All BtVS characters belong to Joss. Please don't sue. Denotes thoughts.
This is a sequel to the events that took place in "Once a Lackey". Though it is not necessary to read the first, it might help. :)
"This isn't necessary… Buffy… Buffy, I can – Buffy, stop!" Giles winced, his own voice ringing in his ears and reawakening the ache in his throbbing head. Buffy gave him a serves-you-right look before pulling his sweater over his head and tossing it to the floor. She leaned over and plucked his fresh pajamas off arm of the neighboring easy chair.
"Here," she dropped the sleepwear on his lap, "I'm going to get you some water and toast. I'll wait until you give the all-clear, okay?"
Giles opened his mouth to argue and promptly shut it when she glared a warning down at him. She left him in the semi-privacy of his living room to change while she set a tray. On his word, Buffy came back with his tea tray and set it down on the coffee table before him. From her back pocket she pulled a pressed garbage bag, which she opened and fluffed to its full, tall-kitchen-can-sized glory, and turned it inside-out. Giles watched in silent amusement as she used the bag to pick up his dirty clothes, turning it right-side-in and knotted the top.
"I thought you were going to burn those," he murmured. She shrugged as she strutted away.
"This is easier." Buffy returned to the kitchen and deposited the bag by the back door, to be taken out to the dumpster in the morning. On her way back to the couch she kicked off her trainers and socks, leaving them in a small heap in the hallway.
Giles eyed his tea tray suspiciously and pointed at the two glasses filled with a translucent red concoction.
"What… is that?"
"That… is our cranwater," she replied matter-of-factly. She plucked a plate of toast – which also held two aspirins – and his "cranwater" from the tray and handed them to him with a sweet smile. She took the remaining glass and sat on the other end of the couch, her feet tucked under her neatly and half of the drink gone before she'd settled comfortably against the arm rest.
Giles sniffed the liquid and frowned. It smelled like bitter fruit, with the faint metallic hint of their preferred brand of bottled mineral water.
"Be a big boy and drink it, Giles."
"Flushes you out," she replied. "One dose every hour for three hours makes you a happy Watcher in the morning," she quipped.
Giles muttered unintelligibly under his breath and downed all eight ounces of the sour drink.
"That… is vile," he declared, running his tongue over the roof of his mouth in an effort to remove the taste.
"Try a piece of toast," she giggled. "It helps."
So it does he thought as he took a bite. Buffy finished her drink and leaned forward to place the glass back on the tray. Grabbing the remote to his telly she snuggled up close to him and yawned. "Try to get some sleep," she said gently. "I'll get you another glass in an hour." She turned the television on then lowered the volume down almost as low as it could go.
Giles glanced at his watch and his brow furrowed in concern. "Buffy, it's after midnight –"
"Don't worry, Giles," she said through another yawn, "I got it covered."
Too tired to argue his point, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and surrendered to blissful sleep.
The next morning, Giles woke to a cheerful birdsong. He didn't open his eyes, but took a deep breath and let out a contented sigh. He heard a girlish whimper come from the general vicinity of his armpit and his eyes shot open to investigate. Raising his arm to the back of the couch, he found his Slayer sprawled over the majority of their shared space, her feet tucked between the arm rest and cushion. She stirred and wriggled, pushing her head further down his stomach and coming to rest on his hip and upper thigh.
Giles watched her sleep for a few moments, an affectionate smile tugging at his lips. Memories flooded him of their old routines and schedules before she'd graduated from Sunnydale High. I nearly forgot how beautiful she looks in the morning sun he marveled. Trying not to wake her, Giles lifted her head slightly and slid from under her, tucking a pillow in his place before gently lowering her back down. He tucked an afghan over her shoulders and under her feet before he went upstairs to shower.
Changed, clean and shaven, Giles came back downstairs and was surprised to find she hadn't moved from the position he'd left her in. As he observed her from the stairs, she burrowed a little farther into the back of the couch, nuzzling into the pillow under her head. He sat at his desk and tried to focus on the transcribing efforts from the day before, but every few minutes Buffy would sigh, fidget, turn or release a dainty snore… The effect of which was a very distracted Watcher.
