by Gabriele Schulz
DISTRIBUTION: Solo84, Cap, Dria14, Eskalade, Jess, Sai. Others please ask first.
SPOILERS: up to Wild at Heart I guess
FEEDBACK: Always very welcome. Hey, I even try to answer everything nowadays...
SUMMARY: When Angel becomes a human, Buffy finally has everything she ever wanted. Or so she thought... B/G
DISCLAIMER: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television, the WB Television Network, and whoever else may have a hold on them. I do not mean to infringe upon any copyrights.
NOTE: I read some spoilers for Pangs and came up with this to show that even if Angel is human, he and Buffy won't be happy. Of course I have to admit I'm very mean to Angel, so if you like him and can't take the distortion of his character, I suggest you not read this.
DEDICATION: For Solo84, just because...
"Oh, Buffy, here you are."
She turned around smiling at him, then a sudden sadness came over her.
"Is something wrong?"
She looked at him for a long moment. She knew that this would hurt him. But maybe he could be happy for her. And even if not she wouldn't lie to him - again.
"Angel is back."
Giles' concern gave way to a mask, carefully designed not to show any emotion.
"It's not what you think. He's... he's human."
"He's human. It was a spell. It was... he's not a vampire any longer."
"Are you su-"
"Yes. He's breathing, his heart is beating... he's not a demon anymore."
As he let the mask drop slightly she could see the sadness in his eyes.
"Giles, it's... it can't happen again. He can never become that... monster again. You don't have to be afraid. *I* don't have to be afraid. No one has to fear him. I know that you won't be able to forge-"
"I'm not worried about the demon."
"But... what are you worried about?"
"Angel had a soul when he nearly drained you."
"But I forced him! And he still had the demon inside him. That demon is gone now. He's as human as you are now."
There was the mask again.
"Buffy, I... what do you expect me to say?"
"Can't you be a little bit happy for me?"
"Buffy, there is nothing in the world I want more than your happiness. I'm just not sure..."
His gaze fell on her hands.
"Is that an...?"
"An engagement ring? Yes. He brought it. Isn't it beautiful?"
"So you are going to marry him?"
"Giles, that's all I ever wanted. To be with him."
"Will you... will you give me away? At the wedding? I mean, I love my dad, but you are..."
He closed his eyes, fearing to hear the words he never ever wanted to hear form her: That he was a father to her.
"...the one who should give me away. I'm yours more than I am his."
He was slightly relieved, then realized what she had asked.
"Buffy, I'm not sure if I-"
"Please, Giles. It would mean so much to me, to us. You are... I couldn't do this if I knew you couldn't live with it."
He looked at her for a moment with a gaze that she couldn't quite understand but that frightened her a little.
"Don't do that, Buffy."
"Don't start lying again."
"I'm not... Giles, you mean so much to me."
"I suppose I do, but we both know that you would never give him up for me."
"Do you want me to do that? Is that what you're asking?"
They looked at each other for a moment and Buffy saw the sadness returning to his eyes.
"I will give you away if you wish so. Just don't expect me to become his best friend."
Buffy wanted to be happy, but the way he said it tore at her heart. He turned around and left.
He stopped and turned around.
"I... why did you come here?"
"Just a demon you might encounter next week. Nothing special, it can wait till tomorrow."
She just looked at him. He nodded and turned around again. Then he turned back once more to face her.
"Buffy, if *you* are happy, then I will be too. But if he hurts you again..."
Their eyes locked for a long moment, then he turned for the last time and left her standing alone between the graves of those who had died in Sunnydale, some of which by the hand (or should she say fangs) of the man who was waiting for her in a cheap motel not far from here.
When Buffy awoke the next morning she was glad to feel Angel by her side. She debated whether to let him sleep, but the need to make sure, that he hadn't turned was stronger.
"Angel, wake up."
He turned around to her, still sleepy, then opened his eyes fully. When he saw her he smiled. She sighed in relief.
"I love you."
Now she smiled, too.
"I need to go see Willow. I left her a message, but she'll still worry and I want to tell her about us."
"Can't that wait?"
He stopped her with a kiss...
"God, Buffy, where were you? I mean 'I'll be gone over night, don't worry'... I was worried."
Buffy smiled at her friend.
"It's okay, Willow. I'm really sorry, but things went so fast. I-"
"Ohmygod. What's that on your finger?"
Buffy held the ring up proudly.
"You'll never guess who it is. You know him very well."
"No, it's not... Why would you think it's Giles?"
"Nothing, I mean... so who is it if not Giles? It's not Xander?"
The way she said it made clear that she didn't really believe that it could be Xander, but she had obviously run out of possibilities.
"Buffy, oh no, you kn-"
"No, it's not like that. He's human."
Buffy nodded expecting that realization hit Willow and she would jump up and down in joy. Only it didn't happen. Willow instead was frowning.
"How did it happen?"
"A powerful demon did this spell and poof. No more Angelus, no more demon. Only Angel the human being."
"Are you su-"
"Dammit, yes, I'm sure. Breathing, heartbeat, he's warm and he is still nice although we... you know."
"Does Giles know?"
Buffy's anger disappeared.
"Yes," she almost whispered.
"What did he say?"
"I thought at least you could be happy for me."
