Title: Coming Home
Author: littleotter73
Rating: T
Pairing: Buffy/Giles
Setting: Post Chosen AU
Summary: After declaring their love for each other, Buffy disappears, only to return a year later.
Beta: catchoo
Disclaimers: They aren't mine and I'm not writing for profit... darn!

Coming Home

Buffy tiredly leaned her head back into the headrest, her mind still reeling. He was quiet. Finally. Quiet. When he screamed during takeoff, she wasn't sure what to do. She had tried rocking him. She had tried soothing him. And still he had continued to scream fifteen minutes after they had reached cruising altitude. She had even tried to give him his binky after the stewardess had come by and suggested that he might be having issues relieving the pressure in his ears, but he had just kept spitting it out, wailing and disconsolate. Of course she had gotten looks from the other passengers, some irritated, some sympathetic. Others had just tried to politely ignore them. She was thankful that the flight wasn't full and that no one else had been seated next to her in her row. That gave her two extra seats to stretch out in. When all else failed, she had hunkered down in the window seat, placed his blanket over them and offered him her breast. As the greedy newborn latched on and slurped away, the Slayer had finally started to relax. He had fallen asleep after only a few minutes of nursing, which he wasn't supposed to do, she was supposed to ensure that he nursed from both breasts, but at that point she was past the point of caring. He was finally quiet.

Being back in the world wasn't supposed to be this stressful, but ever since her escape, everything had been a trial. Buffy had wanted to contact the Council in London, fairly certain that Giles would be there, but she couldn't remember the number after all this time and since it was a secret organization, it wasn't like she could just call the international operator and ask. When she had tried calling Giles' mobile, she found it was out of service. Giles! She hoped… no, she prayed he was alright. Oh God, what if the beasts had killed him? There was no way of knowing. She shut her mind to such thoughts. When she had arrived at the US Embassy in Rome, she had needed to convince them of her identity. Luckily she had had her drivers license with her, but the officials seemed to want to make her jump through hoops. Damn bureaucrats! She also had to obtain a birth certificate and passport for her son, and have another passport issued for her as well. It had all been a trial. Since she was on the missing persons list, she'd had to think of a plausible story detailing her whereabouts for the last year. She wasn't sure the paper shuffler believed her tale of a whirlwind romance gone awry, but she had finally obtained all the documents she needed anyway. Upon arriving back at her apartment, she had found it occupied by a family. No sister. And no Giles. Although she had expected he would be back in London. There was another number the new mother couldn't remember: Dawn's mobile. It had been programmed into her own phone and she had never taken the time to memorize it. Her sister was supposed to have started college in the fall and she wondered where she might be. The girl had still been undecided when Buffy was abducted.

Luckily, having finally rid herself of the demon and his minions, Buffy found her purse with her wallet in his private chambers in his lair. She still had access to her credit cards and there was some money still left. As soon as she had concluded her business in Rome, she had gotten on the next plane to London to find her Watcher.

It had been almost a year since Buffy had seen him last. He had left his desk job in England to join her on a special assignment running down a demon clan who was feasting on the citizens of Rome. They had gotten into a huge argument after she had taken a risk that he had deemed was unnecessary, even though it had wiped out the demon threat. The fight between Watcher and Slayer had resulted in them finally admitting their feelings for one another and they ended back in her apartment fiercely making love through the night. Giles was an amazing lover, had been so attentive, the perfect blend of tender and carnal. She just hadn't been able to get enough of him. Her expression softened at the memories. They had kept her going all these months, those and the knowledge that she was carrying his child. The contented infant sighed in his sleep sounding so much like his father, and Buffy smiled sadly at the tiny baby as she kissed his downy head. The three of them had been cheated out of so much.

Still reminiscing, Buffy recalled how horribly wrong the morning after had gone. Giles had slept in, looking so cute, all rumpled and peaceful, that she didn't have the heart to wake him, so, with a light kiss on the cheek, she'd left a note saying she was going out to pick up pastries, fruit, and coffee for their breakfast. She had only walked a few blocks down to the market - and the next thing she knew she had found herself a prisoner of the head demon of the clan they had nearly wiped out.

Buffy looked out the window. There wasn't much to see, the weather was miserable, but according to the inflight map, they were over the English Channel now, preparing for descent into Heathrow. Glancing down at the tiny bundle curled up tightly into her chest, she was relieved to find that he was still sleeping soundly. Hopefully he would continue to sleep until she could get them through customs. Everything she owned now was in her carry-on. She didn't have much in the way of luggage, just a few changes of clothes for her and the baby's things that fit into the little duffle bag she had picked up at the embassy - even less stuff than when she had escaped Sunnydale. She was getting too old for this shit and now there were others to pick up the mantle. Sighing deeply, the Slayer silently wondered if the Council would let her have the next eighteen years off.

