Better than enough
It was a very starry night; the tiny dots shone so brightly that they were able to observe them even through the windows of the formerly innocently yellow bus. Only the two of them were awake; Giles had offered to drive, and Buffy, even though suddenly relieved of her Slayer duties almost entirely, found herself, as always, most awake after sundown. Sitting in the front row, right next to the door, she briefly turned around and unconsciously smiled at the sight. All the others were fast asleep, Willow's head on Kennedy's lap, Faith grabbing Robin's hand in her sleep, Xander leaning onto Dawns shoulder. Turning back, Buffy pulled up her feet, her soles pushing at the handrail in front of her. For the first time since she had been informed of her calling, she felt completely at peace. A world's weight was off her shoulders. Of course, a new challenge was waiting for them miles away. She knew it was her duty, and that she'd start to like it the instant they'd arrive, but she found herself wishing that the trip there would take forever.
Neither of them had spoken a word since the first few minutes of the ride, but it was of odd comfort to her to sit with Giles in perfect silence, the dark outside like a velvet blanket, and know everyone else to be in safety. He, too, felt his mind rest for the first time in years. She had accomplished what he'd never believed her to survive, initially. In spite of everything that had happened between them, he realized that still, what mattered the most to him was to know her to be alive. He smiled involuntarily.
Suddenly, she spoke, pulling him out of deep thought. "We went wrong somewhere." Giles grabbed the steering wheel immediately, his knuckles going slightly white. "W-What? Did I miss a turn?"
She chuckled, and the long-forgotten sound sent shivers down his spine. "No. I mean, we. Us. Something went bad between us, Giles, and I want it to be okay."
He swallowed, for what she was asking was what had kept him awake at night for the past year. She noticed his sudden tenseness and realized that it made a very childish feeling of worry crawl up the way to her throat. Trying to remain calm, calm and grown-up, she tried to swallow it away, then spoke softly, her slightly trembling voice giving her away nonetheless.
"You're not ready to forgive me."
It had been meant as a statement, but come out as a question, in fact, as a thousand questions. Her genuine concern took the wind out of his sails; he had intended to be forgiving, but very rational, and very earnest. Knowing now that she was completely serious, and anxious to lose him, he felt his stubbornly clenched jaw relax and the blood rush back to his fingertips.
He smiled; this time, she saw, and it caused her to smile back shyly. Her eyes clinging to his lips for an answer which she hoped to come as a kind of absolution, she held her breath.
"Of course I'm ready to forgive you, Buffy. I always have been. But what I saw made me think you were holding a grudge ... that this gap between us was meant to never be mended again." Trying not to make a sound, Buffy let out all the air inside her, and felt her heartbeat slow down. He continued.
"I thought our relationship was beyond repair. You seemed so far away that I didn't dare to reach for you." His voice had become very sad, and Buffy felt guilt stream through her.
"I'm sorry, Giles. I guess even though things have changed a lot since you'd left, I was still used to expect that you'd help me fix everything. I know we've talked about this the evening you came back, but the truth is, Giles, I really needed you, I still need you. I wanted you to fix my problems because I thought it would prove to you that I couldn't do it without you."
He sighed, not allowing relief to be the main cause for it.
"I should never have left you. But recently, everything has changed again. You always seemed to avoid me, ignore me, even, and socialize with everyone but me. I know, of course, that this ... our last fight at Sunnyale ... it took all you had. But I so wanted to ... well, to be of some help. Instead, I spent my time sulking and reproaching. I'm surprised, actually, that -"
"Giles." Her voice was very calm.
"I spent my time doing exactly the same thing. We've both been stubborn and cowardly, I guess. Although I guess it's hard to be a coward when part of our daily schedule is to save the world." She made him giggle and joined him, relieved to hear the familiar sound. When their small waves of quiet laughing faded, he suddenly grew very serious again. Never taking his eyes off the road, he said, "That has to be different from now on."
Before he could gather all his thoughts to form a next sentence, he felt a soft hand on his shoulder. She had noiselessly moved to sit right behind him, and the careful touch sent a wave of warmth through his body.
"That was my plan, too," she half-whispered from behind him, and even though she had spoken very quietly, he read in her voice more than honesty, more than genuine concern, more than friendship. There was an affection in it that was more than had ever been between the two of them, more than he could ever have imagined to emerge between them. Trying his hardest to keep his left steady on the wheel, he covered her hand with trembling fingers. When she didn't move away, he relaxed slowly, the decreasing of tension becoming a very careful caress.
His touch sent an undeniable spark through her, and she found herself wondering if it had been there between them earlier. The connection of their hands comforted her more than anything previous of which she had been aware, and she felt it was something that was new, something that belonged far beyond the borders of the relationship they had led so far. For a moment, she was tempted to let her mind construct hypothetical scenarios of the future, but suddenly decided to just smile instead. Right now, driving to Ohio in a visibly damaged school bus in the middle of the night, Giles' hand covering hers on his left shoulder, was enough. Better than enough.