“You’re a million miles away. Did you hear anything I just said?”
“I’m sorry, Riley, I was just thinking.”
“I get that. Are you okay?”
“Yeah. What were you saying?”
“There’s a movie playing tonight. I thought maybe we could go. The group of us.”
“That sounds like a great idea.”
It would be nice to spend some time with everyone. She’d been kind of slacking in that area lately. Her thoughts went to Giles, though, and how lost he’d seemed when she went to visit him earlier. She hated the idea that she’d caused it somehow. That he felt she’d betrayed him. She’d never do that, at least not intentionally.
“I don’t think I can tonight, though.”
“Oh? Something going on?”
“No, I should visit Giles.”
“Giles. Uh, okay. Why? Didn't you see him earlier? I thought everything was square.”
“Because I’ve been kind of blowing him off lately.”
“So? It’s not like he’s your friend."
"Uh, he's not?"
"Well, no, I mean of course he is. Just not like Willow or Xander are. I’m sure he doesn’t care, Buffy.”
She frowned. Was that really how he thought? Sure Giles was older than them, but that didn't mean she should disrespect him. Blow him off because some hottie wanted her to see a movie. The freebie movies were always ones she'd seen a hundred times before: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Citizen Kane. Who made a movie about a freaking sled anyway?
“Well, but he does.”
Riley didn’t understand their relationship. The way it worked. He was more than just her watcher. There was a bond between them. She sometimes thought they knew one another better than anyone. Wasn’t that how she recognized him? Oh, she’d claimed it was the annoyed look in his eyes, but there was more to it than that. No one looked at her the way he did. Like she was the world. She’d know him anywhere. Hadn’t she proved that?
“Come on, Buffy, he won’t care if we see a movie.”
“But I care. He was really hurt, Riley. I was so busy I didn’t tell him stuff.”
“You can’t be expected to tell him everything.”
“Yeah I can, that’s how it works. I don’t always like it, but not telling him stuff usually gets me in trouble.”
“Well, I’ll come with you. We can catch the movie when you're done then.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Why not? Don't you want to see a movie with me?”
“Sure I do. And I don’t know why, I just don’t think it would be a good idea.” She felt a little weird telling him the truth, like she was betraying Giles’ confidence somehow. So what if he didn’t like Professor Walsh? That really wasn’t the issue right now anyway.
“I’m sure he’ll come around.”
“I’m not going to make him uncomfortable, Riley. I almost killed him. The least I can do is hang with him for a little bit. This is a part of who I am. He’s important to me.”
“Settle down, Buffy, I get that.”
“I’m not sure you do.”
She wasn’t entirely sure she got it. There had been a moment looking in the Fyarl demon’s eyes when something inside of her had clicked. It was as if a switch had been thrown. Things weren’t entirely clear yet, she just knew that she had to start making more of an effort to let Giles know he meant something to her.
“I do. He’s like a father to you.”
“No, Riley, I have a father.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I was just looking forward to a quiet night.”
“I don’t get many of those, Riley. If I get done early I’ll meet you there. Go ahead, have some popcorn for me.”
“You wouldn’t mind?”
“Not at all. We’re not Siamese twins. I’ll see you tomorrow if not later.”
“All right. Tell Giles I said hello.”
She accepted his quick kiss without returning it. She wasn’t comfortable with the whole thing yet. Maybe that should tell her something.
Walking to Giles’ house, she thought of the emotions she’d felt when she realized the demon she was about to kill was him. Other than being relieved that Ethan Rayne was finally somewhere he wouldn’t be able to hurt them anymore her feelings were a jumbled mess.
She’d had thoughts about Giles from the very beginning. Thoughts like that. He was a nice looking guy, even at sixteen she could appreciate that. Four years later, she appreciated it more. She had a feeling underneath those glasses and the tweed he was something to be reckoned with. He’d earned the nickname Ripper somehow. And there had to be a reason Ethan kept coming back for him. Right?
“Right,” she muttered to herself as she prepared to enter his house.
She took a minute to smooth out her skirt and run her fingers through her hair, stopping once she realized what she was doing.
“Get over yourself, Buffy.”
Just about to knock on his door she noticed a rose coming into bloom on a neighbor's rosebush just the other side of the courtyard. It was a nice shade of pink. She glanced at the rose, then to Giles' door, and back to the rose, nibbling on her lower lip. He'd know she'd stolen, err taken, it without asking. But it was the thought that counted. Wasn't it? She wondered if he'd ever gotten flowers from someone. If so, when? Who? Had Jenny gotten to that step? She remembered the house being full of rose petals the night Jenny died. How excited he must have been to come home to such a setting. It still made her wretch today, thinking of that time.
