Timeline: After Restless.

Premise: Celebrating the 4th of July the Scooby way. Riley’s gone, the Scooby Gang is back on track, and Buffy has come to her senses. Finally.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but my imagination (and the characters I made up.) Joss Whedon, WB, Mutant Enemy and/or a bunch of other people own everything else in the Buffyverse...

Buffy/Giles - rated PG-13

"Isn’t this intended to be some sort of commemorative holiday?" Giles turned the sizzling steaks as Buffy watched closely for any sign of grilling ignorance. So far, he seemed to be doing okay.

"Yeah, so?"

"Well, there isn’t actual... commemorating... going on." He pushed up his glasses with the back of his wrist, trying to ignore the sweat dripping from his forehead. What a dreadful day to stay outdoors! It had to be ninety-five in the shade. Californians were all quite mad, and these three were the worst of the lot.

Buffy stared at him for a moment. "We’re commemorating. We’re celebrating." She waved her hand around the back yard. At her gesture, he looked the two young people Buffy was waving at. Willow, wearing a tight tank top and a wraparound skirt, was throwing a beach ball to Xander, who was catching it half-heartedly. He was wearing the longest, baggiest swim trunks Giles had ever seen, topped with a typically garish Hawaiian shirt open in front. Buffy herself looked cool and collected in a light blue halter and matching shorts . Despite their frolicsome attire, the teens looked phenomenally apathetic.

Giles took in the languid scene thoughtfully. "I don’t see any celebrating. I see only ennui."

"Oh, c’mon, Giles, lighten up a little. It’s a holiday, not a prophecy of disaster. It’s okay to have fun."

"I suppose that would be true, if one were actually ‘having fun’." He grinned at her look of disgust.

"You are such a party-pooper. Doing nothing can be fun." She stuck her tongue out at him, and he chuckled softly. "Okay, Mr. Excitement, what do you suggest? A trip to the museum? An afternoon at the library? Research? Oh! I know! We could have a history lesson!"

He looked up at her, a tolerant, affectionate look in his eyes. "Perhaps a history lesson wouldn’t hurt. Do you even know the significance of the Fourth of July?"

"Duh! Of course I do! I’m an American! It’s... uh... oh, yeah, it’s because of the Revolutionary War thingy. Y’know, ‘bombs bursting in air’ and all that stuff."

"Actually, the ‘bombs bursting in air’ is a line from the National Anthem commemorating the War of 1812. The signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 is what you’re currently ‘celebrating’."

"I knew that! Why do you have to be in Teacher Mode on a holiday?" Despite her irate words, she smiled at him. He was so cute, so... Giles. "And besides, you’re British, so how come you’re such an American history buff?" She leaned against the back of a lawn chair and stared at him.

"I may be British, but I was required to take courses in American and California history before I could be certified to teach in Sunnydale. Surprisingly enough, I actually gleaned some knowledge from the experience."

"You’re certified to teach? I thought you were just certified to be a librarian."

He laughed again, this time loudly enough to catch Xander’s attention. The drowsy young man wandered over to stand in front of the grill, inhaling deeply. "Hope you’re just about done, G-man. I’m getting weak from hunger."

Willow snorted behind him. "Sure, because the four packs of twinkies you just ate were an appetizer."

"Hey, I’m a growing boy. It takes at least twice that many to stop my tummy from rumbling." He patted his firm abdomen for emphasis.

Giles found himself wondering how long it would be before Xander’s unhealthy diet caught up to him... and his physique. He sighed and mused, "I remember being able to eat anything I wanted, and in any quantity. Unfortunately, those days are long gone."

"You’re in great shape, Giles, don’t put yourself down."

Giles smiled at his red-headed champion. "Thank you, Willow. That’s very kind of you."

Buffy chose not to comment, but her eyes wandered appreciatively over her Watcher’s slender, yet solid frame. He didn’t notice the slightly possessive smile that flickered across her face.

"Don’t distract him too much, Will... I don’t want my steak to burn." Xander leaned over the grill and eyed the food with the air of a vulture circling a dying animal.

"Steady on, Xander. Won’t be long now." Amusement was fairly dripping from Giles’ voice.

"How do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Mock me without actually saying anything... mocking? You’ve elevated it to an art form, man."

The girls smiled as Giles looked at Xander, his face carefully innocent. "Years of practice."

"And it helps to have someone like you around to practice on." Willow elbowed Xander playfully.

