Willow and Buffy weren't old enough to order wine. Riley was. And he had taken advantage of the fact.

'You like younger women, don't you, Mr Giles? So why don't you tell us how long you've been jonesing for Buffy then?' he slurred. Giles gave him an impassive stare. 'Come on, Mr Giles. I'm sure she'll be thrilled to know that her forty something out of work ex librarian wants to jump her.' Riley snorted condescendingly. 'You're as old as her father for goodness sake.'

'No he's not, he's a year younger' Buffy said defiantly. The others shot her questioning looks and she shrugged. 'What? Willow told me, okay?! Besides, he's like fifteen years younger than Harrison Ford. And so much sexier!' Willow's eyes grew saucer sized and Giles spluttered a surprised mouthful of water across the tablecloth. Buffy gasped and squeezed her eyes shut. 'So not what I was going to say...'

Buffy's protest was slowly oozing its way through Riley's inebriated brain and he gave her a wounded look.

'It was never Angel, was it? That kept you holding back. I thought it was because of Angel – and all the time it was because of him!' Riley nearly spat the last word out.

Oh, hadn't this been a brilliant idea...
Buffy reluctantly opened her eyes to give Giles an apologetic glance, but the indifferent interest with which he was eyeing Riley comforted her. And then she looked over at Riley and caught the murderous glare he bestowed on her Watcher... Right. This was obviously going to be very, very bad. She sighed. Well, at least it should take care of the breaking up with Riley problem. Thanks, Wil...

'Just admit it. You're in love with that... that... sugar daddy.'

Buffy winced. Of all the four-letter words Riley could have used he'd had to pick on that one. She looked at Giles again and groaned under her breath. The way his lips twitched probably meant he'd picked up on the love part. Which made her want to hit him. Or kiss him. She decided on simply ignoring him. As she did the giggling Willow. Now if she could only do the same with her very soon to be ex boyfriend. But that was rapidly proving impossible.

'So has she given you any samples yet? Or do you want me to tell you what it's like?' Riley's ice-cold eyes never left the older man's face. 'Do you want me to tell you what it's like to fuck her?'

Oh, goody. Again with the four-letter words. She smiled thinly. Although this one wasn't quite as condemnable as the L one... or... oh, God... it was... She apprehensively looked up in the face of the suddenly very tense man by her side. The rapid change in the Watcher was unsettling. Gone was the mask of amused composure. His eyes blazed dangerously as he leant forward, intimidating the hastily sobering Riley not only with his superior size but also with his barely contained wrath. Giles could be very intimidating when provoked.

'You will never speak about Buffy like that again.' There was nothing but cold conviction in Giles' voice. 'Because if you do...' he smiled unpleasantly, not needing to finish the sentence. Riley's nervously bobbing Adam's apple demonstrated that he had understood. Buffy put a hand on the enraged Watcher's arm and nearly shrank back when he turned towards her and she met the wild-eyed Ripper glare head on. Fury had turned his gentle eyes into a deadly dark green, and his left hand was hovering alarmingly close to the stake concealed in his inside pocket. She gave him a small, reassuring smile.

'Giles. Please?'

She didn't know what else to say so she slowly slid her hand down his arm and clutched soothingly at his cold fingers. His glare eased from homicidal to merely bloodthirsty and she exhaled audibly. The risk for imminent Rileycide was averted. She turned an arctic stare towards the commando.

'I think we'd better continue this outside' she stated evenly. Riley gave the still seething Watcher a nervous glance and nodded. He staggered off on wobbly legs closely followed by the small, irate blonde. Five minutes later she was back. Riley wasn't.