Twenty minutes after the plane landed, she found herself waiting in line at customs. Her son had woken up, bright-eyed and alert, nestled in the sling she wore around her body. She looked down and cooed at him, giving him a big smile. His eyes were bright and pale green, exact replicas of his father's, right down to the amber splotch in the lower left quadrant of his left eye. When they had started to change color from the blue most babies are born with, the Slayer had found the comfort and courage she needed in those familiar pools to start forming a plan for their escape. Not wanting to dwell on the details at that moment, Buffy silently gave thanks that the doctor at the embassy had given them both a clean bill of health. Her son's birth hadn't been in the most sanitary of places and neither of them received any medical attention at all during their incarceration, relying solely on instinct and the kindness of one of the demon lord's minions.

"Your baby is beautiful!" the elderly woman in the next queue over declared craning her neck to look at the little bundle in the pouch.

Pulling herself from her thoughts, Buffy smiled and politely returned a, "Thank you," before focusing her attention back to her little one.

"Are you coming home or visiting?" The grandmotherly woman queried.

Buffy sighed, not knowing how to answer the question. She knew the lady was just being friendly, and there was always something about babies that seemed to give older women carte blanche to meddle in the lives of the parents attached to them. Finally she decided on as uncomplicated an answer as she could give. After all, the woman was just a random stranger in an airport who admired her baby and was trying to pass the time, "We're here to visit a friend."

As their queues moved at different speeds, Buffy lost the nosey stranger, thankful for the reprieve. She had spent twelve months isolated away from humanity, even small talk was almost too much to deal with. Especially after just having spent several hours cooped up in a flying tin can with a screaming infant and a couple hundred of her closest friends. And now, standing in a huge serpentine line, she felt like she was being surrounded by a sea of strangers, seemingly threatening to close in around her. Taking several deep, cleansing breaths to quell the rising tide of claustrophobia, the Slayer continued her forward progress towards the customs agent. The official looked at their passports, asked a few questions and bid her entry into the country adding that he hoped that she would have a pleasant stay. The English were nothing if not polite. Nodding in acknowledgement, Buffy then made her way through the airport to catch a cab.

It was cold and rainy in London, typical March weather, and the Slayer was sorry she only had a hoodie to protect her from the elements. At least it was warm in the cab. Looking out the window as the city blocks sped by, she noticed the colors were monochromatic: grey buildings, black umbrellas, tan raincoats, murky little rivers that drained to the sewers - the colors of a city besieged by a late winter rain shower. It was all rather dull and the ride to the Council headquarters proved uneventful. Even if she didn't know the exact address, it wasn't like it was hard to find, located as it was in the new financial center at Canary Warf. She had been to the offices several times during the formation of the new organization, before she moved to Rome with her sister. As she neared her destination, the butterflies in Buffy's stomach fluttered about with increased intensity. What if Giles had given up on her and moved on? She knew he would be relieved to see her alive, they had been through too much over the years for him not to care about her wellbeing, but what if he didn't feel the same anymore? Or what if, after he had woken up in her bed, he suddenly realized that he had made a mistake? She tried to block out the negative thoughts. It was her faith in him and his feelings that had kept her going through her ordeal with the demon lord. Especially in the early months when she was overcome with the realization that she was pregnant, paralyzed by the morning sickness, and finally accepted the fact that she would be unable to escape her captor for a long time, if at all.

When the cabbie pulled up in front of the Council building, the nervous Slayer let out a ragged breath, steeling her nerves. She paid the man and thanked him, exiting the vehicle with her duffle in hand and the baby once again sleeping peacefully in the sling. She wasn't quite sure how this was going to play out and she raised the hood over her head to provide her with some anonymity. She really couldn't deal with a curious crowd of Watchers and Slayers swarming around her and welcoming her home. Looking at her watch, she noticed it was lunchtime. Hopefully, it wouldn't be too crowded.

Managing to slip by security, Buffy entered the elevator... no, lift, and as she waited for the doors to close, two young men quickly raced in and joined her. One of them gave her a quick glance noticing the little bundle in the wrap and raised a curious eyebrow before turning to his friend, "Head Watcher's in a bit of a mood. Bit my head off this morning. Apparently, there are rumors that The Slayer's been sighted in Rome and that her credit cards were used yesterday and this morning. We didn't have any more information than that and I thought he was going to tear my head off. Odds are he'll fly out in the morning to continue the search."

"Could be anyone, really, young, blonde," the taller of the two men shrugged. "Sorry, what floor, Miss?"

"Twelfth, please." She answered affecting what she hoped was an English accent and lowering her head to avoid further scrutiny for fear of being detected.