After a hearty meal, during which Giles’ grilling skills were highly extolled, the three teens sat around the patio table looking miserably full and bored. Giles came back outside with a pitcher of iced tea just in time to hear Xander say, "Hey, there’s a patriotic music thing and a fireworks display at the city park tonight. Anybody wanna go?"

"That’s a lovely idea, Xander. Just the thing." Giles said with enthusiasm.

"So long as I don’t have to dust any vamps, I’m in." Buffy raised her hand from the arm of the lawn chair, then let it drop limply down.

"Yeah. Sounds nice," Willow added.

Giles wondered how these heretofore irrepressible bundles of energy could possibly have been transformed into such complete layabouts in the course of one day. He reclaimed his chair and placed the refilled pitcher on the table in front of him, and three hands immediately reached for the cool liquid.

"Sure is hot today," Willow observed as she rested her cool glass against her forehead. "I’m about ready to head back to the pool."

Xander paused mid-gulp to comment, "Not me. I bet the place is still packed." The three teens had tried the public pool earlier that morning, hoping to cool off before lunch. They’d only been there a short while when a huge crowd of screaming children descended, making a relaxing swim impossible. The crowd had increased in size and volume with every passing minute until even the normally oblivious Xander was rattled by the splashing and the noise.

"You’re probably right," Willow agreed. "And it’s no cooler there than it is here. At least we’re in the shade now."

"Yeah, and even in the shade, I also bet Mr. Layers is dying over there." He glanced at the older man, noting the collar of a T-shirt peering out from the open vee of the polo shirt he was wearing. "Is there a rule that Watchers have to wear at least two shirts at all times?"

Buffy arched an eyebrow in Giles’ direction. "At least he has short sleeves on this time."

Giles said, in his most dignified tone, "I am endeavoring to adapt to life inside a blast furnace."

"He’s got jeans on, too. And no tweed," Willow teased.

"I miss the earring, though." Buffy said thoughtfully.

Giles gave her a surprised look. "I didn’t think you’d notice."

"Fooled ya, didn’t I?" She smirked at him, and he looked slightly embarrassed.

"Well, yes. Actually, I forgot to put it on."

"You can go by and get it on the way to the park," Buffy said decisively as she got up and stretched luxuriously. Giles could barely hide his appreciation of her lithe body, and glancing at Xander, he realized he wasn’t the only one enjoying the view. Both of them snapped to attention as she added, "I think a little game of whiffle ball might just shake us out of our stupor."

"Whiffle ball?" Giles rose and followed the teens inside, a quizzical look on his face.

"Oh, good," Xander whined. "More sweating."


When they arrived at the park, the group gathered their belongings and began looking for a place to settle. Buffy seemed to have come out of her languor, and she chatted happily as they walked. "I know you’re a foreigner, Giles, so we’ll go easy on ya at first."

"How kind of you," Giles drawled.

"That’s me, Buffy the Kind Person. But after you get the hang of it, me an’ Will are going for blood, and it’s gonna be Buffy the Whiffle Ball Killer."

"So long as you don’t kill one of us in the process..."

"I’ll try not to, but you better be on your toes, Watcher-man. There’s gonna be unidentified flying whiffle balls whizzing past your ear in a little while."

"Hmm. We shall see, shan’t we?"

Buffy tossed the hollow plastic ball with one hand as she walked, skillfully avoiding playing children and Frisbees as they crossed the well-kept lawn that surrounded the park area. She had several lightweight blankets folded under her other arm. Xander had the light plastic bat resting on his shoulder, and Giles was lugging a cooler full of drinks and sandwiches. Willow tagged along behind, struggling with the lawn chairs and giving Xander a dirty look as he strolled along, completely unconcerned with her increasing difficulty.

"Xand, help!" Willow snapped as she finally lost her grip on one of the lounges. It flopped open, causing her to trip. He grinned at his best friend, enjoying her frustration for a moment before giving in and sharing part of her load.

Buffy and Willow finally pointed to a spot on a small hill flanked by a small stand of trees. Xander, the self-proclaimed expert in free entertainment, assured them that it was the best fireworks viewing spot in the park. They arranged their chairs and blankets, then moved to the clearing and began teaching Giles the finer points of whiffle ball.

Surprisingly, Buffy’s strength wasn’t a great advantage when dealing with the plastic children’s toys. The harder she swung, the longer the aerodynamically challenged orb hung in the air. It made all her hits laughingly easy to catch. Giles caught on quickly, and the team of Harris-Giles was soon giving the girls a run for their money. After playing for a while, Giles shed his extra layer and untucked his T-shirt. He was enjoying the game more than he thought he would!

