Games in the Dark
Part 2 of 5

"I'll take two cards," he went to deal himself cards when Buffy reached out and stopped his hand with hers.

"Hold it right there buddy! I get some info...your rules." She could feel her cheeks blushing even more at the sudden contact but didn't want to pull away and draw his suspicion.

"Right you are..." he pulled his hand back and placed it in his lap, "Ask."

Buffy ran through the jumble of questions filling her mind trying to decide which question she had to have answered next. She already knew what she wanted to ask but wasn't sure how he would react to such a personal inquiry. "I can ask anything?"

"Yes," he said softly with an encouraging grin.

Buffy's internal struggle to decide what deep dark secrets she had to know about Giles was tearing her apart. If she went too personal, he'd clam up and end the game. She decided to lead again with a more casual get-to-know-you-better type question.

"So what do you look for in your ladies? I mean, are you a leg man or is it all what's upstairs that counts?" Buffy tried to act as nonchalant as she could.

"Why do you ask? You're not trying to fix me up are you?"

" cross-examination allowed here. Just the facts man," Buffy didn't want to give him any indication that the question reflected her personal interest in his tastes.

"I prefer what's 'upstairs' if you must know. Wit and charm are essential," Giles smiled as he stared off into the darkness and Buffy wondered whose image the question had triggered for him.

'Damn!' Buffy thought as she tried to see herself filling those requirements and coming up short. "When I said 'upstairs'...I was referring to breasts Giles. I said 'looking', you can't see wit and charm."

"Oh but you can, if you know where to look," He grinned coyly as his gaze returned to her and Buffy thought she saw a hint of something in his eyes, a glint of recognition. He collected his cards and waited for Buffy to bet. When she didn't offer up another inquiry, he spoke up, "What do you see yourself doing ten years from now? Married, children, executive office?"

"That's really lame, Giles," Buffy's face fell serious as she flicked the edge of a card in her hand. "You know the answer to that."

"What is your question then?"

"I think I'll ask you the same question," Buffy tried to get back into her previously happy mood but found it difficult with Giles question reminding her of the often dreary fate of Slayers.

"So we both accept the bet then?" Giles smiled.

"Guess so," she spread out her hand. Giles did the same.

"I'm afraid I've got you this time, three of a kind." Giles brought his legs up and sat cross-legged on the couch as he watched Buffy pour a small drink and gulp it down. "So, tell me what your future holds?"

"In reality or wishful thinking?" Buffy ran her fingertip anxiously along the rim of the glass, not really wanting to discuss the current topic.

"I sense your current pessimistic mood will no doubt tend toward the more gloomy future so for the sake of the game, wishful thinking."

"I guess I'd be a professional something or other. I don't know. Never considered it really. You can't think about the future when you're so focused on the present."

"Of course you can, Buffy," his eyes filled with sincerity. "Since you're not going to give me a more clear answer, I'll tell you what I envision for you."

"So you are going to tell my future," Buffy smiled and peeked up at him.

"Yes so be quiet!" He raised a card to his forehead and tilted his head back as if receiving the information via the card. "I see a passionate champion of the human spirit fighting for the betterment of humanity. I see a loving and tender family supporting you. I see happiness and contentment in everything you will accomplish." Giles lowered the card and shrugged. "Well, I never said I was a good fortune teller."

He tossed the card to the cushions and Buffy noticed its design, the fool. " see all that, eh? And where are you in this ridiculously perfect future?"

Giles smiled warmly as he gathered up the cards again, "That's for you to decide."

'What's that supposed to mean?' Buffy was getting a strange vibe from him she couldn't quite pin down.

"Another round?" Giles asked as he began to deal.

"Can't stop now," Buffy nodded, really wanting one more chance at a question.

Giles finished dealing and poured more drinks.

"I'll stay," they said together and giggled at the harmonious moment.

"So what's your next question?" Buffy arranged her cards.

