The Matchmaker
By Karen Jephson and Tricia Stewart (GylzGirl)

Title: The Matchmaker
Authors: Karen Jephson and Tricia Stewart (GylzGirl)
Email: kjephson@bigpond.net.au ; gylzgirl@softcom.net
Disclaimer: Joss and Fox own all. We just took them out and played awhile. Then we had ice cream and named all the stars the same. Then we had to take a nap.
Distribution: buffygiles.com, Dee, Dword, UCSL, Our Sites. Anyone else, just ask.
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: B/G
Timeline: Season 6. AU. Breaks off timeline-wise after All the Way. Takes place a few weeks after that episode.
Summary: Giles is leaving. Buffy is sad. What is a lovestruck vampire to do?


Buffy walked into her darkened room, her now usual passive expression on her face. Shutting the door behind her, she leaned against it. Now that the rest of the world was shut out, she finally let her feelings show, bowing her head in despair and allowing the pain to force itself out. Sighing, she moved toward her bed, quietly squeezing her eyes shut to clear them of tears. Not bothering to undress, she crawled slowly across the bed and hugged a pillow to herself. Closing her eyes, she exhaled heavily. "There. It's done now. No going back. Too late," she whispered into the empty room.

Or what she thought was an empty room. Spike stepped out from the shadows in the corner of her room and silently made his way to the bed. He sat down next to her, causing Buffy to sit up instantly. Taking advantage of her moment of confusion, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her onto his lap. "Shh hey hey easy Pet. It's just me."

"Spike? What are you doing here?"

"First things first, why are you crying?" His heart nearly broke at the look of misery that swept over her face. Her tears overflowed and soon he was gathering her back into his arms. "Shh... it can't be as bad as all that now. Tell Spike. Together we can fix anything"

"Giles is leaving tomorrow." Neither commented on the utter despair in her voice.

"Yeah. I thought you said you were okay with it? You said he should give the new life he started an honest try because you knew he was only a phone call away. You agreed that you shouldn't rely on him being there to take care of things for you."

"I know what I said..."

"But now you're not so sure? Frightened you can't handle it without Daddy Giles to take care of....Ow!" He recoiled back from the contact of her fist against his nose. "What'd ya do that for?"

"Maybe because I'm sick and tired of people thinking I only need him to take care of things I don't want to deal with!"

"It's all right Pet. We all know you're fond of the old guy, and how much you need to keep an eye on the people you love. Is that what you're worried about? What if something happens to him in England and you won't even know about it?"

She shook her head and pulled back. "That's not it. I... I'm just overtired. I need to sleep is all. And you're kinda right. I'm sad because he's going."

Buffy looked directly into his eyes for the first time, probably to see if he believed her. Something flickered there, something Spike recognized, but didn't want to believe. "You're in love with Giles?"

She clamped her hand over Spike's mouth. "Don't say that. Of course I'm not. I mean he-he's old, so much older than me."

Spike pulled her hand from his mouth. "Yet still younger than Angel'n me."

"He-he's my Watcher, a-and mentor, and pa...," even in her stressed situation Buffy couldn't use that lie. "It would be... gross. Everybody'd think I'd finally lost it."

At last. Confirmation of what he'd thought he'd seen. It was like a knife in his chest, yet it also made perfect sense. "Denial much Slayer?"

"You don't know what you're talking about Spike. So... so just shut up. Just..."

"Why didn't you ask him to stay if you lov..." His sentence was cut off by Buffy throwing herself back into his arms and pressing her lips hard against his, as if forcing the words back in his mouth.

For one brief moment, Spike allowed himself to become lost in the kiss. But when it came to Buffy, he felt the need to know exactly what way to step to stay in her good graces. And taking advantage of whatever the Hell had gotten into her right at that moment was nothing but a first class ticket to being an outsider again come the morning. No kiss was worth that. Not even one of Buffy's.

He pulled her arms from around his neck and gently pushed her away from him. "You've really got it bad for the old berk don't ya?"

"Don't call him names." No more denials but she wasn't making eye contact with him any longer.

"Why then Buffy? Why send him away? Are you afraid that he doesn't..."

"I know he does."

"What?"

"Please just go Spike. I..."

"Now I'm not leaving here until I understand all of this."

"I could make you." She said quietly.

He nodded. "You could indeed. But you don't want to do you?" Her eyes at last met his again. "Got no else to tell." He brushed a stray hair from in front of her eyes. "You said you know?"

