Paycheck
By Rari Coss

TITLE: Paycheck
AUTHOR: Rari Coss
E-MAIL ADDRESS: RariCoss1956@yahoo.com
SPOILER WARNING: Season 6, through Dead Things, specific mentions about things in Helpless and Checkpoint
RATING: NC-17
PAIRING: B/G
DISTRIBUTION: Gabi, Nikki, Dee, Dword, Della
DISCLAIMER: It all belongs to Joss, the WB, UPN, Fox, Mutant Enemy and anybody else who feels they own it. I’m just borrowing, lost in admiration, and then giving them back, memories wiped clean, although I bet the characters would rather keep these memories than the ones they're having to deal with on the real show.
SUMMARY: Buffy goes to England for Giles’ birthday...madness ensues
NOTES: This is a birthday present for Kerry, in answer to her birthday challenge fic request
FEEDBACK: Absolutely.
THANKS: To Dword, for keeping all my stories and pictures so pretty all the time: http://www.dwordslist.net/rariindex.html And then thanks to Gileswench, Deb, Lori Ann, and Ruth for their ongoing beta assistance.


Buffy walked into the Magic Box. When she got to the counter she saw a gift-wrapped present, a card and a legal sized business envelope sitting in a pile. Frowning she looked up at Anya. "What’s this stuff?"

"It's Giles' birthday in a few days. I'm sending him a present and a card."

"It's his birthday? When is it his birthday?" Buffy didn't think she'd ever given Giles' birthday a thought in all the years she'd known him.

"Day after tomorrow."

"Huh. That's gonna get there late, isn't it?" Without waiting for an answer Buffy picked up the envelope. "So what's this?"

"His paycheck."

Buffy's brow furrowed. "You send him a paycheck?"

Anya shook her head. "No, that's from the Watcher's Council. He keeps telling them he's moved but they keep sending his mail here."

Buffy's jaw dropped. "He's still getting paid as a Watcher? When I'm the one here alone doing the Slaying?"

Anya shrugged. "He's still a Watcher. Most Watchers have never even met a Slayer."

Buffy's eyes grew dark. "I don't care. I'm working a minimum wage job that I hate, watching my bills mount up and he's in England doing squat, and he's the one getting paid?"

Anya shrugged again. Buffy put her purse on the counter and pulled out her checkbook. She held her checkbook, looking at the figures while angrily tapping the edge of the paycheck envelope on the counter. The bell rang on the front door and Willow walked in. "Hey Buffy, Anya."

"Willow, how much does it cost to fly to England?"

Willow made a puzzled face. "I don't know. Was I supposed to know this?"

"Could you find out for me?"

"Sure, why?"

Buffy wanted to wait to see how much it cost before she said anything. "Could you just look it up?"

Willow set up her laptop and began hitting keys. "When do you want to go?"

"Tomorrow."

Willow's eyebrows rose. "That's gonna make it more expensive." She entered that information in. "When do you want to come back?"

Buffy whined. "God, do you have to know all this stuff?"

Willow nodded. "I can't price it without it."

"Fine, make it a week later. I can change it if I have to, can't I?"

"Yeah, it may cost you some money."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Is there anything that doesn't cost me some money?"

Willow let out a sigh and let that one go. "Do you have a passport?"

Buffy let out another whine. "Oh God. How fast can I get one?"

Anya chimed in. "Six weeks."

Buffy shook her head. "Wrong answer."

Willow came up with additional information. "You can go to LA and get one right away." She looked at her watch. "If you hurry."

Buffy gestured at Willow to hurry with the price. "So how much is it gonna cost me?"

Willow threw out a price and Buffy's jaw dropped. "How much?"

Willow told her again. "It's because you're leaving so soon."

Anya looked up from her paperwork. "Aren't there last minute fares you can get with some airline companies?"

Willow's eyes lit up. "Yeah. Let me check those sites." Willow's fingers flew across the keyboard and then she smiled. "Okay, still not cheap but it's about half the cost of the other one."

Buffy looked at her checkbook again and chewed the inside of her cheek as she considered her options. "Okay, book it. I'll use the last of Giles' money. Seeing as I plan to get more from him, a whole lot more, I guess that's all right." She held up the paycheck. "I can't believe he's still being paid. There is no justice in the world." She turned back to Willow. "Oh, can you find out where I need to go to get my passport? Then I guess I better bolt."

Willow supplied her with the information and told her what she'd need to take with her for identification. Then, having procured Buffy's credit card, she started ordering the ticket. Buffy went to the counter and scooped up Anya's present and card. "I'm glad I saw this. It's time I sent Giles a birthday present. Me. And my bills. I'll give him a birthday he won't forget." She glared at his paycheck. "I risk my neck, he abandons me, and he gets the money." Rolling her eyes at the injustice of it all she swept out of the store. Before she left she turned back to Willow. "Watch Dawn for me, will you? I'll be back later tonight." Willow nodded and kept working on the ticket.

***
Passport tucked in her pocket Buffy swept into Spike's crypt. He grinned when he saw her. "Just can't stay away, can you?"

"I just came by to say good bye. I'm going to England to yell at Giles."

Spike's eyebrows rose and he took a last drag on his cigarette. "What's he done to annoy you all the way across the big pond?"

She whipped out his paycheck. "He gets paid. He gets paid to have a normal life, while I get paid nothing to be the Slayer and raise Dawn."

"How much does he get paid?"

Buffy looked at the envelope and debated with her conscience. Her anger won and she ripped it open. Buffy's jaw dropped for the second time that evening as she converted the amount into an approximate yearly salary. "I don't believe it." She looked up at Spike. "You know that money he gave me?" Spike nodded. "Well, suddenly it's looking like petty cash." She started to pace. "He is so going to pay through the nose. Who does he think he is, leaving me like this and going off to gallivant around the world?"

Spike lit another cigarette. "Does he know you're going over there to rob him blind?"

"Of course not. I don't want to give him the opportunity to run off to Monte Carlo."

Spike watched her. "Planning on shagging him while you're there?"

Buffy stared at him. "What is it with you and shagging, and especially with me and Giles shagging? God." She started pacing again.

"Are you going to try and get him to come home with you?"

Buffy stopped and thought, her face growing more determined. "Yes, dammit, I am. I'll get him and his money." She nodded her head. "I'll make him come home with me. Thanks, Spike. Good idea."

Spike rolled his eyes and shook his head, disgusted that he'd even opened his mouth. "What makes you think this little plan of yours will work?"

"It better. I had to quit my job to go. I had a moment of sheer joy taking off that uniform, knowing I would never put it on again. God, I hated that job." She jabbed herself in the chest with her thumb. "I'm never working again. I'm going to be a kept woman." She grimaced. "Without the kept part, or with the kept part but without the free sex part, well, not that I plan to charge money, but..." She waved her hand in the air. "Never mind." She hesitated. "Will you keep an eye on Dawn? She wanted to go but I can barely afford my ticket as it is."

Spike cocked his head at her. "Yeah, I'll watch her. Fancy a quick shag before you leave?"

She shook her head. "That's over, Spike." She waved the paycheck in the air. "You're looking at a free woman, no more chains, and that includes you."

Spike looked hurt. "Well, then get the hell out of here, and don't bother coming back."

Buffy took in his look. "Spike. I'm sorry. You kind of got caught in my hurricane of pain. But I can't do it anymore. It's time I started making my life what I want it to be. And right now, that means no men, human or otherwise."

"Except your Watcher?"

"Well, yeah. But that's different. I'm not involved with him." Having nothing further to say Buffy smiled uncertainly at Spike and left his crypt.

Spike ground out his cigarette. "Yeah, right." He hopped back up on the stone coffin and lay down, staring at the ceiling.

***
Giles stepped outside of his flat. It had become a routine after waking, to go next door to the small café for some tea and a pastry of sorts. Giles found it soothing to start the day off at a gentle pace, even though it inevitably deteriorated due to his general state of unhappiness.

Picking his usual table he caught the waitress' eye. She brought him his tea and a selection of bakery goods. Choosing one he smiled at her and sat back, the book on the table unopened for the time being. Giles let out a sigh as he found himself already having to push aside unbidden thoughts of Buffy. Suddenly he heard a squeal. "Oh, my God, aren't you Mr. Giles?"

Giles looked up in some alarm to find two young women looking at him excitedly. He answered cautiously. "Yes, I am Rupert Giles."

One of the girls jabbed the other. "I told you it was him." They both sat down at his table, much to his dismay. One of the girls pointed to herself. "I'm Rhonda, this is Michelle. We went to Sunnydale High. You were the librarian there."

"Oh, right, of course." He stared at them both, at a loss. Finally he thought of something to say. "I'm afraid that I didn't recognize you at first, I wasn't expecting to see anyone I know from California here."

"I know, isn't it fun, though? I forgot you were English. I mean we knew you had that great accent and everything but we never figured you'd come back here, I mean, with Buffy and all." She frowned. "Or maybe you're just on vacation. Are you on vacation? We are." She looked at Michelle as if to confirm the fact that they were indeed on vacation.

Michelle nodded firmly. "Totally on vacation. Is Buffy here?"

Giles looked confused. "I live here now, and no, Buffy isn't here. You remember Buffy?"

"Well, like, yeah. Class protector. And all those weird rumors about her dying and then her not being dead. She was always kind of an odd duck." She bit her lip. "So you two have a falling out, or something?"

"Or something." He fondled his book, hoping they'd take the hint and leave.

"Bummer. You two always seemed so, you know, foreverish. I mean it was kind of creepy her being so young and you being so old, but hey, whatever."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You know, you and Buffy."

Michelle slapped Rhonda on the arm. "Well, if these guys broke up that explains why she was with that guy."

Rhonda opened her mouth. "God, you're right." She grimaced and looked at Giles. "I'd swear she was doing it with someone, at the Bronze."

Giles shook his head. "Doing it?"

"You know, having sex. Right there, in front of everyone."

"He was sort of cute."

"I know, but I can't believe she did it right out in the open. I mean, anyone could have seen."

"Yeah, like us."

"Right. Exactly." She frowned. "And that blonde hair of his is so out of a bottle."

"I did like his leather jacket. That was cool. Although, what's with her new haircut? She so needs to see my hairdresser." Rhonda and Michelle nodded at each other.

"Buffy's having..." Giles' face blanched at the thought of Buffy having sex, never a comfortable thought process for him at best. Then his face grew more pale at the thought of her having sex in public, not to mention that it sounded as if she had been with Spike.

Michelle made a small moue with her lips. "Oops, are you still in love with her?" She looked at Rhonda. "Maybe we shouldn't have mentioned Buffy and, you know, having sex."

Rhonda nodded and looked at Giles, snapping her gum. "Forget we said that." With that accomplished she leaned in towards Giles, as if to share the deepest of secrets. "So, come on, tell us, what did you have on Snyder?"

"What?" This conversation was rapidly spiraling out of control in so many truly alarming ways.

"Snyder. I mean everyone knew you were messing around with Buffy, but he never fired you. What was with that? What juicy skeleton did you have on him? You can tell us now, cuz, you know, he's dead and you and Buffy aren't together anymore."

"Buffy and I..." Giles couldn't seem to get out a sentence of more than three words.

"Yeah. Although the thing with Miss Calendar kinda threw us. Because I thought you were already with Buffy then. But all of sudden you were kissing Miss Calendar every time I turned around." Her eyes lit in excitement. "Unless Miss Calendar liked Buffy too." Rhonda looked at Michelle, thrilled beyond belief at the juicy gossip potentially to be revealed right before their very eyes.

Michelle gasped. "The three of you? Wow."

Giles had finally had enough. "Stop it, stop it right now. I have no idea where you are getting these ideas, but Buffy and I were never involved that way."