He sighed and gave up on his hopes of getting any work done. It IS Saturday he reasoned to himself. He stood and stretched on his way to the kitchen. He quickly disposed of the garbage bag by his back door and pulled a bottle of water from his refrigerator – tea being a rather noisy option. He settled into his easy chair across from the couch with a book in his lap and his eyes occasionally roaming to Buffy's slumbering form.
Buffy twisted until she lay stretched out on her back, with her small feet hanging over the arm of the couch.
"Giles…" she moaned sleepily.
Hearing her speak after two hours of relative silence startled his out of his reverie.
"Buffy," he said, noting her position had changed, "I didn't realize you were awake."
She opened her eyes one at a time and turned her mussed head to better see him. When he came into focus, a lazy, feline smile curled her lips. "I wasn't." She pulled her arms from the confines of the blanket and stretched her body fully, arching her back and pointing her toes as her fingers pulled in the opposite direction. "But I am now," she added, settling into the comfort of the couch once again.
Giles matched her smile and asked "Would you like some breakfast?"
Her stomach rumbled in thunderous approval, making her blush three shades of red. "Yeah, that sounds great."
Giles chuckled as he stood and shelved his book.
"Why don't you get a shower and change? It'll be ready when you are."
"Okey-dokey," she agreed, sitting up. She padded to the base of the staircase, stopping on the first step and leaning around the corner to grab a peek at Giles in the kitchen.
"Hey, wanna train today?"
Giles smiled and nodded as he met her eyes.
"Good." She flashed a pleased smirk and dashed upstairs.
Wearing her back-up sweat pants and tank from Giles' closet, the pair shared breakfast and packed some fruit, sandwiches and water for lunch after they finished training. When they arrived at the Magic Box, Giles held the door open for Buffy before making his way inside.
"Good morning, Anya," he greeted. She waved absently in his direction, her full attention on the customer and the money the woman was counting out for payment. Giles smiled to himself, unperturbed by the girl's rude behavior. "We'll be in the back if you need us," he added, chuckling when she failed to acknowledge him at all.
The Watcher and Slayer strode into the training room and began stretching in preparation of their work-out.
"Riley?" Joyce called. The boy who'd been dating her daughter until yesterday ducked his head and stepped back into her doorway.
"Hello, Mrs. Summers," he murmured guiltily. She felt a spot of pity for the down-cast young man and tried to welcome him with a smile.
"She's not here," she said quietly.
Riley looked up then and his brow furrowed in concern and confusion.
"I can't find her anywhere," he said in a sullen tone.
"Is everything alright?" she asked, hoping to help him feel better by letting him talk about the end of his relationship with Buffy.
"We… we had a pretty big fight yesterday," he admitted. "But I wanted to clear the air, maybe take her out to dinner and put it behind us."
Joyce frowned as she looked away. Buffy was adamant that things had ended Joyce thought. She turned back to him and decided that he needed to know, and he needed hear it from Buffy.
"She planned on training with Giles today," she offered. "But I don't know when or where."
His eyes brightened and his gratitude shone on his face. "Thanks, Mrs. Summers!" Then he was gone, dashing to find Buffy.
Joyce sighed and shook her head as she settled into a comfortable recline. I hope everything works out she worried.
"This is stupid," Buffy pouted.
"Tuck that lip in before it gets snagged," Giles ordered with a grin. He stalked around her in a circle, constantly moving and forcing her to listen to the rustling of his clothes. She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth, but her frown stayed firmly in place.
