Gratitude
By Luisa

Title: Gratitude
Author: Luisa
Email: leyjd@hotmail.com
Pairing: B/G, W/T, X/A
Rating: R (to be on the safe side)
Distribution: Anyone who wants it, please ask.
Summary: After a close encounter, Buffy makes the mistake of showing Giles her gratitude - How will he react?
Spoilers: Through Season 5. This is set in my own little AU, where Buffy never left UC Sunnydale, Dawn doesn't exist and all the stuff with Glory never happened.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Joss and Mutant Enemy yada, yada. I promise I'll return them the way I found them. No infringement intended.
Feedback: Yes please!
Thanks: So much to Rari for the superb betaing. Much appreciated!


Part 1

It was past 10pm, and Buffy Summers knocked hesitantly on Rupert Giles' door. Even after all this time, she still wasn't sure where she stood with him. Although it was great to be working side-by-side again... something seemed amiss. Actually, even when she asked him to be her Watcher again he had seemed strange. It was as if he was keeping something from her.

*What's the big, Buff? After all, you've got your secrets too.*

She rapidly squelched that train of thought. It would do no good to moon over him while on patrol - that would likely get them killed.

*I wonder if he's gone to bed - usually he'd have his porch light turned on by now.*

She was just about to fish for her key when she was bathed in light and the door opened.

"Ah, Buffy," Giles smiled that gentle smile and extended an arm, "Do come in."

"What took you so long?" Buffy teased as she brushed past him. She missed the odd look he gave her as he brusquely answered, "Do I need your permission to use the bathroom?"

At least she had the grace to blush. "Sorry." She changed the subject quickly, "So, Watcher-mine, you ready for patrol?"

"As ready as I'll ever be." He replied with a smile, quickly masking his face to hide his earlier reaction while he picked up his sword and weapons bag. As he bent over to retrieve his bag, Buffy found herself admiring the cute curve of his butt.

"Giles?" She began, and caught herself suddenly as she realized she was about to spill her feelings.

"Yes?" He turned to her ushering her out the door. She was silent for a long moment, seeking something to cover up her mistake.

"What is it, Buffy?"

"Nothing, Giles. I was just thinking how nice it is working with you again." *Phew. Covered up that one well.*

He gave her another odd, unreadable look. "Y... Yes... it is...isn't it?"

They patrolled together for a good hour, talking amiably. After a short while, Buffy sensed his tiredness and suggested that he head home.

"Go on Giles. You look like you haven't slept in weeks; you deserve a break. I promise I'll stop by after I finish patrol."

"Are you sure? I really don't mind..." his voice trailed off, and he tried hard not to look hopeful.

"Yes. I'm sure. Now go." she insisted; only just catching a glimpse of a fleeting emotion cross his face. She couldn't believe it - he had actually looked relieved. She managed a tight smile "Go, before I change my mind".

Why hadn't he put up a fight? She wondered. She didn't even hear his quiet "be careful" as she watched his retreating figure, wondering for the millionth time why all the guys in her life were so willing to leave her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He hated being glad of her agreement to their separation - it wasn't normal. Usually, even when she was busy in college he felt her absence sorely, although he could never put a finger on why he missed her so much. He supposed it was just because they were together so often, and were so much a part of each other's lives.

As he left the cemetery, he started walking in the opposite direction to home. He knew he was a fool to go alone, but he knew that someone needed to patrol the seedier parts of Sunnydale, knew that Buffy would never choose to walk those parts again. They held too many memories for her: the alleys where Riley allowed vampires to feed off him, the street going past the mansion, the caves where Adam killed Forrest, the old factory.

His heart ached for her, and he wished yet again that he could take all her pain, despite knowing that he never could. Reaching destination number one, he pulled his sword out of its sheath, preparing for battle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy continued to patrol alone, twirling her stake absentmindedly through her fingers.

*What is up with Giles? First he acts all mysterious when I ask him to be my Watcher, now he can't wait to get away from me. Why do I have that effect on people? The whole reason I haven't told him...*

A newly risen Vampire rudely interrupted her train of thought, lunging straight toward her. She spun around and landed a kick in the groin.

"God, that's so typical. The men I want all leave, and here you guys are, supposed to be afraid of me, yet unable to keep away from me."

With a spin and a punch, she drove a stake through his heart, and then whirled around, catching the vamp that had snuck up behind her by surprise, and spearing him as well. As he exploded into dust, an unmistakeable voice cut through the air.

"Well, well. If it isn't the Slayer. And fancy that, she's all alone... again. Never mind love, you've always got me."

She tried to ignore the sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach at the realization that she really was all alone.

"Spike, didn't you get it when I uninvited you? I'm not interested in you, and don't wait around, 'cause it'll never happen."

Spike just smirked with his usual air of arrogance, as he strode out of the shadows.

"What's wrong, Slayer? Has good ole Rupes left you too? Wouldn't surprise me - you always did use to use him like a public library."

*That's right, you never considered his feelings once, did you?* her conscience taunted. She tried to ignore the voice, but it persisted, *You believe you love him, but think about all those times you dumped him so quickly to go to the Bronze, or be with Riley. You never thought about or cared if you might be hurting him. And you know how angry he was when he found out about Angel being back.*

She kicked a nearby headstone angrily as she tried again to disregard her conscience. Instead, she was faced with more of Spike's jibes.

"I bet he's looking forward to getting his own life back - you know, the one you stole from him. Probably off to pack, right now."

She couldn't help but picture the hopeful look on his handsome face as she gave him 'her permission' to go home. Waves of depression washed over her, and she dropped silently to the ground.

Spike was thoroughly enjoying himself and as he watched Buffy become even more dejected, he couldn't help but feel a sense of triumph that his chip couldn't stop him from breaking people emotionally - even if he did 'love' Buffy.

*Hey, I am evil after all.*

He took another step towards her, gearing up for another round of insults when she turned toward him, snatching Mr Pointy from her jacket sleeve.

"One more step, Spike, and you'll end up in hell."

He shrugged at her, "Been there, done that."

"Okay then..." she paused, trying to remember his weaknesses, "One more step, one more squeak out of you, and you'll never see Manchester United again."

The vampire seemed to think it over for a minute, before making his decision. With a parting shot of "We'll meet again, Slayer!", he fled into the darkness once more.