Rhonda rolled her eyes. "Oh please. You hardly need to lie to us now. We're all adults here and Buffy's a kazillion miles away. She'll never even know we saw you, we never see her."

Michelle had to differ. "Well, that's not quite true, we see her all the time at that fast food place."

"Oh, yeah. Well, we don't have to tell her."

"What would be the fun of that?"

"True." She looked back at Giles. "Okay, forget about that too. Now give us all the nasty details."

Giles looked at his watch and stood. "Look at the time. I have to go."

Rhonda pouted. "Damn, just when it was getting good, too." She shrugged. "Oh well." She looked at Giles' uneaten pastry. "You gonna eat that?"

Giles looked wildly at the plate. "No, please, help yourself." He went inside and handed the waitress sufficient money for the meal and for the tip. Then without another word he hurried away, moving right past his apartment, horrified at the thought of these two knocking on his door to harangue him for more details.

Rhonda split the pastry in half. "Man, he sure can keep a secret."

"I think he was a little wigged with that gossip about Buffy having sex in public."

"I know. Probably shouldn't have let that one slip until we got him to tell us about Snyder. We sort of lost our bargaining power."

Michelle nodded at Rhonda's wisdom and nibbled on her half of the pastry.

***
Giles walked for a long time and by the time he found himself back in his neighborhood he was considerably calmer. They'd misinterpreted what they'd seen, that was the only explanation. After all they'd clearly drawn as wrong a conclusion as possible about he and Buffy, and about Jenny, so how could they possibly be considered reliable informants. It had to be a misunderstanding. Buffy would never have sex with Spike, and she'd certainly never have sex with him in public.

Thus reassured he finally made his way back to his flat. Looking cautiously to make sure the two girls were nowhere to be found he quickly put his key in his door and slipped inside.

***
Giles had erotic dreams about Buffy that night. The two of them were having sex everywhere, in the Bronze, in the old library, in the Magic Box, at a cricket match, at the park down the street. Giles woke up, disoriented. He'd never had dreams like that about Buffy. He'd had the occasional waking fantasy of her but never endless sex all night long in one public venue after another. Giles hadn't had sex in public in a very long time and even though it had all been a dream, somehow he felt as if he'd been caught.

After taking a shower he decided to risk the café again. First he looked out his window to make sure the girls weren't there, although the likelihood of actually running into them again was low. Seeing that the coast was clear he headed over and took his usual table. Grabbing a free newspaper he began to peruse the front page, sipping his tea, his scones sitting to the side.

An actual shiver ran down his spine when he heard the squeal. "Oh my God, he's back."

"We are so lucky." Before he could protest, Michelle and Rhonda sat down again at his table. Rhonda continued. "We never thought we'd run into you again. It was such a drag that you had to leave yesterday before we got to finish gossiping. So...?" She looked at Giles expectedly.

Giles blew out a breath. "I thought I made myself clear, Buffy and I were simply friends..."

Michelle looked up. "Oh, look, there's Buffy now."

***
Buffy had been wandering down the street, holding the piece of paper with Giles' address on it. Finally she was standing in front of his home; she confirmed it one more time. As she was about to climb the steps to ring the bell she heard a voice. "Buffy, yoo hoo, Buffy."

***
Giles rolled his eyes. Would these girls never stop? Rhonda grinned at him. "You devil you. You said she wasn't here. Friends...right." She blew a raspberry at him.

Giles turned his head and his jaw dropped. "Good Lord, Buffy."

Buffy had started towards the cafe when she'd heard her name being called. When she heard Giles' voice she stopped and zeroed in on him, and his two female companions. Her eyes grew flinty as she stormed over to him. "This is what you're doing? Hanging around with floozies?"

Rhonda and Michelle giggled, awestruck at their luck.

Giles sputtered. "Buffy...what...how...?" He looked at his watch as if it might have an answer for him.

Buffy was on a roll. "How dare you? How dare you abandon me like that? Did you just think you could write me that one check and that would make it all right? How am I supposed to make it with an extra mouth to feed? Don't you feel any responsibility to us at all?"

Michelle and Rhonda's mouths opened wide and both of them dropped their eyes to Buffy's stomach.

Giles took his glasses off and ran his hand over his face. "Buffy..."

"No, I mean it Giles. I thought you loved me. I thought you cared about me. And here you are, with two women. You've probably been sleeping around ever since you got back. You probably haven't even thought about me once."

Giles put his glasses back on. "Buffy, stop." He glanced at Michelle and Rhonda and rolled his eyes at their rapt attention. He was sure they had never listened to a single teacher with even a fraction of this devotion.

Buffy had no intention of stopping. "I came all the way here to get you back. But you know what? Maybe I don't want you back. You and your women and your..." She waved her hand at his table, "...your scones."

Giles became annoyed. "Whether I come back or not is hardly something that you will be deciding for me. And as long as we're flinging accusations, what about you and Spike?"

Buffy's eyes widened and she winced. "How did you find out about that?"

Giles' eyebrows almost rose off his head. "You mean it's true?" He stood and glared at her. "Did you have ..." Giles swallowed and tried again. "Did you have sex with him at the Bronze?" Buffy winced again. Giles took off his glasses again, whipping out a handkerchief to clean them furiously. "And you have the audacity to stand there and accuse me of inappropriate behavior?" His movements still angry, he put his glasses back on.

Buffy stood for a moment, guilt racing across her face, searching for a response. She found it and spit it out, victorious. "Hey, you left me, remember?" Then she looked at Michelle and Rhonda and got a puzzled expression on her face. "Don't I know you?"

Rhonda nodded. "Yeah, we went to Sunnydale High with you. Same class." She pointed to Giles. "We've been keeping Mr. Giles company while he waited for you." She leaned towards Buffy. "Sorry, we kind of let the Bronze thing slip, we thought you guys had broken up." She checked out Buffy. "You look really good. I didn't even know you were pregnant."

Buffy stared at her. "What? I'm not..." She shook her head and tried again with something that felt more easily tackled. "You thought who had broken up?"

Giles interrupted. "Don't ask. It's too ridiculous for words."

"No, I want to know." She turned to Rhonda. "Tell me."

Rhonda obliged. "You and Mr. Giles. We knew you guys were doing it all through high school and then I'd see you hanging around at his store so we figured you were still together. But then we saw him here and he said that you guys had broken up."

Giles protested. "I did not say we'd broken up."

Buffy needed some clarification. "When you say doing it, you mean..."

Giles rolled his eyes. "Really, you don't want to know."

Rhonda insisted on being helpful. "You know, having sex. Everyone at school knew it." She looked at Michelle, her eyes wide. "Maybe it was Buffy who had something on Snyder."

Michelle snapped her fingers. "Good point." She looked at Buffy. "Did you have the goods on Snyder? We never could figure out why Mr. Giles didn't get fired or you get kicked out of school."

Buffy smiled wryly. "I did get kicked out."

Rhonda nodded. "Yeah, but it wasn't for screwing, was it? Plus you got back in. How did you get back in?"

"My mom kept talking to people." Giles was shaking his head. Buffy noticed it and she glared at him. "Then how did I get back in?"

Giles suddenly realized he was shaking his head. He nodded it instead. "Yes, that's quite right. It was your mum."

Buffy's eyes narrowed. "Giles. How did I get back into school?"

Giles shook his head again. "It's not important. The important thing is that you got back in and graduated."

Michelle chimed in. "And got out alive."

Rhonda nodded. "Yeah, that was a really weird day."

"Totally."

Buffy wasn't ready to let it go. "Will you for once be honest with me?"

Giles' jaw dropped. "Me, be honest with you? When all you've done since I've known you is prevaricate and misdirect?"

She snapped at him. "Just tell me. How did I get back in school?"

He snapped back. "I threatened Snyder. There. Are you satisfied?" Giles' eyebrows rose as he realized what he'd just blurted out.

Rhonda let out a squeal. "See, I knew there was something." She looked at Michelle. "He threatened him."

"Well, he is a lot bigger than Snyder."

"Way bigger."

Buffy was feeling sort of glowy, like in the watching Giles skewer the Mayor on her behalf kind of way. "You threatened him? For me?"

Giles took his glasses off again. "It wasn't right. He was being unreasonably vindictive."

Buffy grinned at him, and then she grinned at Michelle and Rhonda. Then she frowned at them. "What exactly did you mean when you said you were keeping Giles company?"

Rhonda's eyes opened wide. She'd seen Buffy throwing punches. "Nothing." She gestured at the table. "Just gossiping, I swear." She sent Giles a chiding look. "But, you know, Mr. Giles, Buffy has a point. You were sort of lying to us, too. Telling us that there was nothing between the two of you." She shook her head sadly as if deeply disappointed by his behavior. "I mean this is so lover's tiff stuff." She looked at Michelle. "Don't you think?"

Michelle nodded her head. "Oh, yeah, totally lover's tiff stuff."

"And leaving her with a baby." Rhonda shook her head again and made little tsk tsk noises at him.

Giles had had enough again. He was appalled that he'd allowed any of this argument to air in public, not to mention in front of these two. They were clearly two of the biggest gossips in Sunnydale, with little care as to whether they were spewing the truth or not. He threw some money down on the table and started to make his escape.

Buffy was still on the argument and she glared at him. "You told them there was nothing between us? Nothing?" Her voice rose to quite a high volume.

Giles hissed at Buffy. "Buffy, can we continue this in private?"

Rhonda touched his arm. "Don't mind us."

Giles closed his eyes and counted to ten. "Ladies, it was lovely running into you. Enjoy the rest of your vacation." He turned to Buffy. "Buffy, let's go." He picked up Buffy's suitcase and left without another look at anyone. Realizing that he was unavoidably letting Michelle and Rhonda know where he lived, he opened his door and threw the suitcase inside. He called to Buffy again. "Buffy."

Buffy gritted her teeth and followed him in.

Michelle and Rhonda grinned at each other, squealing. Rhonda spoke first. "They are so in love with each other."

"Totally in love."

They sat down at the table and began eating Giles' scones.

***
Buffy and Giles didn't say a word to each other. Buffy sat on the couch. Giles moved into the small kitchen and began to make some tea, as his was currently growing cold for the second day in a row down in the café. He slammed things around for a couple of minutes and then he took a deep breath. Turning around he spoke to Buffy. "Would you like some tea?"

Buffy was surprised when that request almost made her cry. She'd missed it more than she had realized. "Yes, please." Her voice was shaky. She covered her face with her hands.

Giles watched her and his anger and annoyance vanished. He left his teakettle and moved to sit across from her on the coffee table. She glanced up at him and he grinned ruefully. "Despite its rocky beginning, I'm awfully glad to see you."

Buffy let out a cry and threw herself in Giles' arms. "God, I've missed you so much."

Giles held her tightly, his jaw resting on her shoulder. "I missed you too. So very much." The teakettle started to whistle and Giles reluctantly pulled back, staring at her for just a moment before getting up to make the tea.

Happier for the moment, Buffy enjoyed the rare pleasure of watching Giles as he made them tea. As he started putting things on a tray she took a moment and looked around. She noticed a couple of birthday cards sitting on the fireplace mantel. "Oh, happy birthday by the way."

Giles smiled. "Thank you. Your arrival certainly is making it one of my nicer ones."

Buffy dug into her bag and brought out Anya's gift and card. As she retrieved it she saw Giles' paycheck and annoyance swept through her. "Here, let me give you this before I get all angry again. It's from Anya."

Giles set the tray down and looked at her, surprised. "Angry? Why would you be angry at me?"

Buffy shot him an incredulous look. "Guess."

He pointed outside. "You can't actually be annoyed about those two...two...girls."

Buffy scowled. "No...yes." She let out a noise of frustration. "It doesn't matter. That's not why I'm angry."

