Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They belong to Joss Whedon in Giles's case and Doug Petrie I believe in Faith's case.
Author notes: This takes place Post Chosen, in line somewhere with season eight comics before "Retreat". For those who don't read the comics, it is not necessary to do so; Giles and Faith are off working together on their own, estranged from Buffy. Oneshot. Giles/Faith pairing, if this offends you, don't read.
At the sound of the sudden loud, playful voice, located approximately two inches away from his right ear, Giles started, his head jerking back and colliding into a solid form behind him. The figure beside him grunted, shaking her head, but as he quickly turned his head to look at her, Giles noticed that she had only edged away from him by a couple more inches.
"Damn, you've got a hard head," Faith commented, rubbing her shoulder, where his head had apparently made contact. "How the hell do you get knocked out so much with a skull that thick?"
"Perhaps we could avoid such happenings in the future if you simply made your presence known to me before you suddenly shout into my ear drum," Giles replied somewhat dryly, nevertheless knowing that his eyes had slid to regard the Slayer's shoulder, that he was suppressing the urge to touch it gently in apology. The woman seemed to realize this nonetheless, for she grinned, raising an eyebrow.
"I know how much you like surprises, G."
He knew the sort of surprises that Faith was referring to and that he could not deny the accuracy of her statement; when he merely met her eyes with a small smile, Faith's own smiled widened, her dimples coming into view.
"See, you know it too. So…whatcha doing?"
She leaned her elbow onto his shoulder, her body pressing lightly yet closely against him as she looked down at the papers scattered before him on the table. Giles's heart sped up slightly at her proximity, at the slight weight of her breast against the side of his arm, and he cleared his throat before replying, knowing that as long as Faith was in the room and touching him in any manner, focusing on what he had been reading was not a possibility.
Still, he had no desire to remove her touch from himself. Not just yet, anyway.
"Scouring everything we know about this Twilight threat…I am attempting to see I all information I personally have received fits in with what…with what Buffy stated, when we last spoke of it."
A silence fell then, and Giles felt Faith's body lean just a little more heavily into his. When he glanced over at her again he saw that her brow had furrowed, a crease forming between her eyes, and she remained silent, seeming bothered by the mere mention of the other Slayer's name.
She would be, of course. The last time Faith had come into contact with Buffy, a series of misunderstandings on the blonde's behalf had caused them to physically fight each other again to the point that the adrenalized, angry, hurting Faith had started to drown her before she could stop herself. Not understanding the mission Faith had been undertaking and that it was Giles who had sought her help- and not Buffy's- Buffy had been even more furious when Giles had taken Faith's side. Nearly seven months had passed since an angry, resentful Buffy had cut off contact with Giles, and he had formed a partnership with Faith. Not as Slayer and Watcher, protégé and master, but rather as equals, as co-workers.
And as of late, something more, something neither had yet dared to put a name or label to.
Despite the time that had passed, and the nature of the relationship forming between them- or maybe even more so because of it- Buffy's name was still enough to quiet Faith, to put a damper on the mood between them. As Giles watched her, wondering what she was thinking, Faith spoke abruptly, pulling her body away from his slightly but still standing close.
"So, still haven't heard from B, huh?"
"No, Faith," he replied quietly and neutrally, shaking his head. "I haven't heard from Buffy."
Faith shrugged, as though she didn't care one way or another, but it was obvious by the careful tone of her next question that this was not so.
"Think she'll ever contact you again?"
"Well, that would be her decision, Faith," Giles said slowly, although he too had frowned slightly, bothered by his own words and thoughts, though he tried to hide it from Faith in his tone and expression. "Of course I hope she chooses to one day, but I would not force her hand…whatever is her decision, however I might regard it, she is a grown woman and I respect that."
He realized as soon as he had finished that his voice was carrying an edge, and Faith was likely to notice and view it as aimed towards her. She was quiet for a few moments, but even though she shrugged, dismissing her words before they even emerged, the look in her eyes told Giles what she was asking bothered her.
"What do you think she'd say if she knew about us?"
Though her phrasing was ambiguous, the meaning was clear, and Giles turned to face her more fully, taking her hand in his and squeezing it tightly as he kept his eyes focused on hers.
"Faith…that is none of her affair."
"Heh, nice play on words there," Faith remarked, her lips quirking with some amusement, and she did not let go of Giles's hand as she said with continued directness of words, if not tone. "So you're saying that it doesn't matter to you, what Buffy thinks, that it doesn't it doesn't bother you."
They both knew before he said a word that what Faith was saying was not entirely true, and Giles paused, choosing his words very carefully as he made sure to keep looking into Faith's eyes.
"What I am saying, Faith, is that we are all adults. I do not wish to pry into or judge the…personal…aspects of Buffy's life, and I would hope that she would come to the same conclusion in regards to mine and yours. Our…relations…are a private matter that Buffy should not be entitled to pass judgment on."
"Doesn't mean she won't," Faith pointed out in a mutter, and she exhaled. Watching her, Giles could see in the narrowing of her eyes and slight tension in her features that she was genuinely bothered by her thoughts. When she looked up at him quickly, her abrupt change in tone made him blink.
