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Amidst the Cherry Blossoms

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Amidst the Cherry Blossoms


“Bollocks!” Giles yelled as he untied the mess of a bow tie again for the third time, leaving it to just hang around his neck as he paced around the room.

He could feel the aggravation building higher within him, the whole mess was infuriating. He stopped in front of the mirror and tried once again to tie his bow tie, the frustration wafting off of him in spades. How he hated dressing formally and attending these various prestigious events. It didn’t matter what they were, political fundraisers, dinners with wealthy patrons, or charity events like the one this evening. And it wasn’t that he minded donating money to worthy causes, or even having his foundation be the recipient of funding. It was just the whole process - the glad handing, the small talk, the publicity, the late night - it was all becoming tedious.

First and foremost, he had to decide on which tuxedo he would wear. It was an odd thing to have even one hiding in the back of a closet, and he owned four. It was all part of his life now, attending these high profile events. He was the head of an international foundation that provided private education to “troubled teens”, and it was part of his job to represent and raise awareness and money for the organization. Then there was the fact that he usually went stag, and that had elevated him to most eligible bachelor status, attracting a myriad of both single and attached women who vied for his attention most of the evening. And while some men might enjoy the extra attention, well, it flustered him and brought out his stutter, which seemed to endear him even more to his admirers, which in turn made things even more miserable for him. Honestly, he’d just rather be spend the time at home with a good book or with his friends, most of whom he hadn’t seen in quite sometime since they were all scattered across the globe these days.

And did he mention how much he absolutely hated bow ties? Fuck it. Why didn't he choose the tux with the long tie? He had no trouble tying those in any number of different knots. Oh right, because he’d worn it to the last event a couple weeks ago. Throwing his hands up in the air, he decided to leave it and have Olivia tie for him when he picked her up from her hotel room in a few minutes. He had invited her in the hope that having such a beautiful and famous supermodel on his arm would repel the onslaught of unwanted female attention. Leaving the tie dangling around his neck, collar undone, Giles made sure he had a stake, a crucifix, and a bottle of holy water tucked away in various pockets before he headed out the door to pick up his date for the evening.

—————

Buffy couldn’t believe her luck. Andrew had called a week prior to ask her to attend the charity gala in Washington DC to represent the organization, and since her calendar was open for the first time in months, she was now enjoying an all expense paid vacation in her nation’s capital. She had been surprised to hear that Giles wouldn’t be attending as this was part of his job. Maybe she would call him up next week and find out why he had skipped out on this one. It wasn’t like him to miss these types of events, lord knows she had seen his name and face in the papers and on the internet often enough.

As she put on the sleeveless burgundy sheath dress, she smiled with approval at her reflection in the mirror. The dress had a slit up the right side that extended to mid thigh - which was not only sexy, but utilitarian, she would easily be able to grab the flattened stake that she hid in her thigh holster should there be an emergency.

Thankful for her Slayer flexibility, Buffy zipped the dress up the back. It was much easier when you had a date to help with that, but dating and Buffy had been unmix-y things, really, since her resurrection. She just didn’t have an interest in the parade of men who’d come into her life over the past couple of years. She had dated, but only very casually, and she avoided relationships as though the men who were interested were carrying some sort of demonic plague. Training and teaching young Slayers and potential Watchers worldwide kept her busy and on the road for several months at a time, and she didn’t have the time to tend to house plants, much less nurture a budding relationship.

She double checked her clutch purse to ensure that it contained her invitation, identification, and a couple of small vials of holy water, while musing over her touristy adventures earlier in the day. It had saddened her that she was not able to experience this trip with her sister or one of her friends. It had been a packed day, and she’d toured a couple of museums and the Capitol building before having to head back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.

Buffy checked herself in the mirror one last time, admiring the ensemble she'd managed to create at the last minute with the garnet and diamond drop earrings and matching pendant necklace. She left a couple strands from her updo hairstyle down to frame her face, completing the look. Grabbing her purse on the way out, she quickly checked that the stake she carried in the upper thigh holster was secure. Satisfied, she pulled the wrap that matched her dress over her shoulders, left her hotel room, and wandered down to the hotel lobby to meet her chauffeur.

—————

As Giles guided Olivia through the doors of their hotel, his right hand resting lightly on the small of her back, he was thankful that she had chosen to tie his bow tie in her room rather than in the car since members of the press and paparazzi were already taking their pictures. Olivia was a vision in her cream colored open backed dress, her posture immaculate, exactly what one might expect from a famous runway model, and while he didn’t relish the attention he might garner in the tabloids for having her as his date, he figured her status might help draw more attention to the various charitable organizations that were being represented that evening, rather than his status as an eligible bachelor.

“Honestly, Rupert, you would think we were at the opening of a film festival with all the paparazzi about, not just leaving from one hotel to show up at another,” his date commented through the noise of the photographers and their cameras, as well as adoring fans of the various A-list celebrities who attended these sorts of events.

“Most of the attendees must be staying at this hotel for so many to be camped outside,” he deduced, shaking his head in disgust. “God forbid they might miss a hair out of place and then what would everyone talk about tomorrow morning?”

“Cranky,” Olivia teased, threading her arm through the crook of his elbow.

Her tone pulled him out of his funk and he covered her hand with his and gave her a small smile. “Thank you for coming, Liv, it does make this sort of thing easier having a friend about.”

As they waited for their limo to take them to the event, he noticed a petite blonde woman getting into a black town car. He couldn’t see her face, but if he hadn't known better, he might have thought the young lady in the dark red gown was his Slayer. Buffy, however, was currently in Switzerland teaching young Slayers self reliance and advanced staking techniques followed by an excursion to Romania scheduled the following week to find a couple of girls the Council Seers had recently located. Although they checked in at infrequent intervals, he still knew her schedule, keeping a watchful eye on her from afar. Old habits truly die hard.

Giles ran his left hand through his hair in exasperation as he got into the limo. Being reminded of his Slayer was the last thing he needed this evening. He missed her, and he missed Xander and Willow too, and he was so very tired of the traveling, donning tuxes, smiling for the cameras, and living in the public eye. Staring out the window, Giles sighed audibly.

“Could you at least pretend to be interested? You’re brooding again,” Olivia complained, shooting him an exasperated look. “I could have stayed in New York, you know.”

“I’m sorry. I just need a few moments. I promise to be the perfect gentleman when we arrive,” Giles responded before turning his attention to her. “Do you know how many different dinners, galas, and glad-handing events I have attended in the last six months?” He waited for her to answer and when she shook her head no, he continued, “Fifteen. I don’t think I’ve slept in my own bed for more than three nights straight. I have enough frequent flyer miles to never have to fly anything but first class for free for the foreseeable future, and I am just so bloody tired of it. Then when I am home, it’s nonstop bureaucracy and the never ending round of complaints, interviews, and fending off the occasional apocalypse.”

“Then why don’t you take a holiday, Rupert? Just get the hell away from it all.”

At that moment the car pulled up to the curb and Giles put on a smile. As the door opened, he got out, offered Olivia his hand, and assisted her to the red carpet. Flashbulbs raged everywhere and he let her take center stage as he stood off to the side, leaving her to work the crowd. They posed together for a few pictures at various intervals provided by the event handlers along the way to the entrance. He wasn’t sure when his job had become so high profile, but it had, and here he was at the charity gala of the year in an extremely expensive and fine tailored tuxedo with a supermodel on his arm. Even his glasses were high end designer frames. And these days he had the most exclusive designers asking him to wear their clothing lines. It was absurd.

As they entered the event, the tall Englishman caught a glimpse of the mysterious blonde over the crowd. She was standing over by the coat check and so far, she was alone. His interest was piqued and he silently berated himself for asking Olivia to accompany him for the evening. Now he wished he had the freedom to mingle and perhaps introduce himself to the intriguing young woman who had caught his attention.

It was just about time for the dinner to begin and the host of the gala to welcome his guests, so Olivia slipped her arm through Giles’ and led him to their table. As the dinner wore on, Giles’ observations were such that the food had been superb, the service impeccable, and the company around the shared table as false as a set of tits on a blow up doll. It was stifling, and he fiddled with his collar, resisting the urge to send Olivia a piercing glare. She had tied the damned bow tie a little too tightly.

“Rupert’s charity has successfully taken in one hundred and twenty-seven underprivileged or disadvantaged teens globally this year and placed them in classrooms. And with the addition of new schools around the globe and properly trained staff, that number will increase significantly in the upcoming years,” his date bragged dutifully. 

Giles nodded in acknowledgement and swallowed the bite of chicken. “Yes, it’s true,” he began, picking up his napkin and wiping his mouth. “Next year we’ll have our first graduating class.”

The other guests around the table looked duly impressed, but the conversation soon came to a halt as their host took to the stage amidst admiring applause. It was a scene Giles had witnessed so many times in the past few months and he began to realize that each speech was just a different version of the one he’d heard previously, whether it was a charity event, an awards banquet, or a political fundraiser. It didn’t matter. 

