Liegeman

Buffy settles into command of her liegeman, but finds that the rest of her life is complicated, and dangerous where she'd expected safety.

 

Liegeman

Giles rocked back in his chair and stretched his arms over his head. He yawned. It was late, pushing midnight, and he ought to put away his books and get some sleep. He’d arranged to meet Buffy in the morning for a run, before her first class, and he would need to be awake. He’d lost himself in his reading, though, as preparation for the weekend’s training with Buffy turned into pleasure: he’d been reviewing his great-grandfather’s hand-written notes on The art of war. Giles had a more modern translation in his collection as well, but he preferred the elegance of that first translation. Not to mention the advantage his reading received from the nuances discussed in the translator’s own commentary, written in unfaded india ink and a clear hand on the pages in front of him.

The front door opened. Giles’s head snapped around: Buffy came through the doorway, fast. He stood, half in respect, half in anxiety, but she appeared well. She turned her back to him and turned the key in the bolt.

“You really should lock this thing.”

“It’s always unlocked if you’re not here. Buffy. Do you need anything? Are you hurt?”

She came close to him but seemed distracted. “No. Just… kind of a hard patrol tonight.”

She said no more. He deduced that she meant it was one of those nights when she saw the consequences of vampire predation. Why one slays vampires: because they kill humans for food and for sport. Buffy had come to him before in this mood. He’d usually made tea for her and sat with her quietly. It hadn’t happened recently, not since that cursed birthday torment he’d visited upon her. Giles repeated his familiar mental oath, then allowed himself a moment of thrill. Whatever it was that had driven her away, they’d moved past. They were a team again.

“Tea?” he said.

“Yeah, please.”

When he returned from the kitchen, he found her seated at his desk, bent over his grandfather’s manuscript.

“This guy says all war is based on deception. Is he right?”

“Yes,” he said, mildly. He set her mug down on the desk at her elbow, safely away from the papers. She picked it up and sipped absently, continuing to read the translation.

“When capable, seem incapable. When active, seem inactive. When near, appear far away.”

“The feint,” Giles said. “When your opponent’s information is bad, he makes bad decisions. This leads to opportunity for you.”

Buffy nodded. Giles cast about for larger examples. Her knowledge of the history of warfare was spotty, but she’d studied the second world war, at least. He explained Operation Fortitude, and the importance of the Allied deceit. The Germans believed the main invasion would be at the Pas de Calais, so they were slow to move their troops to the real site of invasion.

“Giles, I’m not going to be commanding troops.”

“No. The Slayer’s battles are most often one on one. But the principle is important, whether you’re leading a thousand men or just one.”

Buffy tapped the manuscript page, laid flat on the desk. She frowned, and seemed not to see the page. Giles was gratified to have her close attention. Perhaps college had taught her the importance of abstract knowledge. Even a year ago, he’d had difficulty maintaining her interest through a discussion like this…

She straightened on the stool. “I get it. So. If I’m deceiving them, they’re going to be deceiving me. Or trying to.”

“Yes.”

Her forefinger tapped the page again, over his great-grandfather’s orderly writing. “Angel did it once. The night he captured you. I fell for it like a big moron.”

Giles did not offer her comfort or denial. She had to learn from her mistakes, because when the Slayer made mistakes, humans died. Sometimes the Slayer herself died-- a thought Giles had to force himself to form. But he formed it, to keep himself alert. “Yes. How did he succeed?”

“Emotion,” Buffy said, with a harsh note in her voice that was unfamiliar to him. “He fooled me because he had me upset. But I’m not in the mood for this now.”

“It can wait until our next session. Sunday morning, yes? You caught me in the middle of my preparation.”

Giles took the tea things away and washed up in the kitchen. They brushed their teeth in the bathroom together, closed up the flat together, went up to his bed together, like a normal couple. That was where the resemblance ended, for when he pulled his pajamas from under his pillow, she stopped him.

“No pjs. You sleep nude from now on.”

He inclined his head to her. “Of course,” he murmured. She’d shifted her mood, and now the Slayer was in charge. He felt himself twitch and awaken in his loose trousers. He rose further when he’d bared himself and was moving around the room nude, folding his clothing for the hamper. The stripes on his backside were still visible, and his mistress was pleased to see them. She didn’t undress fully, but left on her tank top and knickers. Satin. They were slick under his fingers when she joined him under the covers and suffered him to hold her close, suffered him to kiss her. Long, slow, and deep, kisses with more tenderness than passion. The kisses were enough for him. His body was sated and weary from the effort of satisfying her over the weekend.

She pulled back from him and laid her fingers across his lips. “What are you doing tomorrow night? Had an idea.”

“Tomorrow’s my weekly dinner with Xander. I’ll cancel with him if you’d like.”

“No, no, do your thing with Xander. I just remembered I have a thing with Riley tomorrow, and some Initiative thing on Wednesday.” She made a little sound of frustration. “Busy week. Can’t get away until Saturday.”

Giles kissed her again. “Saturday’s fine.”

“Do you mind that I’m going out with Riley tomorrow tonight?”

He shook his head. “Better to ask if he’d mind what’s happening now.”

Buffy sighed, but did not move away from him. “I know he would. I know. If I’m not careful it’s going to end messy. He’ll get hurt. He’s gonna get hurt any way it works out.” He could hear her regret, but also resignation. It puzzled him.

“Why not end it now, if I may ask?”

Though as Giles said the words, he worried that she might take it as instruction from him. Here he did not wish to interfere; there was a corner of him that found pleasure in the knowledge that his mistress was free to be with other men while he was constrained. But Buffy shook her head against him.

“Can’t. Have to stay on good terms with him. Only way to get in good with the Initiative. The guys can only relate to me as his girlfriend.” Buffy’s voice was dry, and Giles could imagine her exasperation.

“Why do you-- Ah. You distrust the Initiative.”

"There’s something up. I don’t know what yet. "

“Their goals would seem to be aligned with ours.”

“I repeat tonight’s homily to you.”

“Ah.” Giles pondered that. He wasn’t sure she was right, but then he didn’t have all the information she did. He’d need to quiz her further. Perhaps in the morning. There seemed to be no rush. But: “Buffy? Be sure you’re at war.”

“Good point. I need to think more.”

He felt that thrill again, the excitement and almost trembling awe that she was accepting his tutelage again. The Slayer wanted him, wanted his advice, wanted his skills. He flashed again on that moment of surprising fantasy from their last session: her as warrior, he on his knees at her side, stamped as her man publicly and privately. He set it aside with an effort; it was not the time for fantasy, given the hour.

“Let’s get some sleep,” he said. “We have an early start.”

She reached down and took his half-awake sex in her hand. He tried not to moan, but failed. He wakened fully in the space of three breaths. She stroked a light finger over the tip and he moaned again. “Something doesn’t want to go to sleep yet,” she said.

“It wants more than is good for it,” he said, unsteadily.

“Sure you don’t want to play?”

“Buffy, I can’t-- my body isn’t up to it every night. It wasn’t even when I was twenty. Not the sort of things I crave, at least. I- I- I prefer to, er, play, ah, less often, and more intensely.”

She released her grasp on him and rested her hands on his chest. He took them in his and laced his fingers through hers.

“You crave intensity, huh? You mean being whipped?”

“Being, ah, being whipped, yes.” His voice was far too husky for his own comfort. Every word out of his mouth betrayed how much the idea moved him. Dangerous.

She tugged him close. “What else?”

He swallowed. It was easier to talk in the dark, with his face nuzzled into her shoulder, her hands tight in his, her lips on his forehead. She made him feel safe, made him feel he could say these things, confess these desires. They’d never brought him anything but misery and shame before, but now Giles thought it was safe. With her it would be. But when he answered, it was with a voice even rougher with emotion.

"Pain, pleasure, whatever you want. Submitting. Being yours. Anything that proves it to you. Being at your mercy. Handing myself over. Waiting on my knees, oh God, yes, that. Aroused and waiting on your whims. Being brought to the edge and held there. "

“Those things are good. I like those things too.”

Her approval made him bold. “What else do you like, my Slayer?”

Buffy sighed, and didn’t answer him right away. “The way you touch me. The way your face looks when I hurt you, or when I make you feel good. Making you feel things-- it’s amazing. What I feel inside when I realize you trust me so completely. What I feel when I think that you’re mine. Watching you wait on your knees for me. The way you swear under your breath when I use my strength on you.”

If he hadn’t had his eyes open, if he hadn’t been watching her intently, half in fear, half in desire, he might have missed it. A flicker across her face, of worry and uncertainty. She wanted to please him. She was afraid she didn’t.

“Buffy. My Slayer. Please hear me. Anything you choose to do to me pleases me. I’m your man. Do you understand what that means?”

Buffy nodded, but then said, “No. Sort of. I’m starting to figure out it’s complicated.”

“In this it’s simple. Do what you wish with me. Take what you want from me. I will enjoy it, because it’s proof I’m yours. So long as you’re here with me. So long as you show up on Sunday to train with me. Do you understand?”

“Yeah. Think so.”

“So tell me what you demand of me, my Slayer. Shall I fetch a flogger for you to use on me?” He didn’t know which emotion was strongest in him: fear that she’d take up his challenge, or longing for it.

She took a deep breath, another. Then she unlaced her fingers from his and gripped his wrists. “No, you were right before. You need your space. You have your breaking point too.”

“Yes, I do.” He kept his gaze upon her steady, but she didn’t flinch away. Instead she grasped him hard enough to hurt, and he was the one who flinched.

“Stupid to injure you or push you too far. Also, wrong to give you exactly what you want. You’re not going to sleep yet, Watcher.”

Giles saw Buffy smiling in the dark. That intent smile, again, focused inwardly and not so much on him: she was anticipating something. He shivered against her and his treacherous cock hardened and betrayed him further.

“Yeah, that’s it,” she said. “Mind games work, don’t they. And I know what else does.”

She moved, Slayer-fast, and had him on his back, wrists pinned together over his head. She held him down while he gasped. He could fight her, if he wanted. She was stronger but he had four stone on her, at least, and more experience. But he didn’t want to. He lay under her and panted.

“Like that, Watcher?”

“Yes, yes, you know it, I do.”

“I like it too.” Then her teeth were in his neck, where she’d bitten him before. Giles froze, then arched up into her but she’d pulled back again already. His neck burned. Once again he wondered if she’d drawn blood. Slayers and vampires, teeth in his neck, God, what was he that he craved this?

“I tell you what else. I like sex.”

He breathed out an unsteady laugh. “Who doesn’t?”

Buffy smiled at him again, and brushed a kiss over his lips. So strange, such a gentle caress after the ferocity. He had no idea what she would do next.

“How much do you like it? Do you masturbate?”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

Giles blinked, but could not answer for a moment. She tightened her grasp on his wrists, where they were crossed over his head, until he gasped out his answer. “Yes.”

“Not any more you don’t. Not without permission. Yeah. Swearing under your breath-- you like that.”

“Yes, I do.” Taking command of him, making his submission just a little deeper. Giles was unsure whether it would be difficult or not. If she used him as frequently as she had so far, he’d be more than sated enough to comply. If she made him wait for it, however, he’d be in trouble.

“I might want to watch you do it, or I might want you to go for a while without coming at all. Either way, you don’t come without my express permission.” She grinned. “Maybe I’ll ride you and leave you tied up all night wanting it.”

Giles groaned. She knew. She’d make it hard on him.

“In fact… Yeah. This is what I want. You’re going to play with yourself every night until Saturday, but you’re not going to let yourself come. You’re going to work yourself up into a lather and then stop. If you don’t, I’ll know.”

She would, too. He’d be unable to keep it a secret from her. He’d confess it the moment she fixed her gaze upon him.

“Yes, my Slayer.” His voice-- he could barely speak.

“Don’t get any cute ideas about thinking I want you to disobey so I can get harsh with you. I want you to be in a frenzy.”

“I will be anyway,” he whispered.

“Obey and we’ll act out a fantasy for you. You pick.”

“Yes, my Slayer.”

“Good. Now you get to go to sleep, all hard and hot and bothered.”

She released him and shifted herself away from him. Giles turned to face her. He rubbed his wrists where her fingers had dug into them. He might have bruises. What was he, that the thought of those bruises excited him further? What would he ask her to do? Renew them? He looked into her eyes and saw that she was just as aroused as he was, her breath coming just as short as his. He wondered what she would do if he simply took her now, pushed her back and covered her and satisfied them both. His erection rested against her thigh. He shifted himself and rubbed against her, just for a moment. Her skin was hot. The craving was strong in him, even more because she’d forbidden it. Touch himself, stroke and squeeze, come on her, mark her as his own.

Giles closed his eyes and leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers. Buffy turned away from him and nestled back against his chest. What was he? He was hers. He’d hunger until Saturday night and enjoy every moment of it.

Bruises

Sunnydale had exactly one “authentic” English pub. It was notable for an inauthentic but eatable fish and chips; dart boards with good darts for hire at the bar; a couple of tables unfortunately built for pool instead of snooker; Bass, Harp, and Newcastle in bottles; and the ubiquitous Guinness on tap. It also had a projection television that ran football broadcasts from satellite and consequently it was crowded at odd hours of the day. During the World Cup it was intolerable. Giles had attended one such broadcast during his early homesickness period, but none since. He preferred a quieter dinner and pint followed by a solitary bit of practice with darts or a pool cue. Rarely, when his life was at its most stressful, he’d take his glass out to the back garden, sit at the sun-bleached picnic tables, and have a quiet smoke.

