Parting Gifts
By Luisa

Title: Parting Gifts
Author: Luisa
Email: leyjd@hotmail.com
Pairing: B/G Duh!
Rating: R
Distribution: You want my humble fic? What a flatterer. Just ask, and ye shall receive.
Summary: Based on the Love Letters Challenge at buffygiles.com, Giles leaves gifts for all the Scoobies when he leaves. Unfortunately the gift he intended to leave his Slayer travels to England with him, and the present she opens turns out to be some rather private letters revealing well-hidden feelings. We all know Buffy loves Giles, but what will she do with her newfound knowledge that he loves her back? *grin* I wonder…
Spoilers: S6 Through Tabula Rasa. The B/S thing went no further than the kisses they shared at the Bronze. Xander and Anya are happily married, but Giles never went to the wedding as per the actual episode.
Disclaimer: Everyone from the Buffyverse belongs to Joss and M.E. "Stuck on You" belongs to Lionel Richie and Brockman Music. "Never had a Dream Come True" written by C. Dennis/S.Ellis published by EMI.
Feedback: Do I need to beg?
Notes: Am I the only person who noticed the intimate and meaningful look that passed between Buffy and Giles in the song, "What Can't We Face if We're Together?" in "Once More With Feeling"? I haven't seen any mention of it in any other fic, so I thought I'd do the honours.
Dedication: To Rari, for your advice, encouragement and excellent (as usual) beta work.


Part 1: Missing You…

 

“Buffy?”  Dawn tapped lightly on Buffy’s bedroom door and entered cautiously.  She never knew these days what sort of mood Buffy would be in, or if she’d even notice Dawn there at all.  Mostly Buffy was quiet and withdrawn, and on occasion she lashed out unexpectedly, but she never smiled, never laughed.  Dawn sometimes wondered if Buffy had left her happiness in Heaven.

She’d been like this since Tara and Giles’ departures four months ago, never talking unless absolutely necessary, hardly even eating.  Dawn had guessed that this was more to do with Giles’ absence than being brought back from the dead, but what confused her most is that Buffy wouldn’t even talk to Giles if he rang, always making a point of being “Just on her way out the door to patrol”.  Dawn in her naïveté couldn’t understand it at all; she missed Giles too, but she concluded that talking to him actually helped to ease the empty ache.

“Buffy?” Dawn asked again, slightly louder.  She approached hesitantly to where her sister sat on the floor leaning against the cool wall. 

Dawn noted that Buffy was still in her nightclothes, seemingly inactive: staring blankly into space.  A slight movement broke the stillness as Buffy snapped out of her thoughts, turning her head slightly to view her younger sister with a weary expression.

“What is it Dawn?”  Her voice was tired and resigned, as if she didn’t truly care what the reason for Dawn’s presence may be.

“Um…”  Now that she’d come this far, Dawn couldn’t remember what she had come in for.  Casting her eyes about the room, she asked the first question that popped into her head.

“Aren’t you going to open the box?  Everyone else has opened theirs.”

She was referring of course, to the carton that had stayed in the exact same spot in the centre of the floor every day since Giles had left, laying just a couple of feet away from where Buffy sat now.  Buffy hadn’t even allowed it to be moved when the rooms had been cleaned.  Dawn didn’t even want to think about what might be living under it.

Buffy at last broke the awkward silence that had filled the space as their thoughts had been occupied by the existence of Giles’ gift.

“No.” The note of finality in Buffy’s tone surprised Dawn enough to ignore the unspoken warning.

“But aren’t you curious, even just a little bit?”  She held up her thumb and forefinger to emphasise her point.

Buffy chose to ignore the persistent teenager’s question.  “Dawn, don’t you have homework to do?”

When the blank expression resumed its position on her sister’s face, Dawn knew that she’d had her share of Buffy’s attentions for the day and realised that there would be no point in reminding her that it was the middle of vacation..  “‘Kay” she said softly, backing out of the room and almost walking into Willow.

“Hey,” the Wicca quietly greeted her.  “You okay this morning?”  Dawn nodded, knowing the next question that Willow would ask.

“What about Buffy?  How’s she doing?”

Dawn snorted softly, “She managed two sentences this morning.”

Willow sighed knowing in her opinion, how Buffy must feel.  “Let me try, Dawnie.”

Dawn sidestepped away from the door to give the older girl access into the room and went to get some breakfast, sensing that if she didn’t leave willingly she’d be yelled at. She contemplated that for a moment: even yelling would be better than this silence.  The sudden growl of her stomach however, convinced her to go downstairs.

“Buffy?” Willow, like Dawn before, approached tentatively.

Buffy sighed again, knowing that Willow wouldn’t leave her alone until she at least had breakfast.  That was the way it was everyday.  The fact that it was a Saturday and vacation didn’t deter Willow in the least.  She and Dawn would badger Buffy until she ate, then reluctantly leave her alone until lunchtime when they would begin nagging again.  It was beginning to drive Buffy crazy.  Willow’s voiced pierced her thoughts once more.

“Buffy, you’ve got to eat.  Starving yourself to death won’t help.”

Buffy’s reply was again fatigued.  “Look Will, I’m just not hungry right now.  I’ll get something later” *Much later*.

Willow found herself growing bolder for the first time in weeks, and settled herself on the edge of Buffy’s bed.  “Look, Buffy.  I’m not planning on going anyplace right now, and as you don’t look like you are either, I think we ought to have a talk about… this.”

There was no response.

Willow continued, “Buff, you’re scaring the Dawnster.  This is so unlike you: I mean okay, you’ve got stuff to deal with, but so have the rest of us.  Don’t you think it might be better if we work through this together?”

Still Buffy refused to respond.

*Okay,* Willow thought to herself, *Time to bring up the one thing that will make Buffy talk.*

“I know you’re missing Giles, right now, but this is not the way to deal…

Just as she predicted, Buffy’s eyes suddenly flashed with anger.

“What do you know about it?  You don’t have the first idea of how I feel.” Her tone softened slightly as her sadness and loneliness overwhelmed her once more.

“You can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be ripped from Heaven and then, just when you’re getting over it and you’re starting to think you’ve maybe got a second chance at life and… and putting things right, to have that chance snatched away from you.  You haven’t been in my position, so how could you possibly know how it feels?”

She didn’t allow Willow to answer, but added in a shaky voice, “As far as Giles is concerned; yeah, I’m missing him.  But there’s nothing that can be done about it, nothing can bring him back or make him care enough to stay.”

A heart-wrenching sob escaped her and she ended her outburst on a tearful note, unaware of what she was revealing.

“You don’t understand.  It’s like my whole reason for living has been stolen away from me. ”

Willow tried to sympathise with her friend’s anguish, and not focus on her own internal reaction to Buffy’s distressed words.

“Buffy… I do… I do know how it feels.  Tara left me, remember?”

There were tears in Willow’s gentle eyes as she spoke, but Buffy didn’t notice them, replying without thinking, “Yes I remember, but that was your fault.   She left because you lied to her and broke your promises.  Giles left me for no logical reason whatsoever.  And besides…” she faltered, “Besides, if you hadn’t noticed: me and Giles have a platonic relationship, you know: Student/Teacher, Watcher/Slayer yada, yada.  You and Tara had an intimate relationship… you were lovers.”

Willow blinked back the tears, concentrating only on her best friend’s pain.

“I know you’re hurting right now Buffy, so I’ll let the Tara comment slide for now.  But Buffy, I just don’t get why you’re denying your feelings about Giles.”

Again Buffy’s eyes flashed, this time with confusion.

“Will, what are you talking about?  There’s nothing between Giles and me.  Nothing.  The only reason I’m upset is because he left me when I needed him most.  He knew where I’d been, what I had been through and still he left.  He didn’t even have a good reason.  And then he couldn’t be bothered to come back for my birthday – celebrate I’m alive and all that.”  Her voice rose, “He didn’t even come back for the wedding!  If there was anything between us, don’t you think he’d be eager to use any excuse to be with me?”