"When I came back and he wasn't here, I figured it out. The way I feel about him I mean. And then when I saw him for the first time since... It was so obvious it was painful. That was when I knew he had to go back to England. I have to keep him away from me."

"Why?"

"Because when I love a guy, he's doomed."

"That's a load of crap!"

"Is it? Look at my track record. I've caused Giles enough pain. I'm not about to put him through a relationship with me. That would be unforgivable. It's better that I let him go."

Spike stood and began to pace. "I guess you're right. He'll be better off in his old stomping grounds."

"Exactly."

"Let him feel at home again. Get settled in a new place with no traces of you."

"Yup."

"Probably run through a few birds getting his bearings again." He wasn't facing her but her silence spoke volumes. "Maybe look up that Olivia..."

"Thanks Spike. Knew I could count on you to make me feel better."

He turned and noticed she was crying. "This is exactly my point Slayer. If it's making you so bloody miserable why don't you call off the game right now and tell him that you love him?"

"Because... he's better off without me. And love isn't about what's best for you. It's about being able to do what's best for the other person... even if it's killing you inside."

"Well that's just stupid."

"Not arguing," she said as she lay back against the pillows and turned her back to him.

Spike took the hint and started to leave, pausing only for a moment at the door. "Sometimes this whole humanity thing is just insane. Sometimes, I think it's better to be a demon."

When she thought he'd gone, she whispered, "Sometimes, I think you're right."

Spike bit his lip at the sight of her small body curled on the bed. Quietly as possible, he moved down the hall and out of house.

He lit a cigarette when he reached the front porch. Spike looked up at the stars as he blew the smoke out into the night. As he watched a falling star shoot by, he wished for the thousandth time that he'd never run into Drusilla in that alley all those decades ago. Wished he could have died of the broken heart he had then, instead of lingering with the one he had now.

Spike took another drag and then wished his previous wishes away. Either one coming true would have meant that he never met Buffy. And as much as it hurt to have her in his life sometimes, he now knew from experience that it was a paradise compared to the alternative.

He walked a few steps away from the house, took one last drag and dropped the cigarette to the ground. He crushed it into the cement with his heavy black boot and looked up at Buffy's window.

"Even if it's killing you inside, right Slayer?" He smiled and looked out into the empty street. "Love's Bitch to the rescue my Pet. I'll get your Watcher for you if I have to tie him up and drag him here." Cheered up slightly by the visual that presented, he set off for Giles' apartment.

 
***********

Giles rinsed and dried the final glasses before placing them in the cardboard box sitting on the bench top. Xander and Anya would be round later to collect them, as well as a few other things he had given them when he left the first time. They had been good enough to let him borrow them back for the duration of his stay. He sighed as he folded the teatowel over the top of the box and turned back toward the almost empty apartment. The others had offered to help him clean up, but after all the good-byes and the gift giving, he'd thought it best not to drag things out any longer. He'd ordered a taxi for the morning, and he and his remaining meager belongings would soon be on their way.

He had placed a good amount of his possessions in storage when he left for England the first time in anticipation of having them shipped to him once he found a place. When he was called back after Buffy's return, he'd been glad he hadn't had an opportunity to send for them yet. His apartment had not yet been leased and so he was able to get it back on a month to month basis. And after two weeks of butterfly sheets on Buffy's couch, he was glad for the additional space, even with the unwanted memories..

He had moved some of his things back in, but was now thankful that he hadn't emptied the storage unit completely. It would have been a waste of time and energy. Two months back in Sunnydale and already, he felt it was time to leave. Giles counted his blessings that he hadn't let the rent on his new home in Bath go.

It was surprising how much one accumulated over a few years, and yet how little of it was important. Except for a few photographs of the others, and some smaller memorabilia from some of their battles most of the things he was taking with him were belongings he'd actually brought from England. All that remained in the apartment was the bed, which belonged to the owner, and a few boxes. Those were to be held by Anya at the shop, or amalgamated with her stock, except for one he'd addressed to Buffy. He wondered how she'd feel when she realized he'd returned everything of hers, how he hadn't wanted to keep anything to remind him of their time together. Even the photographs he had were mainly of the others, except for a few group shots. Not that it mattered. He'd realized long ago, he was so important to her that there was not one picture of him on her 'gallery'.

Deciding there was only one thing to do in his current depressed state, Giles collected the half-empty bottle of whiskey on the counter and moved into the living area. Picking up one of the few American items he was taking with him, he sat on one of the sturdier bottles and rested the guitar on his lap. Taking a swig from the bottle before setting it down, he began to pluck at the strings whilst trying to choose an appropriate song. After all, what better way to become more depressed than he already was than to sing a disgustingly depressing song and drink himself numb?