When he’d first taken Xander to the pub, his most shameful secret had been discovered: he’d taken to drinking a local microbrewery’s ale instead of anything imported. Xander had ribbed him mercilessly. Giles had revolted and threatened Xander with going macrobiotic for their next weekly night out. Giles was entirely happy to eat brown rice and tofu, especially if Xander would suffer. He’d yielded in the face of miso and sprouts, and agreed never to mention Giles’s penchant for colonial beer again.

Tonight, Xander drank Coca Cola and Giles his usual Razorback Brown Ale, and they both crunched into fried cod slathered in tartar sauce. Giles found his appetite was patchy; his mind was more on how his evening would end than on the food or his companion. He shook himself out of it and let himself enjoy his meal. Each pleasure had its time.

Xander dunked a chip into the mess of ketchup and black pepper he’d made in a corner of his plate, held it up, and contemplated it for a moment before biting off the ketchup-coated end.

“So! Giles. Can’t help but notice you’re dating again.”

“Oh. I mean, er, I am?”

Xander ate the second half of his chip then pointed at his neck. “The hickey suggests neck biting. The lack of puncture marks suggests human not vamp. And finally, the rosy glow of happiness and the utterly goofy grin you’d had on your face all night clinches it. It’s a case of the smoochies.”

Giles smiled into his pint glass. “Compelling evidence indeed, Holmes.”

“You know my methods. Though I also had the evidence of my own ears when we stopped by your place Sunday morning. There was some definite Giles-happies being given.”

Giles flushed. Well, he’d asked for that, and it was justice that Xander was teasing him now for that stunt. “Your reasoning is sound. I’m, er, seeing someone new.”

“So, who is she? When do I get to meet her?”

“Not just yet.”

“Is this a big secret then or what’s the deal? 'Cause it’s not like I don’t know.”

Giles arrested his glass on the way back down to the table. Xander’s voice had been unusually intent on those last words, almost angry. Not quite. Tense, perhaps. Giles collected himself, but didn’t lift his gaze to meet Xander’s. He shrugged, very carefully.

“Xan, if it were, were up to me, I’d tell you. But I have been asked, by my, my new partner, to be, ah, discreet. She has, ah, some unfinished business.”

Xander shook his head, and Giles was reminded that Xander’s relationship with Buffy had been uneasy at times. The tension was there because Xander was feeling protective. Giles was almost touched, but hid it by rummaging for the vinegar.

Xander ate the last of his chips before he answered.

“She should finish up that business. Anya hasn’t figured it out yet, and neither has Willow, I’m pretty sure. But they will. And so will other people. Uniformed people, if you catch me. I am not one to throw stones here, because of past history that I’m pretty sure you know all about. This stuff gets out.”

“I know. And it’s painful when it does. I admit it. But can’t be helped at the moment.”

Xander cocked his head, then seemed to accept that. He lounged back against the back of the booth, his own glass in hand. “On a completely unrelated topic, where’s our friend the Buffster tonight?”

Giles blinked. “I believe she’s on a date with Riley.”

Xander’s face cleared. “Oh. So she’ll do it tonight. Okay.”

“Do what?”

“Break up.”

“I doubt it.”

“Aren’t you-- I mean, what?”

Giles sighed. It would be impossible to explain the dynamics to Xander without explaining the exact nature of his relationship with Buffy, and he had no intention of doing that. He looked at Xander, and shrugged, hoping it would get across what he needed. “She has her reasons. To do with the Slaying.”

Giles looked up to see Xander gazing at him. The expression on his face was solemn. It was an odd thing to see on Xander, as foreign to him as anger was. And then it vanished, fleeting as all intense emotion was on that sunny man Xander, and he was snatching a chip from Giles’s plate.

“Gonna eat those? Hurry up. I wanna get my ass handed to me on the pool table again.”

Giles stabbed at Xander’s hand with a fork and glared, because it was expected. Then he handed over the plate and let Xander consume the lot. Time to give his diet an overhaul, now that he was in training again. The jog with Buffy in the morning had been a rude awakening. He’d be on salads for some time, salads and lean meats and water instead of single malt. Perhaps that macrobiotic restaurant would be no idle threat.

Giles split the bill with Xander, then paid for a couple of hours with a set of pool balls. Giles was only middling among his peers at snooker, but found himself a dab hand at the easier game of pool. He enjoyed complaining about the wrong-sized balls, and mocking the Americans who needed to make snooker easier the same way they made rugger easier on themselves. Xander took it all in good part, and cheerfully exploited Giles’s skills to improve his own game. He was a menace with darts, though, and Giles had refused to let him touch them after one go.

Xander broke and failed to sink anything. Giles surveyed the table.

“Solids. Three in the side pocket.”

He leaned a hand on the side of the table and craned down to take a second look at his rather cocky called shot. Xander’s hand grasped his arm, and Giles froze. Xander pushed his sleeve further up. Clearly visible on Giles’s wrist were bruises from where Buffy had grasped him so hard last night. Her fingerprints, purple and blue on his arm. Giles flushed, and felt a wave of that familiar shame wash over him. The thought of those bruises had been so arousing to him at the time, but now-- Now they were still exciting. He was surprised to learn it. Proofs of her dominance over him, visible proofs. She’d gripped him and told him he couldn’t come, and anyone who looked at him could see it.

Nonetheless he was afraid of what he’d see in Xander’s face. He made himself look anyway. Sympathy. Guileless sympathy. It was almost more painful than revulsion would have been.

“Anything you need to tell me?” Xander’s voice was careful.

“I’m fine, thanks.”

Xander stood steady however, eyebrows still raised. “I’ve had bruises like that, and I wasn’t fine, no matter what I said. You told me so yourself when you gave me the keys to the library.”

Giles flushed deeply red, right out to the tips of his ears. “Xander. It’s, ah, consensual.”

Now it was Xander’s turn to flush. “Oh. That kind of bruise. Right.”

Xander made a big production with the chalk on the end of his cue. He put too much on then rubbed it off on his sleeve.

“Have done that sorta thing with Anya. And let me tell ya, she likes wearing the handcuffs a lot. So do I. I mean, like it when she wears them. Hated it when I wore 'em. And I totally am not talking about bondage with you.”

Giles breathed out a silent laugh. “I’m content to drop the subject if you are.”

“Dropping it now. So long as you’re okay.”

“Yes, yes, thanks. Am I now allowed to get on with it?” Giles gestured to the table.

“Be my guest. Five in the corner?”

“Three in the side.” Giles shook out his shoulders to relax himself and shot. He gloomily watched the ball carom off the corner of the pocket.

“Ought to have gone for the five,” Xander said, cheerfully. Giles glowered at him. Xander made the shot himself, then muffed his next through sheer over-ambition and over-confidence. Giles settled in and set himself to the task of clearing the table.

“Giles.”

“What?”

“Can’t keep my mouth shut.”

“And here I was wondering if the sun had risen in the east this morning.”

“Snarkmonger. You need to know that if things go smasharooni I’m still your bud. No matter what Buffy does.”

“Xander, she’s not going to–”

“She might. She’s flakey about guys. Don’t look at me like that! I am not the Slayer of you, and you can’t glare me into shutting up. Okay, you can. Just not about this. You’re my friend, Giles. I get to worry about you. This could end in a world of hurt.”

Giles sighed and turned back to the table. “Nine in the corner. Bearing in mind that officially I have no idea what you’re talking about-- I… yes. But the alternative was… worse.”

“Alternative?”

“Her going on without a Watcher, without training, without help. She’s been training with those ruddy soldiers. Watchers have been working with Slayers for millennia, literally millennia, Xander. Building a training program that works with who they truly are. I’ve spent my entire life learning how to keep a Slayer alive and effective. Without me, she–”

“You can be her Watcher without going to bed with her.”

Giles shook his head. She’d awakened in time. Sexual jealousy, he suspected, the same emotion that had sent her spinning away from him when she’d walked in on his morning with Olivia. This time it had moved her, finally, to lay claim to him. He stretched out over the table and made a bank shot. The cue was in good shape for his next shot. This was the aspect of the game that gave Xander the most fits: the planning. Not that snooker was chess. Giles could play it with only half his mind on it. He moved around to line up the next shot.

He said, “Fourteen. It was her requirement. An exchange. She wanted this in exchange for my service as her Watcher. We both wanted it, truthfully.”

Xander made a thoughtful noise. “Does this happen a lot? I mean, Watchers and Slayers getting their nookie on.”

“Better to ask how many have not. It’s discouraged nowadays, but in earlier times it was, ah. Simply expected. The inevitable result of the pair being so isolated from everyone else, from ordinary lives. Hunting demons until their deaths. Twelve.”

“Deaths? Plural?”

Giles muffed a perfectly easy straight shot. “It’s an intense partnership. Or it was.”

“And you’re old-fashioned.” Xander was silent. “Well. That’s why we like you. Hey, look! You didn’t beat me without me getting a shot this time.”

Xander went to work on the table and demonstrated how far he’d come since their first evening playing together. But that was Xander: a workman’s competence. He’d never be flash, never strut, but Giles trusted him. He rested his cue on his foot and watched. Buffy had chosen her friends well.

Xander revisited the topic one last time, as Giles pulled the car up to the curb in front of his parents’ house.

“I think once I would have hated you. You know. For having what I couldn’t.”

“Now?”

Xander grinned. “I’ve got Anya. We make each other happy, and she wears the handcuffs. See ya next week, if not before.”

He slammed the passenger door and rapped a goodbye on the window. Giles watched him disappear around the back of his house, then drove himself home. Home where, he would enact in the dark proof of his devotion to his Slayer. Xander wouldn’t have wanted what Buffy wanted: Buffy wanted her men in the handcuffs, to be the ones with the bruises.

And yes, the thought was unbearably exciting. Marks. Secrets under his clothing.

His excitement heightened further when his front door clicked shut behind him. Home, alone, with Buffy’s instructions in his mind. He left the door unlocked, as always, in fear and hope, and got himself ready for bed, but not for rest.

No pajamas. He’d laundered them and put them away in the bottom drawer. He only ever slept nude when he had company in his bed, a warm body next to him. California nights were surprisingly chilly, even in summer, here on the Pacific. But she required him to sleep nude, and obeying her in this was easy. It was strangely erotic to be in his bedroom alone and nude, thinking about what he would be doing in the next minutes. He leaned his bare chest against a post at the foot of the bed and stroked his hands over it. He reached up and touched on of the rings embedded high up, imagined himself bound to it, stretched on his toes, waiting. He could ask for that this weekend if he wanted, if he did as she required now.

Self-indulgence, then self-denial.

He loved to be told when he could come and when he could not. This was no secret. Every one of his lovers had discovered this about him, even the more conventional ones. Jenny had been the most implacable about it, had gone so far as to train him to improve his control, but even she had never told him he couldn’t masturbate. He’d rarely wanted to with her, though. She’d kept him busy just as Buffy did, worn out. He wouldn’t even consider touching himself tonight without Buffy’s instructions to do so.

How would he approach this? He could use a cock ring. It would slow him down, give him better control. But he thought she might not approve of artificial aids. This was a test of his self-control and his obedience. So Giles knelt on his bed, facing the headboard, and spread his thighs wide. He sometimes masturbated this way, fantasizing that he was on his knees to someone, sometimes women he’d known, sometimes Ethan, more rarely one of his other male lovers. Even more rarely, he would imagine himself dominating one of those lovers, imagine himself wielding the whip instead of writhing under it, though he’d never done so outside of fantasy.

Tonight there was only one lover in his mind: Buffy. Buffy in boots and jeans and that red tank top, nipples erect beneath it, and a riding crop in her hand. She’d begin by striping his backside. Bent over his desk, yes, cheek pressed flat against a book he’d left there, trousers down around his ankles. She’d bring him to tears then kiss him, ask him if he needed more, and he’d beg for more, more, please and she wouldn’t spare him, she’d give him what he needed. His bold Slayer.

Where was she tonight? Was she with her soldier boy now? Was he making her come? Something in Giles snarled at the thought. If she was to take pleasure from someone else, he wanted it to be someone he could respect, someone worthy of her. But who was worthy of his Buffy? Who would he want to watch her with?

For a wild moment he imagined himself caught between Ethan and Buffy, suffering for both as they struggled with each other for the right to his attention, to out-do each other. Ethan behind him, Buffy before him, his whole body on fire-- He hadn’t known this fantasy had been lurking inside him. It alarmed him, and he turned his mind away from it to memory instead. To Buffy seated on his bed, thighs spread for him, the scent of her arousal and how it had tasted, the burn across his thighs, how hard he’d been. Her moans as he teased her, breaking into cries as he built her up and up toward climax. Her body shuddering around his fingers, shuddering around his cock when she rode him the first time, when she fucked him. Would he ask her to do that again on Saturday? Yes: bind him and straddle him and make him come when he was bound tight, come when he had something to fight against. At her command.

Giles was seeing himself spend now, on her belly, in her mouth, against the headboard. His body shifted and his breathing changed. His hand wanted to move hard and sure on himself, and his hips thrust forward.

He flung himself onto his side, hands curled up against his chest. He gripped one with the other to help himself resist the temptation to touch himself again, to finish it. So close. Too close. He rolled onto his back and breathed, told himself to think about anything else. Sharpening stakes in the library, Xander asleep on the study table. Shelving books. Weeding the card catalog. He’d done as she asked, and God, how he wanted her. He imagined her somewhere across the town, in bed with solid Riley, groaning in pleasure even as he did without.

