Title: Of Hurricanes and Spitfires
Setting: Post Chosen
Beta: Catchoo, my thanks, as always.
Special Thanks: To my friend Cap. Thanks for the sanity checks.
Disclaimer: I own nothing in the Buffyverse.
Of Hurricanes and Spitfires
It had been twelve long, horrible and heartbreaking months - a whole sodding calendar year - but Giles could finally say that he wasn't in love with her anymore. He loved her, certainly, but when they were together his heart no longer skipped beats, his tummy didn't clench in that annoyingly excited way, and he didn't have that sudden urge to touch her, nor did he feel the need to be with her constantly. The gut wrenching pain had subsided and he only had a mild ache for what might have been. He'd finally gotten over her.
Over the months following their exodus from the remains of Sunnydale, they'd fallen into a comfortable camaraderie, bonded over their ideas for the new Council, and trained the new Slayers, and during that time, Giles had felt his feelings for his Slayer change. He had fallen in love with her. Not wanting to endanger their rekindled partnership, he had guarded that secret closely. Both their friendship and their working relationship had seemed to have gotten back on track after they'd beaten back the First Evil. All the Scoobies had rallied, deciding to stick together and rebuild in England while Faith and Robin guarded over the emerging Hellmouth in Cleveland.
After spending several long days and late nights setting up the new training facility at Council Headquarters, they'd decided to blow off some steam and have a pleasant dinner at an expensive restaurant. They had finished off a couple bottles of wine, laughed at the antics of the teen girls back at the Academy, and reminisced about old times before their talk eventually moved onto heavier topics and they'd discussed their nonexistent love lives and the disadvantages of trying to find love while battling the things that go bump in the night. Not wanting the evening to end, they'd headed back to Buffy's flat where they continued to drink as they watched LastTangoinParis,cuddling and caressing each other on the couch. Their inhibitions lowered and the atmosphere highly charged from the titillating film, the couple had found themselves in an extremely compromised position the following morning.
Not wanting to relive the memories yet again, the Head Watcher sighed. A lot had changed in twelve months. Xander now travelled the world, searching for new Slayers. He'd trimmed up and trained relentlessly, transforming himself into quite the fighter despite his handicap, and with those skills came confidence, with confidence, leadership. The boy had finally grown into himself and Giles was immensely proud to call him his right hand man. Willow continued to hone her craft and keep herself balanced, and her understanding of the earth magicks and the connections between the physical world and the magickal one proved invaluable to their cause. She also acted as liaison for the Council to the Coven in Devon and she'd built a relationship of open communication between the two. Dawn was now studying at Stanford. She'd graduated secondary school early despite the rough start she'd had back in Sunnydale, and she excelled in both history and language. If her academic interests held she'd make an outstanding Watcher, but these days she was exploring her artistic side. Dawn needed to experiment and find herself, away from the constant reminders of the strange and the occult. She needed to be a normal teen, doing normal teen... things.
And that brought him back to Buffy. His Slayer. The one he wasn't in love with anymore. His sigh was heavy with regret. After the debauched movie night at her place, they'd woken up awkwardly in her bed. Despite having been quite drunk, he remembered almost everything that had happened. Her small, but perfect breasts, her Californian sun-kissed skin now faded to blend in with her English peers, her scent, slightly spicy yet floral, and, of course, her laugh. And oh how she had laughed with him, open, honest, and happy. He remembered their first kiss. He'd leaned her against the wall before heading up the stairs to her room and she'd looked him in the eye before stating, "I don't want to... complicate... things, Giles." Their lips had been millimeters apart and he was dying to take them, to taste them. Having felt compelled to answer, he'd responded, "You won't," and taken her mouth hungrily, picked her up, and carried her to her bedroom.
He'd put her down on the bed and excused himself to go to the bathroom. His head had swum with the alcohol and he needed to splash water on his face. Looking at himself in the mirror, he'd had a moment of clarity. Bedding his Slayer was a bad idea, but the alcohol had heightened his bravado and, having tamped down common sense, he growled out an "oh fuck it" before rejoining her in her bedroom. And if there had ever been any doubt in his mind, it had been thrown out the window when he re-entered the room to find it lit with candles and Buffy resplendently sprawled out naked on the bed with her arms held out to him, inviting him to join her.
This was the memory had that replayed itself in his dreams every night for the last year. The rest of the night's details were a bit sketchy. He knew what had happened, but it was like watching activity through a strobe light on a club's dance floor, only partially revealed. That which he could remember and see in his minds eye... he stopped. No, he wasn't in love with her anymore.
When he was in her presence, he felt calm. He was over her. He felt none of the things that would indicate that he was still in love with her. But it was the damnable nights, the dreams, the memories when he was alone. The fantasies. God... the fantasies. Maybe he needed to see a shrink. He chuckled in a self-deprecating way. No, he'd never tell anyone about this.
