do. It’s my fav’rite color.” Evan announced, pouting as Haddie took the orange paper from him.
“Okay…” Buffy started as she went through the scraps of paper on the floor surrounding them. “You both like green and yellow…what if we put some green here with a yellow strip going through it?”
After a moment’s hesitation, both children gave a nod of agreement and the three of them set to work.
A few minutes later, Giles peeked around the corner and smiled. Braden and Lucas were playing the game and playfully exchanging jibes…Buffy was on the floor with Haddie and Evan, happily plastering pieces of colored paper together.
He chuckled softly as Evan picked up the piece he was working on a smiled happily.
“I made a tennis racquet!”
Just as he was going to announce that Buffy’s breakfast was ready, the phone rang. Giles sighed and made his way to the phone, catching Buffy’s eye on his way.
“Your breakfast is on the counter, love.” He gave her a warm smile as he picked up the handset. “Hello?”
“Good morning, Ethan.” Giles smiled as Evan looked up quickly. “I was going to call you later today. Apparently it’s been too long since Evan has seen you.”
Ethan chuckled. “Give the little guy a hug from me.”
“Will do.” Giles heard something in Ethan’s tone, something that he couldn’t quite put a finger on. “What’s going on?”
Ethan sighed. “You always know, don’t you?”
“Not always.” Giles answered quietly, walking back into the kitchen with Buffy right behind him. “But, something tells me that this isn’t just a social call.”
“I, uh…Michael came across something this morning…and…” Ethan sighed heavily. “I had forgotten all about it…”
Giles pushed Buffy’s plate towards her and handed her a fork. “All about what?”
“A box of pictures.”
Giles pointed to the plate and met Buffy’s eyes. “Eat.”
“What?” Ethan asked in confusion.
“Not you…” Giles shook his head. “Pictures, you said?”
“Yeah.” Ethan answered hesitantly. “Pictures of us…from years ago. I don’t remember who took them…but they were given to me about five years later as payment.”
“For a favour I did for someone…” Ethan responded distractedly. “Anyway, we were rummaging around the attic earlier and Michael came across it. I think I really fucked up this time, Rip. The letter that came with the pictures was still there as well…I’m not sure which bothered him more, the fact that I have the pictures or the fact that I gave into blackmail to get them. I know that you think that Buffy knows everything about our past – ”
“No, she does know everything.” Giles corrected quickly. “I told her everything well before we got married.”
“Giles?” Buffy whispered in a worried tone.
Giles sighed and reached over the counter, taking Buffy’s hand. “Ethan and Michael came across some pictures this morning…of Ethan and me.”
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief and lifted a forkful of eggs to her mouth. “Oh…well, I guess it’s a good thing that Michael already knew about the two of you.”
Ethan heard her reply and closed his eyes. “There’s a difference between knowing and seeing proof of it.”
Giles lowered his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Michael knows of our past as well. But, it still hurt him to see them…hurt him deeply.” Ethan swallowed and took a deep breath before continuing. “Rupert…these pictures were taken the night we raised Eyghon for the third time…the night he asked certain things of us.”
Giles paled and closed his eyes. “Oh dear Lord. Is Michael…is he alright?”
“He, uh…he went for a walk. That was a few hours ago…”
Giles swallowed nervously and nodded. “Stay there, wait for Michael. I’ll ask Joyce to watch the children and Buffy and I will come over…”
“Rupert, these pictures…they’re…well, they don’t leave much to the imagination.”
“I can imagine.” Giles responded quietly. “We’ll see you soon.”
Before Ethan had a chance to argue, Giles ended the call and placed the phone on the counter.
Buffy reached over and placed her hand over his. “Giles…I already know what happened…”
“So did Michael. However, as Ethan stated…there is a difference between knowing and seeing physical proof.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Did Michael leave?”
Giles bit his bottom lip and stared at their hands. “Ethan said he went for a walk. I’m fairly certain that Michael just needed some time alone to think. The problem is…I may have told you everything, but…these pictures are graphic. It hurt him to see them…and they’ll probably hurt you as well.”