Willow smiled knowingly.  “Have you finished convincing yourself, yet?  ‘Cause you sure can’t fool me.”

Buffy merely glared at her.

“Look Buffy, you can look at me like that all you want if it makes you feel better.  But stop hiding your feelings.  There’s no point.  We all know how you and Giles feel about each other, so stop denying it.”

Buffy couldn’t prevent the question that escaped her if she’d tried.  Curiosity urged her to ask it.  “How… how do you know?”

Willow grinned, sliding on the floor to be closer to her friend as she sensed the change in the atmosphere.

“Buff, you kinda gave it away with that ‘I’m so in love with you’ look you gave Giles that time in the Magic Box when Xander summoned that singing demon-y thing.”  She waved her hands in the air as she spoke, trying to explain with actions what her words could not say.  “And… if you didn’t notice, Giles went all… you know, the way he goes when he’s embarrassed… shy I guess.  He looked at you like…”

Willow paused again, trying to think of a British phrase, “Like he was saying ‘I’m completely smitten with you, too’ then he kinda ducked his head away.  You must remember” she insisted.

In all truth, Buffy did remember.  The moment she and Giles had exchanged that look something had clicked between them, in fact she could have sworn that electricity passed through her.  It was the one thing she focused on in his absence: the hope that he might have felt it, too. 

Willow mistook Buffy’s reflective silence for rebellion, and a trace of an accusatory tone crept into her voice.

“Buffy, Giles loves you.  How come you can’t see it?  I’ve already told you everyone else can.  Why can’t you?  It’s so obvious.  You should be happy.”

Buffy looked at her friend in confusion.  “So what if he does?”  She asked quietly.

“It won’t bring him back, will it?”  She ended the question with a hiccup, and after four long, dry months of hurt and anger, the dam finally broke.  With a sob, Buffy launched herself at her best friend, desperate to be held.  “I miss him so much, Will.”

“I know you do, Buffy.”  Willow soothed, rocking her friend, stroking her hair and crooning words of comfort into her ear.

As Buffy’s sobs subsided, Willow hesitantly asked, “Um… are you ready for some food yet?  ‘Cause my tummy’s rumbling pretty bad.”

Buffy drew a deep breath and managed a shaky laugh.  “I’m still not hungry.  But thanks anyway Wills.” 

Buffy’s meaning was clear even before she added, “Thank you for everything.”

Willow gave her a last hug, tears shining in her own eyes at Buffy’s unspoken forgiveness for bringing her back, before getting up and heading out.  She paused at the door.

“Um… Buffy?  Does this mean you’ll open the box yet?”  Buffy squeezed her eyes tightly shut as she tried to hold in the fresh set of tears that threatened to spill out.  A single tear managed to escape.

“I don’t know, Will.”

“Why haven’t you opened it already, anyway?” Willow couldn’t help asking.  A puzzled expression was apparent on her pretty features as she explained her question.

“I would have thought that his gift would be a comfort for you. I know that he’d want it to be.”

Buffy let out a harsh laugh, followed by a sad smile.

“If I do that Will, it’s like admitting that he’s really gone.  That whatever his present is, that’s all I have to remember him by.  I’m not sure I want to remember him in that way.”

Willow smiled reassuringly at her friend.

“I know you’ll like. He asked for my advice.  At least consider it?”

Buffy reluctantly nodded her agreement before the redhead exited the room.

Alone once more, Buffy sat for what seemed like hours staring into space.  Only this time, the silence wasn’t filled with hurt, anger or tension – just a refreshing peace that she had admitted her loss, her hurt and loneliness and her love for her former Watcher.  Just as she felt her eyes become misty again, she snapped out of it, refusing to cry again.

She adjusted her focal point to the carton sitting nearby, watching it warily for long moments before letting out a long ragged breath and reaching for it.  Yet, even when she held it in her hands she still couldn’t bring herself to open it.  She felt her eyes grow wet again.

*God, am I ever going to stop crying?  If I don’t stop, the house’ll get flooded… again.*

She replaced the package to its previous position on the carpet, not wanting to ruin the contents with her tears – after all this was a gift from Giles, and it was to be treasured, she reasoned.  Then, for the first time in weeks, Buffy rose with a sense of purpose.  She decided that she was hungry, after all.  Pulling her robe around her, she further decided that after breakfast and a shower, she would open Giles’ package.

 

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

 

Thousands of miles away, on another continent, Rupert Giles was finally getting around to unpacking the last of his belongings.

How could it have been four months since his arrival?

He thought about how he should have opened this much sooner and couldn’t help himself musing as he ran a knife along the sealed container, that despite looking forward to retrieving his most prized effects, the one thing he really wanted more than anything was still in Sunnydale.

He reached in and began digging into the box, looking for his most cherished possession, even above his beloved books.

Since leaving California, he had planned on opening this box immediately on arrival, but somehow it had been pushed to the bottom of the list when things like clothes and food had proven themselves more important necessities.  Then he’d become preoccupied with getting a job and arranging his apartment so that he could actually move within it and not stumble over the mounds of boxes.  He couldn’t believe that amidst all the chaos his ritual had become forgotten.

He touched the carton he was looking for and after pulling it out and resting it on the sideboard, he opened it up.

“Oh dear Lord.”

In front of him sat, not the box of letters he’d lovingly written to Buffy every week since the Prom, but the gift she should have received when he’d left them all: a crystal figurine of an ice-skater.  His heart seized with sudden fear.

If this was here, then the collection of letters… he collapsed onto a nearby chair in shock as he realized where his letters were.

“Oh dear Lord.”  How on earth had that happened?

 

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

 

Part 2: What Actions Cannot Say…

 

Buffy peered at the contents of the carton with interest.

Willow had begged to watch her open the package to see her reaction, but right now Buffy was glad Willow wasn’t even in the house.  The look of bewilderment that passed over the Slayer’s face was not what the redhead would have expected.

“What the hell is all this stuff?”  Buffy inquired of an empty room.

The carton itself was only a little larger than a shoebox, but had been stuffed to almost over flowing with hundreds of blank envelopes – in fact the lid had popped off with gusto, almost hitting Buffy in the face when she released the string.  She sifted through the envelopes hoping for some sort of clue as to what was going on.  Even when she reached the last one, she was no wiser as to its contents.

Uncertainly, she opened the envelope that she still held, unable to stop wondering if this was a mistake.  She shrugged off the doubt and unfolded the paper.  It appeared to be a letter… addressed to her.  There was no date.

*Well, this is a weird sort of present.  Why would Giles need Willow’s advice on writing me a letter?  I wonder if the rest are for me too.*

She couldn’t stop her eyes from straying back to the salutation and her heart skipped a beat as its implications sank in.

*Dearest Buffy?*

She knew she ought to put the letter down.  A part of her suddenly realised that this box shouldn’t be sitting here with her in her bedroom but should be with its owner in England.  However the lonely part of her, the part that longed for Giles to love her in return wouldn’t yield to the other half and she continued to read, making herself comfortable when she saw the length of the letter.

 

Dearest Buffy,

I cannot possibly tell you this aloud for fear of your rejection, so I am presenting my heart before you on this sheet of paper.  My first confession is how you struck me tonight.  You were an absolute vision when you entered the room.  I thought my heart would fly from my breast it beat so rapidly in response to your exquisiteness.  However, it was not only your loveliness that affected me, for it never ceases to amaze me how you go out to fight so selflessly, always putting your friends lives and happiness before your own.

That you would fight those hellhounds rather than attend your Prom like a normal teenager shows just how much you have matured.  I must admit however, that your slight delay in arriving had me concerned.  Had you been a minute longer, I would have sought you – aided you if necessary.

But then you appeared, radiant, completely taking my breath away with your striking beauty.  And when you received your award, oh Buffy, I’ve never been more proud.  You have accomplished so much already in your life, and I am certain you will continue to do so.