After a brief spell of contemplation, Giles face appeared more sober. "Have I done a good job...I mean w-with a Watcher? In your opinion?" Giles asked it nervously, as if dreading the answer.

"Thats so..."

"No...can't answer yet," he held up a hand to stop her from finishing. "What's your question?"

" asked for it," she could feel all the blood rush from her face as she prepared herself to ask something she'd wanted to know for over a year now. Giles sat patiently waiting as Buffy tried to phrase the question perfectly in her mind, rewording and editing the question until she finally built up enough courage to speak.

"Giles, do you like me?" The minute the question was out there, she wanted to take it back; she wanted a do-over. How silly of her, of course he liked her. They were friends; dear friends and she'd intended so much more depth in her question than her words actually relayed. She may as well have drawn up a juvenile note to pass him in class while the teacher wasn't looking asking the same question with two boxes marked yes or no. "That's stupid...I mean..."

"I fold," he mumbled and lowered his gaze to the cushion.

"Oh come on. That was a easy one!"

Giles hastily collected the cards, suddenly acting very anxious. Buffy noticed his hands were trembling as he clumsily raked the cards into the wooden box.

"Giles, what's wrong? It's just a question... just a game?" Buffy replayed the scene in her mind, trying to see if she'd done or said something wrong.

"Precisely...just a game..." he murmured, taking her cards and gulping down his drink. "I think the game is over Buffy." He stood up and looked around aimlessly until he knelt down and began to tidy up the mess of papers on the floor.

"Wha...why? Come on...a simple yes or no will do here." Buffy wasn't about to let him off with that bizarre reaction to such a simple question.

"I have research to do..." He avoided eye contact with her and it made Buffy all the more determined to get her answer.

"This is silly.'s as easy as this. Buffy, do you like me?" She said in an exaggerated playful low tone, trying to do a lighthearted impersonation of Giles. "Yes, why yes I do Giles!" She continued, as if delivering a line in a play. "Now, when I ask you 'Giles, do you like me' you answer..."

"No...I don't like you," Giles interrupted and peeked up timidly, spotting her shocked expression and dreading his severity. "I love you," he whispered and looked away, as if suddenly ashamed. "My lord, why did I say that," he mumbled under his breath, cursing the intoxicating strength of his scotch.

Buffy's eyes went wide. "Love...?" she squeaked, "As in the parental kind, right?" She asked a bit too hastily as her mind screamed to catch up, 'God no...please no!'

'Well, it's bloody well out there already. Might as well explain yourself you old fool!' Giles thought and sighed deeply as he collected himself, leaning back to rest on his calves. "For a time, yes." He glanced over warily, wanting to see her reaction but not wanting her to see his. "Situation's changed, you've changed...and my feeling's changed with you." He searched her face for a reaction and saw she was bothered by his declaration. "Forgive me, I've revealed too much."

"No..." Buffy reached out to offer reassurance that he shouldn't apologize and he pulled away. "Giles, no. You have no idea..." Buffy leaned toward him, trying again to take his hand in hers. He quickly jolted to his feet and awkwardly shuffled through the papers and books into the shadows.

"Please go. This...this is wrong," his voice was cracking with emotion as Buffy heard him move to the blackened kitchen.

"Giles we need to talk."

"I've done enough damage, thank you," his voice was distraught, wincing at his impromptu disclosure. "Please, just let me be."

"That is so not going to happen! You don't understand Giles; I think I feel the same way about you. I mean I know I do but I think I may in the same sense you think you do but not in the then sense but rather in the now sense...I think."

"Was that supposed to make sense?"

"Giles, please come here so I can see you. Stop hiding."

"It's what I've grown accustomed to...hiding."

Buffy stood up and examined the darkness, searching for Giles. "You don't have to hide anymore. I don't have to hide anymore."

"What are you saying Buffy?"

