DISTRIBUTION: My site, LJ, fanfiction.net, just email me if you are interested!

SPOILERS/CHANGES: Takes place shortly after “Triangle” and just before “Checkpoint” in season 5.  Pretend these events are part of the reason why the Council returns to Sunnydale to check in on Buffy and Co.  There might be a follow-up with that…;)

FEEDBACK: I welcome comments, but no flames!

SUMMARY: Buffy’s twentieth birthday leads to a camping trip with Giles and a ritual that leads to great changes between them.  

NOTES:  Thoughts are in single quotes. ‘…’  The word Coniugium is Latin for ‘a close connection, union, marriage.’

COUPLES: Buffy/Giles

DISCLAIMER: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television, the WB Television Network, and whoever else may have a hold on them. I do not mean to infringe upon any copyrights.

DATE:  6/20/04


    “Crazy…I’m crazy for feeling so lo-onely…”  Buffy crooned with Patsy Cline as she munched on a Hershey’s bar.  Looking down at the scattered wrappers at the bottom of her bed, Buffy sighed.  Feeling frustrated, Buffy flicked off her CD player, removing the country music CD Xander lent her.

    “I should do something.  Training or something.  Get over it, Buffy,” she said to herself as she brushed her hair into a tight ponytail.  While she gathered things for training, Dawn popped her head in Buffy’s room. 

    “Where are you going?” Dawn asked.


    “Magic Box,” Buffy began tentatively.


    “Ooh, can I come?”


    “No.  I’m just going to train a bit.  I’ll be home in a few hours.”

    Dawn pouted and turned away.  “Tell Mom I’ll be back later if she wakes up,” Buffy called after her sister.  Sighing, Buffy left.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    It was a quick walk to the Magic Box.  Buffy’s mental walk took her over several years, however.  Her thoughts were flooded by memories of Riley—their first meeting, classes, the picnic, the haunted house, Faith’s body-switching, his vampiric comfort.  The memories clouded her bright eyes and she was near tears again as she entered the shop.


    “Hello!  Welcome to th—Oh.  Nevermind.  Why are you here?”  Anya didn’t hide her disappointment to see it was Buffy and not an eager customer arriving.

    Buffy ignored her.  “Where’s Giles?”

    “Back room.  Sharpening knives or something like that,” Anya replied before she was distracted by the door jingling.  “Hello!  Welcome…”

    Buffy eased into the backroom and found Giles standing over a large chest of weapons.  He jumped when she shut the door.

    “Hi,” Buffy said quietly.

    “Oh, hello, Buffy.  You startled me,” Giles managed a grin as he cleaned his glasses.

    “Sorry.  Whatcha up to?”

    “Just checking over what I’ve packed here.”  He gestured to the chest and returned his glasses to the bridge of his nose.

    “Packed?  What?  Are you leaving?”  Panic spread over every inch of Buffy’s body as she tried to brace herself for anything.

    “Well, in a sense, yes, I am, but I am leaving with you.”  He blushed at the way his words sounded to him.  Giles sneaked a glance at her confused face.


    “I figured to get away for a few days might be the best for you.  It would also be a good way to complete a new training exercise I’ve found.”

    Buffy’s face softened at the care in his voice.  “That would be great.  I could use a break.  From myself.”  Her face fell suddenly.  “But with everything—Mom, Dawn, Glory…” she trailed off, instantly feeling guilty for wanting to get away.   

    “I think everyone could take over for a few days.  Only two nights.  And I’ll have this—” he brandished a new cell phone, “just in case anything should happen.”

    “Wow, technology.  Giles, don’t make me think you’re actually moving into our century.”  Her eyes held a glint of fun and he smiled.

    “Very funny.  Run home, get your things for a three-day, two-night camping trip, then come back here.  Say, meet me in two hours?”

    “Okay, see you then!  Oh, and Giles?”  She stopped and turned slightly. 

    “Yes, Buffy?”


    He smiled and nodded slightly.  Buffy lingered, holding his eyes with her own.  She had to force herself to finally look away and head home to pack.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

      “You’re just going to leave?  Fine, whatever,” Dawn sulked in the doorway to Buffy’s room.

    “I need to get away for a bit.  Mom understands, why can’t you?”  Buffy was quickly losing patience with her sister.

    “You’re just never here anyway, and now—” Dawn threw her arms up.  “Nevermind.  Just go.  You need Giles more.  You like Giles more,” she muttered.