Unless one looked closely at the touch of gray at his temples, he blended in with the little group quite well. He was more agile and athletic than Xander, moving with easy grace as the game progressed. Buffy caught herself staring at him more than once... when had he gotten so... yummy? The sunlight glinted off his retrieved earring, and it made her smile to think he’d actually gone and got it, just because she asked.

Buffy stepped up to the paper plate they’d designated as home base and squared off, facing Giles as he prepared to pitch. She gave him her best intimidating glare, but he just grinned. He threw the ball to her without a windup, and she clobbered it with a grunt, determined to send it over Xander’s head into the outfield. The uncooperative ball sailed straight up.

Giles got under it easily, but a gust of wind caught the lightweight plastic and caused it to shift to the left. He could hear Buffy rounding the single base behind him, but he concentrated on the speck of white spinning against the brilliant blue of the sky. He stayed with it until it dropped towards him, then he took a sudden step to one side and caught it just as Buffy barreled into him from behind. They went down in a tangle of arms and legs.

They both gave a loud "Oof!" as the impact knocked the breath out of both of them. The Watcher and the Slayer lay still, gasping for air, Giles on his stomach and Buffy sprawled out on top of him.

"Ow! That had to hurt!" Xander sympathized as he bent over them.

"Are you guys okay?" Willow, ever compassionate, knelt beside her friends, unsure of what to do.

Giles gasps turned to breathy laughter, and Buffy giggled with him, laying her head on his back for a moment. She allowed herself, briefly, to enjoy being in full body contact with her overly proper Watcher, then sighed, rolled off him and lay in the grass, still chuckling as she gulped for air.

"Nice catch, G-man." Xander sat back on his heels and grinned.

Giles finally forced enough air into his lungs to wheeze, "Buffy, you’re out." He rolled to his back and waved the ball, still clutched in his left hand, in the air triumphantly, grinning at her like a madman.

"I think we’ve had enough whiffle ball for one day," Xander said as he stood. Giles pushed himself up to a sitting position and the young man held out a hand, helping the older one to his feet. He clapped Giles on the shoulder as he attempted to brush the grass off his front. "Giles, you can be on my team any time. You’re an animal."

"Thank you, Xander. I believe we won, did we not?"

Buffy declared, "Only by one point."

"It’s still a victory," Giles asserted.

"I demand a rematch!" Willow wasn’t nearly as tired as the rest of them, for some reason. She bounced in place, ready for a second game, and the rest of them groaned. "What? You guys tired already? I’m just gettin’ started. Sheesh!"

They returned to their shaded picnic area to cool off before the concert. They all took a soda from the cooler and sat back to relax. Buffy pulled her lounge chair over beside Giles with a fond smile. "Hey, big guy. You all tuckered out?"

"Not terribly so. A bit bruised. That was fun, actually."

"Yeah, it was. We should do fun more often."

"Yes, we should." Their eyes met, and suddenly, an entirely new game began.


The last strains of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" faded away into the twilight, and Buffy sighed happily. "That was actually good. I’m impressed."

"Yes, it was. The orchestra was wonderful."

"They musta been from out of town," Buffy said sarcastically as she rubbed her arms. The breeze off the ocean was becoming fairly strong, and Giles noted that Buffy was shivering slightly. He could never get used to this bizarre climate... unbearably hot during the day, surprisingly cool at night. Ah, well, what could one expect from a city built in the middle of a desert? He reached for one of the light blankets that Willow had packed, but when he held it up, he realized that there was only one left. "Willow? Where is the other blanket?"

Willow looked up guiltily. She and Xander had already commandeered two of the wraps. "That’s all there is, Giles. I guess I only brought three."

"Ah, well, you can have this one, Buffy. I’m fine."

"No way. We can share."

He eyed the small rectangle of cloth doubtfully. "It’s far too small for that."

"Not if we do this." She got up from her chair and stood beside him. He gripped the arms of the lounge and straddled it, preparing to rise, but she stopped him with an upraised hand. "Sit back."

He obeyed, watching her in stunned surprise as she sat carefully between his legs and leaned back against his chest. He almost forgot to breathe as her warm body settled into his. Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around her waist and she pulled them tight against her, sighing as his warmth penetrated her thin top. He froze, unable to believe that she would welcome such intimacy, then suddenly remembered the wrap. He freed his hands for a moment and shook the folds out of the material, draping it around her shoulders. She hummed gratefully and groped for his arms, returning them to their comfortable position around her waist. She arranged the blanket so it covered them both, then frowned. The arrangement wasn’t quite perfect, yet.