She just sat there muttering about how pathetic he was to herself.

"God, Spike, of course we'll see each other again. Probably tomorrow, in fact. Just as soon as you need more money from Giles."

*Giles.*

Her thoughts turned to him once more. She hated to admit it, but Spike was probably right. She had treated him like dirt *for his own good* she reasoned, and now he was probably leaving because of it. *Why was he so keen to leave me? Why did he look so relieved?* Try as she might, she couldn't even begin to fathom it.

Silent tears trickled down her cheeks, and as she wallowed in her self-pity she didn't notice the three shadows creeping up around her. By the time they attacked her, she couldn't even be bothered to fight back. Life without Giles was no life at all. She was dimly aware of one vampire snatching Mr Pointy dangling limply from her hand as she realised that she may as well let these guys take her out.

The vamp that appeared to be in charge couldn't believe his luck. He'd had his minions pin her down, but the Slayer wasn't even struggling. He let out a roar of triumph, as he pointed her stake at her heart. This would be his first Slayer - hopefully the first of many.

She closed her eyes, knowing that this was the end. *I love you, Giles.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A bedraggled Rupert Giles walked through the quiet streets of Sunnydale, heading home at last.

"I certainly could have done with Buffy's help tonight" he mused to himself.

He looked at his watch. He ought to hurry back, Buffy should be arriving at his apartment in about half an hour, and if he gave any indication that he'd gone out alone he'd get the lecture of a lifetime. He broke into a jog.

Giles froze as he heard a loud and evil laugh ring throughout a nearby cemetery. Buffy should have covered this one after he left her. Had she missed something hiding there? The evil voice spoke, spurring him into action.

"You're mine, Slayer!"

Giles ran through the cemetery as fast as his legs would carry him, stopping short at the sight of his precious Slayer pinned down. A brief thought flitted through his mind.

*Why isn't she struggling? Get up, Buffy! Oh God, what if it's too late.*

For a moment he couldn't breathe, then he charged at one of the vamps pinning Buffy down. Caught off-guard, the leader of the vamps looked around for his attacker as the minion to his left suddenly exploded in a shower of dust.

Giles' sudden presence was enough to convince Buffy that she was being pathetic.

Inspired, she quickly took advantage of her oppressor's lack of concentration, snatching Mr Pointy out of his hand with her free hand and plunging it into his chest before he even registered that he no longer held it. Fearful, the second minion let go of the Slayer and fled, too busy panicking to look where he was going, and hence missing Giles' sword slice through the air... and the vamp's neck.

"I believe that's all of them" Giles commented casually as he wiped the dust from his sword, unaware that he sounded calmer than he felt.

Buffy looked up from her position on the ground over to where he was standing, overwhelmed by the love and gratitude flooding through her as she realised how stupid she'd been to let Spike get to her, making her jump to conclusions because of her loneliness. Without a second thought, she flipped to her feet and crossed the clearing in a heartbeat, throwing herself into his arms.

He was shocked at the sudden intimacy - they normally weren't the type to hug each other, even on special occasion - that for a moment he could only stand rooted to the spot, enveloped in her bear hug. He quickly found himself enjoying her affection however, and his arms wound themselves around her waist of their own accord.

She sighed into his neck, enjoying his embrace, hugging him slightly tighter.

"Thank you" she whispered, before raising her head to place a tender kiss on the soft skin of his cheek.

He stiffened at the contact, *she must have been really anxious to be this grateful* he wondered to himself before stuttering out a reply. "Y... you're m... m... most w... wel ... c... come"

She smiled against his cheek. It was typical of her watcher to get into an awkward moment and stutter his way right out of it. She frowned slightly at that thought. This wasn't awkward for her. This was exactly where she wanted to be: in his arms. Why should it be awkward for him? After all, they had worked side by side for over four years. Shouldn't it be natural to be close like this? She sighed again, this time in frustration, even while continuing to enjoy the feeling of his arms still around her.

Little did she know that he was berating himself for the very same reason.

He wanted not to feel awkward in this position, but it was incredibly difficult. It just didn't make sense that she would suddenly want to get touchy-feely with him after distancing herself so often, although her warmth was certainly.welcoming. He felt his body begin to respond in typical male fashion, and found himself horrified by the direction in which his thoughts were headed.

*Good lord, old man what are you thinking? This is Buffy... this is... wrong... and inappropriate. She's just a child.*

His body refused to listen to reason, and he drew back in an attempt to put some space between them. He found himself looking into intense dark grey eyes for only seconds, before watching her gaze move to focus elsewhere. He gave a start as he realised she was looking hungrily at his lips.

*What _is_ going on?* he wondered to himself. He was so busy processing her strange behaviour that he didn't notice his own. Before he could stop himself, his lips were descending rapidly toward her as hers rose to meet his. They were stopped from meeting at the last minute however, by a crash and a thump accompanied by a yowl of pain and several raised voices.

Shocked and appalled at his conduct, Giles took the opportunity to push Buffy away from him abruptly, instead turning his attentions in the direction of the sound.

"Who's there?" he called into the darkness, pulling his sweater over the bulge in his jeans at the same time.

Averting her wide-eyed gaze from what his hands were doing, and trying to hide the hurt in her voice she swallowed the lump in her throat and joined him in calling out, "Xander? Will? 'That you?"

She heard Willow's voice float back to her, "What gave it away? Are Xander's yelps of pain are that distinguishable?" she chuckled, and Buffy joined in, although sadly.

Anya interrupted in a panicked voice before Willow could say anything else. "Buffy. You'd better come here, I think Xander's broken something".

Gathering her weapons, Buffy started to reach for Giles' hand but then thought better of it and began striding towards her friends. Giles followed at a distance, lost in his thoughts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Neither Buffy nor Giles could sleep for the rest of the night. Buffy lay wide awake, staring at her ceiling holding Mr Gordo thinking of all the could'ves, should'ves and would'ves of tonight. Maybe she should've let that vamp have her, after all it appeared that Giles didn't want her despite his obvious erection earlier. She hugged Mr Gordo to her and sighed. After her experience with Parker, she had gotten used to that fact that a male reaction wasn't a declaration of love.