"Come on, Giles…"
"Buffy, you need to hone your skill set," he repeated, his voice trailing around her. "If you don't, you'll get lazy." He took a step in and leaned in to whisper in her ear, "And a lazy Slayer –"
Buffy's reaction was instant, her foot sweeping at his shins and knocking him on his back. He immediately rolled from her and got to his feet. She jumped back and crouched, her blindfold hiding him from her. She listened for his breathing, for his foot steps, for anything to give him away…
From behind, he wrapped his arms around hers and locked her in a strong grip. He leaned his head down to her ear and finished his old standby, " – is a dead Slayer."
Buffy planted her feet and used her arms to push his tight limbs from around her as she ducked, slipping from the circle of his trapping embrace. She turned and tucked her hip against his thigh as she bent and grabbed him around the middle. She picked him up and slammed him onto his back, using herself to hold him down as she got her bearings. She pulled the blindfold up and checked his face for any signs she'd accidentally hurt or killed him.
He opened his mouth and gulped a lungful of air, looking like a comical fish out of water.
"Sorry," she said, swallowing a victorious giggle.
"No," he panted, "no, that was excellent, Buffy." He pulled another gasping breath. "I'm only winded, I assure you."
"I'll –" Pant. " – be fine."
Buffy grinned and pulled the blindfold off her head completely. "Are we done with this then?" she asked, the cloth dangling from her fingers above his face.
Giles nodded and swallowed before saying, "Yes… I believe we've had enough of that for one day."
Buffy giggled and rose, offering her hand to help him up. "Next time wear the padding," she mock chastised him. He grunted as he stood and quirked a brow down at her.
"And let you hear every step I take?" he asked, snorting. "Not bloody likely."
"Language, Watcher," she sang, chuckling when he sent her a glare. "Wouldn't want to corrupt your Slayer, would you?"
Anya looked up in hope when the bell above the shop door chimed, then scowled. "Oh, it's only you," she muttered, turning back to the ledger on the counter.
"Hey, Anya," Riley said. "How are you and Xander doing?"
Anya eyed him and closed the ledger, stowing it from view. She crossed her arms and propped her elbows on the counter as she leaned forward. "Why do you do that?" she asked.
"Ask about us."
"I don't understand," Riley said hesitantly.
"You don't like me," she said simply. "I think because I'm an ex-demon, or because I don't act human enough to please you." She turned her head to one side as she added, "And you just think of Xander as annoying competition in some primitive corner of your mind. So, if you don't like us, why do you ask?"
Riley fidgeted, unable to argue her points because they were the basest of truths. He shrugged and answered, "I suppose because it's courteous." He looked away and smiled as he added, "My parents were pretty strict about manners at home."
"Well you're not home anymore," Anya said simply. "Don't bother asking if you don't really want to know. I think that's worse than not asking at all." Her service done for the day, she pulled the book back out and began tallying the previous day's totals into the balance, grinning when she found her expectations met.
Riley took this as the ending of their conversation for her, but still needed one question answered. "Um, have you seen Buffy today?"
"Training," she said without looking up, and pointed at the back room.
"Thanks," he said quickly, crossing to the back of the store in a rush.
"Buffy, this is serious," Giles chided. His frown in place, he faced her and met his undoing. They both succumbed to laughter, their limbs and weapons tangled maddeningly.
"Okay… Okay," Buffy said breathlessly. "I think I found the problem." She pushed off her elbows and leaned over his chest, reaching for the edge of the net that was holding them captive.
"Buffy –" Giles began.
"Just a second."
"No, Buffy, don't –"
She tugged on the quarterstaff and net near Giles' opposite shoulder with all her strength. The other end of the net – which was looped around her left foot and Giles' right – gave in to her force and rolled them on the training mat.
"Dear Lord –"
"Sorry, Giles," Buffy giggled, wiggling to get off the quarterstaff, now firmly wedged between her back and the ground.
"Just… don't move for a moment," he ordered from above her. As they caught their breath, Giles and Buffy's eyes met, realizing in the same instant their bodies' positions. Giles straddled her left thigh, his knee nearly flush against the apex of her legs. He pushed himself up, his forearms framing her face as he rested on his elbows, trying to limit their bodily contact as much as possible. Her hands were still clutching the sides of his shirt from when they'd rolled.
