Giles sat down on the sofa next to Buffy and handed her a mug of tea. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like ice cream or something?”
Buffy took the mug and scowled at him. “He doesn’t deserve the ice cream fix.”
He sighed softly and settled into the cushions. She narrowed her eyes and curled her fingers around the mug.
A look of confusion washed over Giles. “What what?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “The sigh. What was that about?”
“Nothing.” When she stared at him, he shrugged a shoulder. “Well, mainly nothing. It’s not really my business.”
“I kind of made it your business. I came to you when I found out my boyfriend has been letting vampires feed from him for fun. Or paying them to. I don’t even know – are they like blood prostitutes or something?”
When he hesitated in answering her, her eyes widened. At that moment, Giles realised that Buffy had processed something he’d said earlier.
“Hazards of the underworld can become addictive to some people…and you hadn’t seen it since your Ripper days?”
“It was a very long time ago.” He replied softly, nervously.
“You paid vampires to bite you?” She asked incredulously.
“No.” He paused, then cleared his throat. “I never paid. I may have been going by the moniker ‘Ripper’, but the vampires knew I was a Giles. Back then, the name meant something.”
“It means something now.” She offered quietly.
“Thank you.” He said sincerely.
“Why did you?”
“At first, it was to piss my father off – to push the Council away.” He rubbed the back of his neck and exhaled slowly. “Later it was to feel something…anything. And it was a rush.”
“How long did it go on for? And what made you stop?”
“A few months, nearly a year. And Ethan was able to make me stop, believe it or not.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed. “Ethan Rayne? How?”
A small smile played on Giles’ lips. “That…is another story for another time.”
She was quiet for a few long minutes and then took a sip of her tea. “So, you understand why Riley would do it.”
He shook his head and waited for her to look back at him. When she did, he turned towards her and sighed. “No, I don’t. I understand the addictive qualities of it – I don’t understand why he would go down that route.”
“He said he didn’t feel that I loved him.”
Giles raised an eyebrow. “So, he’s blaming his addiction on you?”
“Maybe I didn’t show him enough. I know I didn’t say it, but I thought I’d shown him. But, maybe I was wrong.”
“Or perhaps he’s a prat who wanted things his way and wasn’t prepared to give you the space or time necessary. He’s never understood what it means to be the Slayer, that’s always been very obvious. But, I honestly don’t think he understands…you, as Buffy.”
“You’ve never really liked him, have you?”
“I’ve had reservations about him.”
Buffy snorted a laugh and placed her mug on the coffee table. “Reservations, huh?”
“Yes, well…” He smiled for a moment and then looked at her curiously.
“I’m just wondering where it stands with you now. Do you give him another chance or call it quits?”
“Um…no other chance.” She replied quickly, running her fingers through her hair.
“Addictions can be overcome, Buffy.” He said, hoping he sounded more sincere than he actually felt.
“Yeah, they can. You’ve proven that to me.” She smiled for a moment and then shook her head. “But, ultimatums can’t.”
“Ultimatums?” He questioned, narrowing his eyes slightly.
“Yeah. Like… ‘make me believe you love me or I’m going back to the military and leaving Sunnydale’.”
“He said that?”
“Well, something like it. The gist was the same, though. Then he gave me ‘I’m leaving at midnight’ line and…I walked out.”
Giles glanced at the clock. Twenty to twelve.
“And then Xander showed up and was telling me I was treating him like the rebound guy, when he’s the one that comes along once in a lifetime. How he’s risked everything and never held back with me…”
Giles arched an eyebrow, but kept his mouth shut. Riley may have never held back with her, but he had tried numerous times to hold her back. He silently cursed Xander for butting in…once more.
“And then I ran.” She sighed and picked her mug back up. “Interesting thing though…I ran here – to you.”
She took a sip and met his eyes.
“What’s that mean?”
Giles took a slow breath and chose his words carefully. She didn’t need to know what he really thought right now.
