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Disclaimer
Title: Yarn
Author: Sweetdoggie (stirling_summer@yahoo.com)
Pairing: B/G
Rating: FRM
Summary: Giles learns a handicraft.
Spoilers: None
Note: Mini-Challenge #68: Giles takes up a handicraft
Disclaimer: No permission has been granted to use the characters. They are owned by their creator, Joss Whedon, Twentieth Century Fox, UPN, WB, and Mutant Enemy. This story is non-profit and is intended solely as entertainment. No copyright infringement is intended.


Giles swore as he looped the yarn over his hand like the woman in the shop had shown him. He tried to manipulate the hook and pull a loop through the slipknot he had created, but dropped the yarn. He felt savage. This was at least the fifth bloody time he had attempted this and it wasn’t working.

His doctor had recommended learning either knitting or crochet as physical therapy to help heal the damage Angelus had done to his fingers the previous year. Giles had picked crocheting because there was only one implement to deal with. Patiently, he wrapped the yarn over his hand again.

Sticking his finger out to keep the yarn taut, he pulled up a bit of yarn and dragged it through the loop on the hook. He did it again. After a third successful repeat, he thought he might be getting the hang of it. Then the yarn fell off his hand again. He resisted the urge to drive the hook deeply into the wall and patiently rewrapped it.

His ultimate goal was to make a scarf for Buffy. He had started with the idea of making a sweater, but rapidly gave that up as too complex. Next, he thought about an afghan but decided against it on the grounds that it would take too much time. He had settled on the scarf as something practical, yet within his scope and ability to attempt, but after having the yarn slip another time, he was beginning to wonder if Buffy would simply like a nice yarn chain.

At last he reached the end of the row. Carefully following the instructions, he pulled the yarn around the hook and stuck it three stitches away from the last loop on the original row. The hook fell out of his hand. He growled and set it up again. Finally, he pulled the yarn through the stitch and through the yarn on the hook, picked up another loop and pulled it through again. “OK, I think I’m getting the hang of this now,” he muttered under his breath.

On the next stitch the yarn separated when he tried to pull it through and he managed to get half of it into a loop while the other half rucked-up behind the stitch. He pulled it out and tried three more times before he made it go where it needed to be. The look on his face was fierce with concentration as he finished out the row. He felt like he had run a marathon. His hands were shaking and sweat dripped from his forehead. Wiping his face on his T-shirt, he tried again.

The next row was both easier and harder than the previous two. He had finally learned how to keep the yarn wrapped around his hand, but the size of his loops varied from so large he could put his thumb through them to so small he could barely move the hook. He suspected this wasn’t right, but didn’t know how to correct it.

He heard his front door open and saw Buffy peek her head in. “You here, Giles?”

“Come inside, Buffy. I’d like your opinion on something.”

She stepped through the door and walked over to the couch. Sitting next to him, she looked curiously at the ball of yarn and the mess he had stitched so far. “You’re learning to crochet?”

“Yes. The physical therapist thought it would help me get my fingers and wrist back to normal sooner.”

She nodded. “Oh.” Looking one more time at his handiwork, she repressed a grin. “Is this your first project?”

“Yes, it is and if it doesn’t start getting easier, it’s going to be my last.”

“I see. Do you want some help?”

“You crochet?” The words slipped from him in sheer astonishment. Of all the things he could imagine Buffy doing, crocheting was not even on the list.

“Mmmm. I had to learn when I was in sixth grade for a school project. Luckily, my grandma knew how to do it and was real patient with me. I worked on that stupid lap blanket for two months. I got an “A” though.”

“Can you show me how to make the loops all the same size?”

She smiled at him. “Sure. You see this little flat spot on the hook? If you keep your yarn so that it fits smoothly around it, no bigger and no smaller, you’ll have the perfect size loop for that hook.”

He looked at her with a frown. “You mean it’s that easy? Why doesn’t somebody tell you these things before you start on these projects?”

“Why are you trying to do it right-handed?”

“What?”

“You’re a lefty. Why don’t you hold the hook in your left hand and use the right to manipulate the yarn?”

“Because this is how the woman in the shop showed me.” His voice sounded very grim.

“Let’s start over,” she said as she cut his work off the ball of yarn. “My gram was a lefty too and that’s how she showed me.” She leaned over and fixed his left hand so that the hook was situated correctly, then helped him loop the yarn over his right hand. “See, fix the slip knot so that the short end is always towards you and the working strand of yarn is away. Good. Now, move the hook using only your thumb and first finger. Uh huh. Good.” Absently, she patted his knee.

He sweated over the small swatch of fabric for another twenty minutes before his hands began letting him know that they had had enough. He put his work aside with a sigh. “I don’t know about this. I thought it would be easier. All those women you see doing this on telly don’t even have to look at their hands.”

“I think the operative word here is television, Giles. As in fantasy.”

He flexed his fingers ruefully. “Well, there go all my plans to become a world-class crotchetier.”