*****

The very wide awake Buffy glared enviously at her sleeping roommate. Her brain was showing reruns of the evening's highlights, reruns not really carved out to leave the Slayer particularly sleep inclined. Or amused. Single again, huh? Maybe she should give up men altogether. Angel. Parker. Riley. The road kill that was her personal life was certainly no sleep inducement. She smiled wistfully. But through that list there had been Giles...
Images of her Watcher suddenly filled her mind. How he'd always been there for her. Offering his support. A shoulder to cry on. Ice cream. Always loved her. Always... wait a minute. Back up the truck there, huh!? "Always loved her"?? Her subconscious shrugged. Yes? Point being? She tried to give herself a bemused look. Giles? Loved her?? Umm... yes..? Like in loved her loved her? Uh... still with the yes here..? So why didn't this come up earlier? Like before him and Willow took off for smoochie land?! Oh, come on. Wake up and smell the denial!! And besides. The smoochie land isn't quite as smoochie filled as one would have expected, or haven't I noticed? What's that supposed mean? And cut the snootiness or find someone else to pester, okay?! Her subconscious gave an exasperated sigh. Whatever. Do I remember how Willow was with Oz? Of course I remember how Willow was with Oz. How stupid do I think I am? Umm... do I want me to answer that..? Shut up. And get back to the point. Exactly how am I supposed to shut up and get back to the point? Improvise!!
Her subconscious noticed the implied menace and decided to drop the mocking. For the moment. Okay. Willow. Oz. Not really restricted with the smoochies, were they? Buffy, who'd walked in on the couple more times than she cared to remember, grinned faintly. Okay. Willow and Oz not of the PG rated. So? Her subconscious sighed again, clearly indicating that it was sharing its body with Southern California's most challenged mind. Willow and Giles not doing well with the NC17 stuff, are they? Buffy considered this and had to admit that she was right. But Giles was English. Although with a background that had rendered him the nickname Ripper. Not quite indicating restraint with the nookie, did it..? Yeah, but he wasn't Ripper any more. He was Giles. And Giles wouldn't... umm... would he..? For once both voices were silent as they contemplated the image of Giles woulding. She whimpered slightly, suddenly very certain that he would. And equally certain that she wanted him to would with her. Willow muttered something unintelligible in her sleep and Buffy slumped dejectedly. She wasn't the one Giles would be woulding with, now was she. Oh, just get a grip, dimwit! And enough with the woulds already!! Her subconscious was getting slightly narked and was in no mood to be gracious about it. He isn't woulding with Willow. And Willow isn't woulding with him. And now I've got me doing the damn would thing as well. Anyway, what does that tell me?? Uh... She couldn't come up with the slightest reason for Willow to keep her hands off that delicious body. Her subconscious smirked maddeningly. Exactly. Rebound... Buffy thoughtfully chewed her lower lip. Rebound? Yup. That... actually made sense. Sort of. But... what about Giles? And don't even think about mentioning Olivia... Wouldn't dream of it. Good. Umm... Then why? You. Me. Us. Us? I mean me?? Uh-huh. But... Me? Really?? I think he... in love? With me?? Ooh... that... actually... fits... Memories of all things Gilesy flooded her mind. Oh yes. It very much fitted. She yawned. And tomorrow she would... talk to... umm... rebound... Giles... love... tomor...
The Slayer smiled in her sleep. Tomorrow...

*****

'Do you really think so?' Willow's voice was hesitant, almost frightened.

'Of course I do. They love you, Willow. Both of them love you very much. I'm sure they'll be happy for you. I know I am.' Giles warm voice was confident, and the young witch was noticeably comforted.

'I'm happy for me too! But we must talk to Buffy.' She gave him a beseeching look. 'Soon.'

Giles nodded, affectionately brushing a tear soaked wisp of hair out of her face.

'I know' he agreed gloomily. 'I just don't know how.'

The unnoticed Buffy had stopped just inside the door and was now despondently eyeing her two friends. So her subconscious had been wrong. She drew a shaky breath. There was no rebound. No love for Buffy. Just Giles. And Willow. Smiling. Touching. She clenched her teeth against an escaping sob and watched them jump apart as she emphatically slammed the door behind her.

'Might I perhaps borrow my Watcher for the training session?'

Without another look or word Buffy haughtily stomped off to the basement to warm up, not wanting to think about what the two people she'd left upstairs was doing. And not able to think of anything else. When Giles arrived a couple of minutes later Buffy was boiling with jealousy. He gave her a cautious look and decided to forego any weapons during training.

