Paths
by Gabriele Schulz

EMAIL: gabi@gschulz.de
RATING: NC-17
DISTRIBUTION: Solo, Cap. Others please ask first.
SPOILERS: up to (and including!) Graduation II
FEEDBACK: The average feedback I get (not including Solo84, who is kinda forced into giving it ;-) is 0.64 mails per story. So if *YOU* tell me what you think about it, it's already way above average. I'm not sure whether that's a happy or a sad thought. Anyway, *pleeeease*, I'm begging you. I'm happy with everything. What else can I say to get feedback from you? It would really make my day...
SUMMARY: 'The paths of love can be strange and twisted.' A mysterious book causes unexpected feelings in Buffy and Giles. But is their love real...? 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.
NOTES:
Set after Graduation II. My longest fic to date. Delving into what the relationship of Buffy and Giles could be like after GII, with and without Shipping. Also, this is the fic where I came up with a name for Giles' bookstore (which is my general post-GII-setting).
Thanks to Lily for beta-reading and to Eskalade for making the corrections.
DATE: 6/21-26/99 (and a little smut on 12/31/99 ;-)


Buffy sighed. It was not that she had really expected Giles to give in, but she should at least let him know of her disapproval.

"Buffy, we agreed that you could work here because it would be difficult to explain the need for frequent and inexplicable absences to potential employers, but I thought I made it clear that that doesn't mean that you can come and go as you like. And a concert at the Bronze is certainly not an emergency that requires your presence. And you'll have time enough if it begins at 8."

"I have to get dressed."

"And I presume, it would be impossible to go as you are?"

She just looked at him.

"I thought so."

She sighed again, regretting that she had asked to go earlier in the first place. She didn't want to fight with him.

"I'm sorry."

He looked at her and smiled.

"It's okay to try. As long as you don't expect me to give in."

"I don't. Well... It's your own fault. You're too nice."

"Don't try that on me."

"What? I'm not doing anything. And I really appreciate that you let me work here. It's not like I am qualified to get a 'real' job. So I'm really happy to be here."

She had walked over to him and now leaned her head against his arm, smiling up at him.

"Okay. You can go *after* we've gone through the arrivals and you arranged the new ones."

She jumped up, hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

"Thank you."

He mumbled something indecipherable.

She smiled up at him genuinely and added.

"And I *do* really appreciate working here."

"You had better, considering the amount I pay you for the work you do."

She hit him playfully.

"Maybe you should try finding someone who'll put up with you."

He glared at her and then they both laughed.

Buffy went to get the box with new arrivals from the back room. She placed it in front of Giles, who had sat down behind the counter, the list with his orders in his hand. Then she sat down behind the box taking the first book out.

"Guess that's for your private collection."

She handed him an elaborately decorated book about swords.

"Ah."

He leafed through it before placing it in front of him beneath the counter. They went through the books, deciding whether they would go to their private stacks or into the salesroom of "The Library" as they had called Giles' bookstore.

It had been a heated discussion. Xander had come up with "'Strange, old, but good' which would be just like you." to which he had answered "Why do I find it extremely difficult to take that as a compliment." Other suggestions had included "Rupert's books", "Dusty Pages - history, demonology, magic, if it's old, we got it" and other things even more silly. It had been Buffy who had come up with "The Library". He had looked at her and had seen her serious face. The library had been *their* place. Their headquarters against evil. They had spent endless hours there researching, discussing, sometimes arguing, often fooling around. It was where the Master had died - as well as Kendra.

And as much as it was a part of all of their history it was even more important in the relationship of Buffy and Giles. It was the place where they had first met. It was between these stacks of books that they had become a team. Watcher and Slayer. Friends. Neither of them could forget the day when she had told him "Giles, I'm sixteen years old. I don't wanna die." She hadn't died and they had continued their path, the library a second home to both of them. Three years filled with memories. The most vivid one (except for the prophecy of her death perhaps) being her eighteenth birthday, when his "affection" had cost him his position as her Watcher. From that day on they had been together, not because they were supposed to, but because they chose to. Not that they had many choices. At that time they had already been at a point where they couldn't do without each other. They had grown close over the years and if anyone had asked them to name a place that they connected with the other it would have been the library. But the library was gone now.

And when Buffy suggested "The Library" as a name for his bookstore, Giles had immediately known that it was perfect. So they had called it "The Library", in memory of the old one and in hope that it would become their new place.

It had become their place. Not the Scoobygang's, but Giles and Buffy's place. At least for now. Cordelia had left to go to Los Angeles and pursue an acting career. Xander was on a trip through the whole country and Willow accompanied Oz and his band on their tour. And Buffy had moved into a small room, something her mother had allowed only because she had promised to work and pay for it herself.

Buffy had been hesitant to take the job in Giles' bookstore, but there hadn't really been any alternatives, at least not if she wanted to keep on slaying at the same time. But her worry that they would get on each other's nerves if they spent so much time together turned out to be groundless. They had grown even closer and in the last three months they had reached a level of intimacy that would probably astound the others. During the many hours they spent sorting out books or just waiting for customers they had learned many things about each other. They never really had the time to just talk to each other the last three years and now they learned about broken ankles, crushes on neighbors, and that 2001 Space Odyssey just "sucked". They felt totally at ease with each other and their closeness was mirrored by physical contact, such as frequent hugs and kisses. It had become a ritual that he kissed her forehead whenever he didn't accompany her on her patrol and on Fridays when she knew she wouldn't see him until Monday she got three kisses.

Her mother profited from her new gentleness as well. Buffy had lunch or dinner with her very often and they almost never fought. Of course, now that Buffy had her own place, there weren't many things to fight about. Especially when she had stopped asking for the car.

That was a thing Giles never stopped smiling about. Buffy and his car. Many people asked for a certain book on the phone and Giles had offered as a service to bring it to the customer's home, which had the wonderful side effect that even less people came into the store itself to disturb him and Buffy, when they were researching or training. Buffy had volunteered to "give the books a ride" and had grown so attached to the Citroen that everyone who looked at it with amusement or worse, contempt earned a reproachful look from her. Plus she had found out that it was much easier to get the car from Giles than to beg her mom for the jeep. After she had brought it back in one piece a couple of times, she practically considered it hers and he was quite okay with it as long as she paid for the gas. He even let her drive on the rare occasions that they drove away together.

Buffy usually enjoyed her weekends when she had no obligation but to have fun (and patrol). But sometimes when she didn't feel like being alone, or with strangers, or with her Mom, she would make Giles forget about his books for an afternoon or a whole day and drag him out into the Real World. One day she had driven him to the beach. She had felt like when she was young and her parents didn't fight and the demons had been nothing but imagination. They had built a castle, well it had been mostly Giles, and when she bombed it with muddy sand balls he had chased her along the beach and buried her in sand until only her head had been visible. The day had passed and when the sun set they had lied in the sand, Buffy's back leaning on Giles' chest, his arms around her, watching the wonderful picture before them.