She took his hand between her own and began massaging it carefully, working the protesting tendons till they were relaxed and supple again.

“I wish you didn’t have to do this, Giles. I mean, except for if you wanted to do it for fun. I’m so sorry I couldn’t get there sooner.”

He used his free hand to cup her cheek. “You came, dear girl. I knew you would.”

She leaned her face into his hand and placed a soft kiss on the palm. “I will always come for you, Giles.”

They shared another moment before pulling away and looking anywhere but at each other.

“Er, did you come over for a reason?” he asked her, realizing that he didn’t know the purpose of her visit.

“Actually, yes, I did.” She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a crumpled article torn from the local newspaper before handing it to him.

“Pioneer Festival—games, stage coach rides, fun for the whole family.”

“I thought you might want to go since it’s like a history thing,” she offered shyly.

While Giles’ interest in the American West was minimal in the extreme, he was touched that she had tried to find something she thought might interest him. “That sounds lovely. Let me get my jacket and keys and we can go.”

“OK.”

Five minutes later they were on their way to the fairgrounds.

They spent their day playing games and winning prizes till the booth operators wouldn’t let them play anymore. Buffy won four large stuffed animals and Giles collected a cowboy hat and a hunting knife. He showed her the knife as they walked away from the hoop toss where he had won it. “Utter rubbish.”

She looked at the cheap piece of metal. “Yeah. Not up to our usual standards. Give it to Xander. He’ll be thrilled.” She grinned up at him. “Whatcha gonna do with the cowboy hat?”

“Lord, I don’t know. I suppose Halloween is coming again. Do you think I would make a convincing cowboy?”

She looked him over. “Nah. You’re clean and have all your teeth. You don’t walk all bow-legged either.”

“I see. Is that a requirement?” He was amused.

“It must be. If you’d ever seen a real cowboy, you’d understand. Those guys work in the outdoors all day, every day doing backbreaking labor. They wear out. Plus, all that sun makes their skin look like old shoe leather. They could be twenty-five and look fifty.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to look older than I am.”

“You’re forty-one, right?”

“Yes.”

“I’d say, you look pretty darned good for a man that age.”

He felt absurdly flattered. “Really?”

“Absolutely.”

She slipped her arm under his as they walked along the fairway. “Why don’t we go dump this stuff in the car and find someplace a little less Western for some dinner?”

“Don’t you want to ride the stagecoach?”

Buffy eyed the dirty-looking conveyance with deep suspicion. The fact that there was no line for the ride was telling. “I don’t know…”

“Oh, come on. We’ve made it this far.” Giles didn’t know why he was urging her to take the ride except that it meant a bit longer in her company.

She acquiesced as he had hoped and they slowly walked over to the coach. It was a real one and smelled musty like it had been in storage for a very long time. Buffy could see the seats were made of ancient leather, now cracked and dry. Giles swung her easily into the vehicle before mounting himself. They sat facing each other across the tiny aisle in the middle of the coach.

“Imagine riding on this thing for days, crammed in with six other people, none of whom had ever heard of deodorant,” Giles offered conversationally.

“Gross much?” Buffy exclaimed.

“The men would all have been wearing heavy clothing, natural fibers, but more than likely wool, whilst the women would have had voluminous skirts reaching down to their ankles.”

“Didn’t they get hot?” Buffy asked curiously.

“Of course, but it was something they were used to. None of them had ever spent the night in an air conditioned bedroom, so they wouldn’t miss it.”

The coach bounced into motion and they were thrown about like two peas in a shoebox. After one particularly sharp bump, Buffy was actually bounced out of her seat to land face down in Giles’ lap. She put her hands on his knees and pulled sharply backwards.

“God, Giles! I am so totally sorry!”

He was embarrassed but laughing like a hyena. “Don’t be sorry, Buffy. It was funny!”

“Oh, yeah, right! You weren’t the one with your face buried in somebody’s crotch!”

He continued to laugh until his side hurt. Buffy first pouted then began to see the funny side of it herself. When another bump threatened a repeat of her performance, she climbed onto the seat next to him and he wrapped his arm around her. “After all,” he explained with a barely concealed grin, “we know each other much better now.”

“Grrrr,” she replied, but tucked herself securely into his grasp. Soon, she found herself tucking her head into his shoulder. It felt very good.

At last the bone-jarring ride was over and they climbed shakily down from the box. “Well, I don’t think that’s something I’m going to need to repeat, like, ever,” Buffy commented acidly.

“It was rather, er, rough, wasn’t it? Still, I enjoyed certain bits quite a lot.” He was privately thinking it was more fun than he had enjoyed for a long time, especially getting to hold his Slayer. “Are you ready for dinner?”

“Yes. Except, I’m pretty grubby. That stagecoach must have been stored in a dust factory or something.”

He grinned. “Possibly.”

They made it back to his car and shifted some of the stuffed animals to the back seat before setting out. He drove them to the local hamburger shop. “Do you mind eating in the car?”