Buffy gave a soft nervous chuckle. “Well, I’ve seen gay porn…that didn’t hurt me to watch…”
Giles raised his eyes and stared at her. “This is very different, Buffy.”
“You’re scared.” She whispered, all traces of her smile leaving quickly. “My God, Giles…how bad is it?”
Seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, Giles quickly turned to find Lucas standing in the doorway. Giles gently squeezed Buffy’s hand and smiled at their son.
“Become bored with the game already?”
Lucas darted his eyes between his parents and shook his head. “Evan wanted a go. Is everything okay?”
Buffy nodded, offering Lucas a smile. “Yeah, we were just talking.”
“Is Declan okay? Tommy’s mother was pregnant a while back and the baby got sick and died…”
Giles shook his head quickly as Lucas’ eyes began to fill with panic. “No, son. Declan is fine, I promise. Everything is alright.”
Lucas took a deep breath and smiled. “Good.” He moved to the refrigerator and opened the door. “Haddie wants some milk…”
Buffy smiled, sliding her hand out from under Giles’ and placing it on top of his. He looked down at their hands as she ran her thumb over the back of his hand. Lucas continued rambling as he poured a glass of milk for his sister.
Giles was nervous about Buffy seeing the pictures, but knew they’d work through whatever emotions they caused. He just hoped that Michael and Ethan were going to be able to do the same thing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Buffy took hold of Giles’ hand as they walked towards the Raynes’ front door. She looked up at him when she felt his hand tremble.
He swallowed, using his left index finger to push the doorbell, and looked down at her. “I’m just extremely nervous.”
She rubbed his chest with her right hand and smiled softly. “We’re stronger than some pictures that are…how old?”
“Thirty-five years…give or take.” He answered quietly. “But there were certain instances…I didn’t tell you complete details of everything, Buffy.”
“I know…just like I didn’t tell you everything about Angel or Riley. You know what happened, but you don’t know every single detail…because there’s no need.”
Giles lowered his eyes. “I’m fairly certain that the things that were asked of Ethan and me are – ”
She placed the fingers of her right hand over his lips and shook her head. “Stop, Giles. I love you. I’m in love with you. We have this whole for better, for worse, in sickness and in health thing going on here. This…all of this happened before I was even born. I can’t hold any of this against you…and I wouldn’t want to. We’ve had this conversation way too many times over the years…and we’ll get through this, just like we have everything else.”
He opened his mouth to respond, his words dying in his throat as the front door opened. He turned his eyes to his friend, swallowing hard when he noticed the sadness in Ethan’s eyes.
“Rupert, Buffy…” He stepped back from the doorway and sighed. “Thank you for coming.”
As they stepped inside, Giles paused and placed his free hand on Ethan’s shoulder. “Are you alright?”
Ethan exhaled deeply and pulled away from Giles’ touch, closing the door as he cleared his throat. “Michael’s home.”
Buffy watched her husband carefully, sighing sadly as she watched his hand fall back to his side. Ethan brushed by them, heading back to the living room where presumably Michael was. Giles stood silently, staring after Ethan, until Buffy gently squeezed his hand.
He shook his head and met Buffy’s eyes. “I, uh…I can’t remember the last time that he pulled away from me like that.”
“It’s not you, honey. You know that Michael has to be upset…” She took a step forward as he nodded in agreement, gently pulling him with her. “Come on. The quicker we know what’s going on, the quicker we can set things straight again.”
Giles said nothing, but followed Buffy down the hall. As they walked into the living room, Michael’s sad eyes caught his. Michael opened his mouth, but no sound was made. Instead, he shook his head sadly and took a long drink from the glass held in his hand.
Giles took a deep breath and sat down on one of the couches, pulling Buffy down with him. It didn’t go unnoticed that while Ethan was sitting on the other couch, Michael was sitting off to the side in a chair.
“Perhaps we should start with the letter that came with the pictures?” Giles asked softly.
Ethan nodded slowly, looking over at his husband. “Michael?”
