Talking Things Through

Timeline: Spoilers for Season 4 - specifically, the episode "Where the Wild Things Are"
Disclaimer:  I own nothing but my imagination.  Joss Whedon, WB, Mutant Enemy and/or a bunch of other people own everything else in the Buffyverse...
Author's Note:  I just had to get on the bandwagon...  I'm completely ignoring the last scene of the episode, which, as a slightly(?) mad writer, I am allowed to do.
Summary:  This is quite different than my usual mush.  Be forewarned.
Rated PG-13

At the soft knock on his door, Giles looked up from his comfortable spot on the couch.  Who would come calling at this hour?  Of course, he knew who it would be.  He smiled slightly, put his cup of tea on the coffee table, and stood, stretching.  Seances were more tiring than they appeared.  He made his way to the door, not hurrying in the least.  She would wait.  She might not like it, but since finding Olivia in his kitchen, she no longer let herself in.

He opened the door, his smile widening slightly at her impatient face. "Hello, Buffy.  Late, isn't it?"  He stood back to let her pass, and she strode by, not bothering to greet him properly.  He followed her to theliving room and sat in his usual spot opposite hers on the couch.  "Now, if you would perhaps tell me what brings you to my door at..."  He looked at his watch, frowning, then his eyebrows flew upwards in surprise."...three-thirty in the morning?"

"It's not all that late for me."  Her voice gave no indication of her intentions.

"Nor me, actually, but that's beside the point."  He tilted his head, staring at her in that familiar, befuddled way that made her heart beat a little faster.

She masked the leap of emotion by retorting, "I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you, since you've obviously been asleep for hours."  She indicated his sweater and jeans with a wave of her hand.  They were the same clothes he had been wearing at the Expresso Pump, and later as he, Tara and Willow attempted to draw the spirits out of Lowell House and save her and Riley from becoming sexual prunes.

One corner of his mouth quirked slightly, but he maintained his slightly irritated tone.  "I wasn't asleep, of course.  One rarely sleeps after castings.  It takes several hours to come down after using magic."

"I guess I should be thanking you instead of making fun of your clothes."

"That would be more appropriate, I should think.  Although thanks would be in order for everyone.  They all helped, even Tara."

Buffy snorted softly.  "Tara helped because Willow helped.  She doesn't even know me."

Giles stared at her, nodding thoughtfully.  "Even more so, then."

"Stop getting me off the subject!"  She glared at him, grabbing a throw pillow and hugging it defensively.

"Sorry, but I wasn't aware that there was a subject, as yet."  He slid his arm along the back of the couch and leaned forward.  "Buffy... what is it you want?  It must be important... you don't usually beat about the bush like this for trivial matters."

She laughed, sounding a little hysterical.  "You always use fifty words when five will do, don'cha?"


She dropped her head and held up a hand.  "All right... all right.  I'm stalling, I know.  Okay, I'll just blurt this out in random order, and we can put it in outline form later."

"Fine."  He smiled encouragingly, and she allowed her eyes to drift up to his.  Despite his sarcasm, his eyes were soft and kind.  Understanding. Loving.

She shook her head at that thought, stubbornly refusing to be side-tracked. "Okay.  Fasten your seat belt.  I realized tonight that all Riley and I have in common are demon-killing and sex.  Wait."  She threw up a hand again as he opened his mouth to protest.  "You have to hear me out.  Besides that, we have nothing.  He likes to drive.  I can't drive.  He likes farm animals. I'm scared to death of chickens.  He's from small town Iowa, I'm from LA, the weirdness capital of California.  He's military, I'm... well, I'm about as far from military as is possible to get.  He's got a great bod, he's sweet, he's loving, but I don't really love him."

Giles sat back, stunned at her words.  "If you don't love him, then why..." He blushed slightly, and didn't continue.  They both sat there with their heads bowed, unable to look each other in the face.

"Why?"  She said despondently.  "Because I *wanted* to love him.  I really wanted to be in love, y'know?  No angst-fest, no gut-wrenching misery... no people getting their necks broken if we get carried away...  After all the crap I've had in my life, I just wanted something nice and normal.  Regular. Steady.  But, y'know what?  I'm not nice and normal, or regular, or steady, or completely human, either, for that matter.  It just doesn't work, and we both know it."

