A/N: This is a fic I wrote years ago, around S5/6, which was originally posted at .
Disclaimer: All belongs to WB, ME and co. I steal Joss's characters and make them do what they really want to. I'm a bad, bad person, but a bad, bad person with no money, so please don't sue.
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Buffy was in such a hurry that morning that she didn't even realise what day it was, let alone have time to open the two envelopes that sat on the welcome mat. Shoving them hastily into her bag, she sped out the door, hair and coat flying.
Late again. It seemed like she was permanently playing catch-up these days, dashing from one extreme situation to another, desperately trying to draw breath. If it wasn't her Mom's health, it was Dawn's identity crisis and if she wasn't slaying vampires, she was trying to beat off over-amorous ones with a pointy stick. Willow had asked her just the other day if she still missed Riley and she had had to answer honestly that she hadn't even thought about him in a couple of weeks. When did she have the time to miss him?
Sneaking into the class five minutes after it had started earned her a glare and a sarcastic comment from the professor and Buffy slunk, chastened, into the seat next to Tara. The blonde witch gave her a sympathetic smile and passed over a handout she'd saved for her. Buffy looked at it and sighed. It all seemed so frivolous and pointless when the whole world was hanging by a thread. But, as Giles was so fond of telling her, an education was important. Who knows, Buffy thought, if I live long enough, I may even get to use it some day.
What with one thing and another, it was lunchtime before she remembered the letters in her bag. Pulling them out, she looked at the first one and rolled her eyes. The envelope was blood red and there was a kiss imprint on the back that smelled suspiciously metallic. Opening it gingerly, Buffy pulled out a card with some rather disturbing imagery on the front of it and peeked inside.
Loving you is like a stake through the heart...
Great. He still hadn't got the message that she couldn't be less interested if he was the last fangy, undead boy in the world and she was the only girl. More than a little creeped out, Buffy put the card away and picked up the other envelope. This one was better quality, a pale, pearlescent pink that shimmered as she turned it over to open it. She didn't recognise the handwriting on the front, but then whoever had written it had used all capitals and who wrote like that in real life?
Pulling the card out of the envelope, Buffy smiled. It was just what she would have chosen for herself. One of those arts and craft cards, with a collage of a rose in different shades of pink and beige. The writing was gold and said 'By any other name...' and when Buffy opened the card the verse ended '...I would still love you.' Under that, in the same writing as on the envelope, was a brief message.
No matter how crazy my life gets
You will always be at its heart.
Your secret Valentine
Buffy felt her eyes well up a little. It was a simple statement and yet more poignant and sweet than all the elaborate verses in the world. It was certainly far too sensitive to have come from Riley, even discounting the Sunnydale postmark on the envelope. Xander would never have dared send her a Valentine in case Anya somehow found out. That left just one suspect. Buffy smiled.
* * * * * * * *
"Buffy! What are you doing here? Is there some sort of problem?" Giles trailed off as he registered the mysterious smile on her face. He felt his face grow warm and knew he was blushing.
"No problem," she said, breezing past him and taking off her coat. Under it she wore a clingy red top that left very little to the imagination - and he'd always had a very vivid imagination. "Can't I drop by to see my favourite Watcher if I want to?"
"Of course," Giles said quickly, feeling a surge of pleasure that she might want to spend time with him when the fate of the universe wasn't at stake, no pun intended. Lately, it seemed they were hardly together without being involved in intense training or researching how to beat Glory. "You're always welcome here, Buffy. You know that."
"I know," she said, and there was that smile again. She sat on the sofa and patted the place next to her. "Come here and sit down. You're doing that looming thing again."
Nervous without quite knowing why, Giles nevertheless crossed the room and sat at the other end of the couch from Buffy, only to have her scoot closer to him until his breathing was in danger of being affected.
"You know what day it is today, Giles?" she whispered.
"Smart-ass. It also happens to be a certain popular romantic holiday and guess who got two cards this morning."
"Two?" he said, before biting his lip to avoid sounding jealous.
"Uh-huh. The first one was from our least favourite punk vampire who still won't take no for an answer."
"Spike? That bloody pillock. If he so much as lays a finger on you, I'll make him sorry he ever died." He was so busy seeing red that he didn't notice her fond expression until he looked down and then it completely derailed his train of thought. He caught his breath in wonder. "Who was the other card from?" he asked softly.