Michael snorted and waved his hand towards the box resting on the coffee table. “Do what you want, Ethan.”
Ethan closed his eyes briefly in an attempt to hide his pain. His eyes were glistening with unshed tears as he reached out and pulled the letter from the box. Giles noticed the tremble in Ethan’s hand as he took the letter.
Giles took a deep breath and carefully read the letter, his brow furrowing as he reached the end of the instructions that the author of the letter had given Ethan.
“Do you know who gave these to you?” Ethan shook his head and Giles sighed. “There are too many details given…whoever wrote this was there that night, or knows someone who was.”
Ethan nodded and ran his fingers through his hair. “Problem is…I couldn’t tell you who was there. I was so high that I barely remember being there. It all seems like a dream instead of reality.”
Michael finished his drink and stared at Ethan. “You can’t take pictures of dreams, Ethan.”
Ethan returned Michael’s stare. Giles and Buffy watched the standoff for a few seconds before Giles leaned forward and spoke softly.
“Michael, there were extenuating circumstances at work here. If we hadn’t been under the influence of drugs and magick, this wouldn’t have happened. But we were…and – ”
“You fucked him.” Michael interrupted coldly. “You tied him up and fucked him.”
Giles cleared his throat and nodded. “Yes, I did.”
Michael glanced at Buffy, surprised that he didn’t see anger or hurt in her eyes. “And you’re okay with this?”
“It was a long time ago, Michael.” She glanced at Ethan, then Giles, and then returned her gaze to Michael. “I accepted Giles’ past long before we were considering marriage. Ethan told you about his past relationship with Giles when you first started dating. He loves you, Michael. If he didn’t love you, he wouldn’t have told you anything.”
A tear escaped Michael’s right eye and rolled down his cheek. “He didn’t tell me how the demon requested them to prove their allegiance to him.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed as she glanced at Ethan and then Giles. “Sex…I already knew that.”
Giles exhaled deeply. “Not just sex, Buffy…submission. Ethan had to submit to me, as I had to submit to him.”
Buffy stared at her husband. “You said that Ethan hadn’t – ”
He interrupted her quickly. “He didn’t. Ethan never fucked me…but, I submitted to him…his power.”
“I’m confused…” Buffy whispered softly.
Ethan cleared his throat and met Buffy’s eyes. “I gave Rupert my body…Rupert then accepted my essence into his mind. It was probably one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced…being inside of his mind, learning how he thinks…”
“You know how he thinks?” Buffy asked, her eyes widening in disbelief.
Ethan shook his head slowly, the hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “No. I know how he used to think. He’s changed a great deal in the past thirty-five years.”
Before Buffy could ask another question, and before Ethan could continue, Giles cleared his throat and added another detail to the night in question.
“There was also the mixing of blood…blood magick bonding us to each other…and Eyghon.”
At Buffy’s look of utter confusion, Michael sighed. “The tattoos.”
Buffy turned her gaze to Michael, silently requesting him to continue. He looked down at the empty glass held in his hands and narrowed his eyes as he collected his thoughts.
“They tattooed each other. Rupert mixed his blood into the ink he used to tattoo Ethan. Ethan did the same when he tattooed Rupert. And then they let the demon taste their blood…”
Buffy thought for a second and then looked at Giles. “That’s how he was able to find you?”
Giles nodded slowly. “Yes.”
Buffy shook her head quickly. “No, that can’t be right…because when Ethan tattooed me, Eyghon came after me…”
“I added some of Rupert’s blood to the ink I used on you.” Ethan admitted softly, earning him the incredulous stares of the three other people in the room. “It was the only way that I could assure that he wouldn’t come after me.”
“That explains the confusion in the demon’s eyes.” Giles stated, unconsciously rubbing his arm where his tattoo still remained.
When Buffy looked at him questioningly, he sat back against the cushions and took a deep breath.
“Eyghon was being called to me, but came to you. And then I showed up…”
“Two Giles’…which would be confusing.” Buffy finished for him.
Michael stared at Ethan, anger showing in his eyes. “You were going to sacrifice Buffy to save yourself?”