She looked at him in surprise. “No, but I know it makes you crazy.”

“I think I could bear it this one time. After all, I’ve had worse things than French fries in my car.”

Buffy shook her head. “Yeah, but it just doesn’t seem like you. You aren’t normally…lighthearted, I guess.”

“Do you think I’m so old I can’t enjoy myself?”

“I don’t think you’re old at all. You’re just the age you are and that’s fine with me. As for enjoying yourself…it looks good on you and I hereby declare that you will do more of it.”

He schooled his face into its habitual frame of worry. “Do you suppose it’s the Hellmouth?”

She turned to yell at him for being negative, saw he was tightly repressing a grin, and settled for slapping his arm instead. “Beast!”

Giles couldn’t help himself. He grabbed her up and squeezed her in a hug that would have been bone crushing on any other girl. She returned the gesture happily.

“I just love you, Giles.”

“So, I’m not a beast after all?”

“You’re my beast.”

“And you’re my beauty.” He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

Greatly daring, Buffy leaned up and placed a soft kiss at the side of his mouth. All he had to do was turn his head a fraction of an inch to change it from a kiss of friendship to one of romance. He couldn’t help himself. He took the chance.

Buffy couldn’t believe it when his lips slid slowly across hers. She had been kissing boys since she was fourteen and none of them had packed a punch like this middle-aged former librarian. She couldn’t help it. As his satin-soft lips glided over hers, she sighed softly. Her hands crept up to encircle his neck as his moved across her back to pull her more closely against him.

When the kiss finally broke, neither pulled away. Buffy simply rested her head against his shoulder and Giles lay his cheek against her hair.

“That was so sweet,” she finally whispered.

“Yes.” He sighed against her hair. “We can’t go anywhere with this, love.”

“Why not?” Buffy looked up at him reluctant to break contact completely.

“Because I am twenty-three years older than you; because I am your Watcher and you, my Slayer; because it wouldn’t be fair to you.”

“What does any of that matter, Giles?” She spoke to his neck. “Twenty-three years is nothing. Lots of couples have a large span between them. I don’t understand why you being my Watcher would keep us apart either. If you’re thinking I’m mistaking loving you as a friend for a romantic love, you’re wrong. I know the difference. And fair to me? Nothing has been fair to me since I was Called. I don’t know how much longer I have, Rupert. I want that time to be with you.”

He slowly sat up and pushed her gently away from him, though it was tearing his heart out to do so. “No, Buffy. It wouldn’t be right.”

Helplessness tore through her. She recognized that tone of voice. Nothing she could say would change his mind now. Setting back she looked away from him. “Take me home, OK?”

“If that is what you wish.”

He drove without comment to her home and she hopped out of his car the instant he pulled it to a halt. She walked up the stairs and into her house without looking back at him.
Giles sat in his car for a few minutes watching her house before driving his fists into his steering wheel in a fit of frustrated rage. Dear Lord! How could he have let this happen? He had loved her for so long without saying anything but one tiny gesture from her and his resolve had crumpled like a used handkerchief. It was just that he had been so very happy today. Perhaps she would get over it. She needed a young man to love and Giles intended to see that she lived long enough to have one.

~*~

Buffy walked slowly upstairs. She would have liked to simply flop on her bed and brood, but she was too dirty to lie on her clean sheets. Gathering up a change of clothing, she trudged into her bathroom and had a quick shower.
How could he just push her away like that? He loved her; she could feel it. She even understood his reasoning. He was many years older than her. He was her Watcher, the man responsible for her training. He was only wrong about his love being unfair to her. As young as she was, she had learned that fair was not a concept in which a Slayer was allowed to indulge. Fair existed only for people who managed to glide through life relatively unscathed. It certainly didn’t apply to her or her friends. Fair would have meant not being Called. No, it would have meant living in a world where monsters were only scary stories, not the driving reality that she faced every night.

Could he be brought around? Maybe, but only if he thought that a romance wouldn’t hurt her. She knew he would be as stubborn as a mule about this. Her best bet would be to act as if nothing had happened. Let him believe he was safe, then pounce. Except he would have to believe that it was all his decision. She wanted to tear her hair. Why did men have to be so high-maintenance?

She laid herself down on the bed and thought about her strategy. Giles was a very intelligent man. He would notice if she started acting different around him. Studying her toes, she came to a decision. The first thing to do would be to put him at ease with her. She needed to take him some small gift and explain how she understood his reasoning and that it was OK. They could still be friends. That was part A of her master plan.

Part B would be more difficult because they hadn’t been very social with each other up to this point. Maybe she should give a little speech about now that she was out of high school, she wanted to stabilize their relationship as friends. “Mmmm. It has potential.” Rolling over, she took a nap till it was time to patrol.

The next morning, she got up, ate some fruit and thought some more about her plan to entrap her Watcher. “A gift first, I think.”

She grabbed her billfold and headed out the door heading for the small shops downtown that carried more personal items than could be found at the mall. She paused outside the handicraft shop. Giles was learning to crochet. Maybe he needed some supplies?

