Title: Still a Fool 4/4 Author: Luisa Rating: PG-13 Disclaimer/Notes: As in Part 1

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Title: Still a Fool Author: Luisa Email: leyjd@hotmail.com Pairing: B/G - are you surprised? Rating: PG-13 Distribution: Dword, Kattie. Gabi, Dee and, TL if you want it. Anyone else, please ask. Summary: When Buffy asked Giles about why the Watcher's Diaries didn't refer to previous Slayers' deaths in more detail, why didn't she react more sensitively to his pained response? And why didn't he pick up on her brief declaration of love? Here's my theory of how it should go from that point on. Spoilers: Up to and including the first half of Fool for Love (S5) Disclaimer: None of it's mine, please don't sue. Feedback: Always more than welcome. Notes: This is an early birthday pressie for Kattie - have a great one!

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It was late, and Rupert Giles stood at the counter of The Magic Box, absentmindedly fiddling with the ornaments that hung above in his efforts to avoid eye contact with his Slayer as she poured out her fears.

"... Where are the details of the Slayers' last battle? You know, what made that fight special? Why did she lose?"

He kept his focus on the ornaments as he spoke. "You didn't lose last night, Buffy. You just..."

"Got really close" she supplied. He slowly lowered his gaze to meet hers, but didn't speak.

"I slipped up, Giles. I've been training harder than ever, and still I..." she paused, unable to end the sentence. Giles looked away in discomfort as Buffy flicked through the books in frustration, returning to her panic- filled speech.

"...And there's nothing in any of these books to help me understand why. I mean... look, I realise that every Slayer comes with an expiration mark on the package. But I want mine to be a long time from now. Like a Cheeto." He glanced at her, swallowing noticeably as a single thought reverberated in his mind. *So do I*. He averted his gaze once again, as Buffy persisted.

"If there were just a few good descriptions of what took out the other Slayers, maybe it would help me to understand my mistake, to keep it from happening again."

"Yes, well..." Giles took his coat off slowly and settled himself on the bar stool behind him in a deliberately casual manner, all the while avoiding looking at her. "The problem is that after a final battle, that, er, it's difficult to get any, er... well, the... the Slayer's not...she's rather, um..." his voice trailed off awkwardly.

"It's okay to use the 'D' word, Giles."

He still felt uncomfortable, but managed to work the agonising word out of his mouth. "Dead. And..." he swallowed hard, ignoring the pain lancing through his heart, "...hence not very forthcoming."

Buffy started paging through the large volumes again impatiently. "Why didn't the Watchers keep fuller accounts of it? The journals just... stop."

Giles shifted uneasily again, speaking in a small voice. "Well, I suppose if they're anything like me, they just found the whole subject too..."

Buffy interrupted before he could finish his sentence. "Unseemly?" She paused for a brief second and he looked at her with raised eyebrows, surprised that she could be so blind to his feelings in this matter. She completely missed the meaning of the look.

"Damn. 'Love you, but you Watchers can be such prigs sometimes."

Giles' throat suddenly went dry and his reply was stricken. "Painful, I was going to say."

There was an awkward silence for endless moments, Giles suddenly polishing his glasses with great precision and Buffy examining her nails in embarrassment. The only sounds were those of the traffic passing The Magic Box. Buffy finally broke the silence, drawing her hands off the counter into her lap. Her voice was tinged with regret.

"Oh god. Am I ever going to stop being so selfish? I'm sorry Giles. I never thought about what it would be like for you."

As usual, Giles considered her feelings before his own. "No, Buffy, don't be sorry. It's completely understandable that you would be anxious about your... future. No one can expect you to put their feelings first in this matter, myself included."

She looked at him guiltily, her feelings alternating between self-pity and wanting to smack her forehead at her stupidity. "But I should put your feelings first, shouldn't I, regardless of what anyone thinks. I should think of how it's going to affect the people around me: you, Mom and Dawn, Will and Xander, Angel, Riley, even Dad. I never stop to think about anyone else's feelings. I mean what if the next vamp or demon or whatever gets luckier than the last one - what if you or Riley aren't there to look out for me the next time? I never really see any of you, do I? Not properly. It's always just, 'Poor Buffy - she can't face up to her destiny'. All I can ever see is myself."

He chose not to comment on her order of family and friends, sliding instead off the stool and leaning forward onto the counter. He pulled her hands gently out of her lap, and grasped them with his. "Buffy, please don't talk so negatively about yourself."