Ethan swallowed nervously. “I knew that he’d save her. It was his duty to keep her safe.”
“So that made it okay?” Michael’s voice rose slightly.
“No.” Ethan replied softly, standing and making his way to Michael. He knelt on the floor and reached up, touching Michael’s cheek as he continued. “But, I was a different person then, Michael. It wasn’t okay…and I’ve apologized profusely to both Rupert and Buffy for my behaviour during that time…but, at the time I was just trying to protect myself.”
When Michael lowered his eyes, Ethan gently brushed his fingers through Michael’s hair.
“I’ve done many things that I’m not proud of, Michael…and I’m sure I still have things to atone for…but, everything that happened in the past made me the person I am now. And the person I am now is the man who is in love with you.”
Michael was quiet for a moment and then swallowed.
“Do you still love him?”
Ethan lowered his hand to Michael’s chest and sat back on his heels, shaking his head. “Mike…those pictures, they weren’t about love.”
“I know.” Michael whispered, covering Ethan’s hand with his own. He gave Ethan’s hand a gentle squeeze before pulling it from his chest. “But you did love him.”
“I did.” Ethan agreed softly. “But, that was so long ago…and I married you. Besides…my love for Rupert was completely one-sided. He may have cared about me, as he does now, but he never held any feelings of love for me.”
“Do you still love him?” Michael repeated, looking directly into Ethan’s eyes.
Ethan sighed, but didn’t lower his eyes. “A part of me will always feel something for Rupert. But am I still in love with him? No, Michael…I’m not.”
Michael’s response was interrupted by the ringing of Ethan’s mobile phone. Ethan reached over to the coffee table and picked up the phone, fully intending to turn it off. He glanced at the caller id and quickly answered instead.
Michael started to protest the fact that Ethan answered the call, but stopped when he heard Ethan say Xander’s name. Buffy and Giles glanced at one another as Ethan spoke hurriedly before nodding absently and ending the call.
He looked up and met Michael’s eyes. “Anya’s having the baby.”
At that moment, Buffy’s mobile started ringing. She answered quickly, knowing that it would be Xander informing them of the news. As she spoke into the phone, Giles watched Ethan and Michael carefully.
“You need to go.” Michael stated, a sad tone to his voice.
Ethan shook his head and reached for Michael’s hand. He exhaled slowly, tenderly stroking Michael’s skin with his thumb.
“I’m not leaving, Michael. I can’t…not right now…”
Michael swallowed and took a deep breath. “You should go.”
When Ethan shook his head, Michael continued. “You are this child’s biological father…they wanted you there, Ethan. You go…I’ll stay here with Buffy and Rupert…call me when she arrives and I’ll come. I just…it’s important for you to be there…and it’s important that I talk to Rupert, alone.”
Ethan hesitated, only giving his silent agreement when Michael’s softly whispered ‘please’ sounded. Ethan stood and leaned down, brushing his lips over Michael’s cheek.
“I love you.” Ethan whispered before turning and giving Giles a quick nod before grabbing his keys.
Giles cleared his throat. “Give our regards?”
“Of course.” Ethan replied, giving him and Buffy a soft smile. “I’ll call in a little while.”
After meeting Michael’s eyes once more, he turned and left the room. Buffy ended her phone call with Xander and looked up at her husband.
“The doctors seemed to think she’s going to have a quick labour this time.”
Giles nodded slowly before glancing at the envelope of pictures on the coffee table. With a steadying breath, he leaned forward and picked it up. His fingers played at the flap as he looked over at Michael.
“What is in here isn’t indicative of the normal parameters of my relationship with Ethan at that time, Michael.”
Michael swallowed, his eyes darting to the envelope before returning to Giles’ concerned green eyes. “Logically, I know. And I also know that what the two of you were doing in those pictures isn’t going to be repeated.”
“He truly loves you.” Giles whispered, staring into Michael’s eyes. “He would never do anything to intentionally hurt you.”
“I know.” Michael whispered back, lowering his eyes. “But, he should’ve told me.”