“You and I have grown closer since you asked me to be your Watcher again. Perhaps you wanted my opinion on the matter?”
Buffy shook her head thoughtfully. “No. I mean, I value your opinion, don’t get me wrong. But, I’m not changing my mind. I can’t be with someone who tries to hold me back, blames me for his bad choices, and then gives me ultimatums so he doesn’t have to own up to the fact that he fucked up.”
Giles nodded, but said nothing and waited for her to continue. She took another sip of her tea and shrugged a shoulder.
“I came here because you don’t try to change me. You listen, you know when to say something and when to just let me rant. You let me make my own decisions – but you also let me get to that decision on my own. You know?”
He took his glasses off and rubbed the back of his neck. “I think I’m following.”
Giles snorted softly. “Safe? Me?”
“In our lives, yes. Riley isn’t safe. Riley is alpha commando, ask no questions, I should protect you because I’m a man. But, in our lives…that’s going to get him killed. And he can’t see that.”
“And I’m safe because I’m not the alpha, ask questions, and understand that you are the grand protector?”
“No, you’re safe because you’re Giles.” Buffy smiled warmly. “And you’re more alpha than you think.”
They were quiet for a few moments and then Giles took a deep breath.
“Yeah.” She glanced at the clock and then snuggled into the corner of the sofa, curling her legs under her and cradling her mug of tea in her hands. “How do you feel about talking until we run out of things to say?”
“Is that even possible? I’ve listened to you talk incessantly more times than I can count.” He replied with a smile.
“And you can talk about demons and spells and languages and England for days on end.”
“Ah, yes…discussions the likes of which you ignore or zone out and pay no attention…” He said with a playful chuckle.
“I pay more attention than you realise.” She answered, lifting the mug to her lips. “The important thing is…we have plenty to talk about and I have no where else I want to be. So…you start and let’s talk.”
“Demons, spells, or languages?” He asked, the smile showing in his eyes.
“England.” She smiled as he tilted his head. “Tell me about your home…with details. Make me see your words.”
He looked at her for a long moment and then cleared his throat.
“When people think of England, they normally think of London. London has it’s fair share of pros, but…I never liked living there. That’s probably one of the many reasons I rebelled when I did – too many people, too many distractions, too much noise. My home…is green, with trees and hills and beautiful wildflowers in the summer. When it rains here, in Sunnydale, it smells…hot, like asphalt. Do you know what I mean?”
She nodded silently, not wanting to disrupt his train of thought.
“When it rains at home, it smells cool and crisp…the smell can bring a chill that’s so warm and comforting.” He paused and took a deep breath. “I miss the rain.”
The clock softly chimed twelve times.
Neither of them took notice.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Over the next few weeks, Buffy and Giles spent much more time together. If she wasn’t in class or patrolling, she was most likely to be at his house. When she was on patrol, he was often (and more often than not) patrolling with her. Willow, Xander, and Anya had noticed the distinct lack of Buffy in their trips to The Bronze or the movies – but, Buffy had merely said that she and Giles were perfecting their bond. Willow and Xander took that at face value. Anya had her own opinions on what that meant.
Truth was, they were working on their bond. She had learned more about him in the past three weeks than she had learned in the previous four years. When she mentioned that over a post-patrol pizza, he laughed and teasingly replied that when you ask questions, you learn more.
Though she knew that was true, she had a sneaking suspicion that if sixteen years old her had asked him about his time of rebellion, he would have stammered a non-sensical reply and then changed the subject quicker than she could make him complain about the music she listened to. But, she was twenty now…and she was seeing things in a different light. When he smiled at her as he picked up an olive that had fallen off of his slice of pizza and popped it into his mouth, she recognised that she was seeing some certain things in a very different light.
Riley’s name hadn’t been mentioned since the night after he left. Giles had told her that he was there if she needed…or wanted…to talk about it. But, she found that she simply didn’t want…or need…to talk about her most recent breakup. And as she realised that she didn’t even think about Riley, she began to believe that maybe Riley was actually right. She had loved him, sure…but, she hadn’t been in love with him. When Angel had left, she had felt like her heart had been ripped from her chest.