He knew that she missed her friends. She had jumped up and down in joy when Cordelia had called. And they had chatted all day in the store as if they had always been the best friends. As strange as that had seemed it had also felt right. Cordelia had seemed a lot friendlier than he had remembered her and he had been genuinely touched by the picture she had brought as a gift. It was a painting of he, Buffy and the Slayerettes, that now hung in the back office so that he could look at it when he was researching. Next to it were Xander's postcards and printouts of the pictures Willow attached to her emails once in a while. She wrote Buffy several times a week, but when Buffy needed someone to talk she now went to Giles, who had turned out to be a good listener, even to things he couldn't possibly care less about. But if he sensed that something was important to Buffy he was willing enough to give her his honest opinion.

She sometimes wondered what things would be like when Willow (and the others) came back. She would finally have someone who went to the Bronze with her and Giles wouldn't have to accompany her so often when she went patrolling (although she doubted that he minded and she herself was sure that she would miss him). But she had no reason to worry. They would accept her new relationship with Giles (not that it was *that* different) as they had all the other things that had happened in their little group, especially last year. Fighting for your life had a way of drawing people together.

But right now they were alone in "The Library" going through the new arrivals.

"'Accounts of demonic behaviour in 17th century France'?"

"Ah, that's 'The Special Book'."

"Oh, the 'Don't touch it, you can't afford it anyway' section. I guess I should have washed my hands after eating that sticky doughnut."

He looked at her and then said.

"Why is it that modern women have to mock the appreciation of a priceless book?"

"Because you look so cute when we tease you. Who do you mean by 'modern women' anyway?"

"Jenny once made a similar joke."

Buffy's smile faded and she watched Giles anticipating a look of sadness, but instead he smiled, actually grinned.

"What are you thinking about?"

"After she made that joke, she called me sexy and kissed me."

"I won't call you sexy, but a kiss you can have."

She got up and kissed him on the forehead.

"Jenny didn't kiss me there."

Buffy sighed.

"All right."

She leaned in to kiss his mouth, but he backed away.

"You don't have to..."

"Okay, if you don't want me to kiss you..."

"It's not - that - I - mean..."

She grinned, enjoying what he had gotten himself into. Then he just gave her a quick kiss on the mouth. She grinned and while sitting down again, the grin became a softer smile.

"I'm just glad that you can think about her without being sad."

"I'm glad about it, too."

Then looking seriously at her, he added.

"And I hope you'll be able to feel the same soon."

All her defenses came up automatically.

"Sure. I mean I already do. I'm totally over him."

"Is that why your mood gets better and better all the time until you visit him, where it seems to crash down? Because whenever you come back you seem like your favorite cat died."

"I swear it's getting better each time."

He couldn't tell whether that was true, for she had only visited him (and Cordelia) twice.

"Last time I was really looking forward to coming home again. My tiny little room and the vastness of mystery also known as *the books*."

She pointed from one side of the store to the other to emphasize her point.

"You know, they wouldn't be such a mystery if you read them. Or at least a few of them."

"And ruin the balance of knowledge? Big vast entities of knowledge there, small but determined spot of ignorance here. Giles, that's how it's meant to be. Xander would be so disappointed if he came back and found out I surrendered."

Giles just rolled his eyes.

"What is next?"

Buffy took a look into the box and frowned. Not only did the title of the book suggest that it didn't fit their usual selection but there were also five copies of it which was seldom for them. She held the book up.

"'Ways of love'?"

He grabbed the book.

"I didn't order that."

"You didn't even look in your list."

She got up and walked around him, then leaned over his shoulder to take a look at the list.

He held it away, so that she couldn't read it.

"I think I would remember if I ordered something like that."

"You mean, just like the time we got that book with Werewolf sketches and you *swore* you hadn't ordered it, but when I finally looked at your list..."

"That was..."

"Yes?"

He sighed and held the list so that they could look at it.

Buffy smiled and teasingly said into his ear, that was only inches away from her mouth.

"Aah. My watcher is getting old and grumpy."

He turned his head around, clearly annoyed.

She hugged him and kissed his cheek, but he was still angry. If he hated something, it was when Buffy treated him like a child or a senile old man.

"Take a look for yourself."

She did and the title wasn't on the list. He leafed through the book and found an envelope, just titled "Rupert Giles". He took out the letter and started reading.

"Dear Mr. Giles,

I send you five free copies of 'Ways of love' in the hope that you will enjoy it and..."

That was when Buffy grabbed the letter and read it out loud. The new familiarity between them sure had its downsides. She never would have dared to do that a few months ago.

"'Dear Mr. Giles,' I think that's you..."

He glared at her.

"...'I send you five free copies of 'Ways of love' in the hope that you will enjoy it and make it available to the public. I will keep an eye on you and will send more copies, if the need should arise.' No signature. Have you noticed that?"

She grinned at him and put her arm around him holding the paper in front of him and looking over his shoulder.

"There isn't even anything printed on the paper. What a weirdo. How bad has this got to be if it's given away?"

He leafed through the book again.

"It seems to be non-fiction. How to find love and how not to."

"I don't think we have a section for that."

"Then put it with the special offers."

"How much?"

He took a look at it. It was quite thick and the cover was nicely decorated.

"10 dollars."

"Okay."

She moved to get her tasks done so that she could leave earlier. About half an hour later she asked Giles whether that was all. He took a look at the small table with the special offers, where among others two copies of 'Ways of Love' were placed.

"Why only two?"

"I put one in the display."

"With mine that would make four. Where's the last one?"

"Weren't you the one who said I should read some of these?"

"And what about that blissful ignorance?"

"Can't you just enjoy that I'm doing what you want me to do?"

"But that's exactly what I'm doing right now."

He grinned and she gave him a look before putting on her jacket and walking to him to get her kiss on the forehead.

"Be careful."

She just smiled at him and left.

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

When she arrived at home she decided to take a quick look at the book.

Three hours later she was still reading, the concert totally forgotten.

The book was captivating in a way she couldn't quite put her finger on. It made sense, sure, but so did many other books. This seemed as if it was written for her.

'Love has many paths, but you can only walk one at a time.'

How true that was. She thought of her friends and the confusion that had followed when Xander and Willow had decided to walk two paths at a time. It didn't work. But she also could see herself in the book. Her love for Angel was one path that was open to her and inviting her to follow it. And all the time she had tried to tell herself that it wasn't there instead of trying to live with it and perhaps move on to another path that was sure to exist or if not could at least be built if she would just allow it.

And then she thought of Giles.

'The paths of love can be strange and twisted.'

She knew that the book meant 'real' love, but she thought that this was certainly true for her and Giles. A fortyish, British curator of a museum and a teenage California girl. How often did two people like that find to each other in this world. Probably never, if it weren't for a council who felt that they were born for each other. That was until he fell in love with her. No, that wasn't the right expression. Until he developed 'fatherly love' for her.

She giggled. That sounded so strange. She was of course aware that Giles was indeed a father to her, but she also knew that he was a lot more. Things that her father could have never been to her, even if her parents hadn't broken up. Part of it was the ever present danger of death. They both knew that sometimes the other one was the only thing standing between them and the end. They counted on each other, had to do so in order to survive. She knew that her parents loved her, but if she would have to trust her life in somebody's hands it would be Giles. And now he was not only her Watcher (a title which she associated with that part of their relationship), but also her best friend, who would criticize a new outfit or the color of her nails. And that was something she could certainly not imagine with her parents.