"Yeah, well, new report comes from the Americans. Issued a passport, they did, for one Buffy Anne Summers, but I'm not goin' to tell him 'til it's verified and the boss gives it the clear. My arse can't handle another chewin' like the one he handed me earlier."

"Sucks bein' the messenger." The sympathetic friend answered pressing the buttons on the panel.

"Too right!"

As was usually the case, once the elevator doors shut, all conversation ceased with the occupants refusing to make eye contact, but occasionally stealing cautious glances at each other. The two men got off at the fifth floor politely saying goodbye and Buffy breathed a sigh of relief for more than one reason. Giles was here and he was still looking for her. Ducking her head, she gently nuzzled her nose against her baby's soft cheek, whispering, "Hey, monkey, your Daddy's in for one heck of a surprise."

The bell chimed and the doors opened to the reception area. It was deserted with the exception of Giles' executive assistant Emily Bowyer. The older woman gave her a glance as she came out of the lift and asked, "May I help you, Miss?"

The senior Slayer lowered her hood as she approached, saying, "Emily, I need to see Giles. Please?" The assistant's eyes widened in disbelief and she stood up immediately upon recognition of the absent Slayer. Buffy put down the duffle and brought her finger up to her lips requesting that she remain calm and quiet, "I also need a favor. Would it be too much to ask you to look after the little guy for me for a few minutes while I talk to the big guy?"

"Of course not!" Emily responded, smiling broadly and holding out her arms to take the infant. "Mr. Giles will be immensely relieved to see you, Buffy, I'll ensure that you are not interrupted."

"Thank you so much, Emily." Peering at her watch again, she added, "He should sleep for another fifteen or twenty minutes."

As the Slayer headed down the hall to find her lover, she failed to hear the older lady call after her, "What's his name?"

The rich oak doors to Giles' office were ajar and she saw him standing with his back to the door, staring out over the city with his left hand braced against the window for support, his right fisted in the pocket of his pants, and his shoulders slightly slumped. His hair was shorter than she remembered seeing it in several years and he was dressed in a dark blue dress shirt and black trousers with suspenders. She always loved how the suspenders drew attention to his wide shoulders and accented his amazingly masculine rear end. Sometimes being able to drool over her Watcher was the only thing that got her through the tedious research sessions in the Magic Box back in Sunnydale. He heaved a heavy sigh and asked no one in particular, "Where the hell are you, Buffy?"

"Right here, Giles." Buffy watched as he tensed at her voice, his back and shoulders straightening instantly, but he didn't turn around. "Giles, please, look at me."

It was at her gentle request that he slowly turned his body, his brain trying to decipher the reality of what he had just heard and what he was now seeing. Her eyes welled up at the sight of his gentle face and she nodded at him before running across the room, jumping into his arms. She felt him envelop her in his embrace, pushing his forehead into the crook of her neck and she immediately began to sob.

His tears of relief and joy spilled down her neck and his breathing was ragged and short as he tried to get himself under control. They stayed locked in each others arms for what seemed like both an eternity and a nanosecond before Buffy lowered herself to the ground and pulled away to look at him, wiping the tears from her face with the back of her sleeve. Giles, ever the gentleman, pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to her.

"Thank you." She said taking the cloth and dabbing the corners of her eyes. "So, uh, how are you?"

Giles stood speechless for a moment, drinking her in, his mind processing the differences and similarities of the Buffy he remembered, the Buffy of his dreams, and the Buffy standing before him. She looked a little gaunt, very pale, and her hair was a few shades darker than he had ever seen it before. Her true hair color, he surmised. What struck him as odd was that her breasts were noticeably fuller than he remembered, maybe it was an illusion cast by the amount of weight she had lost.

He didn't know where to begin. He had a thousand questions he wanted to ask and a thousand things he wanted to say, all wanting to spill forth from him at the same time. Not wanting to overwhelm her, and having no idea where to begin, he managed to reign in his curiosity.

"I'm… you're still a miracle, Buffy." At a loss for what else to say, he gave her an apologetic smile and led her over to the couch. "I'm sorry, would you like something to drink? I have coffee, tea, juice, bottled water… champagne?"

She giggled at his offer of the bubbly, "Um, I'm not drinking alcohol these days. Juice sounds great. Whatever you've got, surprise me."

He walked over to the cabinet that held the mini fridge and pulled out a bottle of orange juice, opened it, and poured the contents into a glass before returning to the sofa and handing it to her.

"Nothing for you?" She asked, taking a sip.

"I wouldn't want to waste the champagne on myself." He replied casually, winking at her as he took a seat beside her.

"Giles, I am so sorry…"

"Buffy, I…"

They had both started speaking simultaneously and he looked at her with that shy grin of his as he ducked his head. Her heart melted. It was so Giles.

"Please, go ahead," he deferred, removing his glasses to polish them before realizing he had given away the hanky he normally used. Setting the glasses back on his nose, the Watcher gave her his undivided attention.