I will ensure that you have that long life that you and I also, wish for so dearly.  I promise I will never leave you, no matter what, and take it upon myself (even if I am no longer your Watcher) to guard, protect and watch over you at all times.

My precious child – I am not certain as to why I still call you this, for tonight I saw for the first time the breathtaking woman you have become.  So I stand corrected.  My precious Buffy – please do not push me away for this – but tonight you truly captivated my heart, and I have fallen so deeply in love with you that my soul aches for you and I feel utterly helpless against it.

The moment I received my epiphany, I decided to act on it – after all, we both believed Angel had left and wouldn’t be returning; and come Graduation, you and I would no longer have the restrictions of a Teacher/Student or Watcher/Slayer relationship to prevent us being together.  Yet, even as I prepared to ask you to join me for the last dance, Angel unexpectedly showed up.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen you happier, and even though my heart broke at not being the one to hold you, I couldn’t help but be glad to see you smile.

Have I ever told you what a beautiful smile you have?  Or that it lights up the room?  I wish I had, for now I fear I shall never have that chance again.  If nothing else let me tell you this:  The world is a brighter place because you are in it.  Never doubt yourself, and never let anyone make you believe otherwise.

I love you, my dear Buffy.  And although we can never be more than friends, I will continue to do so until I am in my grave.

Love always,
Rupert

 

Tears streamed down Buffy’s cheeks for the second time that day as she absorbed this information.

*Willow was right.  Giles does love me*.

Now certain that this gift was no accident, but an intentional way of telling her of his feelings without the fear of rejection, she carefully folded the paper again, before opening the next envelope.  Just as she suspected, this one was also fondly addressed to her, and like the previous letter, had no date.  Its contents however, gave a clear indication of when it had been written.

 

My beloved Buffy,

Again you have managed to astound me with your courage and unselfish love for those around you.  You were absolutely astounding in your fight with the Mayor. You fought with wisdom and great skill.

Yet every time I witness your battles, I always feel such overwhelming love for you and the need to protect you – I would have fought in your place if I could.  I know that I am standing in your way, preventing you from fulfilling your destiny as the Slayer, but I refuse to let you be put in a situation where your life is jeopardised.  I meant what I said in my last letter, I will protect you with my own life until there is no more life in my bones to offer you.

How my heart aches for you, my dear Buffy.  You have battled so bravely, putting aside your grief at Angel leaving.  I will confess that I am glad he is no longer here, reminding me of his darker side, Angelus… reminding me of the torture he put me through.  Still, I would suffer it all again for you, my love, if it meant keeping you safe – and alive.

But, despite my relief at his absence, I can see how much pain you are in.  If I could take that away from you, I would, and I hope you know this.

In the meantime, with the knowledge that I cannot take away your hurt, I can only hope that you will remember that I shall always be here for you.  Regardless of my feelings, I will never take advantage of you, and should you need a willing listener I am here and ready.

I cannot help but tell you again my dearest, that you are my reason for living, the light of my life.  I will love you with every breath that I take, and every heartbeat.  That, my love is one thing Angel can’t do.

Oh, Buffy, I am so sorry for my petty jealousies.  Please forgive me.  I couldn’t bear for you to hold this against me; I couldn’t live without you in my life.  I love you so very dearly.

Love always,
Rupert

 

Buffy hurriedly tore at the next envelope, desperate to see what was coming next and found just a short note.

 

Oh my Love,

Here I am again, pouring out my love for you on paper.  How I long to tell you these things for they are so impossible to keep hidden.  I can only thank the gods that I have this means of putting my feelings for you into words, for I have no other way of safely expressing what my actions cannot say: that I love you.

I keep seeing you around the town, out with Willow and Xander.  You wear your mask of happiness so well, but on the few occasions we have talked this week, I have seen in your eyes just how deeply you are hurting.  For the life of me, I cannot fathom why Angel let you slip through his grasp, or why you should suffer so intensely for his mistake.  He has been such a fool.

If I had you in my life, I would never, ever let go of you.  My love, I can only hope that the rest of the summer improves for you and that time heals your hurt.  Again, may I remind you that I am here if needed.

Love always,
Rupert

 

Deep sobs erupted from Buffy’s throat wracking her entire body as she hiccupped his name between them.

“Giles… Oh Giles… why did you never tell me?  I needed to talk to you so badly, but you never gave any sign…”

She reached for a tissue, desperate to protect the heartfelt letters.  When her crying had quietened, she reached for the next letter.

 

Dearest Buffy,

This seems to have become a bit of a ritual.  Not that I mind, for it is a healing and comforting one.  Each Saturday evening, I curl up with a nice pot of tea and my thoughts of you.  I have found that by writing them down you become immortal to me and I can be reminded over and over again of the times you have survived love, loss and change.  Yes, change.

I know you are preparing for University and that you are scared of the adjustments you’ll face: life in a dorm room, without your mother, without Willow or Xander.  But my love, there is no need to be scared.  Your mother and your friends will not be too far away, and as I have repeatedly said, I am not too far away either.

Not that you’ve noticed. 

You haven’t visited me once yet this summer, the only times I’ve seen you being when we have bumped into each other in town.  I’m not going to pretend to understand why, and it hurts so very much, but because you are whom you are, I can forgive you.  I love you so very much, and nothing is worth ruining our ‘relationship’.  Still my heart is full of hope now that there are no excuses, that you would regard me as a man, possibly as a potential love.

I know my fantasies are foolish, after all, the age barrier between us still exists and I’m sure you would never consider someone as old as me to be your lover – regardless of the two centuries that Angel survived.  But still, as I have already said, my heart hopes for you.

You have captured me in your web of seduction, my love.  You may not realise it, but your every word, your every movement makes my heart beat more quickly simply because I can witness it and know you are alive. 

Love always,
Rupert

 

She pulled letter after letter out of its respective envelope reading them through her tears.

*God, how could I have been so blind?  There I was waiting for him to see me as a woman, and there I am, not noticing that he was waiting for me to see him as a man.  How could we have been so stupid, missing each other’s intentions?  How could I have let him hurt like this?*

Buffy continued mentally beating herself up as she read through still more letters that expressed his feelings about Olivia, Parker, Riley, the Initiative, Professor Walsh, Dawn and even Spike’s crush on her and her mother’s death.  She devoured every word as if it were food for her aching soul.

Then she found the one that really did make her throw up, upon reaching the bathroom.

His tears had stained the paper in several places and as hers joined his, she could only just make out some of the words.

 

I have failed you, Buffy.

I swore to protect you and watch over you, but instead I have failed you.

All this time I have been wrapped up in my guilty fantasies and my resentfulness over your relationship with Riley, when I should have been helping you to fight.  And now I must pay the price for my carelessness.

I cannot believe that you’ve gone.  I always promised you a long life, and now I must suffer knowing that you’ll never have that because of me.  Had I not been so stubborn and so quick to judge, I might have been able to help you research an alternative way of defeating Glory.  Instead, you went out to die because of my selfishness.

All I could think about was averting an apocalypse using whatever means necessary.  Yet, you truly showed how you’ve matured, putting your sister’s life before your own.

How could I possibly have thought that by taking one life, we could save thousands?

You took that theory and died in her place. 

How could I have been so careless?

We could have found another way – I know we could.

Oh Buffy, I cannot express the depths of my sorrow and anguish.  I loved you more than life itself, and I know for certain that I always will even though you are gone.

I never thought your light would be extinguished, and now that it has, I find myself reliving that night, trying to find alternatives.  I know this is doing me no good.  I should be looking after the others, but instead, I find that they are looking after me.  Stopping me from doing anything… rash.

I think Willow suspects how I feel.

I know she has seen how I weep endlessly, and she has mentioned that she heard me cry your name in my alcohol-induced sleep.  I believe she knows of my love for you, and that she realises the emptiness I feel without you.  If I were to be left alone, I would almost definitely consider ending this life to join you in yours.