He looked up quickly and stared at Buffy. “Doesn’t it bother you that Rupert didn’t tell you about this?”
Buffy thought for a moment and then shook her head. “Maybe it should, but it doesn’t. I mean…this happened so many years ago…and, not only that, I’m fairly certain that even Giles and Ethan don’t remember all of the details.”
Giles nodded in agreement with Buffy’s statement. “I, uh…that’s very true. The night this happened…I…we…”
“Were drunk and high?” Michael offered, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.
“Quite.” Giles admitted. “As well as being young and stupid.”
“Ethan thought you might know who took the pictures…” Michael responded after a brief moment, gesturing to the box.
“I’m rather sure I don’t remember who was there either.” Giles took a deep breath and dropped the envelope back onto the coffee table. “But that’s not the most important thing right now, is it?”
“He thinks I’m going to leave him, doesn’t he?”
“I think he’s worried about it.” Giles admitted, holding Michael’s gaze. “It wouldn’t be the first time that someone who he loves…and someone who loved him…had left him over the past he shares with me.”
“I’m not Anna.” Michael stated, standing up suddenly and beginning to pace. “I accepted his past. I trust him…and you…to not relive the past. But, to see it…to hold those pictures…I…God, I love him.”
Giles stood up and grabbed Michael’s arm, pulling him into a hug as the younger man choked down a sob. “He loves you, Michael. Don’t let our youthful stupidity come between you. If you leave him, leave him for something worthwhile…not this.”
Buffy watched them, listened to their shared words. When Michael gently pulled from Giles’ embrace and wiped the tears from his face, Buffy offered him a warm smile.
“Ethan would probably like someone to pass the time with…”
“I was so horrible to him when he left.” Michael’s voice trembled. “I didn’t even tell him that I love him.”
“Why don’t we drop you off at the hospital…and you can tell him just that?”
Michael nodded absently, glancing at the box on the coffee table. “What about those?”
Giles cleared his throat. “I, uh…I can take care of them…”
“Thank you.” Michael whispered.
Giles gave him a soft nod and gestured towards the hall. “Whenever you’re ready, we can go.”
Michael sniffled and then jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “I just need to clean myself up…I won’t be long.”
Buffy’s smile shone in her eyes. “Take your time, Michael. Ethan’s not going anywhere.”
For the first time since they’d arrived, Michael smiled. It was a small one, just a tug at the corner of his mouth, but it was there.
Giles exhaled slowly as Michael turned and made his way to the bathroom. He looked down at Buffy, pulling her in front of him and sliding his arms around her.
She slid her arms over his shoulders, her thumbs gently rubbing against the back of his neck. “Do you think they’ll be okay?”
He thought for a moment and then nodded. “I think they will.”
“What are you going to do with the pictures?”
He unconsciously darted his eyes towards the box. “Burn them.”
“Can I look at them first?”
His eyes snapped back to hers. “I’m not sure that I want to see them.”
Buffy smiled understandingly. “I didn’t mean that I wanted to get off on them.”
“I…don’t know, Buffy.”
“Will you think about it?” She asked softly, pressing a tender kiss to his chin.
“I make no promises.” He whispered seriously.
“I know.” She whispered in return. “I love you, Giles.”
He response was interrupted by Michael’s return to the room. He met Michael’s eyes and smiled softly.
“Are you ready, then?”
Michael nodded slowly and ran his hand through his hair in a nervous gesture. Buffy smiled and slipped out of Giles’ arms.
“You look very handsome, Michael.”
Michael blushed lightly as Giles nodded in agreement. With a small smile, he walked past Buffy and Giles and into the hallway that led to the front door. Giles took Buffy’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
With no further words, Buffy picked up the small box of pictures before they followed Michael out of the house.
* * *
Ethan sat in the waiting room, twisting his wedding ring as he attempted to ignore the sound of two people arguing on the other side of the room. The television was on and he had tried to concentrate on the inane game show playing, but his thoughts kept rushing back to Michael.