She lowered her gaze again, a thousand questions running through her mind. They remained unasked as she focused on their joined hands while Giles continued soothing her.

"Buffy, you have faced your destiny with a courage I have never known anyone capable of. If you want to look at someone who couldn't face up to their destiny, look at me. I ran away when I discovered my destiny..." He lifted a hand and pressed a single finger tenderly to her lips to silence her before she could interrupt. He continued in a soft, sad voice. "I ran away, Buffy. My reasons were so very different from yours; so don't try to compare the two. You fled from pain, whilst I headed straight towards it, willing to cause harm to anyone who stood in my path just so long as I could avoid becoming a Watcher."

Buffy looked up at Giles with wide eyes as he reluctantly withdrew his finger from her velvet lips. His past was one of the few things they never discussed. She paid greater attention as he continued, his voice and words healing to her anxious soul.

"Then I joined up with Ethan and ventured into the dark arts, and lost several friends in the process. I made so many mistakes all because I was a coward. But you..." his tone of voice changed from soft and sad to loving and proud, "You are kind, mature, thoughtful, brave, courageous, selfless, caring... I am so proud of you, Buffy. And I don't mean as a daughter or a Slayer - I am proud of you as a person." He stopped abruptly, not wanting to reveal the feelings he had worked so hard to hide.

There was another heavy silence, as he awaited her reaction. Finally she looked up at him with bright eyes.

"Giles, I... I never knew you felt that way. Is that really how you see me?"

He gripped her hands tighter with his own, his voice hoarse as he let his guard slip just enough to admit "Every second of every day."

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Part 2

A tear escaped her, winding a lonely path over the contours of her cheek as she looked at him in confusion.

"How... how can you? After all the things I've done? The way I've treated you? How can you see me as selfless when I ignored you for most of last year? How can you think I'm mature and caring after the way I insulted you when I found you and Olivia together?"

Giles tried to stop Buffy with words of reassurance, but her guilt consumed her and she continued in a tremulous voice, "How... how can you see me as thoughtful and brave after what Angelus did to you and to Jenny?"

"Buffy, that wasn't..." He interrupted, but she cut him off.

"My fault, I know. You always insist it's not my fault, but you're wrong - it is. I was the one who slept with him... gave him his moment's happiness... and put your life in danger because of it."

"No, Buffy..." Giles' voice was again stricken as he attempted to comfort her, and once more Buffy cut him off.

"Giles, you don't have to defend me. I have to take responsibility for my actions."

He smiled a little then, despite the pain in his heart. "Buffy, you have just proven that you are mature. And I'm proud that you are accepting your responsibilities. But please, please don't keep punishing yourself. Try seeing yourself the way I see you."

She resumed her focus on their hands, distractedly moving a thumb to gently stroke his palm and trembling a little at the sensations coursing through her. Giles' soft voice reminded her to respond.

"Please Buffy. For me. Try?"

She answered in a very small voice, "I'll try."

He sighed in relief before reaching out to her with his words; "Trying is a good start."

Stillness descended again, research forgotten and Giles regarded Buffy with curiosity as she idly continued stroking his palm. A little thrill passed through him at her gentle touch. A sudden thought struck him as he recalled her earlier comments and he couldn't help but ask the question that was begging to be asked.

"Buffy?"

She looked up at him silently in response, her eyes encouraging him to ask whatever it was he needed to.

"Earlier... when you said...."

Instantly Buffy knew what Giles was referring to. For a second, she considered returning to 'Research Mode', to pretend that she hadn't heard him... pretend that she didn't know what he was talking about. The debate was over before it had begun. He deserved better than her lies. If he could be honest, then she could too. Although, she thought to herself, that didn't necessarily mean that he had to know the whole truth.

"I meant what I said, Giles"

Six little words: so simple, yet so profound. He stared at her in shock, the blood pulsing through his veins at an alarming rate.

For the first time that evening, Buffy found herself smiling. The look of shock on his face was priceless, and he struggled to even stutter out a response.

"Y... you... you did?"

She sighed ever so slightly, hoping that he wouldn't question how.

"Do you even know what the question is that you are answering?" Giles' tone was caught between cautious and teasing. He didn't dare believe that she was saying what he wished to hear.

"Ask it and see." Buffy's tone was deceptively light; disguising the nervousness she felt.

"When..." Giles cleared his throat, a million unseen butterflies suddenly diving straight at his stomach. He composed himself as much as possible and proceeded. "When you said... when you said that Watchers could be prigs, you said..." he paused again, unable to believe that she could possibly have meant it.

