Title: Rules of Engagement
Author: Froxyn
Pairing: Buffy/Giles
Rating: FRM
Timeline: AU, Post-series.
Synopsis: Ultimatums rarely go as planned.
Author’s Note: As always, thank you A.

Ethan smiled as the door opened in front of him, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his leather jacket.  “Well, don’t you look snazzy.”


Giles arched an eyebrow at him before stepping to the side, the usual unspoken invitation to enter.  “Snazzy?”


“Mm.”  Ethan gestured vaguely towards Giles as he walked by him.  “Snazzy.  You know…spiffy.”


Giles snorted a laugh as he closed the door.  “Spiffy?  Come now, Ethan…”


“Okay…”  Ethan walked over to the cabinet that he knew to be the liquor cabinet and pulled out the first bottle his hand touched.  “You look as though you’re heading out for a lovely, tame evening with our girl.”


Giles’ eyes narrowed as he watched Ethan pour himself a drink.  “She’s not our girl – and your definition of tame and mine are two very different things.”


“Settle…”  Ethan said with a grin, lifting the glass to his lips.  “I’m just teasing.”


“What do you want, Ethan?”  Giles said with a heavy sigh, adjusting the watch on his wrist. 


“Such a loaded question.”  Ethan replied, licking the whisky from his lip. 


Giles rolled his eyes, then glanced at the bottle as Ethan refilled his glass.  “Are you staying here tonight?”


Ethan’s eyes dropped slightly before returning to Giles’.  “Is that an invitation?”


“That’s a question for Buffy, not me.”


“But…you’re not opposed.”  Ethan stated softly, taking another sip of his drink.


Giles watched him for a moment and then furrowed his brow.  “What’s wrong?”


“Does there need to be something wrong?”


“No, it isn’t necessary.  But, I’ve found that when your innuendos take on a more serious tone, it normally signals that there is something…wrong.”


Ethan downed the rest of his drink and immediately poured another.  “Sometimes, I fucking hate you…you know?”


Giles walked over and sat down on the sofa, watching his friend closely.  “Talk to me, Ethan.  What’s going on?”


“Emma’s leaving.”  He said after a beat.


Giles furrowed his brow.  “Are you sure about that?”


Ethan nodded, making his way over to the chair – the bottle in one hand, his glass in the other.  “Oh yeah.  She’s packing as we speak.”


“Why?  What did you do?”


Ethan stared at him.  “Why would you assume I’d done something?”


Giles chuckled softly.  “Past experiences?”


“I’ve changed a fair bit, you pillock.”  He muttered, lifting the glass to his lips.


Giles’ chuckle quietened.  “You have.  So what happened?”


“Does Buffy ever talk about us?  You know, our past?”


Giles paused for a moment and then nodded.  “She’s well aware of my past…and with whom I shared that past.  She has…asked numerous questions over the years.  But, it’s not something that she’ll randomly bring up in conversation.”


“But, she’s okay with our friendship.  Yeah?”


“Any issues she would have with our friendship would stem from the chaos you inflicted upon us in Sunnydale – not from the fact that we used to – ”


“Fuck?”  Ethan interjected with a grin.  “Or were you going to say something more proper?  Such as ‘share a bed’ or similar?”


Giles laughed softly.  “We rarely shared a bed, Ethan.  But, we fucked often.”


“That we did.”  Ethan agreed, finishing his drink.  “But, she doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.”


“No.”  Giles replied carefully.  “You know she doesn’t.”


“Well, Em isn’t that understanding.” 




“She’s given me an ultimatum.”  Ethan downed the rest of his drink and sighed.  “End our friendship or she’s ending our relationship.”


“Oh…”  Giles said softly. 


“A fucking ultimatum.”  Ethan swallowed, tightening his fingers around his empty glass.  “I don’t do ultimatums and I certainly don’t end friendships over one.”


“Is it just the relationship that we shared?  Or does she have issues with all of your ex-partners?”  Giles asked, curiosity getting the better of him.


“No, all of them.  Funnily enough, she was perfectly fine with the double cock action.”


Giles stared at him.  “I think the current term is homosexual activities.”


“Fuck the current term.  Terms will always change, but it will always mean the same thing…two men, two cocks, lots of fucking and sucking.”


“And…what kind of conversation did I just walk in on?”


Giles turned his head and smiled at Buffy.  “Hello, love.”


“Hey.”  She replied with a bright smile of her own, leaning down to give him a kiss before plopping down next to him.  “What’s going on?”


“Em doesn’t like my exes.”  He gestured towards Giles with a nod of his head.  “Especially him.”


“What did you do?”  She asked Giles, obviously confused.


“Me?  I didn’t do anything.”


“Well, not in the last five years…”  Ethan added unnecessarily.


Buffy glanced at Ethan and rolled her eyes before returning her attention to Giles.  “So, she doesn’t like you because five years ago you got drunk with him, had sex, and then he turned you into a demon?”