"Buffy, I *am* happy for you. See?"
She tried her best smile, but gave up soon, to frown again.
"I'm sorry, it's just that... it never really worked out for long with him. And you never were really happy."
"That's not true. I was happy when... That was just because of the demon. The demon is gone now. He can leave that behind. We'll marry and have children. Will, I'll finally have a normal life. Isn't that what all of you wanted for me?"
"You're still the slayer."
"Yes, but now I'm no longer alone."
"Did you feel that way? Alone?"
Buffy just nodded.
Willow tried to smile again and this time it went slightly better. She took her friend's arm.
"Let's go and tell the others."
"So I don't get to call him Dead-Boy anymore?"
"No, Will, at least he's not mad."
"I didn't say that. But what use would it be to tell you that vampire or not he's not good for you and that you deserve someone better. You'll just be mad at me."
Buffy glared at him.
"So he is actually *happy* that he lost his powers?"
They looked at Anya.
"Hey, I'm just saying, he's not strong anymore, he will age, he can *die*..."
"Thanks a lot Anya."
"Hey, she's right. Willow does the spell things, you are the slayer, Giles is the watcher. I'm the useless human, we don't need another one of those."
"He's not useless! He can help with research. He knows languages and spells and demons."
"So do I."
"God, can't just a single person be *happy* for me?!"
"Buffy, I'm sorry. But I never liked Dead-Boy, sorry, Not-Dead-Boy, so why would I now? Don't get me wrong, the prospect that Angelus is gone forever makes me a happy Xander, but I need to actually see you happy with him for more than a few weeks before I believe it."
"Where are you going?"
"Not I. We."
"Where are *we* going?"
"Buffy do you really think that's a good idea."
"There is a prophecy and with Oz gone we can need all the help we can get."
"Buffy, I'm no longer strong."
She was slightly irritated. She had finished dressing and he hadn't even made a move out of the bed.
"I don't want you to fight. I want you to help us research."
"Are you still mad at them?"
She had told him about her friends' reactions. He had just said to give them time. Then he'd made love to her again. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy it. It was great. Much better than that first time, but it seemed he didn't want to do anything else and didn't especially care if she wanted to rather talk. But it had been so long for him. She sighed.
"No, I'm not mad at them. I guess you're right. They'll come around. Don't you want to get dressed?"
"Doesn't that have a little time?"
He patted the bed beside him.
He looked at her with puppy eyes. Giles had said himself that it wasn't very important. It could wait a little longer.
Willow, Xander and even Anya were already at Giles' place when they arrived.
Willow tried to be nice and welcomed Angel, whereas Giles and Xander didn't even pretend to be glad to see him. Anya just watched everything interested.
"Have you found anything yet?"
"Yes, actually. It seems to be a-"
"Frog demon, ugh."
Willow was clearly disgusted. As if frogs and demons alone weren't bad enough.
Research went relatively silent. There wasn't the usual banter that filled the atmosphere when the threat was only a minor one. Willow watched Buffy, who sat on the couch next to Angel (or maybe she should say *on* Angel). Then she watched Giles, who watched Buffy. He didn't say anything, but his jaw was clenched and so were his fingers whenever he looked at them. Didn't Buffy see what she was doing to Giles? Was she too blind or did she just not care? Willow wasn't quite sure which of these possiblities frightened her more.
When they finally found details, Giles immediately volunteered to come with her, so did Xander and Willow.
"I'm not sure if I could help..."
"No, Angel, it's okay. I would just worry myself sick. Stay at the motel. I'll feel better if I know you're safe."
He didn't protest and Giles looked at him in contempt for a second, then turned his gaze away to meet Xander's. There was agreement and an understanding that made him so uneasy that he looked down.
"Please remind me to not volunteer again."
"Come on it's just a little scratch."
"Right just a little scratch. I don't even want to imagine what you'd do if it was Angel. 'Oh, Angel, my sweetheart. Do you need to go the hospital. Should I kiss it to make it better. I'll kiss you anyway...'"
She glared at him.
"Angel is not yet used to being without his strength."
"Then he should train. I mean he could do all the stuff I never could. Is that just gone with his demon?"
"I... I don't know."
"Well, maybe you should find out."
"Giles, would you perhaps-"
She turned around to her red-headed friend.
"Maybe you... can we talk for a second?"
Xander went ahead and Giles took the sword from Buffy, then left them alone.
"Do you think you should ask Giles to train with Angel?"
"Willow, he knows how to do it. And I don't always have the time. Giles and Angel wouldn't just have to hang around and maybe if they spent some time together..."
"Buffy, you're... you're hurting him."
"I'll ask him, okay? If he says no, then not."
She went off to ask Giles. Willow just stood there. Buffy really seemed too blind to see what she was doing to Giles. It wasn't that he could ever deny her anything.
Giles was nervously awaiting them. He had agreed to *try* training with Angel. But only if Buffy was present. He was too afraid he could lose control and just beat him to death once he got into it. They were half an hour late. He tried not to think of the reason for this, but the truth was he could hardly do anything else but thinking about her in *his* arms - in his bed.