"Sorry," she said again, her tone bereft of the mirth they'd enjoyed a moment before.
"Not to worry," he murmured, transfixed by her face and lips.
"Wouldn't it be funny if Anya walked in on this?" Buffy joked nervously.
"She'd probably accuse us of becoming… what does she call it?" he paused a moment, then grinned. "Oh, yes – 'orgasm friends'." Buffy laughed, her eyes closing as she enjoyed the image of Giles' humiliation in the face of a curious Anya.
"What the hell is going on?" Riley demanded from across the room. Giles started and shifted to look at Riley, his face blushing with utter embarrassment.
"Ah, Riley, could you help us, please?" he asked. "We're stuck –"
"Go away, Riley," Buffy said coldly at the same time.
Giles swiveled his head back to look down at her and raised his brows in question. The boy across the room snorted and began pacing.
"I'll tell you later," Buffy promised softly. She looked at Riley and raised her voice as she repeated "Go away."
"Not until I get some answers," Riley said testily.
"You don't deserve any," she shot back. "So get lost!"
Riley stopped pacing and crossed his arms, mutely standing his ground, waiting for his precious answers. Anya walked in and took stock of the situation. Her pleasure at finding Buffy and Giles in such a position brought a bright smile of delight to her face.
"Hey, are you guys orgasm friends now?" she asked hopefully.
"No!" Giles replied, sending his patented glare at his erstwhile employee. The sputtering giggles that erupted beneath him brought his attention back to Buffy, who was fighting the humor as best she could. She opened her eyes and he could see that she was trying to be serious. Her losing battle brought a bark of laughter from him and he pulled his left hand down to plant it on the ground, raising him up a bit farther.
"It's not that funny," he said huffily. Buffy pulled her lips in tight, forcing them to frown as she sat still beneath him. He raised one brow at her and she lost it, her laughter ringing through the room in melodious cadences. "Spoiled brat," he said softly, digging his fingertips into her right side, tickling her mercilessly.
"No!" she gasped through her laughter. "Giles, seriously, if I try to push you off you – you c-could get hurt… Giles!" she squeaked. He stopped abruptly and waited until she looked up into his stern gaze.
"Do you surrender?"
Giles was about to resume tickling her when Riley's foot caught him in his side and left him winded for the second time that day.
"Riley!" Buffy cried. She reached up, gently pushing Giles until he lay on his back, and leaned over him. "Breathe, Giles," she said frantically. He dutifully opened his mouth and sucked in air, his side aching as he worked to reintroduce oxygen to his lungs. Buffy looked over her shoulder and sent Riley a withering glare as she growled, "Get out." She looked over at Anya and pleaded, "Anya, we're snagged in this net. Can you cut us out with the box knife, please?"
Anya nodded, her own scowl directed at Riley as she passed him. "Stupid boy," she spat at him. She retrieved the knife from the piles of deliveries and returned, cutting randomly until the net gave way. She lowered the blade back into its plastic case and tucked it in her pocket. She was walking past Riley again to leave when she stopped and said under her breath, "Touch him again and I'll make sure that you're used for the next lunar sacrifice… by a certain demon sect that worships life essence by gutting their sacrifices live." That being said, she strode out, closing the training room door behind her.
Buffy and Giles stood slowly, Buffy brushing the remains of the net from herself and Giles – who was finally breathing normally, albeit painfully.
Riley's ire strengthened his nostrils flared as he watched them interact.
"Buffy, maybe I should go," Giles offered quietly.
"No, don't go," she whispered. Louder, so that Riley would hear, she added, "We broke up yesterday. I have nothing to say to him."
Buffy twirled and frowned at him, confused by his reaction.
"I broke up with you yesterday, remember?" she asked slowly, as if she was speaking to a small, foreign child. "We had a big fight…?"
"Yeah, but we didn't break up!" Riley growled. His face held the odd mixture of dumbfounded anger.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "I said 'this is SO over', Riley," she replied harshly. "That would have been your clue."