When Riley left, she felt like she could breathe again.
She heard Giles’ voice, but didn’t hear what he’d said. She gave herself a mental shake and cleared her throat.
He smiled softly, dropping a piece of crust onto his plate. “I just asked if you were okay. You seemed to have fallen into thought.”
“Oh. Yeah. Yeah, I did. Nothing bad, though.”
He gave a slight nod. “Dare I ask?”
“Breathing.” She replied, pulling a piece of pepperoni from the slice on her plate. “Just…how nice it is to be able to breathe.”
He looked at her curiously as she smiled and chewed before licking the pizza sauce from her thumb. He tried not to think about that – her tongue touching her thumb. The harder he tried, the more he thought about it.
The more he thought about it, the more he realised that he was in trouble.
He returned her smile and pulled another piece of pizza from the tray.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Would you just lay down?”
Giles arched an eyebrow at her, though he wasn’t sure if she could actually see his expression in the dark. “On the ground?”
Buffy snorted a laugh, her vision was near perfect in the dark and she could easily see his look of skepticism. “There’s a picnic blanket, Giles. Come on, just lay down and look.”
Giles sighed and slowly lowered himself to the blanket. He glanced at her, wondering for a moment how he had gotten himself in this predicament. Then he remembered quickly – a transformer had blown and all power had gone out on this side of town. He’d come over to make sure she was okay…and she had taken advantage of the near pitch black that could only occur when the power was out.
And now she wanted him to look at the stars with her.
While lying next to her.
“Lay down…” She repeated, smiling at him. “You can’t look at stars while sitting there.”
He glanced up at the sky and narrowed his eyes. “Of course I can.”
“But, we won’t be seeing the same thing. You know…angles and perspective?”
He cast her a dubious look and then sighed again. And then he stretched out next to her…but not next to her.
“What’s with the star-gazing? You’ve always lived in cities…or towns where there’s not much chance of actually seeing stars properly given all of the light.”
“You like stars.”
He turned his head towards her. “I’m sorry?”
“You like stars. Astronomy…stars, planets, comets…all of that. Don’t you?”
“Uh…yes, actually. Astronomy has always intrigued me. But…I don’t recall ever having that conversation with you.” He felt a brief flash of panic within him, much like the panic he felt years ago when she could read minds for a brief period of time.
“Astronomy chart on the wall in your spare room.” She replied with a shrug. “Why would you have a star chart if you don’t like stars?”
He smiled and turned his eyes back to the sky above them. “That star is probably dead by now.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed. “Huh? Which one?”
“Did you not pay attention in science?”
“Spent a lot of time in the library during science class…” She replied with a laugh. “Which star is probably dead by now?”
“Do you see the one that looks…pinkish?”
“Yes, like red…but somewhat lighter. Pinkish.”
She rolled her eyes. “And who says the English don’t have a sense of humour?”
“I’ve no idea.” He answered, looking into her eyes briefly before returning his attention to the sky. “Do you see it? There…”
She followed the direction in which he was pointing. “The pinkish one…yeah, okay. I see it. It’s dead?”
“No. Well, probably not.” He said, shifting his hand. “That one, to the left. The one that’s flickering.”
“There are three that are flickering.” She responded, pointing towards one of them. “Are you talking about that one?”
He moved closer to her and followed where she was pointing. He smiled and shook his head, gently taking hold of her hand and moving it until her finger was pointing at the star he was talking about.
“That one.” He whispered. “The one that’s to the left of the pinkish one.”
“Oh…” She whispered back, suddenly not caring about the star. “That one…”
“Mm-hm.” He murmured, swallowing as she turned her hand under his and ran her fingertips across his palm.
She slid her fingers between his and gently pulled their hands down to rest between them on the blanket. She bit her lip as she slowly curled her fingers over his knuckles. She relaxed slightly when he didn’t pull away. She smiled nervously as his thumb gently rubbed against the back of her hand.