Giles' heart broke at her sad words.  "Oh, Buffy, I am sorry."  He leaned forward slightly, putting a hand on her shoulder.  Warmth from the contact surged through her, and she started slightly.  He withdrew his hand and sat back again, rebuffed, but still sympathetic.  "Have you... have the two of you talked?"

"Not really *talk* talked, but he's going back to Iowa for the summer.  It's gonna be three months, which is a long time for two people who are supposedly in love to go without seeing each other.  It's pretty much over."

He didn't know what to say, so he said nothing.  His eyes met hers as she looked up through the curtain of hair that surrounded her lowered face.  For a long moment, they communicated silently, his expression telling of sympathy and the offer of comfort, hers of acceptance and the need for that comfort.

Neither of them could say later who moved first.  She suddenly found herself wrapped in Giles' long, sweatered arms.  He pulled her close to his chest, her head resting comfortably between his shoulder and neck as she sobbed, the pain of yet another failed relationship fresh and sharp in her mind.  He murmured soothing, nonsensical words into her hair, his eyes tightly closed against the onslaught of his own tears.

After what seemed like an hour, Buffy pulled away, sniffling.  She managed a teary smile, and he returned it, his hand moving gently to wipe the tears away.  Still encircled in his protective embrace, she felt safe.  It was silly.  He couldn't protect her.  Riley couldn't.  Nobody could, really. But still...

"Thanks.  I'm sorry I broke down before I finished."

He looked surprised.  "There's more?"

She giggled soggily.  "Told ya this was in random order."  She cleared her throat, wishing for a glass of water, but afraid that moving off the couch would spoil the intimacy of the moment.

Finally, she took a deep breath.  "Adam."

"Ah.  I wondered if he fit into this, somehow."

"Well, yeah.  Because he's still out there.  He's organizing the night-crawlers.  I'm afraid he might go after you... I mean, you guys.  He's seen us together..."

"He hasn't seen us together."


"We haven't been together, patrolling or otherwise, lately.  He doesn't know about me, unless he followed you here."

"Oh."  Her voice sounded small and lost.  "Another big foot-in-mouth moment for Buffy."

He smiled reassuringly.  "Not really.  Perhaps this is an advantage.  I'm an unknown factor, so to speak."

She thought about what he'd said.  He wasn't with her anymore.  Not patrolling, or strolling back from the High School library... no, he hadn't been a part of her life since Riley came into it.  The thought made her want to cry again.  Here she was, sitting in his living room asking for sympathy when all she'd done is...

"I left you out, pretty much, didn't I?"

"Well..."  He struggled to find words to soothe her, despite the fact that he completely agreed with her assessment.  "You've been busy with school, and parties, and dating.  It's all a part of college life.  I don't mind, really."

She frowned in disbelief.  "Yes, you do, you liar."

He sighed and leaned his head to one side in defeat.  "All right.  I did mind, but I also understood.  You're a young adult, now, and you need your... um, space."

"That's no reason to neglect my friends."

"Well, no, but I'm more of an outdated authority figure."

"You're not outdated!  And you're still my friend."  She shocked herself with that statement.  It was true.  He was.  And she'd been horrible to him! "Giles, I'm sorry.  You must think I'm awful."

"No!" he stated firmly.  "No, you're not.  Buffy, our relationship is changing constantly.  That's the very nature of relationships.  They aren't static.  We're... redefining what we mean to each other all the time. Circumstances effect how we feel, how we relate to one another.  It's... difficult, but perfectly understandable."

Her voice was soft and wistful as she said, "I wish it could be like it was before, when you were Answer Guy, and everyone was together."

He chuckled shortly.  "It would be nice, wouldn't it?  I actually had a job, back then."

"Yeah, what's with that?  It's not like you're unqualified for stuff.  I mean, you've got beacoup degrees.  You should be head of something somewhere."

"It's more like I'm overqualified for what I've applied for, really.  People look at me in disbelief and say, 'You want to work *here*?'"

It was Buffy's turn to laugh, and she giggled at his disdainful expression. "Well, they're stupid.  You can do anything you want to."  She stopped and smiled again.  "Even sing, from what Willow tells me.  How come I didn't know you could do that?"

He shrugged.  "You had no reason to know.  That was just for fun--for old times sake, I suppose."

"But she said you were really good.  She was practically drooling."

"She was?"  The smile on his face widened.

"Don't get all puffy-headed about it.  She always did have a crush on you."

"She did?"  The smile grew wider still.