Naturally as a result, Willow never leaves me, not even for a second – well, except for the necessities, of course.  But even then, she has removed all the sharp objects from the house.  If I want to shave, I have to request her permission, and even then she watches me while I do so.

I can’t stand this loneliness, this pain.  I thought I knew true grief and torment when Jenny died, but it was nothing compared to how I feel now.  I just feel hollow all the time.  I don’t want to live without you.

The only thing that stops me from joining you, my love, is what it would do to our friends, and to Dawn.  She is a part of you, I can see that now, and just as I could never leave you, I would never leave her either.  Perhaps this is my farewell to you.  I don’t think I could face writing again, knowing that you will never read it.

Goodbye, Buffy.  I will cherish the memories we shared.

Love always,
Rupert

 

When Buffy had finished in the bathroom, she returned to her room and clutching the letter, threw herself on the bed crying into a fitful sleep.

 

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

 

Several hours later, Willow returned home with Dawn in tow, having collected her from Janice’s.

“Buffy?” She called out into the still house.

There was no answer, and Dawn shrugged it off, figuring Buffy was still in her broody mood, unaware of what had transpired between she and Willow that morning and headed into the kitchen for a snack.

“Hey, Willow?  You want something to eat?  I can fix us some pancakes, if you like.”

“Not now, Munchkin.”  Willow replied distractedly.  She was less casual about the silence.

Buffy should be bouncing off the walls in happiness at Giles’ expensive gift.  She headed toward the stairs, intent on discovering the reason for the stillness.

Willow found Buffy curled up in a tight ball on her bed grasping what looked like a letter.  Then it hit her that the whole floor was littered with letters.  Rejecting the voice that told her she was being nosy, she picked one up and browsed its contents.

 

My Love,

I cannot believe that you are back.

Words cannot begin to describe how overwhelmed my heart is with emotion at your return.  I had believed that you were dead and had vowed never to write another letter to you, but I find that you are alive, and so here I am again.

My heart sings for joy with the knowledge that you are alive.

Of course, what Willow did was careless and downright dangerous, but even that cannot quell the song in my spirit.  I think I have fallen in love with you all over again at the thought of having a new chance to tell you how I feel…

 

Willow swiftly cast her eyes elsewhere at the realization of what she held.

*This is really, really personal stuff.  How did Buffy get it?*

She looked more attentively around the room, and her keen eyes spotted the open box with letters fanning out from it.

*Oh my god…*

She crossed the room and sat gently on the corner of the bed, watching as Buffy slept on, unaware of her presence.  From where she sat, she could make out a handful of words on the page Buffy held, and was drawn to the intimate handwriting like a child to ice-cream:

I have failed you… I must pay the price… you went out to die… I don’t want to live without you.

Buffy turned suddenly in her sleep, crying out Giles’ name and flinging out the hand that held his words.  Willow jumped up quickly to avoid getting hit.  She clenched her jaw.

*Something has to be done.*

 

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

Part 3:  Amends

When Buffy awoke, it was to the gentle touch of two pairs of caring hands nudging her and low murmurs of the owners of the hands.

“Do you think she’s gonna be okay?”

“Yeah, Dawnie.  I just think they need to talk.  You know, clear the air and talk out their feelings.”

The gentle prodding continued and Buffy reluctantly gave in.

“Who’s got to talk about what feelings?”

“Buffy!  You’re awake!” the teenager squealed.

“Of course I’m awake.  There’s no way I could sleep through you poking and shaking me.  Which, by the way, you can stop now.”  Dawn giggled as she withdrew her hands before her face became serious again.

“Buffy, I was so scared.  You haven’t talked to anyone for ages, and then you just go to sleep in the middle of the day for no reason.  Then we couldn’t wake you up…”  Unshed tears peeped out from behind her eyes and she blinked them away furiously.

Buffy let out a long breath and invited her sister to sit beside her, as she spoke to Willow.

“You didn’t tell her about our conversation, then?”

Willow shook her head no.  “That’s for you to do.  Look, I’m going to leave you to it.  I’ve got… stuff to do.”  She exchanged a meaningful look with Dawn before departing.

“What was that all about?”  Buffy asked.

Dawn quickly masked her expression carefully, trying to perfect the picture of innocence.  “What was what all about?”

Buffy smiled to herself for the first time in a long time.  She knew her sibling was hiding something.  It was only a matter of time before she gave it away – after all both Dawn and Willow were terrible at keeping secrets, and if they were in this – whatever it was – together, then Buffy figured she would know what it was soon enough.  She shook herself from her thoughts and pulled her surprised sister into a hug.

“What was that for?”  Dawn asked when Buffy finally released her.  Buffy’s reply was a mumble and Dawn had to strain her ears to hear it.

“I haven’t been a very good sister, have I?”

“Buffy, you died!  How could you have been?” Dawn cried out in protest.

“But after that,” her elder sister continued to mumble, “I’ve been so selfish, wrapped up in how much I’ve missed and needed Giles, that I forgot how much you missed and needed me.  I’m so sorry Dawnie.  I promise to make things up to you from now on.”  Buffy reached out for her sister again, and the two held each other for long moments.  Finally, Dawn spoke up.

“Umm… Buffy?  Please don’t yell at me for asking, but how come you’re telling me all this?  I mean, why now?”

Buffy exhaled noisily.  “Does it matter?  I can’t go back and change things, is all.  A friend reminded me to deal already, and let the healing begin.”

There were still tear tracks down her face, but Dawn didn’t ask about those, and opted for a tactful change of subject.

“So, what did you get?”  At Buffy’s look of confusion at the change in conversation, Dawn elaborated.

“I mean from Giles.  What you get from him?  I see you’ve opened the box.”

Buffy sighed.  By the time she explained everything to her inquisitive sister she predicted she would have a raw throat.  She decided to go with the obvious for now, and save the more detailed explanations for later.  Just as she was about to tell Dawn about the letters, Willow appeared in the doorway with some drinks.

“Oh, well, I may as well tell you both together, although from what you said earlier Will, I think you already know.  He left me a box of letters.”

Before Dawn could ask ‘Why letters?  What for?’ Willow banged the drinks tray down on the worktop - not caring that the drinks were slopping everywhere - stating firmly, “No he didn’t.”

Buffy’s eyebrows rose about an inch in surprise.

“Huh?  Yes he did.  They’re right there,” she pointed at the still open box.

“You should know, Will.  He says in his letters that he knows you knew.  And you said earlier that he asked your advice about giving them to me.”

“You’re wrong, Buffy.”

Buffy’s eyebrows rose still higher as Willow continued, “Yes, I knew about them, but that’s not what he asked my advice about and it’s definitely not your present.”

Dawn stayed silent as she watched this exchange, a hint of a smile playing on her lips.  Although she knew nothing about the letters, she knew where Willow was going to direct this conversation.

“But… these letters…” Buffy stammered.  Willow interrupted her.

“You should never have seen them.  I came across them by accident, too, when I was looking after Giles. But I didn’t read them, and you were definitely never meant to see them.”

Buffy’s cheeks flamed red and Willow felt sorry for her friend.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way, Buff.  Maybe it’s a good thing that you have read them.  Now you know I wasn’t lying when I told you Giles feels the same way.”

Buffy hung her head in embarrassment at reading Giles’ private things and Dawn put an arm around her as Willow nervously reached in her pocket.  She pulled out a small piece of paper.

“Buffy, I don’t know how it’s happened, but I think Giles has your present with him in England.  Go get it.”

She thrust the piece of paper into Buffy’s hand, smiling at the shocked look on her friend's face.  Buffy slowly unfolded it, as Dawn began fidgeting impatiently beside her on the bed.  It was a table of some kind with dates and times neatly arranged with some sort of strange code at the side of each row and Giles’ address at the foot of the sheet.

“Willow… what…?”

“It’s the times of your flights” Dawn interrupted, pointing at various pieces of information as she talked.