Giles fell asleep sprawled on his back across the blankets, his right hand wrapped around his left wrist.

Telemetry

Riley was always on time for their dates, unless some Initiative operation interfered, but tonight he was better than on time. He was half an hour early, and Buffy hadn’t really finished getting ready. She was dressed, new red skirt and a little black halter top to match, but hadn’t done her makeup yet when he knocked on her dorm room door.

She let Riley in, then sat down to do her eyes. Something unsubtle tonight, for Riley’s benefit. Figured he’d showed up early. She had been wondering what to do, if what she’d told Giles last night about needing to stay with Riley was correct. Giles was okay with it, but Riley would so very much not be.

In the mirror she could see him bouncing around the little dorm room. She brushed mascara onto one eye carefully, and said, “Hey, what’s up?”

“Tonight’s the night.”

“And?”

“I was thinking and thinking about this. I had a few ideas, then I woke up this morning and I knew what I wanted.”

Buffy did the other eye and waited him out. Was it going to be a maid outfit? Whipped cream? It took him a while to work himself up to say it, and Buffy had moved on to the final touches on her eyes.

“I wanna have sex with you, in, um, in public.”

Buffy put her mascara down and turned to look at him full on. He’d come still way over on the other side of the dorm room, with his back against the door. “Like, with people watching?”

Riley shook his head. “Not, like, on purpose in front of people, but in secret. In the Bronze, tonight, in a corner.”

“Won’t we get in trouble of the not fun kind?”

“I don’t want to get caught. I just want to think, you know, that it’s possible.”

“Oh! I get it. Thrills and chills. Kinky,” said Buffy, though really what she was thinking was that she’d just had a narrow escape.

What if his fantasy had gone further? What if he’d wanted his buddies to watch? She’d promised him in a fit of arrogance, almost, trusting it would not be all that extreme. She’d have had to go through with it, because she kept that kind of promise. But this, this semi-public thrill thing, this would be okay.

“You’ll do it?”

“Yeah. I think it’ll be exciting. Fun.”

Riley slumped back against the door and fiddled with the lock. He wasn’t looking at her. “One more thing.”

“Yeah?”

“You wear no panties,” he said. “Nothing underneath. Nothing to get in the way.”

Riley’s face had flamed out red. Buffy smiled as she stood up, because that was exciting for real. Shoes unstrapped and off for the moment, nylons off, sexy pink lacy panties off. Riley watched the underwear come off with eager eyes. He liked her in frilly underthings, and Buffy liked wearing them, so that worked out. Buffy put her shoes back on and turned to Riley with her panties hooked over her thumb. She held them up to him in proof, then tossed them into her laundry bag.

“Lift your skirt up,” Riley said. His voice was harsh. Buffy did it. “Turn around. Oh, wow. You are so hot. Totally gorgeous. Oh, Buffy. You make me feel funny all over, like I’m buzzing.”

He reached down and adjusted himself in his pants, then looked embarrassed. Buffy went over to him and put her arms around his waist. It was sweet and more than a little exciting to see what a charge this was giving him. It was power of a different kind.

“We’re really going to do this,” he said. He looked stunned.

Buffy smiled at him. She liked him sometimes. “Yeah, we’re going to do it. C’mon. The Bronze is waiting.”

At the Bronze, Riley insisted on paying the cover charge. He also bought the first round of Cokes. Buffy followed him with the drinks up the balcony stairs. They found a low table in the back, in the darkest corner. Riley sprawled himself down onto the battered love seat behind it. He tugged Buffy down onto his lap. He was still hard and Buffy bet that wouldn’t be fading any time soon. Buffy wriggled against him a little bit, to torture him. Well, tease him, anyway. She kissed him, and he responded by sliding his hand up her skirt and teasing her in return. Buffy wasn’t as turned on as he was, but she was definitely starting to simmer with his big hand on her inner thigh. It was the expression on Riley’s face that was doing it more than anything else, his pure pleasure in lifting her skirt and finding her naked already for him.

Riley’s finger slipped just inside her.

“I was thinking,” he said. “About what you said the other day. About other positions being, you know, not something to get hung up about.”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s do it right now. Like this. You on top.” He gave her that brilliant smile, all farm boy teeth and dimple, and Buffy couldn’t help but grin back.

Riley took a quick look around the balcony. Then he lifted her skirt and bunched it up around her waist and held it there. She was as good as naked, in public. In a dark corner of the balcony at the Bronze, okay, and nobody was looking, but it was public. Riley took himself out of his camo pants and rolled a condom onto his penis. He always used them, even though she was on the Pill. He held himself in place and looked at her expectantly. Buffy shifted herself in his lap and eased herself onto him. Nice to have the quads that made this easy, holding herself over him, with the tip of his penis just inside. Riley’s eyes were looking down, at his penis. Riley was like Giles in this fascination with looking at himself inside her. Guy thing? Buffy wasn’t sure.

Buffy eased herself down until Riley was all the way inside and gave him a little squeeze. Giles had taught her to do that. Riley groaned. Buffy started to move. Riley pushed up to meet her, then grasped her hips to coax her into moving faster. Buffy smiled to herself and kept the pace slow. Tease him. Draw it out. It was his fantasy night, after all.

She imagined doing this to Giles. Mister Stuffy, in public, inside her, struggling to keep it off his face when he was close to coming, when he was coming. Giles, coming in public, shuddering underneath her, or maybe in her hand. She thought about how much power she’d have over him, at that moment, how he’d never choose to do it himself, but he’d fall all over himself to make her happy by doing it.

Riley’s head was tipped back and his eyes were closed. “Yeah, God, so good. Can’t believe this. All those people downstairs.”

Buffy’s eyes were open, so she could watch his face and the balcony stairs both. She moved a little faster and squeezed him a little tighter, and watched for what she wanted to see. The moment coming was inevitable, and the moment it started. Riley was a noisy guy by nature, but he was choking it down now. His face contorted and his jaw clenched, and there it was. Orgasm. His body tensed under her. Wow, this guy was built. Iron quads, amazing pecs, pumped biceps. Seriously sexy. Except-- buffy imagined him with nipple clamps on, with a thick plug in his ass, flexing like this under her. How hot would that be? And she would never get to experience it for real. Because he would never like that stuff. Put anything up his butt? No matter how good it felt, he wouldn’t let it happen.

Riley was the wrong guy. Buffy knew this for a certainty even while she watched him come underneath her, even while she knew she’d enjoy all the sex they’d have that night, even while she knew she would need to beg his forgiveness when it was all over and she told him about Giles.

Riley finished and slumped under her. “Oh, wow,” he said.

Buffy tightened her grip around his neck, and snapped out an order. “Put my skirt down. Now.”

Riley obeyed without thinking, then bridled. “What?”

“Forrest and Graham.”

He smoothed down the skirt even further, but there was no chance to get disentangled. Buffy grinned at the look on his face. He was still inside her, still half-hard, and Forrest had just punched him in the shoulder.

“Hey. You’re early,” Riley said.

“We thought we’d let you know that we accomplished our little mission just now.”

“Good, good. Can you give us a minute, fellas? Get me a beer.”

Graham laughed, and Buffy was certain he knew what they were up to. “No, we’re off beer, remember? It interferes. Vanilla Coke for us.”

“Yeah yeah, whatever,” Riley said. “Go get me one of whatever you’re having, soldiers.”

They grumbled, but turned around and headed back downstairs. They hadn’t said hello to her or acknowledged her presence in the slightest. And that was weird, because usually they were at least friendly. Maybe it was because of what she and Riley were up to. Maybe that knocked her down from the level of peer to the level of… something Buffy needed to talk about with Giles.

Buffy knelt up and let Riley get himself cleaned up. Condom off, wrapped in a tissue, and tucked away into one of his pockets. Riley was all zipped back up, back in control. He looked pleased with himself. Buffy shifted so she was sideways on his lap. She mooched his Coke and drank until he protested and snagged it back. He finished it off then drank hers in revenge.

Buffy smiled down on him. “Was that close enough to getting caught to make you happy?”

“Yeah. Sheesh. Yeah.”

Buffy kissed the end of his nose and fussed with his hair. It was just long enough to look mussed by what they’d done. That meant he was overdue for a haircut.

Riley rubbed her back. “Sorry I didn’t make you come just then.”

“It’s okay. We were interrupted. So long as you make it up to me later.”

Buffy gave Riley a mock pout and he looked relieved. He tugged her head down so he could reach her mouth and gave her a long kiss, with extra tongue.

“Thanks,” he said, really quietly, and kissed her again.

They made out like that for a while. Riley’s buddies appeared, with more Cokes instead of beer, as promised, and sat with them. They said hello to Buffy at last, and things felt normal, though Riley’s hand was higher up on her thigh than it usually was in public. And she could feel him getting hard again underneath her.

The Bronze’s annoying MC blared something, and the opening act lurched into a bad cover of AC/DC. The guys left them to go down and dance. Or mosh, rather, since dancing was something they only did when they had girlfriends. Buffy watched them disappear down the balcony stairs.

“Let’s get out of here,” Riley said. “Go home. Where we can take care of you the right way.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Buffy insisted on a visit to the ladies room first, to make sure her clothes were straight. When she came out again, Riley was pacing back and forth, rubbing his hand in his hair. The bulge in his pants had gone from yellow alert to DefCon 2. He looked embarrassed.

“Hey, um, Buffy. Is the fantasy thing over? Or do I get to ask you again?”

“Offer open all night. It’s your fantasy night.”

Riley took her by the hand and led her back into the jumble of stage props in the Bronze storage area, near the closed-up manager’s office. Buffy’d hunted many vampires back here and accidentally interrupted people having sex back here. Traditional location for it, back in the smashed-up drum kits and the busted stage lights. Riley stopped her under a bare lightbulb and pushed her back against the wall. His eyes had gone dark. All pupil. No embarrassment any more, just lust.

“Raise your skirt again for me. Yeah.” His voice was strange again, the way it had been in her dorm room. He backed away a few steps and didn’t stop looking at her. His gaze was locked below her waist. “Anybody could see you. Oh, man. Anybody could come right by and look at you.”

Buffy was feeling uneasy about that, because it was true. She couldn’t hear anything over the thud of the metal band playing. Anybody might be hiding in the back office. But she stayed where she was, skirt up, because she wasn’t going to fink out on Riley. Not when she was already feeling guilty about cheating on him.

Riley was unzipping his pants and taking himself out. Another condom. He dropped the wrapper on the floor, which was completely unlike him.

“You are so incredibly hot,” he said. He lifted her up and pushed himself into her without even asking if he could. Buffy wrapped her legs around his waist and held on while he slammed into her, shoving her into wall hard. Harder than he’d ever done before. He came faster than he usually did, too. He let go of her and she slid back down to the floor. Then his knees collapsed and he tumbled onto the floor next to her, in complete stunned monkey mode. Post-sex dizzies, she guessed.

“Wow,” he said again. He closed his eyes and let his head thump back against the wall.

Footsteps behind them, coming from the darkness where the office was. Buffy spun around. There was a guy there, mid-thirties, kinda well-dressed. His gaze flickered from Buffy’s breasts down to her crotch and stayed there.

“Hey, gorgeous,” the man said. He licked his lips. “That was quite a show.”

Buffy covered her eyes with a hand for a second. How uber-humiliating. They’d been caught for real. Her skin crawled. The guy loomed over her and planted his hands on either side of her head. He leaned close and Buffy saw his eyes flash yellow. Well, well.

“Couldn’t help but notice that Mister Square didn’t have the stamina to satisfy you. A girl as hot as you deserves better. Why don’t you come back to my place? I’ve been told my oral technique is inhuman.”

His tongue flickered in his mouth and Buffy crinkled up her face in disgust.

“Sorry,” she said. “You’ve seen what no vamp can see and live.”

She kicked him across the room and into a spare drum kit. While he struggled to disentangle himself from the wreckage of the bass drum, she pulled the stake out of her purse. He was back up. Buffy took two running steps over to him and jammed the stake up and into his heart. The vamp death-scream, really loud in her ears, and then the shower of dust. Dust, everywhere. Buffy hated vamp dust. She said so to Riley while she shook out her hair and clothes. Riley shoved himself back to his feet and apologized for not helping.

“S’okay. It’s my job.”

“My job too.”

Buffy turned away from Riley and did not say what was on her mind, because it would only end in a breakup sooner than she needed it to happen. “Let’s get out of here for real,” she said instead. “This place has now pegged the wig meter.”

Out of the Bronze, across downtown, then back north toward the campus. They walked, because it wasn’t far, maybe a mile to the campus edge, and the both of them were in seriously good shape.

Riley was bouncing around, jogging in place, bursting into a run every now and then. Buffy kept up with him easily enough, even in heels, but it was seriously puzzling. He was way antsier than he ever was normally. All the caffeine, she guessed. He’d had at least three Cokes back in the Bronze. He leapt up and grabbed tree branches to do impromptu pull-ups. He stopped at a park bench to do a few pushups with his toes on the bench and his hands on the ground. Buffy watched him and admired. She could do those too, of course. That morning Giles had had her doing them with her feet up on a giant inflated ball to improve her balance. He’d groused about her performance, though. And he probably wouldn’t like Riley’s form right now, despite all the raw muscle on display.