One of his legs was still on the lounge, the other bent over the side, with his foot on the ground. She reached down, took the errant appendage by the calf and lifted into place beside her, tucking his foot under her leg. "Comfy?" she said softly. She was squeezed between his muscular thighs, feeling thoroughly embraced by him. Ahh... very nice, she thought dreamily.

"Uh... y-yes, q-quite," he stammered, unable to focus on anything but the girl in his arms. She was in intimate contact with every part of him... and he fervently hoped that certain parts would behave themselves. His heart certainly wasn’t... it had already begun to hammer wildly.

"Good. We might have to wait a little while for the fireworks to start."

They’ve already started, he thought dizzily. He breathed in and the scent of her hair assailed his senses.

"Hey, Giles?" She sounded so innocent. It made the hair stand up on the back of his neck in anticipation. She never adopted that tone of voice unless she was plotting something. Something big.

"Yes? Something wrong?"

"No, nothing’s wrong. Everything’s pretty right, in fact. I was just wondering how we could pass the time until they get started."

Surely she couldn’t be implying what he thought she was implying. After all, Xander and Willow were just a few feet away... he glanced over and realized that they’d disappeared. "Um... X-xander and Willow... wh-where did..."

She read his stammer easily. "Just down the hill a little ways. Xander wanted to lay on his back and watch the fireworks like he did when he was a kid."


"So, where were we? Oh, yeah. Time passage."

He attempted levity, hoping he didn’t sound as nervous as he felt inside. "W-we could... ah, play twenty questions."

She snorted softly. "Not my idea of worthy time-passing activity." She turned slightly until she was able to slide an arm around him. "Strike one."

He thought for a bit before he remembered their afternoon game of whiffle ball. Three strikes and you’re out... cute. "W-we could discuss A-a-american h-history," he offered breathlessly as she stroked his chest with a slow, gentle touch. She felt so good against him... Could she possibly feel the same way?

"Nope. Strike two."

She nuzzled his chest through his T-shirt, and he fought the urge to gasp. Despite his best effort, his voice caught as he attempted to reply. "Just wha-what would you deem a worthy... activity?"

"Oh, I dunno. Snuggling is nice, but I’m sure we can think of something better." She punctuated her statement by nipping his neck lightly. His heart rate increased dramatically under her ear, and she smiled. It’s working, she thought happily.

He gathered his courage and pulled her up until they were almost face to face. "How about this, then?" He bent his head slightly and touched his lips to hers. A burst of white light exploded around them, but they both ignored it. Buffy tilted her head slightly and deepened the kiss, ignoring the pyrotechnics that decorated the sky above them. They were making fireworks of their own.

She pulled away slightly, panting. They stared at each other for a moment in the intermittent light. Without warning, Buffy looped her arm around his neck and pulled him forward, moving the latch on the lounge chair until the back was almost horizontal. She smiled and eased him back down as a volley of small explosions rocked the park. The sparkling display caught Giles’ eye briefly, then he smiled back at her. "Beautiful," he whispered.

"More," she murmured, and he complied happily. The second kiss went from searching to desperate to tender in a matter of moments. They could hear the crowd below them ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ with each new explosion. The sound of their moans blended in perfectly. She moved to straddle him as fireworks sizzled, whistled and boomed around them, creating a dramatic backdrop for their ardor.

"Buffy..." He tried to gather the shreds of reason about him and protest her unexpected but entirely delightful advances.

She stroked his face lovingly. "Rupert." She slid her hands under the hem of his shirt and up his hair-dusted chest.

"Oh, god..."

Her lips descended on his once again, and there was no more conversation.


"Whoa, look at that one!" Xander pointed as the grand finale of the display lit the area with an almost daytime brilliance.

"That is so pretty... I love those squiggly gold ones that whistle and pop." Willow had a sudden thought. "I wonder if Buffy and Giles are enjoying this..." She shifted to one elbow and glanced back up the hill at her two friends. What she saw caused her eyes to widen, and she quickly flopped back down, disbelief on her face.

"Do they look like they’re having a good time?" Xander asked innocently, his eyes glued to the sky.

She thought about it for a second, then her shocked look soon changed to a happy smile. "Oh, yeah. Looks like it."

When the last boom had sounded, the crowd erupted in cheering applause. It had been a fine display.

Xander grunted in mild disappointment. "Aww... it’s over."

"Yeah, but we’d better stay where we are for a little while."

"How come?"

"Because Buffy and Giles are... well, busy."