“So, that one’s dead?”
He licked his lips, but kept his eyes on the star in question. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
“You sounded so sure a few minutes ago.”
“I was sure about a few things a few minutes ago.” He replied quietly.
He hesitated for a moment and then turned his head to look at her. “I, um…I don’t know.”
“Don’t know what?” She asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Where this is going.” He said, glancing at her lips.
“I do.” She gently squeezed his fingers. “It’s more about…if that’s where you want it to go.”
He stared into her eyes, his jaw twitching twice. “Where I want it to go and where it should go are quite possibly two very different things, Buffy.”
“Even if we want it to go to the same place?”
“Especially.” He answered, rubbing his thumb over her skin once more before gently pulling his hand away from hers. “This is…one of us is bound to get hurt.”
“You’re worried it’ll be you.” She said, rolling onto her side to face him.
His eyes darted to her lips once more before he took a deep breath and sat up. “I’ve no doubt it would be me.”
As he started to stand up, she reached out and grabbed his arm.
He closed his eyes briefly and then lowered his head when he felt her sit up next to him. “Buffy – ”
“I had my rebound, Giles.” She interrupted softly. “You’re not it.”
“What am I?” He turned his head towards her and exhaled slowly. “To you, what am I?”
“A hope for something more.” She answered sincerely, moving closer to him.
“More than Watcher/Slayer…more than friends…more than…” She paused and then leaned up, pressing a soft kiss to his jaw. “More than a night of passion.”
“No, not tonight…but, we can.” Her lips glided across his chin. “If you’ll allow us the chance, we can.”
He pulled back slightly and looked at her for a long moment. Just when she thought he would pull away completely, he leaned into her and brushed his lips over hers. Once, twice…and then her hand was in his hair and his lips were parting above hers, deepening the kiss as she placed her other hand on his chest.
As her fingers curled into the front of his shirt, he carefully lowered her back down to the blanket. And then his hand was on her hip and a groan rumbled in his chest when her tongue flicked against his bottom lip. He ended the kiss and licked his lips as he looked into her eyes.
She shook her head, sliding her hand to the side of his neck. “You should stay.”
“I’m fairly certain that – ”
“Giles, there’s a spare room. I’m not asking you to spend the night in my bed. We’re not ready for that.” She paused and offered him an understanding smile. “I’m not even sure that you’re ready for this, yet.”
“Perhaps not.” He conceded, tucking a strand of hair back behind her ear. “But, I’d like to be.”
“Can I ask how long?” When she saw the confusion in his eyes, she chuckled. “How long have you thought about this…me…us?”
“Oh.” He exhaled a breath, his fingers absently tracing the outer seam of her jeans. “Since Thanksgiving.”
“Thanksgiving? Last year?”
He nodded slowly. “Everything about that day felt…right.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “My ex lurking around with vague warnings, members of a Chumash tribe trying to kill all of us, your home getting demolished, and my arm having an arrow in it…felt right?”
“Well, maybe ‘right’ isn’t the correct word to use. Those examples were certainly indicative of our lives in general…but, you in my home and us preparing a family dinner together – that felt right. Comfortable, even.”
“Watching you panic over mashed potatoes and frozen peas…” He smiled as his fingers stopped moving. “I realised then that my feelings for you had…intensified.”
“How intense are they?” She asked, her tone more timid than confident.
“Enough that I’m fairly terrified. Because I haven’t felt this way in a while.” He replied before sitting up and running his fingers through his hair.
She pushed herself up and leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder. He glanced down at her and smiled, slipping his arm around her.
“What do we do, Giles?”
“What do you want to do?” He asked in response, dropping a kiss on top of her head.
“I want to be able to tell you how I feel, because…I’ve got some pretty intense feelings too.” She closed her eyes and snuggled closer to him. “And I’m terrified too.”