    “Dawn, look at me—” Buffy tried, only to find her doorway vacant.  “Fine,” she sighed.

    Buffy took the entire two hours to pack, trying to squeeze everything into only two bags.  “I have no camping clothes, and my boots are only from Rodeo Drive!”  Exasperated, Buffy checked the time.  She checked in on Dawn and her mother then called a goodbye. 

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Giles was waiting for her outside the Magic Box.  He looked relaxed and apprehensive at the same time—the only person Buffy knew who could pull off such extremes.  He was wearing old jeans and a warm gray sweater.  Buffy fought off an impulse to run to him and bury herself in his embrace.  Instead she just smiled, then quickly frowned as she caught sight of his full car.  The convertible already looked packed to the gills with camping gear.  “Where’s my stuff gonna go?”  Buffy asked worriedly.

    “Buffy, we’re only going to be gone for a few days.  Is all this necessary?”  Giles’ annoyed tone was overshadowed by the amused twinkle in his eye.

    “Hey, this is the revised packing list, so deal.”  Giles opened the trunk, which was surprisingly empty.  “Hey-!”

    “Yes, I left it completely empty in anticipation of your idea of light packing.”  He rolled his eyes good-naturedly and slammed down the trunk lid.

    “Humph,” Buffy pouted and climbed into the front seat.  “So where are we headed?”

    “Up to Jefferson’s Woods.  Hopefully it won’t be too cool there,” Giles replied as they started to drive off.  Even though it was January, the weather was comfortable.  Giles hated it.

    “Mm, it’ll be great.  You know, for a good week I’ve had a serious itching to be outside all the time.  Weird, huh?”  Buffy closed her eyes, leaning her head back on the seat.  She breathed the fresh air in deeply and a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. 

    Giles looked sideways at her and blushed at his own thoughts.  Then it suddenly registered what she had said.  ‘So it’s begun at last…’ he thought, frowning.  “Well, this excursion should do you some good, then,” he said after a few moments.  He stole a glance at her peaceful face and smiled.  She could feel it, and smiled back and rested her hand on his leg.

    “It will.”

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    It was already dark by the time they reached the campsite.  “A little later than I wanted to arrive, but, oh well,” Giles grumbled as he unloaded the car.  They found a small clearing away from other commonly-camped areas and decided it was the best spot.  Away from people, near water, large enough for their tent, a fire and training space.

    Buffy stared at the folded tent.  “Uh, how’s it going to go up?”

    “Certainly not on its own,” Giles replied dryly.  “Here, work on the fire and I’ll pitch the tent.”

    “Ooh, fire!”  Buffy bounded over and stoked the small flames.

    “Do-be careful, Buffy.  Try not to light yourself on fire, dear.”

    “Buffy rolled her eyes and brought the flame to a roaring bonfire.  “There!” she exclaimed triumphantly.  Giles was sticking the last metal stake in the ground as she did.

    “Very good,” he commented, ducking into the tent.

    “Nice tent.  It’s big and everything.”  She followed him in and was surprised to see how spacious it really was.  Almost like a little bedroom.  The sleeping bags were arranged modestly apart and lanterns were casting a romantic glow all over.  Buffy seemed to realize just as Giles did and they both shifted uncomfortably, neither speaking.  Her mind was racing.

    ‘He’s Giles!  Cut it out!  He thinks he’s like your father or something, stop being so perverse, Buffy!’ She blushed as she avoided looking directly at Giles.  He looked so…dashing in the shadowy light.  He suddenly cleared his throat, knocking Buffy back into reality.

    “Well, we’d better get some rest.  Big day tomorrow,” Giles said gently.  ‘If only she knew how big…’ he thought, hoping his face was well hidden by the shadows cast by the lanterns and bonfire.

    “Yeah,” was all Buffy said before dropping down to her bags to find a sweatshirt.

    “Goodnight, Buffy,” Giles almost whispered a short time later.

    “G’night, Giles,” she replied equally as soft.  It was a cold night and Buffy wished she had brought an extra blanket or something.  ‘I could snuggle closer to Giles…’ she thought for a moment before she batted the idea away.

    Giles lay awake for almost an hour, waiting until he knew Buffy was asleep.  He rolled over to face her, safe knowing she wouldn’t notice.  ‘She looks so lovely, so peaceful,’ he whispered to himself.  ‘I wish I could just hold her tight…’ Giles shook his head and rolled with his back facing her.  ‘She wouldn’t…couldn’t…understand.’