Once dinner and the speeches had concluded, Giles and Olivia made the rounds mingling amongst the crowd in the various halls and lobby areas of the hotel. Thankfully, Liv held up her bargain as intimidating arm candy and he was left pretty much alone by his usual crowd of admirers. And while his mood was still sour, he hid it well enough, charming the people with whom they struck up conversations.

As they entered another lavishly decorated ballroom with a swing band playing at one end, Olivia spotted someone she knew. She led them over to the tall blond gentleman, kissed him on both cheeks, and struck up a conversation before making introductions, “Oh heavens, where are my manners! Rupert Giles, this is Tristan Davies, the-”

“The media mogul. Very nice to meet you,” Giles greeted politely, shaking hands. “Lovely party.”

“Indeed it is,” the other man agreed, flashing a Hollywood smile. “It’s nice to finally meet you. So, how do you know our enchanting Olivia?”

“It’s rather a mundane story, really, we met at a museum several years ago,” he answered, noticing how his date was fixated on the very athletic looking American businessman.

They all made small talk for several minutes before Giles excused himself to mingle. It was clear from her body language that Olivia had designs on the dashing billionaire and he was sure she wouldn’t mind if he left her alone in his company.

Leaning over, he placed his hand on her waist and kissed her cheek, whispering, “Enjoy.”

She smiled. “Try to have fun, Rupert. If you need me, I’ll be about.”

—————

Buffy had enjoyed the dinner and the speeches given by the organizer and the keynote speakers, but most importantly, she had fun talking to the other guests at her table. They’d been gracious and seemed genuinely interested in the work she did, asking how they could help. Buffy had handed her dinner companions her card and asked them to get in touch with her over the next few days to discuss ways for them to contribute to the foundation.

It definitely had been a confidence booster. While she had been gregarious and outgoing when she was younger, Buffy had mellowed and become more withdrawn after the collapse of Sunnydale, preferring her own company and that of her friends and family to dancing with strangers at nightclubs or evenings out on the town. And arriving at the ball alone in a sea of strangers had been enough to incite the butterflies in her stomach.

After parting ways with her dinner companions, the Slayer made her way around the various ballrooms and meeting rooms to take in the sights and sounds of the event. Accepting a glass of Cabernet from the bartender, Buffy summoned her courage and toured the hall to socialize - after all, she had been charged with representing the Council’s public facing organization. Putting on her best smile, she meandered around the room until she was approached by an older gentleman she recognized as Maarten van Zandt, the father of one of the young Watcher candidates she had trained in combat several months ago. They had met during a parents’ weekend at the school in Switzerland and he had taken an immediate shine to the Slayer, asking her out to dinner. She had accepted, and they’d had a nice time, but the spark hadn’t been there, not that she had expected one.

“Good evening, Buffy, may I get you another drink?” he asked, greeting her with a flourish as he gestured to her empty glass.

Buffy smiled. He was, if nothing else, a very charming man. “Yes, thank you, Mr van Zandt. It’s wonderful to see you again.”

“Please, it’s Maarten. We did enjoy a rather nice meal together earlier in the year,” he entreated.

“I’m sorry, Maarten, you’re right. I just… It’s a formal event and-“

“No need to explain. First time at one of these things?” She nodded. “Come on, let’s get that drink and you can tell me what you are doing here.”

They walked over to a bar together and Buffy explained her role at the gala. Maarten van Zandt was a second son from a Watcher family who, instead of going in the family business, became an international banking CEO. After hearing Buffy talk about the schools and their successes, he now pledged his additional support in the form of a new scholarship fund for young Watcher candidates to honor his father and older brother, both of whom he had lost in the bombing of the Council’s headquarters in the fight with the First.

“That’s very generous, Maarten, thank you. I’ll have our finance department call you to schedule the particulars for the funding of the scholarship,” Buffy said with a wide grin, taking a sip of the sparkling water she’d requested earlier.

“I look forward to it. Now, as much as I would love to monopolize your time, you should go and enjoy yourself. There is dancing in the main hall. I’d offer to dance, but I am afraid I would bruise your toes at the very least.”

He took her hand and chivalrously kissed the back of it as Buffy once again graciously thanked him for his support before continuing her tour around the various meeting rooms in the posh hotel that hosted the event. Taking a glass from the waiter offering her champagne, she stood in the lavish lobby, deciding which way she should go. The gala was well attended and, after stopping to talk with a few guests, she needed some time to herself and get some fresh air. Noticing that the doors to the terrace were open, Buffy made her way outside and enjoyed the sights of the city that spread out before her.

—————

Giles wandered around looking for the woman in the burgundy dress. He was waylaid a few times by people he knew and he spent some time talking with them to be polite, but it only managed to darken his mood further as he had yet to find his mystery woman. Before he realized it, half the evening was over and he knew he should check in with Olivia.

And that was when he spotted her, the blonde who reminded him so much of his Slayer.

On his way back to the hall where he’d left his companion, Giles looked to his left out onto the terrace. She stood alone by the edge, her back to him, with the lights of the city providing a romantic backdrop. He closed his eyes for a moment to commit the image to memory before walking through the doors to join her, deciding Olivia wouldn’t mind a few more minutes alone with the very personable Mr Davies.

He strolled up behind her after taking two glasses of champagne from a tray near the door. “Lovely evening, if a bit unseasonably warm for late March,” he said, loud enough to make his presence known as he approached.

Her back stiffened upon recognizing his voice and as she turned around she tentatively asked, “Giles?”

His eyes widened in surprise and before he could properly react, he was enveloped by his Slayer, and trying desperately not to spill the champagne over the both of them. Buffy pulled away from him when she didn’t feel him embrace her back and she looked up at him curiously. He smiled apologetically and handed her a glass.

She was a vision in the burgundy gown. It hugged her curves perfectly and the color complemented the summer tan that still kissed her skin. Her green eyes sparkled and captivated him in the low light, but it was her smile that completely threw him off balance. Her smile could light up the entire city and, as it pushed back his dark mood, he couldn’t help but smile back.

“Buffy, you look… uh… you look positively stunning.”

“Thank you,” she replied, a genuine smile gracing her face. “And you look very James Bond.”

Giles looked down at his attire. He felt like such a git in this particular suit. There was just something about the jacket that wasn’t quite tailored correctly and he was suddenly conscious of the strangling knot of his bow tie again.

But he smiled in return. “Thank you.”

“Now, let’s try this again,” Buffy said, taking his glass from him and setting both hers and his down on the ledge next to her. She then circled her arms around his waist and he wrapped his arms around her before pulling her close. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too,” he murmured just above her ear as he rested his cheek against the top of her head. When they broke apart, he asked, “What are you doing here? Have you come with someone? I thought you were in Switzerland.”

“I’m here by myself. The training at the school in Switzerland got canceled and Xander had a break in his schedule so he went to Romania for the new Slayers. Suddenly, I found myself at loose ends when Andrew called and asked me to come and represent the foundation because you couldn’t… be here…” Buffy’s face was a mask of confusion and she looked up and questioned, “Why are you here?”

“I was always scheduled to be here,” Giles responded, picking up his glass of champagne and downing half of the bubbly.

Buffy shook her head. “I don’t understand. Why would Andrew send both of us and tell me you were unavailable? That doesn’t make sense.”

“I can hazard a guess. Andrew has rather sentimental notions about how a Watcher and his or her Slayer should always work together.”

“Well, he has a point. I do miss working with you. How are things?”

Finishing off his champagne, Giles set down his glass and looked around the terrace, sighing, “Much like this all the time, it seems.”

“The hardship,” she teased. She had been enjoying herself immensely, however, knowing what a private man her Watcher was, she quickly sympathized, “Seriously, though, this must be your idea of hell.”

Turning to lean against the concrete ledge, Giles crossed his arms. “It wouldn’t be so bad if I had to attend just one of these things every few months and without all the personal publicity it garners. I know it’s good for the organization, but…” he trailed off, looking at the night sky. He was just so tired of it all.

“You know, the money’s still going to come in, you can miss one or two of these events,” Buffy suggested, taking pity on him.

“Ah, Rupert, there you are,” Olivia interrupted with amusement as she approached them from behind. “I was wondering where you’d gotten off to.”

Giles and Buffy turned as one towards Olivia, who stood with Tristan Davies, arm in arm.

Buffy nearly choked when she saw the other woman. Never in a million years would she have expected to see Olivia again. Apparently Olivia had thought much the same about Buffy because her dark brown eyes widened in disbelief.

“Hello, Buffy,” the older woman greeted politely.

“Olivia,” the Slayer responded with equal formality, trying not to let her personal disdain for the other woman show. “Nice to see you again.”

“Rupert didn’t tell me you would be here tonight.”

“He didn’t know, and I wasn’t aware he was going to be here either,” Buffy responded with a nervous smile. “Surprise!”