She gave him a chagrined smile and began again, "I'm so sorry, Giles. That morning… I just didn't want to wake you and I didn't have any food in the apartment, so I decided to head to market and bring us home some breakfast. I guess I wasn't paying attention. I was so happy and distracted and I didn't see the demon at all. The last thing I remember was passing an alleyway and then I woke up somewhere under the city in it's lair. It was one of the ones we were hunting."

He took her hand in a comforting gesture needing the contact, to dispel the feeling that perhaps he was dreaming, and, lacing his fingers through hers, he marveled, "It's a wonder you are still alive."

"He wasn't going to kill me. It wasn't exactly an eye for an eye sort of thing. Apparently, I was supposed to be a… replacement. This particular breed of demon is very clannish. The demon lord, uh… Athkoloth, tracked me and because I wiped out his family, he was going to keep me as a member of his harem."

"Did he... did he hurt you?" Giles asked, concern reflected both in his jade eyes and his soothing voice.

"A few times, but not... sexually. He said he would wait for me to submit, waiting until eternity if he had to. I just couldn't figure out a way to escape... and then…"

He stood up, removed his glasses, and started to pace, running his hand through his hair. "All this time, you were still in Rome? Christ, I combed the city for months! The catacombs, secret tunnels… we should have been able to find you." Having worn through his initial restlessness, Giles again took a seat next to her. "I've had Willow and the Coven performing locator spells every week. They couldn't find your signature anywhere. I overheard the high priestess trying to tell Willow to convince me that you were gone, either dead or in another dimension. Either way lost to me... us." Giles' voice wavered and an errant tear spilled down his cheek, "Neither of us was going to accept that as an answer."

Taking a moment, the Slayer wiped the wet streak from his face. She could see the toll the last year had taken on him: his face was a bit more angular as though he hadn't been eating properly, and he clearly hadn't been sleeping well, he looked exhausted. All she wanted at that exact moment was to hold him, but she took his hand in hers instead, "You couldn't find me. They were magick users. Athkoloth set up protection spells to hide his lair." Looking at her Watcher as he took in the information she told him, Buffy gathered her courage and tried to keep her voice from shaking, "Do you... uh… still feel the same about me, Giles? Are you still in love with me?"

The Englishman raised his eyes, unable to hide the emotions he was riding anymore, and he leaned in, softly brushing his lips against hers. Lifting his hands to cup her face, he put more passion behind it, tasting her like a man starving. Buffy responded eagerly, parting her lips and inviting him in. Without hesitation, her Watcher's tongue plundered her mouth, mating with hers and she moved her hands up his torso to his chest, fisting them in his shirt. It seemed like a lifetime ago that she had felt so complete, so safe, and so happy in his arms and she was in very real danger of letting things spiral out of control. Knowing that this was neither the time nor the place and that there would be time for a proper reunion later, Buffy gently broke the kiss, and hugged the man she so desperately loved. Breathing heavily, she asked, "So, I take it that's a yes?"

Chuckling softly, Giles fought to regain his composure before finally answering, "It's a definite yes, Buffy. I never stopped loving you for a moment, and I never gave up hope. I've been tracking every lead I've received no matter how small, and I have been all over Europe looking for you."

Gazing into his eyes, the young woman kissed him lightly on his sensual lips. "I think it's about time for the show and tell portion of the story."

She stood up and he gently grabbed her wrist, saying, "I have no interest in looking at demon artifacts at the moment, love, it can wait."

"Trust me, Giles, you want to see this." He acquiesced, kissing her hand before releasing her. She could tell by the look on his face that he was almost afraid to let her out of his sight. Running her hand through his hair, she leaned down and kissed his forehead to reassure him, "I promise, I'll be right back. I am just going down to see Emily."

Buffy kept her eyes trained on him until she walked out the door. When she arrived back at the reception area, she found the assistant cooing at a very awake little boy.

"He's been a perfect gentleman and just woke up about five minutes ago. I went ahead and changed his nappy." The older woman said, handing the baby over to his mother.

"Oh, thanks so much, Emily! That… uh… was way above and beyond the call of duty. I really appreciate you looking after him." The Slayer took her son, rifled through the duffle bag for his blanket, and started to head back towards Giles.

"Excuse me, Buffy?"

The younger woman stopped her progress and turned her attention back to Giles' assistant, "Yes?"

"He has the most beautiful eyes." Emily said looking at the baby and then towards the direction of Giles' office. "Welcome home."

"Thank you." Buffy stated, nodding in recognition, knowing that Emily had realized the baby was Giles' the moment she held him, and that the older lady had gotten her confirmation when the little boy opened his eyes.

