Epiphany in Shades of Summer
By Gail Christison
Title: Epiphany in Shades of Summer
Author: Gail Christison
Summary: summer. woods. romance :-)
Timeline: Sometime early in the sixth season, sorta. No spoilers, except things are back to normal for Buffy and the gang and obviously Giles is not in England :-)
Disclaimers: Hey, Joss did it. It's all his fault. Don't sue me. My husband won't like it :-)
Distribution: at www.wickedsky.com/oncemore very shortly. Anyone who has my permission. Everyone else please ask first.
Feedback: Always love to hear what you think
Author's note: Thank you to Liz for the support and the quick beta :-) Also, sorry about the title but I was feeling poetic and nothing else would come to mind <g>
Dedication: This one is for Morrwen, on GRB, whom I promised a third testfic some time ago. Well, this is it, finally, but it kinda got out of control and grew into a real story <vbg>
Giles dropped his backpack and stretched. His polo shirt was drenched in sweat and his hair was plastered to his scalp. He'd long since dropped his glasses in his breast pocket out of frustration at the droplets of perspiration that kept running into them.
This was his spot: his secret place. He could smell the nearby stream and feel the moisture in the air. The copse in the middle of Breaker's Woods was his one peaceful place in an otherwise tumultuous and lonely life.
He'd found it during the Druidic retreat and had visited it a number of times since, usually in the summer when Buffy was away or preoccupied. He looked up through the forest canopy at the filtered, but very hot, sun and smiled to himself.
With a kind of panther-like stretching movement he drew his shirt over his head and dropped it on his pack. He kicked off his shoes and shoved his socks in them before grinning again. He didn't need to find a towel, because nobody knew he was there.
He undid his belt and his zipper and removed the tight blue jeans, smiling to himself at the memory of the running commentary he wasn't supposed to hear the last time he'd bent over in them to tie a shoelace. Subtle Buffy and Willow weren't, but more than flattering to an old man's ego. What they didn't know, however, was that he never wore underwear with those jeans, a fact that had amused him even more.
After they were folded and dropped on top of the polo shirt, he stood for a moment, just letting the cool movement of air through the forest caress his sweat-dampened skin.
Eventually though, he picked his way over the mossy ground to the bank of the stream.
His small part of it was a dog-leg where the water had gouged out the bend and made a deep, clear pool that Giles knew was the perfect antidote to a hike in ninety plus heat. He slid blissfully into the cold water and turned onto his back so that he could watch the activity on the banks. It gave him great pleasure each time he came to watch the same small animals and birds going about their business as he drifted peacefully in the water.
"You sure you don't want me to come with?"
Buffy shook her head. "You have to get back to Anya. You bribed her with ice cream, remember?"
Xander shrugged. "You don't even know where he is."
"Sure I do…kinda. He's in there somewhere. The car is here, and there's a trail up the hill. So I follow the trail and look for woodsy signs that he went that way."
"Buffy, Daniel Boone you're not," Xander said dryly.
She smiled at him. "Doesn't matter. I'll find him. We've got sort of homing signals for each other…something to do with the job…the connection. Don't sweat it. I'm not going to be mugged by squirrels or hugged by a bear. Slayer, remember?"
Xander looked sheepish. "I forget sometimes. God, I wish it wasn't so hot, though."
Buffy looked up at the glaring sun. "You and me both. At least in there it'll be cooler. Go on. Go back to your better half before she starts getting cranky. Worst case scenario I can come back here to the car and wait him out."
"That's not going to solve the problem."
She shrugged again. "Willow's going through his books like crazy, but he's the only one who can read…what is it?"
"Sumerian," Xander quoted Willow.
"Right, Sumerian. These guys don't even feel it when I hit them. Unless Giles can tell me how to take them down I'm not going to be able to stop them. Willow says that amulet is Sumerian and she can't read Sumerian…I have to find him."
"Yeah, you do," Xander agreed resignedly. "It's not like there's any Sumerian-American dictionaries and they aren't going to get any less hungry."