"So is this thing ever gonna be NOT private?"
"I beg your pardon?" he asked, frowning with some bemusement. Faith had pulled her hand from his when she spoke, and now she used it to gesture impatiently, with a trace of aggression.
"This thing between us, it's about as private as something can get without resorting to moving to Antarctica and communicating through satellites or something. Does anyone know at all, Giles? What, are you ashamed of it?"
Giles blinked again, his mouth opening. He had an urge to remove his glasses to clean them, more so that he wouldn't have to see the anger and hurt so clearly displaying themselves across Faith's face, but he knew that to do so would be to hide and would only upset her further. He cleared his throat, struggling to come up with a response to reassure them both, even as his mind wrestled with the accusation that had hit him hard as something he feared was at least in part reality.
"No, Faith," he said quietly but firmly, stopping himself from reaching out to touch her. "I'm not ashamed of it."
"So you're just ashamed of me then," Faith said harshly, her eyes narrowed, her chin lifting subconsciously as she stared at him with her jaw muscles tensed, eyes narrowed. "You don't want to have anyone know that the great and honorable Rupert Giles, everyone's substitute father figure, is fucking the ex-con slutbag headcase whose young enough to be his kid, is that it? I'm good enough to fuck you though the nights but not good enough to stand next to you through the days, is that it? I'm good enough to like, but not good enough to-"
She cut herself off abruptly, tearing her eyes away and holding her jaw tautly, clinching her hands into fists. She seemed barely in control of the strong emotion coursing through her. She had not finished, but Giles believed with a sharp pang of guilt and feeling for her that the word she had not spoken to complete her sentence might have been love.
Hearing her assessment of herself, or at least what she suspected or feared he might think of herself, Giles was horrified, yet not surprised. They had been working together exclusively for months, had been more deeply involved with each other for a good portion of that time, and he had developed great respect and trust for the woman Faith had become, that she was still becoming. He would never think of her in those terms that she had just used to describe herself, and he hoped that she no longer would either, that she would not expect others to.
And yet she had reason. For however untrue her words were, Giles did feel some shame at times for their encounters. Not because of anything about who Faith was, but because of the strong inclination that still remained for him to see their relationship as wrong. Watcher and adult, with Slayer and child…
But neither was true any longer, and there was no reason for shame. He did not want Faith to ever believe there was, or that he felt it for any reason…especially for her.
"I am not ashamed of you, Faith," Giles said quietly, and he reached to take hold of her arm. When she stepped back, her eyes moving down to his hand quickly, he did not try to touch her again. "I am proud of you beyond all measures. Nothing about you…or us…is shameful or anything of the sort."
"Then why are you hiding," Faith said in a level tone, her eyes boring into his, and again, Giles could think of no reasonable reply. "Why are we the only ones who know."
When Giles didn't answer immediately, she nodded, as if she had received confirmation, her lips thinning, eyes darkening.
"You would leave me for her…wouldn't you," she said quietly, and it was hurt, hurt and a somber resignation, that rose to her eyes instead of anger then. "If she gave you a call…a text…an email…if she made any gesture, you would drop everything and go to her, even now. If Buffy wanted you back, and she didn't want me as part of the equation, you would leave me. If that was what she wanted. If that was what it took to get her back."
"No," Giles said immediately, his voice still soft, but emphatic, and he shook his head. "No, Faith, I would not."
She watched him, seeming to be discerning the truth of his statement, and seeming to decide that the was sincere, she swallowed, her eyes softer now as she spoke more quietly. "Why?"
"Because you would never ask that of me in her place," he told her, and they both remained still as he faced her, not touching, but not looking away. "Because what we have now is not something I will walk away from, unless you ask me to."
For several moments silence fell between them; they regarded each other with poignant emotion and hope in their gazes, even as they struggled to maintain faith and trust in the other person's word, the other person's soul. Finally Faith shook her hair back, swallowing.
"You think I need you more than she does now," she said, and Giles shook his head again.
"No, Faith. I know you are more than strong and capable enough to stand on your own."
He hesitated, the words forming nearly choking him as anxiety closed around his heart, but he forced them out, knowing they needed to be said.
"I only hope that you will never have to do so…that you will allow me to keep you from having to do so. I want you, Faith…for who you are. All of you. If you will have me."
He swallowed again, forcing the hand drifting up to touch his glasses down to his side, and watched Faith, waiting. She turned her face away, a deep sigh shuddering through her, and she saw her blink several times before she finally turned back to him, her face composed, yet open, unguarded, her voice soft.
"Yeah, I'll take you."
A slow smile spread across Giles's face, and he nodded slightly. "Thank you."
He took a step forward, and as he reached out his hand, daring to brush his fingers against Faith's cheek, she closed her eyes for just a moment, then stepped forward into his arms. As her hand moved to cup the back of his neck, her face turning up to meet his mouth with hers in a kiss, Giles closed his eyes. For the first time that he could remember, he felt at ease with her in his arms. He felt right.