“You’re very quiet.” Giles said softly, fingertips lightly stroking her hair as she leaned against him. “Are you alright?”
“Mm-hm. Just really relaxed. Fires make me sleepy...sometimes.” Buffy replied with a quiet chuckle.
“Hm…why didn’t I know that? Here I thought that fires had the, um…opposite affect on you.”
Even though she knew it was a rhetorical question, she lifted her head and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. “Because you’ve never asked. Besides, I said ‘sometimes’…and it’s not the fire itself that has the opposite affect on me – it’s how you start a fire.”
“Ah…well, that’s very good to know. Very good to know, indeed.” He grinned at her and then watched as she pulled the zipper a bit higher on her jacket. “Cold?”
She stared at him incredulously and then glanced around the surroundings. “Well…it’s winter, it’s night, we’re outside – and this isn’t California. And…why do you have a sofa outside anyway?”
“To watch the bonfire at night.” He replied, as if it should be the most perfectly obvious response he could have ever given. “We can go in, if you want…watch the fireworks on the telly.”
“I’ve had fireworks for New Year’s my entire life, Giles. I think I’m ready for a quiet bonfire with you in the middle of nowhere.”
He snorted a soft laugh. “Middle of nowhere…”
“Feels like it right now.” She smiled. “Just us, no streetlights, no parties blasting music. Feels like the middle of nowhere…and I love it. Almost as much as I love you.”
Giles’ laugh quietened as he looked into her eyes. “I am extremely pleased that you are here with me.”
“Extremely pleased, huh?”
He nodded slowly, his eyes darting to her lips for a brief moment. “I love you, you see.”
“Well that’s a relief.” She whispered, sliding her fingers to the zipper on his jacket.
“You already knew.” He said, inhaling deeply as she lowered the zip.
“Mm-hm.” She murmured, lightly stroking the soft wool of his jumper. “Probably why it made it easier for me to say it just then.”
“How long have you known?”
“Couple of weeks.” She leaned forward and nuzzled the base of his throat before placing a soft kiss on his Adam’s apple. “You’re not so great at hiding your feelings while we’re making love.”
“Ah…” He grinned, sliding his fingers through her hair. “I’m better at hiding my feelings than you think, love.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve loved you for far longer than a couple of weeks.” He admitted, leaning towards her and brushing his lips across hers.
“Giles?” She whispered, breath hot against his skin.
“Hm?” His fingers unzipped her jacket, allowing his hand the freedom to slip under the hem of her jumper.
“We are not having sex out here…”
He chuckled softly, his eyes sparkling. “No, we’re not. It’s much too cold out here for that…even with the fires that I’m building.”
“Then what are you doing?”
He slowly pulled his hand away and exhaled a deep breath. “Stopping myself from undressing you.”
She laughed, resting her hands on his chest. “How long have you loved me?”
He hesitated for a moment and then sighed. “I realised at some point between leaving Sunnydale and coming back to help with Willow.”
Her eyes widened, her voice lowered to a barely whispered tone. “What?”
“I…had planned on talking to you when I returned with the Potentials.”
“Why didn’t you?”
The corner of his mouth twitched lightly and he cleared his throat. “Um…Spike?”
“Giles, there was nothing going on there.”
“Perhaps not romantically. But, there was most definitely something going on there. Hence, the protection…the removal of his chip…the feeling of betrayal that you felt.”
She lowered her eyes and sighed. He lifted his hand and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“The last thing you needed to hear was that I was in love with you.”
She nodded slowly, understanding his words and explanation. “The night Sunnydale died…when you and I shared a bottle of tequila on the rocks behind the hotel…”
He tilted his head when she paused. “Yes?”
“If Willow hadn’t come by…”
“I probably would have.” He interjected softly. “And it would have been a horrible mistake.”
“Why?” She asked, very confused.
“You and I were not in the best place – we still had much to work through, to understand. Kissing you would have set our healing back months…possibly even years.”
“But – ”
“You had to go, you had…to work through what had happened.”
Buffy sighed and turned her eyes towards the bonfire. “I’m such a fucking idiot.”
Giles raised an eyebrow and placed his hand just below the nape of her neck. “I’m not sure why you would think that.”
“Because I loved you then.” She admitted with a choked chuckle.
“Love…we’re here now, together.”
“We wasted so much time.” She whispered, wiping her fingertips across her cheek.
“Did we, though?” His thumb rubbed along the side of her neck.
“What if I hadn’t shown up on your doorstep in August?”
He smiled warmly, gazing into her eyes when she looked up at him. “I would have shown up on yours…no later than October.”
She snorted a soft laugh. “Yeah, okay…”
“Truth, Buffy. I’d already decided. I couldn’t let another year end…this year end – holding on to a love that needed to either be acknowledged and reciprocated or acknowledged and…let down.”
“I was drowning, love. And…I needed to move on.”
“But, it’s not like you were just sitting around pining for me.” She said, confused by his statement. “I mean…you were seeing people.”
“Dates and sex. There’s quite a difference between those and feeling…and being in love.” He cleared his throat softly and sighed. “I could take a woman to dinner, to bed…but, I couldn’t feel what I wanted to feel. And I certainly couldn’t have fallen in love. Not when I was still in love with you.”
“So…what were you going to say on my doorstep no later than October?”