It wasn't that he had ever honestly believed that she could return his love, but to know that she was with Angel was killing him. Any other person couldn't bother him half as much. And despite what Xander thought, that wasn't so much because of Jenny or the torture. It was all the times that Buffy had cried or tried not to cry because of him. And most of that time he hadn't been Angelus, but Angel. He *wanted* to believe that he could make her happy, but Buffy didn't really seem happier. But maybe that was just in his presence. Because he didn't want to see her happy and she knew it. He would have to try harder. She deserved to be happy. And if Angel was the one to make her happy, then he would be glad to have him here with her.
There was a knock on the door and he let them in.
He had pushed the livingroom table aside. Buffy sat down on the couch and Angel and Giles stood in front of her. They just looked at each other until Buffy encouraged Angel to hit Giles.
He tried, but was easily blocked.
"Come on Angel, you know you can do better. Don't hold back. I'll never let you hurt Giles."
Giles looked over to her and she answered his gaze with a short but sincere smile. It warmed his heart, which for the last two days had only functioned as an organ, not as the supposed location of good emotions.
Angel used his temporary distraction for a quick attack. It was far better than the first weak attempt, but even so he found himself pinned to the ground only a couple of seconds later. Giles got up as soon as it was clear who had 'won'. Strangely he didn't feel the need to hurt Angel anymore. Buffy knelt down next to him to see whether he was okay and Giles couldn't help a smile that he could defeat him so easily. The smile faded when Buffy leaned down to kiss Angel.
But Angel soon broke the kiss and wanted to resume training.
In the next couple of days they trained under Buffy's watchful eye and though Angel's abilities seemed to improve they were nowhere near what he could do as a demon. Giles wasn't quite sure why that was. Angel had been a skilled fighter and it took more than sheer strength to defeat some of the demons Angel had beaten and yet it seemed that the demon had not only taken the strength with him but also the moves. They both knew that Buffy was disappointed although she would never say so, but Angel tried very hard and Giles found himself trying to help him the best he could.
A week and a half later the whole gang plus Angel went out to fight three demons, whose most prominent characteristic (apart from the blue skin) was an unbearable stench. They found them in the park. Giles and Buffy each took on one immediately while Xander and Willow tried to grab the third so that Angel could run a knife in his heart, which they had ascertained would kill him. Unfortunately, they only held him by the arms so the demon managed to kick the knife out of Angel's hand and send him flying through the air.
Buffy, who had just finished 'her' demon rushed to him, while Giles still struggled with his. The third demon meanwhile had shoved Willow away and was holding Xander up by his throat.
Giles couldn't see Buffy anywhere.
He finally managed to slay the demon and rushed to Xander. With Willow's help he managed to get him free. The demon ran away. They didn't follow since Xander didn't look well at all.
Giles slapped him carefully.
The young man came to slowly.
"Oh my God, can you believe that smell? Uncle Rory's socks are nothing against that!"
Giles sighed relieved and Willow hugged Xander. Giles looked for Buffy and saw her helping Angel up. He did the same for Xander, who despite his joking seemed awfully weak. So weak in fact, that he didn't protest, when Giles picked him up to carry him. He walked past Buffy and Angel.
"Is Xander okay?"
"I think he'll be all right. Everything okay with you?"
Angel just nodded.
They drove home silently. Giles dropped off Buffy and Angel first at the cheap motel they were still living in. Buffy turned to say good-bye, but Giles just drove off.
"I'm sure she didn't mean t-"
"He could have died."
"Angel is... I don't think she could handle losing him once more."
"If she can't handle a situation like this, she is not only useless, but puts herself and all of us in danger."
"Maybe you should talk with her."
"I will, that won't be the problem. The problem will be: Is she going to listen to me."
They had arrived at Willow's dorm. Xander put a hand over one of Giles'.
"If she won't listen to you, then she won't listen to anyone."
He wasn't sure whether that was an assuring thought or a frightening one.
Giles sat on his living-room couch, not knowing what to do. He had driven Xander home after making sure that he was well enough to sleep alone and after making him promise that he wouldn't hesitate to call him or Willow when he started feeling worse.
He could have died tonight. So could Willow. And while he knew that he could fight two of the demons, he wasn't sure if he could do so at the same time. What would have happened, if it had taken a bit longer to kill the demon? Would Xander have been dead? Would it have gone after Willow and then him? Would Buffy have noticed? It wasn't that they nearly had died. That was of course horrible and he still remembered the moment on his way home, when he had realized that it had only taken a little bit and he had never heard one of Xander jokes or comments again. He had started shaking, but that had happened before when one of 'his' kids barely escaped death. But he knew that if Xander had died, he could have never forgiven Buffy. And even if he could he knew for sure that Buffy wouldn't be able to live with it. They both had their share of guilt, but in this case Buffy should have known better. There was no excuse for her actions or rather the lack of them.
He just hoped that Buffy would see it, too.
There was a knock on the door. It was well after midnight. He quickly walked to the door. Maybe something was wrong with Xander.
After a second he let her in. She walked to the couch and sat down. He sat next to her leaving enough space for legs, which usually sooner or later found their way up on the couch, but the moment he sat down, she flung her arms around him.
"Giles, I'm so sorry."
He could smell her shampoo and - Angel. He knew how she smelled after fighting, but there was something else. It took him a moment until he realized what it was.
He jerked back violently.