“Yes, it seems that my PA had us both booked for the gala,” Giles explained before remembering his manners. “Um, Buffy, this gentleman here is Tristan Davies, the-“

“Media guy,” she supplied with awe, extending her hand. “It’s very nice to meet you. I’m Buffy Summers.”

“Wonderful to meet you. What is it that you do, Buffy?” Tristan asked, shaking her hand.

“I mentor and train disadvantaged youths so that they gain the life skills they need to become productive members of society,” she answered. It was a trite line, but she’d practiced it over and over again until it rolled off her tongue because telling someone what she really did for a living was well beyond complicated.

Putting a possessive hand on her shoulder, Giles stated, “Buffy is being modest. She runs the international operations of our foundation, flying to our schools all over the world to ensure that our students are receiving the best education and training. She created our educational program and is constantly assessing it and making changes as the needs of the student body changes. We also endeavor to tailor to the individual, not have a one size fits all curriculum.”

“That’s fantastic! I’d like to hear more of your experience with these young people. Why don’t you tell about your program while we walk over to the bar and retrieve more drinks. Rupert, Liv, what would you like us to bring back?”

“Scotch, neat,” Giles requested, his eyes on his Slayer.

“Rum and Diet Coke, please,” Olivia answered, leaning in to kiss Tristan’s cheek. As the pair walked off towards the bar, she turned to her date and said, “Well, that’s quite the surprise, finding her here.”

“It is,” he agreed, unable to tear his eyes away from Buffy.

“She’s lovely,” Olivia noted, following his gaze.

“Hmm?”

“You should be with her,” she observed.

His attention quickly shot back to his old friend. “Liv-“

“It’s fine, Rupert, really. You’ve been dreadful company since I arrived this afternoon and I fully understand the circumstances. I’m actually glad that you feel safe enough to not have to put on an act for me. I’m also thankful that I have a better offer.” Her eyes shifted to the blond media tycoon. “One that might not have me sleeping alone tonight.”

“I’m sorry,” he apologized sheepishly, gazing down at his hands. “Had I known she would be here, I wouldn’t have dragged you away from New York. It’s been quite some time since I last saw her.” He quickly looked across the terrace and found Buffy smiling at him from the bar and his heart skipped a beat

“Don’t apologize. Go be with her,” Olivia encouraged with a small smile. 

Giles kissed her cheek. “You’re a tolerant and understanding friend, Liv.”

“I know. Just do yourself a favor, alright? Man up and make your move. She’s all grown up now.”

A crimson flush rose from Giles’ neck and up through his cheeks. “It’s… it’s not like that,” he insisted.

“But it is,” she returned. “You’re besotted, Rupert, anyone can see it. In a few months time, when I am back in London, we’ll meet up for lunch and you can tell me all about your new lover. Now you’ll have to excuse me. I am going to entice Tristan back to his penthouse before he, too, falls under your Slayer’s spell. She really is stunning.”

“You are an angel, Liv,” he said as she started walking towards the bar.

“Yeah, yeah,” she answered, lifting her hand up in acknowledgement without looking back.

Giles watched as Olivia approached Tristan and Buffy, slipping her hand into the crook of the billionaire’s elbow. Tristan turned and smiled down at her as she looked up. There was true affection there, Giles noted, and he wished her luck. Picking up the champagne flute, he downed the rest of his drink and looked out over the city, wondering how his evening had managed to get so much better, but so complicated at the same time.

“It’s beautiful, the monuments and the Capitol all lit up,” Buffy said casually.

He turned towards her and she handed him his glass of scotch. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. We’ve been ditched, you know.”

“Yes, I am aware. My date seems to have dumped me for another fellow.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Buffy winced sympathetically, placing her hand on his forearm.

“Whatever for?”

“I didn’t realize you were together… with her. I thought she was here with Tristan…”

Giles chuckled, “Oh, Buffy, no, it’s nothing like that. We’re just friends. I invited Liv to accompany me because I was tired of all the female attention I receive at these functions.”

“Friends.”

He gave her a pointed look. “Just friends. Nothing more.”

“That wasn’t…” she stopped, her cheeks flushing in embarrassment.

“I know,” he answered, gently twirling the amber liquid around in the tumbler. “I thought I might quell your curiosity, though.”

Buffy had to admit she could breathe easier knowing that Giles and Olivia hadn't been together. “Well, here’s to us, then,” she said, charging her glass of chardonnay.

He raised his glass and clinked it against hers. “To unexpected but pleasant reunions.”

Smiling over the rim and maintaining eye contact, she took a sip of the wine. “What do you think the tabloids will say tomorrow after the paparazzi see Olivia leaving with Tristan?”

“Ah… the typical American headline might read something like, ‘Supermodel Olivia Williams arrives with London’s most eligible bachelor and leaves with Washington’s.’” He shrugged, taking another sip of his scotch. “No doubt the London tabloids will have me heartbroken and crying in my cups.”

“Most eligible bachelor, I did read that in some magazine on my way from Hong Kong to Mumbai a few months ago. It was the only English gossip rag they had. I was looking for People, but they were out at the newsstand at the airport. I’ve gotta say, they paint quite the flattering picture.”

“Yes, well, we have to edit much of my life story out, don’t we?”

“You’ve got Andrew on PR duty, don’t you?”

Giles laughed, “I don’t know what I’d do without that jack of all trades. He’s managed to keep our secret identities safe. But it’s a wonder with all the bullshit he’s feeding the press that I am not canonized tomorrow.”

“It’s good for the Council, though,” she said, putting down her glass and passing her arm through his elbow. “Come on, St Giles, we can’t hide away on the terrace all evening. Let’s mingle and represent our young people who are depending on the generous charitable donations of others.”

As they passed an empty table on their way into the hall, Giles set down his glass and led Buffy to the main ballroom. Upon arriving they were besieged by a very elegant woman in her mid-forties, and Buffy felt Giles’ body tense up as the woman approached.

“Ah, Rupert, there you are. I’ve been looking for you. Tell me, how are all your at risk children?” she purred.

“They are doing very well, Ms Abrams, thank you. May I introduce Buffy Summers. Buffy, this is Heather Abrams, one of our patrons. Under Buffy’s watchful eye, our students are succeeding in a myriad of ways.”

“Very nice to meet you,” Buffy greeted, shaking the other woman’s hand.

“And you,” the woman returned with a superficial smile. “Now, Rupert, didn’t I see you arrive with that gorgeous supermodel?”

“Oh he did,” Buffy confirmed, noting the predatory look in their patroness’ eye. Maybe mingling wasn’t such a good idea. “Olivia is a mutual friend of ours and was nice enough to agree to accompany Rupert here until I could join him. I was stuck in meetings and my flight arrived late.” Turning to Giles, she said, “And you had to meet up with Tristan Davies earlier to discuss that matter of sponsorship, so we couldn’t connect at the hotel and ride over together. Isn’t that right, honey?”

As her hold on his arm tightened, Giles looked fondly at Buffy, catching the knowing glimpse in her eye. She was saving him from Heather’s advances. “I do appreciate your patience in that matter, darling,” he replied as he pulled her closer to him, wrapping his arm around her waist. “It was terribly rude of me, considering you flew here from Bern on such short notice.”

Darling. The way the word easily rolled off his tongue triggered an intense possessive emotion within her and Buffy took the opportunity to nestle herself against him, justifying it as cover. She grinned up at him, her dark green eyes full of mischief.

Pulling out of his embrace, she laced her fingers through his. “Well, you did promise to make up for it by dancing with me.”

“So I did,” Giles agreed, allowing her to pull him towards the dance floor. He turned back towards Heather Abrams, shoving his right hand in his trouser pocket. “Please excuse us,” he entreated before pivoting on his left foot and following his Slayer. When they reached the dance floor, he pulled her into his arms and began to lead her around the room in a foxtrot. She followed him effortlessly and he marveled at her skill.

It had been years since Giles had danced formally, but he had no issue picking it up again. Keeping his posture rigid and holding the frame, he led her across the dance floor to The Way You Look Tonight, contentedly humming a few bars here and there. He knew that even if Buffy hadn't known how to dance, she would’ve taken direction well and picked it up rather quickly.She’d always proven a quick study when it came to body positioning and movement in training, it was only natural that it should translate to dancing as well.

He had no idea what compelled him to choose the foxtrot of all dances, as opposed to just holding his partner and shuffling along to the music like so many of the other couples on the floor. Perhaps it was to show off a little, to show Buffy a different side of him, and to show her off as well. Not only was she the Slayer - not that any of the guests there knew, of course - but she was also Buffy, someone who was tremendously special to him.

Buffy shouldn’t have been so surprised, but she was, and she reveled in Giles’ ability to dance. The last time she’d even attempted a simple waltz was with Riley after he’d won lessons at a dance studio in a raffle held at the student union. They had both agreed that it would be a fun thing to do together, only it had turned out that Riley had all the finesse of a giant redwood tree that had just sprouted legs with no knees, and the experience had been both painful and an exercise in extreme patience. Giles, as it turned out, had such a natural grace when he danced that it was a joy to have him lead her around the floor, and she relinquished her need for self-preservation, trusting him implicitly. Between the humming and the look of contentment on his face, Buffy knew he was enjoying himself just as much as she was.