The following morning had been awkward and uncomfortable. They had both been so sick. He'd fared somewhat better, having a higher tolerance for alcohol, but she'd spent the morning visiting the loo so often he'd thought he would have to take her to the infirmary. By the early afternoon, she'd recovered and insisted they go out for a stroll around Green Park. On their walk, they'd kept a six inch boundary between them and talked about everything but the previous evening. When she finally did bring it up, she asked him directly what he wanted. Remembering their small discussion before the kiss he'd bit back his disappointment and said they'd keep things uncomplicated, that they were friends, and he shoved his hands deep in his pockets to refrain from reaching out, pulling her into an embrace, and telling her he loved her and that nothing could possibly be less complicated than that.
"Good," she'd said with some force, and they left the park to grab a late lunch at a pub. He'd be hard pressed to remember which one now. It didn't matter. They both had pushed their food around on their plates, blaming the alcohol for their lack of appetite.
They'd parted ways not long after, but he'd called her the next morning making sure that their friendship was still on solid ground. A few hours later, she'd called him back letting him know of a situation in Denmark with an ice demon. One of their new young Watchers had called in looking for backup in dispatching the beast, and she'd informed Giles that she was leaving that evening, having already booked her tickets.
He hadn't wanted to let her go, hadn't felt sanguine about the whole ordeal. Not the one in Denmark, he knew that to be fairly routine, though it was rather far south for an ice demon - probably a lost juvenile. She'd just have to hunt it down and kill it. No, it was their situation that had had him in turmoil. She'd promised him that they would go out for dinner upon her return, but in the end, she'd invited Willow along and there had been simply no opportunity for them to talk. It had killed him inside. He'd wanted to tell her that he wanted to be with her. Wantedthem to be a couple and hoped she did too. He'd spent her entire week away planning what he would say. A few days later, she'd announced that she was dating Dylan O'Byrne, the very same Watcher who'd been in Denmark and reported the rampaging demon.
By all accounts, she and O'Byrne had had a torrid, if rather brief affair. Giles had stayed out of it and she'd all but ignored him, even professionally. She'd refused to train with him, sat in meetings far away from him, avoided him in the hallways, and only interacted with him when she absolutely had to. It had hurt. All of it still hurt.
When Xander had returned from one of his trips, he'd overheard O'Byrne flaunting his relationship with TheSlayer to his friends in a passageway, talking about her prowess in the bedroom and how he'd been using her to advance his career. Xander hadn't thought twice before beating the young Watcher to a pulp and informing Buffy of the situation. It hadn't been a pretty breakup and O'Byrne opted for assignment in New Zealand, begging the Head Watcher for the transfer beneath sheepish black eyes and sporting a dislocated shoulder. Giles had been all too happy to see him go. It had taken all his control not to thrash his young subordinate within an inch of his life.
Thinking it might heal his heart, Giles had decided to start dating again. She'd moved on, so why shouldn't he? The few women he did see were mostly in their mid to late 30s, brunettes and redheads, he wanted nothing to do with anyone who physically reminded him of his Slayer. The only problem with most of these women was that their goal was to find a man and settle down... and he didn't want to settle down, at least not with them. Periodically he'd find a woman who just wanted to have fun and they'd date for a few weeks before one or the other lost interest.
Over time, Buffy had started talking to him again, more every week. One afternoon, he'd decided to invite her to lunch and she'd agreed. They'd tried to fall back into a camaraderie, but nothing was really easy. Periodically she'd snark at him, or insult him, much in the way she had when he first met her. Giles had tried to keep the peace, biting his tongue, telling himself it was for the best, that it would help get them back on track in the long run. It still hurt having her so close, yet so far out of his reach, but the sting had started to abate. He'd supposed that he was starting to heal... or his heart was scarring over. Either way, it didn't matter anymore.
One afternoon, she'd suggested that they double date, go out for Chinese. Giles hadn't thought it was a good idea, but she'd insisted, wanting him to meet her new beau. The evening had started out innocuously enough, but things had degraded rather quickly when his Slayer had made a blatant sexual reference to their one night stand, using his swordsmanship as a metaphor. Luckily their dates hadn't picked up on it, but the Watcher had thrown her a stern glare, which she'd returned with a smug smile, and he'd excused himself to the men's room in a silent rage. After that experience, he had distanced himself. Whatever her issue was, he was too angry to seek her out and address it with her.
A few weeks later, they'd both stayed after hours following a meeting with some government official and he invited her along for a late dinner. As they were walking out of the building, they ran into Andrew, and Buffy had invited him to join them, much to Giles' consternation. The conversation in the car had been congenial, until he'd started to park the car. While he could not remember the exact conversation, he did remember that she had made a direct comment about his sexual prowess. It had been complimentary, but it was hardly appropriate. Unfortunately, with Andrew in the car, he had to let the matter go. Which he'd done by citing a headache and leaving them there to enjoy dinner without him.
After that disastrous evening the snide comments had stopped altogether and they started to get along better, and as time went by, he found that when he was with her, the ache wasn't there anymore. There was still a part of him that would get giddy when he knew he was going to see her, but when he was withher, he was content in what they had.