She thought of that day on the beach and just couldn't imagine lying like that with her father. It had seemed natural though with Giles, but not erotic. At least not then. Now that she lay in her bed and thought of that day she felt a strange sensation creeping through her body.

That was probably only because of that book.

'Open your eyes and you will see the hidden paths before you.'

Was Giles one of her hidden paths? She had never thought of Giles as her lover. Well at least not seriously. It had crossed her mind once in a while (more frequently since they were working together), but it was never more than what she felt when a handsome man walked past her: A thought, forgotten before it had clearly formed in her mind.

But now she wondered if she *should* perhaps consider it. An alternative to the unwalkable Angel-path would be good, but on the other hand it would be enough if she just knew that there *could* be other paths. And it probably was too early to start walking one again anyway.

She read on until 2 o'clock, knowing that Giles didn't like it when she was late.

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

At the same time Giles put down the book about swords and decided to go to bed. He put the 'Ways of Love' on his nightstand and prepared himself for bed. He only wanted to read a few pages, but found the book strangely captivating. The book offered nothing you couldn't read in magazines, but yet it seemed to appeal to him in a very personal way.

Paths of love could be tricky indeed. He thought of Jenny, but pushing it away soon, not wanting to challenge himself too much. That small interlude with Buffy in the afternoon had shown him that he was fully over Jenny, not in the sense that he had forgotten her, but that he could live on, not regretting or wishing. And it had given him the chance to kiss Buffy.

He smiled. It wasn't that he wanted to kiss her, it was just that he enjoyed her presence and her touch. He had grown quite fond of her hugs and kisses even if it was only to tease him. He could understand the mothers who never got tired of kissing their unwilling and embarrassed children and he was glad that Buffy showed her affection in so many ways. She had opened herself to him in a way she had to nobody else. He knew that and he tried to give back in the same way, overcoming his British reserve with success. They shared smiles, hugs and kisses and he had managed to develop a good counter attack to her teasing: He by now knew all the places where Buffy was ticklish and when she was especially hard on him he used that knowledge mercilessly.

He was happier than he had been his whole life and there was probably nothing that could make him happier than he was right now. Well, that wasn't entirely true. It is the nature of man to wish and he was no exception.

'You can only walk one path at a time.'

He wondered what the book said about not walking at all. His problem was not to look for a path, but whether he wanted to walk it or not. He didn't think of Buffy as his lover, but he was more than aware that if he allowed himself to do so, he would fall in love with her head over heels.

He did miss the exhilaration of being in love, but they had already so much right now. And while he knew he could live with being in love with her even if she didn't return his feelings (and that was something he was sure of), he saw no reason to push it. It would probably come anyway, whether he wanted it or not.

He placed the book on his nightstand and put his glasses on top of it before switching off the light and drifting to sleep.

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

When he arrived at "The Library" the next morning, he was half an hour late and Buffy was waiting for him. She smiled.

"I already sold one."

"What?"

She rolled her eyes.

"Giles, this is a bookstore. There's not much I could sell except books. Maybe myself, but we don't run that kind of business, do we?"

"Unfortunately not."

"What was that?"

"Nothing."

"I heard that. And I give you one chance to turn it into a compliment."

"It was one. If we sold your lovely body, we would be rich."

She came up to him not sure whether to hit him. She put her hands on her hips and looked up at him defiantly.

"How much would *you* pay for me?"

"I would pay nothing. I would only take you as a gift."

"You? Take me? As a gift?"

They looked at each other for a moment and then he tickled her in a quick attack and she screamed and laughed. When she could breath again he asked.

"Which one did you sell?"

"'Ways of Love'"

"Ah."

"You know, I started reading it yesterday and got totally hooked. I didn't even go to the Bronze. I read straight till 2 am. And *I* turned up in time."

"Sorry about that. Just like you I was rather surprised by this book."

He walked past the counter and sat down behind it. Buffy followed him and sat down on the shelf below the counter. She looked at him excitedly.

"You liked it?"

"I found it strangely gripping."

"I just loved it. I mean, it made me realize how stupid I was thinking that Angel and I could be just friends. He's a path and he will always be. But he's a path I can't walk, so I better open my eyes to be open to new paths. Or ones that are already there."

The last she said with a peculiar look at him.

"I'm glad you like it."

"Love, Giles, I love it. I never believed this crap, that a book could change your life, but maybe I was wrong all along. How far have you read?"

"Only the first two chapters."

"Can I read on for you?"

"Sure."

She got up and took her copy of 'Ways of Love' from the back office. Then she sat down next to him again and started reading.

He listened to her voice and couldn't help wondering at how great an effect the book must have had on her. And there was something else he noticed. She looked beautiful today. Not that she didn't usually, but as he looked up at her he wished he could cast her into a golden statue.

The time went by and they found themselves glancing at each other more and more often. When the phone rang, he reached over Buffy to get it, and that he brushed her legs to do so was anything but an accident.

Shortly before they closed for lunch a second copy of 'Ways of Love' was sold and when she put the money in the cash register she stood so close to Giles that her arm touched his shoulder.

For lunch they ordered some pizza and continued reading in the back office. They were sitting on the couch, Giles an arm around her, because she was leaning so close that she was half sitting on his lap.

They were both aware that something was happening between them but neither of them really cared about it.

When they finished with the pizza, they didn't clean their faces with napkins, but with each others fingers and mouths, doing everything but kissing.

When they opened the store again, the sexual tension between them was so strong you could almost touch it. Buffy went on reading, sitting on Giles lap, enjoying his breath in her neck.

Shortly before they closed the store a customer asked for 'Ways of Love' and Buffy gave him the last copy from the display.

"This is one hell of a book."

"We'll see whether we'll hear from the mysterious publisher."

"I don't care. I'm just glad *I* have a copy."

They looked at each other for a long moment, then Giles spoke.

"We might as well close now. I don't think there'll be another customer."

She went to the back office to get her jacket and then stood in front of Giles her copy of 'Ways of Love' in her hand.

They looked at each other. He was supposed to kiss her forehead now, but both knew that they would kiss each other even before they did it. The kiss was long, sweet and mind-blowing. When they stopped they looked at each other before Buffy went out without a word or a look back.

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

Later that night they both lay in their bed reading the last two chapters of 'Ways of Love' and then giving themselves up in thoughts about each other.

Giles was surprised by the force of his feelings. "Head over heels" was in no ways sufficient to describe his almost physical ache for her. But his longing was pleasurable, because he knew now what he never would have dared to wish for: that she loved him, too.

Buffy moved restlessly in her bed. How could this have happened in only one day? She didn't believe in love at first sight. Well, this wasn't love at first sight of course. After all, she'd known him for almost three years now. And yet it felt like she had never really seen him until yesterday. It was as if the book had opened her eyes to something that had always been there, something she had been too blind to see. Blinded by her narrow-mindedness but mostly by her obsession with Angel. She had shut her eyes to that path, not realizing that you can't see any other paths with closed eyes. But now she did see another path and she not only was sure she wanted to walk it, she wanted to run. To Giles. To the man who had grown to mean everything to her. She thought about going to Giles, but it was 2 am and they had to open the store in the morning.

She had left him that evening because she had to patrol and because she wanted to read the end of the book, but mostly because she had felt the need to think about it. This went so damn fast that it frightened her. It was almost not real. But her feelings were undeniable and now she couldn't wait until the morning came. She finally fell asleep, only to dream of Giles. It was the most erotic dream she'd ever had, and when she woke she just thought about what the real thing would be like if this was only a dream.

