It takes Rupert Giles an incalculably short space of time to recognise Ethan Rayne. Even after all these years, oh so far apart and so much happened to change them both; his stance, his smile, his eyes, his smell, his aura hits him across the senses like the snap of a damp towel, all instinct and subconscious.
It takes perhaps two seconds for the strange, unidentifiable and far-too-much like being young and foolish feeling to make his stomach roll like a rip-tide.
It takes two point five nine seconds for a miserable, yawning sense of loss and waste to jump to his throat. Memories of mad laughter, warm embraces, deep, grateful eyes and a world ahead of them placed side by side with the stark reality.
It takes just under a minute for the latter-most memories to breach the surface and the flood-gates to open. Exhilaration, pain, anger, guilt, need, confusion and despair all struggle for predominance in his poor mind.
It takes three steps to come close enough for the punch, land it straight in the jaw, meet his head going down with a knee going up, feel the adrenaline wash through him as his bloodlust runs high.
It takes five steps to be close enough to twist an arm between shoulderblades; press the thin, lithe, shaking body into harsh brick, face first.
It takes five steps, just as fast, to wrap his arms around the same slim frame enough to make him convinced just a little more and his arms will go around him twice.
It takes two months to get Rupert Giles into bed with Ethan Rayne. Three on the bonnet of their clapped out car. Nine on opposite sides of an invisible line and no longer facing one another- nor baring their backs to the other either.
A little over twenty years for drinks in America for the first time, over a table, muted and subdued. Even the rowdy behaviour the other patrons notice a shadow of the past.
A round twenty-five years and three more days and distant, quiet embarrassment and mutual remorse finds expression in averted eyes and bitten lips. Contact made more obvious by the determined lack of it; words kept to a bare, functional minimum and neutral, unloved topics.
Twenty five years, seven days, twelve hours and a decent bottle of scotch later and words tumble out. Recriminations. Insults. Irrational remarks. Demands. Hurt. Need. Remorse.
Twenty five years, seven days, fourteen hours and a flight of stairs later and hands refind places, trace changes, burn over old, never-quite forgotten paths. Tongues in ears chase murmurs of apology, need, love, pushing them in and sealing with a nip. Hands over hearts, over pulses in throats and cocks, behind knees, worshipping the strange places all over the body. Sweat and tears and strain and pull and push and finally, finally peace.
Twenty five years, seven days, fourteen hours, thirty minutes and counting is how long it takes Rupert Giles to love Ethan Rayne.