"Then why?" Another incredulous look from Buffy. Giles' eyes widened as he figured it out. "Ah, me leaving. I gather you haven't quite reconciled yourself to that."

Buffy glared at him. "Reconciled? Reconciled? You left me. I was falling apart and you left me." She stood and started pacing. "And what does that mean anyway? Does that mean that you're reconciled to being away from me?" Her voice got a little shaky. "Did I mean that little to you?"

Giles looked horrified. "No, no, of course not. You meant the world to me." He looked away from her and then noticed the tea, sitting there, unattended. Grateful for the distraction, he began pouring the tea. "You still do."

Buffy just sat there, filled with conflicting emotions. She watched as Giles poured a little cream in her tea and handed her the cup. She held it in both hands, enjoying the warmth.

Giles finally looked at her. "So, why exactly are you here? I find it hard to believe that you came all this way to simply wish me a happy birthday and tell me that you're angry with me. There are plenty of cards out there that are available for purchase that could convey either of those messages."

At the mention of birthdays and birthday cards, Buffy scowled. "Speaking of birthdays..."

Giles winced. "Oh God, Buffy. I'm sorry. I know I missed your birthday. I'm so bad at that sort of thing, remembering to post parcels."

"You couldn't have called?"

"I..." Giles ran his hand over the lower half of his face. "I...I didn't know what to say."

"How about Happy Birthday? Two words." She held up two fingers and wiggled them at him. "Two."

Giles let out a sigh. "It wouldn't have been that simple, you know that." He took a sip of his tea. "I did buy you something."

Buffy's eyes lit up, even though she tried hard to look like she didn't care. "That was big of you. Would I have ever seen it if I hadn't shown up on your doorstep?"

Giles looked at her ruefully. "I don't know."

They both sat there for a minute until Buffy let out an exasperated sound. "Well, go get it."

"Oh, right." Giles put his tea down and headed down the hallway. He came back with a box, wrapped with brightly colored paper covered with shooting stars, a lavish bow, and a small stuffed fabric star dangling from the bow. He handed it to her.

"It's wrapped." Somehow she hadn't expected that. She'd expected to be handed something in a brown paper bag.

Giles smiled ruefully. "I had them wrap it there." He gestured at the paper. "It reminded me of you." He wasn't being quite honest. The paper reminded him of how Buffy used to be, before her unappreciated rise from the dead.

Buffy fingered the fabric star, reluctant to open the present, afraid she wouldn't like it, wanting so much to love it. "What is it?"

Giles rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to tell you. You need to open it." He watched her. "If you don't like it, we can return it and get you something you do like." He looked shy for a moment. "I thought of you when I saw it. I didn't know if I'd even see you again but I had to buy it."

Buffy gestured at Giles' gift. "Open Anya's first."

"All right." Giles unwrapped the gift and chuckled. "The ever practical when it comes to money." He held up the book for Buffy to see. It was a book on how to invest one's money wisely. "I think she's afraid that I'll go bankrupt and drag her down with me."

That reminded Buffy. Putting her gift aside for the moment she yanked out his paycheck. "Somehow I don't see you going bankrupt." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.

Giles furrowed his brow. "What is that?"

"Your paycheck."

"My paycheck? Why do you have my paycheck?" He looked at it and his gaze darkened. "And why is it open?"

She interrupted him. "I opened it."

"What gave you the right to open my personal mail? Why did you open it?"

"Because I couldn't believe that you got a paycheck for sitting around in this apartment in your slacker clothes doing nothing while I have to worry about my house going into foreclosure, and putting my life on the line every night."

Giles put his teacup down and glared at her. "I am not doing nothing." He gestured around the room. "I am researching. The Council has given me several projects to work on."

Buffy snorted. "Oh, and imagine the paper cuts, the pain, the horror." She stood and started to pace, waving his paycheck in the air. "You're like a kazillionaire. How can they pay you so much and not pay me anything?"

"I'm a what?"

She waved the paycheck in his face. "You get paid like a million dollars a year."

Giles' eyebrows rose high on his face and he let out an astonished laugh. "Buffy, did you even look at that check?"

She shot him a defiant look. "Duh, holding it in my hand. You multiply this amount by 52 weeks and it's a bunch of money."

Giles let out a long breath. "I get a check like that once a quarter." He clarified. "Four times a year."

Buffy stopped moving and looked at it, doing the math in her head. "Oh." She paused. "Oh." She bit the inside of her cheek. "It's still a lot of money. A lot more than I'll ever make at the Double Meat Palace."

"I gave you quite a bit of money, Buffy."

"It's almost gone. Living's expensive. Dawn's expensive. My paycheck barely buys groceries." She scowled at him. "Plus I quit my job to come here."

"You left your job?"

"I hated it. It was a stupid job and it wasn't enough to pay the bills. My job is being the Slayer. I should get paid for that. What am I supposed to do when I run out of money? Live on the streets? Get me and Dawn cardboard boxes?"

"I expected that you would call me."

"What, and just keep begging you for money? Wouldn't that do wonders for my ego. Besides, why should I think you would give me more money when you couldn't stand to even be around me?"

Giles protested. "My leaving had nothing to do with not being able to stand you, Buffy. You needed to deal with your life."

Buffy glared at him. "Being the Watcher again? Trying to prepare me? Trying to prepare me for people who let me down, and won't stay around and support me when I'm struggling with the hardest thing I've ever had to go through? Prepare me for being the single mother of a teenager when I'm 21? Prepare me for bankruptcy and a life of minimum wage jobs? Prepare me for the fact that the only thing I do well is slaying which I don't get paid for and which will continue to kill me until I finally get to stay dead?"

Giles stared at her, speechless. Which was just as well as Buffy was on a roll. "Spike treated me better than you." At his glare she continued. "Yeah, let's just get this done with. I slept with Spike. I had sex with him, everywhere. And I know it was sick and twisted but it was what I needed. It was the only thing that made me feel alive. And Spike stuck around. And in his own way he loves me."

Giles closed his eyes. "He's a vampire, Buffy, without a soul."

Buffy shook her head. "You don't have the right to tell me what to do. Not anymore. Not since you left. If you were still living with me in Sunnydale then you could have said something. You could have frowned at me and said that you didn't think it was a good idea. Then I could have talked to you, and asked you to hold me, to help me feel like I was alive, that I was human, and that someone cared about me." Her voice was getting tight, as she had force the words past the lump in her throat. "But you weren't there. And Spike was all I had." Buffy turned her head, not wanting Giles to see the tears in her eyes.

"You had the others, and Dawn, and me. You could have called me."

"I could have called you? When you didn't even bother to call me and wish me a happy birthday? And who else did I have? Willow's in magic withdrawal, Tara's moved out. Xander and Anya are totally distracted with the wedding. Dawn hates me most of the time. So, who exactly did I have?" She brushed her tears away angrily. "You're who I should have had, but you left."

Giles hesitated for a second but her words gave him the courage to push past his reserve to meet her need. He stood and reaching out to Buffy, pulled her into his chest, wrapping his arms around her and holding her tightly. Buffy resisted at first but then she relaxed into the hug, letting out a long breath. Finally she spoke, her voice muffled against his chest. "See, I could have used some of this."

Giles laughed softly. He pushed her away, just a little, and looked down at her face, smiling sadly. "I tried, Buffy. I wanted to hug you, all the time. I needed it. I needed to touch you, to help me believe you were actually alive. But you didn't let me. You pushed me away. You ran to Angel, and to Spike. And I don't believe you would have listened to me. You'd have probably slept with Spike even if I were there. You were determined to do anything you could to destroy your life, what you thought was left of it." He tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, realizing something for the first time. "You cut your hair."

She reached up and touched her shortened tresses. "I know."

He looked at her. "You don't like it?"

"I don't know."

He tilted his head at her. "I used to like your hair this length. But you did something different with it." He kept looking at her, pushing her a little further away. He lifted his hands and ran his fingers through her hair, holding it away from her face. "You curled it, or did something to make it fuller, or..." Giles suddenly realized how intimately he was touching her and he dropped his hands and stepped away, embarrassed.

Buffy couldn't keep the grin off her face. "Now you're my hairdresser?"

Giles blushed. "I'm sorry, I...I just meant to convey to you that I like your hair this length." Giles sat down and picked up his teacup again.

Buffy watched him for a minute, sorry that he had moved away, that he had stopped being so near her. Finally she sat too. She picked up one of the threads of conversation. "You wanted to hug me? Where was I during all of that?"

Giles let out a sad laugh. "Somewhere else. Somewhere sad and lost." His lips tightened. "I'm sorry you don't think I have the right anymore, but I have to say it anyway. Spike is not what you need."

"I know. I get that now. I broke it off before I came here. But he was what I needed. He was good for me in a weird horrible sort of way." She glared at Giles. "So, no staking him."

Giles let out a breath. "How did you work it out? What happened?"

Buffy waved the paycheck, still clutched in her hand. "This."

Giles' eyebrows rose. "My paycheck? My paycheck was the reason you broke up with Spike?"

Buffy grinned at the look on his face. "I know, pretty weird."

Giles took another sip of tea and grimaced as the lukewarm liquid hit his lips. He poured some more hot tea in his cup to warm it up. "How exactly did my paycheck do that?" He held out his hand. "I'll take that, by the way."

Buffy clasped the check to her breast. "No way, Jose."

Giles sighed and sat back in his chair. "Well at least entertain me with stories about it."

Buffy grinned again. "Okay." She stood up and began to pace, needing the movement to help marshal her thoughts. "It was like this. I found out you were getting a paycheck and it suddenly seemed as if there was no justice in the world. Here you were, abandoning me, and getting paid for it. It made me crazy." She stopped and glared at Giles. "Cra-zy." Buffy started pacing again. "I thought about how much my life sucked, how I had this stupid job, my only family member was stuck in constant sulk mode, and my boyfriend was a blood sucking wannabe, and I hated it."

She brandished the paycheck at him. "But this, this was the last straw. And I suddenly realized that this, I could fix. This I could control. I could come here and tell you that I deserved some of this money. And I wasn't going to leave until you agreed with me. Until you gave me what I deserved, what was owed me for being the Slayer. So, I went to see Spike to tell him that I was leaving, and I realized that I could control that too. So, I broke up with him."

Buffy's pacing grew faster. "And suddenly I realized that I can do this. I can make my life what it needs to be. I don't have to sit around waiting for the world to give me a handout, hoping it will cut me some slack; I can make it give it to me. I can make it what I want. It's my life, and I deserve for it not to suck. So, it's not going to anymore." She stared at Giles, her expression defiant, daring him to refute her. Buffy was a little taken aback when she saw that he was grinning at her. "What are you grinning at?"

"You. Listen to yourself." Giles pointed at her gift, lying askew at Buffy's side, still wrapped. "I told you that paper reminded me of you, and it does. The way you used to be, before Glory, before this spell that brought you back. You were like a shooting star, bright and powerful. Nothing was going to stop you, you met everything life threw at you with inexhaustible energy and you constantly amazed me." He moved to the edge of his chair. "Just now, you were that Buffy again."

Buffy considered his words. "Yeah?"

Giles nodded. "Yes."

Buffy pursed her lips. "I feel sort of like that Buffy." She grinned. "It feels sort of good."

Giles smiled back at her, his eyes shining. "It's lovely to watch. It always was."

Buffy smiled in return but then shot him a look. "That's not getting you off the hook, mister. You still owe me."

Giles let out a soft chuckle. "I'm sure we can work something out."

"Really?"

Giles nodded. "Really. You're right; you do deserve to get paid for what you do. You shouldn't have to do an ordinary job as well. Sooner or later you'd lose it anyway, when you next have to deal with something particularly evil that comes along."