Though it was yummy raw muscle.

Riley grunted and shoved himself back to his feet. He sat on the bench, sprawled with his legs spread.

“Once we caught a pair of guys out here. Thought they were HSTs, but they were just, you know. One of my men wanted to beat them up, but I made him do pushups until he couldn’t move his arms any more.” Riley looked contemplative. “Sometimes I think there’s something to this Jungian shadow concept. Professor Walsh is much more of a behaviorist, but I think–”

“What?”

“Never mind. Hey. Um. That vampire was wrong, you know.”

“Huh what?”

“I do have the stamina for you. C’mere.”

Buffy shook her head. The game had turned creepy when the vampire had showed up and put her off public sex for life. She was still all worked up and unsatisfied, but she could wait for privacy.

“Aw, c’mon. Nobody’s around here. This place is dead quiet.”

Buffy relented, because of that nagging guilt in her gut. Riley’s eagerness was almost cute, except that he was so worked up already that it wasn’t really cute. He made Buffy kneel on the bench and lift her skirt up for him again. The sight made him rub his hands all over his face. Displacement behavior, Buffy thought, with the back of her mind. Like a cat grooming itself when it’s upset. Then he made her turn around with her knees wide apart. Buffy thought of Giles, kneeling spread out like this, wire-tight and trembling in anticipation. On display. Waiting for her hand on him. But that was more for Giles than for her, and being on display was doing exactly nothing for her now.

She jumped when Riley touched her back. His hands were hot. He moved up close enough to slide his penis between her cheeks. Buffy wondered for a second if he was going to try something really surprising, but no. He penetrated into her belly for the third time that evening. He pushed himself in as deeply as he could and bent over her back. His hand snuck around and found her clit. Buffy made an encouraging sound. Riley started pumping.

“Wanna give you what you need, Buffy. How’s this? Is this kinky enough for you?”

No, not really, but Buffy didn’t say so. Instead she concentrated on his fingers on her clit. He was as good with his fingers as he was lame with his tongue, and she’d been excited for long enough that she could set aside her nerves if she concentrated. She managed to come twice before Riley finished. This time they didn’t make out in the afterglow or talk or anything. Instead Riley zipped himself up and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. They walked the rest of the way to his dorm snuggled up like that and silent. Something was off. Riley was not his usual self.

It felt better when they were in his room and Riley was watching her undress for bed. He was sheepish.

“Sorry I was so crazy while we were out. That was, just wow. I had no idea that fantasies could be so amazing in reality. We read all these case studies of people being disappointed–”

“Still feel like dismissing fetishes?”

She knelt up on Riley’s bed, showing her body off a little bit for him, like she had earlier. It was still his fantasy night after all, and it felt way better now that he’d locked his door. Riley ran his hand down her back, then reached around to cup a breast in his big hand.

“Not sure. The whole thing was just amazingly good. But I feel okay it’s over now. Much better to be here in private with you.”

“Not something you’d do again?”

Riley shrugged and shook his head. He let go of her and bent down to unlace his shoes. “I don’t really want anybody watching us. Getting caught by that vamp wasn’t fun. I’ve seen other guys doing it. You try not to watch, but when they have the girls right there… I think they want to show off, you know, to other men.”

“So what do you think about it? Watching, I mean.”

Riley pulled his shirt over his head. “Can’t help getting turned on by it. But mostly I think they aren’t enjoying it. The girls, that is. They’re just putting up with it. Not like you. You enjoy it for real.”

“Yup. I do.”

“Speaking of which, hey. Wanna enjoy it again?”

Riley waggled his eyebrows at her and Buffy burst into giggles. Riley finished undressing fast and dumped his clothes into a corner for once, instead of folding them. He rolled onto his back on the bed and put a condom on. Then he lay waiting for her. Wow. He wanted her on top again. Buffy wasted no time straddling him. She wanted it hard and fast herself this time. She didn’t bother waiting for him to touch her, but took care of matters herself. It was a pretty good orgasm, and it sent Riley over too.

The cuddling afterward was nice. Riley was all soft and gooey after sex sometimes. Buffy fussed over him, stroking his face and hair, and tried not to think about what a horrible jerk she was being. Maybe she should just tell him now, quit with the subterfuge. She did like him, even if she didn’t love him. If this thing with Giles hadn’t happened, she might have been content with Riley. And hey, maybe Riley wouldn’t mind that she had a thing with Giles going. If it could be just sex for them, Buffy wouldn’t mind. His body was fantastic. His arms and shoulders were so hard. And as for his chest-- buffy stroked across his chest, then stopped.

There was an injury on his collarbone she hadn’t seen before, two inches long with stitch marks and a bump. When had she last seen him with his shirt off? A week and a half ago, maybe. And he’d been unmarked then. She poked at it, and Riley flinched a little bit.

“Sorry. Just don’t remember this.”

“It’s new. They put it in a week ago.”

“It?”

“Yeah, they have us on this experimental program. Nutrition, special exercises, that stuff. Need to monitor us, so they chipped us, sort of. Telemetry data, on our heart rates. That’s the bump.”

“Heart rates?” Buffy raised an eyebrow. “So they can guess what you’re up to?”

“They correlate data with the logs. We have to fill 'em out daily. Sorry. I don’t have to say who it’s with.”

“Yeah, okay,” Buffy said.

Riley turned off the light and pulled up the covers. He tugged her down until her head was on his shoulder.

It wasn’t okay. It was one thing to have your friends know it happened, because you ended up more or less knowing what nights were date nights and what nights were sleep-over nights. But it was another thing to think about Professor Walsh knowing. About a roomful of file clerks knowing. And it was bunk to think that they didn’t know who it was with. Professor Walsh was seriously interested in the fact that Buffy was the Slayer, and Riley had dropped hints she was happy the two of them were dating.

The other thing she was thinking was that Spike had a chip, too, only his was in his brain. And that one did other things, interesting things, things that Buffy hadn’t thought science was up to yet. Mind control stuff. She pulled and tugged at this in her head, pushing around puzzle pieces that weren’t fitting together yet.

Four times Riley’s heart rate had spiked that night. Four entries in the log. Or maybe he’d just say it once: Had hot date with the Slayer. Kept up with the Slayer. Four times in four hours. That was some serious stamina; the vitamins they had him on must be as high-tech advanced as the chip.

She lay in the dark in Riley’s room, listening to him breathe. Slayers could see in the dark. Electronics could, too. How else was Riley monitored? How far did Professor Walsh’s curiosity about the Slayer go? The hair on the back of her neck stood up.

She’d made the right decision.

Desires

Giles spent the next days occupied with the tasks of a Watcher: shelving more books rescued from his ruined library; improving his topical index to ease future research tasks; writing up notes for the next few tactics lessons with Buffy; working out to move his own physical conditioning closer to what it had once been. He took a disturbing phone call from Buffy Wednesday evening. She described implants she’d observed on Riley and his squadmates, and her nerves about Walsh. Giles had suggested she think twice before spending the night in Riley’s room again, and Buffy had agreed. She’d seemed upset about something. Possibly she’d been fonder of the boy than she’d realized.

The problem of the Initiative occupied his mind throughout the day on Thursday. In the evening he methodically set out what they knew in his Watcher’s journal and was dismayed to see how little they had to work with. He would have to find Spike, wherever he’d got to, and coax more information out of him. If Spike could be relied upon.

He was contemplating the poverty of his information sources when the phone rang. He moved quickly to it, for it could only be Buffy, or an emergency. It was Buffy, saying a cheerful hello to him. His shoulders relaxed; that tone of voice meant all was well.

“Hey,” she said. “Willow’s gone out for the night, no clue where, and so I thought I’d call you.”

Giles tucked the phone between ear and shoulder and capped his fountain pen. “I’m happy you did.”

“What are you up to?”

“Been updating my diary, catching up with the last few days. I was just about to head upstairs for bed.” Giles shut the diary in question and slid it into the side drawer of his writing desk. The pen went into the tray in the main drawer. No glass of whisky to accompany his writing tonight; he’d restricted himself to mineral water.

“You Watchers and your diaries.” Then Buffy’s voice shifted, from casual to intent. “Get into bed now. I’ll wait until you’re in bed and naked.”

“Of course,” murmured Giles. That voice: one command from her and his body was wakened. He turned off his desk lamp and made his way up to his loft. He put the phone down to shed his clothing and turn the lights out. He stretched himself out across his bed. Naked on his back, on clean sheets, mere cotton this time, but soft, cool under his backside. His erection lay heavy on his belly.

“Right,” he said, into the handset. “I’m in bed now.”

“Are you hard?”

“Quite.”

“Have you been driving yourself crazy every night?”

“Yes, I have. Bloody frustrating though it’s been. Been waking up from erotic dreams every night, always too soon.”

“Poor baby.”

Giles laughed. Though if he were truly honest with her, he’d admit that it hadn’t been all that difficult to hold off the first few days. Tonight it would be more trying, because her voice excited him so. “Your sympathy is false, and I know it. You enjoy it when I suffer like this.”

Buffy laughed. “I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Whatever you want. Have you decided what your reward is, by the way?”

“Ah. Yes. If you agree, I’d like to take you out to dinner. Somewhere decent.”

“Little black dress decent?”

Giles closed his eyes for a moment and let himself imagine Buffy in a black dress, her shoulders bare, hair loose. He liked her in jeans and boots, when she looked like a warrior, but she could also carry off elegance. And he liked that too. “Mmmm, yes,” he said.

“I have the perfect dress. Need to figure out shoes, though.”

“Don’t wear scent. I have something for you.”

“How sweet! This all sounds wonderful, Giles. But not very kinky.”

“Ah. But it will be, because I’ll be wearing my steel cock ring and the metal plug while we’re out. I’ll be aching for you.”

“In public? With other people seeing you all horny and panting and bulgy?” Buffy sounded uncertain. Because she didn’t like the idea of a fuss in public? Giles didn’t either.

“They’ll not be able to tell. It’ll be our secret. Nobody else will know, but I’ll be hard and filled. It’ll be all I can think about. Won’t be able to eat, or sit still, I’ll be so aroused for you.”

“And I’ll see it on your face, and know what it means, and nobody else will have a clue.” Buffy sounded pleased now. “Then what?”

If he were lucky, very lucky, he’d be able to watch Buffy fight while they were out. It didn’t matter what she did, stake a vampire, behead a demon. Just so he saw her being what she was. But he wouldn’t ask her to fight any more often than Fate itself did.

“I’ll take you home again. Here. And strip naked for you. You’ll put the collar on me and make me go to my knees and stay there. Deep submission.”

“And then?”

“Put me in tight bondage. Immobilize me. And–”

“And what, Giles?”

He swallowed. “Make me suffer.”

Buffy made a sound that he thought might be a groan, but wasn’t sure. “Any particular way?”

“Something that leaves marks again, please. The ones from last week are nearly faded and I miss them.”

How easy it was to ask for this, when one was so removed from the reality of enduring it. He’d feel differently when she came to him holding the whip, he was sure. By then it would be too late. His willful cock knew what it wanted, though. As ever. He let his fingers brush against it. Teasing himself, as she wanted.

“Do you want to come?”

Giles groaned into the receiver. He wanted it rather desperately, but he retained his manners. “If it is your pleasure, yes, I do. I’d like to come more than once.”

“You think you deserve that?”

“I hope to prove it to you.”

“By suffering.” It was almost a question.

“That’s the usual means of proving one’s submission to one’s mistress. Another is what you’re having me do now. Do without.” He moaned in half-hearted protest, and she laughed.

“Would have you masturbated this week if I hadn’t told you you couldn’t?”

Giles put his hand behind his head, safely away from his erection and from temptation. He looked up at his ceiling and trying to imagine how his week might have gone. “Hmm. Doubtful. I’d have been quite satisfied by the weekend, in the normal way of things.”

“How often do you masturbate?”

“It varies,” he said. “When I’m exhausted from our training, or injured, not at all. If I’m in good condition, I might do it every day. There are times when it doesn’t come to mind, though. Might run to a fortnight without.”

“That’s a long time,” she said, and he wondered how often she indulged herself. She was at the age when one wanted to almost constantly, if he could extrapolate from his own experiences and those of his university friends. He imagined her touching herself, a hand between her legs, another on her breast, what her face might look like, and his cock twitched against his belly.

She said, “Do you use any of your toys?”

“I might use one of the plugs from time to time, but usually not. Just my hand and a bit of slick.” He didn’t need the slick just now, it seemed. He dared not touch himself with anything more than fingertips, he was so worked up. Then, daring, “And you? Have you ever used toys?”

“I kinda don’t own any.”

“You surprise me.”

“All this stuff was just fantasy for me until two weeks ago, remember. I’ve never even been in a porn shop. Adult bookstore. Or whatever the word is for places where you get all the stuff you have.”

“So how did you learn you liked this kind of sex? Being dominant?”

“Well, um, sort of it was a party one of the high school football players threw, back when I was in LA. When I look back on it, it really upsets me that they did it and that I went. But back then, I had to do all this skeevy stuff to stay cool and popular.”

Giles heard the ironic twist in her voice. He wasn’t entirely sure she’d moved on from that need, but she’d at least learned to be suspicious of it.

“What happened at the party?” he said.