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    The morning sun shone bright in Buffy’s eyes.  Grumbling she rolled onto her back and partly on Giles’ arm.  He was still asleep, his left arm lying lazily on the ground.  The pressure of Buffy’s slight weight on him caused both of them to jump slightly.  He awoke as she shifted away quickly.


    “Mmm…Buffy?”  Giles opened his eyes and spoke groggily.

    “Sorry.  Good morning.”  She tried to not blush.

    “It’s all right.  Well, we’d best get going, hm?”  Giles sat up.


    “Okay,” Buffy sighed and stretched.  “Breakfast?”

    “Oh, yes, I’ll start that.”

    Buffy smiled and watched Giles get up.  ‘He looks cute in the morning, all rustled and sleepy.  Especially with no glasses…those eyes…’ Buffy had always loved Giles’ eyes.  She felt they were deep pools in which only some could wade into and find his true emotions.  This morning she could tell he was happy but worried at the same time.  ‘Poor Giles,’ she frowned as he left the tent.

    Giles rushed back in to grab a sweatshirt over his light tee.  “A bit chilly this morning, Buffy,” he warned with a smile.  “But it’s still early.”

    “Thanks.”  Buffy waited until he was gone again before she changed.  Fifteen minutes later she emerged in workout pants and a comfy sweater.  “So what’s cookin’?” she asked casually, sitting on a stump they had rolled over the previous night.

    “Bacon.  Plus hash browns if they will ever finish,” Giles motioned to the sizzling pans.

    “Smells good, though.  Thanks, Giles.”

    He smiled shyly and stood straighter.  “I’m going to change.  Mind the pans, will you?”  She nodded and yawned.  Smiling brighter he turned towards the tent.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Breakfast passed quietly.  It was Giles who finally broke the silence.  “Buffy, have you been sleeping well recently?”  She was surprised at the seemingly random question.

    “Uh, well, mostly,” she replied evasively.


    Buffy paused before nodding.  “Yeah, dreams.  Not nightmares, just—dreams.”  She averted her eyes, knowing he could always read her like an open book.


    “Go on.”

    “Well, they’re…lonely.  I see myself surrounded by people in different, familiar places, but I’m never truly comfortable.  Nothing really weird happens, I’m just alone.  Then suddenly—” she hesitated, stealing a glance at Giles' understanding eyes, urging her to continue.  “Suddenly someone, some no-name, no-face man appears and I feel…perfect.  I have a great sense of belonging, and love.  Then…” she drifted again, blushing a deep crimson that caused Giles to shift his gaze.  “Then this John Doe takes me away.  We-we make love, then it’s all ride off into the sunset, happily ever after kind of thing.”  She laughed bitterly.  “Then I wake up.”

    Giles frowned at her raw cynicism and reached for her arm instinctively.  “Buffy I understand what you’re going through.  It’s not uncommon…for a Slayer.”

    “What?  For the Slayer to be lonely?  Yeah, I kinda fell into that part of the role well.”

    “The dreams do mark the beginning of where you’ll never have to be alone again.  For forever.”  He sounded so sure and comforting Buffy started to relax a little.

    “The dreams do feel pretty real…premonition-like.  I wake up all frustrated ‘cause I don’t know who my hero is.  Well—it feels like I do, but at the same time…he just feels so familiar and comfortable.”

    Giles felt blood rush to his head then surge to the rest of his body.  ‘If only she knew how familiar…’ he thought.  “The reality is, Buffy, is that it has to do with something called the Coniugium.  It’s a ritual, if you like, that can occur around the Slayer’s twentieth birthday.”  He didn’t bring his head up to meet her strong gaze.  It was better he didn’t—Buffy’s face reflected a potent mix of anger, hurt, betrayal, hope and, could it be…desire?

    “What?” was all Buffy could manage to get out.  “Is that why—how did you—” her voice failed her as the lump in her throat grew.

    “Buffy,” Giles moved as close as he dared toward her and took her hand reassuringly.  “The Coniugium only sometimes affects Slayers, and even if it does, they have the opportunity to reject it.”

    “What exactly is this Con-jiggy thing?”

    “Every slayer who reaches her twentieth birthday is able to go through at least part of the Coniugium ritual.  It allows the Slayer to bind herself to nature and the elements, forming a stronger connection to this earth, grounding her.  Hence, why we are camping. 