*Typical men*.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giles, on the other hand was lying awake for an entirely different reason. All he could see whenever he closed his eyes were one of two things: Buffy restrained by those vampires, looking like she'd given up the fight for life and then the joy on her face at seeing him there, rescuing her. The fact that she would probably be dead right now if he'd gone straight home like she'd requested... no, demanded was a constant reminder of how close he came to losing her.

*No, not going to go there...* he thought to himself blinking back unshed tears.

Instead he focused on that picture of her so happy at his rescue. She'd looked as if the very reason for her existence had made itself known, reminding her why she couldn't let the vamps take her. And the look he saw in her eyes. he thought about that for long moments, trying to find a word to describe the emotion he saw there, but try as he might, he just couldn't work it out.

He blinked twice at that in astonishment as he rarely ran out of words, but then this was Buffy - she was after all, the exception to the rule... correction, when she had come along, the rule book had gotten thrown out of the window. He smiled a little at that thought.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy was getting past the self-pity and onto the angrier emotions. She was angry both with Giles and with herself. How stupid could she have been to let her guard slip, after keeping her feelings so well hidden behind it for so long?

*Stupid, _stupid_ Buffy* and she was angry with him as well. Okay, sure she had tried to take advantage of the moment, but he hadn't resisted - not at first anyway. In fact, he had almost kissed her in said moment. She felt used - like he'd played with her emotions, allowed her to have what she wanted within her grasp and then stolen it away.

"Way to go, Buff", she spoke to an empty room, "Blame Giles when it's so all your own fault".

She scowled. He would probably never want to look at her again, let alone touch her again. Well, as far as she was concerned, that left only one thing to do. A lone tear trickled down her cheek as she made her decision.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giles' thoughts swam round his head, eventually coming to rest on the image of her looking hungrily at him. At the thought, heat travelled through his body.

*Oh dear Lord, what is going on?* he wondered, casting about in his mind for something else to focus on - and failing. So he settled on thinking about both of their actions: her obvious hunger and his. arousal.

*I can't believe I nearly kissed her. What is happening to me?*

It was strange how he'd felt the most peculiar sensation of being drawn to Buffy earlier that evening. It wasn't a new thing, but he'd never felt any reason to worry before, he simply thought they'd reached a new milestone in their Watcher-Slayer relationship.

*I nearly kissed Buffy, I nearly kissed Buffy* it was beginning to become an insistent chant in his head.

He closed his eyes, and rolled onto his side, willing the thought to go away, instead envisioning her lust-filled face once more. As he felt a definite stirring in his pyjama pants, he realised that something was definitely not planning on going to sleep tonight. He sighed, and as he got up and headed toward the bathroom, a sudden thought struck him.

*It's got to be a spell... I'd put my money on this being Ethan's doing. We'll research first thing in the morning.*

First, he needed a cold shower and some sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 2

At the Magic Box that morning the gang was unusually quiet, the only noise that of Anya ringing up her sales.

Buffy and Giles were dutifully avoiding eye contact, and Xander hadn't cracked a single joke, due to the pain of spraining his wrist when he tripped over a tree root the previous night. Even Willow and Tara were talking in hushed voices sensing the discomfort within the group. As the last customer in the shop left, Anya took the opportunity to sit down.

As she approached the table, she decided in her typical tactless fashion to ease the tension in the room.

"Oh come on, what's so bad? Is the world ending again? Xander, I know you're in pain so you're excused from this lecture, but what's the big deal with everyone this morning? Willow, Tara? Why are you whispering? And Giles and Buffy, I don't know what's going on, but it's affecting sales - so sort it out."

To Xander, she added, "By the way Xander, I promise we'll have lots of orgasms later to make your pain go away."

"Thank you Anya, for that wonderful insight to first-aid." Came Giles' derisive voice. Xander winced.

"Giles, was that necessary?" Buffy spoke up quietly for the first time all morning.

"Oh, she hasn't lost her voice then. Well, that's one theory down the drain."

"Shut up Anya. For your information, I've been trying to work out how to tell you all that from now on the Slayer works alone. Giles is no longer my Watcher."

Buffy didn't get a chance to finish her sentence as the Scoobies all started talking at once, the silence rapidly dissipating.

"But you can't do that! We're meant to work as a team!" Willow cried out in protest.

"Yeah, you can't just ditch us! We're your friends!"

Xander hurried to back Willow up, glad to have something other than the pain in his wrist absorbing his thoughts.

"Buffy, don't be so stubborn and stupid" Anya added.

Buffy was just about to retort, when Giles' hand appeared at her elbow, grabbing her roughly before propelling her into the training room.

The rest of the Scoobies followed, even when Giles purposefully slammed the door in their faces, and pressed their ears close to the door.

"Giles, what are you doing?" Buffy demanded, as soon as he released her, practically throwing her into the room.

He ignored her question, starting to pace his familiar pattern of three steps in each direction. The action bought a lump to her throat as she realised just how much she would miss even this.

"Were you even planning on discussing this with me?" He snarled, a bit of Ripper surfacing.

She blinked back tears. "Giles, this was never up for discussion. You know that this is the end."

He whirled on her, grabbing her shoulders and pushing her to the wall.

"Tell me why. Why is this the end? After all I've done for you, all I've given up for you."

"Giles, you know I can break free of this" Buffy sighed in exasperation.

At her tone, Ripper fully emerged, Giles' usually gentle voice turning harsh and bitter. "Then why don't you? Huh? Why don't you run away, just like you always do?"

"Giles."

"Don't 'Giles' me. You think you can just pick me up and put me down whenever you want?"

"Giles, it's not like that. Giles, you have to believe me. I... I..."

"Tell me how it is, then, Buffy." Giles tried to calm down, tried to push Ripper away and lock him back inside, lessening his grip on Buffy's shoulders as he instead imprisoned Ripper, stepping back a little.

Even with this freedom, Buffy couldn't run, couldn't push him away. He was still the man she loved. She simply slid down the wall, tears falling freely down her cheeks. Giles sank to the floor with her.

"Giles, about what happened last night... "

"I know."

"You know?"

"Yes, you're under a spell." She snorted in both disbelief and hurt at his unintended insult to her feelings. He continued, ignorant of her reaction.

"I think it may be Ethan. I've wanted to research all morning, but I thought maybe it would wear off. I see it hasn't. It's almost seemed to... to strengthen. It appears his primary purpose would be to split up the group and it looks like it's working."