Buffy walked into the small shop and looked around. What sort of supplies could she buy him? More yarn, obviously. How about an assortment of hooks? Yeah, that was good. OK, some sort of bag to carry the stuff in. Oh, specialty scissors designed for clipping yarn. Good. Tapestry needles. She remembered having to sew in the unfinished ends. What else? Yarn gauge for telling how many stitches per inch you were doing. Good idea. She spent another half hour looking over yarns. Something light and soft without being hard to work, she thought. At last, she figured she had enough stuff and stepped up to the counter to pay for it. It came to a fair sized chunk of change. Doing crafts was damned expensive these days, she groused mentally.

The clerk bagged everything up for her and Buffy retreated back to her house to remove the price tags. She repacked the bag and changed into a nice dress that she knew he approved of and headed off to his place.

Uncharacteristically, she rang the bell and waited for him to answer.

He opened the door and looked down at her in surprise. “Why did you ring the bell?”

“I thought maybe you wanted more privacy that we give you. I mean, it’s your place. We just barge in like it was the library, but you should have some privacy.”

“You are always welcome to come in. I leave my door unlocked for you.”

“That’s sweet, really. But I think I’ll be knocking from now on.”

He looked distressed but didn’t know how to insist. “Well, come in anyway. What do you have in the bag?”

“Oh, this is just some stuff I got for you to help you with your crocheting.” She handed him the sack.

Dismay was clearly written upon his features, but he took the bag and thanked her. They sat down on the couch and he opened the sack. “Do I need all of this?”

“Sure. Most of it just helps things along, but you will definitely need the tapestry needles and good scissors are essential, plus, you need a bag to keep all the stuff in.”

“This must have cost you a fortune.”

She smiled. “Consider it a peace offering. I thought about what happened between us yesterday and decided that you were right. I also got to thinking about our relationship, in a non-romantic way, I mean. I’d like for us to be friends. Up till now, you’ve been my teacher and trainer but I need a friend now more than I need to be taught to fight. I want us to be friends, not just people who fight evil together.”

“I would be honored if you would consider me your friend.” He felt a lump form in his throat at the thought of this wonderful girl.

“Cool,” she replied brightly. “Now, let’s see what progress you’ve made on your project.”

He got the sad little strip of yarn out of its plastic grocery bag. “To tell you the truth, I haven’t worked on it since yesterday.”

She frowned at him. “Your hand won’t heal itself, you know. Let’s get cracking, Giles.”

He groaned but obediently settled the hook in his hand and wrapped the yarn carefully around the other. He swore when it fell off, but repeated the movements again till he thought it might stay in place for more than a second or two.
Buffy watched him approvingly. “I’m glad you’re doing this. I don’t want you to lose any mobility or strength.”

He glanced up at her in surprise. “Why?”

She gave him a look. “Well, lets just set aside the whole idea that I don’t like seeing you hurt and concentrate on the practical aspects. We live on the Hellmouth. You’ve got to be able to fight. If you can’t hold a sword, you’re endangering yourself. I’m not going to lose you because you dropped your weapon.”

That she could be so practical somehow shocked him. He was used to thinking of her as a girl and a fairly thoughtless one at that. To know that she actually considered the consequences of his injury beyond the immediate pain and disability made her seem more mature.

“Oh. Yes, of course.” He lost his concentration and dropped the yarn. “Damn!” he swore mildly. “This is much more difficult that I was expecting.”

“Hah! Whenever I say that I get a lecture about how anything worth doing is worth doing well. Heh, heh, heh. How does it feel to have the shoe on the other foot, mister?” she gloated.

“Don’t you have to train?” he asked with a glower. “Perhaps you need to do an hour of calisthenics. Yes, I’m fairly sure that you do.”

She grinned evilly. “Assign them till the cows come home, guy. It’s not going to make one single stitch on that hook go faster. Oh, I’m loving this!”

She watched while he fumbled with the hook and dropped it. It rolled under the couch and he bumped his head on the coffee table as he bent to retrieve it.

“Ouch!”

When he looked up again, Buffy was holding her side, shaking with silent laughter. He grimaced. If he hadn’t wanted her to quit thinking of him as a romantic possibility, he would have been more dismayed. Still, looking like a total idiot seemed to be doing the trick. He doubted she would date him now on a bet.

Buffy wiped her eyes. “Sorry, that was just too funny. Look, you need to relax your hands. That’s half the trouble. I’ve been watching you and you tense up. You should be holding the hook fairly loosely. Nobody’s going to try to yank it out of your hand so just ease up a little.”

Giles tried to follow her advice but it was so difficult. He found himself tensing up and dropping things. Finally, after another half-hour he decided that he had had enough. He put away his supplies in the new bag she had given him. He had to admit, it looked better than the Happy Shopper bag he had used before. Without thinking he rejoined her on the couch.

She reached into her pocket and brought out a tiny bottle. “Give me your hand.”