As the woman’s voice became more shrill, Ethan lifted his head and looked over at them. The man looked utterly embarrassed by the woman’s behaviour and Ethan shook his head sympathetically at him.
The man shot him a nervous smile and then turned his attention back to the woman.
Ethan rolled his eyes and dropped his eyes back to the magazine open across his thighs, his fingers idly twisting his ring again. He furrowed his brow as a shadow fell across the page. When the shadow didn’t move, he raised his head with the intention of requesting that the person move.
The words never made it past his lips. The owner of the shadow was his husband.
Michael swallowed and sat down in the chair next to Ethan’s, glancing at Ethan’s left hand. “Is that a nervous tic or are you thinking about taking it off?”
“I would imagine that it’s nerves.” Ethan replied softly after a moment’s hesitation. “Is something wrong?”
Michael looked into Ethan’s eyes and nodded. “Yes…you were here alone.”
Ethan’s fingers left his ring and he turned in his chair to face Michael. “But not anymore…”
“No…not anymore.” Michael stated softly, lifting his hand to the side of Ethan’s face.
“I love you, Ethan.” Michael whispered, tenderly rubbing his thumb against Ethan’s cheek. “And I’m so sorry that I got so upset.”
“It couldn’t have been easy to see those…” Ethan said quietly, leaning into Michael’s touch. “I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten rid of them before. I…I actually thought I had. But, I will…I swear, I’ll burn them as soon as we get home.”
Michael smiled and leaned forward, pressing a warm kiss to Ethan’s lips. “Rupert’s taking care of them.”
“I love you, Michael.” Ethan whispered emotionally, his eyes glistening as he slid his right hand to the back of Michael’s neck. “I love you so much.”
The arguing from across the room stopped as Ethan pulled Michael in for a passionate kiss. The man’s eyes widened as his wife nudged him in the ribs.
“See? If you would just admit that you were wrong, we could be doing that right now instead of arguing in circles.”
Ethan deepened the kiss, causing the man to blush heavily and lower his eyes.
Giles sat on the floor in front of the fireplace watching the flames lick around the edges of the small box of photographs. Buffy sat at his side, her head resting on his shoulder and her hand on his thigh. Joyce had offered to keep the children overnight, an offer that Buffy and Giles had taken her up on quickly.
The box hadn’t even been opened when they returned home. Buffy had decided that she didn’t want to see them…there was no need.
Giles had been extremely grateful for her decision.
“Do you think they’re okay?”
“Hm?” He blinked quickly and looked down at her as her soft voice interrupted his thoughts.
“Ethan and Michael…do you think they’re okay?”
“Oh.” Giles nodded as he lifted his hand and combed his fingers through her hair. “Yes. Yes I do.”
When his fingertips brushed over the nape of her neck, over the spot where a tattoo had been removed many years earlier, she exhaled a deep breath.
“How did he get your blood?”
Giles furrowed his brow. “I’m sorry?”
“When he tattooed me, he mixed your blood with the ink. How did he get your blood?”
“Oh…” Giles responded, clearing his throat before he continued. “I would imagine from the wall.”
“Huh?” Buffy asked, obviously confused.
He looked down at his left hand, which was currently resting on her knee. He flexed his fingers and chuckled softly.
“My, uh…third punch missed him and hit the wall. Flesh versus brick…the brick won. I remember you mentioning my knuckles…”
Buffy nodded slowly. “Yeah…you told me it was nothing. Of course, you didn’t want to talk at all about that night for a long time…”
Giles cleared his throat, his eyes watching his fingers rub her knee. “It…was a difficult night.”
“It didn’t turn out like you wanted it to at all, did it? I mean…the night was supposed to end with Jenny in your bed, not with your knuckles cut and bleeding after a fight with Ethan Rayne.”
Giles looked up quickly, his fingers stopping their motion as he looked into her eyes. “It was for the best, in the long run.”
When Buffy tilted her head in a silent question, he took a deep breath and lifted his hand to the side of her face.
“Had Jenny and I…well, it never would’ve worked, you know. I would’ve been unable to be faithful to her…and I would’ve hurt her deeply.”