Giles fully released his hold on her as he talked, and Buffy smiled a sad smile.

"Giles, I don't think so..."

"But Buffy, if it's not a spell, then what's happening?"

Another sad smile appeared. "I can't tell you that, Giles." She ignored the bewildered look he gave her and began to get up, smoothing out her skirt, deciding to put off her decision until she'd thought about it some more.

"I'm sorry for what I said just now. It was stupid. You're the best Watcher there is - why would I want to give you up? And the gang? They're so supportive - even Anya. I was just..." Her voice trailed off as she looked for an excuse, "I was just testing you all. Wanted to make sure we were still a lean mean fighting machine and all that."

She extended a hand to help him up, which he accepted. Fire shot through her at his touch, and she looked away, trying to keep her feelings under control.

"By the way, you all passed." She commented, as she opened the door and the gang fell in.

After some disgruntled mutterings, the group soon made up, but Giles was still wary with Buffy. The last 24 hours had been very odd indeed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As the day passed, Buffy retreated more and more into herself, only speaking when spoken to, even then seeming distracted. She was lost in her thoughts.

*How could I have been so insensitive? Giles must hate me for what I said. For making him look like such an idiot. I never meant to make things worse.*

She threw even more vigour into her training than ever before that afternoon, and Giles was growing worried about her. Finally, after she nearly destroyed the punch bag, he spoke up.

"Buffy, are you alright? You don't seem very... happy."

Kick, punch. "I'm fine Giles." *I'm fine because you're not touching me at the moment*

"If you're sure..."

"I'm sure, Giles." *I'm sure that I can't ever do this again, I can't keep getting mushy and distracted by you in my line of duty*

"If you ever need to talk, Buffy..."

"I know, Giles" *I know that I went about it the wrong way this morning*

"Okay then."

"Whatever. Are we done?"

Suddenly feeling awkward and unsure from where it came, Giles looked down, taking his glasses off to polish.

"Yes, I suppose so. Are we patrolling together again tonight? Or... or... do you want to go alone?" Damn! He hated sounding so unsure of himself.

The silence stretched out as Buffy thought about it, and Giles wondered if he should have waited for her to invite him, instead of volunteering.

Finally she answered him, "Yes, okay. Same time, same place?" *One last time*

"Oh well, actually I thought that maybe we could go out earlier tonight. After all we were at the hospital quite late with Xander last night, I thought it might be a good idea to catch up on the lost sleep."

"Great idea Giles. As usual, you are the brains of the team. So, what? Eight o'clock good for you?" *No demon activity that early on in the evening. Too light. That way he won't be so much of a distraction that we get killed*

He looked momentarily startled at her suggestion then agreed. "Okay. We'll meet at 8pm at my apartment."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was a little after eight, when Buffy showed, and as Giles let her in he gathered up his weapons with a slight smile. Punctuality had never been one of Buffy's strong points. The thought that had been foremost in his mind since their conversation nagged at him again as he passed by his bookshelves.

"Um... Buffy? Don't you think it's a little light for patrolling? Surely no vampire or demon will be out this early. Do you want to wait a while before we head out?"

Buffy thought quickly, "It never hurts to be on the cautious side, Giles. Besides, we can stay out as late as you want, and double-check the cemeteries on the way back. Hey if you want, you can bring a book. We can research what we hunt. It'll be just like old times." *Talk about a fitting end.*

He smiled widely at her suggestion as he chose a book, "Yes it will, won't it?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They patrolled a complete circuit of Sunnydale and only had to kill one pathetic demon, before they came to a rest in the first cemetery they had searched. They settled down by a tombstone, and Giles opened up his book searching for the demon they had encountered in the pale light of the setting sun.

Suddenly Buffy realised that the sun was setting. Her heart began to race, adrenaline like she'd never experienced pumping through her. She hadn't enjoyed a sunset in forever. For her, day usually turned straight into night in the blink of an eye.

"Oh, Giles!" Buffy squealed, waving her arms like an excited eight year old, "Just look at that sunset! Isn't it amazing?"

Giles looked up from his book distractedly. "Yes, Buffy."

"No, Giles, you're not looking." She grabbed his hand, pulling him up. "Look properly" she instructed.

"See all those reds and purples? I guess we're so used to the darkness that we never really enjoy this part of the evening. Look, look." She tugged at him again. "Oh wow" she suddenly breathed, "Just look at that: those clouds look like an eagle in flight. I've never seen that before."

Finally Giles looked toward the horizon, intrigued.

"Where? Buffy, you've got an overactive imagination. I don't see anything."

Buffy pulled Giles flush against her, her skin breaking out in hundreds of goosebumps at the contact. She reprimanded him in an attempt to ignore the wonderful sensations: "No Giles, more like you've got no imagination. Look again. This time, look here..." her voice trailed off as she leaned closer to him, inches away from his ear as she pointed out the amazing cloud formation.

He could feel her soft breath on his skin, making it tingle.

"Gosh, that's unbelievable" he remarked, his voice little more than a hoarse whisper as a result of her nearness.

"Mmmm" she hummed, partly in agreement, partly from light-headedness from the scent of his cologne as she moved closer still.

Gently she pressed her lips against the soft skin of his neck, unable to stop herself. The contact sent tiny tremors shooting through her.

Giles stiffened in shock, not knowing how to react, unable to prevent her gentle assault on his neck.

She kissed him again, lower, closer to his collar bone - wanting more of his delicious taste, moaning in appreciation as the tremors turned into electric shocks.

"Buffy" he whispered unaware of the effect of his use of her name. She felt her insides go gooey at the sound of his voice and she brushed her lips up his throat in response.

"Giles..." she paused her kisses at his chin, and he bowed his head to look at her as she lifted hers to his. As their faces moved, their lips accidentally met in a chaste kiss. All of a sudden Giles felt a powerful shock reverberate around his body, and he grasped his slayer with both hands, for which Buffy was grateful as the chance kiss transformed the tiny shocks into huge currents of passion, her knees weakening.

Both pulled back from the embrace to look into the other's eyes.

"Giles... " Buffy repeated in a moan, caught in a haze of desire. Her gaze moved to lock focus on his lips, and she hungrily captured them in another sweet kiss, not even noticing the lack of response from Giles. She continued feasting on his lips for several long moments, only one thought looping in her mind: *God, I could stay here forever* she whimpered into his mouth as he gently pushed her away.