For the first time since he knew her he wanted to hit her. No, that wasn't true. He could never do that. He wanted to hit Angel. That bastard had dared to make love to her after Xander had nearly died. Willow in danger. All because of him. And the moment they had entered that shabby little room he offered Buffy as a home he had taken her.
He didn't only want to hit him. He wanted to kill him. Not with a stake or a knife or a gun. He wanted to beat him into a bloody pulp, wanted to kick him when he was on the ground...
He couldn't look at her. At the moment it took all his willpower to not get up and away from her. She had had sex with him. She had abandoned them, nearly let Xander die and then she had had sex with him. And then she had come here to... why was she here? To find absolution?
He looked at her, the mask on his face not betraying any emotion.
"I... I know that can never happen again."
"Giles, I don't know what got into me. I... I was so afraid. I can't lose him again."
Then he did get up.
"But you *can* lose Xander!"
She looked up at him her eyes filled with tears.
"Of course not, Giles, I'm so sorry. It won't happen again."
"Buffy, he could have died tonight. All of us could have died tonight."
"I know, I know. But nothing happened, thank God, and I won't let it happen again."
"And how are so sure about that?"
She got up and took his hands.
"Angel will stay away from now on. Let's face it, his progress is non-existent. He's as weak as Xander or Willow and I know I can't think straight when it comes to him. That is not his fault, but mine. I know that now. But when he stays away and I know that he's safe, this won't happen again."
She looked up at him with big eyes, her hands still holding his. He freed his hands from hers.
"Is that why you came here?"
"I... yes, I... Xander is all right, isn't he?"
"So you do care a little?"
"Giles, that's not fair! You know I care!"
"Buffy, he could have died tonight. I love that boy. And I love Willow. And I know that you love them, too, but still you..."
"It won't happen again." It was barely more than a whisper.
"I sincerely hope so."
Xander had soon forgiven Buffy (the load of chocolate, ice-cream and time she gave to him helped in the progress). Angel was only with them when there was research to be done and never when Buffy wasn't there, too.
Buffy worked extra hard and volunteered to do some training with Giles, showing him that she meant what she had said. Her fighting was precise and always aimed to protect the others. Willow was glad to note that things seemed to be well between Buffy and Giles or at least as well as they could be considering the circumstances. Willow knew that Buffy's being with Angel broke Giles' heart. But there was nothing any of them could do about it.
Giles on the other hand noticed something about his slayer, he would at least try to do something about: She wasn't happy.
So one day, when Buffy was on her way out after training, he stopped her.
"You aren't happy."
Buffy chose to take it as a question, which it was not.
"No, I am happy."
"Buffy, look at me."
She did. And she didn't look happy at all.
"Giles, I know that I don't seem happy, but... I am happy. When I am with Angel I'm happy. Most of the time."
"So you're only unhappy when he's not around?"
"I... things are a little difficult. Do you remember how you suggested he should get a job?"
He nodded. Of course he remembered. Shortly after her announcement he had asked her how Angel planned to support his family. He surely didn't want to spent the rest of their life in that motel room. She had agreed to talk to Angel about a job, but neither of them had ever mentioned it again.
"Well, it's not so easy. He just isn't the kind of guy to get pushed around by some 16-year-old would-be-someone. And it's not easy to find something that fits his skills. I mean he can basically do what you can do only a lot worse and you've been without a job for almost half a year. So he's just hanging around at home, waiting for me. I can see how that can be depressing. I just wish he would do *something* instead of just watching TV. I mean the other day I came home and he was watching... ugh. And it's not like he has to watch that kind of stuff, because he doesn't get it. Whenever I come home the first thing he does is..."
She trailed off. It took him a second to realize what she was talking about. That bastard. Not that he could blame him. If Buffy were his girl-friend... but it still it bugged him. He would have been sincerely worried if it weren't for the fact, that he knew for sure, that Angel could never physically force Buffy to do anything she didn't want to do.
"But I'm sure he *will* find the right job for him and then we can move into a *real* home and he'll have something to do. I'm sure things will be better then. And I *am* happy."
She watched him, trying to look convinced.
"You know that you can always come to me. No matter when, not matter what, I'm always here for you."
She smiled at him, then hugged him shortly, before leaving.
He was torn between a certain satisfaction that things weren't rosy for Buffy and Angel and the wish to see her happy. Then he remembered something she had said.
'You've been without a job for almost half a year.'
He grabbed his keys and coat and went out determined to to something about it - and to beat Angel at least at that (if not at Buffy).
"Must be mighty big, if it doesn't fit into your house."
Giles was standing behind her, holding her eyes closed with his hands. He had driven her here to show her a surprise. Now he took his hands away.
"Oh, it's a store. And it's empty."
She turned around and looked at him, clearly asking 'Giles, where is the surprise?'.
He went around her and opened the store.
"Oh, you have a key to it."
She still didn't seemed impressed.
"I have a key, I have a door, I have the whole store. It's all mine. I bought it."
There were standing inside now and she looked around. It was in dear need of renovation, but with a little work she could imagine rows of...
"What will you sell?"
"Books of course."
He smiled at her and his eyes seemed to glow in a way she hadn't seen since... since Angel's return.
"Books, you mean antiquarian?"
"Mostly. History, demonology, legends, religions..."
"But that's wonderful."