Closing his eyes, he pictured a head of blonde hair and a pair of gray eyes that refused to acknowledge what could be between them, and continued to deliberately ignore his pain, before the words of the desired tune made themselves known. Nodding, he bent over the instrument and began to play the tune.

"Work away today, work away tomorrow.
Never comes the day for my love and me.
I feel her gently sighing as the evening slips away.
If only you knew what's inside of me now
You wouldn't want to know me somehow,
But
You will love me tonight,
We alone will be all right,
In the end.

"Give just a little bit more
Take a little bit less
From each other tonight
Admit what you're feeling
And see what's in front of you,
It's never out of your sight.
You know it's true,
We all know that it's true.

"Work away today, think about tomorrow
Never comes the day for my love and me.
I feel her gently sighing as the evening slips away.
If only you knew what's inside of me now."

"Well, aren't you going to make my job easier." Giles looked up in shock at the vampire's words. At least he didn't squeak again. Spike sauntered further into the living area, making for the bottle beside Giles. "And what's with you and changing the tempo of songs anyway? Sure I remember the Moody's singing that more upbeat."

Giles put the guitar down and rescued the bottle before Spike could grab it. "Matches my mood more." He took a swallow before passing the bottle to the vampire. "What do you mean, make your job easier?"

Spike shrugged as he proceeded to down half the contents. "I'm here on an errand. You weren't expecting anybody else were you?"

"I wasn't expecting anybody at all. No offense, but yours was not the last face I wanted to see in Sunnydale. Actually, I take back the no offense bit."

Spike laughed as he handed the bottle back. "You didn't think she'd come back did you?"

Giles paused before taking a drink. "I told you I wasn't expecting anybody."

"Good. Cause she's kinda busy tonight."

"With you?" Giles didn't hold back the bitterness.

"I wish. Nah, nothing so important. Just breaking her heart."

"What? Angel call again?"

"I can't believe you." In a flash Spike had gone from humorous to angry. "How can you be so damned blind and uncaring!"

"Uncaring?! That's right. That's why I sacrificed six years of my life because I don't care!" Giles stood, suddenly wanting to pummel something. A vampire who couldn't hurt him back suddenly sounded good.

"Careful Rupert. Wouldn't be 'cricket' you know." Spike backed away just in case. "She's crying for you, you pillock."

Giles turned away. "What do you expect me to do about it?"

"Stop being such a bloody fool and go after her. She doesn't want you to leave."

"She has a funny way of showing it. What's the point, Spike? She doesn't care."

"She cares about you more than you know."

"And that's why she merrily waved me away tonight. Why she couldn't wait to get rid of me. Is that why she's pulled away from me since she came back and turned to you?"

"Yeah! No." Spike was confused. "Yeah, and no."

Giles gave a bark of laughter. "Glad you're so sure of that."

"You weren't there. She.." Now they were getting into dangerous territory. "She needed to talk to somebody. She couldn't confide in the others.."

"So she chose you." At Spike's affirming nod, Giles went on the attack. "And after? After I was back, when she could talk to me about her money problems, and about Dawn and expect me to deal with them all. Why couldn't she talk to me then?"

"Because she realized you were in love with her!"

Giles paled, sitting heavily on the box he'd just vacated. "What?"

Spike ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "Man, you're meant to be making this easy for me, not hard. She couldn't tell you because she knew how much it'd destroy you."

"More than she's destroyed me now?" This said in a whisper.

Sighing, Spike realized he had no choice. He only hoped Buffy would forgive him. "She wasn't in Hell. Willow brought her back from Heaven. That's what she couldn't tell you. Any of you."

Giles froze, his emotions expressive on his face. Shock, pain, sorrow, pity, and rage followed in order. Spike swallowed, hating to be on the end of the anger. Finally the Watcher looked up, his features now expressionless. "And so she told you."

"She needed somebody to tell. I was the only one..."

"So you've said." Giles took another swallow of the quickly depleting whiskey before carefully placing it down. "You've said quite a bit, but still not what you want from me now."

Spike grasped at the opening with both hands, just wanting this night through. "There was one thing she didn't tell me."

"Until tonight?"

"I guessed tonight."

"You guessed I was in love with Buffy?"

Spike waved his hand in dismissal then remembered the bottle. He reached for it, explaining "Nah. Known that for years. You wouldn't have stuck around as long as you did if you weren't."

