Title: Coming In From the Cold
Pairing: Buffy/Giles (Duh)
Rating: FRT – Harmless, really.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, nor am I making a profit. This story is for the enjoyment of those of us who believe this couple belongs together.
This is in response to allthejellies writing prompt set six. The words were cold, computer, fear, dance (dancing). I was trying to do a story with all four elements, but it wasn't working. So here's one with two: a minor in computers and a major in cold.
Coming In From the Cold
Giles sat at his desk, his fingers flying across the keyboard. After a few lessons from his new secretary his fear of computers had faded. Not a bad machine at all, really, and very useful once you knew what you were doing. He still didn’t venture into cyberspace unless he absolutely had to, but he had become quite proficient in Word and Excel. E-mail was no longer a mystery either, and he exchanged messages almost daily with Willow, Xander and Dawn.
But not Buffy. Very rarely were there messages from Buffy and he treasured the ones he received, saving them in a separate folder. It didn’t appear that she was deliberately avoiding him; just that she was busy enjoying that life that she thought she wouldn’t get to have. Giles smiled softly. Dawn kept him informed on all of Buffy’s activities and it was enough to know that she was happy.
At least that’s what he kept telling himself. He wouldn’t admit how often he looked at the picture of her that he had on his desk, or how he had saved her infrequent messages on his answering machine and would listen to them, just to hear her voice. If he found his life a little dull, well what else could you expect for a man of his age who had no close connections? He could always bring work home to make the evening hours pass more quickly. The laptop was easier to carry than all that bulky paperwork, even if he did have to fuss with different passwords.
Outside the wind howled. Giles felt a breeze brush against the back of his neck. The weather had turned cold and his flat, though perfect for him in other ways, was very old and not well insulated. Especially around the windows. Even though he had complained about the perpetual summer of Sunnydale he had grown accustomed to it and winter in London was proving difficult to adjust to. He had put heavy draperies over the windows, but cold drafts continued to find their way into the room.
Another cold gust brushed the back of his neck, and he shivered. First thing tomorrow he was going to re-arranged the furniture and move the desk closer to the fireplace. At least for the rest of the winter. He shivered again and looked down at the computer. He could stop here and pick it up later. Saving the spreadsheet, he rose from the computer and walked over to the fireplace.
Basking in the warmth he admitted to himself that his mind hadn’t really been on his work. Tomorrow was Buffy’s birthday. While other people saw birthdays as a cause for celebration, Buffy dreaded hers, calling it her curse. He had wanted to send her something special, but was no longer sure about her likes and dislikes so he had taken the easy route of sending a check. Many of Dawn's reports had been about some new item of clothing or shoes that Buffy had, so he knew the money would be appreciated.
He gave a little huff. Not that he had ever really known her likes and dislikes. Not in any detail. He knew she liked music that he found appalling, that she liked to wear boots to give herself more height, and that she liked to wear skits that were dangerously short. It took no effort at all to conjure up an image of her in of her favorite outfit. The one where he needed to stand behind something so she wouldn't see the effect it had on him.
Predictably he began to harden. He smiled. Ah, Buffy, if you only knew how I really thought of you. The wind tore around the edge of the building, making a mournful sound. He grimaced. If she knew she never speak to you again, you old fool. Best that things were the way they were: he in London, she in Rome. He could never betray himself and risk losing her completely.
The mantle clock began to chime, breaking his chain of thought. Midnight. He hadn't realized that it was that late. Buffy's birthday. In Rome it was one o'clock. Giles wondered if she was out at a club, or had decided to stay home, just in case. The knock on the front door surprised him, and he frowned as he went to answer it. It must be an emergency for someone to be out this late and in this weather. But if it was an emergency, why hadn’t they used the telephone?
At the door he hesitated for a moment. He really needed to follow Willow’s advice and install a security camera, or at the very least have a peephole put in the door. It wasn’t safe to just open the door at this time of the night. The knock sounded again. On the other hand, he shouldn’t keep who ever was out there waiting in the cold. He pulled a sword from its hiding place in the umbrella stand and held it in readiness behind the door as he opened it.
Giles stood, speechless.
“Surprised to see me?” Giles continued to stare. “Would you mind letting me in? I forgot about your goofy English weather and I’m kinda freezing here.”