His smile got wider if that was possible.
"Angel could work here."
His smile disappeared as did the glow in his eyes as if someone had switched off the lights. She noticed it but tried to ignore it.
"He could help you. He knows about the stuff. You wouldn't have to pay too much. I'd be glad if he just has *something* to do. Please, Giles. Please. At least try."
Angel did well. He knew what he was talking about and didn't seem too overeager as Giles sometimes did, when it came to a good book. Angel had a quiet way that many costumers liked and he was well worth the money, Giles could afford to pay him.
Buffy and Angel had moved into a small appartment. She would come and pick him up for lunch, leaving Giles to imagine what they were actually doing... why else would they come back freshly showered most of the time? But he tried to get used to that.
Buffy spent most of her free time in the store and trained in the backoffice with Giles, while Angel was selling. She seemed happy although there was something that was still bothering Giles. But he couldn't say that he was impartial so he filed it under 'desperately-wanting-to-see-problems-where-there-are-none'. It seemed to him that she sometimes regretted it when Angel came in to interrupt their post-training talk to tell her they could go home. She seemed to talk a lot more now that they had a place again, whether to him or to Willow or Xander, even Anya. She never talked like that to Angel though. That simple chatter about nothing, that 'his' kids seemed to enjoy so much and that he himself had shared with Buffy quite often in the past weeks.
One day he asked half as a joke.
"Can't keep your mouth shut for a minute, can you?"
"Why? Am I... I'm sorry, if I-"
"No, Buffy, that was just a joke. I love it when you talk to me."
She smiled a little sadly.
"It's just that... you know Angel is not much of a talker. Or a listener. At least with some things. He didn't find that pudding story funny."
They both smiled at each other. It was one of the meaningless, but funny stories she had told him last week.
Angel came into the backoffice.
"Can we leave now?"
They looked up at him.
"Be out in a minute."
He closed the door behind him and Buffy picked up her stuff. Giles got up from the couch as well. When Buffy had everything, she looked at him for a few seconds in a way that made his heart flutter. Then she stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek before running out.
They didn't talk about it and it never happened again. Something else happened though. About a week after Buffy's little kiss, Giles observed Angel talking to a costumer. A female costumer. That was of course nothing special (even though the majority of the customers were male), but as Giles watched them he suddenly realized that they were flirting. He nearly dropped the books he had been putting away.
He couldn't believe that this man, who had the most beautiful, wonderful, amazing fiancee would even look at another girl.
He tried not to be upset, but when an hour later Xander asked him, what was wrong, he couldn't help but tell him and Willow about what he had seen.
"What did she look like?"
"Ouch. I just wanted to know. If she was ugly maybe he just wanted to make her buy a book. Did I just defend Not-Dead-Boy?"
"I'm quite sure that he *did* flirt with her. I have seen him talk to other customers. Female customers. This was different."
"So what are you saying? He's cheating on Buffy?"
"Of course not! I mean how could he? Even Angel must have enough sense to not risk a relationship with such a wonderful, beautiful-"
Willow and Xander stared at him.
"I mean, no I don't think so."
"So what do you think we should do?"
"Nothing. I wouldn't have told you at all if I wasn't so angry at him. How can he even think about another woman when..."
This time Giles stopped himself in time.
"Maybe we should find out how far he would go."
"What do you mean?"
"You know, hire someone, who'll try to seduce him. Some beautiful chick. Which unfortunately means that one of you will have to come up with someone, since I don't know any girls that would qualify. *And* talk to me."
"I know someone."
"Willow, I'm not quite su-"
"Willow, Xander, I really appreciate your concern, but do you think we should set up a... trap for Angel."
"Well, you know, I mean, if he really loves Buffy..."
"I don't like the idea."
"Well, I do and I think we should go for it. So who is that girl, Will?"
"She's from my Wicca club. And she looks really... I mean if I were gay, which I'm not, I would... you know, but since I'm not gay, I don't, but if Angel would, he certainly would with her. Do you understand what I mean?"
They both looked at her then Giles answered.
"Oddly enough yes."
Well, Kelli was indeed very much so. She asked Angel for a book that was somewhere in the back of the store (Willow had instructed her to do so). They went there and stayed for quite a while. Too long for talking about a book?
Giles wasn't sure, what he hoped for. He still didn't like the trap they had set up for Angel. Flirting was one thing, but deliberately trying to make him cheat on Buffy was unforgivable. He was aware that if they were 'successful' they could never tell her about it. She would never speak to them again. And he would understand it. But still he needed to know if Angel could really be so stupid to throw away the most precious thing for the next best (if astonishingly beautiful and charming) girl.
They came back - without a book. It seemed to Giles that there was a difference in Angel's hair. But that was hard to tell, since his hair was always perfect. Just as it had been, when he was a demon. Which you couldn't say of the rest of his body. Starting to eat after two hundred years plus the lack of exercise had caused noticable weight-gain. He wasn't overweight or anything, but not as perfect as he used to be.
Kelli left smiling seductively at Angel once more.
Giles was relieved and disappointed at the same time.
"I mean Kelli said, they *did* kiss, but he wouldn't do anything else. And he told her about Buffy. That she was his fiancee."
"He kissed her?"
"No, she kissed him. But he kind of let her for a second or so."