As she re-entered the office, she found her lover staring out the window again. This time he stood tall, his hands clasped behind his back. Her heart pounded a mile a minute. She'd dreamt of this moment, their reunion and introducing Giles to his child, for so long, and now that it was upon her, it was almost too much to bear. She blinked away the tears that threatened to fall.

"I'm back," was the best the Slayer could manage. She knew it sounded lame. In all the scenarios she had played in her head, had dreamt about while she slept, that didn't even come close to measuring up.

The tall Watcher turned around with a smile, but his expression turned to one of confusion taking in the sight of the tiny bundle in her arms. He cocked his head to one side and knitted his eyebrows together waiting for her to say something, anything, to make sense of the image before him.

"Come meet your son." Buffy said softly, a slight smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

And there it was. He felt his knees buckle slightly and he had to move to keep his balance. Giles walked silently over to where Buffy stood holding their baby, and, peering down in wonder, he found two pale green pools staring back at him, eyes he'd know anywhere, complete with the brown patch in the left eye. Looking back up at her in awe and unsuccessfully trying to hold back his tears, he asked, "May I?"

Buffy lost it, the emotions were too intense and with her own tears streaming down her cheeks, she kissed her son, saying, "Meet your Daddy, Nicky," as she handed him over to his father.

"Nicky?" Giles asked quietly, taking his son in his arms and placing a soft kiss on his sandy blond head.

Wiping her eyes again, the Slayer responded, "Nicholas Rupert Giles. He was born Christmas day. It just seemed appropriate somehow."

Breathing in raggedly, the new father nodded in agreement as he stared down at the baby who greeted him by wriggling around, punching at the air, and making cute little gurgling noises. Buffy watched as Giles melted when he brushed his index finger against the inside of the tiny hand and his son grabbed it. "Hello, Nicholas, my brave boy! You are a miracle… just like your Mummy." He looked up at the woman who had given him this amazing gift, "He's beautiful, absolutely perfect! You have done so well. I am so proud of you! I can't begin to imagine what a trial it must have been for you."

"The whole time, I kept thinking it was something we should have been going through together, you know? And the first few months I was so sick, locked in that creature's dungeon."

Giles pulled her in close and wrapped her up in his embrace, the three of them together for the first time as a family. With a wistful smile he kissed Buffy's temple, "You're both home now, love."

"Home…" Buffy repeated quietly. It was a confusing concept. Sunnydale was gone, her apartment in Rome now belonged to someone else, and she just sort of showed up in England looking for the only person who defined "home" for her. Giles. She pulled away and took a seat on the couch, having reached the one part in her plan she hadn't really thought through. But, in all fairness, the plan had only consisted of "find Giles". Everything else was adlib.

The Englishman immediately missed her presence as she moved away, but before he could ask her what was wrong, Nicholas started to fuss. The Watcher looked at his son and tried to quiet him down, but the infant wasn't responding to being either rocked or shushed, and he walked over to where Buffy was sitting, "I, uh, think he needs his mummy."

Buffy's lips twitched in acknowledgement, "You don't have what he needs, that's his hunger cry."

"Do you have a bottle? I'd be happy to feed him."

"No… we've… been doing it the old fashioned way." Buffy replied, nerves taking over. Though she knew that breastfeeding was the most natural thing in the world, and that Giles had seen her totally naked before, she was nevertheless uncomfortable with the situation.

Sensing her unease, he excused himself to give them some privacy, "I'm going to tie up some loose ends with Emily, and then I will be back. Take your time, love." Leaning over, he kissed her forehead and ran his index finger over his boy's cheek, pride radiating from his brilliant green eyes.

Hearing him leave, Buffy took a deep breath, got comfortable, and set about to placate a very hungry little man. Everything seemed so surreal. Were they home as Giles so beautifully put it? She hadn't made reservations anywhere yet and she hated to ask Giles if they could stay with him. She knew he still loved her, he had said so, punctuating it with an incredibly passionate kiss, but the rational side of her didn't want to presume or impose. Things said basking in the afterglow of sex over a year ago didn't necessarily translate to the now. He'd wanted her to move to England and live with him, and with Dawn entering college that fall, she had been free to focus on herself. Now they shared a son and he didn't have the nine months to get used to the idea as she did. He'd just had five, maybe ten minutes to digest the news. It would be a lot to ask of anyone.

"Oh, Nicky, what are we going to do?" She asked her little boy as he happily sucked away. Maybe now it was time to take things slowly. Their son deserved two parents who knew with certainty what they wanted from each other without the drama of a night of passion and a year's separation; he deserved parents who knew their hearts. Relaxing into the couch, Buffy cleared her mind and focused on the baby. When he was done, she switched him to the other breast.