“Well, to be fair, it’s the ‘had sex’ part that she has issues with.”  Ethan said, shrugging a shoulder.


Buffy raised an eyebrow.  “She didn’t have an issue with you turning him into a demon and trying to get me to kill him?”


“She’s interesting like that.”  Ethan said, refilling his glass again.  “Issues all around – and fuck me if someone catches my eye for half a mo.  But, him?  There’s some…intriguing thoughts going on there.


Buffy furrowed her brow, glancing at Giles before continuing.


“But, she’s asked you to cut ties with all of them?  All of your exes?”


Ethan nodded, glancing between Buffy and Giles.  “How many are you still in contact with?”


“I had lunch with Olivia last week.”  Giles said, looking at Buffy.  “Spoke to Kate today…”


“How is she?”  Buffy asked, resting her hand on his thigh.


“Much better.”  He replied, covering her hand with his.


“And you have no issue at all…with any of it?”  Ethan asked Buffy.


“No.  But, then I trust him completely…”  She tilted her head slightly and exhaled slowly.  “And I’m not cheating on him.”


“Buffy…”  Giles said softly.


Ethan stared at her.  “Cheating?  You think she’s cheating on me?”


Buffy hesitated for just a moment and then nodded.  “I do.  Because, oddly, you’re one of the most monogamous people I’ve ever met.  If she’s feeling threatened by your exes, then she’s hiding something.  Especially if she’s threatened by him.”


“I’m sitting right here.”  Giles said with a huff.


“You know what I mean, Ru.”  She replied, looking up at him.  “As checkered as your past is…especially concerning Ethan…I have no worries about you straying.” 


She jerked her thumb towards Ethan as she continued.


“And him?  If he’s seeing someone, his flirty comments tend to lose their edge.”


“It’s called respect.”  Ethan said, picking at a loose thread on his jeans.  “Not that I don’t respect the two of you when I’m not seeing someone.”


“But, yet…she doesn’t want you having any contact with Giles?”


“Maybe she just isn’t as comfortable as you are with your partner’s ex…partners.”  Ethan supplied quietly.


When neither Giles nor Buffy replied, he lifted his eyes and sighed heavily.  “Or…maybe you’re right and she’s cheating on me.”


“But you already suspected that, didn’t you?”  Giles asked.


“Not until she said it was either her or you.”  Ethan answered, shaking his head.  “A person doesn’t deliver ultimatums unless there’s something else going on.”


“You okay?”  Buffy asked, watching him process his thoughts.


He blew out a breath and gave her a small smile.  “Sure.  Look…um…is it okay if I stay here tonight?”


“Of course.”  Giles replied without hesitation. 


“You know that’s just going to make her think she’s right, though…don’t you?”  Buffy said quietly.  “You two have an argument about him…and you run straight to him?”


Ethan sighed heavily.  “One – he’s my best friend, been there through my worst times and gave me more than a handful of second chances.  Where else would I go?  Two – I can’t change what she thinks.  Three – if she’s cheating on me, then…fuck her.  Four – she’s not wrong, and you know it as well as we all do.  Five – it’s over, so it doesn’t matter anyway.  And six – I’m finished fucking counting reasons that I really don’t give a fuck about whether she thinks she’s right about anything.”


“Ethan…”  Buffy started, trailing off as Ethan continued.


“Besides, it’s not as if I’ve come here asking for a fuck.  I literally came by to get drunk, talk, and sleep.”  He turned his slightly alcohol-glazed eyes to Buffy’s.  “Of course, if either of you want to suck my cock, I’m not stopping you.”


“Hey!”  Giles said sharply, loud enough that Ethan jumped.  “Watch your mouth.”


Ethan closed his eyes briefly and shook his head.  “Sorry.  I’m just…I’m sorry.  I think maybe I should go.  You two have plans and…I’m obviously not in the right frame of mind to be here.”


“You’re staying.”  Buffy said quickly, shaking her head.  “But, what went through your mind isn’t going to happen.”


“Yeah, I know.  Look…off you go.  Have a lovely night out.  You might want to stop on the way back and pick up a few bottles because I’ll probably clean you out, yeah?”


Giles caught Buffy’s eye – Buffy gave him a soft nod.  Giles cleared his throat and loosened his tie.  Ethan narrowed his eyes.


“What are you doing?”


“Staying in…with a friend.”  Giles answered, pushing himself up from the sofa.


Ethan watched him as he walked over to the liquor cabinet, pulling out a bottle and two tumblers.  “What?”


“Being alone is not what you need, Ethan.”  Giles replied, returning to the sofa and pouring two tumblers of scotch.  He handed one to Buffy and smiled at Ethan.  “Drinking alone?  Not going to happen…not tonight.”


“I…”  Ethan swallowed, darting his eyes between the two.  “Thank you.”


Buffy took a sip of the scotch and huffed a soft laugh.  Ethan and Giles both looked at her questioningly.  Buffy shrugged a shoulder and leaned back into the cushions, looking at Giles.