She practically ran to "The Library" and was half an hour early. And yet when she arrived a young couple was waiting for her. She opened the door and let them in.

"Hi, my name is Steve Watson and this is Millie Clark. I bought 'Ways of Love' yesterday morning and just wanted to let you know that it changed our lives."

Giles came through the door, smiled at Buffy and listened to Steve as he started again. He had bought the book as a birthday-gift for Millie, thinking it was a good "chick" book. He started reading it and couldn't stop. When he was finished, he realized that Millie was the only path he would ever want to walk. In addition to the book he bought her an engagement ring, which Millie showed them proudly.

They thanked them again and went out the door arm in arm.

When they were gone, Buffy and Giles looked at each other for a long moment before approaching each other. When they stood face to face, Buffy spoke.

"I will never ever doubt anyone who says reading a certain book changed their life."

They kissed. At first softly, carefully tasting each other. Then their arms captured each other and their tongues started to mate passionately. Buffy held his head firmly and moved backward, dragging him along into the back office. They landed on the couch and when Buffy somewhat loosened her grip on him, Giles managed to say something.

"We can't close the store. We can't afford that."

"I know. But the couch is much more comfortable. We'll hear if a customer comes, just like when we train and I swear I'll try not to rip your clothes off you."

With that she started kissing him again. She was straddling him, pressing herself so close that he thought he would go crazy. She pulled his shirt slightly out of his trousers so that she could slip one arm inside to stroke his chest. He caressed her breasts through the thin material of her top and bra and was about to tell her that maybe they could live with closing the store for one morning when they heard the bell of the door. Buffy jumped up.

"Boy, whoever this is had better buy a *really* expensive book."

They rearranged their clothes and went out.

"A package for you Mr. Giles."

The delivery man looked at them and then grinned.

Giles just took it.

"Do I owe you anything?"

"No."

"Well, then thank you and good-bye."

"Already gone. Have fun."

Giles glared at him, but forced a smile onto his face when he saw someone entering the store. Then he recognized the woman as the person who had bought the second copy of 'Ways of Love'. She introduced herself and told them how the book changed her life and how it made her realize that she was in love with one of her colleagues.

Buffy smiled amiably at her until she noticed the peculiar look on Giles' face. It was not exactly worry, but something was clearly disturbing him. Another customer entered "The Library" and seeing and hearing the woman with her copy of 'Ways of Love' he got out his own and started.

"You are so right. It's the same with me. I read this thing and suddenly realized I was in love with my wife's sister. I kind of felt strange around her before, but now it is so clear. It will be hard on my wife and the kids, but now that I know how I feel I have no choice."

The two customers started talking about how great the book was, but Buffy only frowned. Being in love with your wife's sister wasn't exactly what she would think of as a happy revelation and then there was Giles whose face seemed to get more and more serious by the second.

The customers thanked them again and went out, still talking.

"It really is unbelievable isn't it? I never read anything like it. As if it were written for me."

"I so know what you mean. It's almost like magic."

Then they were gone and Buffy's face became as serious as Giles in an instant.

"A spell?"

"We need to get these books" was the only thing he said before going after the two people.

Buffy sat down on a chair behind the counter. A spell? It was nothing but a spell? It would explain a lot, but yet the idea that the feelings she had for Giles were artificial forced tears of anger and sadness to her eyes. She tried to calm herself down. Only the desire. What had developed between them before these damn books was real, and it had been wonderful, hadn't it? She thought of the back office and what she had wanted to do with Giles (and still wanted to do). What kind of monster would do something like that to them? But then she thought of Xander's love spell and that this was probably just someone who wanted to make others happy, not realizing how dangerous it was to mess with nature.

Giles came back, the books in his hands. He looked at her sad face and then said.

"We need to get the last one. Do you think you can find Steve and Millie?"

"Steve Watson it was?"

"Yes, Watson. While you do that I'll try a little test on these books. Just to make sure."

She nodded and got out the phone book, while Giles disappeared in the back office.

An hour later they sat in the back office, the three books plus Buffy's copy in front of them on the table.

"And now?"

"Now that we know it's a spell, we can try to find a counter-spell."

"All right."

"I can do that alone. Don't you have to pack? I didn't expect you here at all, actually. I mean, I wasn't surprised to see you after yesterday, but I guess as the things are now you won't delay your visit to Los Angeles."

"I had totally forgotten about that."

"Spells have a way of doing that."

She winced slightly.

"How long do you suppose it will take to find something?"

"Probably not very long. Love spells are well-publicized. Don't worry, we'll find something and everything will be back to normal. Maybe even before that poor man breaks up with his wife."

"I'll go packing. I'll be back in an hour."

He wondered why she used to take the whole day off before her trips to LA when it took her only an hour to pack, but wisely said nothing, and only smiled at her reassuringly.

"Don't do anything before I'm back."

He was a little surprised by that request, but said "I won't."

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

One and a half hours later Buffy came back to find Giles frowning over a book.

"Didn't find anything?"

"I'm not sure."

"How do you mean that?"

"I found a spell, that is tied to words, so that if someone who reads the book or more general text, will realize they are in love with another person."

"Sounds like our spell to me."

"Well... You may have noticed that the spell is a general spell. It doesn't say every female in Sunnydale falls in love with Xander or fall in love with your wife's sister."

"What does it say?"

"To say it with the symbols of the book: Make clear one path of love and make you not only see but also want to walk it."

"'Make clear' as in build a new one or put up signposts at an existing one?"

"Buffy, the spell I found is only to make you aware of a love that you already feel. It just washes away doubts and other rational thoughts - or the love for others."

She sat down next to him.

"If this isn't artificial love, do we have to cast a counter-spell?"

"Of course. I mean, just look at that man and his family. He probably loved his wife. And even if he doesn't, he should find that out himself. But we can only cast a counter-spell, if we are sure that this is the right spell. Steve and Millie were in love before and I guess that woman might well have had a crush on her colleague and that poor man mentioned strange feelings for his sister-in-law. And I..."

She looked at him.

"...I never thought of you in that way. But that was because I deliberately chose not to and not because I didn't feel that way. I have known for quite a while now that I could love you, if I wanted to. Or maybe I should say if I allowed myself to do it."

They looked at each other and Buffy was very aware of what he was thinking. They all had realized their love for someone they had already loved somewhere deep in their heart, but what about her?

"I... I never thought about you like that. But I always loved you. And when I realized I loved you like that, too, it wasn't 'Gee, I love Giles'. I... I knew exactly why and how and it made perfect sense. You and I are meant to be together. And I refuse to believe that this knowledge wasn't somewhere inside me before I read this damned book."

She looked at him seriously.

"I love you, Giles. And it is real."

"Then I guess we should cast the counter-spell."

When Buffy didn't answer he asked.

"Are you okay with that?"

Buffy nodded and when he got up to get the things he needed she held him back.

"Giles, I... I wanted to let you know that even if... even if for some reason, we choose to take different paths after this is over, I... I love you. And I want us to promise that we'll always be friends."

"I promise."

She put her arms around him and kissed him. He hugged her back and when she let go she tried to smile.