"I didn't know you meant… us!" He kicked the nearest box in frustration, which earned him a startled yelp from Giles. In his lowest voice, Giles face was stony as he warned "Do refrain from kicking the potentially irreplaceable merchandise, please."
Properly chastised, Riley stalked to Buffy and grabbed her upper arm. "Come on, Buffy."
She shrugged out of his grasp easily and yelled, "What part of 'I broke up with you' aren't you getting?" She shifted closer to Giles unconsciously and added in a softer tone, "Just go, Riley."
Riley noticed. Noticed her hand on the older man's bicep. Flashes of the position he'd seen them in earlier reawakened his jealousy and he shoved Giles away from her. "Stay away from her, you old pervert!" he said in a strained voice. Giles was able to right himself from the sudden shift in balance, and looked to Buffy in obvious confusion.
"Don't touch him again!" Buffy said, giving Riley a Slayer-powered push that sent him reeling half-way across the room.
"What –" Giles began to ask.
"Whore!" Riley spat, his fists clenched at his sides, bending into a defensive stance. "I knew that lame story about Parker –"
"Don't you DARE!"
Riley blinked and looked at Giles in shock. The Englishman was fuming, practically toeing the ground like a bull for a matador. His attention flew back to Buffy and was shocked to see her eyes bright with tears. Then he understood: he'd done the unforgivable. He'd attacked her most vulnerable admission to him – in front of someone else – and now he knew there was no hope for restitution.
"I think it's time you left, Finn," Giles said with a predatory gleam in his eye.
"I'm not –"
"Riley!" Buffy yelled, stopping his protest immediately. "Just. GO!" She turned and went to the warm arms of her Watcher, her tears soaking his shirt anew as they mixed with his sweat.
"You're both sick," he muttered under his breath.
"What did you just say?" Buffy demanded, turning to him.
"I said you're both sick," he replied in defiance.
"We don't pay vampire whores to feed from us," Buffy retorted, wiping tears from her face angrily. "We're not sick, Riley, you are!"
He froze, his eyes wide and unbelieving. "What… how…"
"I saw you," she said just above a whisper. Raising her voice, she accused, "I'm faced with my mom potentially DYING on an operating table and you're in an alley getting sucked OFF?!" She picked up the first thing she saw – one of her steel-toed boots – and threw it with all her strength. Riley ducked just in time and the boot crashed into the wall behind him, rattling the walls of the small shop and creating a sizable crack up and down the drywall.
"How can you call me sick?" She demanded, throwing the matching boot with similar results.
"He's old enough –"
"Riley Finn, you insult my Watcher one more time and I'll… I'll break your hips!" she declared. She nodded as if she'd just convinced herself of the decision. "Yeah! See how quickly your little army buddies take you back with an injury like that, you egotistical – you self-centered – aaahhhrrrgg!" Giles grabbed thin air as he tried to stop her from swiping up a dagger from the weapons rack. She threw it expertly – and purposefully missed Giles noted. The blade embedded itself in the coffee table, much to her Watcher's chagrin.
Buffy let loose a heart-wrenching sob and returned to Giles, her heart in her eyes as she crashed into his chest. Riley peeked over the edge of the coffee table to make sure she was done and nearly passed out when he saw the dagger buried in the wood nearly to the hilt. It would have been buried in his head had its trajectory been correct. He chalked that up to pure dumb luck and nothing to do with Buffy's skill. She's killed demons with dull twigs without batting an eye.
Finn got to his feet slowly and shuffled sideways towards the door. He was walking out when he turned around, the questions that were piercing his mind too great to resist.
"How long?" he asked sullenly. Giles glared at him as he rubbed Buffy's back consolingly.
"What are you blathering on about?" the Watcher demanded.
"How long have you two been… together?" Riley elaborated. Buffy stiffened and pulled away from Giles, her face painted with incredulity.