“If you had been standing there in a sparkly silver and black shirt, telling me that in five years we’d be here – in England, willingly spending an evening with Ethan getting drunk – I would have told you that you were a raving lunatic.”


“Yet…here we are.”  Giles said with a smile, lifting his drink in a silent salute. 


“Whatever happened to that shirt?”  Ethan asked, pouring himself another drink.


“I burned it.”  Buffy replied without hesitation. 


Ethan grimaced.  “I loved that shirt.”


Buffy smiled for a moment.  Then her smile faded and her tone became more serious.


“I’m really sorry, Ethan.  I know that you cared a lot for Emma.”


“Yeah…”  Ethan sighed.  “But, maybe she actually did me a favour.”


“How so?”  Giles jumped in, looking at Ethan curiously.


“I cared.”


Buffy furrowed her brow in confusion.  Giles nodded in understanding – which confused Buffy even more.  Giles felt her confusion and downed his drink.


“Ethan, love is not defined by what you refuse to give up.”


Buffy stared at Giles.  “That is supposed to clear shit up for me?  Because…what the hell does that even mean?”


Ethan snorted a laugh. 


Giles licked his lips and turned his eyes to Buffy.  “He’s falling down the hole of ‘if I loved her, then I would’ve given in’ when the truth of the matter is…he did – probably does – love Emma.  He more than cared for her.  He loved her…and now he’s hurting because she is using his past to make her situation more palatable for herself.”


Buffy glanced at his tumbler.  “What the fuck are you drinking?  Because you poured me a drink of the same shit and I’m still making sense.”


Giles grinned at her.  “Same as you.  I’m just trying not to be…crass.”


“She’s fucking someone else, so she tries to make me feel bad for loving how Rupert’s cock feels – because that makes her feel better about being a lying whore.”


Giles closed his eyes briefly.  “Of course, Ethan isn’t as concerned about not being crass.”


“Well, maybe you should be more crass more often – because what he said?  That, I understand.”


Ethan chuckled and poured another drink.  “Mm…I’m sure you do understand.”


Buffy rolled her eyes before looking at Ethan.  “I was talking about understanding the Emma part.”


Ethan’s eyes were trained on Giles’ tumbler, which was being held on Giles’ left thigh.  “You understand the other part too, love.”


“We keep drinking and this is going to plunge into very different territory, isn’t it?”  Buffy asked, watching Ethan’s gaze drift slightly.


“I wouldn’t say no.”  Ethan murmured, almost inaudibly.


Buffy was quiet for a long moment and then finished her drink in one gulp.  Giles arched an eyebrow at her as she reached for the bottle.


“What are you doing?”  He asked softly.


She refilled his tumbler before refilling her own.  She sat back and looked up at him. 


“Helping our friend though a difficult situation.”


Giles’ eyes darted to her lips and he shifted uncomfortably, feeling Ethan’s gaze burning into him.  “By complicating another?”


“It’s never been complicated before, Giles.”  She whispered, taking a drink.  “We just follow the rules.”




“Rules state nothing happens unless all parties are in agreement.”  She smiled as he nodded numbly.  “Are you?”


He stared at her for a few seconds before leaning down and capturing her lips in a heated kiss.  Ethan watched them and took a drink directly from the bottle he’d been holding. 


“I love you.”  Giles whispered, after slowly ending the kiss. 


“And I love you.”  She whispered back, gently clinking her tumbler against his.  “Cheers.”


Ethan’s eyes widened slightly.  “Well, shit just turned an interesting corner, huh?”


“We’ll see where it goes, okay?”  Buffy replied, snuggling up against Giles’ side.


Ethan smirked and slid his gaze to Giles.  “And you got all snazzy…”


“Snazzy?”  Buffy asked, sounding slightly perplexed.


Ethan rolled his eyes.  “Spiffy.  Jesus, what the hell is with the two of you?”


“Nothing…because we don’t use stupid words like snazzy or spiffy.  What the hell is with you?”   Buffy replied playfully.


Ethan’s smile softened, as did his eyes.  “He looked very nice…one might say handsome…while he was waiting for you.  And…that was all for naught because you’re not even going out.”


“He’s still handsome…”


“I’m still sitting right here.”  Giles said with a gentle huff.


“Yeah…being all handsome.”  Buffy grinned, looking up at him.


“And snazzy.”  Ethan added.


“Christ…”  Giles rolled his eyes and quickly finished his drink.  


Ethan leaned forward and refilled all three glasses from the bottle that Buffy had brought over.  He lifted his glass, silently requesting them to do the same.  As they did, he smiled softly.


“To friendship.”


Giles furrowed his brow.  “Well, that was…tame.”


“For now.”  Ethan replied with a grin, clinking his glass against the other two.


Buffy chuckled, sliding her hand over Giles’ thigh as she took a drink.  This was not the night she had expected…not in the slightest.


But, it wasn’t a night she was opposed to.


She smiled as Ethan gave Giles a wink.


Not opposed in the slightest.

~ End

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