New York City
December 30, 2004 (Th)
"I can't believe I let you talk me into this, Buffy. It's insane."
"It is not. Come on, you can't tell me this hasn't been fun?"
"Perhaps a little. It's bloody cold here. Why couldn't you suggest a holiday in Hawaii?"
"Because I wanted a white Christmas."
"Why that was necessary all of the sudden I don't understand. And why didn't you bring Willow or Xander with you?"
"Because they were busy doing stuff."
"And you don't think I have stuff to do?"
"You said yes, didn't you?"
"Ha, got you there."
"Yes, yes, good point."
And she did have a point. He was hesitant to admit how much he'd enjoyed his time with Buffy. They'd been here since before Christmas. A much-needed break for both of them. He would probably never know the real reason she'd asked him. Whatever her reason, he was enjoying this time with her. He had never had this much time to spend with her uninterrupted.
New York City was a bevy of activity this time of year and they'd done it all. With still a few days left they were now struggling to come up with things to do that hadn't been done before. Buffy had suggested dinner and dancing. A formal dinner.
Little did she realize he was incapable of denying her any request. He was gone. Completely. He knew it, had for some time now. Luckily, he had been able to mask his feelings. He'd learned how to do so when Riley came onto the scene.
"Don't I look all right?"
He scoffed. The very idea she looked just all right was absurd. He couldn't remember a time in all the years he'd known her that all right was a remotely acceptable adjective to describe her.
"You look beautiful, Buffy."
"Thanks," she said. Her smile radiated her appreciation of his compliment. "You look handsome yourself. This is going to be fun."
"If you say so."
"I do. Come on. You like this stuff."
"Well, yes, but you've never displayed any affection for it."
"I'm a multifaceted woman, Giles." She took his hand and tugged him toward the door. They shared an adjoining suite, the doors between their rooms were closed only when they were getting ready for the day. He'd insisted upon it, probably not for the stuffy reason she imagined. He was far better off unexposed to the delicacy that was her tempting figure. It was something he would never have access to, except in his dreams.
He pulled her coat from its hanger and assisted her into it. It was a shame she had to cover the gown. It made him think of her prom, a lifetime ago it seemed. She'd matured since then, was more shapely and filled out this gown better. He'd be blind not to notice.
They said little in the elevator ride down to the lobby. As they stepped out, Buffy slid her hand into the crook of his arm. She made it seem like such a natural thing to do, touch him. He could until this trip count on one hand how many times they'd touched. It just didn't happen.
He hailed a cab. The hotel was a nice one so there was generally a cab nearby any time day or night they'd found thus far. He told the driver where to go. He had gotten the name of the type of place Buffy was looking for from the concierge. He knew nothing about it, but couldn't help but enjoy Buffy seated beside him on the ride there. She didn't remove her hand from his arm and talked animatedly along the way about the city life as they passed it.
It had been years since she'd lived in LA and while she'd done a good bit of traveling the past year there was still something about the hustle and bustle of New York that appealed even to him. It was contagious. He felt alive in a way he couldn't recall having felt in a while.
He paid the driver before offering Buffy his hand to assist her out of the cab. They were at a more upscale hotel than the one they were staying in. Theirs was a nice hotel, but this one was quite extravagant. He'd looked it up when booking travel plans. And while it was right in the center of everything, it was a little steep for him. He knew it would be for Buffy, too. For tonight, though, they could dine and dance as if they belonged here.
It was a busy week. Travelers were coming into town for the traditional Times Square New Year's celebration tomorrow night. Giles thought they were lucky to have gotten a reservation because the hotel looked to be just as busy as the New York streets outside.
"Bloody Americans. Travel in packs to see a ball drop when they would be much more comfortable and get a better view of at home right in their living room."
"Uh, did I say that aloud?"
"Yes, you did."
"Sorry, won't happen again."
"Sure it won't. Come on, this type of stuff didn't appeal to you when you were my age?"
"I'm not sure I can remember back that far."
"Ha ha, very funny. That's not what I meant. But you weren't so stuffy back then."
"What makes you think I'm stuffy now?"
She looked at him, blinked, blinked again. He supposed it sounded absurd, she didn't know differently.