    “Only sometimes does it allow for the full Coniugium to occur full force.  The Slayer must join with the one person who understands, loves, cares for and support her the most.  It usually only surfaces as a need when something significant has been lacking from her life.  It appears that it will do this for you, as indicated by your dreams.”

    “Lucky me,” Buffy concluded dryly.  “So is my Magical Mystery Tour Man going to just show up in the woods and carry me away to the castle?”  Suddenly Buffy felt uncomfortable discussing this with Giles.  With Giles sitting so close.

    “Well, the person should be having dreams very similar to yours.  The reason you need the Coniugium to occur are the same reasons the man would need them.  He would, in fact, be drawn to you as the time nears your birthday.”

    “So what am I supposed to do?  Just wait for him to show?  This is just a little unfair here,” she choked on the last few words and turned her face from Giles.

    Giles frowned in concern over Buffy’s reaction.  He hadn’t known how she would react.  Her birthdays were usually not happy affairs.  While this one could turn out much better, there was of course, no guarantee.  The Hellmouth saw to that.  Inwardly he grimaced.  He knew exactly who the man to sweep her off her feet was to be—only because he too had been experiencing the dreams full of profound loneliness replaced by profound love.  Deciding to spare Buffy the anxiety, but possibly add to her anger, Giles spoke.


    “Buffy, I-I know who, your, um, mystery man is,” he began.  Her eyes opened wide in surprise and hope as she looked deeply into his green depths, hoping to know the truth without him saying a word.

    “Who?”  Her voice came out softer than a whisper.

    Giles looked down, hesitating for fear of rejection.  “Me.”  He watched her eyes for the reaction—surprise, joy, hope, and…love?  His suspicions were cast aside as she leapt into his arms.

    “Oh thank God, Giles!  If it had been anyone but you…” her sobs stopped her voice, too late after she realized she vocalized what her heart had been telling her.

    “What?  You mean?  Oh, Buffy!” Giles returned the fierce hug as Buffy began to shake with the sobs.  He pulled back gently, cupping her face and brushing away the tears lightly.  “What is it, love?”

    “Oh, it’s happy!  Happy crying!  I was so hoping it would be you, Giles, I love you so much!”

    Giles was taken aback at the strength of her reaction and felt his eyes misting over.  “My dear Buffy, I love you,” he told her gently.


    “I know.”

    He lifted Buffy’s chin and their eyes connected for a long moment.  No words were spoken, but as they gazed into each other’s eyes, a spark built between them and reflected in each of their eyes.  Both felt something shift inside of them, something was filled, something felt at peace.  The bond had been sealed.

    Smiling, Giles bent his head down to kiss Buffy.  She wrapped her arms around his neck, bringing him closer to her and deepening their kiss.  His arms found their way around her back and he pulled her into his warm embrace.

    They released each other only for air.  Giles smiled and Buffy’s heart filled with the love she could feel coming from him.  “I hope I am giving you that much back,” she said quietly, almost to herself.  “At least I have forever to try.”

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *


    Their breakfast conversation stretched almost until lunch when Giles felt it necessary to begin the nature aspects of the Coniugium.  Buffy and Giles meditated out on the bare, cool ground.  Buffy could feel every sound, movement, and balance between the various forms of nature and her.  With heightened senses, she could also pick up new feelings and emotions from Giles.  Her entire body felt clear and in tune with the world, deeply rooted to it.  Being so in harmony with nature was encouraged by the new clarity of her belonging with Giles.  Buffy smiled in spite of herself as the feelings rather than the thoughts coursed through her body, still entranced by the earth’s forces.


    Giles could feel it too.  Though he was not as connected as Buffy was, his history of magicks gave him an edge anyone else may not have been afforded.  He could sense Buffy more deeply, more emotionally.  He had always loved her, only this connection transcended anything he could even understand.  Giles smiled.

    Suddenly a flower began to grow to full bloom directly between where Buffy and Giles sat facing one another.  Buffy didn’t see it happen, but she could feel it.  She gasped, amazed at how she could suddenly just know.  As she opened her eyes, Giles opened his.  Their eyes locked for a moment before they moved their focus to the small white bloom created from their earthy bond.


    “It’s a sign, Giles,” she said steadily, an attempt to cover her shaking heart.

    “It is, actually,” he replied, equally as even.

    “What now?”