*****

Forty minutes later he was sweaty, sore and more than a little worried. Buffy still hadn't said a word, but she kept fighting him with focused intensity. Backing away under the force of her assault he eyed her wearily, searching for a way around her defence. A slight hesitation to follow up on a roundhouse kick was all he needed. He swiftly moved under her guard and drew her to him. As he held her close his hands moved over her back in slow, hypnotic circles, and the frustrated animosity slowly drained out of her. With contentedly closed eyes she snuggled closer and put her arms around his waist. Her conscience objected half-heartedly, but she defiantly nestled into the warmth and scent that was all Giles. Just this once, okay? Just this once.
Giles looked down at his forlorn Slayer. What on earth had made him listen to Willow? Didn't he know better than to play with people's minds for his own selfish reasons? Had his Ripper days taught him nothing?? He closed his eyes and hoped that Buffy would be able to forgive him. Eventually.

'Buffy, I...'

'You can't...'

They looked at each other and giggled nervously.

'You go first' Giles offered and Buffy watched open-mouthed as the shy smile she loved so much did one of its rare appearances. Gah!! What was it she was going to say? Oh, yes...

'You can't be with Willow' she mumbled quietly into his shirt.

He gave her a bewildered look. That he hadn't expected. Had he lost the thread somewhere?

'Hmm? What? Why?' he asked in confusion.

'Because you should be with me!'

Buffy gasped and swiftly fixed her eyes to his neckline. I didn't just say that out loud, did I? Oh God. I did. What do I do now?? Hmm... nice chest hair... Hello?! Focus!!
A gentle finger on her jaw interrupted her musings and forced her to look up into eyes dark green with adrenaline and anticipation. She watched, mesmerized, as he slowly lowered his head, giving her ample time to break free. When she didn't his mouth smiled against hers in a feathery touch before slowly retreating. He gave her a searching look and she licked her lips in an unconscious invite. Her arms moved to his neck and pulled him down for another soft brush. He relaxed into the kiss, sweeping his tongue tentatively against her lips. She welcomed him in with a satisfied moan. Mmm... nice... But so not enough! Aching to feel his skin against her palms she fumbled impatiently with his T-shirt and finally managed to separate it from his very uncooperative sweatpants. Giles groaned when her hands lazily investigated their ways towards his chest.

'Buffy? Are you sure about this?' he asked uncertainly.

'Hmm?' she answered distractedly while her dilated pupils hungrily took in his tousled state. 'Am I sure about wha...' Oh. That. Oh. Crap. Oh, CRAP!!
Her conscience kicked into hyperdrive and for the second time in a very short period she turned and ran out of Giles' apartment. He growled unhappily. As far as he recalled, kissing was a damned lot better when not interrupted by all that bloody jogging. A stunned grin spread over his face. On the other hand the woman he loved had just told him "you should be with me". He shook his head dazedly. Dear Lord. Willow was a genius!

*****

'I take it Giles hasn't talked to you?'

Willow watched her friend attentively, but the distressed Slayer didn't seem to notice that she had referred to the Watcher as Giles. The redhead sighed dismally. Damn.

'Well, I sorta left before he had a chance to say anything' Buffy said, sniffing miserably. 'I'm sorry, Wil. So very sorry.'

Willow's conscience kicked her in the shin. Repeatedly. And hard.

'Sorry about what?' she asked uneasily.

'Erm. Basically for everything. But mostly for loving Giles.' Buffy blushed and carefully avoided the Wicca's eyes.

'Umm... Okay..? Knew that already. No need for sorry.' Willow gave Buffy a hopeful look. Was it possible that...

'But. Not. Or. I mean. I... I'm in love with Giles.' The Slayer was still blushing. And still avoiding eye contact.

'Uh-huh?' Oh YES! Finally!! Okay, Willow. Keep the cool. Deep breaths. Look calm. Indifferent. No victory dance. Result!! Check out the queen witch of shadchens!! Okay, way with the indifference there. 'Knew that too. Still not with you on the sorries though.' Ah. Calmness revisited. Good girl.

Buffy winced, suddenly remembering the conversation she'd overheard at Giles'. Of course she knew. Although...