"Hmm?" Buffy said, her eyes misty and soft as she stared at him. "Oh, it was anonymous, but I have a pretty good idea who might be responsible."
"Yeah. I was thinking Xander..."
"Xander?" Giles interrupted, incredulous. "You can't be serious." His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why would you be expecting a Valentine from Xander?"
"If you'd let me finish, I was going to say that Xander would never have dared. He's so firmly embedded under Anya's thumb, it would probably never even have occurred to him to send me one. So, strike one."
"Then who were you thinking of?" Giles asked, unaccountably relieved that there was nothing going on between Buffy and Xander that he didn't know about.
"Well, there is Riley," Buffy said thoughtfully and Giles saw red again.
"Do you really think that's likely? You haven't heard a peep out of him since he left for South America, have you?" He felt guilty as soon as he'd said it. She must still miss the boy, even though he hadn't deserved her and had bailed as soon as the going got a little tough. "Sorry," he said. "I shouldn't have said that."
"No, it's nothing more than the truth. Anyway, the envelope had a local postmark so I know it wasn't from him. Strike two."
"I wonder who it could possibly be from then," Giles said, striving for a nonchalant tone of voice.
"Well, there is one possibility that springs to mind," Buffy said, tipping her head on one side and giving him what could only be described as a coquettish look.
He gulped. "There is?"
She nodded and moved even closer to him. "Yeah. There's Angel."
Giles opened his mouth to speak, indignation filling him, before Buffy placed soft fingers against his lips and he froze. "Relax, will you?" she said with indulgent amusement. "I was only teasing.
"There's only one possible guy who could have sent that card, Giles. You." She leant forward and pressed one soft kiss to his lips. "Strike three. You're outta there," she whispered before moving in for a longer kiss. Giles tried nobly to resist, for about three seconds, before gathering her up in his arms and kissing her with all the passion of a year's worth of frustration. When he finally pulled away, she swayed slightly, her face dazed and flushed as she struggled to catch her breath. He felt a swift satisfaction that he had been the one to render her so, before the doubts began to set in.
"Buffy, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have. It was unforgivable of me to take advantage of you like that." He was growing increasingly flustered, sure now that she must have guessed the depth of his feelings for her.
"It's okay," she said with a beatific grin. "I forgive you. Now, will you take advantage of me again, please?"
Giles nearly choked as her words registered. "You mean, you don't regret..."
"I could never regret you, Giles," she said, serious now. "When I read that card, it felt like my heart would explode, it swelled up so much inside me."
Giles smiled. "That's sweet. Graphic, but sweet."
"So was what you said. I knew right away it was from you. I've never been the centre of anyone else's world but yours." She cuddled closer and stroked his hair and Giles finally began to believe this was really happening.
He hugged her fiercely, wishing he could keep her there in his arms forever, safe from all the horrors of the outside world. "You'll always be the centre of my world, Buffy. Nothing will ever change that." He pulled away then and gripped her shoulders, looking intently into her eyes as if he could read her true feelings there. "But, I don't want you with me for the wrong reasons, because you feel grateful or safe. I want you to be with me because you love me too."
Buffy's face lit up in smile that made him ache inside. "I do, Giles. I may not always show it, but I love you more than anything in the world. And, right now, I want to kiss you until your eyes cross and your toes curl."
He laughed out loud for sheer joy. "If it helps, you're doing a damn fine job so far."
She looped her arms around his neck and kissed him tenderly. "Thank you for being my not-so-secret Valentine."
"Looks like I'm even worse at having a secret identity than you are," he teased as they exchanged soft kisses, both sensing the passion that lurked just beneath the surface and a little afraid to awaken it again.
"I don't know. I've always thought you had kind of a Clark Kent thing going on," Buffy said, climbing onto his lap and stroking his chest. "I know you've been my Superman ever since you saved me from Amy's Mom."
"Who would have thought back then that we'd end up here?" Giles said huskily, beginning to lose the thread of the conversation as her busy hands wandered over him and her warm breath tickled against his ear.
"Yeah, we've come a long way, baby," Buffy said, punctuating her sentence by unsnapping the buttons on Giles' shirt. She gave him a wicked grin. "And we're just getting started." With that her kisses began moving downward and Giles' eyes crossed. His last coherent thought was that this was one Valentine's day he would never forget.