“They showed about seven pornos on different TVs all over the house. Most of them were awful, you know? Just people sticking things into each other for no reason at all and then pretending they liked it. No emotion at all. But then this guy played one that was leather stuff. And that one, woah. It was so real. So intense. Couldn’t stop watching it. Got more turned on than I’d ever been in my life.”

Giles had had a similar moment of awakening, though his own had been while reading a book he’d found in his father’s library. Histoire d’O, which he’d picked up by chance, innocently, because he’d wanted practice with his French. He could imagine the expression on Buffy’s face, her lower lip caught between her teeth, her pupils wide as she watched and learned what she desired.

Buffy was continuing with her story. “Some of the kids in the room were laughing at it, you know, the way people do when they’re nervous. And there were two other people who were watching it the way I was.”

“Did you talk to them?”

“No way. Uh huh. Way too confused and embarrassed. I hadn’t gotten further than first base with my boyfriend. No way I was going to tell anybody I had all these urges to tie him up.”

Giles made a sympathetic noise.

“The most I did about it until you was read books. And here’s where I admit I read lots of them. There’s a bookstore in LA that had a whole section for them. Written by anonymous. Or by people with pseudonyms so obvious they’re cringe-worthy.”

“Dreadful yet exciting,” Giles said. He knew the sort. Plain covers, or arty black and white photography. Or perhaps a drawing of a single rose, with prominent thorns. And inside, a story that one judged solely by how often it mentioned the things one wanted to have happen to one. He’d read many in his university days. One-handed, half-ashamed, driven by something he wasn’t sure he understood. It was odd to think of Buffy doing the same, years later.

“Yeah. I read the good ones so many times they’re falling apart. Been reading more this week. Different kind of book, though. This is the, I don’t know what the word is, the technical kind. How-to books. The Pocket Guide to Hot Wax. Whipping for Dummies. You know.”

Giles giggled, though it was half nerves. If she were learning more, she would be doing more, and he would be the grateful subject of her experimentation. Grateful afterwards, though. While he was enduring it he would say something different.

“But the books are sort of… missing the point? They’re all about the gadgets. Sometimes it’s like reading Cosmo. Secrets of the professional dominatrices. Ten ways to make your sub scream! But it’s not about that. It’s about emotions. The way you feel about what’s happening. What I feel.”

“Yes. That’s insightful. It’s how we feel about each other.” Giles rubbed his jaw, worried he’d strayed too close to saying it to her.

“It’s strange how much better I know you now, after two weeks of this, than after three years of hanging out with you.”

“Sex is intimate to start with. And this sort even more so.”

Buffy had, he wagered, paid more attention to him during that first night together than in the entire three years previous. It wasn’t an equal relationship, that of the Watcher to his Slayer. He’d spent the those years giving all to her without expectation of anything returned. And why should he expect anything more from a girl who’d end by sacrificing her life for the sake of humanity? She owed him nothing.

Liar. He’d sulked when he’d felt she’d abandoned him these past months. Sulked and misbehaved and been caught at it. Such a strange thing, a man in his mid-forties, in thrall to a girl just up at university. Not strange at all in another way: he was a Watcher in thrall to his Slayer, exactly as they’d raised him to be. Field Watchers were never cold-blooded. Merrick hadn’t been. Even that odd bird Wyndam-Pryce had been been attached, once he’d settled into the role. Giles simply made his worship more literal than most. Though now he wondered how many men had taken this route with their Slayers. He’d meant what he’d told Xander about the intensity of the partnership.

Buffy sighed. “I never… Did we ever touch before this? I know we did, but it feels like I never touched you once before that night. Not in any way that counted.”

“We weren’t close that way.”

“You’re so standoffish with everybody.”

“Reserved.”

“Stuffy.”

“Dignified.”

“Repressed.”

“It’s simple good manners.”

“Well, whatever it is, it’s over. No more stuffiness.”

“No,” he said, and he smiled. Indeed, there was no hope of concealing himself when she had him bound and gasping under her hands. He would yield all his secrets to her. Had already, save for the one about how he felt for her, lest it frighten her away.

“So, Mister Not So Stuffy, tell me a secret. Tell me why the cock ring for Saturday night.”

“Oh! That’s no secret. Rings feel bloody good to begin with, and then when one adds the weight of metal to it-- It’s rather wonderful. Hard to describe. Intensifies the sensations. It’s insistent. Inescapable. My mistress is constantly present when I wear it for her. For you.”

“I can hear how much you want it. In your voice.”

“I do want it. So very much. That ring is in all my fantasies. I had one of you the other night that featured it.”

“Tell me.”

The sure command in her voice went straight to his cock. His throat closed up and he struggled for the words.

“I’m kneeling at your side, fully clothed. But underneath, underneath I’m wearing the metal ring. And I’m penetrated by something, not sure what, but it’s metal and heavy as well. Almost brutal. All underneath my clothes, so it’s hidden away, but I can’t think about anything else. I’m wearing your collar, too. Everyone looking at me knows I’m your man, your liegeman, because of your collar, but it’s not shameful in the least. They’re envious and I’m proud of myself.”

The memory of the fantasy was sweet, and Giles sighed. His hand strayed down to his cock again, for a brief tantalizing touch.

“I get it. You’re going to live that out Saturday night.”

“A less intense version of it, yes.”

“What about that collar?”

“Ah. Yes. I confess the collar is a bit of a fetish. More for emotional associations with that particular object than for the idea of collars. Ethan gave it me, and I learnt to suffer for him wearing it. For me it, ah, it’s the outward proof of my submission. I’m owned when I’m wearing it. Most, um, satisfying.” Giles cleared his throat. He’d blushed talking about that, as he hadn’t when talking about the cock ring.

“So Ethan was into owning you.”

“Not precisely. Ethan was pure sadist. He had no interest in dominance, not for himself. He liked seeing me in pain. And I needed pain. For a time it worked.”

“Did you love him?”

“Deeply.”

Buffy was silent for a time, and so was he. Ethan, oh Ethan. Giles missed him, longed for him, with a tiny corner of his heart. But it was impossible. They’d grown apart even while they’d been together, and the final betrayal had been too much for even someone as besotted as he to forgive. Too many years of bitterness. And he loved someone else now. He wondered if he’d ever dare tell her. Surely she knew? Surely she would guess, after that confession about Ethan?

But when she spoke again, she’d moved on to another topic.

“You said you weren’t with lots of men. And never again as a bottom.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

Giles shifted and turned onto his side in bed. His erection had softened a little. He took himself in hand again and thought about how to explain it to her. “I’m fussier about men than about women. Sounds a bit silly now I say it, because I’ve not much been a Lothario with women. But men need to have something that wakens that urge in me.”

The need to strut, to tomcat about, to sink his teeth into their necks, rather than to have his neck bitten. He’d found himself impatient with shallow men who were interested only in his muscles and the size of his prick. He liked difficult men, he’d found, men who frustrated him a bit.

“No guys recently?”

“I’ve not met any I was attracted to in more than passing. No opportunity here in Sunnydale.”

“How about Wes? Was he cute?”

“He was a bit of all right,” Giles said, thinking how much Pryce would have hated being described that way. He’d certainly been maddening enough, though too much of a rival for Buffy’s favor to awaken Giles’s desire.

“He pinged my gaydar pretty hard, but when Cordy went for him I thought I had to be wrong. She’s reliable. Do you know what Wes is?”

“We didn’t share confidences. Bisexual, perhaps?”

“What, are all you Englishmen bi?”

“Alas, no. We are less all-fired insecure about it than you Americans. So touchy about your masculinity.”

Buffy laughed. “Was thinking exactly that the other day. How sexy Riley would be with a plug in his ass, and how far and fast he’d run if I held one up and said, hey baby. Not like you. You love it. I love watching you move when I’m teasing you with it.”

Giles’s cock made its wishes most emphatically known again. “Mmm.”

“Yeah?”

“Thinking about you playing with my arse. About what you’ll do Saturday. Can’t bear the wait.”

“But you’ll have to.”

“Sweet cruelty.”

Buffy laughed. “I love how happy you sound when you say that. You’re frustrated but you’re loving every second of it.”

“Is that strange to you?”

“Yes and no. I don’t really get how sex works for you yet, but liking being teased isn’t weird. The only thing you do that is weird is the paying for it thing. That sort of freaks me out. You gave somebody money to do it to you.”

Giles let go of himself and shifted onto his back again. He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut.

“I, um, this is difficult to confess, but I’ve been to, ah, professionals more than once. It’s different in England to here. It’s not illegal, for one thing. One is safer. Both sides are safer.”

“But why do it at all?”

Giles sighed. Now they were in territory he found genuinely shameful. “I was desperate. Sometimes the need builds in me until I just can’t bear it any more. It’s all I can think about. It’s worst when I’m most lonely. If there’s someone in my life, I’m better balanced. Even if she doesn’t wish to indulge me.”

“Did you and Olivia do this stuff?”

“Olivia was what you call vanilla.”

“So you hadn’t done it since Jenny.”

“No. I was starved for it. Jenny spoiled me, rather, with how experienced she was. By far the most experienced lover I’ve had. She took me much further than I’d been before. Gave me a taste for more extreme play.”

“What was the most extreme thing she did to you?”

“Ah. Remember I told you I once did something that reminded her you came first?”

“Jenny punished you, you said.”

“Harshly. It was quite the most extreme thing we did together. She used the flogger with the metal tips.”

“Extreme is the word. That’s a heavy flogger. I’m kinda shocked, actually.”

“The incident shocked us as well.”

“By how far you went?”

“No, not exactly. More by how much we both craved going that far. And how satisfied we both were. She told me the next day, when we talked it over, that she’d been searching for an excuse to punish me that harshly. I think I knew it, and handed her one.”

In fact, he was certain that was how it had gone. She’d bought the flogger, showed it to him as a curiosity, and put it away. Two weeks later, he’d given her the excuse, and when she’d taken it out again, he’d felt a strange satisfaction. There were portions of the evening Giles could not remember clearly, though he remembered the prelude and the aftermath vividly. The memory of pain faded, as he had learned from other, less pleasant experiences. The memory of the emotions did not, and his emotions that evening had been intense.

“But you needed the excuse? You couldn’t just do it?”

“It wants ritual. Ceremony. A reason.”

“Right, I get it,” Buffy said. She was silent for a moment, then said, “Ritual provides a context, and sets it aside from regular life. Makes it a special event. You know how to act during it, and you know when it’s over.”

“Buffy, you continually surprise and delight me. Where have you learned this?”

“The psych textbook. Been reading ahead. And I was reading this book about myths. It’s pretty interesting. More interesting than class. Though there’s one I can take next year about it that looks sort of cool.”

Giles smiled in pure joy, halfway across town from his clever Slayer. University had caught her at last. He said nothing, lest teasing dissuade her.

“So you did your harsh punishment ritual.”

“Indeed. I spent the weekend laid up in bed in her flat.”

“Wow. Face down, I bet.”

“Yes, rather. She fussed over me ridiculously. Fed me, indulged me, dressed me in soft clothes. Not that she let me come. I had to wait days before she allowed me.”

Buffy made a thoughtful sound. “You liked that,” she said. It was not a question; he’d managed to make that aspect of his sexuality clear to her.

“Not so much the going without entirely, as that she took control of it, if you take my meaning.”

“You really like that. I mean, really deeply.”

“Yes. This week has been, um, profound. I think about you constantly. Constantly aware that I’ve pledged to obey you. That I’ve submitted to you.”

“Do you like that more or less than being whipped?”

Giles shifted himself on the bed. Just the sound of Buffy saying that word make him burn with longing and fear. “Difficult. They’re both ways I prove myself to you. But I think-- oh, Lord, confessing this.” His voice dropped to a whisper and his breath came fast. “I need the whipping more. Ethan had me right.”

“Tell me,” she said. Her voice was as quiet as his was. “What’s the difference?”

Giles sought for the words. How to make her understand something he only half-understood himself?

“This is frustrating, but sweet. Arousal is sweet. Thinking about you is sweet. The other is-- God. Terrifying.” Giles’s hand on the phone receiver was wet with sweat. He was terrified already, by the idea of handing himself over to her for it, of begging her for it. And then enduring it. As he would Saturday night. “I need it. So much.”

“Complicated.”

Giles rubbed his face and smiled ruefully, though she couldn’t see him. “Yes, it’s all a bit of a tangle inside my head, I’m afraid. Never managed to sort it out.”

“Yeah, I’m getting that. Less complicated for me, I guess.”

“Likely just as complex, in different ways. You’ve yet to explore your own sexuality as much as I have. I’ve had more time.”

“I’m still getting over the shock that there’s somebody who wants the things I want. For so long I’ve fantasized about this. I wanted to do it to guys. Tie them up and whip them. I was afraid nobody would ever want to do it in real life. And now I’ve found you.”

“Folie a deux,” Giles murmured.

“Matched set.”

“Indeed we are. Watcher and Slayer.”

Buffy giggled, then was silent for a time. Giles listened to her breathe and was content. He turned on his side and pulled a blanket over his legs. When had she been with him last? Monday evening. And in two nights she’d be with him again. He stretched his legs then curled himself around a pillow, with the blanket pulled a bit higher. He wanted her there, in his bed, cradled against his chest, rather more than he wanted any of the things they’d talked about. Sex was not everything.

“Hey,” Buffy said.

“Hey yourself.”

“What are you thinking?”

“I wish you were here. I feel better when I know you’re safe.”