"I'll have you know."
"I'm just teasing you, Giles. But can't you see the fun in being a part of something like the ball dropping?"
"I suppose. This isn't your way of suggesting we come back tomorrow, is it?"
"It'd be fun, but we don't have to. I can be content in our rooms watching it on TV. We have to drink champagne, though."
"That I can manage."
"You're quite welcome. I have enjoyed the trip."
"Knock me over with a feather, Giles. Are you suggesting my idea for a vacation away from slayers and watchers and scrolls was a good one?"
"Well, I wouldn't go that far."
They checked their coats. Giles couldn't help but take a moment to admire Buffy once again. The dress she wore was long. It wasn't overly extravagant, but it looked becoming on her. He couldn't help but think he was a lucky man to have her as his date for the evening.
He gave his name to the maitre d' and after not too long of a wait they were shown to a table. The restaurant was busy. Their table was a little more intimate than Giles had foreseen, but he was getting more accustomed to such things with Buffy on this trip. If he wasn't careful he'd fool himself into thinking he could have time with Buffy like this all of the time. Soon, they would be back in London and life would return to normal.
Buffy was finding that activating a multitude of slayers while a good plan, as well as a successful one, had some downfalls. Someone had to train the girls and with only a few having survived Sunnydale they were worn quite thin. It was for that reason that he'd agreed to come with Buffy when she'd asked him. He knew she needed the respite. She was working harder than anyone was to ensure the girls were better prepared to serve out their calling than she had been.
He ordered wine to go with their dinner. One thing he enjoyed about Buffy was her willingness to not just try new things but to let him guide her in those things. She was brutally honest if something didn't appeal to her, but he gave her points for at least trying it. Their waiter had just departed the table from filling the wineglasses when he heard his name.
"Do you know someone in New York?"
"I can't say that I do, no," he said, glancing in the direction the voice had come from. "Dear Lord. It can't be."
"What, Giles? Who is it?" He gave her points for not doing the rude thing and craning her neck to look over her shoulder.
"A blast from my past you might say. I haven't seen him in, goodness, fifteen or twenty years." He was sure it was Alastair Harrington as the man drew closer to their table. Alastair had always been a pompous ass. They hadn't run with the same crowd. While Giles and his crowd had been dabbling heavily in the occult, Alastair was sniffing after whatever skirt would net him the easiest life.
Giles stood from the table as Alastair made his final approach. "It is you." He patted Giles on the shoulder with one hand while they shook hands.
"Alastair. How are you?"
"Doing great. You?"
"Do you live in New York?"
"No, we're just visiting."
Alastair glanced at Buffy then. Giles saw the other man's attempt at a discreet appraisal of Giles' dinner companion.
"How about you, Alastair?"
"About the same. Diana and I, you remember Diana?"
"Yes, of course," Giles said, glancing in the direction Alastair had pointed. Diana did look vaguely familiar. They all blended together, though. The years had not been overly kind to Alastair' wife, but judging by their style of dress they were doing quite well.
He felt the weight of Buffy's gaze on him and glanced in her direction. She appeared transfixed and it was then that he realized he'd forgotten his manners completely and had failed to introduce her. He always hated running into people from his youth. Most were far more successful than he was, even if he was content with his job. He didn't have wealth or physical things to show off. Many had families, something he had long ago given up the fantasy of.
"Forgive me. Buffy, this is Alastair Harrington."
Alastair took Buffy's offered hand and instead of shaking it brought it to his lips in a grand gesture of formality long ago forgotten by most. Flamboyant twit. He always was a smooth one.
"Charmed, I'm sure, Miss."
"Summers. The name does suit you. A breath of fresh air. I can feel the warm breeze now, in fact. A welcome respite from the scene outside."
"Have you gotten a table yet, Alastair?"
"We've already eaten. We were headed to the lounge, though for some dancing. Perhaps you could meet us when you're through."
"We were planning on it."
"We'll try not to tire the band out before you get there then."
"All right," Giles said stiffly. He sounded like an imbecile. He watched as Alastair walked away and returned Diana's wave. He wasn't sure he remembered her at all.