"Why can't I just meet someone at the Bronze, go out with him and fall in love? I guess that's just too much to ask for."

"We should cast the spell and you should go to LA tomorrow so we have time to think about what happened and how we feel about it. Maybe you want to talk about it with Cordelia or even Angel. Maybe you can chatter with Willow."

"'Chat', Giles. It's 'chatting' not 'chattering'."

"Whatever you say."

They smiled at each other and prepared everything.

They held each others hands while he performed the cast and then it was over.

Buffy felt a sudden emptiness, but also a certain relief. She was totally herself again. She looked at Giles, who was smiling at her.

She smiled back.

"I think I'll manage without you for the rest of the day."

"Sure."

There was an awkward silence before she got up and picked up her jacket.

He got up as well and they walked into the salesroom together.

"Bye."

Buffy went to the door.

"Have a nice time in LA."

She turned around and walked back to him, looking down.

He hesitated a moment before kissing her on the forehead twice, careful not to do it faster or slower than usually, not wanting her to interpret it in any way. They would have a day to think about everything and they would need that day.

She went to the door, turning around once again to smile at him before she got out into the sunny day and walked past the display out of his sight.

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

The next morning was very quiet even for the hardly-frequented "Library". There was no customer and only one phone call.

Giles sat behind the counter trying to read a book, but his thoughts kept turning to Buffy. Not that he had much to think about. Everything seemed pretty clear for him.

He loved Buffy. The counter-spell hadn't changed that in any way. And he wasn't surprised by that either.

He had always known that this path existed, he just never set out to find and see it. Now he had seen it in all its glory. And the conviction that she didn't return his feelings, the main reason for not seeking that path long before, was gone now.

The counter-spell may have reversed all his feelings to the point where they had been before, but now that the barrier that had held him back from loving Buffy was gone, he had fallen in love with her again so fast that he didn't even notice it after he cast the spell.

Now it was up to her to decide what path lay in front of them or rather if he would be able to walk the one calling to him so invitingly.

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

Buffy sat in the bus on her way back from LA. She thought about Giles, just as she had every waking minute since falling in love with him.

At first the thought of loving Giles had felt alien. Like the answer of an equation that you knew was right, but that just looked implausible. She had wondered whether these feelings might have been artificial after all, but then the counter-spell wouldn't have worked, so it had to be true that she loved Giles. Or at least could love him.

That left her with a decision, most people weren't so lucky to make. She could *choose* whether she wanted to love Giles or not. (Well at least in that way, because she of course already did love him on so many levels.) That choice was a welcome change to her blinding obsession with Angel. But it also meant that she would have to live with the consequences from her decision.

There were so many things to consider, so many insecurities.

The only thing she was sure of was that Giles loved her. 'I have known for quite a while now that I could love you, if I wanted to.'

The emotions they had experienced were calling out to her, wanting to be repeated. She had never been aware of her possible feelings for Giles and still found that calling hard to ignore. For Giles, who had been so close to loving her, it must be impossible.

And even if he tried to fight it, she knew that if she really wanted to, she would break his will in a second. She smiled at that thought.

What would it mean if she chose to love him?

They would have sex. It was probably quite shallow of her to think of that first, but that was a discussion with herself so it didn't matter.

Sex. The image that came up caused two quite contrary emotions in her: Eww and Ahh.

Something in her couldn't help finding the thought of Giles having sex something she'd rather not see, hear or even think about. Even if it was the thought of Giles having sex with herself. He was after all tweed-clad, fortyish, bespectacled Giles, more often than not his nose in a book. In other words he was someone who shouldn't have sex or at least hide it so that her sensitive teenage mind wouldn't have to think about it.

Then there was this other part. The part of her that kept thinking of her dream and the kisses and the couch in the back office. His hands on her breasts. His tongue in her mouth. The thought of it made her dizzy and she felt a warmth spread through her whole body. She desired him. As much as she ever had any man. As much as she had desired Angel. But Giles could fulfill her desire.

Time to change the subject. What had it been?

'What would it mean if she chose to love him?'

She would have someone again. For all those things between sex and what friends did for you. Kissing, cuddling, sitting on his lap during the long hours of research, feeding you with pizza and eating the crumbs off your face. All those little things that she longingly saw in the pictures Willow sent her and that she had seen so many times before she and Oz had gone one tour. One could live without it, but how much more beautiful would life be if she had that too? And hadn't that been the road their relationship had taken since she started working with him in "The Library"?

She wondered for the first time if things had come to that point even if they hadn't read the book. What had she said before casting the counter-spell? 'You and I are meant to be together.' That conviction had somewhat faded after her feelings were reversed, but maybe it had been true nonetheless.

Next subject. What was there else? Friendship they already had and she had 'discussed' sex and the in between. It would mean more than its parts of course.

She thought of a life where she was together with Giles. Possibly living with him. No, probably. She thought about waking up - next to him, showering - with him (sex again, really Buffy, we had that didn't we ;-), eating breakfast, something she fixed and that wasn't really great but he would still eat all of it because he loved her. Working and stealing into the back office, when no customer was present and closing the store for lunch and other things (Buffy! Not again.), then working and driving home (he would let her drive of course) and after dinner they had time for research, patrolling and, well, ...(All right, I give up.).

There was of course the matter of going to bed, but she didn't want to upset the reasonable part of herself that wanted to think and come to a decision, instead of dreaming of various places and positions, where they... oops.

Time for the other possibility. Not loving him.

The scenario for that was easy. It would be as it had been, which was wonderful enough, but compared to the alternative?

No. If she really wanted to make a good choice, a choice based on thorough examination of the possibilities, she needed reasons against loving him.

And the first one popped up immediately: What would the others say?

Willow and Oz, piece of cake. Cordelia, well, after their visits she thought Cordy would probably understand her and even if she didn't she would support her and be happy for her. Xander, on the other hand, was quite likely to take it not nearly that well. But somewhere inside she had the feeling that he would be able to accept it, something he had never been able to do with her love for Angel. Which brought her to the last person. Angel. Seeing him had been painful as always and she knew that she still loved him, but that was something that was not likely to ever stop and it *had* been easier this time. That wasn't necessarily because of Giles though.

The book had made her realize that it was useless to deny or fight her feelings for Angel and maybe it was that that made it easier for her to see him and leave him again.

And as for Angel's reaction: He would be sad, but also happy for her and she knew that happiness was what he wished most for her. It had been the reason he had left her, after all.

So her friends weren't the problem. She wasn't so sure about her Mom though. Her relationship with Giles was awkward after that Bandcandy incident and considering how uncomfortable her mother was with everything related to her being the Slayer, she probably wouldn't be too happy with Buffy marrying her Watcher. (Marriage? Where did that thought come from?) She would think Buffy was trying to get her father back through Giles and she would either blame herself or Hank or most probably both of them for that. And her father would maybe even think the same. (Hey! At least they'd agree on something again ;-/ ) It wasn't going to be pretty, but even if it added to their difficulties, they would be able to live through it. Her Mom loved her too much to let something like this come between them. Especially if she told her the truth from the beginning.

Then there would be other people. People on the street, in restaurants, anywhere. And while she could probably live with a few stares on the street, she didn't know if she wanted to start her career in college as the freak whose boyfriend was not only twice her age (more even), but who was also Giles, with all the characteristics mentioned under Eww.