She was silent for a moment, and he was afraid she’d pull away, but then she said, “Yeah. Me too. But I can’t be. I need to do this thing with Riley. The Initiative is going to be a problem.”

“I agree. Do what you must. I’ll tug on some contacts I have and see what I can learn.”

“'Kay. I should get some sleep. Nine am class, and somebody has ordered me to run five miles tomorrow morning.”

Giles smiled. “Right, then. Call me when you get in from patrol? It doesn’t matter what time.”

“I’m not going out again tonight, don’t worry.”

“I meant–”

“I know what you meant. Night, Giles.”

“Goodnight.” He swallowed the endearment he’d wanted to use.

“Sleep tight.”

He waited until he heard the click of her ringing off before he turned off his phone.

Steel

The knock came at Buffy’s dorm door exactly on time, with the campus clock still chiming the hour. Buffy called out that it was open, and snapped her compact closed. Too late to fuss with it any more.

Giles stepped inside her door silently and closed it. He stood with his back against the door, hands in his trouser pockets, head ducked. He was smiling faintly. He looked marvelous in his dark jacket and striped tie-- buffy had almost forgotten what he looked like dressed like that, he’d been wearing the sloppy sweaters so often. Buffy herself had gone for casually dressy, not formally dressy. A night out in LA, not New York, light on the jewelry, heavy on the natural.

“You look lovely,” Giles said. He cleared his throat. His eyes were on her body, moving from her discreet cleavage down to her high heels. “Is, er, Willow, er?” Giles trailed off.

“She’s out. Date, I think, not studying. She put on makeup before she left.”

Giles flashed his teeth in a broad smile. “Oh, good for her.”

He stepped toward her. Buffy met him halfway. She wrapped her fist around his tie, just below the knot. “Have you been obedient?”

“Yes.”

Buffy could see from his face that he had been. He was smiling and he looked eager, proud of himself. She tugged hard on the tie and pulled him down so she could kiss him. When he tried to take control of the kiss she pushed him back playfully, but hard enough that he staggered backward. He was still smiling.

“Did you bring your toys?”

“Indeed.”

He reached into his jacket pocket and took out three items, which he laid on her desk: a thick rounded metal ring, a plug about the size of her palm, and a tiny bottle of lubricant. Then he put his hands behind his back and bent his head to her. His ears were red, as if he were embarrassed by his toys, or maybe it was just that he was excited. Buffy was feeling that way herself. She’d been waiting all week for this.

Time to peek at her own toy.

She undid his belt and unzipped his pants. Giles widened his stance slightly, but held himself still otherwise. Buffy pushed his trousers all the way down to his ankles. He was wearing stretch boxers in black. She wondered if she should tell him to go without underwear next time. She pushed the boxers down all the way to his ankles as well, then stood up. His legs were pale to the knees, then faintly tanned below, from jogging. He didn’t have Riley’s sculpted quads or glutes. He did have other virtues. The brains. The swordsmanship. The submission, expressed now in that head, bent to her, and in those wrists, held crossed behind his back. But he was looking up through his lashes, watching her. Waiting, still with a faint smile.

Buffy picked up the cock ring and turned it over in her hands. It was plain polished steel, surprisingly heavy. Giles had mentioned the weight as something he enjoyed. Buffy slipped it over his balls, then tucked his soft penis through, gave it a tug to settle it in place. Giles breathed out when she did that. His eyes were closed, and his face was rapt. He was hardening already, though she wasn’t touching him. Buffy watched his penis thicken and rise, and felt herself open a little in response. She might stay as excited as he was all night, just from knowing he was that aroused.

“Bend over the back of my chair, please.”

Giles shuffled around awkwardly with his pants around his ankles. He bent and grasped the back of her chair as instructed.

Buffy opened the bottle of lubricant and squeezed out a big blob onto her fingers. She touched him lightly with her slippery fingers. He shivered. Ethan, he’d told her, had been the first person to take him there. Buffy had a flash of jealousy, which surprised her. It had been so long ago, and she couldn’t ever have been the first to own him. But she would be the one to own him most completely, she told herself. And on that thought, she pushed her middle finger inside him, all the way up to the knuckle. He breathed in and went tense, and she felt him move around her. Strange feeling, being inside somebody. Soft and warm. What did it feel like to have a penis and have it inside somebody else? She’d never know. That was okay; Buffy liked what she did have. Her Slayer’s body, her breasts, her vagina. She had a butt too. Would she like having someone touch her the way she was touching Giles now? She hadn’t thought about that before, but she thought about it now, as she pushed two fingers inside him and listened to him gasp. Giles really liked this. He wanted more, he’d said. Wanted to be fucked. By her? Nobody else was going to. He belonged to her now.

Buffy withdrew herself from him and picked up the plug. This was also heavier than she’d expected, though it wasn’t large. Like the cock ring, then, all about the sensation of weight. She teased him with it and was gratified to hear his breathing speed up. She slid it into him until it was at its widest point. He made another one of those soft sounds of pleasure and pushed back against her a little bit. She let the plug slide all the way in and settled the base snug against his butt. His glutes flexed, and then Giles let out a long sigh.

Buffy washed her hands in the dorm sink. Giles remained in place without needing to be told. He was breathing hard, eyes closed. She laid a hand on his rump and he flinched. Braced for something to happen, then. Buffy grinned, behind him where he couldn’t see it. His penis was fully erect now. She liked Giles’s penis. She liked that it was uncircumcised. It was a good size, not ridiculously big, but wide enough to feel good when he was inside her, long enough that going down deep on him took skill. Buffy grinned to herself, thinking about how that had felt, how he’d moaned. How he would moan later on when she did that for him again, as a reward. But it was so tempting right now, hanging down like that, with his balls held away from his body by the steel ring. So delicate, so sensitive. So vulnerable.

Buffy took his balls in her hand and squeezed, cautiously, with all the careful control of her strength she’d ever learned, and every bit of tender cruelty she had. When Giles gasped, she stopped, and released him. There was a faint beading of sweat on his forehead, and he had flushed.

“Stand up and dress yourself.”

Giles obeyed. She watched him zip himself up carefully, with his penis held upright inside his briefs. He buckled his belt, then looked up at her. His face was red, but he was otherwise composed and controlled. He adjusted his tie and gave her that shy smile again. He cleared his throat, then stuck his hand into his jacket pocket and inclined his head slightly.

“I have a present for you.”

Buffy grinned at him. “You mean besides you?”

“I promised you scent. I know you usually wear florals, but, ah, I thought this might suit. I had it blended specially.”

He handed her a small black velvet bag. It held a small glass bottle with a cork stopper in the neck; the bottle was full of a thick red oil. Perfume. Buffy pulled the cork stopper out and sniffed cautiously at the oil. Spicy oranges, and something dark and velvety underneath. With a bite lurking behind it. Her nostrils flared, and she inhaled again, more deeply.

“Made for me?”

“At the occult shop downtown. It has a number of interesting qualities.”

He took the bottle back from her, held his index finger over the neck and upended it. He reached out and stroked his finger behind her ear and trailed it down along her neck. Buffy shivered. He wet his finger again, then capped the bottle. He moved around behind her and stroked behind her ears. He trailed his fingers down the back of her neck.

“What qualities?” she said, unsteadily.

“It repels demons,” he whispered into her ear.

“Oh, really.”

Giles nuzzled against her neck. “Mmm, yes. And it has one other important characteristic.”

“What’s that?”

“It is an aphrodisiac for Watchers.”

He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her up onto her toes and kissed her neck, passionately. She could feel his erection pressed against her back. He released her just as suddenly and begged her pardon gravely. Buffy turned and laid her hands on his chest. He bent to her again and kissed her, more gently this time. Buffy pressed herself close against him and let him kiss her. Soft kisses, tender kisses. His eyes were closed, so she closed hers and let him have his way with her.

At length he sighed and pulled away from her. “We should leave now to make our reservation. Ready?”

“Give me a sec.” Buffy straightened her dress and checked her face in the mirror. The advantage of going light on the makeup tonight was that there wasn’t much for Giles to mess up by kissing. She snagged her overnight bag from the end of the bed and said, “Ready.”

“May I carry that for you? My car’s in the public lot.”

He held doors for her with that same courtesy on their way out of the dorm and walked one step behind her and to her left. That was sound tactics and not mere courtesy: they covered each other’s weak sides that way. Though it was still twilight, and vampires were not going to be in motion yet. Buffy practiced scanning for them anyway, just to keep herself on her toes. Here she was, dressed for a nice night out, and she couldn’t stop thinking like a Slayer. She sighed.

“What is it?”

“Nothing. Hey. Professor Walsh at 2 o’clock. With her research assistant Beaker.”

Buffy thought Walsh was headed the other way, but Angleman spotted them and pointed her out to Walsh. They changed direction and headed straight toward Buffy and Giles. Giles cocked his head at her, and Buffy shrugged. She had no idea what Walsh wanted. She wondered if Walsh could tell what she was up to with Giles, dressed up like this, if Walsh would know somehow that she was cheating on Riley. She squared her shoulders; no time to worry about that now.

“Hey, Professor Walsh. What are you doing on campus on a Saturday?”

“Didn’t Lieutenant Finn contact you? We have a training exercise tonight. Doctor Angleman has a test he’d like to perform on you as well.”

Buffy opened her mouth to explain, then shut it again because she wasn’t sure what to say. Giles’s hand closed on her elbow, roughly enough to startle her, and he tugged her back a step. He let go and caught her eye for a second. There was something in his face that made Buffy wake up and go on the alert. Then he straightened and said to Walsh, “Miss Summers is otherwise occupied tonight.”

“I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Rupert Giles.”

“Maggie Walsh.”

Giles held out a hand, and Walsh shook it for what seemed to Buffy to be the minimum polite time.

“Oh, yes, Rupert Giles. Lieutenant Finn mentioned you once. You were the librarian at the town high school.”

Buffy opened her mouth to protest that Giles had been much more than that, but Giles touched her elbow again and she shut her mouth. He had a plan, she could see that much. She’d let him spool it out.

“I think you know better than that,” Giles said, politely. “We needn’t pretend.”

Walsh laughed. “It’s true. Finn has given us a full report on Buffy’s colorful past.”

“I see.”

“But Buffy, there’s still time for you to join the team if you head back and change now. If you’re going to join up, you need to start taking these appointments seriously.”

Once again Giles answered for her. “Miss Summers has a prior engagement. We have our own training exercise tonight.”

“Really.” Walsh took a step back and frowned at Angleman, who shrugged slightly. “I was told that your relationship was in the past.”

“It seems you were misinformed.”

“Apparently so.” And that was interesting. Riley hadn’t told Walsh everything, not recently, anyway. Walsh sighed. “Pity. I expected tonight to be informative.”

“Oh? About what?”

“We are curious what gives Buffy the reflexes she has. She does appear to have physical abilities quite similar to those of some of the hostiles we’ve studied.”

“Yes, it is a puzzle, isn’t it,” Giles said.

“She’s quite a handful. Strong appetite. Fast metabolism. She’s been disruptive in our training exercises, not through any intention to cause problems, I suspect. No one has taught her discipline.”

Buffy’s hand curled into a fist around her purse strap, but she kept her mouth shut. Giles smiled at Professor Walsh, and it was the strangest, creepiest smile Buffy had ever seen on him. Walsh didn’t seem to even notice, because if she had, she’d have stepped back from him. A second later, Giles’s smile was back to normal, and he had his hands shoved deep into his trouser pockets, in typical Giles-mode.

“Sounds as if she’s not cut out for the military,” he said.

“Military discipline and structure is exactly what this young woman needs, in my judgement.”

“I find that, ah, the Slayer requires a more traditional sort of discipline. One more suited to her nature.”

“And just what is that nature?”

“Slayers,” he said, in his driest voice, “have more than a little in common with the demons they’re made to slaughter. They’re hot-blooded and need a strong hand.”

“And you’re the man to provide it.”

Giles shrugged. “It’s a matter of experience.”

“I find that fascinating, Mr Giles. I’m facing a new set of challenges with my soldiers where your knowledge might be just what I need.” Walsh glanced back at Angleman, who was looking over at the sciences building instead of at her. “You’ve had trouble filling your time this year, Finn tells me.”

Giles’s head jerked back, and his lips pressed together. Professor Walsh raised an eyebrow at him, and the hair on Buffy’s neck rose again. These two people didn’t like each other, she realized, not even a single little bit, and this whole conversation had been fencing with sharp steel. And Walsh had just scored a touch.

“You know, Mr Giles, if you were seeking a change of pace, I can offer you a marvelous opportunity. One I’m certain would be to your tastes. I’d enjoy having a man like you under me.”

“Oh?”

“Think about it.”

“I’ll consider it,” was all Giles said.

“So what are you up to this evening? It looks more like you’re heading to dinner than to primitive weapons training.”

Walsh addressed her question to Buffy, but again Giles touched her on the elbow and Buffy let him answer.

“We’re having her tea leaves read,” he said.

“The Initiative doesn’t waste time on superstition,” Professor Walsh said.

“Neither do I. And speaking of the time-- we must be off. Have a good evening.”

Giles took her elbow again and drew her away down the sidewalk. Once they’d put Walsh and Angleman a good way behind themselves, Giles let go of her. Buffy breathed out a long sigh. That had been some routine he’d pulled just now, but she was pretty sure she knew what he’d been trying to do. Let Walsh think he was bossing her around, the way the Council was supposed to work. Probably that would make Walsh decide she was weak, and underestimate her. She hoped.