“Then we take our time. But, we don’t ignore it or pretend that we don’t feel what we feel. And we be honest…completely honest…with one another about what we’re feeling.”
She opened her eyes and looked up at him. “I want to be able to say the words at some point, Giles. Because they’re there. I just…I’m scared that I won’t be able to.”
He gave her a nod, understanding showing in his eyes. “The words aren’t important, Buffy. The honesty of the emotions within you? That honesty is what’s important. I don’t need to hear the words, but I’d like to feel them.”
“Like I feel yours…” She whispered, mainly to herself. “Because I do…feel yours, I mean. What if I can’t learn how to make you feel mine?”
“You will. Of that, I have no doubt.” He replied with a gentle smile.
“How could you possibly know that?”
“Because I know you. And your heart is full of love – different types of love. Love for your friends, your family, those sickeningly sweet mochas…”
“And you.” She interjected. “You’ve always been in there too.”
“Have I?” He asked teasingly.
“Yeah and you know you have. But, it’s evolving…has been for a while now – well before Riley decided to run off in the middle of the night to get himself sucked.”
Giles’ eyes softened, his hand squeezed her arm in comfort.
“You won’t do that, right?”
“No, Buffy. Those days have long since passed.”
She was quiet for a few moments and then nodded. She turned her eyes back to the sky and noticed a bluish-white star off in the distance.
“What’s that one called?”
“Rigel. Hotter than the sun, hundreds of light years further away from us than Sirius.”
“Blue is hot?”
“Oh, yes. Rigel is nearly 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit.” He pointed towards the reddish star above the one in question and continued. “Betelgeuse is quite cold comparatively – around 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit.”
He looked at her, watching her watch the stars. He sighed softly and nodded.
“Yes. Yes, you are.”
She turned towards him and met his eyes. “I was talking about the star.”
When his eyes widened, she realised that he hadn’t meant to say that aloud. She smiled brightly at him, resting her hand on his thigh.
He cleared his throat and covered her hand with his. “Would, uh…would you like to go to dinner? With me…on, a…well, on a date?”
She turned her hand under his and laced their fingers together. “Yeah, I would.”
They smiled at one another.
Just as he ducked his head to initiate another kiss, they were bathed in light. They both jumped, startled at the sudden intrusion. As they looked around, they realised that the back porch light wasn’t the only light on. Lights inside the house, lights in the neighbours’ houses, street lights, music playing down the street…
“Power’s back on.” Buffy sighed sadly.
Giles nodded, offering her a small smile. “Seems as such.”
“Guess you won’t be staying. I mean, since there’s no reason to.”
He lifted his hand, placing it on the side of her face. He looked into her eyes as his thumb gently stroked her skin.
“I can stay for a while longer. Just…not all night.”
“That’d be moving too fast, huh?”
“We’re not ready for sleepovers, Buffy.”
“But…guest room – ”
“I’m not convinced either of us would be able to adhere to staying in separate rooms.”
Buffy blew out a deep breath and glanced at the back door. “Fine…”
“You good with coming in, having tea and talking…sitting together on the sofa? Maybe watching a movie?”
“You good with some snuggling?”
His eyes sparkled as he gave her a lopsided smile. “I am.”
“And if that snuggling turns into some kissing?”
“As if it wouldn’t.” He whispered, leaning into her and kissing her lips softly.
“No reservations?” She whispered back.
He chuckled, shaking his head as he stood up and offered her his hand. “Oh, I have plenty.”
She grinned as he pulled her up. “Ignoring them?”
He watched her as she bent over and picked up the picnic blanket. “Not exactly.”
She folded the blanket under her arm and led him towards the back door.
“Huh? What’s that mean?”
“I’m not exactly sure.” He replied, following her up the steps. “Interested to find out?”
She shot him a bright smile as she opened the door. “Yeah, you could say that.”
His eyes drifted down her body as she walked inside.
“Good…” He murmured.
“You coming in or staying out there all night?” She called from the kitchen.
He laughed softly.
And then he walked inside and closed the door behind him.