“It’s true.” He whispered, caressing her cheek with the tips of his fingers. “I loved her, yes. But…nothing could have stopped my love for you growing into what it is now. The night that I first kissed you would have still happened…no matter who I was in a relationship with at the time.”
“I know.” Buffy answered back, her voice a whisper as well. “And nothing could’ve stopped me from letting it go further…”
His eyes darted to her lips as his hand trailed down her arm. “I want you, Buffy…”
“Yeah?” Her voice trembled as he moved forward, gently pushing her down onto the floor.
He gave her a gentle smile as he laid down beside of her, draping his left leg over hers. He propped his head up with his right hand as his left lovingly rubbed her abdomen.
“Mm, yes.” He answered, his smile growing when she shuddered as his fingers edged under the hem of her shirt. “Right here, right now…”
As he spread his fingers across her stomach, she grinned and began working on the buttons of his shirt. “I’m glad that’s one thing that hasn’t changed.”
He raised an eyebrow. “What? That I want to take you here and now? That’s something that I can’t imagine ever changing.”
Buffy giggled and shook her head, pushing his now unbuttoned shirt open with her hands. “No, that’s not what I meant. I meant that…” She glanced down at his hand before meeting his eyes again. “You touching the baby…that’s something that I’ve always loved.”
“So have I.” His eyes sparkled as he leaned down and kissed her warm lips.
Conversation paused as his tongue slipped into her mouth. Her groan rumbled in her chest as he pulled the button on her jeans free and slid the zipper down. She could feel his erection pressing against her hip as he leaned over her, his tongue sliding along hers.
When she lifted her hips as he tugged her jeans down her thighs, he broke the kiss and smiled. “I love you.”
Just as she was getting ready to respond, he dropped her jeans to the side and pushed her shirt up…exposing the slight swell of her belly. When he brushed his lips over her navel and whispered “I love you too, Declan”, she ran her trembling fingers through his hair.
“God, I love you, Giles.”
Lifting his head, he offered her a smile as he pushed himself up. His voice was thick with desire as he gently nudged her legs apart.
Her eyes drifted to his chest as he shrugged his shirt off, allowing it to fall to the floor as he moved to kneel between her thighs. “So do you.”
He grinned as his fingers unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans. “Perhaps that’s because I am.”
She licked her lips as he pushed his jeans and boxers down his thighs, exposing his thick erection. She murmured appreciatively as he slowly stroked the hardened flesh.
He leaned forward, supporting his upper body with his right hand on the floor next to Buffy’s head as he used his left to guide his cock to her. She groaned as he slowly slid inside of her, tilting her head back and exposing her throat to him. Once he was fully embedded within her, he lowered his mouth to her throat…sucking and nibbling on the tender flesh as he held his hips still.
“Jesus…Giles…” She whimpered as she slid her hands to his back and wrapped her legs around his waist. “God, please!”
He chuckled softly and lifted his head, placing a soft kiss on her lips before looking into her eyes. “No need to beg, love.”
“Then…oh dear God!” She cried out as he quickly pulled his hips back and plunged forward. “Yes, fuck yes!”
Relying on his knowledge of her body and her movements, and being able to read her desires in those movements, he pushed his upper body up and stared down at her. He watched her writhe beneath him for a few moments before giving in and slamming his hips against her.
Her nails raked down his back, sweat glistening on her skin as she matched him thrust for thrust. His eyes drifted to her breasts, slightly larger than they were just a few months earlier, jostling with their combined movements.
He darted his eyes to her eyes at the hoarse sound of her voice. “Alright?”
She nodded quickly, her smile showing in her eyes. “Eyes, not boobs…”
He slowed his thrusts, smiling down at her. “Can’t help it…they’re so lovely and firm and…God, your nipples are so tight and hard…”
She slid her left hand from his back and covered her left breast with it, gently pinching her nipple with her fingers. She gave a pleasurable cry as he increased his pace once more, his eyes staring at her hand.
