Disclaimer: I don't own anything, I'm just borrowing things for a while and I promise I'll put everything back exactly how I found it when I've finished. Well, almost exactly how I found it. ;)
Giles sat in his flat drinking. He seemed to do a lot of that lately. After Sunnydale had been obliterated in such a spectacular fashion, the survivors and remaining members of the Scooby Gang had all settled down into the same little town…which Giles couldn't quite remember the name of. Not that it was important at this moment in time. They had all needed time to adjust, to recover and get their heads around everything that had happened. It wasn't easy. Giles had been the first to get a place to live in, and for the first few weeks, everyone had stayed there. They hadn't spoke much, just enjoyed the feeling of being around friends. The plan was for everyone to move on when they felt ready to. That was almost a year ago, and the furthest anyone had got was to rent their own apartment in the same block as Giles'.
The former-Watcher snorted and poured himself another whisky. His gaze was drawn, as always, to the pictures on his mantle. Nothing whatsoever had been taken from Sunnydale before it collapsed into the Hellmouth - no clothes, no personal items, nothing. Just memories. But Giles had kept several photos in his wallet, unbeknownst to anyone, and once he'd settled into this new town (which he still couldn't remember the name of), he'd had the photos copied and blown up. Now they had pride of place, and he would look at them every day. And remember.
The first was of him and Scooby Gang during their first year together. He laughed - although it was a humourless sound - at how young everybody looked, himself included. Then the sick feeling in his stomach appeared as he realised that they were the only ones left. The next photo made him smile slightly. Buffy, Willow and Xander were still there, of course, but now there was Cordelia and Oz. And then the photo that always made him cry. Cordelia and Oz were gone, replaced by Anya and Tara, both whom were now dead. The last photo was the most recent, and the only new addition was Dawn.
Giles' eyes flicked from the first photo to the last, and he grimaced. They were all so young and yet they had seen so much. It showed in their eyes and their forced smiles. Then he noticed something else, something that made him sad inside, and he poured himself another large drink.
In every photo, Buffy stood as far away from him as possible, usually at the other side of the group, while Giles tried to hide at the back. Except for the last one. Buffy had chosen to stand in the middle, and Giles had inadvertently stood right behind her.
He downed his drink and hurled his glass against the wall in frustration. He was just looking around to see what else could be thrown when there was a knock at the door. "I'm not here! Bugger off!" Giles yelled, walking into the kitchen to get another glass.
He heard a click as the door opened, and then another as it shut again.
"Are you bloody well deaf? I said I'm not -" He stopped short when he saw Buffy stood there, here face expressionless as usual.
"Hi," she said.
"Hello," he replied. "Can I get you a drink?"
When she remained stationary, Giles motioned for her to sit. "What would you like?" he called from the kitchen.
"Whatever you're having," Buffy shouted back, and then she noticed the glass. "What happened he-" Her voice trailed off, and Giles hurried back in, his instinctive concern taking over.
He saw Buffy knelt near the broken glass, staring at her finger. He crossed the room swiftly and knelt beside her. "Are you alright?"
"It's just a scratch," Buffy replied, but Giles could tell by the way her voice shook that it was something more than that. He guided her up and led her over to the couch. Wordlessly, he fetched the first aid kit from the kitchen and began to clean the wound.
"Does it hurt?" Giles asked, the silence making him uncomfortable.
Buffy gave a harsh laugh. "Yeah, surprisingly enough. I thought I'd never feel anything again."
Giles looked at her and frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I don't feel anything, Giles," Buffy replied. "You know like when Willow and the others brought me back from the dead when they shouldn't have? It's like that."
"But you felt this," Giles said, truly concerned for his Slayer - well, ex-Slayer - now.
Buffy nodded. "It's horrible. When Dawn hugs me goodnight, or Willow and Xander hug me hello, I don't feel anything. Or when -" Her voice trailed off again. "We all lost everything when Sunnydale collapsed, and I just can't get my head around that. I mean, in the past, there were you guys, and in the present, there are you guys, but what about the future?"
Giles had stopped bathing Buffy's cut so he could concentrate on listening to her, but he was suddenly aware that he was still holding her hand. With an uncomfortable cough, he lowered his gaze and finished washing the cut. "No one can say what the future will hold, Buffy, and as for your inability to feel, have you talked to Willow and Xander about it?" Giles put a plaster on and looked up.