    Buffy frowned then almost burst out laughing.  “Okay.”

    An hour of yoga ensued.  Buffy realized how much more graceful she was in doing it.  Her precision and balance were stronger, causing Buffy to become more excited about the Coniugium. 

    The daylight was beginning to fade into winter’s early night, and Buffy’s face revealed how tired she truly was.  The day had taken a toll on her, but left her stronger than ever before at the same time.  Together she and Giles prepared a light supper and ate in comfortable silence.  They sat huddled close together, facing their roaring fire.  No longer were they afraid of touching and being so close.  Giles sighed, causing Buffy to yawn and lean into Giles.  He wrapped his arm around her cold shoulders and allowed her to relax in him.

    “Does the Coniugium often happen between Slayers and their Watchers?”  Buffy asked after a long period of quiet.

    “As a matter of fact, yes.  It is not uncommon.  It was once very natural when the full Coniugium ritual was more regular.  It’s only been documented a few times in the past century, and it was not always between a Slayer and Watcher.  Often, Slayers don’t even—” Giles stopped, mentally kicking himself for ever bringing that subject up.

    “It’s okay, Giles.  I know I have an expiration date.  But as long as it’s okay with you, then I want to spend the rest of my shelf and open-before-this-date time with you.”  Her sincerity touched Giles and he held her closer to him.

    “I will never leave you, Buffy.  Ever.”  He kissed the top of her head gently as she snuggled into his chest. 

    After a few minutes, Buffy spoke.  “So what happens now?”

    “Tomorrow, we train. You should notice marked increase in strength and agility by then.  Then we go home.”

    “But…”  Buffy hesitated, not sure of where she was going with this.


    “Tonight?  The sweep me off my feet part?”

    Giles chuckled softly, a deep sound from his chest that resonated in Buffy’s ears.  She giggled at the vibrations it made.  Giles squeezed her side and spoke directly in her ear.  “If you’d like, love, that can happen tonight.  And tomorrow night, and every night after that.”  She turned her head up to his and kissed his lips as he finished his sentence.

    “Mmm…riding off into the sunset…”

    “Mmm…sun’s already down, love…”

    “I love you, Rupert.”

    “I love you, Buffy.”

    Words were gone again as they kissed passionately, full of love.  Giles began to stand up.  At Buffy’s whimper he scooped her into his arms and carried her easily to the tent. 

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Their lovemaking was the sweetest, gentlest—and yet it was so fiercely passionate and full of fire.  Their love engulfed one another, bringing them wave after wave of ecstasy, heightened by their newly acquired rustic senses.  It was well into the night before they finally rested, falling asleep to the sounds of each other’s heartbeats, wrapped in blankets of love in Giles’ sleeping bag.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Buffy woke up to the face of a smiling Giles.  He had been watching her sleep, loving the way she smiled when he gently stroked her arm and whispered to her as she dreamt. 

    “Good morning, my love,” he greeted her.

    “Mmm…good morning.  I love this.  I love you.”

    “I could get used to this.”

    “Me too.  So nice to have someone wake up with me.  You would never run away from me.”  The sudden, brief panic Giles found in her sleepy eyes as she spoke caused him to cringe at her painful past. 

    “Never, love.”  He kissed her forehead as she snuggled into his bare, warm chest.

    “We should probably get up, huh?”

    “Eventually.  We should have some breakfast.”

    “Mmm…food is good.  Yes.  Food.”

    “Very good.  We’ll eat, then train and complete the Coniugium.  Then we can head home.”

    “Whose home?”  Buffy asked coyly, full of intent.

    “Ours,” he stated simply, full of meaning.  “Buffy, the Coniugium has joined us forever.  Nothing, no one can separate us.  Even death cannot tear us apart.  Together we are stronger and separate we are powerful.  We have joined with nature and each other to create something so deep and rooted within our souls that now everything has changed.  Do you…have any regrets?”

    Buffy smiled at his speech, secretly loving that he felt the same way she did.  “None,” she answered him honestly.  “You…?”

    “Absolutely none.”

    “Good!  So…how do we tell everyone…and Mom?”

    “I was hoping my practiced speech would be useful,” Giles grinned. 

    “Great.  Anyway, nothing can stop us.  Even if they tried to.”

    Giles squeezed Buffy tight then began to move to sit upright.  As he reached to gather his scattered clothes, Buffy tried to pull him back down to her.  “Breakfast,” he reminded her with a squeeze and a kiss.