When the orchestra finished the song, the lights in the ballroom dimmed and they launched into a slow number. Buffy looked up at Giles with a shy grin. He smiled down at her and took a step closer into her space, breaking the frame of the foxtrot and wrapping his free arm around her. Taking the invitation, she moved closer too, and moved her arm so that her hand rested on his back just below his shoulder. As they settled in, he tucked their joined hands into his chest and they started to sway to the music.

“Where did you learn to dance like that?” he asked softly, his eyes gazing into hers.

“My parents decided I wasn’t graceful enough on the ice when I first started competing, so they sent me to ballroom dance lessons.”

“I can’t imagine you ever not being graceful.”

“Keep your delusions, I like coming out ahead,” she laughed. “You’re a great dancer too.”

“And you’re a fine actress. We seem to have given Ms Abrams the slip,” he said, quickly glancing around the ballroom.

Buffy gave the room the once over and felt satisfied. “Well, someone had to pick up the slack since Olivia ditched you,” she teased.

“Thank you for stepping in at the last minute.” The tone of his voice was heartfelt and gentle.

“Well, I think they’ll buy it. We’ve known each other for what seems like forever now. You can’t fake this kind of familiarity.”

“I’ve missed you, Buffy.”

“I’ve missed you too,” she answered softly before closing the last of the distance between them and resting her head against his chest. She heard him sigh when he rested his cheek against the top of her head.

As the music enveloped them, Buffy relaxed into Giles, giving herself over to the comfort of his embrace and remembering the long talks and the common ground they’d found in those early days following the destruction of Sunnydale, and the warmth of forgiveness and the healing they’d begun together before the Council called, intruding on their sanctuary.

She often wondered what would’ve happened had they delayed their acceptance of the Council’s offer to work together in securing a proper future for the new Slayers. Where would they be now? Certainly not slow dancing with each other at some charity event and flirting together, even if it was just for show. That wasn’t who they were to the other. Not then anyway.

Listening to his strong heart beating beneath her ear as they slowly danced to the romantic number, contentment welled up inside her and she banished all thoughts of duty and responsibility that would come with the end of the gala. For now, they were together and she could pretend it would last forever; pretend the feelings he stirred within her were the same ones he experienced as he held her close and guided her around the dance floor.

Giles relished the feel of her against him. Her very presence soothed the growing loneliness he’d felt since they’d taken on their new roles at the Council and parted ways. If there was anything he had learned over the past few years, it was that he was miserable without her. But their separation this past year seemed to hurt the most. He supposed it was due to the fact that they finally felt comfortable around each other again, having finally laid to rest the horrible slights and outright fights of the past. Life was too short. Both of her deaths had brought that truth into the very garish light of day.

Now he only saw Buffy on rare occasions when she stopped in London to recharge and spend time with her sister, who studied at the Watchers’ Preparatory Academy, catching a few hours with her and Dawn before she embarked on her next mission. Those scant hours were precious, but never enough, and they were never alone to continue the re-bonding process they had started in the Californian desert.

As he held her, Giles vowed to stop the constant traveling they were doing, to make them take time off. For the moment, though, he just wanted to concentrate on the woman in his arms, knowing that all too soon they would head their separate ways - a thought that made him hug her to him a little tighter.

It was with great regret that Buffy relinquished her hold on Giles when the music drew to an end and the band started playing an upbeat swing number. She had enjoyed dancing with him and being held in his strong arms, and she would’ve liked a little more time to examine the emotions he kindled within her as he held her close.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve danced properly and I know I basically manipulated you into it, but thank you,” she said graciously.

“It was my pleasure, Buffy,” he replied, taking her hand in his as they walked off the dance floor together. He told himself it was to maintain the facade that they were at the event together, to keep the unsolicited advances at bay, but the truth was that he was enjoying the intimacy and wasn’t willing to give it up.

Her stomach flipped when he took her hand and she had to remind herself to breathe. She was his cover, much as Olivia had been earlier in the evening, and she felt a huge disappointment at that thought.

As they left the ballroom, Buffy looked up at him and asked, “How long do these events last?”

“Far too long. The event staff usually starts making a fuss of tidying up around two in the morning.”

“Wow. What time is it now?”

“Not yet midnight,” he answered, looking at his watch.

Despite having a good time, Buffy was ready to leave… with Giles. Things had changed irrevocably since finding him at the gala. She wanted to spend time alone with him without the surrounding noise, the high probability of interruptions, and the lack of comfortable seating, but the gala still had hours to go. Maybe they could meet up in the morning and continue catching up then, just the two of them.

"Have you seen anything of the city, Giles?" she asked.

"No, I just got in this afternoon."

“Pity. How long are you staying?" Her voice faltered a bit, knowing that whatever time they did have together would most likely be limited to the gala. Giles’ schedule was always overbooked.

They arrived back at the spot on the terrace where they had met. "My flight leaves tomorrow afternoon. I have a meeting at headquarters the following day.” He sighed miserably. "Seems like it never ends.”

Buffy turned away, trying to hide her disappointment, reality already encroaching on their time together. Giles knew her body language almost as well as he knew English and, knowing she was unhappy, shoved his hands in his pockets and hunched his shoulders forward, waiting for her to say something.

“Our timing always sucks,” she spat bitterly. The disappointment welled up inside her and she tried to check her breathing to keep from crying.

“Seems so, yes,” he agreed, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Buffy, we could… that is, if you like… well, people have told me the cherry blossoms are not to be missed. What do you say to a midnight stroll around the Tidal Basin and we could see the monuments lit up?"

She took a deep breath as she dabbed at her eyes with her fingers and a small smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. Giles had stuttered. It had been so long since she’d heard him stutter. It was endearing and cute and made her tummy clench in a good way.

"I'd really like that, but what about mingling with the crowd and representing the foundation?"

"I think we've put in our time here," he answered quietly. "I'd rather like to spend the rest of the evening with you."

The little smile turned into a dazzling grin and he couldn't help but return it.

“Let’s get out of here, Giles.”

—————

While Buffy retrieved her wrap and purse from the coat check, Giles notified the event staff to have her car brought around, leaving his for Olivia in the off chance she would have need of it. The press and paparazzi had lined the street opposite waiting for the perfect shot of various celebrities leaving the venue and they scrambled for their cameras as the couple left the hotel and climbed into the car, not expecting any party attendees to leave so early.

“You deal with that a lot, huh?” Buffy asked as they drove down the city street, flashbulbs lighting their way.

“More than I would like, yes, but primarily at events like this one. For the most part, I am left alone. I don’t get followed if I am running out for a takeaway, and no one camps outside my front door. Occasionally, there will be a few photographers outside of the Council buildings waiting. I’m rather boring, I imagine.”

“Well, I can’t see the general public being interested in watching you cross reference,” she teased. “Although the a-ha moments are endearing to watch.”

He caught the sincerity in her eyes and gave her a shy smile.

“Of course, those a-ha moments were always heroic, saving my life and, on several occasions, the world.”

“I think you had an even bigger hand in all of that.”

“We made a good team. I miss that.”

“We did. Admittedly, I don’t miss worrying about you being out there every night on patrol,” Giles declared quietly, almost in a confessional whisper as he suddenly took interest in the leather seating in the town car.

“I still patrol most nights, Giles,” she replied just as quietly and he raised his head to look at her. “I’m still out there. Granted it’s different, I’m mostly there in a mentoring capacity, but periodically I have to step in and make a rescue.”

As the car pulled into the parking lot near the paddle boathouse, Giles let out a small breath and ran his left hand through his hair. “You’re right, it is different. Slayers don’t patrol without other Slayers anymore. Strength in numbers,” he conceded, taking comfort in her supervisory role. “Are you armed, Buffy?” he asked as he looked out the window.

“Always,” she replied.

“Council driver?”

Buffy nodded.

Giles knocked on the darkened partition separating the chauffeur from the backseat. The driver opened the window and the Watcher passed him a small bottle of holy water and the stake he held in his jacket pocket. “For you, should there be any trouble. We should be back in two hours.”

—————

They strolled together in quiet solitude, several inches apart, down to the walking path around the Tidal Basin. The intimacy they had shared at the gala had dissipated on the drive over. With the danger of Giles being stalked by unwanted admirers all but gone, the situation left them without an excuse to touch.

Seeing no further reason to keep up appearances, Giles untied the cursed bow tie and unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt, sighing in relief at the instant freedom he felt.

“You okay?” Buffy asked, glancing up at him.

“Hm? Oh, yes. I have a devil of a time with these damned things and Olivia, in her haste, managed to tie it a bit too tight. Part of me thinks she might have done it deliberately.”