And Buffy felt something, a small twinge in her stomach. "Not yet," she replied, wondering what had caused that sensation. No, she didn't wonder, she knew. She just didn't want to admit it.
Giles passed her a drink and sat back on the sofa. "What were you going to say before?"
"You were talking about not feeling, and you said 'Or when', then stopped. What were you going to say?"
Buffy sipped her drink and concentrated on the liquid as it burnt a path down her throat. She turned to sit sideways on the sofa, her elbow on the back of it, holding her head up. I suppose it's now or never she thought. "I was going to say 'or when you look at me'. I always used to get a tingle, because you looked at me like no one else did. It was like you had smiles and frowns reserved just for me, and I liked that."
Giles leant his head back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling. "But now you don't feel anything at all," he replied, not surprised by what she had said.
"I did before. When you put a plaster on my finger and you looked at me, I felt something."
"What do you want, Buffy?" Giles asked after the silence had become uncomfortable.
Buffy looked at him intently. "I need you to help me."
Giles could tell that she'd phrased that very carefully. Not 'I want you to help me' or 'I'd like you to help me', but 'I need you'. He rose, poured them each another drink, and sat back down.
"I don't think I'm the right person," he said.
"I think you're the only person," she replied, brushing his cheek with her fingers.
She got the reaction she was expecting (well, one of them), but she wasn't prepared for the ferocity of Giles' tone of voice. He shot off the couch, spilling whisky all over himself, and whirled to glare at Buffy. "Don't play games with me," he snapped. "I'm not your Watcher any more, and sometimes I wonder if we're even friends. There is nothing to stop me from leaving, so don't play games with me!" He wasn't quite sure why he was yelling, or why he was saying what he was, but he was pretty sure the alcohol had something to do with it.
Buffy also jumped to her feet. "I know I've hurt you, but you've hurt me too!" she shouted.
"What do you want from me?" Giles yelled in an exasperated tone.
Buffy took one look at him and replied in a cold tone, "Nothing now. You've nothing I want." She put the glass on the table and slammed the door as she left.
"Go and talk to him."
"Don't be stubborn, Buffy."
"I'm not being."
"Yes, you are."
"He started yelling at me first, Will."
"Did you ever stop to think why he shouted?"
A pause. "Not really."
"Well, you should."
"You know, don't you." It's a statement, not a question, and it's delivered in an accusatory tone.
"Yes, actually, I do."
"Work it out for yourself."
"Alright. Do you love him?"
Another pause. "In what way?"
"Just answer the question."
"Yes, of course I do. I love you and Xander too."
"Shush. Did you ever think he loves you?"
"I know he does. He wouldn't have come back for us otherwise, and he wouldn't have stayed here."
Sighing. "Let's try this another way. Do you see him as Giles or a man?"
"Right. And do you think he sees you as Buffy or a woman."
Penny-dropping-oh-I-see-what-you're-trying-to-get-at pause. "Oh. Both, I think."
"Now do you think he's in love with you?"
"Are you in love with him?"
"I don't think so."
"And you don't think of him as a man?"
"So why did you say to him that he was the only person who could help you feel?"
"I'd better go and talk to him."
After Buffy had walked out, Giles had simply stood there. Her words had hit him harder than a speeding train, and he thought that even if he'd been under Sunnydale when it collapsed, it couldn't have hurt as much. His shirt was still soaked from whisky, and suddenly the smell hit him, turning his stomach. He shook himself from his trance, not realising he'd been stood still for so long, and went into the kitchen and made himself some tea. He'd been spending too much time drinking, and it was always alone. It wasn't doing him any good.
"And wearing a wet shirt isn't either," he muttered to himself. He stood up and had just pulled the shirt over his head when there was a knock at the door. "Come in."
Buffy was greeted with the sight of Giles' bare, broad back. She watched as the shirt slid off his head and he turned around. It was a slightly comical sight, as he still had his arms in the sleeves and it looked as though he was trying to cover his chest.
"Hi," she said, and smiled.
Giles thought his heart was going to stop, and then he smiled back. "I haven't seen you do that for a while," he replied.
Buffy blushed slightly, and her smile grew. "And I've never seen you do that," she said, nodding at his state of undress.
Giles blushed as well, and then he almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. "The shirt was wet because of the whisky I spilt before."