Giles had been watching her from the doorway for a couple minutes. There wasn't much to see, just the back of her head, but sometimes he caught her profile as she moved. He heard her coo and talk to the baby, although it was low enough that he couldn't make out the words. His heart was so full. In the span of almost an hour he went from a man lost, to being reunited with the woman he loved and having her back in his arms, to being a father of a newborn baby boy. It was all rather earth shattering, really.

"It's okay, Giles, it's your office." Buffy called out behind her. No matter how quiet he was, she always knew whether he was there or not. She could sense his presence.

"Are you… is he done?" Giles asked, trying to sound nonchalant as he entered the room.

"Not quite. He's a greedy little monkey."

Not wanting to intrude on the moment or invade her privacy, the Watcher went and stood over by the window, resuming his perch looking out over the city. "Buffy –"

He turned to address her as he usually would, forgetting himself, and the image that greeted him instantly branded his soul and triggered one of the most intense emotions he had ever felt in his entire life: a physical feeling like his heart was pounding out of his chest and the wind was being kicked out of him at the same time. She hadn't looked up, focused on their son as he suckled at her breast, her face serene and tender as she stroked the baby's cheek with the back of her index finger, and little Nicholas was focused and intent as he nursed, staring up into the grey-green eyes of his mother in innocent adoration.

"God, Buffy…" He whispered in wonder.

Buffy raised her eyes in question and found him staring at her, complete reverence reflected in his gaze. She wasn't as self-conscious as she thought she would be, exposed to him the way she was, and she smiled, nodding to the empty space on the sofa.

Giles didn't need a second invitation before joining them. Pulling off his glasses and ghosting his fingers along her cheek, he started again, "I… uh… I don't know if you've made arrangements for someplace to stay, but I'd really like for the two of you to come home with me, love. Emily seems to have already ordered a crib and other things for the little one and they will be delivered soon."

"Are you sure? I don't want to impose. We can get a hotel until I find something suitable. Nicky doesn't sleep through the night yet and is up at all hours. You have work and need your sleep…" She was rambling, and she knew it, but she couldn't really stop, she just didn't want him to feel obligated.

"I'm quite sure, Buffy. It's no imposition…"

"Your flat isn't that big, Giles, remember? And you have your responsibilities." Buffy interrupted.

"I have resp…"

This time the Watcher was interrupted by the baby, who let go of his mother revealing her breast, leaving her nipple pink, wet, and exposed. Giles felt like a cad when he caught himself staring. On the one hand, it was his son's food source, but on the other, he was only a mortal man and the perfectly formed and full breast belonged to the woman he loved, and she was so beautiful.

"Umm, Giles, could you take Nicky and burp him?" Buffy asked, pulling him from internally berating himself.

"Uh, of course." He took the infant from her and put him on his shoulder, gently rubbing his back.

As Buffy turned to fix her shirt and get herself situated, she added, "You'll want to put the blanket on your shoulder in case he spits up a little."

Giles tried to maneuver the blanket, but gave up in the end, his fear of dropping the boy outweighed the care of his shirt, which could always be laundered. Rubbing the baby's back, he could see him start to nod off before burping, and told him, "Not yet, little one, you're not done yet." After coaxing a nice belch from the infant, the new father was quite proud of himself, and gave Buffy a triumphant look.

The Slayer giggled, "You look like you just invented fire, Giles."

"I've never done this before, I'll have you know. I think I deserve some credit." Giles complained in mock indignation, grinning widely the entire time.

Buffy stifled a yawn, "Do you think we can go to your place? I usually crash with him about this time. You would think Slayer stamina would lend itself nicely to motherhood, but it doesn't seem to."

"Yes, of course. Let me get my coat." Giles handed the baby back to Buffy, put on his coat, and picked up his phone from his desk, ringing his assistant, "Emily, could you please have the car brought about? Thank you."

"Not driving anymore?"

"Haven't for a long time. I hate driving in London. Besides, it's been easier since I never knew when I would need to catch a plane to chase a lead regarding your whereabouts."

"Thank you." She said quietly, looking at the ground and then back up at him.

"For what, love?"

"For not giving up on me."

Pulling her into his arms, mindful of their sleeping son, he kissed her temple, and whispered, "I never could, Buffy."

Buffy wrapped her free hand around him and closed her eyes taking in the feel of his warmth, security, and strength. He was wearing a new cologne she didn't recognize, but there was still the familiar Giles-y smell underneath that had always provided her with comfort. She had first noticed it when he had carried her, saving her from the crazed cheerleader in those first few weeks of their association. It was how she had known that she was more than just a Slayer… how she had known that she was his Slayer.

"I love you, Giles."

He brought a hand up under her chin, lifting her head and tilting it towards him, his jade eyes boring into hers with all the passion he felt. Slowly he lowered his head and just as his lips were about to meet hers, he declared, "I love you, too."