"Giles. We are not going to discuss your groupies right now."

"Groupies?"  The flattered smile faded into shock.

"Yeah, you had Anya and Tara all gooey-eyed about it, too.  How come you never sang for me?"

The question took him completely by surprise.  "Sang for you?"

She huffed slightly and whined, "Do you have to repeat everything I say?"

"No, of course not.  Perhaps you'd better continue."

"Well, if you're not gonna sing for me,  I guess I have to."

He quirked a grin at her.  "Maybe later."

She found herself grinning back at him.  "I'm gonna hold you to that."

"Back to the subject."

"Oh, okay.  Subject was... big, scary Adam guy."

"We need to find his weakness.  Do you think Riley would... ah... dig around a bit at Initiative headquarters and see if there are blueprints, or schematics, or whatever else might give us some indication of Adam's vulnerable points?"

"Already asked him.  He's gonna try."

"Good.  You see, you really don't need me."  He fought to keep his voice neutral.

"Not true.  I'm sitting here, aren't I?  I come over here with a problem, and we talk things through, and my mind gets all straightened up and clear. You're always here when I need you.  And I do need you."

They stared at each other for several seconds, her statement soaking in. She searched his face for resentment or denial, but found none.

She found herself repeating, "I do need you."

He cleared his throat nervously.  "And I... um... I also... well."

A smile blossomed across her face.  "Oh, Giles, that's the sweetest thing you've ever not said."

He laughed softly.  "It happens to be true."  He looked down, embarrassed that he'd revealed so much of himself in a few words.

She stared at the top of his head for a split second, then moved forward slightly, curling her free arm around his neck and pressing her lips against his hair.  She turned her cheek and rubbed it into the soft waves, relishing the feeling.  Minutes passed slowly, and she refused to release him until she felt him relax and accept her embrace.

Finally she loosened her grip and allowed him to look up at her.  To her surprise, his eyes were bright with unshed tears.  She felt her own eyes grow wet again.

He looked at her, abashed.  "I never intended to... burden you with my silly emotions.  You came here for my help, not the other way round."

"It's no burden, and it's not silly."  She brought her face closer to his, still clasping his neck.  She toyed idly with the curls at the base of his neck, marveling at their softness.  "Y'know, I love you."

He didn't seem able to respond right away.  She watched the play of emotions across his face with great interest.  She knew without a doubt he loved her, too.

She inched closer, her eyes locked onto his, her voice low and confidential. "Isn't it funny how I can't tell Riley I love him, even in bed, but it's so easy to tell you?"

He didn't respond, but he didn't pull away.  He seemed mesmerized by her soft voice.

She leaned even closer, her nose just brushing his.  He didn't move, but his breathing became harsh and ragged.  She whispered, "I guess it just proves which one of you I really need the most, doesn't it?."

His eyes fluttered closed and he uttered one word, softly, like a sigh. "Yes."

She took a deep breath, drinking in the aroma of him, tea and aftershave, and a masculine scent that was pure Giles.  With a sigh, she pulled him closer and their lips met.  He responded almost reflexively, not fully committing to the embrace.  She stopped, breathless, but unsatisfied.  She kissed him again, more firmly this time, and something broke loose inside his heart.

This time, when she pulled back, giving him a chance to respond, he breathed her name, amazement in his voice.  He lunged forward just enough to renew contact with her mouth.  The arm that had been clutching the back of the couch moved to hold her head in place, his fingers tangling in her hair. The kiss became something desperate, needy, intense.

He broke the kiss, finally, gasping for air.  "Buffy... we mustn't..."

"I know..."  Her breathing was as ragged as his.  "It's too soon... and what I feel about you is more... but I want... just not right now."

"I know.  It's all right.  Shh."  He kissed her again, slowly, lovingly, and she accepted it with a happy sigh.

"Oh, Giles..."

Outside the apartment, a shadow moved.  The small window next to the door became a perfect frame for the scene.  A tall, malformed figure watched as the couple inside kissed and stroked each other, looking for all the world as if they'd just found the meaning of life.

"Curious."  Adam recorded the scene for later review.  "The Slayer is no longer interested in my brother Riley.  This new person must be studied.  Is he human?  Is he vulnerable?  I must find out."  He smiled, a delighted expression on his horribly disfigured face.  He turned away from the scene and strode into the darkness.  "It will be an interesting experiment."