“See here? That’s tomorrow.  The airport had a cancellation on this flight, so you can leave straight away.  And that’s when you’re due to land at Heathrow.  From there, you’ve gotta get a connecting flight to Bristol – see?  That’s when it leaves, and that,” she pointed again, “is when it lands.  Then, Willow’s arranged for a cab to collect you from the airport and drive you straight to Giles’ house in Bath, which is about half an hour away.  Cool system, or what?”

She grinned, pleased to be making Buffy happy instead of mad at her for once.  Buffy’s reaction however, was more perplexed than joyful.

“Huh?”

Dawn giggled madly at her sister’s confused reaction, and pulled her into a bear hug, which Willow enthusiastically joined in.

“You’re going to see Giles!” Dawn shrieked excitedly.

“Again I say, huh?”

Buffy’s face was blank as she tried to suppress the rays of hope flaring within her.  Willow tried to clear things up.

“Buffy, we all decided that you deserve some happiness, and if that’s with Giles, then go get him.  Besides, I think it’s time I begin to start making amends for all the stuff I’ve been doing with my magic.  So, this is our gift to you.  Xander, Anya and Dawn have all pitched in.  Even Tara wanted to help,” she added wistfully.

“B… b… but w… what are you guys going to do?  Someone needs to patrol.”

Dawn giggled again, “Buffy, you sound just like Giles!”

Willow smiled her agreement as she added, “We’ll all patrol, but mostly Spike will.  We have everything covered.  Just go and enjoy yourself.”

Buffy looked at the timetable again with amusement.

“Um, Will?  I think you’ve forgotten something.  Return flights?”

Both Willow and Dawn shook their heads.

“Nah-ah.  Not forgotten, just not planned.  Your ticket is one-way.  I figured it would be best if you and Giles book your return flights in England.  That way you get to sit together on the way back.”

“Okay, I take it back.  You’ve thought of everything.  Just what happens if he doesn’t want to come back?”

Dawn and Willow exchanged a wicked smile before Dawn answered her sister’s question.

“You’ll just have to convince him, then won’t you?”

Buffy at last laughed with sheer joy and jumped up to hug these two special people who so obviously cared about her happiness enough to sacrifice their own.

 

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

 

Despite all of Giles’ stories about the weather in England, Buffy had always thought he was exaggerating.  Yet, as she stood at the airport terminal, waiting for her taxi she found herself shivering from the cold.  For the umpteenth time since landing, she wished she’d heeded Willow’s advice and brought warmer clothes instead of laughing her off.

*I can’t believe I’m really here.  Here, in England.  Looking for Giles, asking him to come home.  Am I mad?  Why should he agree?  I really, really can’t believe I’m here.*

The thoughts cycled endlessly around her mind, filling her with a nervous anticipation that made her feel both excited and nauseous at the same time.

*What if he’s not there?  What if he doesn’t want to see me?  What if he’s moved on with his life?*

She tried to dispel her anxiety by remembering the cute guy who’d been so keen to help her on the ‘plane when he’d realised that this was her first flight.

She suddenly laughed aloud, startling the folk nearby as she recalled how he’d even tried to escort her to the bathroom.  She’d pointedly told him that she was a ‘big girl’, and he’d flushed with embarrassment.  He’d still carried on flirting when she’d returned, and Buffy had to wait for an appropriate cue in the conversation to politely put him off by explaining that she was ‘visiting her fiancé’ in England.  The guy’s face had dropped at the news, but he had still given her his number ‘in case she got lost’.  She chuckled again at the memory, before sighing.

*I wish Giles was my fiancé*.

Before her apprehension could return, her taxi pulled up.

After Buffy had told the taxi driver where she was headed, she settled back into her seat, trying to prepare some sort of speech for when Giles would greet her.  She knew exactly how he would react to finding her on his front step and guessed that after the initial shock, he would be happy to see her *If he hasn’t moved on*.

She squelched that thought as she considered the problem of explaining her presence without giving away that she had read his private collection of letters.

*Giles, I’m really sorry, but…* No, that wouldn’t do – sounded too much like bad news.  *Giles, I’m going to come out with this straight, I love you*.  No, definitely not – far too forward.  *How about: Giles, we miss you?  Yep, that’s a good start.  But personalise it a bit, Buff.  Try: Giles, I miss you.  Yeah… that’s a good starting point.*  The taxi driver’s voice prevented her preparations from progressing.

“So, you’re from America?”

*Oh yeah, this one’s real bright*

“Was it my accent that gave it away?” she teased.

“Well, yes.” He said uncomfortably.  He’d had a few American passengers in his time and he didn’t usually appreciate their sarcasm.  It was quite different to British sarcasm.  He tried again to strike up conversation with this beautiful but quiet young woman, this time trying a different approach.

“I see from the address you’re visiting Rupert Giles.  Is he a friend of yours?”

*Nosy, much?*

Despite Buffy’s internal reaction, her curiosity was piqued.

“Um… yes… he’s a …”

*What exactly, is he really?*

“He’s a close friend, actually.  Why?  Do you know him?”

The taxi driver looked closely at her in the rear-view mirror.  In his opinion, she seemed a bit young to be a genuine friend but then it was really none of his business, he reasoned.

“I don’t know him personally, but whenever I’m in Bath, I try to get to one of his concerts.”

“Concerts?”  Now Buffy was really intrigued.

The driver looked at her reflection with suspicion.  “I thought you said you were a friend of his.”

Buffy sighed.  “Look, it’s a really long story that you don’t want to know – believe me.  And, to cut this long story short, we had a fall-out and haven’t spoken in a while.  So, can you explain to me now what you mean by concert?”

She knew she was sounding snappish, but she was tired from the jet lag and desperate to get to Giles.  Besides this man was distracting her from her planning.

The driver’s voice pierced her thoughts once more.

“Rupert Giles is known in Bath for his singing.  He plays in a local club – got a gig on tonight, as a matter of fact.  I knock off in a minute and was planning on heading over there after dropping you off.”

“What?”

Buffy’s screech caught him by surprise and the car swerved a little.

“Why the hell are you taking me to his house if he’s not going to be there?” she asked in disbelief.

“Hey, no need to yell at me, miss.  I’m just doing my job” the taxi driver replied defensively.

“Well, your job has changed.  Get me to Giles.  Now.  Wherever he is.”

The taxi driver bit back a harsh reply and headed in the direction of the club without comment.  Hopefully if he didn’t upset his passenger further, he might get a tip as a reward for not dropping her off at an empty house.

 

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

 

Part 4:  A Dream Come True

The club was packed to bursting.

*Huh, Giles is obviously popular* Buffy thought, as she passed her money to the man at the door.

She slid silently into an unnoticed spare seat at the very back, settling herself behind a tall man so that Giles wouldn't see her and be distracted.  Giles was just coming to the end of a song, and she sat back, enjoying his dulcet tones wash over her:

"Oh, I'm leaving on that midnight train tomorrow
And I know just where I'm going
I've packed up my troubles and I've thrown them all away
'Cause this time little darling
I'm coming home to stay

I'm stuck on you
I've got this feeling down deep in my soul that I just can't lose
Guess I'm on my way
Needed a friend
And the way I feel now I guess I'll be with you 'til the end
Guess I'm on my way
I'm mighty glad you stayed"

*I hope that he is coming home to stay.*

She couldn't help the lone tear that escaped her closed eyes as she recalled the emptiness without him, falling softly into her lap.

"More!" the crowd cried, over the gentle sniffing of the ladies who felt moved to tears by such a wonderful gentleman.

He took off his guitar and replaced it on its stand.  "I...I'll be b... back after a q... quick drink" the man replied, beginning to move off the stage.

*How sweet,* Buffy couldn't help thinking, *that he still stutters.  He's still my Giles*

The crowd was unrelenting and Giles could begin to feel a tinge of red creep up towards his ears.

From her position at the back of the hall, Buffy gave a wistful smile, as his glasses came off and his hankie was pulled out of his pocket to polish them with fervour.  Still looking down at his hands, he began his stuttering again as the Emcee joined him on stage, preventing his planned exit.