He stretched out his damaged left arm letting her take it and place it on her crossed legs. She squirted some sort of oil from the bottle and then began a comforting massage that loosened the overworked tendons and muscles. She finished with the left hand and took his right with no protest from him.

Squirting a bit more oil on it, she massaged it till it was as comfortable as his left one. She chattered as she worked talking about all manner of things, none of which required active commentary from him. He occasionally grunted out an ‘oh’ or ‘mmmmmed’ but for the most part was able to maintain his restful silence.

Giles had nearly drifted off to sleep when he heard her chattering about some of the things she had encountered on patrol over the last few nights.

“And then, I hit this big bug thing with a garbage can and it squished all over my jeans. That was so gross you wouldn’t believe it. I don’t know why demons have to be so totally disgusting. I mean, wouldn’t it be better if they were like vamps and just dusted themselves when you killed them?” She was bent over his hand and didn’t see the loving smile that briefly lit his face.

“I would suppose that would be considerably better.”

“Oh, you’re awake. I thought you were sort of drifting off.”

“I was,” he admitted slightly shamed. “But your conversation was so interesting that it woke me up.”

It was her turn to look embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to babble. Sorry.”

“No need to apologize, Buffy. It is quite enjoyable to listen to you.”

“Oh, right. That must be because babble is so fascinating. Not.”

“Not babble, I just find your conversation to be stimulating.”

“Well, gee. Maybe next time I should talk about shoes.”

He faked a shudder. “I’m not sure my interest level would be sustainable, should you take such a departure.”

She finished up his hand and sat back. “How do they feel?”

He flexed them. “Surprisingly good. I suspect it’s your wonderful massage rather than the crocheting, however.”

“The crochet will build strength. Massage just relieves the cramps.” Standing, she straightened her trousers. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Should I bring a lunch along?”

“You don’t need to feed me,” he assured her. “For that matter, whist I am tremendously appreciative of your…enthusiasm in helping me heal, I don’t want you to feel under obligation to come here should you have other things to do.”

She grinned. “You are my Watcher. You are my priority. Nothing I have to do is more important than getting you back to your fighting strength.”

He didn’t know what to say, so remained silent on that topic. “Will you be here for lunch tomorrow?”

“About eleven-thirty,” she confirmed.

“I shall cook. You needn’t bring anything.”

“OK.” She thought about something for a few moments. “Nothing too British, OK? I’ve watched some of those English cooking shows. Yargh.”

He couldn’t help himself. He reached out and pulled a lock of her hair that dangled over her shoulder.

“Hey!”

“Serves you right. You shall try whatever I prepare tomorrow. I assure you, you will enjoy it.”

“Oh, you assure me, huh? Well, with a guarantee like that, how can I go wrong? See you tomorrow.” She hopped up off his couch and was out the door before he could formulate a response.

Giles chuckled to himself as he walked into his kitchen to check the contents of his cupboards. He never knew exactly where he stood with his Slayer. Most likely, he never would.

~*~

Buffy spent the entire summer with him. She never, by word or deed, indicated that she thought of him as anything beyond a good friend. He found himself torn between pique that she could totally ignore what had passed between them and rejoicing that she obviously found him a good companion. Late at night, after she had left him, he found himself wondering if perhaps he hadn’t been a bit hasty in denying their attraction? Yes, he was a good deal older than her, but he was hardly decrepit. And she was correct in that her life span was likely to be severely abbreviated. Common sense told him that his reason was being affected by his desire, but after three months of her constant, devoted presence, he barely cared. He found excuses for keeping her with him. Once, he even pretended to have a stiff neck so that she would rub it for him. The truth was, he loved her and it wasn’t helping his resolve to see her every day and to have her massage his hand. How often had he thought that if he just moved his fingers a fraction of an inch, he could be touching her intimately?

Cold showers were becoming a distressing fact of life for him. If she had indicated that she was still interested, he could back away from the relationship, put some distance between them, but as it was, how could he say that their friendship was too personal? She had helped him crochet a huge afghan for his couch; that was all. College was starting tomorrow. He would have some relief while she was in classes.

~*~

Giles had just settled down to a nice hot cup of tea when his doorbell rang. He wasn’t even dressed yet. “Bloody Hell! Who could that be?” He sighed and went to answer his door. A beautiful black woman stood on his stoop.

“Liv?”

“Ripper!”

“Come in, my dear.” He ushered her into his living room. “How have you been? What brings you to Sunnydale?”

“I had a show in LA and I thought that I would drop in and see how you were doing. When you moved to this little…place, it was like you dropped off the face of the earth. I came to see what the attraction is and to maybe persuade you that England isn’t the same without you.”

“You want me to go home again?” He was deeply surprised for some reason.

“I miss you, Ripper. All your friends miss you. You could get your old job back at the Museum, no problem—or if you don’t want that, there are plenty of places that would pay you top dollar to work for them. Instead, you’re wasting your talents in this little one-horse town with nothing to show for it.”