He supposed that he could easily fall in love with her again. She was a bit like a drug in that respect, and he an addict, sober for twelve months. He'd had a taste and while the withdrawal symptoms had abated, the unbidden cravings were still there, lurking in the recesses of his mind.
Shaking his head, Giles continued his run down the rabbit hole. It was the evenings alone in his flat, the nights alone in his bed, when he'd return to the night he'd spent with her making love. Hot, erotic images. He'd fantasize, not just about that evening, but of more. Sometimes he'd reconcile with her, talking out their issues, sometimes he'd have wild, angry sex with her, and sometimes, they'd just fall into a routine like couples do. In his fantasies, he was still in love with her. Thankfully, reality was different.
Running his hand through his hair, the disgusted Head Watcher looked down at the folders on his desk. Monthly reports from his directs. Did he really care about expense forms, budgets, demons, and the like? Anything that wasn't an apocalypse seemed trivial these days. He moved towards the window, leaning his forearm against it, staring out over the city. It was a beautiful autumn day. Blue sky. White puffy clouds. Bright sun. No, he didn't care about the work. In fact, he couldn't care less.
"Yeah, I'm feeling rather cooped up as well," Buffy empathized from the doorway.
His back still towards her, he flexed his jaw muscles. Of all the days, today was not the day. He didn't really want to see her today. Why hadn't he just gone home to his cottage in Somerset and taken the rest of the week off?
"I know the perfect place to go, if you want to get away," she offered.
"Buffy, really, now is not the time," Giles protested, keeping his voice steady. "I have to compile the reports and distribute them, there's the quarterly meeting with the Board to prepare for, and-"
"I'm not taking no for an answer, Giles, the car is packed and ready to go. Xander and Willow have worked with Ms. Lynch to clear your calendar, and you and I are getting out of here."
He stared at her in shock. She was determined, her body language set, and he figured if he didn't follow directions, she'd knock him on his arse and drag him out.
Looking nonplussed, he ground out, "Fine."
"If you still have a change of civilian clothes here, I suggest you get comfy. A three piece Armani suit is a beautiful thing, but utterly wasted where we are headed."
He glared at her for effect. Of course he had changes of clothes here, everything from jeans and jumpers to sport gear to his specially tailored business suits, and she knew it.
"Get changed then," she commanded with a secretive little smile. "I'll be back in five minutes."
Watching the door close behind her, the Watcher was more than just a little irritated that she could waltz into his office and assume he would drop everything for her. Of course he always did, and that irritated him even more.
He slowly undressed, hung his suit in the armoire in the corner of the room, and pulled out a pair of faded blue jeans, a grey t-shirt and a soft green sweater. Having slipped on his jeans, he sat down to put on his boots. Once they were laced up, he leaned forward with his head in his hands trying to push back the inevitable headache that was attempting to invade his skull.
Standing up, he walked over to the bar in his office, pulled out a bottle of water from his minifridge, and grabbed some pain pills from the cabinet above. After he swallowed the pills, the door to his office swung open and Buffy walked in.
"You ready to go... Giles?" the impatient Slayer asked, noticing the Head Watcher's state of undress.
Giles stood there in only his boots and jeans buttoned up part way, holding a water bottle and staring at her as she settled her eyes on his wide chest and letting her eyes wander lower before snapping them up to meet his. They kept their eyes locked onto the other's for what seemed like an eternity before Giles cleared his throat.
"I... uh... Sorry, it's... been five minutes," she explained, blushing. "I'll... uh..."
Sighing, the disgruntled Englishman turned and finished buttoning his jeans. "Just have a seat. I'll be ready in a moment." Trying to be conversational, he asked, "So where are we headed?"
Buffy flopped down on the big comfy couch. "All you need to know is that we are playing hooky. Willow has rerouted all calls to our mobile phones to hers and Xander's and they'll only forward calls of the apocalypse-y kind to us."
Giles pulled the moss colored sweater down over his t-shirt. Trying to conceal his annoyance, he started, "Buffy, really, I need to stay and get some work done. Perhaps we can arrange to have dinner early next week."
"Giles, your schedule has been cleared. Xander is going to handle the reports, and the board meeting isn't for another couple of weeks. Now, let's go." Her voice held firm and he sighed in resignation.
The Watcher picked up his leather duffle bag with his weapons in it and followed her out to the car, sending fiery glares to two very smug Scoobies as they passed them in the lobby.
"Have a good time, G-man!" Xander called after him.
Giles sat down in the passenger seat of her shiny new metallic blue Audi Quattro Sport TT convertible sports car and set his bag between his feet. Running his hand through his hair, he let out a frustrated breath. Surprisingly, Buffy had taken to driving on the left side of the road much better than the right. He wasn't exactly sure why, but he was rather thankful for it. He still wasn't exactly comfortable however, navigating through the city was a tricky prospect even for the most talented of drivers. The thing that made this even worse was that he knew she wouldn't let him get behind the wheel barring an emergency. She was proud of her little car, having bought it with her own money, and she loved to drive it.
