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Stripes

Covered in mud, Dawn and Buffy made their way back to the magic box. They had only just reconciled and Buffy felt an enormous weight drop off her shoulders. Also, apparently, something or someone had defeated Willow, or else they couldn't have freed themselves. On their way, they saw her and Xander from afar, crouching on the ground in a hug, sobbing. Dawn was about to yell and ask something, but Buffy and her exchanged a glance and she figured she'd save it for later. They walked back into Sunnydale quietly. When they passed by the house, Buffy hugged her sister and told her she had to make sure Giles was okay; Dawn nodded understandingly.

When Buffy arrived at the shop, both Anya and Giles were gone, so she thought she'd stop by at his house. She entered without knocking and instantly called, "Giles? Are you here?"
Upon her words, he appeared at the top of the stairs, a few clothes in his hands, just as she was about to take them. "Buffy," he said matter-of-factly, then sounded worried, "are you alright?"
"Yes, thank you. All covered in mud, just like Dawn, but we're both okay. I take it Xander defeated Willow?"
"I believe so, yes. But come on up, Buffy, I have to finish this," he said, holding up the clothes, "but we can still talk." She smiled and followed him into his bedroom, where two suitcases lay open on the ground, piles of books and clothes on them and all over the bed. "Well, awesome," she said, then noticing that could be read two different ways, given Giles' mess, she added quickly, "Xander, I mean."
"Uh-huh," he gave, after looking at her briefly, continuing to fill his wardrobe, "unbelievable. But I must say I did count on him." Buffy smiled. Shoving what seemed like tons of shirts and pullovers into the wardrobe, Giles accidentally knocked down a hanger with a disgusting silver and black shirt. Slightly embarrassed, he picked it up, turning back to her to see if she had noticed the ugly, shiny, striped piece. He hadn't kept it for wearing, but for the memories. Facing her, he saw her crooked smile. So she did remember! He quickly hung it back and busied himself with other clothes.

"You know ... When I told you I had recognized you by your eyes, that was true. But there was more to it than just you looking annoyed. In fact, you only looked annoyed for a very brief moment there."
He held his breath and slowly let his arms sink. With more patience than he had ever thought to be able to squeeze out of himself, he turned around. Not daring to look her in the eye, he began to clean his glasses with the seam of his sweater.
"There wasn't only annoyance in your eyes. Bending over you, I also saw grief. Grief, and love, and not one bit of fear." She was starting to feel embarrassed, so she sat down on his bed, atop a small pile of sweaters. "I realized how much you loved me. I mean I... I know you've always loved me. At times, you have been like a father to me. You've been my best friend, and my protector. But, looking at you back then, it made me see how much love you truly have for me. A-And I didn't dare to ask you about it, and I didn't dare to face my own feelings."
He put his glasses back on. "Feelings." It was almost more of a statement than a shy question. Buffy looked up. "Yes." She saw his lips part and he blushed ever so slightly, leaning against the doorframe. He hoped she wouldn't notice he did that to hide that he was shivering, and to stop himself from flinging himself at her and hugging her tight.
She stood up. "I didn't deal with it back than, I know. And I've hurt you in so many ways. I don't know if you'll ever be able to forgive me. But I didn't forget that moment, I still remember us smiling at each other in front of Ethan's mirror, and since then ... Since then I've gradually come to realize how much I ... love you, too." He gasped, his eyes still searching for a hint of mockery, of play. It seemed too surreal for him to surrender his disbelief. "I think the final straw was when you showed up to save me from Willow. God, I could have hugged you right there, minus the pain in my bones and the fact that it was a matter of life and death to stop Willow." He chuckled; she beamed at him, slowly walking up to him.
"I love you, Giles. I really do. And before you misinterpret that-" Slowly, and shyly, she raised her head to look him in the eye. She could detect nothing by which he could have asked her to stop. Carefully, she put one hand against his chest, causing him to smile so genuinely that she felt her heart take a somersault. Quickly, then, before she could convince herself to reconsider, she brought her lips to his in a tender kiss, once, and as he didn't move away, twice; when she was going to lean in for a third time, he flung is arms around her and held her close to him in a passionate kiss. Never would he have thought he could ever allow himself to believe that she should have such feelings for her. But the beaming smile she gave after they slowly moved apart, and the tiny twinkle in her eyes stifled the last bit of doubt in his heart.