She was aware that she would be considered strange sooner or later for the same reasons she had in Sunnydale High, but at least she could walk along the hall or go to the Bronze without people stopping to talk and pointing fingers at her. And she could definitely live without that.

But maybe that wouldn't be as bad if she was married to Giles and could introduce him as her husband. There it was again. Marriage.

She had never thought about marriage since she was 13 and now it kept coming up. She thought about a lovely white gown and walking the aisle led by her father. To Giles. Stop. This was the part where she thought about reasons for *not* loving Giles. And marriage was not one of them. The enormous costs of the wedding perhaps. She doubted if they could afford it with the meager amount "The Library" made, but then her reasonable self got her back on track.

Age.

What did it mean apart from what others would think of them? Well she only knew what it didn't mean. If they were a normal couple it would mean that in twenty years she would be 38 and he would be 60something. And in forty years she would be 58 and he would be 80something. And while she could very well imagine Giles as an 80-year-old, she knew that she wasn't likely to live past... Did she really want to think about that? The only thing she knew was that she would most probably die before him, so *if* age was a problem it would be his problem. He would be the one who would have to live without her, who would have to bury her.

No problem there on her side. She tried to push away those depressing thoughts.

What else spoke against loving him? She thought about it, honestly trying to come up with a single reason, no matter how trivial, that she shouldn't love Giles.

Other men? They were A) difficult (hiding her calling and everything associated with it, then telling him and hoping that he'd understand and behave correctly and never be in danger) B) not likely to make her happier or even as happy as Giles would and C) not easy to find.

What else? One of them could fall in love with someone else. And while she wasn't so naive to think it couldn't happen, she also knew that it was only as likely as in any other relationship or at least not likelier. The only way to avoid that danger would be to never have a relationship again, and if she decided to do that, she might as well bare her neck for the next vampire crossing her.

But maybe there *was* one point to consider in that. What would their relationship be like if they, for whatever reason, broke up?

He had promised her that they'd always be friends. Buffy thought about that and came to the conclusion, that it was true. If they broke up, it would be in honesty. She knew that she could never cheat on Giles and vice versa. If one of them fell in love with someone else, he or she would tell the other. She was sure of that. And she wanted to believe that nothing could happen between them, that they couldn't be friends any more if they wanted to. And wanting they always would.

Any other reason? She couldn't think of one.

So now was the time to decide.

Only it was too late. Now that she sat in the bus that took her back to Sunnydale and to Giles, she realized that along the way, while 'discussing' with herself, she had already made the decision. She had turned further away from the Angel-path to the bright open path that would lead her and Giles to happiness.

Or to say it less symbolic-pathetic: She had fallen in love with Giles.

'Welcome to Sunnydale'

The lit sign stood out in the dark of the night.

Welcome to a new life.

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

She didn't consider going to Giles that same night. Now that she'd made her decision she felt oddly calm. Not that she wanted to wait any longer than necessary (images of that back office couch kept springing up in her mind), but she wanted to sleep over it and wake up without a doubt. And even more importantly, she felt that "The Library" was the only appropriate place for letting him know that she wanted a ring on her finger, the moment Willow, Xander and Oz were available.

She dreamed of their wedding. The chapel, the huge white cake that Xander ate alone, Willow catching the flowers and then the wedding night.

When she woke up, she wondered for a second why Giles was not lying next to her and then she remembered that she had yet to tell him that she loved him. And what a wonderful thought that was. She felt like singing while she got up and prepared herself. She wasn't sure what to wear, then decided for a bright summer dress.

She half ran, half skipped to "The Library" not caring about the people who looked after her, mostly smiling.

She wasn't surprised to find the store open already although it was still a quarter of an hour to their usual opening time.

She looked through the display and saw Giles standing at the counter obviously trying to read something although he seemed unable to concentrate. His eyes ran over the same lines again and again and he ran his hand through his hair and over his face.

She opened the door and leaned to it as it closed, laughing when Giles moved back and took the book with him, so that it fell to the ground. (He had scolded her more than once when she had dropped a book and had answered her "Giles, they're books, not glass" with a reproachful "Buffy, they are delicate and need the same attention, you would give any object of value".)

He picked up the book and moved around the counter towards her. She still leaned against the door smiling her most dashing smile. He bent down and kissed her on the cheek as he had done the other two times she had come back from LA.

The kiss offered everything and nothing. It was up to her.

She took his hand and pulled him into the back office.

"Now we talk?"

She shook her head.

Then she took his face in her hands and dragged it to hers, looking into his eyes for a moment before kissing him. Just like their relationship it started slowly and carefully, but then when their tongues finally met it moved on at mind-blowing speed.

When he realized that she had unbuttoned his shirt, rational thoughts fought their way to the surface.

"Buffy, we have to..."

"Stop?"

"Either that or close the store."

She was happily surprised.

"Really?"

"You seem so surprised."

"I am. In the best possible way. For a second I thought you wanted to wait until the wedding night."

"Wedding night?"

"Eh... well... you know..."

"You would marry me?"

"If you'd ask."

He looked perplexed.

"I've tried to prepare for everything, but that was nothing that even crossed my mind. Not that I don't want to marry you, because I do."

She smiled at him and kissed him again. She moved her hands to his chest, when he pulled away and gently took her hands in his.

"Do you think you can wait a couple more hours?"

"What?"

"I would... I would like to prepare dinner for us and... well, I guess it won't be a surprise anyway, so I might as well tell you now..."

"What?"

"A ring. Flowers. The right surrounding for me getting on my knees and proposing."

She smiled at him.

"Giles, you don't have to do that."

"But I want to."

"Okay."

She sighed and then added hopefully.

"We could still close the store?"

"Only a couple of hours. Is that too much to ask for after three years?"

She pouted a little and said "No", nodding at the same time though.

"Okay, then I'll go buy some things and be back in an hour or so."

She sighed again.

"We could order some pizza for lunch though."

Her face brightened visibly.

"Close the store and eat in the back office?"

He nodded, smiling. She threw her arms around him and whispered seductively into his ear.

"I'll be waiting."

They kissed and he went out winking at her before leaving the store.

When he came back at half-past ten, Buffy greeted him with a searing kiss. He extracted himself from her embrace.

"Buffy, I said lunch."

"Can't we have early lunch? It's almost..."

"It's half-past ten. Not before twelve."

She pouted, but to no avail. During the next one and a half hours, Buffy sneaked up on him several times kissing his neck, cheek or mouth, trying to break his will, but he was determined and actually seemed to enjoy himself quite a bit.

Three minutes before twelve a customer came in in search of a book. Buffy was tempted to tell him that they'd closed, but she knew that they needed the money and that Giles would be mad at her. So she obligingly waited next to the door ready to lock it after the customer left. Giles consulted with him as best as he could, trying to ignore Buffy's pleading look and her gestures at her watch.

The customer bought a book, a rather expensive one even, and left thanking both Giles and Buffy who smiled politely and opened the door for him.

When he was gone she locked the door and turned around the open sign. Then she jumped into Giles' waiting arms and they staggered onto the back office couch.

When she let him come up for air, Giles said.

"Buffy, I haven't changed my mind about waiting until tonight. I just said we could have lunch here."