Buffy looked at Giles. She should have been elated about his words, but somehow they were falling flat. It reminded her that she wanted something else too, that she actually wanted it more than the money. "Giles..."

Giles interrupted her. "Open your present."

Buffy allowed the momentary distraction and picked up the gift. She shook it. Giles rolled his eyes at her but didn't say anything, waiting for her to open it. Finally she started unwrapping it. Buffy opened the tissue paper with some trepidation and then she let out a gasp. "It's beautiful." She lifted out a sweater, in a soft shade of pink, the stitches intricate and delicate. Buffy rubbed it against her face. "It's so soft."

"You like it?"

Buffy let out a sigh, and kept it pressed against her face. "I love it." She felt near to tears again. "It's so beautiful." Buffy turned her face to Giles, her eyes bright. "Thank you."

Giles smiled softly at her. "You're welcome. I'm only sorry I didn't post it so you received it in time for your birthday."

She shook her head. "It's better this way, with you here." Tears threatened to overflow.

Giles got up and sat by her, drawn by her tears. "I'm glad."

Buffy looked up at him. "Do you still feel like hugging me all the time?"

Giles nodded. "I do."

The sweater still clasped in her hand she moved closer to Giles and rested her head against his chest. Once again his arms moved to hold her. Buffy let out a happy sigh. "I like this."

She felt Giles' soft chuckle, more than she heard it. They sat there, arms around each other, for a few minutes. Finally Giles' spoke. "How long are you here?" Giles couldn't quite identify the feeling racing through him as he waited for her answer. All he knew was that he didn't really want her to go, ever.

"A week." She paused. "Can I stay here?"

Giles chucked again. "Of course. One of us will need to stay on the sofa. There's only the one bedroom."

Buffy snuggled in closer. "I'll stay here." Again she sighed. "So, did you have, like, big birthday plans that I'm ruining?"

Giles let out a short laugh. "Hardly. But now that you're here, perhaps we can go out and celebrate both our birthdays."

"Celebrate how?"

"Perhaps we could go out for dinner, maybe see a show."

"Like a movie?"

"No, the theatre. I haven't been to the theatre once since I've been back. It used to be one of my favorite things to do. I'm sure there's something playing nearby."

Buffy frowned. "Do we need to get dressed up? I only brought stuff like what I'm wearing."

"You look fine. Theatre here isn't quite as dressy an affair as it is in the States."

"Cool." She yawned. "I'm tired."

"I'm sure you are. It's a long flight, and it's the middle of the night in Sunnydale." She nodded against his chest. He started to let go of her. "You could go take a nap if you'd like, you could sleep in my room."

Buffy made a protesting noise when his arms started to lift away. She grabbed one and tucked it in close again. "I like it here. And this way you can get all caught up on hugs."

Giles hesitated for a second, and then he decided he liked that idea and he hugged her tightly in reply. He settled more comfortably against the couch and leaned back, just a little. As he held her in his arms, and felt her breath slowing and growing regular, he felt as if he could stay there forever.

***
Buffy was dressed in her new sweater and she had her arm firmly tucked in Giles' as they walked through the streets after the show, looking for a place to find some dessert. Neither of them was ready for the evening to end, each enjoying the relaxation, and the company.

Giles saw a place he liked down the block and started to walk in that direction. As they walked in the door his eyes widened in dismay and he quickly tried to turn Buffy around. Before they got out on the sidewalk a voice rang out. "Oh, my God. Look, it's Buffy and Mr. Giles."

Buffy glanced up at Giles with a look of chagrin. "Are they following you around?"

Rhonda and Michelle were beckoning them over, yelling across the room. "Come sit with us."

Giles wanted to run as far as he could. He didn't feel like sharing Buffy and he certainly didn't want to spend any more time with the two of them. But, as much as he wanted to, he didn't feel that he could be that rude. Taking a deep breath he escorted Buffy over to the table and the two of them sat down.

Rhonda beamed at them. "You guys made up. That is so sweet." She looked at Michelle. "Isn't that sweet?"

Michelle nodded. "Totally sweet."

Giles let out a long-suffering sigh and turned to Buffy. "What would you like?"

Buffy glanced up at the menu on the wall. "Hot chocolate and one of those." She pointed to the remains of an éclair sitting in front of Michelle.

Giles grinned and went up to the counter. Buffy looked at the two girls. "So, when do you go home?" Buffy crossed her fingers that it would be tomorrow.

"In a week."

Buffy had to work hard not to curse. With her luck they'd be on her plane. "You guys here on your own?"

Rhonda grinned and wiggled her eyebrows. "Well, yeah. We don't have a boyfriend who lives here."

Giles returned just in time to hear her comment. He opened his mouth to protest when Buffy shook her head at him. Frowning, he sat down. She leaned into him. "It's not worth it. They won't believe you."

Giles sighed and leaned back in his chair, stretching out his legs, trying to get as comfortable as possible for the grueling time ahead. Michelle took another bite of éclair and then looked at Buffy. "So, who's taking care of the baby?"

Buffy's eyebrows rose. "What baby?"

Michelle pointed at her. "Your baby."

Buffy placed her hand on her chest. "My baby?"

Michelle nodded. "Yeah, well, his baby too." She pointed at Giles this time.

Giles sat up in his chair. "I beg your pardon?"

Rhonda looked at Buffy appraisingly. "I didn't even know you were pregnant. You sure got your figure back."

Buffy turned to Giles. "I'm lost. How about you?"

Giles leaned on the table with an elbow. "I think you have the wrong idea about me and Buffy."

Rhonda looked confused. "What, you mean you guys don't love each other?"

Giles opened his mouth and then shut it. Glancing quickly at Buffy he spoke. "Well, yes, I suppose we do."

"And you guys haven't been like this ever since you met?" Rhonda had two of her fingers crossed.

"Well, in a manner of speaking."

"And tell me you guys aren't totally together right now."

Giles shot a look at Buffy, hoping to get some help but she was softly smiling at him and he found himself smiling back. Buffy reached for his hand and answered. "Right now, we are totally together." Being apart from him didn't even bear thinking about.

Giles laced his fingers through hers and squeezed her hand. His heart was pounding as he felt her skin against his and he couldn't stop looking at her. Then he realized that someone was calling his name. Giles reluctantly pulled his eyes away and searched for the caller. His order was ready. Giles looked down at their hands and knew that he didn't really want to let go of her hand.

Rhonda was grinning at them both and she nudged Michelle. Michelle stood up. "I'll get it."

Rhonda went back to the interrogation. "So, Mr. Giles, will you be moving back to Sunnydale now? Now that you're back together?"

Giles looked at Rhonda and furrowed his brow. "What?"

"You know, moving back with Buffy. You shouldn't really leave her to raise that baby all on her own."

Giles rolled his eyes, exasperated and he spoke very slowly. "There is no baby. We've never even..." Giles blushed and didn't finish his sentence.

Buffy blushed as well but she was still further back in the conversation. She tightened her grip on Giles' hand. "I want you to answer her question, about coming back to Sunnydale."

Giles tried hard not to wince as Buffy's grip grew even tighter. "It's not that simple, Buffy."

Buffy felt a surge of anger and loneliness go through her and she let go of his hand. "Oh." Giles could feel her withdraw.

Giles had to resist the urge to grab it back, to do anything to keep her from slipping away from him. "It's not. You know that."

"No, I don't. It seems really simple to me. You belong with me. You never should have left."

"I don't want to have this conversation here. Can we talk about this later?" Buffy turned her head away and Giles could see a sheen of tears in her eyes. He turned her head back to face him and then left his fingers lightly touching her cheek. "We'll talk about it, I promise."

Buffy's lips tightened. She felt lost again. "Will we really? Or are you just going to tell me no when we're alone. Are you even thinking about it? Have you ever thought about it?"

Giles let out a pained laugh. "Oh, Buffy. Every day since I left. Every hour of every day. I've almost gone back a thousand times."

"Why didn't you, then?"

Giles shook his head. "It wasn't time."

Rhonda helped out. "Besides you were with that other guy."

Michelle nodded. "Yeah, the guy with the coat." She leaned forwards, wanting to help, wanting to make sure Buffy knew who she was talking about. "You know, the one you had sex with at the Bronze." Buffy shot them both a look that usually made vampires run. They both ignored her. Michelle pointed to the éclair sitting in front of Buffy. "You gonna eat that?"

Giles stood up and grabbed Buffy, lifting her off her chair and onto her feet. He spoke to Rhonda, his tone curt. "Please, eat it. We have to go."

Buffy let out a protesting cry. "But I want it."

Giles swept it up, angrily, and with Buffy in tow he headed for the counter. "May we have a box, please?"

The éclair was soon in its own little box and Giles picked it up. Summoning up a terse smile he muttered good night to Michelle and Rhonda and then left the shop, dragging Buffy behind him.

Michelle watched the box leaving the store with a sad look on her face. "He just told me I could eat that."

Rhonda started picking at Giles' scone. "He left his."

Michelle brightened up a little at that. "I like scones, not as much as éclairs, but they're pretty good."

Rhonda nodded. Then she looked at the door. "They are so in love with each other."

Michelle agreed, spitting out scone crumbs. "Totally."

***
Giles was muttering. "Insufferable busy bodies."

He started to stride quickly down the street and Buffy had to run to keep up with him. Finally she dug her heels in and forced him to stop. "Giles."

Giles swung around and he snapped at her. "What?"

Buffy frowned at him. "What are you so mad about? What's with the record setting dash down the street?" Giles glared at her and then he let out a long breath. He shook his head and he took a step as if to start walking again. Buffy held him in place. "Giles. Talk to me."

Giles clenched his jaw but didn't respond. He spoke, but he didn't address what was really bothering him. He wasn't even sure what was bothering him, except that the mention of Spike and Buffy having sex made him want to strangle something. "Did you know that people talked about us in high school?"

"Is that what's bothering you? Gossip?"

Giles ran a hand through his hair. "Did you?"

"Sort of. I mean I never took it seriously. But kids would always ask me where you were, you know, in that certain tone of voice. But I just ignored it."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"What good would that have done? It's not like we couldn't just not see each other."

"No, but we could have been more discreet about it."

"Giles, it's no big. Trust me, that one didn't even leave a scar. In the soap opera that was my life in high school that barely showed up as a subplot." She shook his arm. "What's got you so angry right now?"

"I'm not angry, Buffy."

Buffy snorted. "Right. You look like you're gonna blow a gasket." She thought back on the conversation. "Is this about Spike again?"

Giles started walking again. "Can we please not talk about this?"

Buffy stopped him again. "Pretty soon we're not going to be able to say a word to each other."

Giles opened his mouth as if to speak but then he shut it again. In a few seconds he tried again. "I just don't..." He shook his head. "Never mind." He tried to walk again and again Buffy stopped him. Giles glared down at her. "I want to walk."

She let go of him. "Fine. Walk." She stood there as he started walking away.

When he realized that she wasn't with him he turned around and glared at her. "Buffy."

She glared back. "Giles." A woman walked by them and she gave Giles the once over, an appreciative look in her eyes. It made Buffy livid. She glared at the woman. "What are you looking at?" The woman quickly averted her eyes and walked past.

Giles shifted so he could watch the woman walk away. When he turned back to Buffy he was surprised by the angry look on her face. He gestured to her. "Now what are you so angry about?"

Buffy scowled. "That woman. She looked like she wanted to eat you alive. And you just looked at her."

"So?"

"What do you mean, so?"

"Why do you care?"

Buffy opened her mouth as if to speak but then she shut it again. She tried again. "I just don't like..." She frowned. "Never mind."