“That was a mood-killer,” she said.

“Outright disturbing, I’d have said.”

There was something in his voice that made Buffy turn and stare sharply up into his face. He was more flustered than she’d seen him in a long time, to the point where he was polishing his glasses as they walked.

“Giles, calm down. That was just Maggie being Maggie, I thought.”

“Oh?”

“Riley says she can be a hard-ass. Focused on the problem in front of her, not so good with the social skills.”

“That was not my reading. But it doesn’t matter.”

Riley’d said more, once, when he’d been angry about something, about one of his squad being reassigned by Walsh without consulting with him. But that was just him grousing about work, the way she’d complain about vampires. Mostly Riley seemed to like Walsh. Was she serious about that job offer? Buffy didn’t like the idea, especially because it would mean she would definitely end up joining the Initiative. The idea of investigating it from the inside, of getting her own special implants and monitors, was giving her the creeps. She pondered this until they reached the public parking lot, where Giles’s battered car was.

Giles dug for his keys in his pocket and opened the passenger door for her.

“I do think we learned something worthwhile,” he said.

“What?” Buffy said. Giles’s brows came together, and she held up a hand to keep him silent while she thought it through herself. “She’s interested in what makes me the Slayer.”

“Yes.”

Buffy got in the car. Giles closed the door on her, then trotted around to climb in on the driver’s side. He made no move to start the engine but instead drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.

An idea occurred to Buffy. “I think she wants to make her own. Is already trying to. Riley and his special diet.”

“Hmm, perhaps. You said they had a doctor look at you, when you spent the day with the team. Did they take samples?”

“They drew blood, yeah. The other night they had me on a treadmill running with a breathing thingie hooked up.”

“Measuring oxygen uptake.” Giles tapped two fingers against his lips. “Don’t let them take samples again.”

“All warfare is based on deception.”

“Precisely.”

“And if they have more of my blood, they’ll figure it out. Did you mean what you said about Slayers being part demon? Or was that more deception?”

Giles didn’t answer her right away, and Buffy felt a flash of anger. “Giles. Answer me.”

“Not entirely. I repeated something I was told once, by someone I despised.”

“So what did make the Slayers?”

Giles sighed. “No one knows, though there are legends, each one contradicting the next. The divine agent theory is at least as prevalent as the demon blood one. I’ve got a book that compiles them all in one of the boxes from the library. I’ll find it for you tomorrow.”

Buffy thought about this. Blood. It was always about blood. It was where vampires and the demons that walked the earth came from, Giles had said, when the blood of greater demons mixed with the blood of humans. Blood was how vampires lived and how they infected new hosts. Was her power in her blood? That was how Giles had taken it away from her, when the Council had made him poison her. Speaking of which.

“The Council has no idea where I came from, really? I don’t believe that.”

Giles shook his head. “If they know, they haven’t told me. They keep their secrets. And I am no longer privy to even the least of them.” His voice was harsh on those last words, and his face had an expression on it Buffy didn’t see often. She remembered the look on his face when the Council had fired him, when Travers had threatened him. Defiant, jaw thrust out, under the black eye. She was glad he wasn’t working for them any more.

“Are you seriously considering working for Professor Walsh?”

“If it would serve our goals, yes.”

The thought of Giles working for Walsh made her chest tighten up. A flood of something strange came over her, the feeling she’d had when she’d seen Olivia in Giles’s shirt. When she’d seen the photographs of Giles with the professional dominatrix. She hadn’t called it jealousy then, but she knew it for what it was now. Maybe it was a bad thing. She’d worry about that later.

She reached out and grabbed a fistful of his shirt and shook him, less gently than she’d meant to. Giles grasped her wrist, but didn’t try to pull free.

“No. You work for me now. Not for anybody else. Not Maggie, not the Council. You’re mine now.”

Giles closed his hand over hers and disentangled her grasp from his shirt. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. “Of course,” he murmured against her fingers. “Never doubt me.”

“Never. But that’s a tactic I don’t want to use. I don’t want you wearing their uniform. I need you the way you are.”

“I understand,” he said, and he stroked her hand.

Maybe he even did understand. He hadn’t been boasting when he’d told Walsh he knew what Slayers needed. Slayers needed Watchers, or something just like them. Somebody safe, reliable, a place to return to when she needed a refuge and time to think. Advice, analysis, A friend she could trust to support her interests completely. Everybody wanted that, maybe, but for the Slayer it was urgent. Though she felt she’d just been ridiculous and clingy. Wasn’t she supposed to be meeting all her own emotional needs? That’s what the psych text said, what Maggie Walsh had said in a lecture.

She said, “I’m sorry. Was that another mood-killer?”

“Not in the least.” There was that shy smile again, peeking out. “You told me what I most long to hear.”

Buffy felt her face flush at that, though she couldn’t understand why. Giles kissed her knuckles one last time, then laid her hand on his knee. He reached for the key in the ignition. Buffy slid her hand up his thigh and squeezed his leg gently. Giles turned over the engine, and they puttered into motion. Toward dinner and the rest of their evening.

Control

The restaurant was a quiet place, small and far more Californian in feel than Buffy might have anticipated from Giles. She’d been thinking French, stuffy, formal, but this place was all about the ocean view and the fine locally-grown produce. Giles declined the wine list and ordered mineral water for them both. He also ordered for her, doing all the talking to the waiter and eventually deciding on the fixed menu for both of them. There was no sign in him of the diffidence he often showed with her. He knew what he wanted and was taking it. Buffy enjoyed watching Giles be confident. There was something pleasing about letting him take charge in small things, in the external things, while at the heart they both knew who was in charge. Underneath his clothes, he wore her steel.

She kept her eyes on his face the whole time he was talking to the waiter, watching for the signs that he was as aroused as she knew he was. The napkin on his lap hid everything away. Somebody who knew him as well as she did might be able to tell, from the slight flush on his face, and the way he kept shifting in his seat. Normally Giles was a still and controlled man. Tonight he fidgeted, and that revealed his secret.

Buffy had a secret, too, and that was that she’d been abstinent herself since that night with Riley. If going without for only four days counted as abstinence, which seemed a little silly when she looked at it that way. It was the longest she’d gone since she’d started having sex again, since that night with jerky Parker, which had been depressing but reminded her how good sex felt. She’d let herself have fun any time she wanted since then, either by herself or with a boyfriend. But this week she’d wanted to try out waiting for it, to see for herself what Giles might get out of going without. It was fun to be excited a little bit all the time, to have it flash out in a big way when she thought about sex, or looked at the sweat at Giles’s temples and knew why he was restless.

Like right now. She watched him pour himself mineral water. His hands shook, and he spilled a little on the table, and Buffy felt her body respond.

“Distracted?” she said.

Giles looked up at her and flushed. “Ah. Distracted. That’s a good word for it.”

“Good,” Buffy said. He flushed a little deeper, and again, she felt a throb in return. He had a metal plug inside him, and he was as hard as a man could be. All for her. Buffy let herself smile. “What’s the most distracting?”

Giles flicked a glance at the table next to them, and said, “Difficult to say. The ring? The metal is… I’m not sure we should have this conversation just now.”

Buffy saw he’d gone even redder, and wondered if just saying that had made him harder. “Okay, let’s not make our neighbors’ ears burn. What should we talk about, Mr Distracted?”

Giles had big gulp of mineral water before he answered. “It’s nearly the end of term, isn’t it?”

Small talk about college, okay. Buffy could handle that. “Yeah, exams coming up in a week. I have most of them under control already, which let me tell you is a weird feeling for me.”

“You seem to have settled in well, then.”

“Yeah, I’m having fun. Willow was all excited about the course lists back in August, which I didn’t get, but now I am of the getting. I’m already planning out what I’ll take next semester.”

“Have you chosen your field yet? What do you call it, your major.”

“I haven’t figured it out yet, but there are some things I like more than I thought I would. Like the psych class. The textbook is way more interesting than the class is.”

Giles had his hand over his mouth, but she caught the corner of his smile anyway. He was pleased about something. That she was into college? He’d always told her she could do anything she turned her mind to. Or maybe he was pleased about the dig at Walsh. Buffy decided to pursue that.

“Reading things other than the textbook makes me wonder if the class is biased, sort of. Professor Walsh likes some theories better than others. Like Skinner, she loves him. And she was down on Jung. Said some insulting things about his alchemy fascination.”

“Oh, really.” Giles’s voice was dry.

“I had a hunch that you would say the exact opposite about it.”

Giles’s smile got broad enough to show his teeth. “Consider it said. Jung was a practicing alchemist, and he’s quite useful to anyone interested in a particular sort of magic. I’ve got some of his esoteric works at home.”

“I’ve already got a list of stuff you have to give me. Starting with the books on Slayer origin myths.” She wasn’t likely to forget that one. “You got your degree in history, right?”

“Yes, both degrees. They were required by the Council.”

“What would you have picked for yourself?”

Giles adjusted his glasses and frowned. “I really have no idea at all. It was all decided for me so early on in my schooling that I was never aware of having any sort of choice. I do enjoy it now. And it’s family tradition.”

The waiter took away their salad plates. Buffy noticed that Giles had eaten almost none of his, just as predicted. She smiled behind her water glass. He was going to be close to explosion when they finally got home. She wouldn’t be far behind: it was unbearably exciting for her to think about how excited Giles was. To wonder how close to the edge he was. Buffy decided to give him no hints, but to keep playing it cool.

“You were probably a serious college student, all work and no play,” she said.

Giles laughed. “Quite the opposite. I was a lazy student, at least until I started work on the doctorate. Skated by on my memory, never studied, drank too much, that sort of thing.”

“Must be some memory.”

“Watcher’s memory,” Giles said, and shrugged. He seemed to mean something specific by it, which Buffy filed away to ask about later. “I settled down, though. After my year away from it, I was playing catch-up. Couldn’t afford to look away from my task.”

Buffy wondered what that had been like. Probably not fun. She sometimes thought he’d still been playing catch-up right until the moment they’d fired him. She watched the waiter dance around the table, setting their dinners in place and refilling their glasses. He and Giles exchanged some kind of non-verbal signals, and he went away again, leaving them in peace. Buffy studied her plate, which was almost too pretty to mess up by eating. She hadn’t bothered to look at the menu, so she had no clue what it was. She nudged at the perfection with a fork. Fish. Very pretty fish scribbled over with colorful sauce, with a leafy vegetable she couldn’t identify next to it.

She temporized. “PhD, huh? So you’re really Doctor Giles, then.”

Giles shook his head. He hadn’t even touched his fork yet. “One doesn’t use the title.”

“Are all of you Watchers serious academics? Like, is Wesley?”

“Pryce? Not sure. He read economics, I thought, London. He was meant for a government post. He said something to me once about it. The field assignment would be de rigueur for him, if he wanted to rise in the Council.”

Giles’s voice had gone sarcastic. So she’d been nothing but a routine assignment. At first anyway. Buffy had a bite of her fish, which was melt-on-the-tongue good, and thought about Wesley and how things had worked out with him.

“That didn’t go so well, huh?”

“No. They sacked him as unceremoniously as they sacked me.”

“Poor Wes.”

“He landed on his feet, I hear.” He cocked an eyebrow at her, and Buffy nodded.

“Yeah. I see him when I’m in LA. And he turns up in Sunnydale every now and then, though I have no clue why.” She shrugged. “Wes turned out okay in the end.”

“He’s a decent man. Unlike his father.”

And now Giles was venomous. There was a story there, she guessed, which she’d save for a rainy day, or a boring patrol.

“You should try this,” Buffy told him, to change the subject. “It’s amazing.”

Giles sat up in his chair and looked at his plate. “Right. Suppose I ought.” Buffy watched him taste the fish. He tilted his head to the side and made a thoughtful sound. “Not bad at all.”

Buffy watched Giles eat for a little bit. He noticed her watching him and blushed, and fumbled with his fork. He was nervous. Buffy supposed that was the right emotion to be feeling, if you knew you were going to be experiencing what Giles was going to. What he had asked for, in that strained voice over the phone. Dinner, whipping, and sex, that’s what he’d requested. It was hard to say which of them it was more of a treat for, him or her. Delicious dinner, a handsome man bound and kneeling at her feet, mind-blowing sex. And in the morning Giles would brew her tea and teach her about the art of war. Deception, and the nine kinds of ground, and the ways of a leader. How to use these tools to defeat Maggie Walsh, who was probably their enemy, and who had a well-provisioned squad of soldiers working for her.

What a weird date this was. And now that she thought about it, that was the right word for it. This evening was a lot like a date. They were dressed for a date, and Giles had given her a gift that was the kind of thing you gave someone you were courting. Another strange thought. Courting. A strange word, not something Buffy had ever used to describe her life before, but it seemed like the right word for Giles’s behavior tonight. Something warned her not to bring it up to him, though. Riley, looming between them? No, she wasn’t going to think about that any more. Tonight was Giles’s reward night, which was the same thing as her reward night. Buffy turned her mind back to carnal things.

Food. Sex. In that order.

Dessert was a small and incredibly intense raspberry chocolate thing, and Buffy enjoyed every single tiny bite. She made a dismayed sound when she saw that Giles hadn’t touched his. He simply smiled at her, then reached across the table to swap their plates.

“Don’t you like chocolate?”

“I do, but-- It’s a bit wasted on me tonight, I’m afraid. My mind is, ah, elsewhere.”