"I... er..." he cleared his throat and replaced his glasses, "That is to say... I don't have anything extra planned for this half."

The Emcee chuckled, putting an arm around Giles' shoulders and drawing him back to where his guitar laid waiting, almost looking sympathetic.  Giles sighed, and reluctantly resumed his position, asking into the microphone before he sat:  "Are there any requests?"

The Emcee regarded Giles with interest, and lowered his microphone as the audience began calling out their favourites.

"What would be your request if someone asked you?"

Giles looked bashfully away, replying more to himself than the Emcee, so that the audience couldn't hear, "That Buffy was here."

The Emcee gave Giles a nudge, winking, "I did mean song request, but nevertheless, is she your special lady?"

Another bashful turn of the head was the only indication that Giles heard the question being asked of him.  The Emcee persisted,  "Is she here?"

Giles replied in a voice tinged with sadness and regret, "She's in America."

The Emcee didn't respond to this solemn but talented man directly, but returned to his microphone, inspired.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I apologise for the delay.  I suggest you make a note of your requests, as we shall take them later.  For now however, Rupert Giles will perform a song of his choice, for his special lady Buffy, all the way across the ocean in America."

Buffy's heart leapt into her throat.

*He's doing a song for me?*

Fresh tears trickled over her cheeks in happiness at the thought that this man she loved so much would do something so romantic for her.

A collective sigh swept the room, as the women - married and single - realised that this handsome man was taken.

The taxi driver having put two and two together, shot Buffy an inquisitive look from his standing position at the other side of the entrance.  Buffy didn't notice, focusing only on her love sitting on the stage tuning his guitar, peeking though a gap between the people in front of her.

*Giles.*

Giles was desperately casting around in his mind for a familiar song that would reflect his feelings for Buffy.  He knew he was stalling, but he also knew this audience.  They loved the emotion as much as the tune or the words.

*If Buffy were here, what could I possibly say or sing to her to make everything right between us again?*

Suddenly it clicked.  Traces of a tune he'd heard on the radio only yesterday flitted through his memory.

*I wonder if I can remember it all*

He plucked a few strings as the chords came to him, grateful that he had such a good recall.  Giles pulled his stool over to the microphone, suddenly feeling awkward again.

"L... L... Ladies and G... Gentlemen."  *What should I say?*

"This is called 'Never had a Dream' and it's for. for the one I love."

Buffy felt emotion rush through her at his words.  She didn't recognise the title.  She settled back, and listened to his soothing voice once more.

"Everybody's got something
They had to leave behind.
One regret from yesterday
That just seems to grow with time.

There's no use looking back or wondering
How it could be now or might have been
All this I know but still I can't find ways to let you go"

The tears fell freely as Buffy realised that he truly was singing to her, and what it was he was saying.  She tried to discreetly wipe the tears away, but gave up, instead rubbing at her eyes fiercely with her sleeve as the chorus touched her deeper still.

"I never had a dream come true,
'Til the day that I found you
Even though I pretend that I've moved on
You'll always be my baby"

She couldn't help but risk another peek through the gap again, and was amazed at the passion she saw there.

"I never found the words to say
You're the one I think about each day
And I know no matter where life takes me to
A part of me will always be with you."

Many women were already openly weeping.  This was a song most of them had heard before, but not with this much emotion.  Their hearts went out to this man who was obviously in so much pain.

The men were also getting agitated.  They were berating themselves for starting the call for an encore, and wondering why Rupert Giles had chosen such an emotional song.  Giles paid no attention to the soft weeping and mutterings, lost in his world of pain.

"Somewhere in my memory
I've lost all sense of time.
And tomorrow can never be
'Cause yesterday is all that fills my mind

There's no use looking back and wondering
How it could be now or might have been
All this I know but still I can't find ways to let you go"

He launched into the chorus again, the tears refusing to be held back any longer.  A matching set of tears flowed from Buffy's eyes.

*Oh Giles, how can you love me like this after everything I've done to you?  Why did you leave and not talk this through?  Don't you want to know how I feel?*

As Giles played through the instrumental, a battle started taking place within Buffy.  Should she say something?  Do something?  Let him know she was here?  She desperately wanted to end his misery.  He began the final stanza, glad that the song was almost over, wanting desperately to hole up somewhere far from here where he could let it all out.

*You stupid fool, stop crying - I know they want emotion, but this is hinging on instability.  They'll never ask you back here again.  Just get it over and done with.*

"You'll always be the dream that fills my head
You'll always be the one I know I'll never forget.
There's no use looking back, or wondering
Because love is a strange and funny thing
No matter how I try and try
I just can't say good bye"

He should have gone back to the chorus.  He knew that, but somehow a sob managed to escape him against his will, and while his hands automatically played the chord sequence for the chorus, he stopped singing, feeling his heart breaking a little more.  He bowed his head, trying to conceal the tears.

Buffy could contain herself no longer and her internal war was won as she decided to do all she could to end his hurt and loneliness, not caring if she made a public spectacle of herself.  She stood abruptly, startling those nearby, and began to walk between the closely-knit audience.

Giles heard movements within the audience but didn't lift his head, thinking perhaps someone was coming to throw him out for his unprofessional performance.  That, or cart him off to a psychiatrist.  Then he heard her.

"Giles."

He would know that beautiful voice anywhere; so loud yet so gentle, so impassioned yet so clear.

*Buffy?*

He shook his head,  knowing she was miles away.

The gentle voice persisted, "Giles, look at me."

Hushed voices began in the club, each person whispering to their neighbour, each wondering who this girl was.  He kept his head down, refusing to let the voice in his head make a fool out of him.

*Still, I seem to be doing a bloody good job of that, myself.*

However, he couldn't stop himself responding, "Buffy?"

The voices of the audience suddenly rose, he was more aware of them this time.

"Buffy?"

"Did he say, Buffy?"

"This is the girl the song was for?"

"Mummy?  What did Mr Giles mean she's in America?  She's right here."

This last comment came from a young girl somewhere near Giles' feet.  He lifted an arm, brushing away the last of his tears, and looked down at the girl, still unable to face the rest of the audience.

"What did you say?"  He asked roughly.

The little girl rose from her seat and walked the edge of the stage, sticking out a trusting hand, silently urging him to take it.  Having given up on completing the song, Giles removed his guitar, placing it on the stand beside him.  He then moved to the front of the stage with two easy strides, focusing only on the child, embarrassed by his outburst of emotion and unable to look at any of the audience.  Upon reaching her, he bent down and clasped the little girl's hand with hope.

Buffy stopped as she reached the aisle, watching this exchange.  The whispering had stopped too, she noticed.  It was as if the audience were holding a collective breath, waiting for a love scene to unfold before their eyes, both she and they unaware it would.  Both men and women were equally enthralled.

The little girl pulled on Giles' hand and pointed at Buffy.

"Mr Giles, I asked my mummy why you said your girlfriend was in America when she's standing just there."

He couldn't help himself looking, and his heart suddenly beat double-time as he realised the vision he beheld was not wavering or fading as his dreams so often did.  He clutched the little girl's hand tighter, as if she were his lifeline.

"Buffy?  You. You're really here?  But... how?"

She could only run to him down the small aisle, his name passing her lips with emotion.

"Giles."

Hearing her speak his name so lovingly, so forgivingly did more to him than any drug he knew.  His heart soared, his breath caught, and suddenly he was riding a wave of euphoria.  He let go of the small hand in his, and slid off the stage as the child returned to her mother.

"Buffy" he managed to choke out, as he threw his arms around her waist, a fresh round of tears beginning, although this time the regret was mingled with happiness.  He sobbed into her shoulder for a minute, before remembering something.

"Buffy, I expect you heard... my... dedication.  I'm sorry.  I know you don't..."

She quickly cut him off.

"Giles, don't you dare say what I think you're thinking.  You've hardly surprised me.  Especially considering the" she lowered her voice, "detailed letters you left me."