'But I've done something bad! Really bad. Like dancing with Xander bad. Not that dancing with Xander is bad. Except for the Snoopy dance. But I mean Buffy bad dancing with Xander dancing...' Buffy stopped and reviewed her rant. 'bad' she finished sheepishly. Not wholly of the comprehensible. But adequate. She was determined to make Willow understand what a terrible person she was. 'Willow, I... kissed him.'

'Kissed who? Xander?' Willow stared at her friend in total bewilderment.

'No. Giles!' Buffy almost growled in frustration.

'Oh. Did you? Good. I'm sure he liked that.' Willow's suspiciously innocent face revealed only polite concern.

'I mean it's not like I meant to... okay, so of course I meant to, but not rea...' Buffy's brain finally caught up. 'I'm sorry, but huh??'

Willow eyed the Slayer nervously. Okay. Moment of truth. Wait a minute; was her health insurance in order?? And she really should have made a will... Oh, just get on with it already!!

'Umm... I'm sure he liked that?' The young witch smiled awkwardly. 'Because actually there's nothing going on between Giles and me. His feelings are sort of elsewhere engaged.'

Buffy gave her a blank look.

'H-huh?' she repeated. Her disorientated brain tried to puzzle facts together, but all it could muster was a slightly mystified 'Who?'

Willow rolled her eyes. For an intelligent woman Buffy could be really thick on occasion... She looked into the Slayer's wounded eyes and realized that she had ventured her thoughts aloud. Damn again. And blast.

'You, poop head. Giles is in love with you.'

Hope, incredulity and a flicker of anger fought a ferocious battle in Buffy's eyes. Giles was in love with her? Giles was in love with her! But why had they...

'But why did you... Why, Wil? Do you hate me? Is that it? Let's hurt the bitch?' She couldn't quite hide the bitterness in her voice.

'No!! It wasn't like that at all!!' Willow's eyes filled with tears. 'I mean it was just so obvious. Everyone saw it. Well, not Giles of course, but you know Giles...' Willow made a dismissive gesture and Buffy managed a feeble grin. She knew Giles. Knowledge Guy could be totally clueless sometimes. It was so adorable. Not to mention when he... Ahum. Willow. Explaining. Priorities, okay?! '...and even Xander had noticed. I mean Xander!! Mr Oblivious himself. So... it really was that obvious. And Giles was just so unhappy. So we sorta thought... I sorta thought... umm...' She gave Buffy a pleading look, too out of breath from her wordy explanation to be able to continue.

Buffy thoughtfully studied the distraught Wicca. Okay, so fire bad. Willow still good. And Giles loved her. Now there was a good. A very good. She smiled as she felt her resentment evaporating. It all made a sort of twisted sense somehow. And she could of course always slay them later if needed.

'It's okay, Willow. I kinda understand. I was being Ignorant Girl. Hurting people I care about. I needed to be stopped.' She grinned ruefully. 'But next time try some kryptonite, okay. Or a baseball bat. Or a small rocket launcher. The Giles method? Way too painful.'

'No Gilesy torture. Check' Willow nodded vigorously before looking down and drawing a steadying breath. 'Umm... Buffy? There's... another thing. You remember Tara, don't you?' Buffy indicated that, despite her alleged thickness, she did. Willow shot her a panicky glance. 'Well... uh... me and Tara are sorta... uh... me and Tara..?'

The Slayer's brow furrowed – and then realization slowly dawned.

'Are you saying what I think you're saying here, Wils?' she asked carefully. Willow gave a small nod and Buffy lit up in a delighted smile.

'Cool!'

'Are you sure?' the Wicca asked cautiously, not certain that Buffy had understood her properly. Buffy's expression softened.

'Willow, if you love Tara I'm sure I will too.' She grinned. 'And besides… If you already have a girlfriend I don't have to feel so bad about stealing your boyfriend.'

Willow gave her a grave look.

'Giles loves you so much, Buffy. I don't think he could take it if you ever hurt him again like you've done these last months. And he means a lot to me.' The witch looked thoughtful and added as an afterthought. 'And I have access to some quite powerful spells.'

Buffy met Willow's serious eyes, realizing that the threat was made only half in jest.