Giles shook his head at the insanity of this conversation and the uncomfortable emotions he was feeling. He walked back to where she was standing. "So you can have a relationship, with a vampire, no less, but I'm not allowed to have anyone?"

"I didn't say that."

"What did you say, then?"

"You can't have anyone here."

"Why?"

"Because then you might not come home to me."

Giles closed his eyes briefly, not even sure why he was pushing this conversation, not even sure where he wanted it to end up. He was reasonably sure that it would only end up somewhere painful. "So, if I moved back to Sunnydale, you wouldn't care if I got involved with someone?"

Buffy frowned. "I don't want to talk about this anymore."

"Why? Because it's gross? Because I'm so very, very old?"

"No, because I just don't want...because you..." Buffy let out a cry of frustration. "I don't know why."

Giles almost jumped out of his skin when a voice spoke beside him. It was Rhonda. "Would the two of you just kiss, already? The sexual tension here is killing me." Michelle nodded.

Giles counted to ten. Then he did it again. He turned to Rhonda. "First of all, this conversation is none of your affair. Secondly, I'm not going to kiss Buffy, and thirdly, please go away."

Buffy put her hands on her hips. "What's so horrible about kissing me?"

Giles shot her an incredulous stare. "Buffy, listen to yourself."

"I don't want to listen to myself. I want to know why you won't kiss me."

"Why on earth would I kiss you? Just because they tell me to?"

A hurt look flashed across Buffy's face. When she spoke her voice was small. "You don't want to kiss me?" She was so tired of feeling unloved.

Giles ran a hand through his hair, hopelessly confused. He gestured at Rhonda and Michelle. "You do understand that they think we've been involved for years. They think we just need to kiss and make up and then we'll live happily ever after. They're wrong."

Buffy dropped her gaze. "Fine." She started to walk away. "Let's go."

Rhonda poked Giles. "Wrong move. I don't think you should have told her that." Giles glared at her.

Michelle pointed at a rapidly disappearing Buffy. "You better hurry."

Giles let out a frustrated groan and took off. Rhonda called out after him. "You really do just need to kiss and make up already." She sighed and looked at Michelle. "Some people just don't appreciate how hard I work."

Michelle sighed. "They really don't." They both watched Giles run after Buffy.

***
It took him a few blocks but he finally caught up to her. Fortunately she hadn't decided to run or it would have been a lost cause. He grabbed her arm and spun her around. "Buffy."

"They're wrong? They're wrong?"

Giles almost took a step backwards at the look in her eyes. "Buffy."

Buffy stepped closer to him and she practically hissed at him. "You made it sound like I mean nothing to you."

"That's not what I meant."

"What did you mean, then?"

"I don't even understand what we're arguing about. Are you angry that I'm not letting those girls prod me into acting out their little fantasy? They're delusional. They think we've been having a sordid little affair for years."

"You don't have to make it sound so incredibly unappealing."

Giles handed her the box with the éclair in it and he took out his handkerchief. Taking off his glasses he began to polish them. Putting them back on he looked across the street. "Let's sit."

"I thought you wanted to walk."

He sent her a warning glare. "Buffy, please."

Frowning and then shrugging she followed him across the street. They sat, inches apart, on a bench on the edge of a park. She crossed her arms over her chest. "Okay, we're sitting."

Giles set the éclair box down. He turned on the bench so he was facing her. She sat there, facing forwards, not looking at him. Giles cast his eyes on her profile, her set lips, her chin jutting out. Giles let out a long breath and then he spoke, wanting so much to heal this breach between them, especially after the day they'd had, how much they'd reconnected. "Buffy, there is no one in the world I care about the way I care about you."

She almost looked at him but she resisted. Buffy didn't understand why her heart felt so raw and why Giles' words, while sweet, weren't the words she wanted to hear.

Giles inched a little closer to her. He wanted to take a hold of one of her hands, but they were tucked snugly under her arms. "Buffy, what can I say? Somehow I've hurt you but I didn't mean to. This has all been a massive misunderstanding."

She still wouldn't look at him. And now her chin was wobbling a little and her lips were pressed even more tightly together.

Giles sighed. Then he let out a curse. "Bloody hell." Trusting his heart, despite how nervous it made him feel, he reached out and pulled Buffy, crossed arms and all, into his arms, holding her tightly. He whispered in her ear. "Don't be cross with me anymore. I can't bear it."

It took Buffy about five seconds to lose her will to fight him. Her arms uncrossed and they snaked behind him, pulling him close. They sat there like that, both thankful for the reprieve. Buffy pushed away for a second and looked up at him.

He looked down at her, her eyes were huge and still sparkling with unshed tears. She looked so beautiful to him. Buffy's chin rose a little, her face moving closer to his. Giles lowered his face a fraction and they found themselves so close to each other they could feel the other's breath. Buffy licked her lips and with a soft groan Giles found himself kissing her.

His lips were so soft, and so warm, and Buffy felt a jolt of liquid wanting shoot through her. She met his groan with one of her own and she touched his lips with her tongue. Giles accepted her invitation and opened his mouth, meeting her tongue with his own. Buffy ran her hand through his hair, and Giles groaned again at the touch, slanting his head to more fully capture her lips, wanting to taste her, to leave no part of her mouth unexplored by his lips, and teeth, and tongue.

After a minute, the rational side of Giles' brain started to assert itself. He pulled back, a look of concern on his face. "Buffy, we have to stop."

She tried to pull him back to her. "Why?"

He inched away from her. "This feeling, it can't be trusted."

She glanced at him confused. "What do you mean?"

"It's been a confusing day. We've had too many unsettling conversations. Our emotions are running high. This isn't right."

Buffy covered her face with her hands and let out a frustrated noise. When she spoke her voice was muffled. "Why isn't this right?"

"Buffy, I'm your Watcher."

She shook her head, her face still covered. Then she pulled her hands away and she stared at him sadly. "No, you're not. You left. You're not my anything."

"That's not true."

"Then what are you? What are you to me? What am I to you?"

Giles just stared at her, trying to figure out how to answer her questions. All he really wanted to do was kiss her again. He stood to avoid the temptation.

Buffy stood and put her hands on his chest. Giles looked away, wanting to look anywhere but at her eyes, at her lips. She persisted in her questioning. "If I died tomorrow, how would you feel?"

He looked at her then, his eyes fierce. "Don't even suggest that. You're not going to die; I'll not allow it. I couldn't bear to go through that again."

"Why? What did you feel?"

"Like I'd lost everything." He pulled her to his chest, cradling the back of her head in one of his hands. "I felt like I lost everything."

"And when you found out I was alive again?"

He let out a long breath. "I felt as if I got it back."

"So, why'd you leave? If I was your everything, why did you leave?"

The answer was out of his mouth before he could think better of it. "Because I wasn't your everything. You didn't even know I was alive, other than as a convenience for you." He let her go and moved away. "It wasn't right of me to have such expectations of you. You'd just gone through something horrific. The last thing you needed was for me to need you so desperately. Be one more thing you had to take care of." He let out a sad laugh. "So I left."

"I don't understand. Were you in love with me?"

Giles shook his head. "No, I just needed you. I needed you so much it frightened me." Giles put his hands in his pockets and stretched out his shoulders. "I've always loved you." He gave her a small smile. "Almost right from the start. You were so alive. Then through the years we went through so much together. And even though there were times when we grew apart we were always drawn back together. Two halves of a whole." Giles' shoe scuffed at a clump of grass. "But, I suppose the old adage is true, you don't really appreciate something until it's gone. Because when you died you took a piece of me away with you, and my life suddenly seemed barren." Giles' eyes grew dark as he remembered the pain of those months and he turned away.

Buffy watched him, saw the pain on his face and her own heart clenched in her breast. "I'm sorry, Giles. I guess I was so lost in my misery that I never even thought about how hard it had been on everyone, on you."

"I don't want you to apologize, Buffy. You've done nothing wrong."

Buffy was still dismayed at the pain on his face. "Did you get it back, that piece of you? Did you get it back?"

Giles shook his head. "No. No, I don't think I did. And that's not your fault. I had such expectations when I heard you were alive. But you came back so wounded, with parts of yourself missing, you were hardly in a position to fill the empty hole inside of me."

She moved back to him, as close as she could get, lifting up on her toes and pressing her lips against his, just for a moment. "Let me fill it now. Let me make it better."

Giles smiled softly at her but he shook his head. "With a kiss? With a night or a few nights of making love? I don't think it will make it better. In fact, I'm afraid it will make it worse."

"What do you mean? I want to be with you. I felt the same way when you left, like you took a part of me with you. I missed you more than I thought I could ever miss anyone. I missed you more than I did when Angel left me."

Giles cupped the side of her face with one of his hands. "Thank you for that. I missed you too. But, this would change everything. Once you got back home, whether I was with you or not, you'd get distracted and turn away again, leaving an even bigger hole in me than the one I have now. I can't do this and not have you meet me half way. I can't give my love to you that way, fall in love with you, touch you, and have it be a one-way street. I'm not that strong. Please don't ask it of me."

Buffy stared at him for a long time, seeing him with new eyes. Seeing the man, seeing the depth of him, the emotions, and the vulnerability. Sides of him that he'd done his best to keep hidden from her, or that she'd been too blind to see. She remembered that kiss, the gentleness of it, the passion that almost took her breath away, and she knew she wanted more of it. Wanted a lifetime of it. Buffy realized that while she might be able to barge into his home here and demand his paycheck, it wasn't going to work with his heart. So, trusting some inner woman's wisdom that she had never felt before she backed down and moved away from him. "Okay. I'm sorry. I'll stop pushing." But even as she stepped away, Buffy was determined that by the end of this week Giles would be going home with her, and he'd be hers, in every way.

Giles was both relieved and disappointed. He too remembered the kiss and what she'd felt like in his arms. But she'd done as he'd asked, so he smiled at her. "Thank you." Holding out his hand he offered it to her and she laced her fingers through his. Hand in hand, they walked back to his flat.

***
Giles needed to do some work so Buffy went shopping the next day. She extracted a promise from him for another night out on the town, kissed him on the cheek and headed out. Now that she knew she'd be getting some money on a regular basis Buffy decided that she could put a few more charges on her credit card. She needed some clothes. Clothes that would make Giles look, and then take a second look. Clothes that were sexy but not too obvious.

By the end of the day she felt pleased with her purchases, even though she'd gotten a little carried away. Buffy couldn't even remember the last time she'd gone shopping and the majority of her clothes had disappeared when she died. Wending her way back to Giles' home she realized how much it felt like her home, because he was there. Despite the pain she'd been in, in Sunnydale, and despite the distance Giles had perceived between them, she had loved having him live in her house. Loved having him around.

She let herself in and smiled when Giles didn't even notice her. He was too engrossed in his research, a pile of books open in front of him on the coffee table, others surrounding him on the floor. His hair was rumpled, as if he had run his hands through it dozens of times during the day. There was a tray nestled amongst the books with a half eaten sandwich and an empty teacup.

Buffy softly shut the door and dropped her bags to the floor. Moving quietly she entered the kitchen and began brewing him a fresh pot of tea. The intimacy of the scene pleased her and she felt calmer and more at peace than she had for as long as she could remember. Before Glory, before her mom died. She opened the cupboard and lifted out two cups. She let go of the cupboard door and it closed with a slam. Buffy winced and then heard his voice. "Buffy?"

She poked her head around the corner. "Yup, it's me."

"Good heavens, when did you get back?"

"Just now. I thought I'd make us some tea."

"I didn't even notice you." He looked chagrined at that.

Buffy grinned. "I know. You were deep into research mode." Her smile grew a little sad. "I've missed that."

"I can't imagine why. You used to tease me mercilessly about it. You all did. A textbook with arms was one of your more colorful phrases."

Buffy frowned. "That was when I first met you. You've sort of grown on me since then."