"So we give thanks that they hate the heat, but they're going to be out hunting again after dark. Which means the faster I find Giles, the better. Go," Buffy ordered and started for the track.
"I'm gone," Xander called after her. "Why can't you get a cell phone?"
Buffy raised a dismissive arm and kept going.
Xander watched her a moment longer, shook his head and got back into his car.
Buffy tracked in the heat for over two hours, mostly following the trail and congratulating herself on her cleverness until she'd failed to find anything resembling a footprint, or even a broken branch. A short time later she reached a 'Y' in the path and blew out a frustrated breath. In the movies there would be a sign…a gum wrapper, the tab from a water bottle…or a broken bush. She snorted and closed her eyes. All she had was her Slayer senses, was how much more aware of him it had made her.
It had wigged her out at first, severely, but by the time she'd faced him about her fear of dying, eye-to-eye, that day, she knew it was something special. She could feel his pain as acutely as her own. She could still feel him hours later, as easily as if he were still in the room, still brooding, still carrying the same lead weight that had been lodged in her own gut.
Now she looked at the two paths…one more worn, more distinct, the other littered with moss and leaves, a narrow etching that had perhaps once been well trodden but was now little more than a line through the undergrowth.
Instead of choosing she let her senses reach out. It took some work. They hadn't worked on her intuition and focus for quite some time. There had been too many other distractions.
Now her awareness of everything, from the warmth of the sun, to the clicking of the dragonfly wings above her head grew more and more acute until she finally touched it…that place beyond the senses, where a part of her could touch a part of him.
Only now he wasn't sad, or hurting. He was kind of like quicksilver, yet warm and relaxed at the same time. A little more concentration brought a crooked grin to her face. He was enjoying himself. She'd never felt that before: not that kind of peace.
Buffy chose the barely used path, warring with herself. A part of her really didn't want to spoil his small, tranquil, oasis. She knew far too well how rare it was for him to even smile, let alone…
By the time she reached the clearing she had almost convinced herself to turn around…until she saw his deserted hiker's backpack and his clothes. For a moment her blood ran cold and panic gripped her…until she controlled herself and took a deep breath before reaching out again.
The humming warmth, that feeling, like a contented smile, was unchanged. She exhaled noisily and blinked furiously for a moment. Adrenaline was still pricking her thumbs as she moved forward to find him.
When she reached the water's edge, Buffy stood transfixed.
He was drifting across the pool, sunlight catching his hair and the slight movements to keep himself afloat causing the muscles in his shoulders and chest to ripple. He wasn't technically that far away, and the part of the bank she was on was elevated and pretty thick with bushes. She was even able to see that his chest was covered in light golden hair. She was also able to see other things under the water, and dwelt on them, fascinated, for some time.
For a long time after that she just watched him and let herself feel the peace and calm that emanated from him until, smiling to herself, she backed away.
Back in the campsite she started calling: "Giles!" at the top of her lungs.
A short time later his voice called back: "I'm down at the stream. I need a towel."
"Coming," she grinned, pulled the big towel from his pack and headed for the water.
When she got there he was treading water.
"What is it? What's happened?" he demanded.
"Need your famous language skills to find out how to kill some demons," she called back, and held up the towel as though to wrap it around him. "You want me to hold this for you?" she asked wickedly.
He tried to look annoyed, but it was obvious he was trying not to laugh. Then an equally wicked gleam came into his eye. He swam forward until he touched bottom.
"Yes, do wait there," he told her, climbing out of the pool.
Buffy stood transfixed again, as his lean torso emerged from the water, followed by his hips and long legs. She cleared her throat, but didn't look away. The vision was even more unexpected and spectacular than the water-distorted one.
When he reached her she draped the towel across his stomach and let him take it.
"Thank you," he drawled, eyes twinkling as he tucked it around his hips.
Buffy's danced back at him. "If you thought you were going to shock me, it didn't work."
"Pity," he said without the least bit of contrition. "Not too long ago it would have sent you running into the forest screaming 'eieww!' at the top of your lungs."