He smiled at her. “Actually, I have quite a bit to show for it, it just isn’t obvious.” Taking a step back he gestured to the couch. “Have a seat, Liv. Would you care for a cup of tea? It should still be hot.”

“That would be fine, Ripper.”

They spent the next several hours reminiscing. They had been good friends back in England and he realized that he missed her and that other life. He missed having a woman look at him as if he mattered. Not that he didn’t matter to Buffy, but he couldn’t have her no matter how much he wished it to be otherwise.

He and Liv had been lovers off and on for twenty years. At one time, he had nearly considered marrying her, though he had dreaded telling her about the real world—the world he lived in every night.

“Why don’t we go out for something to eat, Liv? I know the contents of my cupboards and trust me when I say that we would be much better off at the local diner.”

“Before we go out, I need to shower. Can I indulge here?”

He smiled. “Be my guest. I’m going to go upstairs and see if I can find something to wear that wouldn’t revolt you.”

She looked amused. “Ripper Giles doesn’t have to worry about his clothes. Anything you pick will be fine.”

He was forced to grin. “Actually, I’ve been living here in a disguise of sorts. Most of my wardrobe consists of tweed suits and dress shirts.”

She laughed, thinking he was kidding. When he didn’t join in, she let her mouth fall open in surprise. “You? Dressed in tweed?”

“I was a high school librarian for two and one half years. I needed to look like one.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “You were a librarian? A man with your education? You had countries fighting over the right to employ you and you were a high school librarian in Podunk, California?”

“As I explained, I was in disguise.” He hesitated, knowing that he would now have to explain his life as the Watcher. Olivia was in a position to need to know and he would so very much like to have somebody in his life again.

“Goodness, Ripper, are you a spy?”

“No, not as such. I work for an organization dedicated to one goal: to keep one young girl alive.”

“Is she sick?”

“No, Liv. She is the hope of the world.”

“I think we need to talk, but I’m dirty and hungry. First, I shower, then you feed me, and then you tell me everything.”

“I shall try. You won’t believe it.”

“We’ll see.” She resolutely turned around and marched into the bathroom. Seconds later, he heard the water come on.

He loped upstairs and pawed through his closet till he found a pair of jeans and an Oxford shirt. It wasn’t great, but it was casual and it wasn’t tweed. Just as he was getting ready to change, he heard a knock at his front door. Damn! The place was like Grand Central Station this morning.

He heard Liv open the front door. Apparently, she had finished her shower sooner than he had anticipated. The sound of Buffy’s voice raised in concern with a certain edge that he knew preceded anger hastened him. Dropping his clothing on the bed, he raced to intercept the two women.

“Buffy! What are you doing here?” He immediately wished he didn’t sound like a guilty husband. He glanced at Liv and mentally cringed. She was wearing one of his shirts and apparently nothing else. Looking down, he realized he was still clad only in his robe. Even he had to admit it looked bad.

“I came to get you. I thought we could exercise your hand and then go out for lunch. Who is she?” Her voice was like a steel bar, hard and cold.

“Ah, th, this is Liv. Ah, Olivia Compton-Jones. We, er, we were friends back in England.”

“And she’s naked in your shirt, ‘cause, why?”

“We were going to go out to eat, but she wanted a shower first. I was just going to change my clothes.”

Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. She looked at the beautiful woman in Giles’ shirt. “Get dressed.”

“Ripper! Are you going to let her talk to me that way? Who is this child?”

“This is Buffy. She is the reason I’m here.”

“You’re having a fling with this child?”

“No! Buffy is my, ah, that is, ah, I worked at the high school Buffy attended. We became friends.”

Buffy walked over to him and laced her arm through his. “Good friends.”

Liv looked shocked. She knew Ripper had a wild side but she would never have pictured him with a girl this young. And if what they said was true, he had been involved with her since she was in high school. Liv wrinkled her brow in distaste.

Giles saw her expression and remembered the other reason he had never given in to his urge to propose and end his loneliness. After a few hours, Liv irritated him almost to the point of never wanting to see her again.

“Buffy, nothing happened here.”

“I know that. I can smell it.”

“What does she mean, she can smell it?” Liv asked, outraged.

Buffy turned to her. “I told you to get dressed!” Her gaze was still hard and there was something in it that made Liv step backwards. She retreated to the bathroom and her clothing.

“I should really do that as well,” Giles muttered. “I won’t be long.” He used it mainly as an excuse to get away and marshal his thoughts.

Buffy sat down on the couch and waited for the two of them to return. She had been perilously close to claiming Giles in front of the other woman and knew it would be an unredeemable error in her plan to win him. She heard the other woman come out of the bathroom and looked up.

Liv eyed the strange girl seated before her. “Where’s Ripper?”

“Giles went upstairs to get dressed,” Buffy replied, emphasizing his name. Whoever her Watcher was, he wasn’t Ripper anymore.

“Why do you call him Giles?”

“Why do you call him Ripper?”