Giles smiled. "Did you have a nice day?"

"Yeah, it was great. I shopped mostly." Her eyes moved to the bags.

Giles' eyes widened. "So I see."

Buffy looked a little concerned. "I think I may have spent a little too much money. I kept forgetting whether the fact that British Pounds converts to more US Dollars is a good thing or a bad thing."

Giles looked at all the bags and scowled. "Well, seeing as how I'm probably going to end up paying for all of this, and you probably paid with American money, let's just say it's a very bad thing and leave it at that."

Buffy wasn't sure Giles would appreciate her laughing so she bit her lips and went back into the kitchen to finish making the tea. She called to him from in there. "When are we going out? I'm starved."

Giles looked at his watch and looked startled. "Good Lord. We don't have much time. I made reservations for 7:00." He pointed towards the bathroom. "Do you want to get ready first?"

Buffy nodded. Poking through her bags she picked up a couple of them and headed into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Giles decided to take one last look at the book on his lap and he lost track of time until he heard the bathroom door open. He looked up distractedly, and only by sheer force of will did he keep his jaw from hitting the table. Giles knew he was in serious trouble. It was a conservative black dress on one hand, high necked and falling almost to her ankles, but somehow it hit every curve just right. She'd put up her hair and she looked good enough to eat. Giles stood, the forgotten book on his lap falling to the floor. He didn't even notice.

Buffy looked down at herself, a little nervous at his lack of speech. "Do I look all right? You said it was a little fancier than last night so I thought..."

Giles realized he needed to speak. "You look wonderful." Then he looked down at his own outfit. He had just been thinking about throwing on a clean sweater, but clearly that wouldn't do now. "I need to change. I'll just be a few minutes."

Buffy nodded and walked by him to sit on the couch. He could smell her perfume. Suppressing a groan he walked into the bedroom and shut the door. Giles decided he needed to shave again. Then he threw on a little after-shave. After standing in front of his wardrobe for what seemed like forever he realized what he was feeling. He was filled with a sense of nervous anticipation. It had been a long time, but he felt like he was getting ready for a date.

Giles let out a long breath and tried to remember that it was Buffy. Someone he'd known for years, had known since she was little more than a child. But what he mostly remembered was how she looked in that dress, and how her lips had felt against his last night. Annoyed with himself he finally chose a dark charcoal gray suit with a blue dress shirt and a blue and gray tie. Checking out his appearance in the mirror he tried to push the nervous anticipation aside. Letting out a sigh at his foolishness he opened the bedroom door.

Buffy stood when she saw him. "Wow. You look good." He smiled shyly. "Well, as I said, you look quite wonderful." Buffy smoothed her dress down, drawing Giles' eyes to the curve of her hip. Sighing again, Giles picked up his wallet and slid it into his back pocket. "You ready to go?"

Buffy nodded. "Are we walking again?"

Giles noticed her shoes. Black high heels, very high. "Is that all right? We could get a taxi."

"No, I'd rather walk."

Giles opened the door to the flat and with a hand to the small of her back he escorted Buffy out. When they reached the sidewalk he held out his arm and she wrapped her own around it and with a soft smile at him she settled in at his side.

***
Dinner was lovely and so was the long walk they took afterwards, roaming around Bath. Giles was falling fast and it terrified him. A part of him wanted to hail a taxi, take Buffy to the airport, and throw her on the first plane back to California before it was too late, before he lost his heart entirely. The other part of his heart couldn't imagine ever being away from her again.

If he had felt that she was trying to push him, or was being manipulative, he'd have been able to fight it, get annoyed with her, be better able to listen to that voice inside of himself that was sure he was heading towards a painful derailment. But she wasn't. She was being charming company and being respectful of his wishes. Anytime a hint of sexual tension grew between them she'd step away, or change the subject. She didn't touch him anymore than what was appropriate.

What she was doing was worse. She was treating him like he was an attractive, interesting man; one that she cared about and loved and he found it irresistible. Buffy had never treated him like this. As if she had finally realized that there was a man behind the Watcher. It was making him see the woman she had become, or was becoming right in front of his eyes, in response to him. And it was a heady feeling.

But she was still Buffy and that made her even more alluring, because he had loved her for so long, and knew her so well. She still harassed him when he became too long winded, and she teased him about his vocabulary while she continued to butcher hers. She knew his weaknesses and eccentricities and poked fun at him, as she always had. But it was different now, and they both knew it.

As they headed back to Giles' flat, her arm again tucked through his, they passed the park that was close to where he lived. Suddenly Giles remembered the erotic dreams he'd had about Buffy, and that this park was one of the places they'd had sex. Giles could feel himself growing hard thinking about it and he was mortified. Her body kept brushing against his, her hip against his leg, her breast against his arm. It was all he could do to not pull her into his arms and kiss her, pushing her down onto the grass and lifting up the skirt of her dress so he could feel her softness, smell her, taste her.

Giles let go of her and moved a few steps away. He buttoned his suit jacket, in hopes that it would hide his erection. Buffy looked at him, concerned. "What's the matter? Are you all right?" Taking in his tense demeanor she looked around. "Is it vampires?"

Giles let out a short laugh. "No, no vampires." He turned away from her, as looking at her wasn't helping. "I'm just a little tired."

Buffy stared at his profile for a minute, not understanding what was going on. She walked over to him and put her hand on his arm. He tensed; she could feel his muscle bunch under her fingers. And then she thought that maybe she did understand. Obeying her new instincts that were still telling her not to push she pulled her hand away. "Let's call it a night then. I'm tired too."

Giles smiled at her, relieved. "Yes, well, we're right around the corner." Without touching her, he gestured for her to walk. Walking, a few inches of distance between them, they arrived at his flat and he opened the door to let them both in. Giles shut the door and headed for his bedroom. He turned around to wish Buffy a good night and found her immediately behind him. Her gaze momentarily captured him, and his head lowered a bit, the desire to kiss her overwhelming.

Buffy saw his head lower and she tried to stay still, tried not to do anything that might scare him away. There were so many butterflies in her stomach she could barely stay standing upright. Giles barely touched her lips, just the lightest of brushes. Then he let out a groan and pulled back. He kissed her on the cheek and lightly touched the other cheek with his fingers. "Good night, Buffy. I had a lovely time this evening."

Buffy swallowed her sigh of disappointment. "Me, too." She walked to the couch, disengaging.

Giles almost wished she'd take the offensive, grab him and kiss him senseless. Letting out another half laugh at his own confusion he went into his bedroom.

Buffy flopped down on the couch and finally let out the disappointed sigh she'd held back. She mentally counted the days she had until she had to leave and hoped it would be enough time.

***
The next four days were sheer torture for Giles. Every day she looked more beautiful, and more desirable. And the moments of sexual tension between them were growing rather than fading. Every meal seemed to be some sort of exercise in sensual misery as Giles watched Buffy's tongue clean her lips or as she licked her fingers to taste something. The most innocuous of touches seemed to get his heart pounding.

Buffy thought she might explode with wanting him. They way he watched her, the way his eyes watched her lips, or the way she occasionally caught him looking at her body, it all set her on fire. She couldn't ever remember wanting someone more. Buffy hadn't thought it was possible to want someone this much. The only other thing she had wanted like this was to return to heaven. And a part of her was thinking that she might get to experience that again if Giles would only push past his resistance and grab her. She was running out of patience, and time.

She had called home earlier and had been relieved to hear that everything was fine. Spike was helping out with patrol and Dawn was behaving. When Buffy heard that she decided that she would stay longer if she had to. Whatever had shifted inside of her towards Giles wasn't going to go away, and she knew she couldn't leave him behind, and go back to a life without him in it.

Giles needed to go to the Council the next day to drop off his research and pick up some different books. He had extended an invitation to Buffy to go with him. She had been nervous at the thought of going to the Council and had been mulling it over all evening.

As they got back to Giles' flat she spoke about it, taking a seat on the couch, tucking her legs underneath her. "Will they do anything, do you think?"

Giles stayed standing, leaning against the fireplace mantel. He shook his head. "I'm very much afraid that unless I tell them who you are, they won't even know you're the Slayer. We could probably traverse the whole of the Council and back without anyone knowing you're there."

"No one knows I'm the Slayer?" She was outraged.

"Oh, they know your name, but they don't know what you look like, or most of them don't, at any rate. Running into one of the few who do seems unlikely."

"And you'll be with me the whole time?"

"I'll never leave your side."

Buffy sent him an impertinent glare. "I've heard that before."

He frowned at her and then realized that she had the right to challenge him as she had. Giles dropped his gaze, putting his hands in his pocket, and he sighed. "I'm sorry, Buffy. But I think I can manage to keep my promise this time." He wouldn't meet her eyes, and his expression was crestfallen.

Buffy couldn't stand the sadness on his face. She stood and walked over to him quickly, putting her arms around him. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you sad."

Giles closed his arms around her, resting his head on the top of hers, relishing the feel of her. His hands started to caress her hair and then her back. She pressed against him a little tighter and her hands moved too, running up and down the span of his back, stopping just shy of his butt. Buffy longed to touch him there but a line was still drawn in the sand and she didn't want to step over it, not until she was invited to.

Giles lifted his head and looked down at her. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and after a moment, on the end of her nose. Then he kissed her cheek, and her eyelids. Buffy couldn't help letting out a little moan. Giles stopped and stared at her for a moment. It would be so easy, so easy to touch her lips, to pick her up and carry her to his bed. The man in him knew she wanted it and knew that it was what he wanted too, so where was the harm in it? But Giles was still hesitant. Despite the ache in his body he took a step to the side. "I wish I didn't need to go but they won't allow me to postpone anymore. I was supposed to be there three days ago." He touched her cheek, taking that small pleasure. "I'd like you to come with me. I...I don't really want to spend the day away from you."

Buffy smiled. "Then I'll go. I don't want to not be with you either."

Giles ran his hand down her face, his hand ending up on her shoulder. "We'd best get some sleep then, we have to get started quite early."

Buffy clenched her fists behind her back to keep herself from grabbing him. All she wanted was to throw him on the couch, crawl on top of him and rip his clothes off, letting him pierce her with the hardened cock she had felt pressed against her for too brief a moment. Instead she smiled tightly at him and took a step backwards. "Okay."

Without another word Giles went into his bedroom and shut the door. Despite going to bed fairly early, neither of them got much sleep.

***
Giles could tell she was nervous. He stayed close to her, often touching her gently to reassure her. Buffy smiled up at him gratefully. She knew she was being paranoid but with the exception of Giles, the Council had never done her any favors. She followed Giles as he strode down the corridors. They passed very few people and the ones they did paid them little attention. Giles opened the door to the Council library and Buffy's jaw dropped at the size of it. "Wow, this must have been your favorite place."

Giles let out a soft chuckle. "Yes, it was, still is."

Buffy was craning her head, looking at the multiple levels, tier after tier of books, the wooden ladders placed intermittently, the curving staircases that would take you from floor to floor. She barely noticed that Giles had left her side and was at the desk speaking with a man. When she glanced around and saw that she was standing alone she let out a startled eep and then she eyed Giles with some relief. Moving to stand next to him she wove her arm through his. Giles smiled down at her.

The librarian raised his eyebrows. "Rupert, who's your friend?"

Giles looked down at Buffy, as if asking for permission. Buffy shrugged and nodded. Giles smiled at her and then looked at the man. "This is Buffy."

The librarian pursed his lips. "Buffy. That name seems familiar."

Giles saw the look in Buffy's eyes. She hated it when vampires didn't know she was the Slayer. Giles didn't imagine that Council members would get off any easier. He spoke again. "Buffy Summers."

The man thought for another minute. "Hmm. It's right on the tip of my tongue."

