Title: Not Always
Spoiler Warning: Season 6 up to and including "Life Serial."
Summary: Giles wants.
Disclaimer: The story's mine, but the universe and characters belong to Joss.
Notes: This begins during the last few seconds of "Life Serial" and goes on from there. Written before "Once More, With Feeling" aired.
After she leaves, his smile fades. Always gonna be here -- no. No, he won't. But she doesn't know that, and he can't bring himself to tell her, not yet. She couldn't handle hearing it right now any more than he could handle telling her.
Still, some of his actions since his return to Sunnydale have brought to light why he can't stay permanently. He has several reasons to leave, all of which are legitimate, but at the moment, one is the most pressing.
And it is that he's been touching her constantly since he arrived: a hand on the shoulder here, a hand on the back there, a hand somewhere in between here, there, and everywhere. He could tell himself that it's a perfectly natural response, that the act of touch assures him that she's really here. But he knows it's more than that, knows his compulsion to touch is partially elicited by something deeper, something entirely inappropriate. It's something he had before been able to keep under control, but now, with everything that has happened, his control has weakened, and it frightens him to think that it might continue to do so while he remains near her.
Buffy's voice flowing in from the hall -- a wish of 'good night, sleep tight, don't let the vamps bite' to her sister -- interrupts his thoughts. She walks two steps into her room before she sees him and stops. "Oh. You're still here. I thought you'd be downstairs by now. Not that I mind, but..."
He doesn't hear the rest. He simply walks over to her, places his hands on her cheeks, bends down, and kisses her. He kisses her like he had wanted to at the Magic Box when he had finally seen for himself that she was alive -- miraculously alive. He kisses her like he has wanted to for years: gentle, but with enough pressure and hunger to let her know how much she means to him, how much he loves her. They separate, but not much, and she says,
"Giles?" She still stands just inside the doorway, the confusion showing on her face, and he still stands the middle of the room, feeling like a fool. He blinks and calls himself a pervert at the same time he calls himself a coward.
"I - I'm sorry, Buffy," he stammers, not certain for what he's apologizing. Probably many things. "Good night," he says and tries to pass by, but she grabs him. Remarkably strong.
"Okay, what's up?" she asks, looking up at him, her eyes threatening that she won't let go until he answers, except to him it isn't much of a threat. "Is something wrong?" Her tone is soft, concerned, like he's the one who should be handled with care. Her grip loosens with her words, but she doesn't let go.
He smiles and hopes it looks convincing. With his free hand, he reaches and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, letting his fingers touch the side of her neck briefly. He feels her shiver.
"Nothing's wrong," he lies, and it hurts. He wants to tell her, tell her the truth, to lay it all out, to tell her his reasons why he must leave, hoping that she'll understand, hoping even more that she won't. He wants to take her in his arms and really kiss her, long and deep. He wants to make love to her, not caring that they're not alone, not caring that the house is full of people, not caring that no matter what she'll always belong to another. He wants her to think of him not as a replacement for her mother or father, or even as a 'rakish uncle,' but just as a man, a man who loves her more than he thought possible, a man who would've gladly spent an eternity in Hell if it had meant that she never would've gone there for a second -- God knows he deserves it more than she ever could.
"Get some sleep," he tells her, pushing away his wants and concentrating on her needs. And what she apparently needs right now is him to be the Rupert Giles she knows -- her Watcher, her friend -- and to be here, and he's happy to stay as long as he can. He closes his eyes and kisses her forehead, knowing all too well that the sign of affection means two very different things to each of them.
He keeps his lips on her skin as long as he can without raising her suspicion, and then leaves without a look back, not wanting to live with the consequences if he did.