"What did I say, Giles? I don't remember." Buffy couldn't help but tease him a little, despite the tension that had suddenly cloaked the room.

Giles had to take a deep breath, suddenly unable to sit like this any longer: so close to her, touching her, lest she didn't mean it. He hastily withdrew his hands from hers and stood once more to fiddle with the ornaments above his head. Finally he gave into the temptation to say the words he hoped she meant. He still looked heavenward however, for fear of her rejection. "You...you told me that you... that you love... me"

"Yeah..." Her calm expression again masked her nervousness... and she hoped, her feelings.

"Do you mean it?"

She decided that he needed to know. He needed to know that he was more than just her Watcher, more than just "Book Guy" and more than just her protector. Buffy repeated her earlier answer.

"I meant what I said, Giles"

He at last lowered his gaze to look at her, his eyes full of astonishment and hope, the contradiction there an expression of the turmoil within. "You... you do?"

"Of course I love you Giles." She had dreamed of saying the words for so long that they threatened to catch in her throat. She had to force the next words - as true as they were - out, so that Giles wouldn't get the wrong idea. "You're my best friend"

Searing pain flooded his soul, and it cried out in agony as his subconscious reprimanded him. *You stupid, stupid old fool. You should have known better than to hope for her heart - don't you remember that it belongs to young Riley, and to Angel?*

Giles was not quite quick enough to hide the crestfallen expression that passed over his handsome features, and Buffy suddenly felt her insides go to mush. As he backed away from the counter towards the reading table, his earlier words echoed in her mind.

*If they're anything like me, they just found the whole subject too painful... you are kind, mature, thoughtful, brave, selfless, caring... I am so proud of you... every second of every day... try seeing yourself the way I see you.*

Something was taking place within her, Buffy was sure of it. It was like nothing she had ever experienced before.

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Part 3

"Giles?"

Her soft voice carried to where he stood now looking at the books, not really seeing them. Giles heard the question it held and felt his heart breaking. He knew she had seen his reaction and interpreted it, and like himself earlier, she wanted to know the truth. *There really is no way out of this, is there?* he asked himself silently. *How can I answer her honestly when she sees me as only a friend? This will change everything.* "Buffy..." He whispered her name like a prayer, turning slowly to face her once more.

She could only stare at him, transfixed yet again by the way his body moved - the way it answered her question without needing words. "It's true, isn't it?" she asked with wide eyes.

Buffy was amazed at the amount of control she still had over her voice, as her body still felt like Jello and her heart was pounding at a million beats a minute despite the little voice in her head insisting that was impossible. *Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating there, but still...* No-one had ever invoked this sort of reaction within her, and she was glad to be sitting down. The only thing holding her attention was the man - *damn sexy man* - standing in front of her. She realised that he hadn't answered her, but was staring back with equal interest.

"Giles?" This time her voice held no question of his feelings, but questions for his silence. The small voice in her mind spoke up once more *Am I wrong?* She dismissed it easily. * No, I can't be.* Still silence filled the air between them and she called him again. "Giles?"

He at last managed to work his vocal chords, pain evident in every word. "Buffy... I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I never meant to... to fall in... in love with you. It was an... accident. I couldn't help it - you just look so... so beautiful, and you are... so... brave. I... I know this changes things, and I understand if..."

"Sssh, Giles"

The words sounded empty without the accompanying action of forgiving hugs or fingertips to lips and he looked at her in surprise. Their eyes met, and suddenly she wanted to run to him and wrap her arms around him. Instead a fat tear fell unexpectedly, plopping ungraciously onto her lap.

"Buffy? What's wrong?" His gentle, loving voice was enough to prompt several more tears to fall, and he approached the counter without a second thought.

"I've been so stupid, Giles."

He paused mid-stride, yet again finding himself surprised. *This is certainly an evening for revelations* He snapped out of it before his thoughts could distract him further, and stepped through the counter entrance. "Why ever do you think that, Buffy?"

"Because..." Now that she could say the words the way she wanted to, she allowed herself the luxury of savouring them. Every word felt like it was taking her a step closer to heaven, her heart fluttering in anticipation. "Because I love you, too - and I should have told you sooner."

Giles wondered if this torture would never end. Now he had to console the woman who had broken his heart. "Buffy, you did tell me. Just now. Why should you cry? I won't leave you due to my unrequited love, if that's what you're afraid of...that is, unless you want..."

"No!" she practically shouted.

Giles looked at her bewildered, and she closed her eyes against the sudden ache at the thought of his absence.