"Buffy."

She opened her eyes to look at him, finding him looking at her with an expression of disgust.

"I'm so sorry, Buffy." He pushed her far away from him and fled.

In the shadows of the sunset, Buffy sank to her knees and wept.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rupert Giles tossed and turned in his bed for the second time in as many days. What the hell had happened tonight? The pull toward her had been stronger than ever, and only by his strength of self-will had he managed to resist her kisses. Oh, but Dear Lord, they had been so sweet, and he had not wanted to resist. It had been a serious struggle. He was disgusted with himself. Something was going on, spell or otherwise, and he had encouraged it.

*Buffy, I'm so, so sorry. I should never have taken advantage of you.* His brain tried to reason that it had been she who had taken advantage, but Rupert Giles, ever the martyr accepted the responsibility as his.

He tried to ignore the memories of her passionate kisses, tried to forget the taste she had left on his lips, which he'd guiltily pleasured in licking off, savouring. He also tried to ignore his body's now predictable reaction to the memory. He'd already had to sort out his problem five times tonight and was becoming increasingly frustrated. Angry, he rose to get a glass of water and something to take his mind off the situation at hand.

As he descended the stairs he saw something on the floor by the door. Curious, he hurried to the foot of the stairs and flicked his light on. He squinted in the harsh light, and looked at his watch. 3am.

*Why am I letting this get to me so much that I'm losing sleep over it?*

Again his rain tried to reason with him, *You always lose sleep over Buffy*.

He hastily looked down to prevent that train of thought continuing its journey, and saw an envelope with his name on it. His heart seized - he would recognize her beautiful scrawl anywhere.

He rested the envelope on the coffee table and decided to forego the water, opting instead for a glass of whisky. He had a feeling he would need it. After putting the reading light on, he sat down, sipping the whisky and opened the envelope to find a letter inside.

**Dear Rupert,** [he read]

*Rupert? Since when does she call me by my first name? *

**I'm so sorry for putting you through all this again, but I just can't do this anymore.**

*Do what?*

**It's been so great training and patrolling with you again, and I'm gonna miss it, I'll miss you. But I'm sure you'll be okay. After all, this isn't the first time the Slayer's worked alone.**

*Maybe not, but we're stronger together*

**I've just got so much I'm going through at the moment, there's so much to sort out in my head and in my heart. I'm sorry that this has to come between us, but after the tonight, [here the tears had smudged the handwriting;] things are different now. I'm not sure we can continue to work together. I'm so sorry, Rupert, but think of it this way: you can have that life you've always wanted, the one where you don't have to watch me [the word that followed was illegible, she had cried so much when she had written it, but he knew what it said:] die.**

*Oh, Buffy* His heart suddenly constricted with pain, his eyes misting over as he continued to read.

**Rupert. I never call you that do I? Maybe you're wondering why I am now. It just seems inappropriate to call you Giles in such a personal letter. Rupert, I never told you how happy you made me when you agreed to be my Watcher again, I'd felt like a part of me had been missing for so long. God, just writing this makes me feel that emptiness again, but I refuse to burden you with that. I'm sorry for my carelessness and selfishness in the past and even now. I'm sorry for what Angel did to you.**

*Where is this coming from?*

**Like I said I just can't do this anymore. I can't train with you, or patrol with you - I don't think it's even possible for us to be around each other any more. So, if you guys want to research something new in the Magic Box, you'll have to do it without me. There'll be no need for me to come in anymore if we won't be working together. I'm sorry, Rupert, so sorry, and I don't think I can stop being sorry. I know I've put you through hell so much since we met, but at least I can definitely promise you won't have to suffer because of me any more. So you see, it really is easier for both of us this way.**

*Is it really?*

**I'll miss you. Yours, Buffy**

Giles replaced the now empty glass and the letter on the coffee table, his 'problem' now forgotten, as he suddenly realised how very, very tired he was. Too tired even to cry over his loss.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 3

Bright morning light shone unfiltered through the window as Willow played with Miss Kitty Fantastico on the floor of her dorm room. Suddenly she heard an insistent knocking on the door. There was a pause, and then the pounding resumed - harder, louder.

Willow got up and opened the door cautiously. Everyone she knew knocked once before walking straight in. She wondered who else might be visiting for a brief second, but upon opening the door Willows' face lit up like the sun.

"Giles!" She exclaimed happily. "Come in, come in!" opening the door wider, she gestured for him to come inside.

"Tara's out shopping at the moment, but she'll be back soon. Would you like a coffee? Oh no, that's right you drink tea, would you like tea, then? Or maybe just ice water? It is hot after all." Willow babbled cheerfully as she sank into a chair.

"Giles, sit down" she tugged on his arm trying to pull him down, but he remained standing, considering how to approach this conversation.

"When you've quite finished Willow, you and I need to talk." Giles teased.

Willow knew immediately what this was about and for her friend's sake tried to feign ignorance.

"Sure Giles, what do you want to walk about?" She hoped she still sounded cheerful, unbothered.

"You know what" came his reply. She just smiled at him innocently.

"Willow," he sighed wearily, bending over her slightly to lean on the arm of her chair. "I don't want to ask again. Please tell me why Buffy has refused to train or patrol with me. Why won't she even come into the Magic Box anymore?"

Still Willow remained silent. She knew it was an unkind thing to do, but she couldn't betray Buffy's trust, even if Giles _was_ (in her opinion) towering over her.

"Willow," his voice now held a note of warning, "Will you please tell me what is going on. Now."

She smiled meekly at him, "Giles, it's not really my place to say."

"But?" He emphasised the word heavily, knowing that Willow wasn't very good at keeping secrets, and that given time, he could get her to 'fess up.

Willow couldn't believe his persistence, although she knew it was to be expected of any man who had received such a letter as Giles had.

"Can't you figure it out?"

"Willow" he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose in exasperation, "If I could figure it out, do you really think I'd be here like this, now?"

She shook her head "I... I guess."

Giles sighed again, deciding to give up on this idea. He should've known that Willow would be loyal to Buffy. He drew back and dropped into the opposite chair.