"That's hardly being unfaithful."
"We should try again."
"Xander, didn't you listen? He told her about Buffy."
"So what? He tells her he is engaged. Believe me that means nothing. Working as a bartender you have time to study the social behaviour of people. And I can tell you how this goes."
Xander stood up and played along 'his scene' looking to the left and to the right in turns:
"'Hi.' 'Hi.' 'Do you want to have sex?' 'I have a girlfriend.' 'So what?' 'Let's go'."
He pretended to leave then turned around.
"See? I say, we should let Kelli tell him, that she doesn't care and that Buffy will never ever find out. And maybe she should wear something more daring, too. Shorter dress and..."
He held up his hands as if they were breasts for illustration.
"It's absolutely out of the question."
"I could ask her at least."
"No, Willow. We cannot 'seduce' Angel to have intercourse with a nearly stranger, just because we want to prove something."
"Of course they won't *do* it. But she could ask him to meet her at some place. And then instead of her, it'll be us."
"What if he tells Buffy?"
Xander stepped next to Giles and knocked on his head.
"Is this just for information storage or can you think with it as well?"
Giles glared at him.
"He can't tell her that we set him up without admitting that he fell for us. Or rather for her. By the way, has Kelli a boyfriend?"
"Do you think she-"
"Xander, she's a lesbian."
"She is? She is?! Will, are you trying to tell us something."
Willow just hit him.
"Could you two stop for a second. I honestly don't think we should do it."
Two days later the three of them were in front of a motel ready to enter the room, where Angel was supposed to wait for a tete-a-tete with Kelli. Xander knocked and Angel opened the door. He was surprised to see them.
"Is something wrong with Buffy?"
Willow and Xander just rolled their eyes.
"What are you... Oh."
"Yes, oh. Kelli won't be coming, sorry."
"You sent her?"
Xander and Willow nodded.
"Who's idea was this?"
His gaze turned to Giles.
"It wasn't Giles', it was our idea. So what can you say for yourself?"
"I... I love Buffy with all my heart."
"I see, so this was just sex."
"I... yes. It's been so long."
"I bet it's been less than 24 hours since you and Buff-"
"Xander stop," Giles interrupted harshly.
"Will you tell her?"
"How could you?"
"I'm sorry. It was the first time, I swear-"
"How *could* you!"
Angel backed away at the sheer force in Giles' voice.
"Can't you understand? Xander, you must know how it is. For decades I couldn't..."
"No, for decades you couldn't. But what I've heard you do it plenty now."
Angel looked down.
"I never cheated on her."
"Yet, you mean."
"I won't do it. I was weak. It won't happen again. I swear. I love her more than anything. Please don't tell her."
The begging note in Angel's voice made Giles sick. That wasn't the man he had come to know as an ally. Having to fight an inner demon on a daily basis had given him strength. But this human being was weak and if it weren't for Buffy, he wouldn't have considered him worth contempting. But as it was this was the man who was making his slayer, his love happy. He could only hope that Angel didn't lie and had enough sense to keep his promise.
Giles left the room without a word and Willow and Xander followed him.
Their ride home was silent until Willow spoke to Xander.
"What did you mean, when you said 'he does it plenty now'."
"Well, Buffy once asked if it was normal that a guy wants to do it so often."
"She didn't say, but she seemed a little... bothered by it."
"She never told me. Never once. And she calls me like every night. We talk hours on the phone. Actually she calls me more often than she did, when she was still living with her mom."
"I know. Me, too."
"What about you, Giles?"
"No, she never calls me."
He didn't tell them that she did tend to stretch her patrol reports as if she wanted to stay longer. He had thought that that was just wishful thinking, but perhaps he hadn't been mistaken. And the reason could be not so much that she wanted to stay, but that she didn't want to go home yet.
"And whenever I call her and ask about Angel, she tells me he's sleeping."
"Or watching TV."
"Right. Or reading a book."
Giles couldn't quite grasp, what they were trying to say.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean they never do stuff together. Except... you know. I know that he gets her gifts once in a while, but they never just sit and talk or play a game or so. When I call her in the store and ask about you, she smiles and tells me she's been teasing you or that you try to bore her to death or something, but you were doing something *together* or rather you were, how shall I say, paying attention to her. Do you know what I mean?"
"Eh... did you say you heard her smile?"
"I don't actually hear her smile, but I know that she does. At least when she's talking about you. Or Xander or even Anya. I really, really want her to be happy. But I think with Angel... I think she's faking it. Maybe she even believes herself that she's happy but I know her."
"You're right, Will, I can see it too. Even Anya said the other day she doesn't wonder why they still didn't marry."
Willow and Xander went on talking, discussing if and how they should talk to Buffy. Giles stopped listening, lost in his thoughts about his slayer. Were they right? Was she not happy? And why couldn't she tell them? It's difficult to see what you desperately try not to see. He knew it. From experience. It had taken the life of a friend to realize that he wasn't Ripper. What would have to happen to make Buffy see...?
It was about a week later, that Buffy and Giles came back to the store after hunting down a demon who had wanted to eat a couple of children in order to stay alive for another decade. The demon was dead, the children safe. Giles went to the toilet to take a look at himself and check a small wound on the neck, where the demon had scratched him. He called out to Buffy, who had gone into the backoffice to put back the weapons they had used.