Those thoughts made her decision for her, she walked to the small garden his neighbor had. From what Giles said the woman spent a lot of time here. She supposed that should give her pause, make her feel guilty, but as she took hold of and broke it off she just didn't feel that. She was kind of excited actually. She was giving Giles something. It wasn't huge, but it was the thought that counted. Or so she'd always been told.
She knocked, surprised when he answered right away. He seemed surprised to see her. Was he expecting someone else?
"Buffy. Did you forget something?"
"I, no, I came to see you."
"Oh, right. That's nice of you."
"Were you leaving?"
"Well, you answered the door right away."
"Oh, no, actually I ordered some dinner. I was about to open the door to see if they'd arrived yet. They get confused in the courtyard sometimes, which unit is mine."
"Ohhh," she said. That made sense. "What did you order?"
"No way. You eat pizza?"
"Yes, of course I do." He frowned at her. "What makes you think I wouldn't eat pizza?"
"I don't know. It just doesn't seem very British."
"They have pizza in London."
"I'll take your word for it." She stood there for a minute, waiting, expecting him to invite her in. "So, can I come in?" He didn't offer and since it didn't seem like he was waiting for someone else. And why did that bother her that he might have been expecting someone else?
"Oh, yes, please," he said, stepping aside enough for her to get past him. She wasn't sure he'd even really noticed her yet, he was still focused on looking for the delivery guy.
"I, uh, this is for you," she said, holding out the rose. It was going to be a pretty one. She didn't know much about flowers or how they worked, but she had a fondness for roses so she was pretty good at noting which ones would open big and wide.
"Yes, I realize pink isn't exactly your color, but I thought it was pretty."
"Buffy, you don't need to get me flowers."
"I don't need to do a lot of things, but I do them anyway. This wasn't a tough thing to do. It was pretty easy in fact. And the look in your eyes tells me that you don't get roses very often."
"No, not very often. In fact, I can't recall."
"Well, see, now you can! Today is the day."
"I suppose I should find something to put it in."
"That would be good."
"All right, watch for the delivery boy, won't you?"
"Sure. Do you have money?"
"That stuff you use to pay for the hot and yummy pizza?"
"Oh, right, sorry, here," he said, handing her a check. "No change necessary. I'll be right back."
"Okay," she said, resuming his position at the doorway. Sure enough, the delivery guy walked down the stairs leading to the courtyard and looked around as if lost.
"I think that's for us," she said.
"Yes, thanks, it's confusing in here."
"I get that." She handed him the check as he handed Buffy the pizza. "Thanks."
"Have a good night."
She shut the door, taking the large box to the kitchen where she found Giles fiddling with the rose.
"What are you doing?"
"I was just looking at it."
"You've never seen a rose before?"
"I can't say I've been on the receiving end of one from an attractive woman before, no."
"Giles, are you drunk?"
"No. Why would you think that?"
"An attractive woman?"
"You are at that, Buffy. I don't need to be drunk to speak the truth."
"Huh," she said. What was she supposed to say to that? Giles didn't throw around compliments like they were pennies. For lack of an idea, she chose to open the box to see what he had ordered. "Garbage pizza."
"Yes, a weakness of mine. Would you like to stay and have some? As you can see I ordered a large, so there's more than enough."
"All right. You know where things are."
While she got plates and glasses out for them, he managed to find a glass high and thin enough to house the rose.
"It's not a vase, but it'll do," he said, setting the rose on the desk in his living room.
"It looks great, Giles. Who needs vases anyway?"
"Oh, I agree. It's just I should have something to properly display your gift."
"Giles. It's no big."
God, he was getting like this over a rose? What did that say about her that she didn't notice that Giles might need stuff, too?
"You're right. I just, bachelors don't have much use for vases I suppose."
"Mm, I suppose you're right. Mom has several, so maybe it's a female thing. Either that or my dad screwed up enough times he had to keep bringing my mom flowers."
Giles chuckled as they walked to the living room. She had the pizza with the plates on top of the box. He carried the glasses with soda in them. She hoped he wasn't choosing soda for her benefit. She didn't care if he wanted a beer or something.
"So, what brings you here?" They were settled on the couch now, the pizza box on the desk behind them. He opened it as he asked the question, sending the fresh scent of pizza goodness into the air. Her stomach growled and she realized she hadn't eaten in a while.