'I'll remember' she promised solemnly. Her eyes narrowed. 'I will also remember that you and Xander are the schemiest, most backstabbing friends a Slayer can have.'

'Yes. And you're welcome' Willow answered with a calm smile. 'So. You're off to Giles' then?'

Buffy nodded.

'Yup. Don't wait up...' She grinned roguishly at her friend before darting through the door. Willow's eyes glazed over and she was forced to recite several Latin incantations before finally evicting some uninvited – and very graphic – images of the Watcher and his Slayer.

*****

Spike eyed the Slayer suspiciously. It couldn't be bloody normal to smile that much, could it? Maybe he ought to do something about it? He shrugged dismissively. Too much work. Besides, a happy Slayer was a non Spike-dusting Slayer. And that was as good as it got. But some investigations were definitely called for. Extinguishing his cigarette he stealthily followed the small blonde to a familiar door. He watched intrigued as she stopped and carefully groomed herself before letting herself in. So. That was the reason for the happy face, was it? Hmm... He suddenly had a craving for some hot cocoa. And a little chat. His fangs glimmered in a wicked smirk. And it was of course an absolute coincidence that the Slayer's mum served the best hot chocolate in Sunnydale...

*****

Buffy was quietly following the sounds of an unmistakably annoyed Watcher. She smiled. Kitchen, huh? Well, that could prove... interesting... She recalled last night's vivid dream including her, Giles and his kitchen table. A small part of her had been amazed that the old piece of furniture had survived, no matter how imaginary the sex. The rest of her had just been amazed. She eyed the table meditatively. It looked sturdier than in her dream, didn't it..? Hmm... Nah. Torture Giles first, steamy sex later. She shifted her attention to the Watcher and her eyes widened at the perfect view of his backside. Mmm... Yummy... She crept closer to her unaware victim who was still muttering angrily, his mind fully occupied with the obstinate pipe.

'So. Whatcha doing, Watcher mine?' she asked softly and grinned when she heard a thump and a heartfelt 'Bloody hell!' from under the sink. His dishevelled head appeared and he shot her an uneasy glance.

'Uh... Hello, Buffy. I didn't see you there.'

'Now that's not something that inspires confidence in one's Watcher, is it?' she observed dryly as she leant against the doorframe and gave him an appreciative look. Dishevelled definitely suited him. She frowned in surprise when his eyes clouded over and he turned his back to her.

'How about in one's useless ex Watcher then?' he muttered quietly.

Buffy gave him an uncomprehending stare. What was he... Oh. But... Oh. She gulped miserably. Her fault again. She'd probably have to talk to Willow about that rocket launcher. But first... She knelt down beside him and put her hand on his shoulder.

'No one talks to my Watcher like that, okay?' she said firmly. 'He's the best, most wonderfullest man in the world' she could feel his shoulder muscles slowly relax 'and I love him very much.' Aaand then quickly tense again. She smiled contentedly.

Giles focused on his breathing. Buffy had just said that she loved him, hadn't she? He quickly ran through her last sentence. Yes. There had certainly been talk of love. He looked up at her with a hopeful expression.

'Most wonderfullest man in the world, huh?' he repeated. Buffy nodded earnestly.

'And best! Unfortunately he got stranded with what I have on good authority is a very thick Slayer. Who's finally seeing the non-tweedy goodness in front of her.' She gave him a sincere look. 'And who's very, very sorry that it's taken her so long.'

Giles touched her face questioningly, letting his thumb gently trace the outline of her lower lip.

'I love you, Buffy. You know that, don't you?'

Her heart did a happy gig.

'Well, there has been rumours' she teased him breathlessly.

'There has, has there?' he mumbled, his fingers still unhurriedly exploring her face.

'Uh-huh' she agreed. 'And of course newspaper articles. And the odd commercial.'

'Oh dear.' He bowed his head and brushed his lips against hers. 'Well, as long as you've been informed.'

Buffy gave him an unexpectedly serious look.

'Why did you never tell me before?'

'Yes, I can just about picture it' he smirked. '"I've got a thing. Maybe you have a thing. Maybe we could have a thing. How do you feel about Mexican?" I wouldn't have seen you for dust.'