"Belt up, Giles."
It took them only twenty minutes to get out of London thanks to normal city traffic conditions. Buffy concentrated on driving and Giles kept to himself, looking out the passenger side window. Before they hit the M20, the spirited blonde pulled over and dropped the top, wanting to enjoy the freedom that came with driving at speed. Once they entered the motorway, she was able to put the pedal to the metal and Giles traded his regular glasses for his grey tinted shades. They didn't completely hide his eyes, but they protected him in more ways than one.
Turning his attention to her, he asked, "We're obviously heading east, care to tell me where we are going now?"
"Nope. It's a surprise, Giles, relax. You'll like it. Besides, you'll love the cottage we're staying at. Great views-"
"What?" Giles asked, his voice incredulous. "Listen, Buffy, we can go to wherever it is that you are planning for the day, but-"
"Look, we're both in need of some time off, and I'm tired of us not being... us anymore."
"And you thought kidnapping me for a few days would help?"
"No, I didn't. That was Will and Xander's idea. They are tired of it too, and cornered me. Willow still has a killer resolve face by the way. I thought dinner might be reasonable, but they suggested neutral ground and time for us to settle our issues. I just chose the destination."
"I haven't any changes of clothes or a toiletries bag," he protested, though he wasn't sure why. Nothing was changing this outcome.
"Xander packed for you, your overnight bag and kit are in the trunk."
"Boot," the cranky Englishman muttered under his breath.
Twelve months. She'd pushed him out of her life for an entire year and he still wasn't in charge of his own life where she was concerned. Unbelievable. He settled down into the seat and closed himself off, feeling the wind in his hair as he watched the countryside speed by.
When they whizzed through the roundabout and took the exit for Capel-le-Ferne, Giles sat up a little straighter and looked over at Buffy with a quizzical look. She gave him a nod and a small smile and he answered her with a wide toothy grin of his own. They were heading to the Battle of Britain Memorial. Hurricanes. Spitfires. Other warplanes too, but they didn't capture little boys' imaginations like the previous two. Brave fighter pilots. Pushing back the Luftwaffe. British heroism. A true David and Goliath Story. Good stuff. The inner ten-year-old in him buzzed with excitement.
As they entered the memorial, the Watcher closed his eyes and let the rest of his senses take over. The winds blowing off the Channel mussed his hair and he tasted the salt lingering in the air. The sweet fragrance of freshly cut grass invaded his nose and he felt a sense of calm surge through him. Hallowed ground. Peace. When she slipped her hand in his, not as a lover with fingers interlaced but that of a friend, palm to palm, her fingers wrapped around his hand, he opened his eyes and found her forest green ones.
"Ready?" Buffy asked quietly.
He nodded and they walked down to the wall that held the names of all those who took part in the battle. Strong English names, and other nationalities represented as well, allies from around the world flying under the Union Jack. Buffy's lips twitched and she stifled a laugh, not wanting to be disrespectful, pointing to a name etched into the marble. W.F.Blackadder. Giles squeezed her hand, the laughter in his eyes shining through his sunglasses as she whispered, "'I have a cunning plan,'" both having enjoyed the Rowan Atkinson comedy series.
Afterwards, they walked to the center of the memorial to the statue of a pilot sitting with his arms over his bent knees, facing France, from which the invasion was staged. Wreaths had been laid about the base in memory and honor. Letting go of her hand, Giles marched up the embankment, over to the edge of the memorial grounds and into the tall grass, standing high above the shore on the iconic chalky white cliffs, Dover to the East. The wind had picked up and he surveyed his surroundings and gazed out over the Channel imagining the dog fighting. The roar of the engines, the clipping staccato of gun bursts, the acrid smell of sulfur and burning oil, the high pitched buzzing of plummeting aircraft, and the shockwaves reverberating through one's body when they exploded. The sheer chaos of war. He'd read several accounts of the days of conflict, accounts from both sides. The enemy had been so many and the young pilots so few, but they'd won.
"Hellfire Corner," Buffy mentioned softly, coming up on his right, not wanting to startle him.
Giles was surprised. Buffy hadn't shown interest in history before, but he supposed she'd read up on the place. "Quite something. I've never visited here before."
"Turn around," she requested.
He did as instructed and was able to see the layout of the memorial. It was in the shape of a propeller. He'd known it was from seeing pictures of it, but it was quite something to see in person. It was a beautiful tribute.
They sat down on the ground facing the Channel, keeping to themselves, when Buffy took in a deep breath and said, "I know what today is, Giles."
His posture stiffened and he held himself still, keeping his focus straight ahead. "Thursday," he deflected.
She let out a shaky chuckle, "Come on. I know most men are bad with dates, but you were never one of them and yeah, we were drunk, but not enough to lose our memories. It's sort of our anniversary."