"I told you, I just came to see you."
"No plans with Riley?"
"He asked me to go see a movie."
"I chose to come here instead."
"Yeah, he was a little baffled I think."
"Well, you have been seeing quite a bit of him. I could see why he might feel that way."
"I'm just not so sure it's going to work."
"Well, if that's the case, it's best to realize it now before you get too involved."
"That's kind of what I was thinking."
"Is there something wrong with him?"
"Well, no, not exactly. It's," she shrugged, taking a bite of her slice. The cheese was perfect. Hot and stringy, so she had to break its connection with the slice. "Mm, this is good," she said mid-chew.
He chuckled. "Yes, it's the best I've found."
"Anyway," she said, continuing. "I think it's me, really. I just, I'm not all jazzed up about him. He's nice, smart, and cute and he's got the knowledge of monsters going for him."
"Yes, those are all important things I guess."
"So, what does it say that I wanted to come here and spend time with you over him?"
"I don't know."
"Me neither." She took another bite, pondering that. "You know, I knew it was you."
"Yes, obviously, as I'm still alive and breathing."
"No, I mean, I knew it was you. I looked into your eyes. And why did you still have your eyes by the way? That was just spooky once I figured out it was you. Anyway, I looked and I knew. And I freaked out at how close I came to killing you."
"No more than I did, I assure you."
"It's because I know you."
"Well, of course you know me."
"No, I know you, Giles. I don't think I could have looked into the demons eyes if it had been Riley, or even Angel, and known."
"Really?" He sounded genuinely surprised, and a little hopeful.
"Yes, really." She took another bite. "What would you be doing if I hadn't come?"
"About what I'm doing now, just alone."
"Beer? TV? Music?"
"A glass of wine perhaps and, yes, I imagine I would have seen what was on the tele. I watch more than I should, too much time on my hands."
"Well, let's turn it on and see what our options are. And as far as that job thing. You know, I heard tell that the library on campus is hiring."
"Yeah, believe it or not I set foot in it once in a while. Because professors assign like reading and stuff that requires me to check out books."
"You poor thing. It must be awful."
"I know, it is," she said with a pout that turned quickly into a smile.
"I'll look into that tomorrow then. I can't say I'd be opposed to library work when the students actually utilize my services."
"I thought it might be something you were interested in. And, hey, I'd see you like all the time."
"Well, yeah, you'd be on campus so I'd come by to pester you."
"Mm, all right."
"Don't sound so thrilled."
"No, it's just," he turned the television on, picking a sitcom that they would both probably find boring. "If not Riley, you'll find another beau I'm sure."
"And that would stop me from seeing you?"
"Oh, I don't know. Your attentions will be diverted elsewhere as they have been of late."
"I learned my lesson. From now on, Giles comes first."
He snickered. "Yes, I'm sure that will go over well."
She scooted a little closer to him on the couch. "Well, we're the only two that has to worry about how well it goes over with anyone."
"What are you saying, Buffy?"
She shrugged. "I want to find out how I knew it was you. Is it more than just a watcher to slayer connection?"
"I don't know."
"And I want to find out."
"Hey, you think I bring flowers to just any guy?"
"You picked it from Ms. Nielson's garden."
"Well, yeah, but I picked it for you."
"And it is appreciated."
"Maybe it's nothing, but wouldn't it be a nice twist if it's not? Right under our noses all this time. The real deal."
"I've known for quite some time."
"Get out. Why didn't you say something?"
"It's not something you pitch to someone like you're trying to sell them a car. I had to wait for you to come to your senses on your own."
"And now that my senses are in alignment with yours?"
"Well, now I guess we wait and see what happens. Together. But you must tell Riley, Buffy."
"All right, tomorrow. I want to stay here with you tonight until I have to patrol."
"And thanks for sharing your pizza with me."
"You're welcome, thank you for eating it with me. It's far better than eating alone."
"Hey, me and pizza, I'm there any time you want company for such delicacies."
He chuckled, draping an arm around her to draw her close. He planted a kiss on her mouth. It wasn't an earth shattering kiss, but it was definitely sexy and potent and long enough that it made her nipples start to tingle. Oh yeah, she was rethinking the lack of earth shatteringness as his tongue stroked along her lower lip.
"Pizza never tasted better," he murmured before deepening the kiss. She wondered, her last coherent thought before her toes started to curl, what had taken him so long.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com