"I...I'm not sure," The blackness of the space was maddening. "Please come out... I can't talk this way." She needed to see his face, see his reaction. All she could see were shadows.

"Buffy... just go..."

"I love you... Giles?"

Restless quiet filled the room and Buffy wanted to gasp at her confession. Again, her mouth had spoken before her brain had time to react. But it was true... she realized it now.

"How could you possibly...?" Giles let out a flustered chuckle, "No Buffy. You don't, it's a misinterpretation. The scotch is warping your perceptions of what you think you feel. This seemingly intimate moment will pass like any other and I won't allow you to..."

"Allow? You won't allow me to what?"

"How could you love me, you don't know what you want Buffy. You don't know what your saying and I won't let you to act on foolish spontaneous feelings brought on by my irresponsibility."

"Not buying it!" Buffy took a few steps and heard shuffling footsteps behind her.

"There's nothing to 'buy'. I can't allow you to..."

Buffy swung around and caught Giles wrist as he reached out of the darkness for the bottle of scotch. "To love you?!"

He jerked back at the unexpected contact but didn't pull away, letting her trap him there under the scrutiny of her intense gaze. Her grip tightened as he flinched then loosened only after his eyes returned to hers.

"This isn't some childish crush Giles. This isn't some high school puppy love. You can't just write-off my feelings as an impulsive act of an immature schoolgirl. But I think you know that. I think you're scared."

Giles huffed, yanked his arm free and walked back into the shadows with the scotch in hand. "Go home Buffy. You'll see things differently by the light of day."

"I don't get this! I don't get you! Are you allergic to happiness or just scared of what we could have together?" Buffy's patience was spent and she couldn't hold back her anger any longer. His silence only angered her more.

"You're a coward Giles...pure and simple." She yelled into the darkness. "You may be all cool and valiant when confronting big herkin' evil but you are a blazing yellow-belly when it comes to the lowly heart. And that's all you'll ever be until you face up to your feelings and face me." Her words had been much more harsh than she'd intended. All she sought was to hear him say something...anything. Instead, she was wounded by his silence.

"Fine. Admit your feelings then run away. That's real adult of you. Go ahead and hide." She waved a hand in the air, as if dismissing the whole scene and stormed toward the door to leave. As she reached for the handle, she paused and turned around.

"You... you selfish bastard, why don't I get a say in this?" Buffy's voice stammered.

She felt a tear stream down her cheek and shook her head in disgust. 'It wasn't supposed to be this way.' She'd been planning on talking to him for some time but never found the right moment, always some apocalypse interrupting their private moments. Now the 'talk' was ruined and as much of an apocalypse as any other she'd faced.

"You're an amazing Watcher, Giles. You've done a wonderful job except for one thing..." Buffy let out a weighty sighed, "You made me love you, you made me care. You want to know what I want in my future? Simple...." with another uncertain sigh, Buffy couldn't hold back. "I want you! Just you!" She waited for a response, anything... but heard only the thundering silence and it ached.

"Right..." she had only one more thing she needed him to know, "...for what its worth, I've loved you since the prom." She turned dejectedly toward the door and gripped the handle. "You blew it then and you're blowing it now."

A turn of the knob and the door wouldn't budge. She tugged again to no benefit. Then the cause made itself apparent as she noticed Giles hand firmly holding the door shut beside her. She could feel his hot breath on her neck as his thick fingers slipped into her hand and gripped gently around her digits. Buffy's heart fluttered with hope as he guided her to turn and face him, staring apologetically into her hurt filled eyes. He bowed his head forward, resting his forehead to hers and tenderly caressed the back of her hand with his thumb as she waited for him to speak or act. After a moment of unarticulated emotion, he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and pulled away with sorrowful, glistening eyes, opened the door and stepped aside.

"I'm truly sorry," he whispered through a clenched jaw as creases of misery furrowed his brow.

"So am I," Buffy winced and walked out into the windy darkness with her head hung low.

Part 3...