"We haven't been together together, Riley!" Buffy closed her eyes and inhaled a deep, calming breath before turning to face him fully. "But if you want, I can tell you how long he's been here for me," she said softly, taking slow steps toward him. "How many times he's cleaned my wounds." Another step. "How many times he's nearly died for me." A few more. "How many years he's trained and sacrificed his time for me." She came to a stop a few feet in front of Riley, forcing him to see only her. "And I can definitely tell you how many hours he sat in the waiting room with me while I waited for my mom to get a damn tumor cut out of her head." Riley flinched and his eyes flitted to stare at Giles.
"All of them," Buffy interrupted.
"He was with me every minute, Riley. Short of going to the bathroom for me, he never left my side." She turned and looked at Giles, who didn't know whether to be embarrassed under the scrutiny of the two young people, or surprised at how perceptive Buffy really was. She turned back to Finn and the smile she'd flashed at Giles disappeared.
"You love him." It wasn't a question, but an accusation. Buffy shrugged.
"So what? What I said yesterday still holds, Riley. I never promised that I'd love you, or that I'd be completely yours. No matter who I love, Giles or anyone, I was faithful to you while we were together, which is more than I can say for you." The reminder of her earlier revelations had Riley staring at his shoes in shame. She was right.
"How did you know?" he asked.
"You're kidding, right? Riley… I mean, duh. I'm a vampire slayer. It's my job to track 'em down. When I saw you in that… that place…" She looked away, unable to hide her disgust and pain. "Just go."
"I'm sorry," he said softly.
"I know," she replied, turning from him and heading back to Giles. Riley took this for the dismissal that it was and exited without any goodbyes. He closed the door to the training room behind himself and stalked out of the shop and Buffy's life.
Buffy stopped her trek to Giles when she heard the training room door shut and turned to make sure Riley was gone. She jumped and gasped when she saw the damage rendered to the wall from her fit earlier, and the dagger standing all Sword-in-the-stone in Giles' coffee table. She twisted and looked at Giles, who was staring down at his ruined net – a net he had been proud of because he'd made it during his Watcher training. He bent over and began pickup up the various pieces.
Buffy bit her lip and approached him cautiously, wanting to help clean up but worried that she'd royally screwed up this time.
"I'm so sorry, Giles," she said at his side. He looked up from the floor and she gasped when she saw tears threatening to spill down his handsome face. "Are you okay?"
His face broke into the biggest, widest smile she'd ever seen on him before. He nodded as he blinked his tears away. Buffy searched his face, unsure of what she was seeing and worried what he was thinking. "Are you sure?"
Giles dropped the netting and scooped her off the ground in a bear hug as he stood, laughing and spinning her on the spot. Buffy furrowed her nose into his neck and returned the hug with fervor, making him grunt but keeping her hold tight on him as her feet dangled at his shins. He set her down slowly, not removing his embrace, looking down at her face and wiping stray hair from her forehead with a tender touch of his fingertips.
"You continue to amaze," he murmured. Buffy flashed one of her rare 1000-watt smiles and cocked her head to one side.
"Does that mean you're not mad about the mess?" she asked playfully. Giles' laughter rumbled from his chest – she felt it humming in her spine and decided she'd have to do whatever she could to feel it again. Soon.
"Yes, you're forgiven," he said good-naturedly. He raised a finger at her and added with mock seriousness, "This time."
"Thanks," she grinned, and leaned her head down to his chest, all too eager to feel his warmth through the damp fabric. She listened to his breathing for a moment before he barked out a sharp bout of laughter.
"What's so funny?" she asked from his chest.
"Leave or I'll break your hips??"
"Hey, Ahn," Xander called as he entered the shop, stepping up to the counter for some welcome smoochies. Willow and Tara were right behind him and grinned at each other as they saw the amorous couple disengage.
"Hey guys," Willow greeted them with her small wave. "Wanna go to the Bronze?"
"Sounds like fun," Xander replied. "I'll even buy a round, for I am…" Striking his Super Hero Pose, hands on his hips and his face turned in profile, he declared, "Pay Day Man!"