"So, who is he, Giles?"
"We were in college together. He was a pompous ass even then."
"Not much has changed."
"On that we can agree. He wanted to marry someone with money and a father who could give him a job where he'd have to do the least amount of work possible."
"One of those."
"Yes, one of those."
"I imagine he's got children and everything now."
Buffy took a sip of her wine, watching him. She saw too much he thought.
"Things you don't have. And here you are the night before New Year's Eve with me."
"There's no place I'd rather be, Buffy. Please don't say that."
"I know. You admire him in a way, though."
"Well, sure. I can't tell him what I do for a living. Being a curator for a museum isn't exactly noteworthy. I haven't done much with my life. At least in the eyes of the uninitiated."
"You've done plenty. And you're not a loser."
"I didn't say that I was."
"But that's what you were getting at."
The conversation continued in much the same fashion until their dinners arrived. Alastair and Giles' past were pushed to the wayside and they fell back into the comfortable banter they'd developed while here together.
"We can scratch the dancing if you're not in the mood, Giles."
"No. I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Having your nameplate on a corner office's door or a wife and family do not mark a man's success."
"You're right. And, in case I forget to tell you later, you're the most successful man I know."
"I mean it, Giles. Now, let's go dance the night away."
She took his hand as they left the restaurant, lacing her fingers through his instead of sliding it through the crook of his arm. It sent a jolt through his body, being in direct contact with her in such a fashion. Contact she had initiated. Anyone looking at them would think they were together. It gave him a perverse sense of pleasure. He'd enjoy it while he could.
Alastair and Diana were easy to spot. He found for some reason the urge to roll up his sleeves and display his tattoo was strong. A way to reaffirm he wasn't always the tweed-wearing Rupert Giles Buffy knew.
"You made it."
"The band is great."
"Good," Buffy said.
It was difficult looking at the patrons what type of music the band played. The people ranged from grandparents to barely legal drinking age.
"Miss Summers, my wife Diana Harrington."
Buffy offered her hand and smiled at Diana. "It's nice to meet you. And just call me Buffy."
"You're an American." Alastair had married an observant woman at any rate.
"Yes, I am."
"But you're living in London now?"
"Yes, for a little over a year."
"How are you enjoying it?"
"Well enough. I miss LA sometimes. I think maybe I'm finally used to driving on the wrong side of the road."
Diana and Alastair both laughed politely at Buffy's joke. She placed her hand on his knee. Given the situation he was not in a position to ask what she was doing.
"But Rupert wanted to move back to London so I had to go, too."
"I'm sorry?" Alastair looked about as puzzled as Giles felt. It was a good thing Giles was used to subterfuge and playing along with the story of the moment.
"Well, we met in LA. Sunnydale, actually. He was working there. I couldn't let him leave without me."
"You're together then."
"Well, yeah," Buffy said as if it the question was the most ridiculous thing she'd heard. "Can I tell them, Rupert?"
"Well, I know we were going to wait until we got back to London to tell the others, but they're your friends and they're here."
"I," he glanced at her. He had no idea what she was up to. Her eyes told him to trust her, and he did. With his life. His heart was another matter. She lifted her hand from his thigh and he felt the loss immediately.
She flashed her left hand. He noticed for the first time she wore a diamond ring on her finger. How had he missed it?
"We're getting married."
"Well, congratulations. I take it this is a new development?"
"Yes. It was my Christmas present. He's such a romantic."
"You haven't been married before, Rupert?"
"I," he said with a glance at Buffy. She looked at him with absolute adoration in his eyes. If he wasn't mistaken it seemed genuine. His heart had thudded in his chest at Buffy's announcement. Not that it was offensive, but that she had come up with the scheme. She smiled at him coquettishly. The little vixen knew exactly what she was doing. "No, I haven't."
"What made you decide to now?"
"Meeting the right woman will do that. Or so I've come to find out."
"Good point, Rupert. Well, we'll have to get some champagne to celebrate. How long are you in New York for then?"
"We have a few days yet."
"We do, too. Will you be enjoying the festivities tomorrow night?"
"No, Giles wanted to, but I thought a night in would be more fun."