"That was I came to talk to you about," Buffy said quietly. "Before. I'm sorry, I really am. I didn't mean what I said to you, I was just surprised by your reaction. I never, ever want to hurt you again, Giles, as long as I live, and I'm sorry for all the things I've done in the past. I just wanted your help, if you were willing to give it to me."
Giles had slid his shirt off slowly while he had been listening to her, and now he tossed the item of clothing into the kitchen. "I'm sorry too, for everything, past, present and future. I never want to hurt you again, either, and as for before, well - I overreacted. I'm sorry."
"Look at us, being sorry to each other," Buffy said in a light tone. "When did that happen?"
Giles chuckled. "At least you're fully dressed."
"True, although I've got to say, the view ain't bad." Buffy's eyes twinkled mischievously.
Giles' expression became sombre. "What do you want from me, Buffy?"
Buffy was having a hard time tearing her eyes away from Giles' toned chest, but she managed it eventually. "I'm not sure," she replied honestly. "All I know is that I want to feel something, and I think you're the only one who can help me."
Giles nodded, his expression now thoughtful. "How about we start with a pizza and a film?" he suggested. "Then afterwards we can talk and I'll see if I can make you truly laugh with tales of my sordid past."
A genuine smile touched Buffy's lips, and a feeling of warmth began to spread through her. "Sounds good to me. Do I get to pick the movie?"
"As long as I get to put some clothes on," Giles replied.
Buffy hesitated, but then nodded. "Deal. I'll just go and see if Will or Xander can keep an eye on Dawn, then I'll be back with a movie. I'll let you order pizza."
Buffy couldn't remember the last time she had so much fun, and she insisted on telling Giles regularly that it was all his fault. Giles, however, would just smile and turn his attention back to the film. He'd changed into a dark grey shirt, and he'd left the top few buttons undone. Buffy couldn't decide whether this was done on purpose or not, but she found she didn't mind. In fact, she found she was looking at Giles as a man, not just 'Giles'. That particular thought didn't worry her at all, which in turn kind of scared her.
Then they started fighting over the last piece of pizza.
"It's mine," Giles said, trying to grab it. "You made me watch this horrible 'chick flick', so I deserve it."
"And I think I should have it," Buffy replied, also trying to grab it.
"Because I'm a girl, and you're a gentleman, so you won't deny me the last piece of pizza, will you?"
Giles hesitated, then grinned. "Yes, actually, I would."
The scramble began in earnest, and Giles resorted to holding Buffy's wrists in the air to stop her from getting the pizza. "That's cheating!" she said, pouting. "And also kind of pointless. How are you going to get it now?"
Giles looked at the pizza, then at Buffy, and back at the pizza. Suddenly he lowered his head, while still holding her hands up out of the way, and Buffy realised he was trying to grab the pizza with his teeth.
"No you don't!" she shouted, and tried to do the same thing.
At some point, their lips connected, and while it was obviously not a conscious act, neither of them pulled apart. In fact, Giles let go of Buffy's wrists and lowered his hands to her shoulders. Buffy slid one hand round the back of Giles' neck and intertwined her fingers in his hair. The other hand cupped his cheek, and that action made him break away suddenly.
"Buffy, I'm sorry," Giles started to say, but Buffy shushed him.
"Don't be. I'm a big girl, I know what I want and what I don't want, and right now, I want you. I've felt more alive tonight that I have for almost a year, and I don't just mean the kiss, I mean everything. The thoughtfulness, the laughter, even the argument." Buffy bit her lip and looked away. "Willow said that I might love you, and that you loved me, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised she was right. You can make me feel, Giles, and I want you to."
Giles didn't need a second invitation. While kissing her, he lifted her easily into her arms and carried her into the bedroom, the remaining piece of pizza completely forgotten.
Several hours later, Buffy lay in Giles' arms, her head on his chest, listening to his heart beat. "Erm, Giles?"
"What do I call you now? I mean, Rupert seems…wrong, kind of. And Giles…"
"Will be fine," Giles finished for her, kissing the top of her head. "You can call me whatever you want, within reason."
"Okay, Giles." Buffy kissed the spot on his chest just above his heart and sighed.
"There was something I wanted to ask you, Buffy," Giles said after a while.
"Where are we?"
Buffy lifted her head up and turned to look at him. "In the bedroom of your apartment," she replied.
Giles glared at her. "I know that. I meant what town are we in?"
Buffy opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again. She put her head back on Giles' chest and snuggled closer to him. "You know what, Giles? I've got no idea."