Not too long ago I still believed I could be a kid and grow up slowly. But we both know better now, don't we?"
Giles' expression grew serious. "Yes, we do."
"Pretty impressive for an old guy though…except you must have been in the water for a while..." she teased, the smile returning.
"Why…?" he responded almost immediately, then flushed when he realised what she was talking about.
"The water is cold," he growled.
She giggled. "I'm glad I didn't embarrass you."
"Not so long ago, you would have, but not for the reasons you think."
Buffy tilted her head to one side curiously.
"The truth is I've always been rather shameless," he said ruefully, "ever since I was teenager. The difference here has always been that all of you were children and therefore there have always been boundaries I had to respect…wanted to respect. I care a great deal for all of you, and I would never have done anything to jeopardise that."
"So the stuffiness was all an act?"
He looked even more abashed. "Not entirely. Let's say it was a persona I grew into the more I was required to suppress my true nature and conform to the requirements of the Watcher's Council. I am the person you know. What I was before…the part Ethan knew…is gone."
"Can you really do that?" Buffy asked doubtfully.
He stared at her for a long moment. "Out of the mouths of babes," he said softly. "No I can't. What I have been, what I am and what I am to become are all a part of what makes me *me*. The difference is I choose to be the man you know now and I choose no longer to be the person Ethan remembers."
"Rather," he agreed.
"I mean, I wouldn't want anyone telling me who I can and can't be, but I kind of already have, haven't I? I'm not sure I like it very much."
"Neither did I," he said ruefully. "And if it helps, I've always admired the way you fought against changing or compromising who you are simply because it was expected."
Her smile returned. "My big day…a compliment…" She looked him up and down, "…and everything."
He grinned back. She looked particularly lovely today, the sun gleaming on her loose golden hair, the pale rose coloured peasant blouse teamed with body-hugging blue slacks showing just enough cleavage to be a major tease.
"I take it my days of being very, very old and gross are over?" he teased.
She had the good grace to colour. "Very over," she agreed. "You never told me you still had a body that could be described in some quarters as, well…sexy."
"Sexy now is it?" he laughed. "Careful, or the next thing you know you'll be telling me I'm not old at all, and you know you'll never forgive yourself if you do."
Buffy, however, was not laughing. She was regarding him with strangely intense grey-green eyes. A moment ago he'd have sworn they were blue.
"You're not old," she said slowly and deliberately. "You're really, really not." At that point the intensity of his clear jade gaze made her stammer. "I-I…it…that was me being jealous and it's not true," she finished in a rush.
It was his turn to be curious. "Buffy?"
She looked away. "Maybe you should get dressed," she suggested.
With a long, speculative, look at her, he turned and went to find his clothes.
Buffy had waited several minutes when a hand touched her shoulder, making her jump. She had spent the whole time reviewing the entire sequence of events, particularly those in which Giles had been so stunningly 'displayed.'
"Oh…" she said as she turned.
He was dressed in jeans and long sleeved shirt with the sleeves partially rolled up. He hadn't bothered to button it, given the heat of the day…that, and the nature of their first meeting having made his former British reserve rather redundant.
"It's still bloody hot, even if it is at least ten degrees cooler than in town. Would you like something to drink?"
For a moment she looked confused. "Oh…yeah, really…that would be…great," she managed finally, and followed him back to his backpack. It was a full camper's pack, sleeping bag at the bottom and useful things sort of strapped to it. It looked almost as big as she was. But it wasn't…quite.
Giles fished out a small styrene cooler large enough to hold four cans and passed one to Buffy.
She opened her mouth to mention her current aversion to beer and closed it again when she realised it was root beer.
"It's still cold. Thanks."
"You're welcome," he said wryly and pulled the ring from his own as she opened hers.
When they had both drunk their fill they hesitated uncomfortably, neither sure what to do next.
"Um…you were looking for me, I presume?"
