"Tell me again what we're doing here?"
"It's a surprise."
"And does it go with this birthday present you haven't explained yet?" She held up the antique looking key. She'd examined it more than once since she opened the box that had held it. She'd never seen anything like it.
"All will be clear, yes."
He stopped at a gated entrance and entered a code into the box at the side of the driveway. It looked out of place, the modern equipment. She watched in awe as the gates parted and they drove along the private driveway. She turned to look behind her just in time to see the gates slide shut.
"Very cool, Giles."
Her eyes widened as she took in the house. "Giles. What is this place?"
"I've only recently discovered it myself."
"Yes. The Council was headquartered in London, as you know, but they always realized a direct attack was possible. So, believe it or not when you thought I was drowning in paperwork I was really trying to assess the situation."
"Why did it fall into your lap?"
"Because I have you. The Slayer."
"But I'm not the only one anymore."
"No, but you're still The Slayer, Buffy. We didn't know what the situation was. We had no idea how many watchers there were scattered around the world, how many had survived the attack. Watchers that perhaps hadn't been assigned a potential yet. Robin, Andrew and I decided we needed to hit it right away. Any sign of discourse, confusion would show a weakness we had no room for."
"The all-powerful Watcher's Council."
"And since I've been with the Slayer for the past seven or so years, I have a lot of texts and scrolls that others do not."
"Makes sense. But what does that have to do with this place?"
"This is one of the Council's properties."
"And I thought you might like to live here."
"What?" They were on the outskirts of London. Not real far, though she wasn't totally familiar with things yet to know that for sure.
"There's room enough for the others if you want to include them."
"Are you trying to tell me something?"
"What?" He stepped out of the car and she followed suit.
They met at the front of the car and regarded the home for a moment. Home didn't do it justice. It was big enough to be a castle. Well, maybe not that big. Big enough. "You're moving me further away from you?"
"Hardly, Buffy. I would live here, too. If you'd have me, of course."
"Oh, well, in that case."
"Let's have a look around. The key you are in possession of only opens the doors inside. It's a skeleton key."
"Okay. I've heard of those."
"The locks on the exterior have been modernized."
"You've been by to see the place?"
"Yes, and hired a cleaning crew to give it a thorough going over."
"Why did it take you so long to bring me out here?"
"Buffy, I only recently discovered the place existed. I don't think you understand how vast the Council's reach was. I was most concerned with money, finding a way to support the slayers so they wouldn't be in the position you were in after your mother died."
"Luckily, Quentin was smart enough not to keep anything of real value at headquarters. He, as all before him, had to know the Council would continue no matter what."
"I bet it'd piss him off to know you're in charge."
"We're in charge, Buffy. I couldn't do this without your help. And Faith's. The opportunity to have a slayer with the experience and expertise you both have is worth more than this home."
"I wouldn't go that far."
"I would. Just think of how better prepared you might have been going into battle if someone who'd actually been there had trained you."
"Okay, you have a point," she said as Giles pushed open the front door.
"There's a building in the back. From my research, this was used many years ago as housing for watchers that were being trained or had completed training and were waiting for assignment."
"Yes. We'd have room to house quite a few slayers. They're not extravagant quarters, but sufficient one room apartments."
"You had those cleaned, too?"
"Why isn't this place vandalized?"
"Well, there's a wall around the perimeter. Someone would have to scale it to get in, and there's a spell cast on the grounds that prevents most laymen from proceeding further."
"Yes. It's nothing harmful, just gives them a sense of foreboding. I'm going to have Willow look into it and see about strengthening it some."
"So, watchers, slayers, and the like are welcome, but non-in the know humans and demons aren't?"
Buffy had no idea how long it took them to walk the house. It was furnished, some of the furnishings were antiques and some were more modern. Modern stopped about circa nineteen seventy, though. It was all very tasteful, though. She didn't know the first thing about the age of something like a house, but she guessed this one was old. Older than old.
They were walking through the massive dining room that could seat an army, and perhaps at one time it did.
"You really want to live here with me?"
Giles smiled as he regarded one of the wall mounted candleholders.
"You are nothing if you're not persistent."
"What? What did I do?"
"I don't understand."
"I was hoping we'd get back to my place before you wanted to sort out the details."
"Oh." She frowned, not really understanding.
"Very well, I see that I've confused or upset you. I'll just get on with it then."
He pulled a chair out and gestured for her to sit, which she did. She took a moment to look at the chair, wondering how old it was and who had sat in it before her. He had a real serious expression on his face and she really wondered what she'd done wrong.
"I was hoping to gauge your reaction to all of this a little better first."
"I'm sorry, was I supposed to react a certain way?"