“My poor Watcher,” she teased.

“Indeed! But I must admit that it was worth the torture to dance and spend time with such enchanting company tonight.”

She smiled and punched him lightly in the arm. “Flatterer.” But she knew his compliments didn’t come lightly and his words filled her with a warm and tingly sensation.

When they arrived on the path, Buffy took in a deep breath and stopped her progress. The full moon shone brightly off the water and the Jefferson Memorial stood regal across the Tidal Basin, the white marble illuminated brightly against the night’s sky. And if that weren’t perfect enough, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom and the walk was littered with pale pink pedals.

“It’s gorgeous,” Buffy commented as she stopped to take in the view.

But Giles only had eyes for his Slayer, the moonlight and shadows only serving to enhance her beauty. “Gorgeous,” he murmured in agreement as he stood behind her. Noticing her slight shiver despite wearing her wrap, he removed his jacket and placed it over her shoulders.

Buffy looked up at him gratefully, drawing the lapels closer together. “Thank you,” she said quietly, feeling a little unsettled under his intense gaze. She was falling for him and it made her feel vulnerable.

Sensing her discomfort, Giles stepped back and shoved his hands in his pockets, shifting his attention down the path. “Shall we, uh, continue?” he asked, cocking his head in the opposite direction from the paddle boats.

Silence settled between them again and Giles’ posture was more rigid than before. His comfort level had dropped significantly after seeing the anxious look in Buffy’s eyes, and he kept his hands stuffed in his pockets to avoid the temptation of reaching out to her.

The turn of his mood concerned the Slayer. Was she misreading the signs? Or had it all been part of the act back at the charity ball? They were nearing the end of their time together before going their separate ways again and she was determined to not let such a wonderful evening end in such awkward silence, regardless of her growing feelings.

“I miss patrolling with you. When it was just us hanging out together, studying for some test, waiting for some prophetic demon to show up, or just dusting a few vamps here and there. Although, truth be told, I like this better,” she commented, wrapping her hands around his elbow and leaning into him. “Just us, out and about, enjoying a beautiful evening.”

Giles relaxed a little, removing his free hand from his pocket and covering her hands with it. The corner of his mouth twitched a couple times before he answered her. “This is very nice. I’m glad we left the event early.”

Buffy smiled as she felt him begin to unwind, hoping to gain back at least a little of the intimacy they had shared before leaving the gala. “Imagine how crowded this place must be during the day,” she mused.

“But tonight it is all ours.” His voice was tentative, yet there was an element of possessiveness to it, as though he never quite felt his life belonged to him anymore and he was determined to hold onto the time they were given.

They continued onwards following the pavement, taking in the beauty of their surroundings, and Giles removed his arm from her grasp and wrapped it around her shoulders.

“Warm enough?” he asked, concerned for her wellbeing.

“Am now,” she responded as she slipped her arm around his waist.

“Good.”

They walked on, enjoying the other’s company, and after a while she said, “I can tell what you are thinking, you know. Call it Watcher-sense.”

“You can, can you?”

“Yup. Even after all this time apart. It’s kind of like riding a bike,” she stated playfully.

Giles stopped them, his curiosity getting the better of him, and a mischievous smile crept up on his face as he turned to her and crossed his arms over his chest. “I would challenge that you haven’t the faintest idea what I am thinking, but enlighten me. What was going through my mind prior to this discussion?”

“Well first off, you’re wondering where life got so off track that you are attending celebrity events every few weeks and have become fodder for the British tabloids.”

“Oh that’s very good, but hardly something to be picked up just out of the blue,” he scoffed, his green eyes shining brightly in the moonlight. Stepping into her space, he taunted, “You’ll have to do better than that.”

She took a step closer, picking up the figurative gauntlet, and took one of his hands in hers and brought it down between them. “But that’s not all you’re thinking about, because you have this super huge brain and you’d bend some of that genius level thinking toward your companion.”

“Is that so?” He was highly amused and raised an eyebrow as her thumb caressed the back of his hand.

“Yes. You’ve been thinking that it’s been far too long since we’ve spent any time together and how is it that time has run away from us,” she murmured as she looked up into his eyes. “And now you are taking a moment and wondering where all this is heading… oh and that you really like me in this dress, but the jacket is a bit ridiculous.”

“It is ridiculous,” he agreed with a soft chuckle. “That’s quite the sixth sense you have.”

“Seventh,” she corrected. “Spidey-sense is number six. Can you read minds, Giles?”

“I think I might be able to,” he breathed, bringing his free hand up to caress her cheek.

“Tell me what I’m thinking.”

“You are thinking about how incredibly pleased you are with yourself because you know that everything you said is true and I cannot possibly deny any of it.”

Buffy smiled up at him, confirming his statement. “Go on.”

Noting the mixture of desire and amusement dancing in her dark green eyes, Giles swallowed and looked past her for a moment before turning his attention back to her.

“You’re also thinking about the vampire that is lurking in the trees about twenty-five yards away.”

“Thirty yards,” she confirmed with a knowing smirk. “What else?”

“That you’re not properly dressed for patrol, and you wish that tonight of all nights the undead would take a holiday and let us have this moment…” His head drifted down towards hers as he ran his thumb over her lips.

“That’s… that’s very good,” she praised breathlessly as her eyes wandered to his velvety lips and her tongue peaked out to wet hers.

Giles raised his eyes to check the position of the vampire. “He’s not moved.”

“No.”

“And you are wondering why I have not created a diversion to lure him out in the open.”

“Just so you know,” she breathed, “Mr Pointy is strapped to my right thigh.”

“Oh god,” he whispered, raising the other hand to her cheek and possessively guiding her mouth to his, his lips crashing down on hers. Within moments they were lost in each other, tongues meeting and exploring as their hands wandered over the other’s body, getting to know the lines and the curves.

Giles’ left hand slid over her shoulders, dropping his jacket to the ground. He then ran his hand down her back and over her shapely bottom before drifting down her right thigh to the slit in her gown. Buffy moaned into his mouth as her hands ran up his torso, over his chest and circled his neck.

When he found Mr Pointy, Giles, drew the stake from its holster and opened his eyes to see the vampire barreling down on them. In one quick movement, he broke the kiss, pivoted around Buffy, and plunged the weapon deep into the vampire’s chest, turning the demon into dust.

Both Watcher and Slayer were breathing hard when he turned back to her. She stared at him in disbelief and then rushed towards him, taking his face in her hands and bringing him down to her for a hard kiss. Giles quickly removed his glasses and pocketed them and the stake before returning his hands to her body, desperately pulling her closer to him.

Tearing his mouth away from hers, he then placed a series of small kisses up her neck and asked in a rough voice, “Are there any more?”

“No. There was only the one,” she returned with a whimper.

“Good.”

“You took my kill, Giles,” Buffy admonished lightly a moment before his lips found hers again.

When the kiss ended, he leaned his forehead against hers and asked, “Are you bothered?”

“Not unless we find another demon or…” her voice drifted off in a sing-song manner.

“Or?”

“Your room or mine?”

—————

They kissed and teased and touched one another in the car as the driver took them back to their hotel. Giles' hands roamed her body and his lips and teeth found the sensitive area between her neck and her collarbone that drove her crazy, and she arched into his hands when his thumbs teased her nipples beneath the satin of her gown.

Buffy's hands threaded through his hair, keeping his head rooted to the spot, her breathing short and heavy in the silence. He dropped his left hand down to her knee and found the slit, trailing his fingers up her thigh.

"Jesus," she breathed.

Licking his way up her neck, he took her earlobe between his teeth and bit down gently before asking huskily, "Buffy, love, do I need to ask the driver to stop at a chemist?"

She pulled away slightly with a confused look before realizing that Giles had reverted back to his British terminology. "No, we're good. There's a huge unopened box of condoms that my sister gave me for Christmas back in my room. A subtle hint that I should get back in the game."

"Dawn, always the sensible one," he murmured as he returned his attentions to her neck.

"How can London's most eligible bachelor be caught without proper protection?"

"Used up my last packet yesterday at the airport before flying out on the red eye," he teased as he proceeded to kiss down her throat to the top of her gown, growling in playful frustration when his progress was hampered.

"Giles!" she protested, lightly hitting his shoulder as she pushed him away.

Raising his head, he looked sheepish and contrite. "I jest, Buffy. I'm sorry, it was in poor taste," he apologized, running the back of his hand along her cheek. "I didn't pack any because I make it a point not to… ah… hook up at these events."

She giggled and leaned into him with an impish smile before brushing her lips against his. “I’m playing with you, Giles,” she said huskily as she ran her fingers down his chest.

“Oh thank god!” he declared, descending on her neck like a master vampire before nibbling and kissing his way up to and along her jawline, one hand cupping her breast and rubbing the heel of his palm over the taught bud beneath the satin.