"Oh, um, yes," she nodded vigorously. "Demons. With amulets that have Sumerian writing on them. Willow can't read Sumerian and you don't have any kind of translation book-thingies at the Magic shop or in your apartment. I have to kill these things before they start snacking on the whole south side but they don't even feel it when I hit them."
"Ah," he said, trying to look animated, despite the flatness of his tone. "Yes, well, that might be a problem. I'll just pack…"
"Giles, they don't like the heat. Willow found out that much from one of your mugshot books. It just doesn't say how to kill them. The heat won't…it says it just makes them sweat gross stuff and pass out. With daylight savings we have, like, eight hours before the sun goes down and it's less than an hour's drive back to town."
He sighed. "It's not important. This was for my own entertainment…nothing to do with—"
"Work," Buffy finished unhappily. "I'm sorry for spoiling it."
It was his turn to tilt his head.
Buffy observed that his tousled, curling hair, big green eyes and casual dress gave that tilted head a distinctly little boy look unlike any version of Giles she'd ever known. The thing was, she had an overwhelming sense that this, more than any other, *was* the real man. She could feel the shift in him from utter relaxation to a combination of anticlimax, anticipation and curiosity, but it was what was humming underneath that unsettled her the most.
It was elusive, and difficult to feel distinctly, but she was almost certain it was something he didn't want her to know about. The problem was, each time she did touch it, her body would ripple with electricity and the warmth spread from her middle up to her throat, not to mention downwards to other, less dignified, places.
"Something's wrong," his ever-gentle voice said softly.
Buffy's eyes lifted to meet his green ones and grew wide with surprise. The clarity of her sudden epiphany almost knocked her off her feet. Finally she blinked and stepped towards him.
"There's…there's something I didn't tell you about our lessons…the ones where I learned to focus and use all those Slayer senses I didn't know I had…"
"I know the ones," he said warily.
"Well, um, there was a bonus," she said, moving even closer. "I can feel you. I kind feel what you're feeling…that is…if…I'm concentrating on you, which, mostly I am when we're training…or…or researching…or…well, you know."
Giles cleared his throat. "That's um, well, there's no record of a Slayer being um, able to read her Watcher," he said uncomfortably.
Buffy's colour receded, then flooded back. "There's not?"
"Not to my knowledge," he confirmed.
She looked up at him with flushed cheeks, her eyes wide with surprise and confusion.
"Can you er…feel…me now?" he asked tentatively.
For a long, long moment their eyes met and held, the atmosphere growing more intense by the second, the electricity all but arcing across the short distance between them.
After another beat Buffy stepped forward again, so that her body was against his, reached up and drew his head down until he hesitated only centimetres from her tender mouth.
His soft eyes searched hers for a long moment, finding what he was seeking and smiling almost shyly, before capturing her lips and kissing her with a fire restrained only by his innate gentleness.
They parted, both breathing very hard, their chests visibly rising and crashing with each breath. It took a long time for someone to break the silence.
"You know?" he whispered finally.
Buffy's eyes were bright. She nodded. "It's kinda powerful…hard to miss."
He looked down at his feet, red colour creeping up from his collar to his hairline.
"I…I'm sorry," he said helplessly.
His eyes flew up and found hers.
Buffy lifted his hand and laid his fingers against her cheek.
"Kiss me again," she told him in a voice that left no room for doubt.
"My God, Buffy…I never, ever believed…" he whispered wonderingly, as her arms slid up his bare chest to his neck.
"Believe it," she replied, drawing his head down once again, this time without resistance from him.
When Giles lifted his head, he shook it as though unwilling to allow himself to believe.
"You're just a girl with your whole life ahead of you. You…you don't want someone like me…I'm not good enough for you," he said softly.
Buffy stared at him. "Not good enough? It's me who's not good enough for you. God, Giles, everything I've done…" The pain in her face was stark. "I've never been good enough for you. Ask anyone…they'll all tell you. I know that. But I've also always known that I needed you more than anyone…more even than Angel, or even, God, my mother. I loved them both…but it was always you I was most terrified of losing." She dropped her eyes. "The stupid thing is I never knew why…until now."