Buffy reluctantly had to admit that he was right. She threw her arms around him and hugged him fiercely, suddenly terrified of what she could have lost.

'I seem to do that a lot, don't I? Running?'

'There have been times when I found your recent interest in exercise a tad annoying' he admitted with an infuriating grin.

'Um. Sorry about that.' She eyed him ruefully. 'Although I have to admit that I found the thought of you and Willow a tad annoying as well.

'Ah. Yes. Me and Willow.' Giles blushed and looked at her pleadingly. 'How long will I have to suffer for that?'

'Well, Willow is my best friend so I kinda have to forgive her. You on the other hand...' She gasped and tilted her head as Giles leant over to kiss the side of her neck. 'Mmm...'

'A lot of grovelling to do, huh?' he asked, nibbling his way towards her collarbone.

'Uh-huh' she rasped. 'We're talking months of... oh, God...'

'Hmm?' He lifted his head and gave her a distracted look. 'Months of what?'

'Never mind. Do that again' she commanded.

She could feel the vibrations of his laughter against her throat as he obeyed.
Clothes were rapidly becoming an issue, and various garments found themselves scattered across the floor. Giles was trying to find a reasonably comfy position reclining against the larder, but with Buffy in his lap he really wasn't too bothered about comfort.

'I love you so much, Giles!' She smiled sunnily at him.

'Took you long enough to admit it though' he grumbled, his harsh tone belied by the happiness in his eyes.

'So. Do you have anything to say to me?' she purred.

He tilted his head thoughtfully.

'Umm... no, not really..?' he answered innocently.

She growled at him and slid her hand towards his groin where feather light strokes made him hiss with pleasure.

'Oh God, Buffy, yes!'

She slowly removed her hand and leaned closer to his begging eyes.

'You were saying?' she asked politely.

The skin around his eyes crinkled as he beamed up at her.

'I love you, Buffy' he said hoarsely. 'Unconditionally. Any way you want me. And I'm yours. For as long as you'll want me. Which I hope will be a long, long time.'

She lit up in a bright, tearful smile.

'Oh Giles, that is so... umm... me too. Am yours, I mean.'

His left hand that was exploring her hip came to a sudden stop and his eyes turned serious.

'You really mean that, don't you?'

'I do' she said, willing every last piece of her love into the answer. She saw his eyes stray and suddenly flicker with something akin to panic, and her throat tightened at the fact that he still didn't dare to believe her. 'Do you want to know how you make me feel? This is how you make me feel.' She leaned down and kissed him. He moaned as her tongue teased his, and she pulled back and gazed deep into his eyes.

'Mmm... Buffy..?' he ventured nervously.

'Shush, Giles. I want to show you. This is how you make me feel.' She took his right hand and placed it over her violently beating heart.

'Yes, but...'

'I said shush, Giles. This is Buffy talks, Giles listens. Didn't you have show and tell in England? Jeez! Anyway. This is how you make me feel.' With her eyes still glued to his she guided his hand down to the very moist fabric of her panties. He snatched it back as if he'd been burnt, and Buffy gave him a hurt look. 'Come on, Giles. Work with me here. I'm trying to prove a point. I love you. You love me. Everybody knew this. But us. Now we know too. Everybody knows. Everybody's happy. This is a good!'

Giles looked at her with a mixture of amusement and dread.

'Not everybody knew, love' he observed somewhat unsteady.

'Oh? Oh...' Buffy turned slowly towards the door and met Joyce's eerily calm look. 'Hi, mum.' She turned back to Giles with a reproachful glint. 'You really should start to lock the front door' she said conversationally. He nodded glumly.

'So. Shall I perhaps go back out until you're a bit less undressed?' Joyce expression was indecipherable.

'I-I think... umm... y-y-yes, that would be much... appreciated' Giles stuttered blushingly.

Joyce quickly retreated and the two lovers to be were left to their shared embarrassment.

'I think I'd better hide the weapons before she returns' Giles observed sardonically. They looked at each other and grinned. Vampires, demons and mothers. They never knew what the Hellmouth would throw at them next. Only that it would be lethal. And that they would face it. Together. As always.