Giles awoke from his shock. “Buffy! Dear lord, of course, do come in.” He stepped back and allowed her to enter the flat. He frowned slightly. “Where is your coat? Surely you didn’t walk here in just that?” His gaze traveled over the lightweight sundress she was wearing. It was a soft green that matched the color of her eyes, with a fitted bodice and a slightly flared skirt. A lovely dress, but totally inappropriate for London in the winter. Even as he watched, she shivered and rubbed her arms.
“Please, come into the study and stand by the fire. I don’t understand why you didn’t at least buy a jacket at the airport.” That thought made him stop and go back to the door. Opening it he glanced around then closed it again and frowned at her. “Where is your luggage?”
Buffy walked down the hall to the open door. “This the study? Nice room. Toasty.” She grinned at him as he entered the room. “If Willow’s aim was right, my luggage is in your spare room, and I didn’t buy a jacket at the airport cause that’s not how I got here. I flew air Willow.”
“Buffy, not that I’m not happy to see you, but you need to come through customs and have your passport stamped. You can’t stay in the country illegally.”
“Not a problem, Watcher-mine, I’m just here for the day.” Giles gave her a puzzled look and Buffy laughed. “It’s my birthday present from Willow. She asked me what I wanted most and I told her I wanted to spend the day with you, so here I am. Midnight tonight I pop back to Rome.”
“You want to spend your birthday with me?” Giles was stunned. He hadn’t spoken to her since Christmas, and she hadn’t said anything about a visit then. He must have fallen asleep and this was a dream.
Buffy seemed to read his mind and she laughed again as she walked across the room. Taking his hand she pressed it against the skin in the V of her dress. “See, beating heart and breathing. I’m here and you’re not dreaming.” She raised his hand and nuzzled her cheek into the palm. “I’ve missed you, Watcher-mine.”
His fingers caressed her cold cheek. "I've been right here, Buffy."
She sighed, pressed his hand against her cheek for an instant, then let it go. She avoided looking at him. "I know." Her gaze swept the room, and stopped. She gave a slight frown. "What is that?"
Giles looked, but didn't see anything unusual. "What?"
Buffy walked over to the desk. "This. What is this doing here?"
Giles looked confused. "It's a laptop, obviously, and I brought it home to do some work."
"A laptop? You have a computer and you know how to use it?" She walked over and put her hands on either side of Giles' face, pulling him down to look deep into his eyes. "Who are you and what have you done with my Watcher?"
Giles tried not to breathe while she was so close, afraid that her scent would provoke a reaction. When she released his face he moved back a couple of steps and said, “Ha, bloody, ha. It turns out that I’m not too old a dog to be taught new things.”
“Of course you’re not too old to learn things. You’re not old at all. It’s just that you always seemed to be afraid of computers back in Sunnydale.”
“Not afraid, not exactly, they were merely unfamiliar territory. Susan is a very patient teacher and explains things clearly. Learning to use the computer has proven to be a time saver.”
“Who’s Susan,” Buffy scowled.
Giles had turned away and didn’t notice her expression. “Susan and Mark are the parents of one of the new Slayers. They came to check things out, saw that I needed organizational assistance, and offered to help. I don’t know where things would be now if it wasn’t for the two of them.” Giles turned back to Buffy and was momentarily dazed by the brilliant smile she gave him.
“I’m glad you have help, I was afraid you were trying to do it all alone.” She glanced back at the laptop and shook her head slightly. “Still, strange to see you with a computer.” Her gaze moved over the desk and Giles felt a moment of panic. Buffy froze, then reached forward and Giles was surprised to see that her hand was trembling slightly.
She lifted the picture. “Where did you get this? I didn’t know anyone had taken a picture of us that night.” Her hand touched the frame caressingly as she smiled down on the picture.
“He took the picture and he’s had it all these years. Apparently he had never had the roll of film developed and it was in the bottom of that backpack he was always carrying around. He gave it to me just after we moved here.” The image was burned into his memory. It was at the prom, just after they had given her that silly award. He had walked over to her and was just about to ask her to dance. He was smiling down, she was looking up. Now that he knew, he could see his love for her in his face. But she hadn't seen it then, and she wouldn't see it now. Why should she? After all he was just Giles: Watcher, teacher, mentor, and at long last, friend.
Buffy placed the frame back on the desk. She shivered again, rubbing her arms. “God, Giles, you need to turn up your furnace. This place is Arctic.”
Giles ducked his head. “Sorry, no furnace, just the fireplace.”
“You’re kidding. You mean you have a fireplace in every room?”
“No, just in here and in my bedroom.”
Buffy looked at him in horror. “No furnace? Giles, I’m used to Rome weather, I’ll freeze. Why don’t you have a furnace?”