"I'm sorry Willow. I shouldn't have tried to intimidate you. I just don't understand what's going on with Buffy right now. Is she under a spell? Have I done something to upset her? It feels... empty without her."

"But Giles, she feels the same" Willow interrupted, "She hates being without you. She feels the emptiness too."

"Then _why_?" he asked, pained.

"Men." Willow huffed. "You just don't get it, do you?" At his bewildered look she dropped her bombshell. "Buffy's _in love_ with you." Giles could only bark out a short laugh.

"In love with me? Willow, have you been drinking coffee again? The only 'person' Buffy will ever be in love with is Angel, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm just... just..." his voiced began to trail off and he sought anything to grasp as confirmation of denial, "I'm old and gross, remember?"

Willow shook her head slowly, a small hint of a smile playing around the corners of her mouth.

"You can't use that as evidence Giles, she only said that because she was jealous"

"Jealous? Why on earth would she have been jealous? She's an attractive young lady - she could have anyone she wants. I'm sure there are plenty of young men out there willing to."

"She wasn't jealous of the sex, Giles," Willow interrupted, anger flaring in her green eyes. Why did all men think everything revolved around sex? "She was jealous of Olivia."

Giles started choking with shock, but Willow continued, "Buffy wanted to be the one in your shirt, in your bed..." she paused, "And in your heart. Giles, Buffy's been in love with you since the first second she laid eyes on you. I mean okay, first it was just a crush and we would compare fantasies about you - forget I ever said that - but after she saw you kissing Jenny in the library... well, everything changed. I know what you're going to say, well don't. I'm talking, so no interruptions." She looked at him sternly.

He had finished choking and was simply looking at her with a look of utter confusion.

"Giles, the only reason she was with Angel was, well he was a substitute. She knew you could never love her. She thought Angel could make her forget about you - she even had me convinced until I caught her doodling BS loves RG in her math book one day. And Scott? Don't make me laugh. Parker was the same. They were both a no-go from the start. I think she just wanted to forget everything that happened with Angel as result of loving you. I think if she were ever going to tell you how she felt, it would have been that night when Olivia was there. I think her heart split in two the minute you spoke to her the way you did. She kept you at arm's length after that. I think it was just easier and... safer that way. She knew she wouldn't get hurt. I mean, come on Giles, you can't have missed the fact that everyone she cares about leaves her. Look at the evidence: first her mom and dad get divorced. Then Merrick dies and she moves here - away from her father. Then there was that whole thing with Angel going "Grrr" after they get snugly. Scott... well, he doesn't really count. And let's not forget the whole disaster that was Faith - after all Faith was the only one who understood Buffy completely. But then Faith went bad. No Giles, I know what you're gonna say, and you're wrong. You and me? We can't possibly understand what it's like to have Slayer strength and healing, or what's it's like to know you're probably not going to make it past your eighteenth birthday."

Willow paused, taking a deep breath before continuing.

"After that, Angel came back, only to leave Buffy _again_. So she turns to Parker, but he doesn't count either 'cause he was a poophead. Now, to top it all off, her mom dies. How do you think Buffy's going to feel after all that? Do you really think she's going to let anyone else get close? No, because she doesn't want to have her happiness stolen away again. And you're like her rock. She's scared that if she lets you in as well, that she'll lose you, too. So she's distanced herself instead - after all, it's easier to have you near but not near enough than to not have you at all. If you left I reckon she would kill herself - you're her reason for living."

Willow paused, as she let that information sink in.

"I suppose you're wondering where Riley fits in. The answer is he never did. Not really. He was never a Scooby and he certainly wasn't the great love of Buffy's life - that space has your name on it - in fact she never loved him at all. Don't you know that's why he left? I guess for her, all he ever was... was just... safety, and protection and basically he was scratching her itch. I'm sorry, it sounds crude I know, but he knew that Buffy didn't love him. He told Xander as much after Xander got split in half, but he never cared. I reckon he thought she would grow to love him. That or he would _make_ her. He never realised that the only person she could ever belong to is you. But then if you don't talk to her, maybe she'll never belong to anyone."

She finished her impassioned speech with a glare at Giles who was still looking completely confused. Willow then got up, having placed the ball firmly in his court, and went to fill the kettle.

Having made two teas, she came back to find Giles staring into space.

"Giles?" still no reaction.

She placed his tea on the coffee table beside him, and resumed her seat in the facing chair, simply watching him.

After what seemed like endless hours of silence, Giles finally snapped out of it, reaching for his tea and sipping from it deep in thought.

"Giles?" Willow was beginning to get worried. Maybe she shouldn't have told him.

He set his mug back, and leaned back into his seat, replacing his glasses and responding at last. "She loves me?" It came out as little more than a whisper.

"God Giles, I thought you were meant to be smart. Yes, she loves you. Yes she's in love with you. Yes being without you is killing her, and yes the reason she almost got herself killed was because she thought you'd left her too."

Willow figured she'd better shut up now. As much as she wanted the two to sort things out, she didn't want Giles to be with Buffy out of guilt and fear.

Giles began mumbling something.

"Huh?"

"I said that explains the charged atmosphere after I rescued her, and... last night... It explains a lot actually."

"What does what explain? Giles, you're making no sense at all"

"No... no, I don't suppose I am. I really had best be off. there are a few things that need to be said... I mean, sorted out." He inhaled the rest of his tea, intent on a speedy exit.

"Giles, you're not going to reject her, are you?" Willow hesitantly asked, afraid of the answer.

"Goodness, no. Why ever would you think that?"

"I don't know, it's just, you're not exactly jumping up and down with joy at my revelation, you know."

Giles appeared slightly put out by her suggestion.

"Willow, I care very deeply for Buffy and I would never reject her, or intentionally hurt her. As for 'jumping up and down': well, to say the very least this has come as a bit of a shock, and I'm still processing all the information you've just dropped on me."

"Giles, do you love Buffy?"

"What?"

"I asked if you love her" Willow was getting impatient now and began fidgeting in her seat.

"I... er... I care for her"

"Giles," this time it was her voice that held the note of warning, "If you don't love her then stay away from her. Don't offer her false hope. If you can't be together, together then it's best all round if you leave her alone. It's not fair for her to be so near to you but not to have you. Don't hurt her."

Giles had withdrawn into himself again as she spoke, and when he replied Willow could hardly hear him.