“Hello, most likely.” He paused and gave her a somewhat cheeky grin. “I wouldn’t have confessed my love for you while standing in a place where you could close a door in my face.”
“As if I would…” She started, stopping when she saw a dark cloud pass through his eyes. “Well…not again, I mean.”
The darkness left as quickly as it had appeared and he smiled. She returned his smile and took hold of his hand, lacing their fingers together.
“So, after hello? I would’ve invited you in, of course. What next?”
“I’m not really sure.”
“Bullshit.” She chuckled, shifting so that she could curl her legs underneath her. “You had it all planned out, Giles. Come on…level with me.”
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before untangling his fingers from hers. He rubbed the back of his neck and opened his eyes, staring into the bonfire.
“There would’ve been small talk. And it would’ve been painfully obvious that it was merely small talk, biding my time…hoping for an opening. And you would’ve pulled me up on it. Asked me why I was really there – because I wouldn’t have come to your home to talk about the weather.”
“You would’ve talked about the weather? Seriously?”
He shrugged a shoulder and huffed a quick laugh. “Or something as equally asinine, I’ve no doubt.”
“Yeah, I totally would’ve called that.”
“And I would’ve stumbled and stammered about like a fool. And you would have put your hand on my arm to calm me…and you would’ve asked if I were okay.” He glanced at her quickly, offering her a gentle smile before returning his gaze back to the fire. “Because that’s what you do. You check in with me when you can see I’m anxious or nervous.”
“Yeah…I do.” She whispered, reaching over and placing her hand on his forearm.
He licked his dry lips and quietly continued. “I would have stood up, began to pace…offer to make tea.”
“In my house?”
He nodded slowly. “You always had tea at the ready. I would’ve offered to give myself something to do…a moment to calm. And you would’ve realised that – and asked for a coffee instead. Because that’s what you do.”
He scratched the back of his head and sighed. “And I would have made tea and coffee, to give myself one final chance to change my mind.”
“Would you have? Changed your mind?”
“No.” He replied without hesitation. “Far too late for that. But, you would’ve been concerned that something was desperately wrong. And you would’ve asked – it would’ve been a simple question. Something like… ‘Giles, what’s wrong?’ And I would’ve taken a deep breath and held my cup of tea tightly in my hands – and I would’ve said… ‘We need to talk’.”
“And that wouldn’t have freaked me out at all, huh?”
“Oh, it would have.” Giles laughed, turning to look at her again. “You would have started to ask more questions than I could count…and would have given me no time to answer any of them. Resulting in a great deal of frustration on my part.”
“Probably.” She agreed with a laugh of her own.
“And so I would have stopped you…with a kiss. And then I would have panicked – because that’s not what you do. Not in a moment such as that.”
“You put a lot of thought into that scenario, didn’t you?” She lightly fingered a curl of hair behind his ear. “You know what the funny part is?”
“It’s probably scarily accurate.”
“How would it have ended?” He asked, stifling a groan as she ran her nails down the side of his neck.
“Oh, you know…” She leaned into him, placing a warm kiss just below his ear. “With me grabbing your arm before you opened the door…maybe pushing you against that door or against the wall – against something just to stop you from leaving.”
“Mm…” He murmured. “And if I had questioned you?”
She shook her head, a grin flashing in her eyes. “No chance with my tongue in your mouth.”
“Oh…it would have definitely led to that.” She lowered her right hand to his thigh. “Kinda how it’s leading to that right now.”
“We should go inside.” He muttered, staring into her eyes as her hand steadily moved upwards.
“Got any more plans, Rupert?” She purred, licking her lips as her fingertips brushed over the obvious beginnings of an erection.
He nodded slowly, eyes darting to her lips. “Ringing in the new year…with you – in bed, on the floor, on the sofa…I’m not really fussed on the location.”
Her brow furrowed slightly. “Is it even midnight yet?”
He smiled warmly, then looked off into the distance. “Judging by the light show over there, yes.”
“Huh…and here I thought this was going to be my first year without fireworks…”
“As if I’d allow that to happen.” He whispered. “I just wanted to give you the best of both of our traditions.”
“Because that’s what you do.” She replied, snuggling up to him as the dark sky glowed in hues of blues, greens, reds, silvers, and golds off in the distance.
“I do try.” He said, holding her tightly against him. “Happy New Year, Buffy.”
“Happy New Year, Giles.” She sighed happily, tilting her head up towards him for a kiss.
He didn’t make her wait – even if that meant they missed a fair amount of the fireworks. They were far enough away that they didn’t get the full effect of the show anyway. Judging by the fact that she had climbed on top of him, he was fairly certain that she was okay with missing a few colorful explosions.
He made a quick decision to allow this to progress a bit further in front of the bonfire. He’d carry her inside soon – though things were quickly heating up, it still was rather cold at midnight in the winter. She’d protest for a quick minute, he was sure – for she had made it very clear that she loved a fire.
But, he was also sure that she’d quell her protest soon enough.
After all, there was a fire roaring in the fireplace inside.
He groaned into her mouth as she rocked against him, smiled against her lips as she grumbled when he shifted and pushed himself up with her in his arms. With a whispered incantation and a gentle wave of three fingers, the bonfire extinguished itself and she trembled in his arms.
“Because that’s what you do.” She whispered thickly.
He grinned knowingly and carried her inside. Because, yes…that’s what he did.