"Just leave them on the table. I can put them back tomorrow. It's late. I'll just drive you home and then we can get at least a couple of hours of sleep."
"I'll stay here tonight."
He came out of the toilet and went into the backoffice. She had placed the weapons on the large table in the middle and was currently sitting on the couch, getting out of her shoes.
"Buffy, it's no problem really. You don't have to stay here."
"Giles, I'm tired."
"Then you should sleep in your own bed."
It wasn't that he wanted her to go back to *him*, but he knew from a couple of research nights that the couch wasn't the most comfortable sleeping place in the world.
"Giles, I want to sleep."
"I'll drive you home and you can go straight to bed. I'll carry you if you want to."
He smiled at her, but she didn't return his smile.
"Angel will want to..."
She trailed off not looking at him.
"He will want... then tell him you're tired."
She just looked at him with sad eyes that said so many things she had tried to hide before. That she couldn't say no to Angel. That this was what she had wanted and now she had to go through with it no matter what. But the most frightening thing he saw was a hopelessness.
He turned around and left the backoffice, closing the door behind him. He sat down behind the counter. One part of him wanted to go out and introduce Angel to Ripper, but it was the other part that took over: He cried.
She would never leave him. He was what he was because of her. It was what she had wanted.
Willow and Xander had both tried to talk to her in the past week, but she had insisted that everything was all right and she had stopped talking with them. Not totally, but the frequency of calls had decreased rapidly. He couldn't do the same. He could just be there for her, if she ever would have the strength to leave Angel. And he would have to wait.
He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around to face Buffy. She was wearing one of his spare shirts, obviously her choice of a makeshift nightgown.
She gently cupped his face.
"Giles, what is it? This demon didn't even have a chance. Why are you crying?"
He looked up at her and a second later he found himself cradled in her arms. She was standing between his legs and gently stroked his head that was lying against her chest.
"Shh, Giles, it'll be okay."
"No, it won't."
She took his face in her hands again and brushed away the tears. He kept his arms around her waist.
"He doesn't deserve you. Buffy you are... you are the most amazing, strong, charming, beautiful, brave, clever, lovable person I ever met. He should worship the ground you walk on. He should read your every wish. He should make you smile and laugh. He should talk to you. He shouldn't pressure you. He should spend time with you. He should make you happy. He should..."
She still held his face, which was for once entirely without its mask. And that was when everything crystalized for her.
"He should love me the way *you* love me?"
He just looked at her not nodding, but unable to keep his love for her from showing in his eyes. She leaned forward and gently kissed his forehead.
"What are you doing?"
The both looked at the source of the voice.
She smiled weakly, but not the least guilty. She walked around the counter to greet him. When she saw his gaze travel along her body, she realized that she was only wearing one of Giles' shirts. She stopped and looked at him. He seemed angry.
"What did you do?"
"You were *kissing*!"
"I kissed him on the forehead, yes."
"Listen Angel, let me slip into something else and we can go ho-"
"It was a difficult day for Giles-"
"And *that* was how you meant to *comfort* him?!"
He gestured at her outfit.
"We weren't doing anything!"
"He was trying to seduce you."
Now Buffy was really losing her temper.
"He did not!"
"Then what is this about?"
Buffy tried once more to be reasonable.
But Angel turned to Giles.
"Was that you plan? I knew that you were in love with her, but I never thought that you would go so far. First you try to trap me and then you try to lure her into your bed..."
"SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH!"
He did and just looked at Buffy, as did Giles for that matter.
"I can't do this anymore. You make me sick. I thought I loved you. You were all I *ever* wanted. I was wrong. I don't want you. You're not the man I fell in love with. Cryptic guy, the shy and handsome mystery man with the dark secret. There is no longer a secret. No more demon, no more guilt, no more will to fight. I fell in love with the demon with a soul, but you are the man, you were before you were killed: A weak, horny coward. Yes, you lost your strength and yes you had to live without sex for decades. But that is no excuse. Willow and Xander have neither the strenght nor the skill and still they want to help. You never even *tried* to. The most I get out of you is 'be careful, Buffy' and when it's over you're so glad I'm alive that you want to 'make love' to me. Did you *ever* ask how my day was? Not just because you knew that I expected it, but because you were really interested in how I felt. You never talk to me. You never ask me how I feel. You never wonder if I'm happy. Well, I'm not. And I deserve to be happy. I deserve someone who loves me more than he loves himself."
"He *wants* you!" he said pointing at Giles.
Buffy's gaze never faltered. She kept looking at Angel determined.
"He wants me, he loves me, he *worships* me. You just want me."
"Buffy, I *love* you."
"Then why do you never show me in a way that doesn't involve sex? Why do I keep thinking I'm just your toy, your possession? Why do you watch these movies and buy these magazines? Why do you flirt with other women?"
"He told you?"
"No, it was just a guess, but now I know."
He looked at the ground.
"Angel, I'm leaving you."
He looked at her incredulously.
"It's over. I don't ever want to see you again."
"Just get out."
He looked at her for a long moment, but she held his gaze.
"Is it because of him?"
"You never listen, do you? But I can't wait till you finally learn. Please don't make me force you."