"Oh, thank you, PD Man!" Tara giggled.
Dropping his pose, he grinned and then snapped his fingers in his trademark 'aha!' move. "Hey, we should invite the Buffster. Anyone seen her around?"
"I did," Anya said absently, her focus solely on counting out the cash of the day's sales for deposit.
"Okay…" Xander drawled. "Pray tell, hun."
"In the training room becoming orgasm friends with Giles." She said it as if she'd stated that the breeze outside made for a nice day. Willow and Tara exchanged confused glances while Xander went into traumatized shock.
Laughing nervously, Xander tugged on the collar of his shirt. "Very funny, Ahn. I see you've been practicing like we talked about." Anya paused in counting the bills in her hands and glared at him with obvious annoyance.
"Fine, don't believe me," she said casually, returning her eyes to the cash. "Just don't go back there and you can keep your blessed ignorance."
The three Scoobies ran to the back of the store and planted their ears to the training room door. Grunts and various active noises were audible, if slightly muffled by the wood.
"Ooh, can you should me that thing again?" Buffy's voice asked.
"Not now," Giles groaned. "I'm exhausted."
"Aaww, poor Watcher," Buffy cooed. "Want me to kiss it, make it better?"
"I'll kiss you," Giles warned.
"I'd like to see you try!"
Buffy squealed and the Scoobies stepped away from the door, their eyebrows nearly disappearing beneath their hairlines. Xander turned the knob slowly, opening the door as quietly as possible to see for himself what was happening on the other side.
Buffy was fully dressed – though the clothes sweat-soaked and plastered to her skin – and running from Giles, the both of them laughing like loons. She grabbed a water bottle and, after opening the drinking valve, turned the bottle into a spontaneous water gun, squirting a stream of water over her shoulder at her equally fully-clothed Watcher. Giles, who was red and sweaty with exertion, let out a groan through his grinning lips and tackled her from behind, rolling them until she took over and straddled his stomach.
"Goofball," she teased, proffering the bottle to grant him a cooling sip from the last of its contents.
"Cheater," he retorted, his lips around the valve as he drank. Buffy scoffed in mock indignation and plucked the bottle from his mouth, emptying it onto his face, scalp and neck. When it was empty, he sighed, grateful for the cool water on his heated face. Buffy chucked the bottle behind her and leaned forward, about to make a joke about him being hot when she spied three very surprised Scoobies watching their every move.
Giles felt her stiffen and twisted his head to follow her gaze. His hands rested possessively on her hips as he split a self-conscious grin and greeted his upside-down friends.
"Hi," Willow replied, her pretty green eyes wide.
Tara waved shyly and Xander's mouth opened a little wider as he stared. Buffy looked down and gave his sides a little squeeze to get his attention.
"I think we should have a talk with the gang," she suggested softly. Giles shifted and smiled up at her.
"Actually, I was just thinking that we should get a shower, visit your mother, and have some dinner."
Buffy giggled and leaned down for a quick kiss.
"Gotta say, I'm likin' your idea a whole lot better," she mumbled against his lips.
"Oh, my God, it's true!" Xander wheezed. He turned and staggered to the tarot table, slumping into his chair and leaning forward slowly until his forehead came to rest on the tabletop.
Willow grinned at Buffy and said "We'll work on Xander. You two kids go have some fun."
Tara nodded in agreement and reached in to close the door.
"Thanks, guys," Buffy said warmly, "I owe ya."
"Nah, consider us even," Willow replied, pulling the door closed once more. The two witches shared a loving smile as they joined Xander at the table. They were silent as they stared at him in concern.
A squeal of Buffy's joyous giggles, followed by a thumping crash and Giles' hearty laughter, brought Xander's head from the table as he straightened. He stared at the training room door for a moment more before saying, "It's about time." He turned to Willow and added, "Don't you think?"
"Yeah," Willow agreed with her small smile, "I really do."