Buffy scowled at him. "Vampire Slayer. Ringing any bells now?"

The man gaped at her. "You're the Slayer?"

She rolled her eyes and glanced up at Giles. "Give the man a prize."

Giles bit back a grin at the disgust on her face, not wanting to feel the bite of her temper. Instead he smiled down at her proudly and then at the librarian. "Yes, this is she." He pointed to the man. "This is Gregory Simpson. He's been the librarian for as long as I've been a Watcher."

"You're the Slayer?"

Buffy looked up at Giles. "He's stuck. Hit him or something."

That comment snapped him out of it. Gregory came out from behind his counter and walked up next to Buffy. He gave her a long look from her toes to the top of her head. There was nothing sexual about it, simply appraising but Giles frowned. Gregory leaned towards Buffy. "You're so small."

Buffy sighed. "I get that a lot."

"You're also quite beautiful."

Buffy looked over at Giles and grinned at him, the grin affectionate and flirty. "I don't get that enough." Gregory didn't miss the grin, or the look that Giles shot her back, a look equally full of affection with a bit of pleading thrown in for good measure. Gregory wondered what the pleading was for.

Then he saw the naughty grin Buffy had on her face and he had to bite back a grin of his own. Gregory had no doubt that Rupert had his hands full with this one. Again, he assessed Buffy. "None of us could believe it when we heard you were alive again."

Buffy gave him that mocking grin of hers. "Neither could I."

The door swung open and two people walked in, a man and a woman. Gregory grinned at them and pointed at Buffy. "It's her, the Slayer, Buffy Summers."

Their mouths opened wide in disbelief. Meanwhile Gregory had scooted behind the counter and was picking up the phone. Giles leaned down and spoke softly in her ear. "They're Watchers. Beth and Winston."

She looked up at him. "Are they evil?"

He shook his head, grinning. "No, they're fine."

Buffy still moved a little closer to Giles and then she smiled at them. Beth finally found her voice. "You're the Slayer?"

Buffy nodded, feeling almost shy now but Beth was clearly delighted and began asking her all sorts of questions. Soon Winston was as well. Gregory was still making phone calls and people were starting to show up in response to his calls. Giles kept a careful eye on the arrivals. He knew that the rank and file of the Council had probably never met a Slayer and knowing her would only increase the level of support she'd receive from them.

Buffy was obviously enjoying herself, basking in the attention, and Giles thought that it was long overdue. She deserved to have these people fawn over her. As more and more people came in, Giles found himself crowded out, he clearly not being the attraction. He good-naturedly moved over to the counter and leaned against it, chatting with Gregory, all the while watching Buffy.

She kept him in her line of vision as well. They all saw it, the looks that passed between the two of them. They had all heard about the Watcher/Slayer bond, but none of them had seen it, or felt it. A few of them thought that it might be a bit more than that, but they kept that opinion to themselves. Everyone just wanted to visit with the Slayer.

***
Quentin Travers was fuming as he headed towards the library. He was annoyed that he'd been interrupted, he was irritated that he was going to have to face Rupert and his infuriating Slayer, and he was furious that he hadn't been informed they were coming, or that they were even here. He only knew because he had overheard two staff people talking about it, as they headed for the library to gawp at the Slayer.

Quentin could never work out how, but every time one of Rupert's journals appeared, xeroxed copies of it ended up all over the Council within hours. Most of the staff, everyone from the caretaker to the Watchers read them, hanging on every word, as if it were the latest episode from their favorite soap opera. The tradition of Watchers was always to be bluntly honest about everything that happened to their Slayers, so the next Watchers could learn from his or her experience. Buffy was so different from the usual Slayer, and her civilian friendships and romantic liaisons so far from the norm, that everyone was captivated by her. Giles made her so human, so real. They gasped at her audacity, laughed with relief at the close calls, and had wept when she had died. Then, against all belief, she had risen from the dead, and her Watcher had returned to her. They had all waited breathlessly for the journals to start arriving again.

Then suddenly he was back, living in Bath, Buffy apparently no longer requiring a Watcher, and the journals had stopped. Most of the Council had been bereft. It was as if their favorite television show had been cancelled. Some, such as Quentin Travers, and his cronies, had been delighted. She'd had too much power for too long. Let her see what it felt like to operate without a Watcher, without the support of the Council.

Quentin entered the library and anyone watching either Buffy or Giles was taken aback at the change in them. Their faces grew guarded and they both headed for one another. There was a brief skirmish as the two of them quietly fought over who was going to protect whom. Finally Buffy won, and she stood in front of her Watcher, his hands on her shoulders.

Quentin kept moving until he stood in front of them both, everyone reluctantly clearing a path for him. "Rupert, Miss Summers."

Only Giles spoke. "Quentin."

"This is an unexpected visit."

"Yes, well, we were hoping to just drop off my reports and leave, without disturbing anyone." Giles briefly glanced at the crowd in the room.

So did Quentin. He glared at them all. "Perhaps you all have work to attend to?" The less senior staff took the hint, but most of the Watchers stayed. Quentin let out an angry breath. "What brings you to town, Miss Summers? I was under the impression you no longer required a Watcher."

Buffy frowned. "I changed my mind."

"Then the Council would be only too glad to appoint another Watcher to assist you." Quentin began looking at the Watchers assembled in the room. At first, a few of them had a moment of excitement, thinking that perhaps they might actually be assigned to a Slayer. Then they saw the look on Giles' face and they all tried to hide behind each other, hoping Quentin wouldn't call their name.

Buffy frowned even more. "I have a Watcher." She pointed behind her. "Remember him?"

Quentin smiled in a condescending manner. "He lives in Bath. He can't possibly be your Watcher if he lives in England. You need to be assigned a Watcher who can be in Sunnydale with you."

Buffy took a step towards Quentin. "I already have a Watcher, and he will always be my Watcher, no matter where he lives."

"I'm sorry, but that just isn't acceptable."

Buffy turned her back on Quentin and looked up at Giles. Some of the people who had left were starting to sneak back in. This was better than the journals. Buffy took Giles' hands in hers and spoke softly. Everyone strained to hear. "Giles, come back with me. I want you with me. I always want you to be with me."

Giles stared down at her, trying to read her eyes, trying to fathom her emotions. "Buffy."

"I'm in love with you." A few gasps followed her declaration and a generalized murmuring swept the room.

Buffy and Giles might as well have been on a desert island, all their attention solely focused on the other. "Buffy, are you sure? Do you know what you're asking?"

Buffy smiled softly at him. "I'm asking for forever, I'm asking for there to be a you and me for as long as I'm alive. I can't do this without you, I never could, and I don't ever want to have to again."

Giles' eyes blazed with love as he smiled back at her. Then he glanced up at Quentin who was looking distractedly around the room. Giles waited until he had his attention again. "It would appear that I'm moving back to Sunnydale."

There were a couple of quiet cheers from the back of the room. Quentin could tell he was missing something. Buffy had turned around again and was facing him but she was now holding one of Giles' hands. Quentin's eyes narrowed as he took in the clasped hands and the look on her face. "What are you doing?"

Buffy leaned against Giles. "Marrying my Watcher." As Giles stiffened behind her Buffy tilted her head back and looked at Giles. At the stunned look on his face she pulled away from him and turned to him, looking at him nervously. "At least I thought that's what I was doing, you know, proposing to you." When he still didn't say anything she pulled his hand. "Hey, Watcher man. Are you there?"

Giles was beyond flummoxed. "You just asked me to marry you?"

Buffy nodded. "And I'm pretty sure you said yes."

Giles stared down at her, and slowly a smile started to form on his face. "You want to marry me?"

Quentin had had enough of this travesty. "You cannot marry your Watcher. I absolutely forbid it."

Giles shot him a look that made Quentin take a step backwards. "I beg your pardon?"

Quentin put on his best conciliatory smile. "Rupert, may I speak with you for a moment, privately?"

Giles made as if to move away from Buffy but Buffy wouldn't let him go. She glared at Quentin. "Anything you have to say to him, you can say to me. But before you open your mouth let me just remind you that for three years you've been trying to take him away from me and I'm sick of it. You've fired him, replaced him, threatened to deport him and it stops now. He's my Watcher, I'm his Slayer, two halves of a whole." Buffy smiled up at Giles as she used his phrase. He smiled back.

Buffy continued. "Oh, and you know this pesky dying thing? I should warn you that I'm still a little cranky. I'm guessing that your plan is to talk Giles out of marrying me, to make him feel guilty about it. Well, let me just make it clear that if you do anything, or say anything, that makes him change his mind, makes him not come home with me, I will quit the Council again, and you can all go back to watching Masterpiece Theatre without me." She took a step towards Quentin. "Got it?"

Quentin clenched his teeth and looked up at Rupert. And he saw the look that he hated. It had been on Giles' face after Buffy had forced Quentin to capitulate, when he'd last gone to Sunnydale. Not everyone would recognize it, but Quentin did. The slightest rise of his eyebrows, the smallest twitch of his lips, the look of feigned innocence. It all screamed smug bastard, and it screamed ‘I'm with her and you can't do anything about it'. It made Quentin crazy because he was right; there wasn't anything he could do about it.

Giles looked at him and spoke. "Did you have something you wanted to say, Quentin?"

Quentin forced himself to relax so his voice would sound normal. It didn't help much. His voice was still tight. "When are you and Miss Summers leaving London?"

"We'll be spending the night and leaving tomorrow."

Quentin frowned. "Is your business here almost completed?" He couldn't get rid of them fast enough.

Giles' eyes darkened. "It will be completed when the tasks I came here to do are finished. Is there some reason why we would not be welcome here?"

Quentin could have gone into a litany of reasons, but given the sizable audience he had, he held his tongue. "Please have someone inform me when you are leaving." He turned to head out.

Giles spoke again. "There is one favor you could do for me, Quentin."

Quentin turned, puzzled. "And what would that be?"

"I think it's time that Buffy started receiving a paycheck from the Council. I think that she deserves some financial remuneration for all the years she's served both the Council and the world, risking her life, over and over again. It seems the least we could do. Wouldn't you agree?"

Quentin gritted his teeth. He could already hear the murmurs behind him, knew there were people here from payroll, knew that there was no way he was going to be able to refuse this request. He snapped at Giles. "Fine. Just how much are you expecting us to pay Miss Summers?"

"Oh, I'm sure you'll come to a more than equitable amount, considering what she's given up for her Calling over the last six years."

Quentin shot Giles a look of sheer frustration and stormed out of the room. When the door closed behind him Buffy let out a shriek of delight and threw her arms around Giles. Everyone started talking at the same time and there was general pandemonium in the room, the events just witnessed providing material for days, if not weeks, of gossip.

Giles clasped his hands behind Buffy's back and looked down at her. "Once again, you've managed to set Council protocol on its ear."

"You didn't do so badly yourself." Buffy frowned. "Or were you just angling for a way to not have to share your paycheck with me?"

Giles grinned. "After watching you go shopping I decided we'd better have two paychecks to live on."

"So does that mean you're saying yes?"

Giles smiled. "Yes. That means I'm saying yes." Buffy pulled his head down and kissed him, just a short kiss, but one that smacked of promise. There were a few audible sighs in the room. Giles touched her cheek. "Let me finish up here and then we can go. We still have plenty of time to do some sightseeing."

Buffy stood on her toes and whispered in his ear. "There's only one sort of sightseeing I want to do today, and all we need is a hotel room for that."

Giles blushed and Buffy giggled. When Giles spoke he kept stuttering which only made Buffy giggle more. Giles moved back over to Gregory while her Council fans once more approached Buffy.