If anything Giles' features became colder. "So what was this blinding revelation you had tonight?"

"She's in love with you."

"She said that?" His expression was cautiously hopeful. Spike could tell he wanted to believe it more than anything in the world, but that he was also afraid to believe it. What the vampire couldn't believe was that she would pick this wanker over him.

"Would I be here if I wasn't sure? I'm hardly ecstatic that when I was alone with her in her dark bedroom and she was all sniffly and vulnerable, her warmest thoughts were all of you. Doesn't do much for one's ego mate."

"What exactly were you doing in her bedroom?"

"Well obviously not what you're thinking or else I'd still be there doing it wouldn't I?" Giles was on his feet in a moment, Spike backing away with his hands up in supplication. "What do you think I was doing? Poor vamp's version of Sally Jesse. Listening to her pine for you. I even tried to get her to come here and confess."

"And she wouldn't?"

"She thinks she's a curse man. She thinks that the only way to save you from her is to let you go."

"That's ridiculous!"

"But she believes it. She won't come to you because she loves you too much to doom you... blah blah blah. So it's up to you to get your unworthy ass over there and make the girl see sense. That is of course unless you would rather go back to Blighty when everything you've dreamed about for years is about to be yours for the price of a little nudging."

"I... I don't know..."

"What?"

"I can't. I can't reach out to the empty air anymore. It's a step I just can't take."

Spike rolled his eyes. It was at times like these he really wished the chip was gone so he could just drag the idiot over there. Calmly, he settled himself on the box that Giles had been using as a chair. "Fine. Can't say I didn't try. My conscience is clear."

"Yes you tried. Now leave."

"And when you go, I guess I'll have to be there to pick up the pieces. You should have seen the kiss she gave me just to stop me saying she loved you out loud. Not that you'll ever experience her kisses now but let me tell you Rupes it was so sof..."

In a flash, Giles had lifted him by the lapels and was slamming him against the wall. "Don't you touch her!"

Spike smiled. "If you won't, I will. Make a decision Rupert. Is Buffy yours or is she mine?"

The vampire watched the churning emotion behind the Watcher's stormy green eyes. At one point, he swore that Giles was just going to stake him and leave town anyway. Then he exhaled deeply and lowered Spike's feet to the ground. Without another word, Giles let him go, retrieved his jacket off of the stack of crates by the door and left.

Spike smiled sadly and dusted off his coat. "Thanks Spike. Thanks for handing me my dream on a silver platter and buggering your own hopes in the process." He walked to the kitchen and opened the box marked K. Cabinets. "It's my pleasure Watcher. All in a day's work for Spike the unselfish and incredibly stupid vampire." He dug around in the box until he found what he was looking for. "You take the girl I love and I'll take your Weetabix. Cause that's fair." He collected a few more items and made his way up the stairs to Giles' stripped down bed. Spike very much doubted the Watcher was going to be using it tonight. Lucky bastard.

 
***********

She wasn't sure what woke her up. She doubted it was her Slayer senses, because as soon as she opened her eyes she knew there was no demon presence in the room. Not that she was alone. There was definitely somebody else there. Tensing, she prepared to take the offensive.

"Do that and one of us might get embarrassed. I could end up with a bruised eye and a few broken bones." Buffy caught her breath at the sound of the familiar tones, slowly rising to a seated position. "Or you could get tangled up in your bedspread and fall flat on your face." Only his outline was visible as he leaned against her wall, his features completely hidden from her. He nodded in greeting.

"What are you doing here?"

"Waiting to talk to you."

"Why didn't you just wake me?"

"I was curious. About how you slept. If you dream. You do by the way, not very happy ones by the look of things." His voice was quiet, gentle, no obvious sign of emotion. "I was curious if you let that mask you've been wearing for the past few weeks slip in your sleep. I wondered what caused those tears that were still on your cheeks. And I wondered if you happened to sleep with anything on." This was said more lighthearted, as if encouraging her to share in the confession.

Instead she just felt confused, her mind still fuzzy from sleep. "Giles have you been drinking?"

He paused. "Yes I have actually. But not much. I'd intended to finish off a bottle tonight but I had company."

And then it clicked. "Spike."

"Spike."

She only prayed the light was weak enough to hide her embarrassment. "He was here earlier. Kept saying some stupid stuff about hiding my feelings and not telling you...."

"I know. He told me." His voice had gone quiet again, almost cold. She shivered. "Cold?"