They met in a gentle touch, and she felt his hand move to the nape of her neck, drawing her closer as he applied more pressure to the kiss. Buffy relaxed into his embrace, allowing herself to believe that perhaps she really was home as she fervently returned his kiss, nibbling on his lower lip. Giles groaned and broke away. With a voice still husky from desire, he whispered, "Let's go home, shall we?"

The young mother nodded, yawning her assent. He took the baby from her, gathering the blanket and tucking it around his son. On their way he picked up his attaché case and followed Buffy out the door. They stopped by Emily's desk and noticed there were a few people gathered in the waiting area now, including the driver, who took Giles' briefcase and Buffy's duffle bag before heading down to the lobby ahead of them.

Emily stood up and walked around to the couple. "Xander should be here in the morning. I'll make sure the memo gets sent to everyone's email as soon as you've left the building. Enjoy your time together. It'll all be here when you get back."

"Thank you for everything, Emily." Her boss said sincerely.

The assistant hugged them both and planted a little kiss on Nicholas' head, before letting them go. She watched Giles protectively wrap his free arm around Buffy's waist as they headed into the lift and her eyes softened at the change in his posture. He no longer resembled a man who was defeated at every turn.

As the doors to the elevator closed, Buffy smiled as she heard one young Watcher candidate in the waiting area ask the assistant, "Shit, that was The Slayer, wasn't it?"

It was definitely more crowded in the lobby mid-afternoon than it had been during lunch, and the presence of the Head Watcher always garnered attention amongst the rank and file, especially in light of the tragedy that was the disappearance of The Slayer... his Slayer. But the interest in him grew even keener since he was holding a baby and had his arm around a young woman. The low hum of voices got louder and the excitement spread through the marble and glass entrance hall when several Watchers and Slayers recognized Buffy.

A female voice shot out through the main hall, "BUFFY SUMMERS!"

The Slayer looked up in the direction of the voice and immediately recognized Vi, her sister Slayer and fellow veteran in the fight against the First. She flashed a smile and pointed at the younger woman. At which time the place erupted in cheers.

Immediately, both parents looked down at their sleeping infant who continued to doze peacefully in his father's embrace. Giles grinned broadly and pulled Buffy closer as they exited the building.

As they got into the car, Buffy said, "I suppose the rumors are going to fly now."

"They've been flying for close to a year now, love. I don't care. I only have to answer to the Board of Directors, and they have been remarkably supportive in my resolve to find you. Besides, most of the rumors will be quelled with the memo that Emily is sending as we speak."

"And what is in this memo?" She asked as she cuddled up against him.

"That you have returned and Xander will be taking over my day-to-day activities as I take a leave of absence for an extended period of time. And should the need arise, both Xander and the Board know how to get ahold of me."

"Xander, huh? And he's good with that?"

"Seems to be. He's filled in several times when I've taken off at a moment's notice."

"Aren't we going the wrong way, Giles? I don't remember crossing the Thames to get to your flat before."

"That was the old flat. The new place is in Greenwich. After you disappeared, I stayed with Dawn in Rome, to look after her until she finished school and to continue searching for you. She only had a few months left and she was still deciding between Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford for university."

"Crap! Is Dawn okay? God, I hated to miss her graduation. Which university did she choose?" Buffy asked, embarrassed she hadn't asked after her sister before now, caught up in the excitement of reuniting with Giles and introducing him to his son.

Giles grinned down at her like he got into the cream, "Oxford! And she's fine, Buffy. Worried about you, of course, but she's excelling in her studies."

"Wow! Maybe we can go visit her in the next few days?" She suggested with enthusiasm in her voice. "She's well on her way to being a Watcher, huh?"

"Dawn will be home this weekend and we'll have Xander and Willow over for dinner as well. And she can be anything she wants to be, love. Anyway, after she graduated in Rome, we came back here, to my old flat, and it was clear that it wasn't big enough for a teenager and myself. And since you had… uh… agreed to come live with me, I clearly needed to look for a bigger place for all of us. Dawn helped pick the new house. It's only about fifteen to twenty minutes by car from the office, close to a couple Tube stations and when you walk out the front door and cross the street, you enter Greenwich Park…"

"Mmm, it all sounds wonderful, Giles." She interrupted, dreamily, laying her head on his shoulder. "Less talky now, though, I need those quick ten minutes we have left, okay?"

"Yes, of course." He drew his arm out from under her and pulled her in close to his chest, her head resting over his heart. Everything felt as it should, the woman he loved in one arm and his child curled up against him in the other. The wonder of it all – they weren't supposed to have any of this. And now he leaned back into the seat marveling at his fate: Watcher, friend, lover, father; he was basking in it all. He smiled as they turned into the neighborhood on Croom's Hill.