As if he could forget. Ever. Her choice of words was insensitive at best, insulting at worst, and from her behavior over the past year, he surmised that she was throwing another barb his direction. He couldn't remember a time in their association where he was more furious with her. Disappointed, yes. Angry, no.
Closing his eyes and pulling his knees up to his chest, the emotional Watcher muttered acerbically, "I'm sorry I forgot the flowers."
"Please what, Buffy?"
"I want to talk."
"By all means, please do."
"I...I'm not sure where to begin," her voice trailed off. He stayed quiet, hoping she would continue, fearing it as well. "I think we might have... I don't know."
He turned his head to face her, cheek resting against his knees, his hard jade eyes penetrating her soul. "Shall I begin then?" he asked, not waiting for an answer. "Twelve months... twelve miserably painful months. I tried to reach out, to talk, only to be rebuffed, ignored, and at times, made an object of ridicule, not just in front of our friends and acquaintances, but also strangers, people we were trying to impress."
Giles hadn't meant for it to just come spewing out of him like that, it just did. He couldn't hold back any longer, it had all just festered inside him. She'd treated him shabbily and he'd just had enough. He really had nothing to lose anymore, either she'd flee at his upcoming confession, or she would understand.
"You ran. To Denmark. Any Slayer could have tracked down and killed that demon, and yet you felt the need to do it yourself, leaving a huge chasm between us, only to return refusing to talk to me and bringing back a new lover."
Buffy looked as though she was going to interrupt and Giles shook his head, "No, I get to talk now. I have taken your barbs and jabs and walked away without saying anything for far too long. Now it is my turn." His contrite Slayer acquiesced, and gave him her full attention. "I was scared, Buffy. I wish things could've turned out differently for us, but I didn't know what you wanted. Christ, I was so in love with you. I tried to reach out to you, to tell you how I felt, but apparently it didn't matter, you'd moved on and clearly had never felt the same."
"You were in love with me?" Buffy asked wide eyed.
Heaving a sigh, Giles pushed the breath out of his lungs and looked out over the water. "Yes. You needn't worry about that. I'm... I'm not... anymore."
"I'll be honest, Buffy. I can't keep doing this... hanging on... hoping for a scrap of attention... for some respect. If for nothing else, than for my position within the organization." Turning his attention back to her, he continued, "Either we are friends or we're not. If it's to be just colleagues, then let me know, but we need to move on without the underlying vitriol."
Buffy held his eyes for a moment, hers wide and filled with sorrow. "Giles, I really am so-"
Unable to take anymore and needing to get away, he abruptly excused himself, mustering all the formality he could find, "Forgive me. At this point, I am disinclined to chat more about this. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a look at the fighter planes." He stood up, wiped the dirt and grass from his jeans and started to walk towards the replicas of the Hurricane and the Spitfire.
Her voice was small and tinged with sadness, "If it's any consolation, Giles, I've been hurting too."
Giles stopped his progress. Turning slightly, he answered, "No, it doesn't console me, Buffy. Since the moment we met, I've been trying to make your life easier for you, up to and including this last year." His shoulders slumped in resignation and he looked towards the statue in the middle of the memorial, "But it seems that you would prefer to put your trust in anybody but me, and as usual, give your heart to anybody but me. I'd hoped..." Looking down, he shoved his hands into his pockets, shrugged, and walked off towards the fighters, leaving her there.
The Watcher took his time surveying the fighter planes. He definitely felt better for having confronted his Slayer. Perhaps now there would be some resolution. The constant flux had tied him in knots and that, mixed with his feelings, had had him on edge for far too long. No matter which way she would decide to jump, at least it was out there after all this time.
Catching her movements out of the corner of his eye, Giles noticed Buffy over by the Hawker Hurricane, examining the plane from nose to tail with great interest and periodically leafing through a pamphlet. He half expected her to be back at her car sulking and getting ready to drag him from the premise by the collar to have it out. He could tell by her demeanor that she was upset, but she was also genuinely interested in the aircraft. If she noticed him she didn't let it show as she continued her study of the plane.
He returned his attentions to the Spitfire, examining the smallest of details and committing them to memory. He'd been nine when he'd last been close to one, his father having taken him to an air show. As he rounded the nose, he collided with his Slayer and caused her to drop her leaflet.
"My apologies," Giles offered, bending down to pick up the brochure and hitting his head on the underside of the fuselage before handing it back to her.
"Thanks," Buffy responded, taking it from him. "Are you okay?"
"Uh, yes. It only smarts a little," he answered slightly embarrassed, rubbing the back of his head. "I'm fairly used to it by now."
"Well, you are rather tall. Mind your head, okay, Ace?" she teased, winking at him and giving him a small smile before continuing her examination of the Spitfire.
Giles was rather perplexed but let it go, giving her a nod as she passed by. He supposed she was being polite and not wishing to interrupt him. A little while later he stood on the grass admiring the two planes when Buffy strolled up to him.
"How's your head?" she asked with concern.
"No residual damage. I'll live."