Buffy’s hands roamed over his shoulders and down his chest, but she needed more of him, to touch more of him, wanted to feel him, and she savagely took his mouth as his lips inched closer to hers. Their tongues tangled and tumbled, exploring and searching, battling for supremacy and giving quarter, but she was the Slayer, and it would be he who would ultimately yield.

When she unexpectedly enclosed her hand around his trouser clad erection, Giles tore away from her mouth and threw his head back in surprise, letting out a guttural moan as he thrust into it. He opened his eyes, darkened and intense, made more so by the lack of light in the back of the town car, and watched as she unbuttoned his trousers and explored his hardened length with a series of light, teasing touches, squeezing him through the fabric barrier of his shorts. 

And somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew they needed to stop, but damned if he was going to listen to that nagging voice now. He clasped her head between his hands and drew her down, kissing her wildly, his mouth plundering hers again with a knowing possession, dropping one hand to her thigh and pushing the gown aside as he drew it higher over her hip and to her bottom in an attempt to draw her onto his lap.

Tapping. She heard a tapping sound. Annoying and clinking. Tapping, the high pitched sound of metal hitting on glass, pulling her out of the frenzied haze she was enjoying with her Watcher. Opening her eyes, she pulled away from Giles and, seeing him in his current state, she almost laughed. He was tousled and panting, leaning back with his trousers undone whilst looking up at her in confusion, hope, concern, and apparent frustration. He was too cute for words. Of course, she probably looked a fright, her hair all askew, makeup smeared, and her dress all wrinkled, but she knew he’d be too gentlemanly to mention it.

“There was a noise,” she tried to explain apologetically. And, as if on cue, the tapping sounded again, coming from the divider.

Buffy fell back into her seat to straighten herself up while Giles covered himself with his jacket and leaned forward before opening the window that separated them from the chauffeur. “Yes?” he asked, running a hand through his hair.

“We’ve got a block and a half until we reach the hotel, sir,’ the driver warned.

“Ah, thank you,” he replied, closing the glass panel. “Well, that’s just a little bit mortifying.”

Pulling her compact from her clutch purse, Buffy checked her makeup and hair in the small mirror. “It could’ve been worse. He could’ve not warned us and just opened the door when we arrived.”

“Heaven forbid,” Giles grumbled, tucking his shirt back in and buttoning his trousers.

“You ok?” she asked, applying some powder. All things considered, her makeup and hair hadn’t taken that much damage.

“Yes. I’m decent now,” he muttered. There was nothing like embarrassment to act as a cold shower.

Content with her appearance, Buffy leaned over and kissed him long and languidly, lightly biting his bottom lip when the kiss ended. “We’ll change that in a few,” she promised.

—————

When they stepped out of the vehicle, they looked fairly presentable, if slightly disheveled - nothing that would imply a heavy make out session in the back of a car. Entering the hotel, Giles placed his hand lightly on her lower back, a gentlemanly gesture to anyone watching them in the mostly deserted lobby, but for the couple there was a deep need to maintain the physical contact, to not lose the heady atmosphere they’d created between them.

As soon as the doors to the elevator shut, Giles pulled her to him and she met his lips in earnest. Her momentum pushed him into the corner of the elevator, their hands surveying and groping each other in need. Within moments, their breathing turned heavy beneath the weight of sighs, soft moans, and whispered names.

The elevator chimed when it reached their floor and Buffy turned, catching his hand as she did so, to lead him out of the lift and down to her suite. Giles’ breath hitched in his throat as he observed how her body moved beneath the satin of her gown, and when he felt the pull on his arm, he followed her like one would a siren, knowing his fate was sealed.

When they reached her door, Buffy pulled the keycard from her little purse. Unable to keep his hands to himself, Giles hugged her from behind, kissing her neck.

“Giles,” she whimpered, her body trembling when he scraped his teeth along her collarbone. One of his hands wandered up her torso to massage her breast as he pulled her closer into him, trailing his lips and tongue up to just below her earlobe. “I can’t open the door if you keep doing that,” she breathed, tilting her head to give him a better angle.

Realizing that it would be better to continue in a more private place, Giles stopped what he was doing and took the keycard from her. Opening the door, he gallantly waited for her to enter her suite before closing it behind them. The lights were already on from the turn down service, and he followed her silently into the sitting room, his eyes never leaving her as she turned her back towards him and removed her earrings. After placing them on the side table, she reached up to pull the pins from her hair, allowing it to tumble down her shoulders and back.

Buffy swept her hair to the side. “Giles, could you please?”

Approaching her softly, he ghosted his fingers over her shoulders to her neck and unclasped the pendant, replacing it with his lips as he dropped the necklace into her waiting hand. He then trailed his hands up from her waist to the top of her gown and unzipped it slowly, chasing the progress of the zipper with his tongue and lips until he was on his knees, hands on her hips, kissing the small of her back.

She allowed the gown to fall, revealing her black lingerie, and he groaned at the sight of the black stockings held up by tiny suspenders attached to her garter belt. She turned to face him and he looked up at her in adoration. Leaning down, she kissed his forehead and started to remove the holster from her right thigh.

“Let me,” Giles croaked, replacing her hands with his.

Once the holster was removed, Buffy dragged him up by the ends of his loosened bow tie and, when he stood before her, removed his jacket, throwing it and the tie over the chair next to them. She then unbuttoned his waistcoat and dropped it to the floor. He pulled the braces down for her as she unbuttoned his shirt the rest of the way, yanking the tails from his trousers while he removed his cufflinks and took his glasses from his other pocket and placed them on the side table. Wanting to divest him of his shirt, Buffy ran her hands up his torso, over his pecs and nipples, and up to his shoulders, smiling to herself when she felt him shudder beneath her touch.

Giles was still trim and strong, keeping in good form even without a Slayer to train. His shoulders and arms were particularly well formed, and after she pushed his shirt down, she returned her hands to his chest, enjoying the feel of the crisp hairs beneath her palms.

As he circled his arms around her, his hands wandered down over her buttocks and he drew her closer to him, allowing her to feel his arousal against her stomach.

“Eager much?” she asked huskily.

“Very,” he replied, his voice rough with desire.

Buffy removed herself from his embrace and walked into the bedroom, looking over her shoulder to make sure he followed her. She detoured from her path and made her way over to her suitcase, which sat open on the stand, and grabbed the box of condoms from the side pocket. Placing them on the nightstand, she made her way back over to Giles, who had toed off his shoes and socks and stood before her in nothing but his trousers.

He bent his head to kiss her softly, but Buffy quickly took control of the kiss and plundered his mouth with her tongue as her hands made quick work of the button and zipper on his slacks. Giles responded to her urgency and unhooked her strapless lace bra, dropping it to the floor. After she pushed down his trousers, he carefully stepped out of them and lowered her onto the bed, kissing her deeply before trailing his lips and tongue down her neck, between the valley of her breasts, and dipping his tongue into her navel. Buffy arched her hips at the sensation, and he raised his head, looking at her with a feral satisfaction.

Pushing himself up, he picked up her left leg to unhook the suspenders that held her stocking in place. He hooked his fingers beneath the gossamer fabric and slowly removed the hosiery.

“Very sexy,” he murmured, his eyes following the progress of his hands.

Buffy smiled and trailed her other foot up his inner thigh and over the significant bulge in his shorts distracting him from his task. He inhaled deeply and finished the task before grabbing her errant foot. Bringing it up to his mouth, he kissed the instep before he started sucking her toes. She moaned in surprise, and he trailed his tongue up her leg to her thigh where he undid the clasp and removed the second stocking.

Moving up and into the middle of the king sized bed to make more room, Buffy patted the space next to her in invitation. Giles shoved his shorts down and kicked them off before sitting down next to her. She watched the muscles on his back ripple and flex as she sat there, waiting for him as he opened the box and picked out a couple packets. He then switched off the lamp before turning back towards her, leaving the only source of light streaming through the doorway from the sitting room. Running her hands over his back, she pulled him down to her, and he covered her body with his, lavishing attention with his mouth from her neck, over her breasts, and down her torso to the edge of the lacy panties and garter belt.

“These have got to go now,” he said impatiently as he tugged them down and tossed them over the side of the bed. Seeing her lying naked before him, wanting him, was nothing short of a miracle and his body ached with anticipation.

Buffy appraised his body, enjoying the view before her. God, it had been so long since she’d been with anyone and her body shivered at seeing the effect she had on him. She sat up to face him and moved to her knees. Teasing his lips with hers, she backed away several times before he could respond, licking and biting his lower lip.

“I want you, Giles,” she breathed, and reached over to the nightstand to grab one of the packets. She watched him bite his lip, trying to retain control as she stroked his length several times before rolling the condom on him. She then rose up and whispered in his ear, “On your back, Watcher.”

Giles did as he was told and, with a fierce look of determination, Buffy straddled him and rubbed her slick slit back and forth over his rock hard erection. He placed his hands on her hips when she changed her angle and rhythm slightly, and he thrust against her, wanting to create more friction for the both of them. Reaching down, she took his hands, threaded their fingers together, and leaned over him so that his hands were pinned next to his head. She then rolled her hips, taking him with agonizing slowness into her hot depths until neither knew where he ended and she began.