The rain had stopped, but it was still cold and overcast. The grass in the park was greening up with new growth, and even some of the trees were starting to bud. It had been a mild winter and spring was fast wanting to come out to play. Giles looked down at his son as he started to stretch and yawn awake. "We're home, Nicky. Let's wake Mummy, shall we?" Turning, he gently brushed Buffy's cheek and she leaned into his touch with a contented sigh. "Buffy, sweetheart, we've arrived."

Within a couple seconds she was up and alert again. Slayer reflexes. But she looked so worn out, her ordeal clearly still taxing her physically and emotionally. The driver came around and opened the door and Giles got out first, extending a hand to Buffy in a gallant gesture, helping her out of the car. She looked around and he put the baby up on his shoulder supporting the tiny head with his free hand.

"The keys are in my left coat pocket, Buffy, could you get them please?" He asked. She did and unlocked the door, allowing the driver to place their bags in the entrance way before heading back out and leaving them.

They entered the house and Buffy took in her surroundings with wide eyes. The front reception room with it's dark wooden paneling and large fireplace complete with a carved stone mantle was so Giles, and she loved it the moment she saw it.

The proud Watcher showed her around the rest of the large five bedroom house. It was open with a lot of light and very different to the reception area, the exception being the library. It, too, had the same dark, warm, wooden décor. Dawn's room reflected her personality and several pieces of her own artwork were hung on her walls. When they came to the master bedroom, Buffy noticed that it was rather sparse and the only thing that would reflect that someone was occupying it at all was Giles' leather bound journal and fountain pen sitting on a side table, and a weapons chest at the end of the bed. The last room they came to was the room he had set up as a nursery, thanks to the herculean efforts of Emily and his housekeeper Mrs. Finch. Obviously being Head Watcher had its perks. The room wasn't decorated, there hadn't been time, but the delivery men had set up the furniture and there were fresh linens in the crib, while clean clothes, nappies, and other things the infant would need were put away in their proper places.

Buffy walked over to the window and pulled back the curtain. The view that greeted her was breathtaking. Nicholas' room overlooked the Royal Park. Unable to hold back the emotion, she started to sob. Giles went to her and pulled her close, "Is everything alright, love?"

"Peachy." Buffy replied, trying to get herself under control and wiping the tears from her eyes. "You've thought of everything. The house is amazing. The location is unbeatable. And he's so going to love the park."

"Should the weather hold, we can take Nicky for his first walk and show him the observatory before it gets dark." The pleased father offered.

"How is it that you are so natural with him? He's so content with you."

"I don't know. Just seems right." Giles shrugged, snuggling his newborn son. "Buffy, I… I bought this house in hopes that when you returned, it would be our home, but I want to make a change to the initial plan."

Buffy looked confused as he handed little Nicholas, who had found his hand and was sucking away happily on it, over to her.

"I've spent the last year very lost. For one brief moment you were in my arms and it was the happiest I've ever been… until today. Then you vanished. The anguish I felt is nothing compared to the hell you've been through, I know that. But a few months after your disappearance, I realized that when you came home, I didn't just want you to live with me." He paused, pulling out a velvet ring box from his pocket and sank down to one knee. Opening it, he presented the ring to her: a brilliant pear cut diamond with a platinum band. "Please marry me, Buffy. I know I love you with every fiber of my being and I want the three of us to be a family. I can't imagine us being apart again and this little one stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on him. I promise you I will be the best husband and father I can. Be my wife?"

The Slayer was lost for words. She took a moment and put the baby in his crib, before returning to Giles, taking his free hand in hers, pulling him up. Looking down at their entwined hands, she gathered her thoughts and lifted her head to face him. She took a deep breath and began, "Thank you for being the man of my dreams. The one who helped keep my sanity when I was locked up and alone. You were always the one and I always knew it, but never acknowledged it. Everything with you is easy and uncomplicated now, Giles, why is that?"

"We've been through so much together, Buffy, and so much apart…"

"No more being apart, Rupert Giles. I am so in love with you and clearly Nicholas adores his Daddy. What the heck, let's get married!" She laughed through the happy tears that streamed down her cheeks.

"Yes!" The elated Englishman yelled scooping her up in his arms, kissing her, and twirling her about. He set her down when he heard the baby fuss, and after taking a quick moment to place the ring on her finger, he went over to the crib and picked the little boy up.

Buffy watched as the father tenderly nuzzled his son. They were adorable together and it had all played out better than any scenario she had fantasized over the past year. Her faith in Giles was well placed. They had stumbled a few times, both of them making mistakes to rock their partnership, but he had always been there for her, and she knew he always would be.

He looked up and smiled at her, his eyes twinkling, "Come on Mummy, show Daddy how the nappy gets changed. Then we can go to the park!"

She laughed. They were home… and it was perfect.