Giles cleared his throat. Buffy made a point of lacing her fingers through his. He had gone along with the charade, he couldn't stop now or he'd look like an idiot. He wasn't sure how he appeared, but she was positively glowing. His mind was filled with questions. One of which was where she'd gotten the ring she wore.
"Would you like to dance?"
"Yes, of course," he said, grateful the song was one he could dance to.
"What in the devil do you think you're doing, Buffy?"
"Giving them something to think about."
"But what? You're never going to see them again."
"That may be true."
She inched closer, the song was conducive to such intimacy. She cradled his face between her hands as they danced and kissed him. This was no peck and it was difficult to believe it was part of an act. She was a good actress, but she didn't need to part her lips as part of an act.
His arms skimmed her tiny waist, tugging her closer. God help him if this was part of the act and when she drew away she'd see him as a letch. He couldn't help it, though. Years of wanting her from a distance, the temptation was too great for him to resist.
Her arms slid around his neck once she felt him respond. Their movements on the dance floor slowed to the point they were barely moving. He couldn't say he minded. He'd dreamt of this, Buffy coming to him. She had lamented more than once that it would be a difficult task to find someone like Riley. Someone who would not just know about her calling but understand the things she hunted. Could it be that she finally realized he was such a man?
"Buffy," he whispered when she broke the kiss.
She lifted her eyes to meet his. If it was possible for his feelings for her to grow even stronger, they did in that moment. Her face flushed from kissing him. A kiss she had initiated. And she was gazing at him as a woman did to a man she desired.
"I said shh," she whispered with a most appealing pout. She kissed him again. He didn't need any prompting this time. He kissed her with as much passion as he could. They were in public after all.
"I've wanted to do that for so long."
"You have?" He hadn't a clue. Was he that dense? Or was he just so accustomed to not seeing what he wished to from her that he missed the clues.
"Yes. God. Come on, do you really think Willow wouldn't drop what she was doing and come to New York with me?"
"Well, I suppose. Why didn't you just say something?"
"I wasn't sure how you felt."
The song had ended. The band was moving onto something that was not conducive to slow dancing. Or talking for that matter.
"Good God, we have to go back to their table."
"We don't have to stay real long, Giles."
"Where did you get that ring, by the way?"
"It was Mom's. I don't usually wear it, but like to when I'm getting dressed up like tonight."
"What? Did you think I had a fiancé stashed away somewhere?"
"The thought had crossed my mind."
"Get real, Giles."
He placed a hand at the small of her back, relishing the feel of her, as they returned to Alastair and Diana's table. They had indeed ordered champagne. Two bottles of it, which meant that they could not leave too soon without appearing rude.
He did remove his suit coat then, draping it over the back of his chair. If he was going to have to endure them for longer than thirty minutes or so he was going to do it comfortably. Buffy slid her hand along his thigh again. He wondered if she had any idea how potent her touch was. And it had nothing to do with her being the slayer. He just desired her that much.
As it turned out it wasn't that bad. Perhaps it was downing the champagne or just knowing that there would be more kisses like the two on the dance floor. He wasn't sure, but he found Alastair and Diana rather charming. There wasn't much to catch up on as it were, given the different social circles they had kept.
"I know you said you wanted to be alone tomorrow night. And I can certainly understand. I do remember what it was like to be newly engaged to Alastair. But you have to eat. Perhaps we could have dinner tomorrow evening. Early so we're not battling crowds. Something fun."
The evening was drawing to a close rapidly, the question from Diana stopped Giles. He glanced at Buffy who shrugged her shoulders. It hadn't been a terrible time and he wasn't sure he minded the idea of playacting at being Buffy's fiancé for a little longer.
"Well, if you don't mind taking the subway there's a quaint little Greek restaurant near where we're staying. It's not the same quality as this establishment ambiance-wise, but we haven't had a bad meal there yet."
"That's a great idea! I've been telling Alastair we need to see more than what's here in Times Square. Everything's so commercialized."
"Yes, I'd noticed that, too. Is that all right with you, Buffy?"
After setting a time and exchanging hotel information Giles and Buffy left, retrieving their coats and flagging a taxicab once they'd made it to the street.