"No, I just thought, the idea of a house like this, property as vast as this is, a place you know the other girls with no homes would be safe. I just thought that would keep your focus for a while."
He pulled the chair next to her out, but instead of sitting in it moved it out of the way. He fumbled with his suit coat pocket for a moment. Really fumbled, too, which was totally uncharacteristic of Giles. Her eyes widened when he moved to kneel on the floor, taking hold of her left hand. Her heart skipped a beat when he cleared his throat. She was sure if he could have just then he'd be polishing his glasses into oblivion.
"Yes, well, I'm sure it hasn't escaped your notice that I prefer my time with you spending it with me. I know it's only been a couple of months, but a man reaches an age when he knows that something is right. You're right for me, Buffy, and I hope that you feel the same way."
"You know I do, Giles."
He cleared his throat again, taking hold of the tips of her fingers with one hand.
"In that case, I was hoping you'd do me the honor of being my wife. Making this our home. Whether we fill it with the family we have now or make a family of our own would be entirely up to you."
"Well, not entirely. I think you'd have something to say about it, too."
"Yes, well, you know what I mean." She saw his hand tremble as he slid a ring onto her finger, over her knuckles and settling it where her finger met her hand. "Will you marry me, Buffy?"
Tears had already spilled onto her cheeks. The mention of wife and home had started them. She threw her arms around him, sending him off-balance. She toppled on top of him on the floor and laughed.
"Is that a yes?"
"A resounding yes."
"My, that sounded rather British."
"It did, didn't it?"
She kissed him, stopping only to breathe. "I love you, Giles."
"I love you, too, Buffy. I was going to do this on Valentine's Day, but it seemed entirely too common. I wanted you to remember today as special for what it is not because it's a holiday."
"It's the best day of my life. Well, second best."
"What was the first best?"
"Walking into the library my first day at Sunnydale High."
"I would have to agree with you there. It changed my life forever."
"Mine, too." She released him and stood, offering him a hand to help him from the floor. "Sorry, probably got your pants dirty."
"It's all right. I've never done this before, you know. I wanted to be sure I did it right. I was hoping to do it a little more romantically, set the mood and all."
"I think the mood is perfect here, Giles. I would absolutely love to make our home here. If Willow, Xander, and Dawn want to, too, that's fine. If not, we'll come up with another way to fill all these rooms with family and love."
"I never imagined being able to share my life with someone, not completely. It's a wonderful feeling knowing that you not only accept what I do, but have a hand in it, too."
"I know what you mean, and it is. So, let's go take a look at the other building. Hey, we could get married here, couldn't we?"
"Yes, I suppose we could. There's enough room. Buffy, are you sure that's what you want?"
"I'm positive. Mom's not here, Dad's who knows where. I don't need a church. I just need you and my friends. And I don't want to wait months. Not to sound morbid, but in our line of work anything can happen in months."
"Yes, let's not dwell on that possibility. We'll come up with a plan then."
"I love your plans."
"I'll remind you of that one of these days."
"I'm counting on it, Rupert," she said, taking his hand as they left the main house to explore the grounds.
"So, do we have to like do anything to live here?"
"What do you mean?"
"Jump through any hoops?"
"No, the papers are in proper order. Willow has ensured that all of the paperwork we've found that requires legal change of name bears mine."
"Pretty slick having a witch on your side."
"This is like a dorm."
"It's amazing, Giles. We could have used this a year ago."
"I realize that, and believe me I've been kicking myself since discovering it for not getting through things faster."
"Oh, Giles, there's so much. It's not your fault."
"I guess watchers didn't have families?"
"No, not really. Why?"
"All the apartments have only one bedroom and a pretty small living area."
"Well, we were expected to live rather bland existences."
"While the head honchos partied it up in the main house?"
"Something like that, yes."
"Of course, Buffy. I'm on your side, you know that. We'll all work together to make the Council a better, more functional organization that those outside of it are frightened but those in it are not."
"That'd be a nice change of pace."
"We could surprise them."
"Invite them here to show them our new home and have a wedding."
"A surprise wedding?"
"That'd be kind of fun. I wonder if they'd freak out."
"Well, we don't need gifts, and it's just their presence we want. We can have cake and some casual fare to eat."
"I like it."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. I've waited long enough to start my life with you."
"Very well, we'll put it into motion then. If you change your mind."
"I won't. I do want a dress, though."
"Hmm, that can be arranged."
"Willow and Dawn will just die when they come up to the room and see me putting a wedding dress on."
"I imagine they won't be entirely shocked."
"Well, just that we kept it a secret."
"You really are content with the plan? I'm perfectly willing and able to give you a wedding you are deserving of. Complete with all of the trimmings."
"Content is Buffy."
He kissed her then and Buffy knew that as long as she had him everything would be okay.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com