"But not being with her hurts her as well... and it makes me feel empty too."

"Which brings me back to my last question: Do you love her?"

"I don't know." The miserable look on his face aged his features by about ten years.

"Okay, let me put it this way: Do you ever fantasize about me?"

If it was possible, Giles looked even more shocked.

"For goodness' sake, Willow. If I did, do you really think I could look you in the eye now? I just don't think of you that way at all. And what's this got to do with Buffy and I?"

"I'll tell you in a minute. But first tell me, do you ever fantasize about Tara?"

"Willow, why are you asking me such absurd questions?"

"I'll take that as a no. What's your wildest fantasy about Anya?"

"That she would let me manage my own store and not scare the customers away. What is all this about? Get to the point." Giles said wearily.

"What's your wildest fantasy about Buffy?"

Giles swiftly stood, knocking his mug over in the process.

"That is an incredibly personal question, Willow, and also none of your bloody business. If you don't mind, I have somewhere I need to be."

Glaring at her with his infamous Ripper glare, he moved to the door without waiting for an answer. Willow just smiled sweetly at him and lifted her hand in a small wave.

As he opened the door, Tara came in.

"Hi Mr Giles" she greeted in her usual shy fashion, the words accompanied by a beautiful smile. Giles didn't even notice. He just swept past her, out into the throng of students intent on finding Buffy.

Tara looked at Willow with wide eyes as she shut the door behind her.

"Was it something I said?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giles stalked across the campus, fury coursing through him.

*Of course, how could I have been so stupid?*

It all added up, the looks she'd given him, the kisses she'd initiated, her sudden desire to stop working with him. He paused mid-stride as a fresh thought struck him.

She must have thought he'd rejected her - no wonder she couldn't bear the thought of working together any more.

*What have I done? After all she went through with Angel - did she really love me all that time? - and then with Riley. And now she suffers my stupid, stupid rejection. How could I be so blind? Oh Buffy, I'm so, so sorry.*

He didn't want to be responsible for her pain, yet he knew he was. He set off again, this time less of a stalk, more of a semi-jog, thoughts whirling through his brain. Pain was lancing his heart the more he thought of her suffering. This is the way it had always been. If he had to watch Buffy hurt, then he would hurt too. It was as if they were joined at the heart.

He contemplated that as he headed in the direction of her dorm room: the pull he'd been increasingly feeling toward her, the pain of her absence. All of a sudden everything clicked into place and he stumbled, tripping over his own feet and landing in a heap.

*Oh dear Lord.*

He fumbled for his glasses, reaffixing them in place and he hurriedly processed his realization. He was in love with Buffy. How could he have missed it? He loved her with a passion that burned his entire being. He returned again to his previous train of thought with disbelief.

*Oh dear Lord.*

Fury unexpectedly surged through him again, as he thought of how careless he'd been in his words and actions.

*She must think I hate her.*

Abandoning all thought but assuring Buffy of his love, he climbed to his feet and ran like the wind to get to her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A harried pounding on her door awoke Buffy from her tear-induced sleep.

"Go away" she mumbled into her pillow.

But the knocking didn't go away, instead it increased in volume and intensity and she began to worry that her visitor would beat down the door.

"Hang on" she called out as she grabbed the corner of her sheet to clean off her tear stained face.

The knocker refused to be silenced, and she could hear neighbouring students start to yell: "Hey what is your deal, man?"

"Shut up! Some of us are trying to study!"

With a sigh she crossed the room and flung open the door, finding herself face to face with a large manly fist, which almost knocked on her on the forehead. The situation would have been funny had she not been so upset.

"What?" she demanded, fisting a hand on her hip as she raised her face to meet her visitors' eyes.

"Giles? What the hell do you want? If this is about that letter, then just deal already. I don't intend to talk about it."

She began to close the door, when he stopped her. He spoke just her name, but the note of desperation in his voice tore at her heart enough to make her open the door again. This time she really looked at him.

He was leaning against the doorframe, catching his breath - he had obviously been running. His hair was windblown so that it stuck out in every direction and his glasses were so skewed they looked like they would fall off any second. She watched as he absentmindedly reached up a hand to straighten them.

"God, Giles what have you been doing? You look you've run a marathon. Actually no, you look worse, like you've been dragged though a hedge backwards." *Yeah right buff, like he could ever look anything but incredibly handsome and damn sexy*

"Buffy... Can I..." he cleared his throat "Can I come in?"

"Why? What do we have to talk about?" The pain in her voice was evident, but her tone had softened considerably as she regarded him with open curiosity.

"I think you'd rather we have this discussion in private" he muttered as students passing in the corridor stared at them with undisguised interest.

"Fine." The harsh tone was back, as she built a wall around her heart again, reluctantly letting him into her room.

She sat on her bed, watching as he began pacing.

"So, you gonna talk to me? Or do I have to beat it out of you?"

Her attempt at humour was ignored as he sat down on the opposite bed seeming to think for a moment before resuming pacing. She continued to watch, wondering what on earth had possessed her usually calm Watcher.

*He wasn't so calm when you hurt him yesterday at the Magic Box* a little voice in the back of her head reminded her.

"Stop it!" she reprimanded out loud and Giles looked at her bewildered.

Then without any warning whatsoever, he fell to his knees before her, wrapping his arms around her tiny frame.

*What the Hell?*

"Giles?" she questioned softly, but no answer came, so she simply held him as he hugged her.

"Giles? Are you ok?" She asked again, keeping her voice gentle.

A small, stifled sound escaped him and she wondered for a brief moment what it was before she heard it again and it struck her that Giles, her normally together Watcher was sobbing into her embrace. She hugged him tighter as he continued to cry, before pushing him away slightly so she could look into his eyes.

"Giles? What's wrong? Please tell me. I can't help if I don't know what's wrong."

He couldn't answer if he'd tried. All coherent thought flew from his head as he found himself drowning in those familiar eyes, love radiating from them, piercing his heart. Instead a fresh tear trickled down his cheek, and then, "Oh, Buffy" he buried himself in her comforting embrace again. As he knelt between her legs sobbing his heart out, she rested her chin on his head in confusion.

"Shh, Giles, it's okay." Buffy tried to soothe wondering again what she was reassuring him of.

"Giles, please don't cry; we can work it out. We always have before."