“Yes, Buffy…don’t stop…”
She felt his cock swell within her and knew that he was close…and she was nearly as close as he was. She held on as hard as she could, waiting for him…wanting him to come first, to bring her over as his semen flooded her inner walls.
She smiled as he groaned her name, throwing his head back as he shortened his strokes. Her fingers roamed over his chest, caressing the scars before scraping her nails over his pebbled nipples.
“Christ!” He cried, his thrusts becoming erratic. “Buffy, I…I…”
“God, come…come for me…” She panted, her inner muscles rippling around his throbbing cock. “Fuck, Rupert!”
His body trembled violently and his arms lowered his chest to hers, allowing his lips to find her neck. His breath was hot against her skin as he screamed her name, his erection exploding within her depths.
She followed immediately, screaming in ecstasy as her inner walls gripped his spasming cock. He murmured incoherently into the crook of her neck, his thrusts gradually slowing as they fought to catch their breath. Her hands roamed aimlessly across his sweat-drenched back, her body shuddering beneath him.
He made a sound that was something between a chuckle and a groan, brushing his lips across her temple as he softened within her. She kissed his chest and slid her hands down to his ass, squeezing gently.
“I hope that sound meant you enjoyed it…”
“Mm…I think ‘enjoyed’ is underestimating it.” He smiled as he shifted, causing her to groan as he slipped from her. “Maybe we, uh…would you feel up to sleeping here tonight?”
She rolled onto her side and looked into his eyes. “Here? On the floor?”
“Mm-hm.” He murmured glancing at the fireplace. “Here…on the floor, in front of the fire…in one another’s arms…”
Buffy smiled and glanced across the room when she heard a soft snore. “Only if you make sure we have a blanket…I don’t want to be woken up in a few hours with a cold nose in…inappropriate places.”
“My nose is warm…”
She laughed, playfully smacking his chest. “I’m talking about your dog.”
Giles huffed, then stood and grabbed the large afghan from the couch. “I dare you to tell her she’s a dog.”
Callie snorted and opened an eye, closing it again after she yawned and snuggled back into her bed.
Giles lowered himself to Buffy’s side and wrapped the blanket around their sweaty bodies. “We can go to bed if you’d prefer, I just thought it would be nice to take advantage of a fire in the fireplace and an empty house.”
She smiled and relaxed in his arms, her head on his shoulder. “No…this is good. Very good.”
He yawned and idly ran his fingers over her back. “I’m surprised we haven’t heard from – ”
Buffy laughed as her mobile phone started ringing. “Xander?”
He regretfully moved out of her embrace and quickly found her phone. He scratched his chest as he answered the call. He smiled at Buffy and gave her a nod.
“Seven pounds two.” He listened again and then laughed. “Ten fingers, ten toes. Congratulations, Xander…give our love to Anya.”
He slipped back under the afghan and nodded absently. “We’ll be by first thing in the morning, I promise.”
After a few more moments, Giles smiled and bid Xander a soft ‘goodnight’. After tossing the phone onto the couch, he pulled Buffy back into his arms and kissed her warmly.
“Ethan and Michael went home shortly after River’s birth. According to Xander, Anya said that they looked like they were ‘two seconds away from humping each other in front of everyone’.”
Buffy smiled brightly and draped half of her body over his. “I sincerely hope so.”
Giles grinned and closed his eyes, pressing a soft kiss into Buffy’s hair. “As do I.”
It wasn’t long before sleep found them.
* * *
Ethan smiled, a bead of sweat running down the side of his neck as he leaned down and latched his mouth onto Michael’s nipple. Michael groaned, his hips arching to meet each of Ethan’s hard thrusts.
As Michael shuddered beneath him, his cock twitching as he neared orgasm, Ethan silently thanked any deity listening for giving him the chance to make things right. Ethan cursed softly as Michael came, semen splattering his chest…and then he followed suit, exploding within Michael with a loud cry.
Michael’s body trembled as he held Ethan close, whispering his love for him. As Ethan kissed him lovingly, Michael knew that Ethan’s past was just that…the past. And he could live with that…as long as Ethan and Rupert kept their promises of not reliving the past.