"Glad to hear it. They are both amazing replicas," she commented, making conversation. "Which fighter is your favorite?"
"The Spitfire, of course. More maneuverability, sleeker lines, faster rate of climb and much faster overall. The Hurricane was more rugged, could take more damage, almost had as good of a turning radius as its counterpart, but those extra 40 to 50 miles per hour the Spitfire had made quite a difference," he answered automatically, a shy, boyish grin creeping over his face as he looked down at his feet. He knew these machines inside and out, had made countless models of them, and had drawn them repeatedly in his diaries over his lifetime.
"The Spitfire is definitely the sexier of the two," Buffy agreed. "Hi, I'm Anne," she introduced as she held out her hand.
Giles cocked his head to the side in question but took her hand and shook it, introducing himself, "Iain Peter. Iain. It's nice to meet you, Anne."
"Iain Peter," Buffy repeated with a shy smile. "What brings you out here today?"
"I... I have a friend who decided we needed a day out," the warplane enthusiast replied. Thinking on it, it had been a wonderful gesture. "She remembered that I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was a little boy. It was quite thoughtful of her, really. And you?"
"Ah, you know, I've been reading up on my World War II history since I'm living in London now. So much history to catch up on, but I figured I would start with the closest defining event to my time. That and I also have a friend who wanted to be a fighter pilot when he was little. Unfortunately he got stuck having to support the business his family was in."
That was a simple way of putting it. Of course it neglected destiny and all that, but she was simplifying things at the moment, stripping away the excess baggage. Clever girl.
"Can I buy you a cup of tea or coffee? But I'll warn ya, I only saw those horrible mass produced teabags at the kiosk and my English friend would rather drink motor oil than that stuff."
Giles shuddered. "Coffee is fine, thank you."
They walked over to the canteen where she bought them both cups of coffee. Once they'd added milk and sugar, they roamed the grounds again, Buffy showing off her knowledge of the campaign, demonstrating her understanding of the tactics involved as they discussed various aspects of the battle and it's significance to the war overall. Giles was truly impressed and remarked on his companion's knowledge.
"It's all so fascinating, I mean, I've only ever gotten the story from when us Yanks came in and added our muscle to the fight... you know, D-Day, the liberation of Europe, V-J Day, the Nuremberg Trials and how they led to the Cold War and Vietnam. And I'm pretty sure that's where my high school history book ended."
"That is rather a truncated version," Giles agreed as they walked back towards their outlook over the cliffs.
"Yeah. You know, I really enjoy history, although I think I prefer military history."
That made sense to the Watcher in him. She was a brilliant tactician, if a bit unconventional, but it worked in her favor. Much like her strategy now. She'd gotten them on speaking terms again.
"I don't know, Anne, military history is a bit razzle-dazzle," Giles argued to continue the conversation, "I prefer the more holistic approach. What makes a population tick and evolve the way it does? Certainly war shapes a society, but what brought them to that point? Take for example the Battle of Britain. Why was Britain able to stop the German War Machine from advancing onto her shores? If one looks at the technology and sheer numbers alone, Hitler wins every time, but somehow, we beat them back, made them change tactics. How? Not all strategy, surely. Home field advantage? Expertise? There's more to it than that."
"Ah, you're 'Knowledge Guy.' Always seeking to know the why's and the how's. My friend is like that." She sat down in the grass, sadness creeping into her voice, "He's saved my sorry butt on many occasions."
Taking a seat next to her, Giles replied, "I suppose you are 'Action Girl' to his 'Knowledge Guy,' then."
"At one time, but he's also seen more than his fair share of the action," she mused, watching the seagulls soar on the currents before continuing, "We've had a bit of a row, as you English-types might say."
"Ah, and so this trip with him? Here?"
"I don't know, Iain, it hasn't worked out in reality as it did in my head. I think maybe there is too much baggage. Too much to overcome." Buffy turned to face him. "Maybe he would've become a fighter pilot if it weren't for me."
Giles held her eyes, his expression softening. "You can't blame yourself for familial expectations, Anne. I'll let you in on a little secret, perhaps it is true of your friend as well. Whilst I wanted to be a fighter pilot, I also wanted to be an explorer and a grocer and a rugby player. Sadly, I'm a bureaucrat. All little boys have their fantasies. Most grow up and end up cogs in a machine."
Focusing on a fixed point in the distance, Buffy countered, "Not my Giles. Despite all the hardships he's faced and how people have tried to mould him into something he's not, he's proven himself time and again and is now head of our organization."
He heard the pride in her voice as she talked about him, but it was the possessive adjective that caused the butterflies in his belly to flip. He tried to suppress the sensation. He was over her, wasn't he? He'd gone several months without having those types of feelings, experiencing that type of reaction around her.
"He told me he... he was in love with me," she said, pulling up her knees and hugging them to her chest.