For Buffy there was a wonderful sense of completeness and she stilled a moment to close her eyes and savor the feeling, wondering momentarily if he could feel it too. And perhaps she had remained still a hairsbreadth too long, because she felt him impatiently arch his hips beneath her. Pushing herself upright, she let go of his hands and started to rock against him.

“Christ, Buffy,” he hissed as he flexed his fingers, grabbing the sheets. “You feel so good.”

Watching him writhe beneath her, the muscles in his neck taut and corded, his breathing shallow, Buffy marveled at the power she held over him. She continued to ride him slowly and he met her on the downstroke, his hands moving to her hips, up her sides, and over to her breasts, massaging them as he explored and teased her nipples, alternating between soft caresses and sharper pinches.

She quickened the pace and changed angles, driving them higher, a sheen of sweat coating them both. Grabbing his hands again, she leaned over and kissed him hard, trying unsuccessfully to keep the rhythm between them. She was close, but she couldn’t quite… finish.

“Giles,” she grunted in frustration after breaking the kiss. “I can’t… I want… need… you…”

Moving his left hand out from beneath hers, he brought it up to caress her cheek. “Shhh…” he whispered before tenderly kissing her lips. “On your knees.” It was the gentlest of commands, but those words held all the promise of what she needed.

Buffy complied quickly, settling herself over a couple pillows for comfort. She hadn’t been able to come on top and she desperately needed the release. Giles positioned himself behind her and ran his hands over her back and bottom in an effort to sooth her frustration. Leaning over her, he kissed his way along her spine up to her neck where he playfully nipped at it.

“You are so incredibly sexy,” he breathed into her ear. “I loved watching you above me. Felt so wonderful. Now I am going to bury my cock deep within you… make you come. Want to hear you scream, Buffy.”

God, his words stoked the fire burning within to a full roar, and she wanted him to take her, to make good on that promise. Her body had never felt so alive, every nerve ending tingling with anticipation. She felt him raise himself up and push into her, and she pushed back to take him all the way.

Giles started a slow, agonizing rhythm and lifted her up so that she sat on his thighs with him buried as deeply within her as possible, moving together and occasionally varying speed and angles. He kneaded and caressed her breasts before dipping the fingers of his left hand down between her folds, where he began to tease at her swollen clitoris.

“Yeah,” she breathed, her pants and whimpers coming closer together.

“Yeah?”

“Uh huh…” she confirmed, turning her head up towards him.

Giles kept up the teasing and increased their pace while leaning down to kiss her, his tongue flicking at her lips when it ended. He could feel her start to pulse around his tremendously sensitized cock and he wrapped his right arm around her chest, holding her to him.

“Let go, Buffy,” he whispered, his voice gravelly. “I want to feel you. Hear you.”

“I… I… need…”

“I know, love, I know.”

All it took was a slight shift of his hips and Buffy screamed his name in release, falling onto her hands before him. Grabbing her hips, Giles started to pound into her, looking to join her in the throes of orgasm. Within a few moments, he emptied himself deep within her just as one of her more powerful aftershocks gripped him tightly, and her name left his lips in a strangled groan. Rolling off her, he drew her towards his body, spooning her from behind and placing soft kisses on her neck and shoulder as they lay recovering, breathing heavily.

Buffy nestled into him and stroked his arm. He was warm and solid, something real she could hold onto. After a few moments of quiet, she turned in his arms to face him and ran her fingers along his jawline before placing a soft kiss on his lips.

He looked at her in wonder and pushed back a strand of hair from her face.

“God, I must look a mess,” she lamented, feeling a little self conscious under his gaze.

“No,” Giles declared simply, shaking his head.

She raised an eyebrow and looked at him incredulously.

“You look extremely sated, if I do say so myself,” he replied with a saucy grin. “And it looks lovely on you.” He gave her a quick kiss and got up from the bed.

“I’m not sure whether you are complimenting me or yourself,” she laughed.

“A little manly pride isn’t so bad, is it?” Giles asked good-naturedly, picking up his trousers and returning to the bed. “And while you are slightly disheveled, you look positively radiant.” He leaned down and kissed her again, more thoroughly this time, before standing back up.

“Going somewhere?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant and pointing at his trousers.

“To the… uh, bathroom,” he answered with a slight blush, tossing his trousers onto the chair in the corner of the room. “Need to dispose of the condom before it adheres itself permanently.”

Buffy visibly relaxed and made a face, falling back onto her pillow. “Ewww, that would be bad.”

“And painful,” he noted dryly as he closed the door to the restroom behind him.

When Giles returned, he placed a box of tissues on the side table and climbed back into bed where he found Buffy waiting for him beneath the covers. The door had been shut and the room was now shrouded in darkness. As he settled himself, she rolled over into his arms and rested her head on his shoulder.

“Is this okay?” she asked, looking up at him.

He bent his head and kissed her chastely. “Perfect.”

She yawned and settled back down on his shoulder, her fingers tracing patterns in his chest hair. “Do you snore?”

“Only when I’ve been drinking or when I have a cold,” he answered quietly. “Get some sleep, Buffy.”

“Night, Giles.”

—————

Giles woke to a chirping sound. The room was still dark and he had his very beautiful Slayer draped over him. He smiled, watching her tenderly. Olivia was right, he was totally besotted.

“What’s that noise?” Buffy grunted as she reached for the duvet and pulled it over her head.

“My mobile,” he replied. “It’s in my trousers.”

“Don’t answer it.”

He laughed, but his mirth died when he glanced at the alarm clock next to him. “Oh Christ, the time!”

“Huh?”

Giles carefully extracted himself from his Slayer and shot out of bed, fumbling through his trouser pockets for his phone. “Giles here,” he answered upon finding it. “Right. No, there is no way I am going to be able to make the gate. No, I’ll make those arrangements later. Yes, thank you.” He rang off, placed the phone next to the alarm clock, and lay back down on the bed.

“What was that about?”

“Apparently, I’m missing my flight back to London,” he responded calmly.

“What?” Sitting up quickly, Buffy faced him with some trepidation. “Oh god, I’m so, so sorry-“

“I’m not,” he replied as he pulled her down into his arms and kissed her long and languidly. When it ended, she curled into his embrace and brushed her fingers back and forth along his chest as he stroked her back.

“When do you catch your next flight?” There was a sad resignation in her voice.

“I haven’t scheduled it.”

“You have a meeting tomorrow,” Buffy reminded.

“I do, but I’m not worried. I’ll either have Andrew reschedule or I’ll phone in,” Giles dismissed. “What are your plans now that you are not going to Romania?”

“My flight leaves for London tomorrow night. When my schedule cleared, I thought I might surprise you and Dawn with a visit.”

Giles was quiet for a few moments before he asked, “Would you rather take a few days and go somewhere before heading back to London? I’ll clear my schedule.”

“Like a vacation? With you?”

“More like a mini break. Dawn has midterms and won’t be done until the end of the week, so I thought perhaps we could spend the time together. You don’t have to answer now, but think about it. If you could go anywhere to relax and forget about the world for a while, where would you go?”

She reached for his hand and entwined their fingers together. “This is supposed to be awkward. Why isn’t it awkward?” she asked.

“Do you want it to be?”

“God no, but here we are, lying in the dark in the middle of the afternoon after an incredible night of flirting, and dancing, and making love - and might I add that that’s the hottest sex I have ever had - and we have an extremely complicated relationship that spans years. What are we even doing?” Buffy asked in agitation as she sat up and ran her hand through her hair.

Giles raised himself up to face her and took her hands in his. “Buffy, love, you’re trying to make this awkward. It’s incredibly simple. We buried our past in the Sunnydale crater. When Willow performed that spell, everything changed for us. Our lives, our destinies, who we are to the other, that has all been reset.”

“Yeah, I know.”

His eyes softened as he traced the length of her cheek with his middle and index fingers. “What are we doing? Loving each other. And I don’t want it to just be something we do on rare occasions. I want you to stop living out of suitcases and hotel rooms around the globe. I want you to come home… to London… to me… and to your sister, and hopefully to Xander and Willow too, assuming I can convince them to settle down as well. I want to see where this goes for us, but I can’t do that if I am flying out to god knows where every other week for some occasion to see and be seen and you are bouncing back and forth between schools. I want this simplicity we are sharing now.”

“Giles…”

“The question in all of this is - what do you want?”

“How are you so calm, so not stutter-y?” Buffy asked, her eyes wide in wonder.

Taking her hand, Giles answered, “I am far from calm. I’m terrified. But I’d like to think that if you don’t want the same thing, we’ll handle this as friends and move on.”

“I’m so scared,” she whispered, her eyes now searching his.

“Tell me.”