He looked up at the treetops as he spoke. "Yes, well, a lot of people have tried to tell us both who and what we are…or should be," he said darkly, Travers' words echoing in his thoughts as they often had when his feelings for Buffy were at their strongest.
Buffy made a noise of pure scorn.
"Like anyone has any right to tell us anything. We've earned every one of our lumps… and our loves," her voice finished softly. "And just for the record, I may have thought you were old when I was sixteen, but now…now I know you're about perfect, Rupert Giles…so much so that I don't think I'll ever be able to live without you."
He smiled, and there was love and tenderness in it. "Nor I you," he told her. "But this is so new…and I'm not Angel, or Riley or even bloody Spike, when it comes to it. A hundred years older and dead, and I still can't compete with even him," he said ruefully.
"If I let this…us…happen, I risk everything…and I'm not sure I could ever bear losing you completely…not again…"
Pain flitted across Buffy's face, and was banished. She let her hands slide inside his open shirt.
"You don't think you can compete with William the Bloody?" she whispered provocatively and let the fingers slide down over his warm torso. "I'm not touching Spike. I'm not with Spike." Her hands continued over the denim, making Giles draw a ragged breath, before her eyes once again locked with his, their intent clear.
"I don't want Spike," she whispered, emphasizing each word.
In response he took her face in his hands. "I have always loved you, Buffy. *Always.* I have waited for you for such a long time…I…I don't quite know…"
She smiled up at him, her eyes glowing with love. "Yes you do."
For a moment longer he stared into those eyes…and then he kissed her again.
Buffy leaned up, hungry for the velvet lips, so firm and demanding against hers, her body quivering as they both finally began to let go. His hands moved from her face and her arms moved around his neck as the kiss deepened until neither of them was aware of anything but each other. This time when the kiss ended they did not separate.
Silently, Giles traced her face with his fingertips, letting them slowly trail down her creamy throat, lingering there, on the soft flesh above her bosom, listening to the increased rhythm of her breath as her lips parted and her eyes closed. For a long moment he lingered, before brushing those lips again.
He lifted his head, finally, as aware of her desire as he was his own. He allowed the big fingers to trace the curves across the top of the peasant blouse, listening to the small sounds she made as she shivered with pleasure.
Buffy moaned and gasped when the fingertips were replaced by warm lips, his cheek pushing the pretty line of the blouse lower and lower as she arched and moaned, wanting much more, and bereft when he stopped briefly.
Except that he was lifting the bottom hem of the blouse and drawing it upwards…
Her body exploded like wildfire from the heat, both external and internal.
When the top was gone she arched her back in the dappled sunlight, delighting in the feel of his hands tracing her shoulders, her arms, her sides, down to her soft belly and back up to slide firmly over her full, ripe breasts until she uttered a small cry of exquisite pleasure.
At the sound Giles trembled and slid his hands down to lift her until she arched against him, bringing her soft curves to his waiting mouth. Her groans grew louder and more demanding as he plundered them, one at a time, his need pounding in his gut like a drum.
It was Buffy who finally moved, deliberately sliding down until her warm centre discovered the contour of his own desire and moved against it.
It was his turn to groan. "Buffy…" But that was all he could get out before his head was grasped and pulled down to bring his mouth to soft, demanding lips once again.
"We can't," he gasped when she finally let go.
As though in answer Buffy slid down to touch lightly to the ground. Before Giles could even open his mouth again she had undone the jeans and drawn the zipper down.
"We can't," he repeated. "Not now. I don't have…"
She pushed the jeans off his hips. "We don' t need," she told him. "Unless there's something you haven't told me."
He shuddered as she ran a hand over his strained black briefs.
"Nothing," he growled and took over, expertly undoing the button of her pants with one hand, while she stepped out of her sandals, and letting the blue slacks fall to the ground before lifting her out of them.