Giles swallowed nervously, searching for a way to respond. "I imagine most men would be. You're highly intelligent, quite engaging, extremely lovely, and you think of others-"
"That's where you're wrong, Iain Peter," Buffy interrupted. "I haven't thought of him. I only thought about my own pain. I pushed him away, hoping it would dull the ache, and when he'd reach out to try to make things better, I punished him for it, for all of it. I didn't see how much I'd hurt him, over and over and over again. He's the one thing in my life that makes sense and I screwed it up because we wanted different things and I couldn't deal."
Reaching out, Giles put an arm around her shoulders, and drew her close to him. "I am sure he's an understanding fellow, and he's not the first man to fall in love with someone who didn't return his feelings."
"Well, you want to know the irony, Iain?" She laughed, but there was no mirth behind it. "The irony is that I've been in love with him for years, and now he's not in love with me anymore. I lashed out and hurt him one time too many... make that many times too many."
He held himself very still and his breathing became shallow, as though he had been punched in the gut. If that had been so, why had she run? Why the avoidance? Oh, the tragic irony! He felt her start to convulse and it shook him out of his daze. When he looked down at her, he saw the tears flow down her cheeks.
Taking a deep breath and willing his own tears away, he lifted her chin with his left index finger, searched her watery green eyes, and in a very shaky voice suggested, "Perhaps you could try to persuade him."
"Do you think that would help?" Buffy asked quietly, breaking his gaze and leaning in towards him, her mouth now only a few centimeters from his.
"It couldn't hurt," he whispered, looking down at her lips as her tongue peaked out to wet them.
She raised a hand to caress his cheek, and when their mouths were just a hair's breadth apart, she declared huskily, "I love you Rupert Iain Peter Giles," crushing her lips to his in a desperate kiss.
Giles responded tentatively at first, fear holding him back. Fear that he would find that he was still in love with her, and fighting an even more terrifying dread that he wasn't. When her tongue invaded his mouth, he felt every nerve ending in his body come alive and he knew, without hesitation, that he was still hers body and soul.
Their tongues mated, and ignited by passion he took possession of the kiss, deepening it, tasting her, and allowing a single tear to spill from his lashes. For the first time in a year his heart felt whole, but everything within him screamed at him to regroup and protect it. He'd spent so long sealing the cracks and building walls, and now he was undone again.
When he ended their kiss abruptly, she looked up at him in confusion. Giles focused his gaze to the East where the sky started to darken, indicating the lateness of the hour. A thousand different questions surfaced in his mind and yet, he remained speechless.
Buffy's nerves got the better of her, "I... uh... guess, that wasn't what you meant, huh?"
He wasn't ready to face her just yet, the emotions too raw and he worked his jaw muscles in an effort to get them under control. He could hear the occasional hitch in her breathing.
"I need to know why, Buffy," he managed, as he feverishly ran his left hand through his hair several times before taking off his sunglass and hanging them from his v-neck collar.
"Why... I love you?"
He shook his head, "Why you did the things you did. Why you wouldn't face me, talk to me. O'Byrne. The sarcasm, the blatant attacks, all of it."
Her mouth tightened as though she were about to fight, but she let out a tiny sigh and looked at him with wide, sorrowful eyes.
"I thought you didn't want me, Giles, and it hurt so damn much. I had to get away. I wanted to show you that I could get on with my life. That I was okay with the way things had turned out. I thought if I could distance myself from you, I could manage, but the only way to do that was to push you away. Dylan O'Byrne seemed like a nice guy, but it turned out he really wasn't. As time went on, I realized I couldn't do it anymore. I need you. Even if it's just as a friend and no matter how much my heart breaks when I see you. I miss you so much."
Drawing a knee up to his chin, he placed his forehead against it, unable to respond.
Buffy placed a hand on his arm and entreated, "Please, Giles, if you loved me, why didn't you say so? Why did you let me go when I asked you what wanted that day in the park?"
"Because, it's what you wanted of me. You asked me not to complicate our lives. You were the one who wanted the status quo. When I'd realized that it wasn't something with which I could comply, I tried to tell you that I loved you, but you'd already decided that I had nothing worth listening to."
Bowing her head and taking a moment to contemplate the long sea grass, the dispirited blonde admitted, "That wasn't howI meant it. I just didn't want you to overanalyze what was happening between us. God, Giles! How is it that we could get this so wrong?"
He reeled at this revelation. Buffy had thought hehad rejected her. It explained so much. Perhaps if he had looked past his own pain over the past year he would've seen hers, her behavior very reminiscent to that of her first year in college when she felt abandoned by him after finding him with Olivia. He mentally kicked himself.
Reaching out, Giles pulled her into an embrace, "I am so sorry, Buffy." He kissed her temple as she settled into his arms and then took in a ragged breath to answer her question, "Perhaps we were so afraid of losing the other again, we inadvertently pushed the other away. That, or we were so profoundly drunk and hungover that our wires were naturally crossed."
Buffy gave him a squeeze and wiped away some errant tears. "There's probably a lot of truth in both."