“This is a very old house, Buffy; it would cost too much to adapt it to central heating. The previous owner did upgrade the wiring, so the bathroom and the other bedrooms have electric heaters to use when needed. I also have electric blankets on the beds in the spare rooms. You’ll be quite warm while you sleep, I promise.” He glanced at the clock.
“And speaking of sleeping, I have meetings early tomorrow and need to go to bed. Please, feel free to stay up as long as you like.”
“Meetings? But, Giles, I was hoping we could spend the day.”
“Buffy, if I had known you were going to be here I would have cleared my calendar, but as it is I have two meetings that I cannot postpone.” Buffy looked down at the floor, but she nodded. Giles crossed the room and put his hand under her chin to lift her head. “Those two meeting are at 8:00 and 9:00. I’ll have Susan cancel everything else and we can spend the rest of the day together.”
“Okay.” Buffy smiled. “I could use some sleep too. Since they knew I would be here for my birthday Dawn and Willow took me out clubbing last night. I must be getting old, I could only boogie until 3:00 am.”
Giles laughed. “If you’re getting old, I must be ancient. I would be lucky to boogie until midnight.”
“Don’t kid yourself, I bet you could be a party animal if you wanted.” They walked into the hall and up the stairs. Buffy shivered. “Now I understand the tweed and all the layers. You grew up in a refrigerator.”
“I didn’t grow up in this house, Buffy, my family lived in Bath.”
“I didn’t mean the house, I meant the country.”
Giles laughed again and led the way to the spare bedroom.
Buffy woke, shivering from the cold. She opened her eyes and frowned. No light from the little heater. No light from the electric blanket control. She snaked an arm out from under the covers and clicked the button on the lamp next to the bed. Nothing. She climbed out of the bed, grateful for the wool socks that Giles had loaned her when her feet hit the cold floor. Wrapping the top blanket around her, she walked over to the window and pulled aside the heavy curtain.
No lights from any of the buildings that she could see. The wind howled and a blast of cold air had her stepping quickly away from the window. Obviously there was some kind of power outage. She shivered again. The room wasn’t much warmer than the outside. She was going to have to go downstairs to the study. Good things Slayers had excellent night vision or it could be a problem in the darkness of the house. Buffy headed for the door.
Out in the hallway she paused for a moment, looking both directions for the stairway. To her right she saw light under a door. She frowned slightly, then remembered Giles saying that he had a fireplace in his bedroom. Quietly she opened the door and peeked inside. The warmth reached out, inviting her to enter. Buffy closed the door and moved silently to the fireplace. She stood there for a few minutes, until she was warm enough to stop shivering, then she turned around to check out the room.
It wasn’t the same furniture that he had had in his bedroom in Sunnydale, but the style was the same. Big, solid, dark wood. Bed, dresser, chest of drawers, two nightstands, and a chair. Buffy walked over to the chair and sat in it. She wriggled around a bit, then nodded and stood. Picking the chair up, she carried it over and sat it next to the fireplace. She sat back down, tucking the blanket around herself, and curled up with her head on the arm of the chair. In a few minutes she had drifted back to sleep.
But she didn’t stay asleep very long. The position was too restrictive; she had to stay curled up in a ball. Buffy sighed and sat up in the chair, resigned to being awake the rest of the night. A sound from the bed had her looking in that direction. Giles shifted in his sleep, rolling over onto his back. Buffy eyed the bed speculatively, a thought entering her mind.
Before she could talk herself out of it, Buffy walked over to the bed and lifted the blankets. She eased onto the mattress, but there wasn’t enough room for her to comfortably lie down. She nudged Giles’ shoulder and whispered, “Giles, scoot over, I’m falling off.”
His eyes opened and he blinked sleepily. “Am I hogging the bed? Sorry, love.” He moved over and when Buffy settled down he looped an arm around her waist, pulling her close. “You’re cold. Was I hogging the covers too?”
Buffy stared wide-eyed at the fireplace. “Bathroom,” she whispered.
“Oh, right.” The arm tugged her closer and warm lips brushed the nape of her neck. “’Night, love.”
It was a long time before Buffy fell asleep again.
Buffy woke with the suddenness of flipping a switch. She was immediately aware of two things: one, she really had to go to the bathroom, and two, Giles had an erection that he was rubbing against her butt. A very impressive erection. Before she could move, he softly moaned, “Buffy.”