"No. Just....." She had to make him believe that Spike had been wrong. She had to let him go. "I-I told Spike he got it wrong. That we have this whole father-daughter thing..."

"Yes, that's what I said too."

"You did?"

"Where are the others?"

"What?" She couldn't understand the change in subject.

"Willow, Tara, Dawn. Where are they?"

"Dawn's with Xander and Anya. They thought I might want to be alone when you..." She so didn't want to go there. "Tara moved out after she realized what Willow did with the forget spell and stuff. Willow went to stay with her parents for a few days. Said she needed space."

"So we're all alone?" He still hadn't moved, but she felt hemmed in, the air closing in around her. She'd never felt afraid of Giles before, and she didn't like it.

"Frightened I might ravish you?" She ended on a half-laugh, trying to make it sound the farthest thing from her mind.

"No." He shook his head. "That would defeat your purpose."

And she knew. He wouldn't let her hide behind any more of her lies. He knew how she felt and he'd come to confront her. "So after Spike's little heart to heart you decided to come over for a joyous reunion, is that it?" She wasn't sure why she was so bitter, only that she was.

"No, actually. I was, and am still furious. Right now I'd rather kill you than kiss you. Why do you think that would be?"

She shook her head, genuinely not knowing where his anger came from. And angry he was. She finally recognized the signs. His absolute stillness, the quietness of his voice. Anybody else would scream and shout. Giles just got quieter. "I - I don't..."

"No that's the problem." He finally moved, pushing away from the wall and walking toward her. Stalking. That was the only word for it. She hadn't moved from the bed, but he was still stalking her. "You never do. As usual you think only of yourself and tidy it up by pretending you're doing everybody else a favor. What's the matter Buffy? Gotten so used to wearing the mantle of martyr?"

"That's not fair!" She'd always thought he'd be happy to realize she returned his feelings. Instead he was angry and hurting. And hurting her in turn. "You think I like feeling like this?"

"Yes!" They both pulled up in shock at the shouted word, almost waiting for somebody to come running to see what the problem was. Buffy saw in his stance when Giles remembered what she said about the others. When he spoke again his voice was more normal. "Yes, I think you do. It's comfortable. And safe. And it's the role given to you by yourself and the others. Anything else you'd have to admit that you're not just the Slayer who can't have a normal life or be a normal person. You're just a young woman who made a few bad mistakes."

Buffy looked down, blinking the tears back. "You're wrong. It hurts, all of it. I hurt."

"Life hurts." She looked up surprised, not having realized he'd moved beside the bed. "That's what it does. It hurts, and brings sorrow and great joy. And we ride the hurt and sorrow to experience the joy."

"What if the hurt and sorrow is more than the joy is worth?"

He sat on the side of the bed, facing her. "Then you take the joy and hold it with you to ease the pain and sorrow, and to keep you warm during the loneliness to come." He moved forward, pressing his lips against hers. Against her will, Buffy responded. She'd yearned for this moment for so long, she couldn't have resisted had hers and Giles' life depended on it.

If she'd expected tenderness, an extension of his gentle regard, she was disappointed. This wasn't her Giles tentatively pressing his suit, trying to persuade her back into the living. This was Ripper, demanding she feel again, punishing her with their passion. She opened her mouth to him, allowing him to retain control. They pulled back, mere inches separating them.

"This changes nothing," she said, hoping her voice didn't tremble. In answer, he kissed her again, his tongue claiming her mouth as he used his weight to push her down onto the mattress.

He kissed her thoroughly, leaving no part of her mouth unexplored, his movements almost leisurely, as if he had all the time in the world. He moved his hand to cover her breast, cupping it gently in his palm. Feeling her nipple bead against his flesh, he squeezed her gently before moving to unbutton the pajama top. Pushing the material to one side, he returned his attention to her warm flesh. Rubbing the nubbin with his thumb, he lifted his head and looked with satisfaction at her swollen wet lips and glazed eyes. Shifting slightly, he moved his head lower down.

Buffy moaned at the feel of his lips against her nipple. Lifting her hands up, she grabbed his hair, encouraging his attentions. Obeying his Slayer, Giles drew her breast into his mouth, alternately laving it with his tongue and suckling on her. He abandoned his task only to give the same thorough attention to her other breast. Satisfied to pleasure her in this way, Giles spent several minutes exploring her upper chest.