Liv laughed suddenly. “It’s what I’ve always known him as. I met him while he was up at Oxford.”

Buffy narrowed her gaze. “Do you know Ethan?”

“I do, but how do you?”

“He came here a couple of times and caused a lot of trouble. If he comes back, I’ll kill him.”

Liv would have liked to laugh off the girl’s comment, but she could see that Buffy was deadly serious. “Apparently, Ethan hasn’t exercised his normal amount of charm.”

“I guess not,” Buffy replied thinly.

Giles descended the stairs and both women turned towards him, each nodding her approval at his casual attire. He let his eyes play over the two loves of his life, and wondered for just a moment if they might like to try a threesome. He sighed despondently, knowing that was going to be a new recurring fantasy in his celibate life.

“Would you ladies care to go to lunch?”

“Not a chance, Ripper! I want some explanations.” Olivia was fairly sure she knew what was going on, but wanted to give him a chance to explain.

He sighed again, ran his hand through his hair and whipped off his glasses. Pulling a clean handkerchief out of his pocket, he began furiously cleaning them. “Ah, well, it’s rather a long story…”

“Not that long,” Buffy commented somewhat acidly. She looked at the other woman, her rival. “The world is older than you know. Once it was the home of unspeakable evil. Demons ruled here and made it their hell. In time, they lost their dominion over this plane and were forced out. Before the last demon left he mingled his corrupt blood with a human. It created the first vampire. These creatures fed on humans. We were losing the battle, till one day the Powers gave humanity a gift. One girl in all the world with the strength and skill to hunt them and kill them. She fights them but their numbers can be replenished in one night. They are many and she is one. She is the Slayer. She fights until she dies, then another is Called to replace her. This has gone on since the beginning of human history.”

“That’s a nice fairy story, but even if it was true, what does that have to do with you?” Liv asked lightly.

“I’m the Slayer for my generation.”

“Oh, and I suppose Ripper is some sort of…what?”

“Giles is my Watcher. The man who trains the Slayer, who prepares her for her destiny.”

“Ripper?” Liv turned to him, hoping for a more rational explanation.

“Buffy is quite correct, Liv. I’m Buffy’s Watcher, as my father and grandmother were to other Slayers in their time. The world is a very bad place, Liv. Vampires and demons are real. We fight them.”

“And nobody knows about this hidden world of yours?” She sounded deeply skeptical.

“Plenty of people know. Nobody talks about it because it sounds crazy,” Buffy said calmly.

“Like who?”

“Ethan, for one,” Giles told her.

“Ethan knows about this foolishness?”

“Ethan’s part of it, I’m afraid. He is a sorcerer of some considerable power.”

“Ethan, a sorcerer? Please. Next thing you’ll be telling me you can cast spells.” Liv was becoming incensed.

Giles was silent and Liv read the truth on his face. “Oh, come on! I mean, you’re always telling me stories, Ripper. I remember you told me you played with Pink Floyd.”

He flashed a quick smile. “No, that was a lie, but it sounded good at the time. I’m a bit beyond that sort of thing these days.”

“Look, you two obviously have some issues,” Liv began. “I’m fairly sure I don’t want to know what they are. Ripper, I came here to ask you to come back to England with me. Will you?”

Buffy looked at him in shock. There was no way she was letting him leave her, but she kept silent waiting to hear his response.

“I can’t, Liv. I have a duty here.”

He noticed that Buffy looked incredibly hurt just before she spoke to him.

“Is that all I am to you, Giles? Just a duty?”

“You know you’re not,” he insisted.

“You said you loved me.”

“I do love you; I just can’t have you.”

Buffy rolled her eyes at him. “You could, you just won’t.”

Liv didn’t understand what was going on. “Why can’t you have her?”

It was Giles’ turn to look incredulous. “Why do you think? She’s eighteen years old.”

“Last time I looked that was well above the age of consent, even in the States,” Liv replied, wondering why she was even having this conversation. She didn’t want him to hook up with this annoying child.

“That’s what I told him. He has this idea that our happiness must be sacrificed because I deserve a young man.”

Liv snorted. “Don’t be a fool, Ripper. If you have something, you have it. You certainly don’t throw it away because of a slight age gap. You were never a trivial man, why start now?”

He looked stubborn. “I’m too old.”

Buffy and Liv both rolled their eyes at that absurdity. “If she doesn’t mind, why on earth would you?” Liv asked him.

“This isn’t England, Liv. Things are much more straight-laced in the States. People would look at us.”

Buffy snorted. “Like they haven’t been looking? Giles, everybody assumed in high school—why do you think Snyder was always riding us? He thought we were having an affair and was trying to catch us. The entire school thought we were a couple. I had at least fifteen people ask me why you didn’t dance with me at the prom.” She tapped her foot and turned her head slightly sideways. “Why didn’t you dance with me?”

“I wanted to, but I’d already chastised Wesley for sniffing around Cordelia. How would it have looked if I had done the same with you?”

