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Buffy was never alone, these days. Her house which her mother had always kept immaculate was now more thrashed then ever and she could hardly afford to keep it fixed. Windows were constantly smashed, their frames wrecked and used for stakes and there was a new coffee table every week. They’d started buying 10 and 15 dollar ones at the goodwill because they lasted for such a short time.

She stood in the living room looking at the latest coffee table victim and sighed. The floor was covered with sleeping bags and dirty clothes from the potentials. Even if they were to clean up, where would everything go? The house was filled to the brim and spilling over with people and belongings.

“Take the bigger pieces to use for stakes.” She told Dawn who was standing in the doorframe to the front hallway. “I’ll go get another one, I guess.” It was a waste of money and space, she knew, but there was something about keeping up appearances that she couldn’t let go of. She wanted just one thing, even if it was a coffee table in the living room, to remain normal.

The morning after a fight was always somber and required a lot of cleaning. There was always ash in the carpet and depending on whatever demon had been killed, some sort of goo that was a bitch to get out of the upholstery. Most of the girls were at school and Buffy was thankful they hadn’t lost anybody. Sighing, she and Andrew pulled on rubber gloves and spent the morning cleaning up the living room and other wrecked house areas. It had been awhile since the place had really been cleaned. It was rhythmic and almost soothing in a way. She didn’t even mind Andrew’s incessant ramblings about science fiction or whatever it was that’d she’d been tuning out for the last hour and a half.

By the time they’d finished, she was covered in unknown substances and smelled like cleaning products.

“I’m going to take a bath.” She told Andrew who blushed and nodded, leaving for the kitchen. “Hey, tell Giles to come upstairs if he gets back before I’m out.” She called after him, shaking her head. Andrew was weird.

She found that bath time equaled the only smidgen of alone time she could find. As a general rule she took showers and instructed everyone else to do the same. It saved on time and not to mention the water bill. Every once in a while, though, when the house was mostly empty, she took one to relax and regroup. It was inevitable that someone would burst in and want to brush their teeth or pee or just generally ruin her bath time fun but she felt fairly certain she would be safe. The bathroom was nice and steamy and warm inside the drawn curtain. She’d rather have it open but she did have to protect her slayer bits from the outside world. She’d be mortified if Andrew or – eesh – Xander walked in unannounced.

She was just drifting off into a fantasy that involved her and the biggest comfiest bed imaginable and no alarm clock in sight when there was a light knock on the door.

“Come in.” she called, knowing that only Giles would have the decency to knock.

“Buffy, I, ah, I can see you are still indisposed so I’ll just…” he stammered but she rolled her eyes.

“Just come in, you can’t see anything.” she said matter-of-factly.

“Are you quite sure?”

“When are we ever together without a million people demanding a million things from us?” she asked.

“I suppose you’re right.” She heard the door close and could see the distorted shape of Giles sit on the closed toilet. She wondered how much he could see her through the curtain and the thought made her shiver slightly in her hot bath.

“Did you see the living room?” She asked, pulling the curtain back just enough so he could see her and he turned his head quickly. “Just relax.” she said, softly. He turned his head back and certain he couldn’t see anything he couldn’t normally, he held her gaze.

“I did. I saw that it looks better. Did you clean?” He asked.

“Yep. I am way domestic.” she said, happily, rolling her head to see him easier. “But, it looks like another trip to ye olde coffee table store.” she said.

“Not to mention ye olde window store.” he agreed. “Though Xander has gotten quite proficient at fixing things around here.”

“You should tell him that.” she said, knowing how Xander still craved the older man’s approval. “I was thinking we could go when you got back, if you don’t have other plans.” she said. He was looking at her with a slight smile on his face. “What is it? Is it my flat steam hair? Is it extra flat-y?”

“It is a rarity to see you without make-up on, is all.” he said, looking at her as if she was a completely different, and perhaps better, person.

“I’m not wearing much of anything, Giles.” she smirked and his face immediately flushed and his eyes darted away.

“Well, that’s true enough.” he said. “I’m just going to catalogue this as Watcher-Slayer bonding in case anyone asks.”

“Oh right, because you and me bonding in the bathtub isn’t a place they’d already go.” she said, laughing.

“Bloody hell, this isn’t going at all how I intended.” he said but he was smiling now as well. Giles had always seen Buffy as self-sufficient and extreme capable but she had always been young. Too young to do what she did and too young to die. It had only been the last few months that that youth had disappeared to be replaced by a woman. Part of him missed the old Buffy like he missed his library or his flat. He was nostalgic for the way things were but nothing would make him trade what Buffy had become.

“Giles, are you okay?” Buffy asked and he could hear the water moving around her body.

“Yes, quite.” he said.

“I lost you there for a moment.” she said. “Where’d you go?”

“I was just thinking about you.” he said, waving his hand.

“Happy thoughts I hope. Hand me that towel and turn around.” She instructed. He picked up the fluffy yellow towel and turned his back to her. He heard the water fall off of her and then, her damp hand on his back. When he turned around, she was right in front of him, the towel wrapped around her. She kissed him on the cheek. “Sometimes I get all dreamy and stare into space when I think about you, too.” she said and walked past him out of the bathroom.
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