"Giles, I don't want you to leave. I'm crying because I made so many mistakes because I thought you were unattainable." She saw him grin at her through her tears at her use of the long word. She managed a watery smile in return. "I think you're rubbing off on me."

Despite his grin, Giles frowned slightly in confusion. "What do you mean, I was unattainable? I thought you said..." Warm rays of hope crept into his heart, gently restoring his frazzled nerves and battered soul.

"I know what I said, but I thought you... I thought that you didn't feel the same. I figured that you and Jenny... and then... you and Olivia... you know... so, I found myself Angel, Parker and Riley to keep my mind off you. All they ever were, were substitutes for you - I never imagined you could love me back."

"Are you saying that you would break up with Riley tomorrow, if I could offer you a future?" He took a step closer to her, aching to hold her.

"I'm saying Giles, that I would drop Riley right this second if he walked through that door now. Because it's you I'm in love with. Not him."

In less than a second Giles closed the distance between them, wrapping his arms around the slender frame of his Slayer, and sighing into her hair. "Buffy..." He breathed her name as the rays of hope filled him completely, driving away his fear, hurt, anger and loneliness. He placed a small kiss on the crown of her head before drawing back in wonder that this precious woman he had loved for so many years loved him in return. As he drew back he found himself lost in her eyes, the love and devotion he saw there making his heart skip a beat.

"I love you, Giles" she whispered, surprised that she could find her voice. Everything within her was crying out to be touched, healed, forgiven. Butterflies like she had never experienced invaded her full force as she anticipated his next words and movements.

Giles' arms tightened around her as he let Buffy's admission fill his soul before responding, still lost in those beautiful eyes.

"I love you too, Buffy. More than I could hope to express"

His eyes searched hers for just a few seconds longer, revelling in the silent words she was communicating, before his eyelids drifted shut and his lips lowered to hers.

As his face moved towards hers, Buffy could only marvel at his loving expression before her eyes too closed and their lips met in a tender kiss. They were both certain that fireworks were going off, as passion flowed through them leaving their skin tingling with desire in its wake.

She moaned into his lips as they continued caressing hers, and raised her arms around his neck while sliding slightly to the edge of the seat to be closer to her lover. He hugged her more fiercely in return, his tongue parting her lips gently to explore her warmth.

They both moaned in unison as fresh waves of desire overwhelmed them, fire roaring in their ears causing them to tremble with longing. Buffy wrapped her legs around Giles' waist, and used them to pull him as close as possible to her, given that she was still partially sat on the chair. She now clung to him with arms and legs in her efforts to keep upright, as that Jello feeling had returned stronger than before. She pulled back slightly and gazed dreamily into his green eyes once more. As she saw his undisguised passion, a small smile lit up her face, and she felt like both laughing and crying with indescribable joy.

"I love you so much Giles."

Giles chuckled lightly as he experienced similar feelings, so happy to hear her say those words to him. He began to lower his face to hers for a second round of kisses - already planning on taking this into the back room, when something outside caught his eye. Grinning widely he lowered his face to Buffy's and she tilted hers upward, ready for another of his intense kisses. She was surprised to say the least, when he moved his lips around to her ear, and whispered to her. "Buffy, Love? You know how earlier you expressed what you would do if Riley walked in right now?"

She nodded her head, confused as to where this was going. He grinned against her ear, before dropping his bombshell. "Well, now's your chance."

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Part 4

Had her side not still been aching, Buffy would have whirled around in her seat. As it was, she could only reluctantly untangle her legs from Giles' waist and turn slowly, apprehension clear on her face. Her jaw dropped as she at last faced the window and was greeted by Riley's stunned expression.

There was anger and bewilderment clear on his features, his hands balled up into fists as he leaned against the door, looking for all the world like he would deck either Buffy or Giles quite willingly. The soft glow of the streetlight made the whole scene even eerier, and as a result Riley looked a bit psychotic as he stood in as threatening a position as he could muster.

Buffy just turned back to Giles with a smile on her face, wrapping her legs once more around him. At his shocked expression she giggled. "Later." With that, she pulled his head back down to hers for another passionate kiss. She was met with resistance as Giles pulled back with a wounded expression.

"What? What'd I do?" She asked, confusion evident on her face.

Giles found it hard to look her in the eye as he softly replied, "Buffy? D... Didn't you mean it? I... I thought you...."

Buffy reached a hand back up to him, this time placing it firmly against his lips, effectively ending whatever he about to fret over. "Giles... I'm sorry. I... I just thought... it doesn't matter. You're right. I should deal. I can't keep running."

