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Invitation

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He opened the door and stood there looking down at her, glasses and book clutched in his free hand. He looked tired, and a little afraid, and so good.

"Willow told me you were coming," he said, inconsequentially. He didn't move out of the doorway, and she could see him searching for the words to turn her back. That was good, then. He understood now. It would save time.

The rain was plastering down her hair, running along her neck into the collar of her jacket. "Giles," she said, softly, a warning, "I don't need an invitation." And he didn't quite flinch, but it was enough, because he backed away and let her in.

His apartment was small and warm, with high ceilings and narrow hallways. She let him take her coat and heeled off her boots one at a time, left them in a little heap by the umbrella stand and followed him down the corridor to the living room. He moved around her as gingerly as if he were walking on glass, careful not to touch her.

He asked her if she wanted tea, tried to coax her into a chair, and shied away from her fingers when she stretched out to brush his sleeve. "I'll just--" was all he said, then he fled the room. She curled up in the chair by the window and listened to him clattering unnecessarily in the kitchen while streams of rain coagulated and ran down the glass. She felt quiet inside, finally.

He brought her a towel along with the tea, set the tray on the table near her elbow and left her to pour for herself. She rubbed her hair dry while it steeped, fixed a cup the way he'd taught her to like it, black with just a little sugar, wrapped her cold hands around the mug. He was kneeling by the fireplace, fumbling newspaper and matches. She studied the back of his neck, where the hair curled slightly above his collar, and his shoulders grew tense and hunched.

The fire caught. He went to stand by the bookcases in the corner, as far away from her as he could get without leaving the room. The tea was good, hot, and she drank it slowly while the room warmed up and he shuffled books around and tried to carry on a conversation with only one side. She didn't pay attention to what he was saying, just let the sound of his voice wash over her.

She finished the tea and put the mug down on the tray. Giles paused at the quiet clink, almost looked back at her over his shoulder, then determinedly went back to moving the books.

"Are you going to fight me?" she asked, watching him steadily.

He stopped and lowered his hands from the shelf, shoulders sinking down, and his breath sounded loud in the sudden quiet. "Do you want me to?" he asked.

She paused. She'd just assumed that was how it would happen -- his shoulders pinned to the floor, the belt she'd made sure to wear around his wrists; coaxing him with hands and mouth until she could take him in. She got up and crossed the room towards him. He pretended not to notice, even when she had come up beside him. His hands were long and spare, pale across the leather binding of the book in his hands. She studied them, the clean diamond-shaped edges of his knuckles, the marks from pen and sword and crossbow, tried to imagine them on her skin, how that would feel.

There was a sharp callus along the side of his index finger. He flinched just a little when she reached out, held very still while she stroked over it with the tips of her fingers. The skin was uneven, just a little rough, and the flesh beneath was hard. He was watching her touch him, and she could hear his breath halting in his throat.

"No," she said finally. She took the book out of his hands, set it aside. Left empty, his hands curled shut, fell to his sides.

"Buffy," he said, his voice thin and strained. "We can't-- Everything--"

"Giles," she said firmly, and he stopped talking.

He still wouldn't turn around, so she went around him, slipped between him and the bookshelf and caught his arms when he tried to back up, getting a hand around his head, pulling him down to her. His mouth was perfect, warm and alive and sweet, and even just kissing him she could almost believe that she was alive too.

After a moment, he pulled against her, struggling, but that was good, too, feeling her strength as she held him in place. She let him go only when she could tell he was running out of air, and he stumbled back, running up against the arm of the couch. She followed and pushed him over, sprawling him the length of the couch.

His hands caught her by the hips, holding her off as she swung a leg over and settled on top of him. She liked that, leaned into his grip and let him support her weight while she ripped open his shirt. His shoulders were so broad she had to stretch to bare them, and the muscles knotted with tension as her hands slid over them, but that only made them easier to hold on to. She spread her hands across his collarbone and pushed past his resistance to kiss him again. His fingers tightened on her, bruising, but it didn't matter, because she could feel him hard underneath her and he was letting her into his mouth.

He jerked when she started to unbuckle his belt, reaching between them to smother her smaller hands in his, stilling them. She broke the kiss and made him look at her. "Let go," she said softly, not a request. Flat on his back, he stared up at her, breathing hard, and after a moment his hands fell away. He turned his face away, closing his eyes, and the tension went out of his body all at once.

She shivered a little with satisfaction and sat up over his hips, looking down at him. There were lines at the corners of his eyes, crinkled up, and deeper lines in sharp relief under his cheekbones, around his pressed-tight lips. She traced down one of them, brushed her fingers over his lips until he yielded a little and let her slip one inside to touch the warm wet of his mouth briefly. "Giles," she said, "Take them off."

He didn't move for a moment, then reached down, opened his belt, his trousers, unzipped, all with rough efficiency. She lifted her hips and he pushed his clothing just out of the way, left himself bare beneath her. Her loose skirt was easy to hike up, and she didn't care when the thin wet silk of her underwear hurt her hands, breaking, because he was sliding into her, key into lock, big enough to stretch her the way she liked, and his hand was still between them where she could rub up against the calluses on his fingers.

He was breathing in sharp gasps, and his face was wet when she kissed him again, and again. Half falling forward, she propped herself up and rocked against him, demanding, and he gave her what she wanted, his hips meeting her rhythm, his fingers stroking her without any at all. "Giles," she said, urgently. He groaned deep in his throat and surged up through her arms, pressing her backwards and driving into her, fast and brutal, two, three strokes, and for that single priceless moment he drove the whole world away and she cried as she tumbled into climax, feeling endlessly, endlessly light.

And the difference was that it didn't hurt this time when the world came crashing back in, because after all she was still in his arms, and even if he was weeping softly, his hands were gentle, stroking her hair, and she knew he would be coming back with her in the morning.