Feeling Buffy stir restlessly beneath him, Giles knew it was time to move on. Kissing his way down her stomach, he hitched his hands into her pajama bottoms. Pausing only to tease his tongue against the elasticized waistline. Finally, he inched the material further down, his lips and tongue following it down. Avoiding the already moist core of her, he continued moving down her legs, disposing of the clothing. Grabbing her legs, he separated them further and began kissing his way back up her quivering flesh.

"No." At her command, he paused before reaching his target. "Please? Together." Nodding, he rose and began to disrobe. Buffy now showed embarrassment in being fully exposed to him. It was as if, now that he knew her secret, there would be nothing between them any more. They both knew the truth however, that there would always be things between them.

Moving his hands towards his pants, Giles began to undo their fastenings. He paused as realization hit. "Damn."

"What's wrong?"

"Me." He felt such a fool, like a callous boy on his first grown-up date. "I haven't... I packed everything up that I didn't expect to need before I arrived in England. Everything."

Understanding was late in coming, but it finally arrived. "Oh. It's all right."

"No it isn't. I won't..."

"Giles, you don't understand. I don't rely on everybody for everything. It's all right. I'm protected." Buffy brushed his hands away, finishing the task of disrobing him. She pushed his now undone pants and boxers down past his hips, where Giles took over. He removed his shoes and socks before stepping out of the remains of his clothes. He joined his Slayer back on her bed, accepting the welcome of her arms and legs wrapped around him.

As he resumed the pleasurable task of kissing her, Giles moved his hand down her body, pressing it against her opening before pushing inside. Satisfied she was ready for him, he rolled on top of her and positioned himself. Lifting his head, he only waited until she was looking into his eyes before he slipped fully inside her. Knowing this would be his only chance to mark her as his, he began to stroke inside her, pulling almost completely out before pushing back into her as far as he could. Waiting only until she could match his rhythm, he began to increase the pace, drawing her further and further out. The only sound in the house was the slapping of flesh against flesh, and Buffy's pants that began to change to whimpers. Moving his hand, Giles stroked her, wanting to watch her climax before he gave into his own orgasm. Her pupils dilated and she screamed his name as she fell over the edge. He continued to pump into her, riding her orgasm and pushing her onto a second before he took his own release. Straining, he pumped himself into her, relaxing his muscles and releasing her only when he was sated.

Rolling them both on their side, he curled her more fully into his body. Both accommodated themselves without separating from each other. Buffy curled her hand against his chest, barely holding back a yawn. "This....".

"I know." And he did. Kissing the top of her head, he closed his eyes as they both fell into an exhausted slumber.

 
***********

Buffy woke up to the sound of material rustling. Her hand automatically moved to the other side of her bed, finding nothing but sheets and pillows. She rolled toward the room. There was very little light, although the first hint of dawn peeked through her shutters. It gave her enough to see him zipping up his jacket. Pulling the sheets against her chest, she began to rise. "Giles?"

He paused before pulling the zipper all the way to his collar. "My plane leaves in a few hours. I have to go back to my flat and wait for the taxi."

"Weren't you at least going to say goodbye?" She couldn't stop the hurt.

"Would it have made any difference?" Again the bitterness inside him came out. "You said it yourself. It changes nothing. We are still the people we were last night. And I'm tired of waiting around for you to realize that I can be more than your whipping boy and the convenient adult to take care of things you don't want to face." He turned toward the door, pausing as he opened it. "If I had missed my plane what would you have done? Asked me to stay, or called to make another reservation and wish me bon voyage?" She opened her mouth to speak, but realized there was nothing she could say. "That's what I thought." He closed the door quietly behind him.

Buffy sat in the middle of the bed, listening to his footsteps on the stairs. She pulled her knees up, resting her head against them as she wrapped her arms around her legs. Now she couldn't hear anything. The silence closed in around her, a portent to the rest of her life. She'd won. He'd left and she wouldn't have to watch him hurt any more. She wouldn't have to suffer any more. She lifted her head, as she realized the truth. Jumping out of bed, she paused only to grab her robe as she swung open the door. Running down the stairs, she could only hope she wasn't too late. "Giles!"

He stood in the hallway, his hand still holding the handle of the open front door. His shoulders were drooped in defeat. He half-turned his head at her call. "I couldn't. I truly thought I could walk away, but I couldn't even cross your threshold." He turned then, looking up at her. She thought he might have been crying, but she couldn't see through her own tears. Tying her robe closed, she walked down the rest of the stairs and into his open arms. Laying her head against his chest, she knew as she felt his cheek on her hair that it was going to be okay. They'd both finally come home.

 
The End