Another look at her eyes told him that she meant it. He turned around and walked to the door.
He turned back hopefully.
"Your services won't ever be needed here again," she said with a quick look at Giles.
When Angel was gone, she turned to the backoffice without another look at Giles. He followed her.
But she just turned around and stopped him.
"Not tonight Giles."
She closed the door behind her and he stood in the store for ten minutes before going home. Sleep didn't come that night, though.
A couple of days later Giles entered the store late at night to get a book he needed for research. He was quiet, careful not to wake her. She had moved into the backoffice temporarily, not wanting to move back with her mom, who had never been too happy about Angel's return.
He had come by the first three days, bringing gifts and begging for forgiveness, but Buffy refused him with a determination, that astounded even Giles. When he finally realized there was no chance of winning her back, he stopped coming. Xander had managed to find out that he still lived in their appartment, but if he didn't find a job soon he would have to give it up. Not that any of them cared.
Giles' focus was on Buffy only. He had carefully tried to talk with her about everything, but she had always let him know that she needed time. Now she was sleeping on the couch and he allowed himself to look at her for a while. The moonlight made her look like a dream. And she was for him. And at night he allowed himself the hope he tried to fight, whenever they looked at each other. He just didn't know what that kiss had meant. It wasn't pity, that much he knew, but was it just friendship, thanking him, that he loved her and cared for her? Or could it be more? Could it be that she loved him - the way he loved her? And if not now perhaps in the future?
He sighed quietly and that was when he caught a movement on the couch. She turned further to the back of the couch, lying on her side. At first he thought she was just moving in her sleep, but then her hand was patting on the couch in front of her. She opened her eyes and looked at him. He stood hesitating one more moment. She moved her gaze from him to the spot in front of her on the couch and he obediently sat down.
She lay her head back on the pillow and looked up at the ceiling. He just watched her.
"I am like Scarlett O'Hara. When I was 16 I met Ashley and he was so handsome and wonderful and all I ever wanted. And then I found out that I couldn't have him. I was the Slayer. I could fight vampires and other monsters, but I couldn't have him. At least not for real. So I made up that perfect picture of a man and put his face on it. Strong, mysterious, brave, loving, watching over me at night. In all those years I never even tried to find out who Angel really was. Even before he became human. I thought that I knew him in my *heart* and that was all that mattered. He never had a chance to become real. I didn't let him. Because all the time I added to my wonderful picture of the man I love, thinking I knew *him* better. His inner fight, his willingness to sacrifice himself for me, but above all his evergrowing love that put my needs, my happiness, my life above his own. I should have seen. At the latest when he drained me to save his life. But I couldn't. I couldn't stop loving *him* because the picture I love, the picture I thought was him, was *perfect*. I finally realized that I don't have to stop loving him, because I never really loved *him*, but only that perfect picture."
She looked away from the ceiling at his moonlit face. He returned her gaze, not saying anything.
"You are twice my age, stubborn, unable to show your emotions at times and often so long-winded I think I'll die of boredom the next second."
"I only said that because you have to believe me when I say that the perfect picture I'm in love with is you. I *know* you're not perfect. I'll probably find a lot more faults in the future, but the last days I kept thinking about what I *thought* Angel was like and where I came up with the idea. The gentleness, the care, the subtle strength. It's all in you."
He looked at her with big eyes.
"So what I could basically do now, is trying to find a man that is like you only younger or I could go for the real thing. And considering that you more or less admitted that you loved me, the decision seems kind of easy."
She took his hand and he finally manged to speak.
"I love you, Buffy."
"I know, Giles. And one day I'll ask you how it happened and how long you knew it and why the hell you never thought you should mention it, but right now that's not so important. I love you, Rupert, and you *will* make me happy. Otherwise I'll do to you everything you ever wanted to do to Angel. Is that a deal?"
He bent down and she met him halfway in a sweet, but passionate kiss, that lasted as long as it could without hurting Giles' turned torso.
She lifted the blanket that had covered her and he lay down next to her holding her tightly. She kissed him lightly before moving to a more comfortable position, resting her head on his chest.
"I'm looking forward to not having to sleep here anymore."
He wondered for a moment what she meant by that, but when he wanted to ask her, she was already asleep.
They got married a week later.
It was a very private wedding. Buffy's parents were there, Xander (the best man), Willow and Cordelia (the bridesmaids), Anya and both Oz and Ethan, who had somehow found out and appeared during the ceremony. Ethan was gone, before anyone could do him harm, but Oz stayed for the reception.
After carrying her over the threshold Giles gently set his wife on the ground, holding her and looking at her with the loving gaze he no longer had to hide. And what he saw made his heart seize.
"You are truly happy, aren't you?"
She didn't even nod, but her eyes showed all her feelings for him very clearly. He could see their life in her eyes. The kissing, the cuddling, the teasing, the comforting, making love...
"I love you, Rupert."
The words still seemed overwhelming every time he heard them. Then again every second he spent with her did. Since that night only a few days ago, he had kept wondering if this was a dream and he would wake up any minute. But he hadn't. Instead he had found himself waking up to the woman he loved every day since that day.
Every first kiss in the morning, every first touch and most importantly every first look in each other's eyes showed him one thing. He had given his slayer, what he had always wished most for her - and she returned that gift.