A rush of warmth flowed through her. She was tempted, oh so tempted, to stay in the bed. To wake him up and make that dream of his come to life, but it was too soon. He would either think that he had taken advantage of her, or that, learning how he felt, she was having sex with him because she felt sorry for him. Either would be bad, very bad. She had to get out of the room before he woke up.
Buffy peered at the clock on his bedside table. Not electric, so it was still running. Five minutes past six. His alarm was set for 6:30. No time to waste, she had to get moving. His hand picked that moment to join in the dream encounter and slid up under her nightgown to caress her breast. Buffy stifled a moan, and gently guided his hand away from her body.
Giles moved restlessly behind her and Buffy took the opportunity to slip from under the covers. He pulled her pillow close and calmed down. Moving quickly, Buffy placed the chair back where it belonged and grabbed the blanket. When she entered the bathroom she automatically flipped the light switch, and the lights came on. Good, power was back on and her room would be warm. Finishing in the bathroom, she scurried down the hall to her room. She wasn't as cautious closing this door, but she didn't think the sound was all that loud. Grabbing her cell phone, she burrowed back under the covers, and called Rome.
The sound of a door closing brought Giles to full alertness before he remembered that he had a guest in the house. Ah, Buffy must be up. He settled back down, cuddling the pillow close. He drew in a deep breath, images from his dream flashing through his mind. He eyes flew open. He took a careful sniff. The pillow smelt like Buffy.
Giles sat up, looking around the room. The chair was out of place. He had a faint memory, or had it been a dream, of Buffy getting into bed with him. He got out of bed, put on his slippers and robe and headed for the door. At the door he paused and drew in another breath. Buffy had been in this room, her scent was everywhere, but had she been in his bed as well?
He quietly opened the door and walked silently down the hall, pausing outside Buffy's door. He could hear her talking to someone and he frowned slightly until he realized that she must be talking on a phone.
"Don't you laugh at me, you should have warned me. It's freezing. I can't wear any of the clothes I brought with me."
"I'm not exaggerating. This house doesn't have a furnace, just two fireplaces and some little heaters for the rooms. There's an electric blanket on my bed, but the power went out last night. I woke up around three shivering so hard the bed was shaking."
In the hallway Giles frowned and started to open the door, but stopped when she continued.
"Good thing Giles' bedroom was one of the rooms with a fireplace. I snuck in there quiet as a mouse and curled up in a chair by the fire until the power came back on. I was in total stealth mode; I even took a pillow off his bed without waking him up."
Giles relaxed. That was how her scent had gotten on the pillow and in the room. He went on down the stairs to start breakfast.
In the bedroom, Buffy watched the shadow move away from under the door, and sighed. She kept talking. "Will, please, zap my suitcase back there and fill it with some clothes I can wear. Slacks, boots, sweater and a nice jacket. I still want to get Giles to take me out to dinner, but I don't have anything warm enough. Maybe I'll try to do some shopping while he's in his meetings."
The suitcase disappeared. The two girls continued to chat until suddenly the suitcase was back, resting at the end of the bed. Buffy climbed out of bed and opened the bad. On top was a heavy woolen cloak. "Will, where did this come from?"
Buffy blinked away sudden tears. "But you already gave me my present. My day with Giles."
"This will just make your day go better. It's super warm, so you'll still be able to wear that dress out to dinner." Willow chuckled. "He won't know what hit him. Good luck, Buffy." The line went dead.
Buffy stared at the phone, then smiled ruefully. Never try to hide anything from the world's most powerful Wicca. She ran her hand down the cloak. It was a deep hunter green and a perfect match for the dress.
Coming here like this had been a gamble. Just because she had realized that she loved Giles, it didn't mean that he felt the same way about her. She had planned to take things slow, spend the day with him and ease him back into a connection. She had been stupid, cutting things off like that. It had been a chance remark from Dawn that had given her the idea. Her birthday, the perfect time to visit, the one day he would deny her nothing.
The first hint that maybe she wouldn't need to go quite so slow had been the look in his eyes when he opened the door. The second had been the sight of the picture on his desk. The way he had been smiling at her that night. God, she had been so young, so blind, to chase the illusion of love and ignore what had been right in front of her. But the real surprise had been last night. His sleepy acceptance of her in his bed, as though she belonged there. And this morning, ah, this morning.
Buffy ran her hand over the cloak again. She couldn't jump him, not yet, not so soon, but tonight she could lay the ground work for the future. Willow was right, he wouldn't know what hit him.
This was going to the best birthday every.