"Busy? How?" He sat up suddenly, tensed for action. "D’ya mean vamp busy?"

"No, Xander," Willow sighed. Sometimes Xander could be sooo dense. "Busy as in we don’t wanna go up there right now."

"But, they were just sitting there..." Despite her insistence, he turned and looked. The gas lights that dotted the park didn’t show everything, but he saw enough to feel the blood rushing to his face. "Oh, my god. Are they doing what I think they’re doing?"

"Get back down here, you voyeur!" Willow jerked his arm sharply. "Leave them alone. It’s about time they got over their issues and got together."

"But... but... when? How? Why?" Xander still couldn’t believe it.

"The ‘when’ is a little vague. I think for Giles it’s been a long time. Prom, maybe, or for sure just before graduation. The ‘how and why’ is pretty simple... they love each other. Now sit back and relax. They’ll tell us when they’re ready to go."

"I just never thought I’d see Buffy doing that to Giles."

"I did. At least, I thought she might. I was just afraid she’d wait until he got disgusted and left."

"Giles wouldn’t leave. He’s the Watcher."

"He’s also a man. He’s loved her so long, and she just acted like he was furniture. I don’t know how he stood it."

"Speaking of furniture... how much more d’ya think that chair can take? They seemed pretty, well, enthusiastic."

A loud crack and a thump caused them both to jump. Giggles erupted from the hill above them.

"I guess we can go back now," Willow commented.

"Maybe we better wait ‘til they say it’s okay, Will. I don’t wanna be traumatized."

She slapped his shoulder playfully, grinning. "You and Anya have traumatized us so many times, it would serve you right."


Giles laughed breathlessly from amid the wreck of their misused lounge chair. The back legs had given way, and he and Buffy were lying in an awkward heap, their feet and legs still suspended by the undamaged front supports. They chuckled together helplessly for a few minutes, until the uncomfortable position made it necessary to attempt to disentangle themselves.

"You’re on top. You should move first," Giles suggested.

"Yeah, but your weight is keeping the arms bowed in so I can’t get up." Buffy could feel the wooden arm rests digging into her back.

"You’ll have to slide out, then, because if I try to move, we and the chair will end up rolling down the hill."

"That might give Xander and Willow a little shock." She started laughing as she tried to scoot down towards his feet. The angle made it impossible. She kept wiggling until Giles gasped desperately, "Stop! Buffy, this isn’t working."

"Seems to be working on you pretty well."

"Buffy..." His voice took on a warning tone.

She giggled again, then had a sudden idea. The chair was totally trashed anyway. Why try and salvage it? She swung her leg up and brought it down sharply, crumpling the remaining aluminum brace into the ground. She pushed out with both arms, bracing her forehead against his chest for leverage, and snapped the arms off with little effort. "There. All free."

She made no attempt to rise, but lay her head against his chest and closed her eyes, listening to his rapid heartbeat. I did that, she thought with smug satisfaction. I made him all excited and giddy. Serves him right, too, ‘cause that’s what he does to me.

"I love you, you know." Her voice was a whisper against his chest, and he felt it to his very soul.

"And I love you, dearest."

From below them, a tentative voice called, "Uh, hey, guys, are you okay up there?"

Buffy giggled again, then sat up and moved to the side, carefully tugging her clothes back into place. She helped Giles to his feet and grinned at his disheveled look. "Yeah, Xand, we’re fine. The chair collapsed on us."

"We heard. Not that I’m trying to tell you what to do or anything, Buff, but we did bring enough chairs for everybody."

"Yeah, but Willow didn’t bring enough blankets."

"Oh, so now it’s my fault you demolished the furniture? Thanks a lot," Willow chirped.

Xander and Willow came up behind the new couple as they surveyed the wreckage of their chair. "I think there’s a trash can over by the car," Xander offered.

"Good. We can dump it on the way." Buffy stepped nearer to Giles and threaded her arm through his. "I’ll always remember this night," she said softly.

"As will I." His voice was equally soft. She looked up at him, seeing him, really seeing him, for what he was, and had always been. Hers.

The four of them gathered their things and started back to Giles’ car. Xander was a little more chivalrous this time and carried two of the chairs. Buffy carried the broken chair and fell into step beside Giles. After giving the poor broken chair a respectful burial, they packed the car, then Buffy gave Xander an affectionate hug. "This was a great idea, Xand. Thanks."

Xander just couldn’t hold it in any longer, and he blurted, "But you guys missed the fireworks!"

She couldn’t help smiling again. "No, we didn’t."