Giles could only stare at her in astonishment as she removed her finger from his lips and lowered herself from the chair. He found himself impressed that she really was taking responsibility for her actions.

She moved slowly and silently to the door, hesitating only a moment and looking back at Giles with a lingering and meaningful look before opening the door.

"Uh... hi Riley..." She shifted uncomfortably as she tried to stand between the two men.

"Let me at him" Riley's voice was a low growl and carried more than a hint of warning. His eyes glinted dangerously.

"Um... Riley? I'm thinking that's not such a great idea." Buffy continued to hover between Riley and Giles as Riley tried to move around her, raising his voice as he vented his anger. "Buffy, what are doing? Why are you trying to protect this sicko?" He didn't care how loud his voice was, or that the door was still wide open. Giles did, however, and winced slightly.

Buffy noticed Giles' wince out the corner of her eye and reassured him. "Giles, ignore him. I'm dealing." She turned back just in time to block a punch aimed at Giles. "God Riley, what the hell is wrong with you?"

"Other than you making out with sick old perv, you mean? You, know I always wondered about him..."

Disbelief clouded Buffy's face as she tried to puzzle out what Riley was saying. Suddenly fury replaced the disbelief as everything clicked into place. "Oh, come on... you can't seriously think that he... while I... God Riley, you're even denser than I thought. Giles would never... to a minor? He's too much of a gentleman to do that. You're the sicko around here. He's more than ten times the man you'll ever be." To emphasise her point, she moved a hand to his chest and pushed him backwards. She used little force, but he stumbled slightly nevertheless.

His eyes widened in shock as he realised just what her reactions were saying to him. "Buffy...?" He choked out her name in shock, and before he knew what he was doing, he swung a punch toward her too.

Again, Buffy blocked it easily. "Oh, come on Riley. Trying to take the Slayer? We both know from experience that I can take you any time. I suggest you go now, before I have to prove it." A wide grin adorned her beautiful features, and she cast a quick glance over her shoulders to see how Giles was taking this. He was hunched over onto the counter, his head buried in his hands, as he tried to very hard not to laugh aloud. She could tell that he wasn't managing very well by the way his body was shaking with an odd muffled sound escaping every now and then. She turned back to Riley, and as he nervously backed toward the door, she could see the questions in his eyes. She determined to answer them honestly.

"Look Riley. I really am sorry about... everything. I never set out to cheat on you, and initially I didn't want to hurt you - but insulting Giles like that... biiiig mistake, pal. Besides, we both know that you and I weren't working out - you wanted me to be something I'm not: all housewifey and holding back with my strength so that you could feel more like a man. How could that have ever ended happily? You deserve better - someone who you can love for who they are. And I deserve better, too. Someone who accepts me as I am, who knows me better than I know myself."

Riley's features had become less contorted as understanding dawned. He still tried one last attempt, however. "And you think he's the one?"

Buffy nodded silently.

Riley's face flushed slightly in embarrassment that she would choose this old man over him. "And you think he can give you everything? That's a laugh. Don't come crawling back to me when you find out that I'm the one who's the real man around here." He began to smirk, but a flash of fear crossed his face as Buffy took an angry step towards him. She had felt the effect she had on Giles earlier when they were entangled, and was looking forward to proving Riley very, very wrong.

"Riley... get out, before I have to make you." She took another threatening step towards him, and in a flash he was gone.

"God... what is it with me and men... why do they all turn evil?" She asked as she closed the door and turned back toward Giles, hurriedly adding, "Except you, of course. You... are perfect. Not an ounce of badness... unless Ripper wants to come out to play." Her eyes twinkled merrily as Giles grinned back.

"I think that could be arranged, Love." He moved over to her and brushed his lips against hers lightly in a deliberately teasing kiss. "Now... where were we, before we were so rudely interrupted?"

Buffy reached her arms once more around Giles' neck and lifted her face to his. "Right about here, I think." She moved her lips to meet his hoping for a tender kiss, but instead let out a sudden shriek as Giles unexpectedly lifted her into his arms and turned towards the backroom. He walked in its direction as quickly as possible with his arms full of his beautiful Slayer and corrected her as he walked.

"No, I don't think so... I think I was about to prove just how wrong young Riley was, when he said that he was a real man." He slid a hand from under her to turn the handle and passed through the doorway.

"Mmmm, goody" came Buffy's aroused and happy murmur as Giles kicked the backroom door shutclosed behind them.





END