“Last night was amazing. Being here with you is amazing. And I want… I want so many more nights and mornings and afternoons like this… with you.” She stopped and looked away for a moment before deciding to go on. “I… fell in love with you last night. On the dance floor. Or maybe I was finally made aware that it’s you I’ve been waiting for. Like maybe I knew we had left behind unfinished business in the desert before we took off to rebuild the Council and I just didn’t know what that was until last night.”

Lifting her chin with his fingers, Giles guided her to him and kissed her softly. When they broke apart, she snuggled into his shoulder as they settled back down onto the bed, facing each other.

“Maybe that’s why I haven’t been dating,” Buffy continued philosophically. She knew she was starting to babble, but her nerves were getting to her. “That and there hasn’t been any time, really. But that’s changed now. The training programs are set, the curricula in place, the instructors are doing their jobs. And then suddenly there’s you.”

“You’re shaking,” he said with concern as he shifted to look at her.

“This is the first time I’ve ever told someone that I loved them first.” He looked like he was about to interrupt her and she stopped him by placing her finger on his lips. “Don’t. Scary as it is, it’s okay if you aren’t there, if you need time to see where this goes. I’m… surprisingly okay with that. I just need you to know that this is serious for me.”

“What does your Watcher-sense tell you?” he asked, a small smile tugging at his lips.

She laughed, her nerves relenting a bit. “You know I totally made that up last night, right?”

Threading his fingers through her hair, he teased, “You were rather convincing amidst the cherry blossoms.”

“Well, after eight and a half years, I should know at least some of your tics and tells.”

“Then you should know how I feel and that this is very serious for me as well. I don’t need time, Buffy, I know where I want this to go, but I’ll be honest, I am frightened that I might push too hard or perhaps not move fast enough. I don’t want to do something that will push you away.”

“Let’s stay here, Giles.”

“Pardon?” The quick change of topic confused him.

“On this mini break. Let’s stay here. I don’t want to do the tourist thing. We have room service, a luxurious tub to take long bubble baths in, a huge shower if we get bored of the tub, and we have this great big bed that I know we won’t tire of - but if we’re looking for variety, there’s a whole other room to explore. Oh, and the hotel even has a spa where we could get a couples massage, but that’s as far as I am willing to venture out. Otherwise, it is just you and me, this room, and a whole lot of lovin’.”

“You should probably let me out long enough to move my things and check out of my suite.”

She kissed him slowly and, with her lips lingering on his, she replied, “I’ll think about it.”

“Oh you will, will you?” Giles asked as he rolled them so that he loomed over her.

In a split second, Buffy reversed their positions and straddled him. Leaning down, she nibbled and kissed her way up his jawline to whisper in his ear, “Or you could just call down to the front desk and have them take care of all that for you.”

“So clever,” he groaned as his body responded to her attentions. “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

“I’m kinda thinking that you aren’t thinking with the big head right now,” she answered with a giggle as she wiggled her backside against a very enthusiastic and hard part of his anatomy.

Giles blushed and giggled with her, his eyes bright and happy when they caught hers. He cupped her cheek with his left hand and asked soberly, “Not too fast then?”

Buffy shook her head. “We’re good for right now.”

“I do love you, Buffy.”

Buffy hadn’t thought she needed to hear Giles say those words - at least not at that moment. She thought she could wait because she knew to her very core now how he felt. She had seen it in his eyes, heard the certainty in his voice as he told her emphatically that he knew what he wanted. Giles had been so open with her, even from the very moment they’d met at the gala. He’d never once hidden how he felt about her, he’d just let the moments play out naturally, giving them the opportunity to trust the other implicitly and build upon the bond they had shared for years and started to repair in the desert. There had been no walls, just the two of them and the moments they’d constructed for themselves. 

But the words were magical, like the very essence of a song, the one you can hear in your head as you drift off to sleep, but can never quite remember when you wake, and yet the soul understands those echoes of the song better than the self, because upon awakening a sense of peace remains.

And Buffy felt those words beyond her self as they illuminated those dark places where the combination of self doubt, distrust, and detachment reside, the places where the experience of her destiny had created cracks and fissures. And suddenly she knew. It had always been Giles. He’d been the beacon, the light that drew her from the darkness. Angel had hidden in the shadows, drawing her in deeper until she was willing to forsake the world and sacrifice herself for a dead man. Riley had wanted to play in the dark without regard for her needs until it consumed him. And Spike had told her she had a death wish and belonged in the unending night because she was flawed and broken and had been rejected by heaven; even with his reclaimed soul, he had been unwilling to let her walk back into the light. But Giles was the Watcher, the one who helped guide her through the darkness and back into the warmth of the sun when she lost her way. He was also the only one who had let go because he believed in her - and she’d succeeded. She could find the sun on her own, but she found it was definitely warmer with him by her side.

The smile that spread across Buffy’s face took Giles’ breath for a simple moment. Never had she looked so beautiful, so serene, and so self-assured. Raising himself up to a sitting position, he took her face into his hands and searched her soulful green eyes. They had always reflected her emotions and he swallowed thickly at what he saw in their depths.

She’d always been the one constant in his life. The one he’d spent most of his young life running from and most of his adult life running towards. Their lives had mingled and merged, and on occasion broken apart, but they had always revolved around one another, and they had always found one other when they needed the other the most. And over the years, he’d built defenses to keep her at a distance, close but not too close, because he couldn’t bear the loss of her. Because what was he without her? Without a constant, he was adrift, a lone sailor becalmed in the fog. He knew that feeling all too well, the memories of the months following her death had left him aimless and profoundly alone.

Yet here they were, having lain their souls bare to the other, and everything had shifted on its axis and fallen into place - finally - and… Giles couldn’t find the words. He was a man with a huge vocabulary, but right now he found he was at a loss. He and Buffy had never just spoken. There had always been a silent shorthand with which they’d communicated, because early on, though they had both spoken English, they’d not spoken the same English. And thus they’d learned to say things with a look, a nod, a smile. Now their lexicon included a more intimate set of looks and gestures, and so he stared at her in wonder before brushing his lips across hers in a series of loving little kisses.   

“That was one hell of a reset button,” she murmured, sighing against his lips. “Kind of a delayed reaction, though.”

“So very much worth the wait,” he responded, unable to keep his hands from roaming her body.

“So, so done with the waiting. Giles!” she squeaked when his fingers reached a particularly sensitive spot.

—————

Several days later, they checked out of the hotel, and as they waited for the town car to take them to the airport, Giles stood behind Buffy with his arms wrapped around her. She leaned back into him contentedly and covered his hands with hers.

It was this image that graced the front page of the British tabloids the following day with headlines speculating the status of London’s most eligible bachelor and his young paramour. Inside one particularly egregious paper was a full page dedication to who this Buffy Summers was and how she might have captured his heart.

Buffy leafed through the gossip rag with disgust as Giles set two cups of tea and a plate of toast on the side table next to the bed. “You subscribe to this garbage?” she asked, taking a bite of the toast.

“No, but it somehow found its way to the doorstep this morning. I suspect Andrew may have something to do with it,” he answered, settling down next to her.

“We just got in yesterday afternoon. We weren’t going to tell my sister or Willow or Xander until tomorrow, and now it’s public knowledge,” she lamented, setting the tabloid down. “How do you live with this?”

“By ignoring it and knowing that the media gets bored rather easily,” he replied as he quickly scanned the article. “Tomorrow the headline will no doubt be about some footballer’s infidelity and impending divorce.”

“At least they didn’t publish the fact that I destroyed two high schools and imploded an entire town,” she sighed.

“You can thank Andrew for that later.”

“Listen to this crap. ‘Could long time friend Buffy Summers be the one to capture Rupert Giles’ reclusive heart?’”

“Already done,” Giles commented before taking a sip of tea.

“Doesn’t this bother you?”

Giles set down his cup before folding the paper up and throwing it to the floor. “It does, but only because it is bothering you,” he replied, drawing her into his arms. “Buffy, this is yesterday’s news for us. It’s tomorrow’s news today for our friends and family, but they’ll get over reading it in the papers or on the internet, if they read the stories at all. And tomorrow the copies of this rubbish will be used to wrap takeaway from the chippy. This… speculation in the press about us doesn’t concern me. I am yours. I have always been yours. And I will always be yours. And I intend to live our life without concern for what anyone else thinks.”

"Ok, I’ll stop freaking out about this stuff.” As the smile reached her eyes, Buffy leaned in to kiss him, “And who knew you were such a mushy guy?”

“Let’s keep that bit to ourselves, shall we?” he asked when they came up for air.

“That’s not tabloid fodder?” she asked innocently, nibbling on his ear. 

“Absolutely not. Now, my dear, if you don’t stop that…”

“No, no intention of stopping. None. Everyone can wait until tomorrow as planned.”

“I expect at least one interruption,” he said right before she plundered his mouth.

About three seconds later, her phone rang and he started to laugh. Buffy turned and grabbed it from the nightstand, checking the number before answering.

“Hey, Dawn.”