He nodded in agreement and she rested her head against his shoulder. The breeze off the Channel grew cooler and stronger as the sun started to set. When she shivered, he drew her closer to him and she nestled herself against him. They enjoyed a few more minutes in each others arms before the Watcher checked the time.
"We should probably take our leave. I imagine they will be shutting the gate soon," Giles mentioned as he let go of her and stood up. Offering her a hand, he pulled her up, and she placed her hands on his chest to steady herself.
Buffy looked up into his pale green eyes, gathering the courage she needed before finally asking, "Before we go, what does this mean for us? Can you love me again, Giles?"
Bringing his hand up, he lightly stroked her cheekbone with his thumb and searched her dark green eyes before leaning down and lightly brushing his lips against hers. She slid her hands up and around his neck, the fingers of one hand continuing the path up into the soft hair on the back of his head to pull him closer as she responded eagerly. When the kiss ended he rested his forehead against hers, cradling her head between his large hands.
"Apparently, I'd never stopped," he breathed, his emotions surfacing as he fought to keep his voice steady.
Relief flooded her face and she tightened her embrace around him. "Thank God!"
As they held each other, a sense of serenity befell him. It had been a year since he felt something akin to it, though it seemed like an eternity, and he was loathe to pull away from her. Time was pressing on, however, and he slipped an arm around her shoulder, leading her down the path and feeling contentment through to his soul when she wrapped her arm around his waist. Before they headed back towards the car park, they stopped by the Memorial Wall.
"It's more impressive coming back," Buffy said with awe, running her fingers across several names carved into the black marble. "You look up at the sky and over the channel knowing there is an onslaught coming, and it was just these guys who pushed the Nazi's back."
Giles nodded, a smile playing on his lips. "'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.'" he quoted softly, placing his hands on her shoulders.
"Churchill," she answered, pulling his arms down over her and drawing him closer.
"Just so," the proud Englishman confirmed, settling his chin on her shoulder.
"British resolve and unrelenting spirit. The catalysts that won the battle and helped win the war. I've seen it in you so much over the years."
"That spirit is in you too," he said and she turned her shoulders and head to look up at him with an incredulous grin and a raised eyebrow. "Alright, not exactly the same. More American, very brash and full of bravado."
"But I could back it up, just like our men in uniform back then."
"Yes, you could. Still can."
"Don't forget it!"
"Never!" he declared fiercely as he hugged her closer to him, standing straighter so her body pressed flush against his, reinforcing the reality that they were together. Finally. "Thank you, Buffy."
"What for?" she asked, turning around in his embrace.
"For bringing me here. For giving us a second chance."
"Told ya you'd like it," Buffy teased, nipping at his chin.
Giles gave her a chaste kiss before replying, "So you did. Shall we be off?" he asked, letting her go and lacing his fingers with hers.
They walked for a few paces more before she let go of his hand and stopped to lightly trace the outline of one of the fighter planes etched in the marble with her finger, her demeanor serious and full of respect.
The pensive Slayer looked back at her Watcher and stated, "My favorite is the Hurricane."
Giles met her gaze and raised an eyebrow. "Why is that, my love?"
Buffy smiled at the endearment and they resumed their walk towards the exit.
"Well, while it's an older design and a bit clunkier than the more streamlined Spitfire, it's still one hell of a good looking plane. It also inflicted some massive damage when facing the enemy and could withstand some major pounding," she explained, mischief dancing in her eyes.
The beguiled Brit returned her smile, "Ah, but the Spitfire is so much more agile in its movements than her counterpart. Just a beautiful fighter."
"We're both talking about more than just the planes now, right?" the amused Slayer queried.
"I wasn't," Giles responded with a wink, only to take a glancing blow to his shoulder. "Ow!"
"Faker," she admonished playfully, taking his hand and pulling him along the walkway towards the car park, walking backwards for a few paces until he caught up with her.
When the contented couple reached the sports car, Buffy took both his hands in hers, her expression earnest. Giles cocked his head to the side, his brow furrowed with concern.
She blew out a breath, "Okay, here goes. I want to be perfectly clear so there are no misunderstandings this time." Cupping his cheek, she bit her lip and declared, "This is forever for me, Giles."
He gave her a roguish grin. "And by forever you mean...?"
"You and me. Forever. Having no end. You got it?" she challenged, raising her voice with authority and placing her hands on her hips for effect.
"Yes, I'm rather sure I've got it," Giles assured her as he stepped closer, wrapping one arm around her and trailing the fingers of his free hand along her collarbone as he lowered his head towards hers. Looking into her expressive eyes, he murmured, "Forever is a long time."
Trembling beneath his touch, her mouth millimeters from his, she breathed, "I'm counting on it."
"As am I," Giles responded before capturing her lips with his, losing himself in the sheer joy of kissing the woman he loved above all things and finding the peace he had been searching for over the past year, fully understanding now that it could only be with her.
A/N: There actually was a William Francis Blackadder who flew during the war and saw combat in the Battle of Britain. He was made an OBE in 1945 and continued to serve in the RAF until 1951. He died in 1997.