"That's exactly what I'm doing right now. Stilling my hunger."

She kissed his neck.

"We should order the pizza."

She jumped up from the couch, ran to the phone and ordered so fast that he could barely catch his breath, before she was back on top of him.

"Buffy, please..."

"I got it. Waiting until tonight. I'll manage. At least with *it*. Everything else I can't guarantee."

With that she ripped open his shirt, sending buttons flying across the room.

He gave up resistance and let her have her way starting his own explorations on her body as well.

By the time the pizza arrived, his upper body was totally naked. Buffy's dress was open and hanging around her waist. The straps of her bra had been pushed down her shoulders and her breasts were exposed to his hands and mouth.

Giles didn't care to put his shirt back on. He got the pizza and when he came back in Buffy was fully dressed again, smiling at him. He put the pizza on the table and gathered his tie and a spare shirt putting them on. She sat down on a chair and started eating. When he was finished dressing he came up behind her and kissed her cheek.

"Thank you. Call me old-fashioned, but I want to make love with you for the first time in a bed."

He sat down and started eating as well.

"That's okay. This couch will come sooner or later."

She grinned at him.

"And knowing you, I guess it's sooner rather than later."

She got up and sat down on his lap, putting her arms around his waist. Then she looked into his face.

"I love you, Giles."

"I love you, too, Buffy."

They went on eating, and after opening the store again, spent the times that no customers were present with Buffy sitting on Giles' lap. They were reading to each other, one of the books Buffy had brought from LA. (Angel always had a few books for them.)

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

At half past five, Giles left to prepare their dinner. Buffy was supposed to stay there and close "The Library" at the usual time (which was 7) and then go directly to Giles' place.

But when he opened the door at 7.15, Buffy wore a breath-taking black cocktail dress, the hair in golden curls around a lovely (and newly made-up) face.

She gave him a puppy look and said.

"I left at 6. Are you mad?"

"As if I could."

He pulled her inside and kissed her on the forehead.

"The only problem is, that I'm totally underdressed now."

He was still wearing the same he had, when he left her and now he got up the stairs taking two at a time.

She looked after him and after a while called up.

"You know, you needn't fuss about it too much. It's not like you'll have that on for very long."

Shortly after that he came down, wearing the same outfit he had at the prom.

He led her to the living room, where he had prepared a small table. Nothing fancy, not even candles, only a few flowers as decoration.

"I guess we're totally overdressed for my little dinner. We could still go out though."

"Only if you know a place where I can at any given point sit on your lap and rip the clothes off you."

"Well, then..."

He moved to the table and pulled out one of the chairs helping her sit.

"I'll be back in a moment."

He brought the food and they ate, talking about the past day. Not what they had thought, but just about how many books he sold and how Cordy was doing.

When they were done Giles took the plates to the kitchen. As he opened the door to the fridge, he called out to her.

"Do you care for dessert?"

"Very much."

He turned around abruptly, surprised that she was behind him and before he could even say anything, she had captured him in searing kiss.

"Buffy, I still have to..."

She put a finger on his mouth.

"Later."

Then she kissed him again, moving her hands through his hair. Her tongue found his and the hands now seeking to touch his chest by removing his clothes made him forget what it had been that he had yet to tell her.

They moved to the bedroom, slowly, staggering, finding their way by touch because they just couldn't stop kissing.

By the time they lay down on the bed they were both naked and so aroused that it seemed impossible not to hurry. But they took their time, skin moving heatedly against skin, lips and tongues exploring and marking their territory forever.

Then finally Buffy cupped Giles' face. He understood her silent command. As he placed the tip of his rock-hard penis at her entrance, they looked at each other. It was a moment of perfect understanding between them. After three years, they had found the only possible conclusion to their relationship. They shared a smile that wasn't on their lips but in their eyes. It was a serious smile but for this short moment the enormity of their feelings for each other, their true love, just swept away all giddiness and desire.

Then he thrust into her. Two moans filled the room, soon to be followed by more sounds of an experience that went beyond passion. They moved against each other finding a rhythm that brought them pleasures neither had thought possible.

Giles' hard shaft filled her tight heat again and again, bringing them closer to the edge. Every time his slick body touched her clit a small shout escaped her lips and soon she began to contract around him.

When he felt that she was close he began to pound into her as fast as he could.

Then Buffy exploded beneath him shouting out.

"Ruuuuuuuuuuuupert."

One more thrust and he came with her, flooding her with his hot seed and joining her scream with his own.

"Buffy."

Then they lay in each other's arms panting.

Giles was already getting drowsy, when he suddenly felt Buffy straddling him and kissing his neck.

"Buffy, please..."

"What?"

"I still have to..."

"What?"

"Propose."

"Can't that wait?"

"Please."

"All right."

She sighed and got off him. And he got out of the bed, hurrying down and up again. He got down on his knees next to the bed. She was lying on her side, propping her head in her right hand, looking amused.

He cleared his throat and she laughed.

"Buffy, it's hard enough to appear dignified when you're naked."

"Guess, that wasn't the surrounding you were talking about."

"Not really."

He leaned forward onto the bed and kissed her.

They looked at each other and then he whispered into her ear.

"Will you marry me?"

"No."

She burst out laughing and he glared at her as best as he could.

She snatched the small box from his hand and popped it open.

"Rather nice."

"Well, since you don't want to marry me..."

"I will, I will. But only if you come here - *now*."

She patted the sheet next to her.

He obeyed and soon they were making love again. This time she was on top and after she rode them both to completion, she collapsed on top of him and they again lay together arms around each other.

"So many years wasted."

"They weren't wasted. I think we needed that time to become what we now are for each other. Plus I could have gotten arrested."

She smiled into his neck.

"But we could have done it so many times already. And so many places."

"You are a wicked girl."

"And now we'll never get to do it in the library. I mean the one in Sunnydale High."

He said nothing, realizing that the sadness attached to that statement was only partly joke.

"Maybe we could sneak in after they rebuilt it."

She lifted her head and looked at him her eyes shining with joy.

"I will remind you of that."

She kissed him and laid her head back on his shoulder.

There was a pleasant silence.

"Maybe we could find a new house until the wedding."

"Buffy..."

"It's not that I don't like your apartment, I mean I love it, especially this bed..."

"Buffy, that's not the problem, I just don't see how we can afford it."

"The museums offers you stuff so often. Couldn't you accept their offers once in a while."

"I guess I could, but..."

"And we could sell a few books that are interesting for normal people..."

"Buffy!"

"Only a few."

"I can understand, that you don't want to move in with me, but rather have a new place. *Our* place."

"It's not that. I just think... this is a little small for a young..."

"Couple? I thought, young couples needed the least space."

He smiled fondly at her.

"Family was what I wanted to say."

His smile faded.

"You..."

"Giles, I would love to have children."

"But you never..."

"It wasn't an option with Angel and I wasn't thinking about it anyway. I was so young."

"You *are* so young."

"But I will never be old, so it doesn't count."

"Buffy."

"I know, you don't want to hear that. I don't want to hear it myself most of the time, but it's a fact. I will die sooner rather than later and now that I have you, I want you to have someone when I'm gone. Someone to care for, someone who will remind you of me."

"As if I could ever forget you."