"You sure you don't mind?"
"Not at all, Giles. They're not so bad."
"No, they aren't. It makes me wonder if they were that bad to begin with."
"Oh, I think they were. I can see it, they have it in them. Something's mellowed them out."
"Perhaps just life."
"Maybe," she said, sliding into the cab they had procured.
"So, can we finish our conversation?"
"What conversation is that?"
"Oh, something about feelings."
"Ohhh, that conversation." She shifted slightly on the seat so she was almost facing him, her knee pressed against his.
"Yes, as if you'd forgotten. I know you're not as scatterbrained as you'd like everyone else to believe."
"My cover's been blown."
"Well, what do you want me to say?"
"You planned this trip for this reason?"
"Well, not for that reason exactly. I certainly couldn't have known you'd run into an old friend of yours that would make you feel all un-macho. I was kind of hoping," she shrugged.
She let out a sharp breath. "Do I need to spell it out for you, Giles?"
"You'll forgive me for appearing dense, but yes."
"I was hoping that if we were alone like this that maybe you'd notice me."
"Notice you? What makes you think I haven't before this trip?"
"I don't know. You don't look at me very much."
He stared at her in disbelief. Not look at her? He thought there were times he bordered on being too intrusive.
"I assure you, Buffy, I look. I just never imagined."
"That makes two of us."
"If I've kept you at a distance, or appeared to, it's been for my own protection. It hasn't been anything personal."
"So, if I hadn't kissed you would you have?"
"I don't know. I'd like to think I would have eventually, but I just don't know."
"Well, then I guess we should thank them."
"I guess we should."
She leaned in and kissed him again. He groaned softly as their lips parted and their tongues sought one another out in unison. His hand slid to her cheek, drawing her closer to him. Kissing her was better than he'd imagined. A part of him was still in a state of shock that he was experiencing it for himself.
Her hand slid from his knee higher underneath his coat to the front of his trousers. He bit her lower lip as he broke the kiss.
"Buffy," he whispered.
"Be mindful of where we are."
"I'm not doing anything."
"You're doing enough."
"I'm sure he's seen worse. This is New York City."
"Perhaps." He found it difficult to think overly clear with her touching him. He was getting aroused so easily he felt like a youth again. He knew it was her, that he wouldn't react so easily and readily with anyone else. He cleared his throat softly when the cab drew to a stop in front of their hotel. He wasn't sure if he was grateful they had finally arrived or wished the cab ride could have been prolonged just a few minutes longer.
"It would seem so." She gave one last gentle squeeze before drawing away and readjusting. He did much the same thing, though it wasn't as simple for him and reached for his wallet to pay the cabbie.
He took hold of her hand as they entered the hotel. She leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder. The sound of her shoes hitting the tile floor of the foyer echoed loudly. She wore heels. He recalled watching her walk in them earlier, wondering how women walked in them. He wasn't one to complain, though, they did enhance a shapely leg. And Buffy's were very shapely indeed.
They had the elevator car to themselves. Buffy didn't waste any time either. Once the doors closed she fell into his arms. He didn't need much encouragement to respond. He skimmed her waist underneath her coat, drawing her closer. Her hands toyed with the scarf at his neck, loosening it before she slid them to the nape of his neck. He wasn't sure who kissed whom, and it really didn't matter. He could imagine the picture they would make if the doors opened on a floor that wasn't theirs. He didn't care, though.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened. It took them a moment to part and collect themselves. Giles was pleased to discover they had arrived on their floor. Buffy gave him one last kiss, tugging his scarf so that it slid out from around his neck and off.
"Just trying to give you a head start."
His eyes widened. He couldn't help it. He had assumed things would progress once they returned to their rooms. He just hadn't expected her to be so emboldened as to speak freely about her intentions.
"Very well, if you insist."
"You have like way more than I do. So you need it."
"Are you sure about that?"
She rolled her eyes up as if mentally deciphering what she was, in fact, wearing. "Positive."
His heart picked up at the thought of just how many layers she was wearing. The idea that he would very probably find out for himself shortly was still surreal seeming. She took the keycard from her purse and opened the door leading to his room.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com