"Oh Buffy, I'm sorry.  You were never meant to."

She cut him off again.

"Giles you don't get it, do you?  Why do you think I'm here, suffering really badly from jet lag, listening to your sexy voice sing to me?  Why do think I've travelled all this way?  Just to try English Tea?"

A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth and he pulled back shaking his head, as if the thought of why she was here hadn't occurred to him.

"I've come to take you home, Giles."

She pressed a soft kiss on his forehead before continuing, "You can't tell me I don't feel the same as you, so don't try."  He opened and closed his mouth like a codfish as she carried on, "I've loved you since you tried to stop me from facing the M..." she stopped, suddenly aware of the crowd, but he knew what she was referring to.

"I just never knew you felt the same.  Whatever caused you to leave me those letters instead of whatever you intended - I'm thankful for it.  Otherwise you'd still be miserable here and I'd still be miserable in Sunnydale.  Giles, I love you."

"Oh, Buffy."

It came out as a moan as he pulled her to him.

"I love you too."

And there, in front of about 150 people, Buffy and Giles shared their first kiss.  He pressed his lips gently to hers, feeling electricity suddenly pulse through him, tightening his hold on her reflexively.  They simultaneously felt fire travel through them, and Buffy squirmed in his grasp at the sensations.  They pulled apart gasping for breath for only
seconds before capturing each other's mouths hungrily in passion-fuelled kisses.

Buffy moaned into Giles' mouth, glorying in the breathtaking feelings he was invoking in her.  He kissed her back with wild abandon, as he felt answering heat within him.

*Oh Buffy.  Oh God, I love you.  I swear I will never leave you again.*

He tugged at her lip gently, feeling the fire roar in his ears.  She whimpered into his mouth as he continued to ravage her, having completely forgotten their surroundings and the fact that there were children nearby, until they became aware of the sound of rapturous applause.  They broke apart, embarrassed, gazing into each other's eyes as the clapping continued.  Buffy whispered conspiratorially to him, "I bet you wouldn't believe me if I told you that I hadn't wanted to cause a scene."

Giles chuckled then hugged her fiercely.

"I expect you wouldn't believe that I'm very glad you did."

"I never knew you were such an exhibitionist!" she teased him.

The Emcee's voice over the P.A. interrupted their whispering.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe the entertainment for tonight is over."

He turned toward Giles again and winked at him.

"There are, as always, drinks available from the bar.  I apologise that the performance has been disrupted, but I hope you continue to enjoy your evening.  I sure know two people who will."

He gave Giles another wink and a thumbs-up sign with his free hand.  The audience began enthusiastically applauding again, delighted that this man who had captured their hearts and imaginations so deeply since he'd arrived four months ago had found happiness with the woman he loved.

As the audience dispersed, the Emcee returned his microphone to its stand, and walked casually down the steps to the couple that were still entangled in each other's arms at the foot of the stage.  Giles greeted him with an apology.

"George, I'm ever so sorry for disrupting the evening.  Please accept tonight's profits by way of my apology.  I've already received my payment."

He hugged Buffy to him again while George shrugged Giles' apology off, slapping him good-heartedly on the back.  When he caught his breath, Giles continued.

"Could I trouble you to look after my guitar for the night?  I shall collect it in the morning.  In the meantime, I believe Buffy has some explaining to do."

He extracted himself from Buffy's arm, and reached a hand toward the other gentleman.  George shook it enthusiastically.

"Rupert, I shall be more than delighted to assist you in anyway I can.  By all means, collect your guitar at any time tomorrow.  I'm sure you have far more important things to discuss."

He gave another wink.  Buffy was beginning to wonder if this guy had an eye problem.

He turned to Buffy.  "It has been an absolute pleasure meeting you, Miss."

"Summers" she supplied.

"Miss Summers.  I wish you and Rupert many years of happiness."

With a final shake of Giles' hand, he turned to tend to his customers.  Buffy looked at Giles with wide eyes as he put his jacket on.

"Giles, do all Brits talk like you?  You know, with the long winded speeches and all?"

He wasn't quite sure how to take that, so he simply laughed.

"Oh Buffy, it is good to hear your voice again.  Even if you are complaining."

Before she could retort, he swept her into his arms, out of the building. 
As the cool night air greeted them, a thought suddenly occurred to him.

"You think my voice is sexy?"

 

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

 

Part 5: Sealed With a Kiss

After riding home in an awkward silence, Buffy found herself fidgeting nervously as she perched on the edge of Giles’ couch.  His voice floated out to her from the kitchen asking what she wanted to drink.

“To be honest, Giles, I really don’t think I could stomach anything right now.  Not after the awful food on the plane combined with bad turbulence and serious lack of sleep.”

*Not to mention the butterflies using my insides like a boxing ring*

“Water it is, then” Giles’ voice called back.

She could hear the smile in his voice even over the running water.  After a minute, he appeared in the doorway with two glasses.  Buffy’s eyes narrowed as she realised what he was drinking.

“Old habits die hard, I see.”

“Buffy” his voice was soft, tired.

“This is simply for medicinal purposes – that is, the calming of my nerves.  After all, you did startle me somewhat this evening with your sudden appearance to say the very least.”

He moved from the doorway to sit comfortably beside her on the couch, setting the water and whisky on the table in the centre of the room.

“Buffy?  You can sit back, if you like.  I’m sure you’d be more comfortable if you did.”

Instead of doing so however, she jumped up and started pacing nervously around the furniture in silence.  The anxiety she’d felt at the airport was returning with friends.

*What if he regrets what he did?  The song.  The kisses.  The declarations.  What if he doesn’t want to come back to Sunnydale?  I can’t cope with his rejection now that I’ve told him how I felt.  I’ll never be able to speak to him again.*

“Buffy?  Whatever is wrong?” Giles asked as he watched her pacing with a worried expression on her beautiful features with concern.

*She didn’t mean it old man; doesn’t love you.  She just wanted someone and you happened to be there.  She’s trying to find a way to tell you* his doubt plagued him.  Giles pushed the thought firmly aside by standing up and engulfing Buffy in his arms as she crossed in front of him.

“Buffy.  Please talk to me.  I’m sure you didn’t come all this way just to admire my new home.”

She remained silent, nestled in his embrace and Giles reached an arm from around her to her chin, tilting her face up to his.

“Buffy…” it came out as little more than a whisper.

“Tell me what you’re feeling.  Tell me why you’re here.  Tell me that… that you meant what you said before”

He looked deeply into her eyes, searching for any sign of regret.  All he found however was love and unshed tears of hope.

“Giles,” she too whispered.

“I meant every word.  I love you, I miss you, I want you to come home.  That is if you…” she stumbled over the words that terrified her “If you… want to.  I can see you’ve made a life for yourself here, so if you don’t want…”

He silenced her by pressing his lips tenderly, lovingly against hers.  When he pulled back he saw a dreamy smile on Buffy’s face.  He smiled too.

“My love, is this what’s had you worried?  I’m sorry.  I should have told you straight away that I’m never leaving you again.”

Buffy interrupted, “Giles, your life is here, now.  I’m not going to be selfish Buffy anymore.  I won’t let you give up your life for me anymore, no matter how much I love you.”

*Why am I trying to convince him to stay?  Am I insane?*

“Buffy,” Giles insisted, “You are my life.  I swear never to leave you again, and I mean it.  If I stay here, I want you with me.  Because that’s impractical, I will follow you home instead.”  He kissed her temple before continuing, “Wherever you go, Buffy.  I will be there.  I love you.”

She smiled at last, the smile that he had written; ‘lit up the room’.

“Really?”

The hope on her face made his heart swell.

*I put that look on her face?  She loves me that much?*

His own eyes welling up with tears of happiness, he could only nod his agreement, dumbstruck at the revelation.  He tenderly moved his hand from her chin to push a strand of her from her face, his other arm pulling her tighter against him.

“I love you Buffy.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Me too” she murmured into his shoulder.