"Giles, I really want to have children. Your children. And I thought you would want them, too, since you forget something in your nice little scenario."

"What...?"

"Let me give you a hint, it has something to do with having babies or not and begins with con."

"Contraceptives."

"Well, that wasn't the exact word I was thinking about, but yes."

"I'm sorry, I was..."

"It's okay. I suppose you had other things on your mind. But if you really don't want children, we..."

"Buffy, I *do* want children. I've always wanted them. Well, not always. Certainly not when I was young, but when I grew older and... lonelier I thought about it. But when I came here and after Jenny... I tried to get used to the fact that you were the only children that I'd ever had.

I could think of nothing I'd rather do than fathering your children."

"Now, that sounds rather technical."

"Buffy, I love you so much. And if a child or even children would come from that love I'd be ever-grateful."

"Better."

She smiled at him.

"But maybe we should still be careful right now. We could wait a little until..."

"I don't want to wait."

"But you are still so young."

"I think we had that."

"Being a mother is a great responsibility."

"And you think I couldn't handle it?"

"No, I just... this is still so new. We've been together not even a full day."

"But we know each other forever. We're friends, Watcher and Slayer, boss and employee. This last step really isn't that much more if you think about it."

"You are right I guess. I don't think a child could wish for better parents, except perhaps, for ones not as likely to die."

"Let's not think about that now."

"Buffy, can I say one last thing?"

"Of course you can."

"You are the strongest person that I know, and not only physically, but... don't you think all of this will be too much? Slaying, College, 'The Library', being married to me and on top of all that a child."

"Hey. I'm the Chosen One. If I want to I can handle everything. And I could choose not to go to college."

"Oh, no. You know exactly what your mother will think of that."

"When I tell her that I'll marry you, she won't speak to me anyway."

"That's not funny. You shouldn't give up your education for me."

"Giles, I already have a job. I'm the Slayer. And I have been employee of the month in 'The Library' for three months straight."

He glared at her briefly.

"Your mother would still be upset."

"Giles, when we place a grandchild in her arms, she'll forgive us everything. And as for the other stuff. I bet Willow, Oz and Xander would help out as babysitter any time."

Giles thought about whether he wanted to leave his children in Xander's care and suddenly started laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"I just realized that four days ago, the most exciting thing in my life was the prospect of that new book about swords and now I am thinking about whether Xander would make a good babysitter for our children. Life's paths really make some strange turns."

"Good ones was what you wanted to say I guess."

"Good would be boring. I don't think that living with you and being around Xander and the others will ever be boring."

"Boring not, but exhausting."

She moved on top of him and started kissing his chest.

"With a little training I just might live up to your expectations."

"Until now you, exceeded them by far."

And with that she proceeded to lead him down the path of ecstasy and more generally happiness.

*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~*

Later Buffy would insist that they conceived their first child Gregory that first night, but Giles wasn't so sure if it was then or on one of the next days, when they made love in numerous places (and positions). He had been right with his assumption, that the back office couch would come soon. They couldn't keep their hands off each other and he would have probably closed the store quite often, if Buffy didn't insist on leaving it open. She wanted them to make enough money to buy the little house she had spotted for them. It was badly in need for a renovation, but they could afford it and it had enough room for them, a lot of books, training space and their children.

They moved in after their wedding and it was renovated shortly before Gregory was born. Buffy did not go to college, but neither she nor Giles regretted that because they could spent more time together and Buffy discovered books as a source of education. After deciding not to go to college, Giles gave her a book about architecture. She found it very interesting and more importantly she found out that education didn't have to be a constant boredom. Especially if you could choose what you wanted to learn and what not.

Their second child followed shortly after the first, but Giles' worry that it would be too much for her turned out to be groundless. If anything, being with her kids seemed to strenghten Buffy.

When their daughter Lisa was 14 she found a book in the attic titled 'Ways of Love'. Her father took it from her telling her it had a spell attached to it, something she didn't believe, but she didn't protest, knowing it would be useless (he was not nearly as responsive to her pouting as to her mother's).

Giles looked at the book and tried to remember those days. They had burned the four books and the five that had arrived in the package shortly before they had found out it was a spell. It had been hard for him, not because of the books themselves, but he generally hated it when books were destroyed. His copy however had not been destroyed. Buffy had wanted to keep it. They had never discussed what would have been if it hadn't been for those books, but now he wondered if their life would have been the same or at least similar or if it would have taken a completely different path.

Buffy entered the room and sat on his lap. She was 34 now, but looked hardly older than 21. He on the other hand, though still being handsome, looked his age and that often caused laughter, when they went on a family trip and people thought he was a father with his five children and sometimes they took him for the grandfather. Buffy was always happy to clear that up, usually presenting her ID to convince people that she was indeed the mother and not sister of their four children.

Now she sat on his lap and noticed the book in front of him.

"Don't tell me you've been reading that."

"Never. I caught Liz with it."

"Where did she find it? I haven't seen it for centuries."

"The attic."

"Going through old books in that dusty place. Now that's something she didn't get from me."

"But just like you she was intrigued by it and wanted to read it."

"But she didn't yet, I hope."

"No, I took it from her. Told her it has a spell attached, but I think she didn't believe me."

"Didn't you tell her about what happened to us?"

"We never told anyone. I saw no reason to change our story."

"You're right. Maybe we should tell them the truth though."

"The truth?"

"That it was the book that triggered it, even if we did fall in love without it."

"I've been thinking about what would have been if it wasn't for that book."

"And?"

"Nothing. You came in and as always your presence swept away any coherent thought."

She kissed him.

"What do you think would have happened?"

"You probably would have fallen in love with some college boy and I would have ended up a bitter old Watcher, lusting for his Slayer and being a grandfather to her children. So it wouldn't have been any different for me."

She hit him playfully.

"Lusting for your Slayer, are you?"

"Very much."

He started kissing her neck.

"Rupert."

She sighed in pleasure.

He lifted her up and placed her on the desk in front of him. She moved beneath him pushing the book aside and as he kissed her he saw the book out of the corner of his eye. He wondered who it had been, that had not only made the books, but sent them to him and not just any other store. But then he realized that he didn't really care.

The path of life turned left or right so often, that it just wasn't possible to tell, where you would have ended up, had you taken a different turn at a certain point. Whether it was the book or their love that had taken them to where they were now, was not important. They were alive, they were happy, they were together.

And as he made love to his wife he thought of the years they had spent together, the birth of their children, working in their store, fixing something in their house, parties they had given, demons they had killed.

They had beaten death a couple of times and he was grateful for every second he was allowed to spend with her. Whether it was making love or doing the dishes together and even if he disagreed with her, such as the time she had told the others of their making love in the store and Xander had jumped off the couch as if it were on fire. They never fell asleep angry with each other. And they woke arm in arm, seeking the other even in sleep.

Somewhere downstairs he heard Matthew and Caroline fight over something noisily, until Greg stopped them. Then the only sounds were Buffy's whispered vows of love as they moved in the rhythm that was their own since that first night.

 

Every story needs an ending, but as this writer struggles to find the right words, she realizes that they can't be found, because Buffy and Giles will live on happily as long as they are allowed to. And put an end to their life, she could never do, so she leaves them alone and lets them continue their path just as she follows her own.

END