She started stroking his hair as she talked, trying to get it to all go in the same direction again. She felt utterly helpless; the man who had always been her rock, her foundation was falling apart in her arms.

As his sobs quieted, she had an idea, "Rupert - I mean, Giles, would you like me to make you a cup of tea?"

He wanted to say yes, wanted to forget his pain and guilt in a strong tea, but he knew she deserved far more than that. So he just drew back onto his heels and gazed into her eyes, finding himself lost in them once again. He finally found his voice enough to whisper to her.

"I'm so sorry, Buffy."

*Sorry? Whatever is he sorry for? I thought he'd be mad at me.*

She pulled him back to her, holding him for long moments, letting the silence wash over them therapeutically before she asked affectionately, "What are you sorry for Giles?"

He remained silent, unable to hope that she would forgive his thoughtlessness or believe that he loved her.

Okay, now she was totally baffled.

"Giles. Giles look at me. Giles, you've got to tell me what's going on in that smart brain of yours, cause I sure as hell can't figure it out." She continued to talk in that soft, sympathetic voice, and he couldn't help but lift his head.

"Buffy..." it came out as a moan, and he again cleared his throat, trying to collect himself.

"You know, I think I will have that tea, after all." He conceded, attempting to buy some extra thinking time. *How can I convince her of how I feel, without sounding as if I'm only saying it to make her feel better?*

Buffy sighed and rose to switch on the electric kettle.

He smiled to himself as he sat on the floor, watching her. He decided there and then that he could happily spend the rest of his life watching her puttering around, and as he thought about it, he resolved not to waste any more time.

"Buffy."

"Yes, Giles?" She replied distractedly as she poured out the hot water.

"I love you."

Crash. The kettle dropped onto the work surface, knocking the mugs to the floor and spilling its contents everywhere.

Buffy whirled around, her heart hammering in her chest, as she clutched at the worktop to keep her upright, ignoring the boiling water soaking into the carpet at her feet.

"What did you say?"

He studied the myriad of emotions pass over her face: hope, fear, doubt, hope again as she warred with herself, then disbelief. His voice was gentle as he replied, "I said I love you."

The strength in her legs gave out completely and she would have fallen onto the stained carpet had he not caught her.

"Buffy." His voice was worried as he carried her back to her bed and rested her on it, kneeling once more beside her.

Her eyelids fluttered shut, and she took deep breaths, trying to regain control of her body.

"Giles, just to be sure that I'm not going insane and hearing things, would you mind saying that again, please?"

He gave a small smile.

"Buffy... I'm so sorry for everything I've put you through these last couple of days. I never meant to hurt you. I can't believe everything I've said. How stupid I've been! And to say you were under a spell! I'm so, so sorry for all the hurt that insult must have caused you..."

"Cut to the chase Giles, and just repeat what you said already" Buffy interrupted, a smile growing on her face and her heart expanding with love.

"No Buffy," Giles insisted as sternly as possible, despite the twinkle in his eye, "You seem to have forgotten that when your Watcher speaks, you should listen, not interrupt."

She rolled onto her side and nodded her acceptance gesturing for him to continue.

"Well, Buffy, it appears that if you are under a spell, then I am too."

He grinned and his voice softened, "I'm under _your_ spell. Buffy, please forgive me for being so blind. I've been in love with you since I've known you, yet I've only just managed to realise it. Every time you touched me, something responded deep inside me, but I could never explain it. It was far easier to ignore than to explain anyway. Every time we've been apart, I've felt like a part of my soul was missing. I just don't understand how I couldn't have seen this. It's like waking from a deep sleep. Buffy, you are my reason for living, and I never appreciated that until now. I've hurt you and let you down so many times. Please, please forgive me for not seeing it sooner."

Buffy couldn't help but interrupt, "Giles, why are you telling me this? Last night I left you a letter explaining that I didn't want to see you again... didn't you get it?"

He pulled it out of his pocket. "Yes, I received it. And do you know what I intend to do with it?"

Intrigued, she shook her head no. In reply, he tore it in two, then he repeated the action with each half, and then for good measure, he ripped the remaining portions into shreds.

Buffy's eyes grew wide. "Giles," she began in an awed voice, "What are you doing?"

"I believe I'm proving my point that nothing will ever separate me from you again, Buffy."

"Oh." For a moment she was speechless. *I don't get it. Where has this come from?*

She decided to voice her concern, "You seem awfully confident. I seem to remember you looking at me in disgust when I kissed you last night. In fact I'm sure you ran away from me in horror, if my memory serves me right. Why would you want me all of a sudden? Why would I believe that you love me?" Her voice had become hard and bitter.

He lowered his eyes and clasped her hand as he said quietly but assuredly, "Because you love me too."

Buffy's eyes narrowed. "You've spoken to Willow, haven't you?"

His suddenly flushed face was confirmation. She wanted to get mad, but she couldn't. Suddenly it was all too funny. A small giggle escaped her.

Giles looked up in surprise. "Buffy, what...?"

She couldn't answer him, the laughter bubbling out of her. Why was she still wasting time? At last she had him within her reach yet she had still pushed him away. She continued to laugh even more when she saw the baffled look on Giles' face. The ache and emptiness were leaving her body at last, and happiness was overflowing her soul instead.

"Oh, Giles..." she breathed as she swung her legs over the side of the bed, catching her breath.

She flung her arms around his neck, drawing him once again to her. Then she corrected herself, "Rupert...", the first verbal use of his name sending shocks through her body. He felt them too, and instinctively pressed close to her, whispering her name in reply.

As her lips descended toward his, she paused halfway and murmured, "I love you so much, Rupert."

"And I love you" his reply was quick in his haste to greet her lips, and they met in a tender kiss that lasted minutes but felt like eternities.

A deep peace swept through their souls, and their lips met in another kiss. Sparks began to fly, as the kisses brought their emotions to the surface and they could see the love they held for each other in the others' eyes.

At last they came up for air and Buffy pulled back slightly, "Rupert, you have to know how sorry I am about the last couple of days. I've been so selfish..."

"Shh."

He placed a finger on her lips, "I'm just as sorry for being so harsh. Let's forget it and just kiss and make up now, shall we?"

"Mmm," she smiled against his finger, "Sounds like a good idea to me."

So they did just that.

 
END