A soft chuckle vibrated through his body, bringing a smile to her face as she imagined how she could enjoy this closeness for eternity.  His voice rumbled through his chest next to her ear, penetrating her happy thoughts.

“Is that a Yes?”

She looked up at him in confusion.

“Huh?  Did I miss something?  What did you ask me?”

He smiled lovingly down at her, his eyes twinkling.

“If you would be my wife.”

Buffy couldn’t believe it.  A week ago, she had been miserably sitting in her room, her soul aching for Giles, fearing she would never see him again, not even contemplating the thought that he might love her too.  Now here she was in England, and Giles was asking her to marry him.  Her heart skipped a beat before she gave her answer.

“Oh God, Yes.  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!  Oh Rupert I love you!”

She wrapped her arms tightly around him, forgetting her Slayer strength until he began gasping for breath.  She lessened her hold, pulling back and gazing into his green eyes.

“I never knew… we’ve wasted so much time… all this time we could have been together, could have been happy.”

She spoke softly, wistfully.

“Let it go, Buffy.  It’s all in the past.  Let it go and grasp hold of the future.”

His voice was not condemning, but tender and forgiving.  He didn’t give her a chance to respond, wanting to show her a preview of that future as his lips descended to hers.

Their lips met in a sweet kiss: gentle, exploratory, affectionately bushing against each other, tongues probing delicately.  The innocence of the kiss did not disguise the fire that was surging below the surface.  She whispered his name as his lips brushed past hers again, feeling the overwhelming sensation of drowning.  For the second time that evening, she felt utterly helpless, but this time she liked it.

“More,” she moaned as his tongue teased her lips once more.

He willingly obliged, dipping past her parted lips into her waiting mouth.  The warmth he witnessed there sent a shudder through him, and he led her back to the couch, lips still fused together.  As they sat down he became increasingly aware of his reaction and broke away reluctantly.

“Buffy, we don’t have to rush this…” he didn’t get any further in his reasoning as her mouth claimed his again.  She swept her tongue around his cavern, delighting in the sensations he produced in her, then she too, broke away before he could object further.

“Rupert…” The name intimate in itself, still sent a tingle down her spine.  She smiled at him seductively.

“Is it unreasonable to show my fiancé just how much I love him?  Or how much I’ve missed him?”

He smiled a gentle smile.

“No, it most certainly isn’t.”

“Come here then.”

Without waiting for any further response she pulled him back to her, meeting his lips with renewed passion, parting his lips with his tongue.  He let out a groan as he felt shock upon shock vibrate through his body, leaving his skin singing with desire.  He pulled her as flush against him as was possible – given that they still sat side by side – wanting to be as close as possible to the woman he desired.  They kissed fervently, and Buffy soon solved the problem of not being close enough by climbing onto his lap, straddling him.  He broke away from her lips to let out a sharp breath of anticipation.

From where she sat, she could feel his arousal through her trousers and she let out a moan of pleasure, rubbing herself against him.  The action drove him wild, and he moved to remove her blouse, before realising their surroundings.

“Buffy, Love.” He murmured, unable to stop his wandering hands from moving to her breasts.

“Mmmm?” she only half responded, more intent on undoing his shirt, fixated on the golden hair peeping out from the already undone vee at the top.

“This will be more enjoyable in the bedroom” he mumbled again, nodding his head in the direction of the room, distracted by her curves.

“Mmmhmmm.”

She was still only half paying attention, now tugging his shirt free of his pants as she continued to wriggle against him.  He gave up trying to communicate with her, but diverting her from her task with another deep ravaging kiss, he swept her into his arms once more and carried her swiftly to the bedroom to continue this more comfortably.

 

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

 

Several hours later, they lay entwined in each other’s arms, lovingly exchanging gentle kisses and whispered promises of love following their seemingly endless lovemaking.  They lay there for long moments before Giles thought to ask the question that had been niggling his sub-conscious all evening.

“When’s your return flight?  Please tell me we’ve got plenty of time before you go back.  Naturally, I will go with you, but I cannot guarantee getting on the same flight.”

“Again with the longwinded speeches, Rupert.  Why don’t you just quit after the question?” she teased.

He smiled gently in response, letting her answer.

“I don’t have a return ticket.”

At his raised eyebrows, she continued, “All part of Willow’s scheme.  She thought we’d want to fly back together.”

He stroked her cheek lovingly.

“How thoughtful of her.”

“Mmmm.”

She leaned into his touch and they lay silent again for long moments, enjoying the peace that the presence of each other brought.

Eventually, Buffy broke the silence.

“Rupert, I’ve been thinking.”

He let out a low chuckle, “Sounds serious.  What have you been thinking about?”

She looked up at him, twisting onto her front and moving closer to him, to do so.

“Well… I was thinking about your letters.  Are you going to stop writing them now?  For good, I mean.”  She added, as she remembered the ones he wrote after her resurrection, having vowed never to write again.

Giles looked at her with undisguised curiosity.

“Why?  What’s brought this on?  Would you like me to?”

She turned back onto her side, and laid an arm across his stomach.

“I was just interested.  Rupert, I don’t mind if you want to write more letters and keep them as memories.  Just promise me one thing?”

He looked down at the beautiful young woman in his arms and smiled happily.

“Anything for you my love.”

She tucked that piece of information away for future use before presenting her request.

“When you write them, can you read them to me?  ‘Cause from now on I don’t want to miss a single one of your thoughts or feelings.  I want to know how you feel.”

Giles smiled again.

“If you wish, I would be more than happy to do so.”

“Good.  That’s settled, then.”

He watched her expression of contentment for a moment before asking, “Do you want to hear my letter for today?”

“But it’s not Saturday” she pointed out, her fingers beginning to lazily play with his chest hair.

“And besides,” she grinned wickedly, dropping her hand suggestively lower, “I know for a fact that you haven’t had a chance to write anything since getting home tonight.” 

He laughed and hugged her tightly, letting his hands explore the soft skin of her back once more, answering quietly.

“I haven’t written it down yet.  It’s still in its early stages of composition.”

She kissed his chest lovingly.

“Go on then.  I meant it when I said I don’t want to miss any more of your thoughts or feelings”

He settled down lower in the bed, gasping as her hand followed his movements and made fresh contact with his stirring member.

“Buffy, love, if you keep on doing that, I won’t be able to tell you.”

She reluctantly withdrew her hand and snuggled into his right side while he turned his head to watch as she settled against him before closing his own eyes and opening his heart to her.

My beautiful Buffy,

Tonight you have made me the happiest man on earth.

Just when I thought I was destined for a life of loneliness, you appeared, lighting up my life once more.  I could never have predicted that you would come for me, or that you would love me in return, but you have managed yet again to astound me with your love and kindness.

I am so overjoyed that you have agreed to be my wife, and already cannot wait for that day when we shall be one.

All this time, I have presented my love for you on paper, afraid of how you might react to my love for you.  Yet, every written word has been borne from the depths of my heart, despite my fears… and now I have found that you love me as deeply as I love you… the knowledge of this truth driving all fear from my heart.

Buffy dearest, you have placed hope and assurance in the home where doubt and apprehension once lived.

My love, I can feel my heart singing louder than ever before as I revel in this knowledge.  You are the most exquisite person I have had the pleasure of knowing, and I thank the Powers That Be for placing you in my life.

My love, thank you so much for coming for me; for believing in me, and for loving me.

But you forget one thing, dearest.  You are not taking me home, for my home is right here.  Not Bath, not even England.  But lying right next to me now.  Buffy love, you are my home.  For you hold my heart, and wherever that goes I will follow.  And believe me, my sweet; I will enjoy every moment I spend following you.

Giles’ voice softened as he began to enter the land of Nod.

I love you so very much, Buffy.  And although my gift for you has become forgotten – it is worth it for the gift you have given me.

I seal this letter , and my love for you with a kiss.

He bent his head sleepily to hers, placing a kiss on her forehead before ending the spoken letter with his usual signature.

Love always,
Rupert