“It would have looked like my best friend in the world wanted to share an important moment in my life.”

He looked saddened. “I wish I had danced with you and damned the consequences.”

“Me too.” She put out her hand and he took it, drawing it to his mouth for a soft kiss. “That’s why I don’t understand why you won’t be with me now. We love each other, but you won’t even give it a chance.”

“Buffy…we are embarked upon a great adventure. We are partners in that endeavor. If we became lovers and then something happened and we broke up, how do you think we could go on working with each other? I would rather have half-a-loaf with you than none at all.”

“Me too, but not having you is killing me. I want to make love with you more than I want to breathe.”

“Buffy…”

“No! Don’t Buffy me! Either you want it or you don’t. You’ve said you do, so what’s really the problem? You act like you can’t…” She looked up at him, stunned. “Oh my God, Giles! Are you, are you impotent? I know men your age sometimes have some problems, but it never even crossed my mind…”

“No! I’m bloody well not impotent! I may not be as eager as I was as a teen, but I can still last out the night!”

Buffy looked skeptical. She patted his arm. “It’s OK, Giles. I’m sorry. I’m sure you can still do it.” She schooled her face to look regretful, but knew she had accidentally stumbled into a gold mine. “Besides, even if all we did was hold each other, that would be better than actually making love with somebody else.”

Olivia hid a grin. Ripper practically had to make love to her now.

“Bloody hell! I am not impotent!”

“I believe you.” Buffy gave him a very sorrowful look.

Giles appealed to Olivia before he realized that her endorsement might not be the best thing to soothe Buffy’s doubts. “Liv?”

She held her hands up in front of her and made a pushing gesture. “Don’t look at me, Ripper. We haven’t been together like that in years. For all I know…” She shrugged.

They watched with interest as Giles’ color rose to a nearly purple glow of embarrassment. He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. “I. AM. NOT. IMPOTENT!”

Both women nodded politely but said nothing. “It doesn’t matter, Giles,” Buffy said softly.

“I could take you both upstairs and satisfy you till you were begging me for rest!” he stormed at them.

They looked politely interested.

Liv waved her hand. “I have to get going, I’m afraid. I have to be back in LA by this evening.” She smiled at Giles. “Ripper, I’ll see you again.” She picked up her purse and walked out the door.

He tried to calm down long enough to say goodbye, but his mind certainly wasn’t on Olivia. It was focused squarely on Buffy.

“We should work on your hand, Giles.” She was clearly making an effort to change the subject.

“My bloody hand can bloody well wait!” He turned to her, his face fiercely determined.

Taking two steps towards her, he grasped her shoulders in his hands and pulled her against him, kissing her till her knees were weak. She could feel the hard length of him poking into her belly. ‘Definitely not impotent,’ she thought.

He let his hand slide up her neck till he could grasp her hair. Taking a handful in his grasp, he pulled her head back exposing her throat to his hungry mouth. Pushing her backwards, he let them both fall onto the couch where he reclaimed her mouth. She lost track of things for a while but when she finally came up for air, her shirt was gone as was her bra.

Without pause her pants soon followed her shirt. In a few moments she lay naked beneath him. He kissed her again and she could feel him moving above her. Her eyes closed as she reveled in the feelings he was evoking. When he drew close to her once more, she felt the bare skin of his chest covered with a light dusting of hair rubbing against her intimately.

She heard him unsnap his pants and then the click, click, click as he drew the zipper carefully down over his erection. He kicked his legs and his trousers were gone. Either he hadn’t been wearing underwear or he had taken them off with his other garments, because he was laying between her spread thighs as naked as the day he came into the world.

With eyes glazed with passion, he looked down at her. “Do you want this, Buffy?”

“You know I do.”

His hand slipped between her thighs and stroked her, testing her readiness for him. What he found must have satisfied him because in the next instant, he was inside her.

The sensation of him filling her felt strange but wonderful. She had only done this once before, with Angel, and that hadn’t been anywhere near as good as this. He stroked into her, pushing himself to fill her completely. Buffy let her legs creep up around his thighs giving him deeper access.

Giles found and established a rhythm that soon had both of them spiraling out of control. He felt her delicious body tighten around him as he gave one final thrust. They both cried out as their climax took them to previously unexpected heights. He lay still on her body for a few moments before rolling them till he was under her.

“I wanted to give you the opportunity to find somebody better than me.”

“How could I? You are the one for me, Giles. There is nobody better.”

He sighed and stroked her hair. “You belong to me now.”

“I do.”

“Would you consider moving in with me instead of to a dorm room?”

“I’d consider it.”

“What will the others say?”

“Congratulations on finally getting it right?”

“I love you so much, Buffy.”

She raised herself slightly so she could look into his eyes. “I love you, Rupert Giles. And now that we are together, I’m not ever letting you go.”

“Good.”

He pulled the afghan he had crocheted off the back of the couch and covered them. “I had no idea this thing would come in handy.”

She chuckled sleepily and hugged him. In seconds, they were both asleep.
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