    “Right.  Training too.  Then more of this.”  She kissed the back of his neck and down along his back.  He shivered with delight then turned to face her.  He hands captured her face.  They joined in a deep kiss, then Giles leapt up to finish dressing.

    Their training was more fluid and Buffy could feel the new energy cascading through her entire essence.  She knew Giles had it too, because of the extra quickness and sharp responses he displayed in their sparring and exercises.  They were a perfect team.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Buffy and Giles arrived home in Sunnydale around dinnertime.  Giles took her to her mother’s home before stopping anywhere else.  Together they sat in the driveway for several minutes. 

    “Buffy, I—”

    “Giles, I—”

    They spoke at the same moment, then collapsed into light giggles. 

    “You first, Buffy, please.”

    “I just wanted to thank you.  For the best birthday of my entire life.  It was amazing.  You are amazing.”

    “But your birthday is not even until tomorrow, dear.”

    “I know, but nothing could top what happened to us these past few days.”

    “Oh, I don’t know about that,” Giles commented under his breath.  “Would you do me the honor of joining me for lunch tomorrow?”  Giles asked formally.

    “Lunch would be lovely!  Especially since dinner’s all Mom and Dawn time.  Still trying to keep the actual birthdays Spartan—just in case.”

    “Excellent, 12:30 all right?”

    “Great, see you then, Rupert.  I love you.”

    “I love you.”

    They kissed long and hard before getting out of the car to unload Buffy’s bags.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    The following day marked Buffy’s twentieth birthday.  Her head was swimming from all the changes that had been happening in her life.  Some good, some bad, but all moving forward, as time seemed to be so good at doing.  She couldn’t wait for her lunch date with Giles, and planned to tell everyone about them after they got back. 

    Giles was naturally prompt on picking her up.  They drove outside town limits for a few miles before Buffy became confused.

    “Where are we going, Rupert?”  His given name was becoming more natural to her tongue now.

    “Patience, love,” he smiled in reply and glanced at her sideways as he drove.  He hoped she’d love his plan, though he knew she was not so big on the surprises.

    Giles pulled off at a large park several miles away from anything.  The park even led up to a cliff overlooking part of the shoreline.  The view was lovely and exquisite.  No one else was around, creating an air of solitude for the couple.

    Once he picked the perfect spot, Giles parked and pulled out a picnic basket that had been hidden in the backseat of his convertible.  He found a grassy sunny spot and plopped the basked down. 

    “Oh, a picnic!  More outside, yay!”  Buffy’s cheerfulness was infectious as she bounded out of the car and straight into Giles’ arms.  “You are wonderful.”

    “You deserve it.  A stress-free birthday.”

    “That sounds…impossible, but I am all for it!  What’ve we got?”  She tried to peek into the basket.

    “Lots of good things, actually.”  Giles pulled out sandwiches, drinks, fruit, and chocolate.

    The park and picnic were lively, causing a new awareness in Buffy and Giles as a direct result of the Coniugium.  It was almost three in the afternoon when Giles suddenly released Buffy from his arms and stood.  Without a word he walked to the car.

    “Are we leaving?”  Buffy sat up and called after him.  He shook his head and began to return, his hands grasping something behind his back.

    Giles fumbled over words, an expression, and the small package he was trying to conceal.  Buffy was confused, standing at the edge of the blanket, waiting for Giles to explain himself.  Suddenly he dropped to one knee at her feet, and gazed into her expectant eyes.

    “Buffy, I would like to spend all my life and energies with you.  I never want to leave your side.  You are my…everything…and…Buffy…would you do me the greatest honor of-of becoming my wife?”

    Buffy stood in admiration and shock.  She beamed and cried, dropping to her knees to hug Giles fiercely.  “Of course I will!  I love you so much!”  She let him go as he put a delicate silver ring on her left hand, one that looked very antique and precious.

    “It was my father’s that he gave to my mother, and before him my grandfather gave it to my grandmother.  Now I give it to you,” he said softly, stroking her hand.

    Buffy smiled then kissed Giles hard.  He almost stumbled back but held onto her for leverage.  Suddenly she stood up and dragged him with her.

    “Come on, we’ve got to go!  I can’t wait till tonight to tell everyone!  We have to go now!”  Buffy pulled on him.

    “Of course, love.”

    “And Rupert—”

    “Yes, Buffy?”

    “You really did make this the best birthday ever.”