***
Business complete, a clean escape made from the Council without another altercation with Quentin, a quick side trip made to the store for some condoms, they both breathed a sigh of relief when the door to the hotel room shut behind them. Then they were staring at each other, the air almost explosive with sexual tension, and with the next breath they were holding on tight, their lips and tongues mating, their hands exploring one another.

Giles pressed fevered kisses all over Buffy's face. "It's been making me insane not to be able to touch you."

Buffy was starting to unbutton his shirt. "Hey, that's not my fault. Ever since that kiss I've been ready."

Giles couldn't believe he'd managed to hold out this long. He started to unzip Buffy's dress. Suddenly there was a knock on the door.

Giles groaned and yanked it open. When he saw who it was he groaned again. "Are you stalking me? How can you possibly be here in London?"

Rhonda grinned and looked at Michelle. "See, I told you it was them." She looked at Giles. "She didn't believe me, but I told her it was you. I said, there's Mr. Giles and Buffy. Let's go say hi. Maybe we can, like, do dinner or something."

Giles just stared at them. Michelle actually noticed the fact that they were in a state of dishabille. "Uh, Rhonda, I think we sort of interrupted them."

Rhonda was clueless. "What do you mean?"

Buffy came to the door and wrapped her arm around Giles. "I'd like to have sex with the librarian now. Would you please leave?"

Giles rolled his eyes and glared down at her. Then he glared at Rhonda and Michelle. They both grinned at him. Rhonda pointed her finger. "See, I knew it. I knew you were together." She looked at Michelle. "People just don't understand that I have a thing for this, I just know when people are together."

Michelle looked sadly at Rhonda. "People just don't get how smart you are."

"I know it."

Buffy had been denied Giles for too long to wait any longer. "Hey, geniuses. Time to scram."

Rhonda nodded knowingly. "Maybe we'll stop by later and see if you want to get together."

Giles shook his head. "I'm sorry, we have plans. Maybe next time."

Buffy started shutting the door. "We'll just see you back in Sunnydale."

Rhonda's eyes lit up. "He's coming back home to be with you, to take care of you and the baby?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "You guys so need to get to past the baby thing. But yes, he's coming back. We're getting married." Putting the Do Not Disturb sign on the outside doorknob she flashed Rhonda and Michelle a grin and closed the door. Then she locked it and threw the security bolt. "There." Then she grinned up at Giles and ran her hands up his chest, lacing them behind his neck. "Alone at last."

A pair of shrieks sounded from the hallway accompanied by the sound of two hands smacking together. Rhonda spoke. "We so rock."

"Totally." Their footsteps retreated down the hall.

Giles looked at Buffy in all seriousness. "If those two show up again, I'm going to have you slay them."

Buffy giggled. "Oh come on. They sort of played matchmaker for us."

"I refuse to credit either one of them with the ability to achieve anything as worthwhile as this."

"They told you to kiss me. I don't think we would have kissed if they hadn't said that and got us arguing." Giles decided he didn't want to argue about it when he could be making love to Buffy. He picked her up and carried her to the bed, throwing her down. Buffy let out a giggling shriek and lay there, looking up at him, her face glowing with her love for him. "Come here, good looking."

Giles finished unbuttoning his shirt and pulled it and his jacket off. He crawled onto the bed and pulled her close, kissing her, his mouth showing her that they had all the time in the world as he slowly consumed her. He nibbled her lips, exploring her mouth, while his hands slowly ran up and down her body, touching her in all the right places, eliciting a myriad of breathless little moans from Buffy.

Buffy started to return the favor, her fingers brushed his nipples and then danced across his belly until she touched his hardened cock through his pants. He groaned and his hips moved against her hand. Feeling the length of him she looked up at him, smiling. "Yum. All mine?"

"All yours." Giles' mouth was exploring Buffy's breasts, bringing them to a sharp peak through her clothing. His hands found her zipper again and he finished unzipping her dress and pulled it down her body, revealing his wondrous Slayer in all her lingeried splendor. She watched as his eyes gleamed. Grinning he looked at her and repeated her words back to her. "Yum, indeed. Is this all for me?"

Buffy arched against him, wanting his mouth back on her. "All for you."

Giles needed no other coaxing. His mouth caressed her through the sheer fabric of her bra, his hand making its way down the soft skin of her stomach, to her thighs, cupping her mound. Buffy let out a groan and parted her legs, wanting to give him access. Meanwhile she started on his belt, wanting Giles naked.

With his help they got him stripped and her hand encircled him, getting another groan out of him. Now that Giles had her in front of him, and he was touching her, he wanted to fully explore. After a final nibble on her pebbled nipples he began to move down her body, until his lips starting tasting her through her panties. He could feel the heat and moisture of her and it was driving him wild. Pulling her panties off he explored her with his tongue, parting her labia with his fingers, wanting to taste every bit of her. He slipped a finger, then a second one, inside of her, smiling at her moans, at the way her body writhed underneath his ministrations. When he could feel her almost at the edge, he pulled away and crawled back up her body.

He wasn't sure if she would want to kiss him after he'd tasted her but Buffy pulled his lips to her and kissed him frantically, trying to adjust his body on top of her so he could enter her. He nibbled on an earlobe, as he unclasped her bra, enjoying the feeling of her body underneath his, their naked flesh touching. Giles looked down at her, watched her face alight with passion, lips swollen, eyes dark. "You are so beautiful."

She smiled at him as she arched against him, breathless with need and anticipation. "I want you inside of me. Don't make me wait anymore."

Giles reached for a condom, holding his breath as she slowly rolled it on. Then he settled between her thighs. "Do you know how long it's going to take me to come once I get inside you?" At her wide-eyed silence he answered, grinning. "About five seconds. I've been ready to explode for days."

Buffy giggled. "Good, that's about how long it's going to take me too." She reached down between them and held him, guiding him to her center. "Please, now."

Giles began to enter her, cautiously at first, but when he felt how wet and ready she was he thrust all the way in. They both let out a moan at the sensation. And then they were lost in it. It became wild and primal as he thrust into her and she met his thrust with an upward movement of her own, her fingernails clawing his back. It took longer than five seconds but it didn't take long. They came together as they both exploded into their orgasms, holding tightly to each other.

It took them a while to calm down. They still held each other closely, Giles having shifted a bit to the side to dispose of the condom. It was as if they couldn't bear to be apart, even by a few inches, now that they'd finally come together.

Buffy sighed and snuggled even closer. "You know what?"

"No, what?"

"I feel like I've died and gone to heaven." Giles was momentarily stunned at her remark, not sure if she was even aware of what she'd said, if she perhaps simply meant it as a saying, as opposed to a literal truth. He wasn't sure how to respond without knowing so he pulled his head back so he could look at her face. She smiled at him. "And I bet I'm the only person you know who could actually say that and mean it."

Giles let out a half laugh and held her tightly enough to make her grunt. "Oh, Buffy, I do love you so." He pulled away again and kissed her. "And you're right, you are the only person I know who could say that and mean it, and I feel indescribably honored that you feel that way."

"You make me happy. You make me feel safe. You make me glad to be alive."

Giles didn't know why it chose this moment to arrive but he suddenly felt a streak of jealousy flash through him. "Did Spike make you feel that way?"

Buffy snorted. "Please. There was nothing remotely heavenly about what Spike and I had. Maybe a little bit of hell."

"Are you sure I can't stake him?"

Buffy rolled her eyes at Giles. "Very sure. I know you don't like it that we were together, hell, I don't even like that we were together, but he kept me going, and he watches over Dawn." She suddenly thought of something. "And you know what? He thought we were having sex too."

Giles' eyebrows rose. "Good Lord. Did everyone think we were involved that way?"

Buffy giggled. "I think so." She moved against him suggestively. "See what we've been missing out on?"

Giles placed one of his hands on her breast, running his hand over it to get the nipple to rise. Then he suckled on it. "Indeed." His mouth moved to the other breast. "We'd best not waste any more of it."

Buffy flipped them over and straddled Giles' thighs with her legs, feeling him stir to life underneath her. "I couldn't agree more." Grinning at him, she bent down to kiss him while his arms closed around her.

***
It took them all night to sate their appetite for each other but by late morning, after a few hours of sleep, Buffy was eager to do some sightseeing outside of the hotel room. They checked out of the hotel and spent the rest of the day roaming the city, Giles anxiously looking out for Rhonda and Michelle, sure that they were around every corner, waiting to pounce. He muttered to Buffy, looking morose. "Not that it matters. There's nothing I can ever say to them now to convince them that I haven't been molesting you since you were sixteen, especially after your sleeping with the librarian comment."

Buffy laughed. "Well, I'm legal now."

"That's beside the point. It makes me feel like a dirty old man, thinking that they believed I preyed on teenagers. When in fact I never even gave it a thought until they first mentioned it the day before you arrived."

"See, they did help get us together. You should be grateful they showed up."

Giles sighed. "I was anything but grateful when they hit me with the news about you and Spike." He snorted. "They even asked if you, Jenny and I were an item."

Buffy's jaw dropped and then she started to laugh. "God, I wished I could have seen your face."

"You wouldn't have seen it for long. I got up and ran. I couldn't stand to be with them for one more second. I was afraid they'd accuse me of lusting after Snyder next." He shook his head. "I had no idea I was such grist for the gossip mill at that school. I'm embarrassed I was so clueless about it."

"Hey, it's not that surprising. I mean you were single, good looking, had this great accent and no one knew anything about you. You hung out with me all the time. I mean I'm sure people saw us all over town, at all hours of the day or night, at your house, at my house, in the cemeteries, what else were people going to think? Especially when it goes on for years. And then you start dating the prettiest teacher at school." Buffy sighed. "Did you ever sleep with her?"

"Jenny?"

Buffy nodded.

Giles glanced at Buffy. "Does it matter?"

"I'm just curious. And a little jealous too, although I'm sort of ashamed to admit that." She hesitated a second. "So did you?"

Even though Jenny was dead, Giles still felt uncomfortable discussing the topic. He stopped and taking both of Buffy's hands in his he held them to his chest. Looking at her lovingly he answered her the best way he could. "Buffy, regardless of what Jenny and I did or didn't do, I can assure you that last night, and being here with you, loving you, knowing that you want to share your life with me, makes everything that came before you a very distant memory."

"So, I was...?"

"Yes, you were. You are everything I could have hoped for and so much more. Please, rest assured, every other encounter pales in comparison."

Buffy grinned up at him. Disengaging her hands she laid her head on his chest. "How did I get so lucky as to end up with you?"

"I believe you wanted me for my money. You came here planning to abscond with my paycheck and all my future paychecks as well, leaving me in a life of abject poverty."

"That's right. I did want you for your paycheck." She giggled. "And I got it, and a paycheck of my own too. And a major bonus."

"A major bonus?"

"You. I got you."

"Ah, yes you did." He held her tightly. "I feel as if I got quite a bonus myself." He grinned down at her. "A proposal of marriage, in front of Quentin Travers, no less." Giles started to laugh. "Oh, Buffy, not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that."

Buffy giggled. Then she sent a pleading look his way. "Will you...I mean I know I proposed, but would you...could we...?"

Giles stared at her, trying to work out where she was going. "I need more to go on, Buffy, what is it?"

Buffy just shook her head, blushing. "Never mind."

"Tell me." Giles was mystified.

"I can't. Maybe later."

Dissatisfied, he still let her pull him along and they resumed their tourist activities. As they strolled along Buffy did some window-shopping. One store in particular seemed to interest her. Giles finally looked in the window, as she seemed stuck there. "What has you so fascinated?" The display was filled with diamond engagement rings. She looked up at him, that pleading look on her face again. Giles frowned at her. "Shouldn't you be the one to buy me one of those? After all, you did propose to me."

Buffy pouted.

Giles grinned and taking her hand, dragged her into the store.

The End
March 31, 2002