Just being against his warm flesh again sent waves and waves of desire through Buffy. Combined with the intensity of the passion and desire emanating from him, it was more incredible than anything she'd ever experienced before. She wrapped her arms and her legs around his body as he lifted her again and began kissing his face all over, until he moved definitively to crush her lips once more with his.
"Giles, please," she begged when his mouth again travelled south, as though he couldn't get enough of her taste, her scent, the feel of her creamy, smooth skin against his lips.
He turned slowly, looking for a soft place and couldn't see one. Frustrated, he stopped for a moment.
Buffy lifted her face from his shoulder and saw, with dismay, the sticks and rocks and mossy ground that he was looking at, before dropping her brow back onto the shoulder with an expressive thump.
…Until, that was, that he began to move again.
Within moments they were back at the pool. Before Buffy could say anything they were wading into the cool water, heaven after the heat of the day and the inferno they'd ignited in both their bodies.
She found herself with her arms still around his neck, but floating against him as he crouched a little. His hands slid sensuously down her back, reminding her why they were there and making her cry out as they slid inside her pale pink briefs and cupped her soft bottom, groaned again when they began to massage the tender flesh very slowly.
Water or no water, Buffy was ready to self-combust by the time she felt the flimsy panties being easily torn away. Suddenly all she wanted was to be a part of him, to feel him inside of her, a part of her…hers. She moved until she could reach his briefs, but found them already gone.
Her fingers travelled briefly over his groin and brushed his rigid manhood, drawing the first full-blooded cry of passion from him. Within moments he brought her to him, both of them straining to find each other, until in the midst of the cool water, hot flesh found hot flesh, and both of them gasped at the contact.
Buffy moaned as she wriggled, positioning herself so that he slipped to her waiting entrance.
At that point Giles was beyond anything but the beautiful body in his arms. He thrust upwards as she slid downwards and both of them gasped out cries of ecstasy and incredulity as they were joined.
Then he was holding her tender buttocks in his hands and thrusting into her with the same passion with which she was moving against him. It was as though Buffy couldn't get enough of him, or he of her. When she shifted her hips and altered the angle of penetration, causing him to lunge so deeply that he was hitting her cervix with each stroke, Giles thought he would explode then and there.
Instead Buffy seemed to want even more, her cries more demanding, more frantic, her body claiming his as much as his was hers. He bit his lip, holding back, until she started to scream and buck. The sounds and the sensations of her explosion of pleasure were too much and he followed her, the intensity of his release such that he was still arching into her and gasping long after she'd come to rest.
When it was over, they were both heaving for breath. Buffy's head was buried in the crook of his neck and his arms were holding her tightly to him, as though he never wanted to lose her again. Eventually he turned his face so that he could kiss the silky hair, and then the smooth temple, before she turned her head and caught his lips.
Their kiss was long and slow and incredibly tender…
"Hey, lover," she sighed happily.
Light filled his concerned green eyes and they crinkled adorably at the corners as he looked back at her.
"Hello, love," he whispered back.
"Water wasn't quite so cold, this time," she teased.
He chuckled and kissed her smiling mouth again as one of his hands trailed up her side and over the curve of her bosom to find a still rock-hard peak.
"Well, perhaps a little chilled," he teased back.
They both laughed softly, then suddenly they were holding each other very tightly, again.
"Never leave me," she said urgently into his hair.
"Never," he told her with the same determination.
"I love you."
The sound caressed him and captured him with its overwhelming declaration and adamant possessiveness. The echoes of a time, not so long ago, when she could barely say the words…to anyone…faded into the wonder of the day.
Giles' face lit and his eyes grew very, very bright. His mouth drew into a smile that spoke of years of frustration and loneliness rolling back to allow joy to pour into and fill to overflowing, the dark space behind them.
She drew back when he hadn't spoken and found his eyes, saw what was in them, and smiled slowly.
"I love you," she repeated, softly, gently, and kissed his nose, his eyes, his mouth, until he shifted her in his arms so that his face was above hers, smiling down.
No words were necessary…
Instead Giles drew her close and lowered his head to kiss her once again…