Giles’s smile at her was almost shy, so Buffy restrained herself from making any of the jokes that came to mind about it. She ate his dessert with pleasure.

Giles paid the bill with cash, and vanished into the rest room for a minute on the way out. Buffy stood on the restaurant porch and watched the cold Pacific surf obliterate itself on the rocks below her, and wondered how he managed with that ring on him. She let her Slayer senses wake up and idly reached out in search of evil. No predators nearby. Maybe she’d be allowed a quiet night in bed with her guy. Well, not quiet, exactly.

Giles rejoined her on the porch and said, “What are you smiling about?”

“What’s going to happen next.”

He rubbed at the back of his head. “Ah. Quite. Shall we, then?”

Buffy stopped him when they reached the car, and held out her hand for his keys. “I’m driving.” He stared at her blankly, but made no move to hand them to her. “I have a permit. I’m in charge. And you’ll get one extra stripe for every second you make me wait.”

“Promises, promises,” Giles murmured. But he bowed over the keys as he handed them over. He held the driver’s side door for her with good grace, and got into the passenger seat without any further resistance.

“Put your hands on your knees, palms up. Like that. Good. Keep them there. Spread your legs further.”

Giles obeyed her without hesitation. Buffy reached between his legs and caressed him as a reward, until he closed his eyes and moaned under his breath. Joy welled up inside her, but she kept it secret for now. She let go of him, and started the car.

She was nervous about driving Giles’s antique, which wallowed more than it maneuvered, but she managed to do well enough that she had begun to relax by the time they reached his street. She pulled into the curb space in front of Giles’s apartment building, and was secretly grateful that she didn’t have to do any fancy parallel parking. She turned off the ignition and set the keys in his upturned palm. His hand was trembling under hers.

She said, “As of now, you’re not in charge of anything. You make no decisions. You just feel whatever it is I give you to feel.”

Giles breathed in once, deliberately, and then out again slowly.

“You’re not in control any more. If you come, it’s because I want you to. So don’t try to stop yourself any more.”

Another deep breath, in and out, and some tension left his shoulders. “Understood.”

“When we get in the house, I want you to take off your jacket and tie. Shoes and socks too, but nothing more than that.”

“Yes, my Slayer,” he said.

He got out of the car and held her door for her, as before, and carried her overnight bag. He ducked ahead of her to open his front door, and stood aside with inclined head to let her enter before him. Old-fashioned courtesy, deference, the sort of gestures that annoyed her when other men made them. Buffy watched him bolt the front door behind them. He paused there with his hand on the lock, back turned toward her, and she saw him take another one of those long, deep breaths. Preparing himself.

Buffy left him to undress and carried her bag up to the loft. She stepped out of her pumps and set them under the bed, out of the way, but that was as far as she undressed; she wanted him naked long before she took anything off. On his nightstand she saw he’d laid out his collar and one of his riding crops. Not the one she’d used on him their first night together. She picked it up and flexed it in her hands. It was long and thin and had something stiff at its core. A quiet plea for harsher treatment from her, perhaps. Buffy decided that she’d indulge him and give him what he wanted but couldn’t ask for directly.

She left the whip where it was. The collar was enough to get them started. No, wait. She slid his nightstand drawers open and rummaged until she found the nipple clamps.

Buffy padded downstairs on silent bare feet again to see if Giles had obeyed her. And of course he had. There he was, her handsome man kneeling at her feet, in shirt and trousers, feet bare. She circled him slowly, admiring him. His eyes were half-closed, his mouth open. His head was bent and his wrists were behind his back, crossed. His erection was obvious in his trousers now that his jacket and tie weren’t there to distract from it. She came to a halt before him and let her hand rest on his head. He flinched under her hand, though all she did was stroke his hair.

“Unbutton your shirt,” she said, and watched as he obeyed. He seemed to have calmed down a little, because his hands were steadier than they’d been in the car.

Shirt opened, tugged out of his trouser waistband. He put his hands behind his back again, and looked at up at her through his lashes. He was so masculine like this, half dressed, on his knees. She liked his bare chest, liked the hair scattered across his pecs. Broad shoulders, broad chest, rising and falling as he breathed. She ran her hands all over that chest, around and up his back. She ended by stroking his hair. It had grown a little long, longer than Giles usually let it, and curled over the back of his collar and his ears. Soft hair, with gray sparking at his temples. A middle-aged man, an academic man, a reserved man, a shy man, a man she would never have met if it hadn’t been for her destiny. And his destiny. Her Watcher. The one person in the world whom she’d trust with her life.

She wrapped the collar around his neck and buckled it tight. He closed his eyes and sighed. He’d been wearing this longer than she’d been alive, judging by the grooves worn into it and the place where the buckle tongue had rubbed. Did he ever wear it when he was alone? Or only for a lover? Buffy tucked the end of the collar through, then slipped two fingers into the ring at the front. She tugged Giles gently, and he swayed on his knees.

“Some day I’m going to take you out in public with this on. Somewhere where people can see you.”

Giles swore under his breath, and she knew she’d struck home. He bent and pressed his lips to her foot. As he rose again, Buffy reached down to him and gripped a fistful of his shirt and pulled him up to his knees. Slayer strength, the kind of display he loved so much, a reminder that she was the warrior he worshipped. It was easy to be a warrior in jeans and a leather jacket. It always blew Buffy’s mind when she did it in a little black dress. And apparently it blew Giles’s mind, too, because he surged up and flung his arms around her waist. He pressed his cheek against her stomach and held her tight.

He was murmuring her name, over and over, and shaking. Buffy braced a hand on his back and pressed him closer. “Ssh. It’s okay.”

“Sorry, sorry,” he said.

“Do we need to stop now to talk?”

“No. I’m just… I’m fine.”

“You don’t seem fine. Am I going too fast?”

“More complicated than that. I-- buffy.”

“What do you need?”

He tightened his arms around her, but didn’t answer immediately. When he did, his voice was under control again. “You. I need you.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. Please, my Slayer. Do what you wish with me.”

She didn’t let go of him but held him close for a little longer, until she felt him relax in her arms. She straightened up. He released her and returned to his waiting position, wrists crossed behind his back. His face was calm again, so Buffy pulled her shoulders back and let herself snap into command mode. Slayer mode.

“I think the first thing I wish is to see you naked. Undress yourself, Watcher.”

His shirt fluttered to the floor behind himself. Then his anxious hands were on his belt, tugging at it until he’d managed to fumble open his trousers. He pushed them down his hips, trousers and boxers at once. His erection came free of his shorts, and Buffy wondered that he could think about anything at all. He stood and shoved his pants down to his ankles, then dropped back down to his knees, as if he needed to be there again. He folded his clothes neatly and piled them up on a corner of the carpet. Buffy knew someone had taught him to do that, had told him it was the proper behavior. She had a strange flash run through her, because it was something she wouldn’t have thought of on her own. Then she realized it was jealousy. Again. Why?

She shook herself and turned her attention to the here and now. To the handsome man kneeling nude at her feet. And he was handsome. Why had she never seen it? That strong jaw, the odd angular face. With the glasses off, with his clothes off, she could see him properly now. And she liked what she saw. Everything. His body. The gray in his hair. His penis. The steel ring at its base.

It looked good on him, the cock ring did. Gleaming metal all the way around him, solid and thick. Heavy. Buffy reached down to touch it and move it, tug it up against his body more firmly. Giles drew in a sharp breath, then let it out slowly. It showed him off beautifully, the way it held everything away from his body, his balls, his penis. Buffy cupped his balls. Fuzzed with hair, heavy in her hand, warm and a little damp with sweat. She’d played with them only a little bit so far, and wasn’t sure what he liked, but he did seem to be enjoying what she was doing now, stroking and squeezing just a little bit. His eyes were closed.

The metal looked so good on him. Time for some more. She found the nipple clamps where she’d laid them on his coffee table. She held them up to him to see what he’d do. His eyes darkened, and he arched his back to present his chest to her. Buffy had another moment of jealousy, then, thinking about whoever it was who’d taught him to react like that. Ethan Rayne? Jenny Calendar? She hadn’t been the first. She could never have been the first. He hadn’t been her first, either. But here they were now, together, and she was the one with the clamps in her hand and it was her eyes he was looking into with such desire.

“Please” was what he said when she put the first one on, and “God yes” for the second. She adjusted them until they were snug enough to stay on when she tugged casually, then turned the screw just a little further than that.

Giles was breathing harder now. The sweat dripped from his temples. She watched his chest rise and fall, the chain between his nipples moving with each breath. His pupils were wide. He was wearing her steel now, inside and out. It was hard to hold herself back, seeing him like that, on his knees by choice, just for her. She wanted to whip him right away, until there were lash marks all over that chest, all over his thighs. But Buffy dug for every scrap of patience she had and held herself still. Watched him breathe, watched his throat work as he swallowed.

“Time to go upstairs,” she said.

He rose to his feet gracefully, hands still behind his back, all the while watching her face. She pointed toward the stairs and he bowed to her slightly and went. She watched him walk upstairs, wrists crossed behind his back, head down, moving slowly, carefully, with that erection preceding him.

She turned the lights out and followed him up silently. If his hands were steady now, hers weren’t. She was starting to feel almost too excited.

Now it was time to put him in bondage and keep him that way for the rest of the night, to buckle the cuffs snug around his ankles and wrists. Buffy climbed onto the bed. Sometimes being short was a major pain. Giles wasn’t a small guy, either; he could pick her up and carry her easily, no supernatural strength needed. But he was cooperating now, despite the fear on his face, raising his wrists up for her to chain to one of those convenient eyebolts on his bedpost. Buffy hopped down and contemplated him. He wasn’t quite helpless enough. She clipped his ankles together then fastened the carabiner to the ring at the base of the bedpost. He was stretched out against the bedpost, his whipping post. What a lovely thought.

He was tugging at his bonds, straining himself against them, writhing though she wasn’t even touching him. He hadn’t truly let go of himself until she’d bound him. She wondered if he even could, if the lifetime spend subduing himself, his urges, his wishes for himself, kept him reined in even when he was told he could let go. Poor guy. Lucky bastard, to have her. To have everything he dreamed about. And God, it was the most amazing thing, to see Rupert Giles unglued.

Up onto the bed again, where she was taller than he was, and could bend over him and grab his collar and pull him up to be kissed. He kissed her eagerly, open-mouthed, and tried to slip her his tongue. Pushy, pushy. But he was bound. All she had to do to reassert herself was step away and watch him strain to reach her, fruitlessly. It was unbelievably sexy. She had everything she’d dreamed about. Fantasy was one thing, the reality even better. She was more turned on than she’d ever been in her life, and that included the time Giles had nearly brought her to orgasm just by talking to her. This was a real man bound in front of her, stretched out against his own bedpost, a real person whom she cared about, sweating and trembling and waiting for her to give him what he desperately needed.

Buffy turned her back to Giles and unzipped her dress. One smooth practiced motion, and the dress slipped neatly free of her shoulders and to the bed at her bare feet. She stepped out of it and turned to look at her captive lover. Giles was watching her, she saw, staring rapt at her body. That was fine. She’d blindfold him if she didn’t want him watching. She unhooked her bra and let it drop away to the floor. Her panties followed it.

Being nude felt better than wearing the dress had felt, which was strange, because Buffy loved that dress. What was it? She stood in front of Giles, poised and centered, and let herself consider the question. Freedom of motion. Of her body. She wasn’t in some kind of mistress role any more. She was herself. Slayer, woman, Buffy. Giles seemed to like it, anyway. His eyes were all pupil. He licked his lips, and Buffy heard the chains squeak as he tugged.

What was he looking at? Her face, her breasts, her bare stomach.

“You like my breasts?”

“Yes. Want to kiss them.”

Buffy took the chain between his nipple clamps in hand. “You do?” she said, and tugged hard before he could answer. She’d always wondered if there was something wrong with her, that the thought of hurting somebody else turned her on so much. But here was somebody who was just as turned on. She hurt him, and his reaction was a triumphant “yes” and a plea to her to do it again. And that was so unbearably sexy Buffy thought she was going to come right then, without even touching herself. She wanted to come. With Giles watching, struggling to touch her, hard and wanting.

Buffy touched herself. God, she really was close, so and wet and open. She’d been aroused all night, just like Giles had. Just her forefinger resting on her clit was almost enough to do it. She felt herself start to tremble and she leaned close to Giles, let her weight rest on him. Giles bit at her mouth and said her name. The chain squeaked again.

Not yet.

She held her slick fingers out to him. He licked them clean, eagerly, and pressed a kiss to her palm.

“You want to taste that for real tonight?”

“Please. Let me. I want to go down on you.”

“Maybe later. If you’re good.”

“Want to now. Want to kiss you. Fuck you. Make you come. That’s my job.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah, mine. I make you come. Nobody else does. Just me.”

“That’s not how it works. I come when I want to, with whoever I want. You only come when I say so. Only with me.”

“Fuck,” Giles said, and he was breathing harder than before. “Yes. God, yes, that’s how it is.”

“I’m in charge.”

“You’re in charge,” he said, but he was tugging hard at the bonds that held him to the bedpost, straining toward her. “But I earned it. By obeying you.”

“You asked for something else first. As your reward.”

“God, yes,” Giles said, and she heard the hunger.

“What did you ask for?”

“To suffer for you.”

“Are you ready to suffer for me now?”

“Yes. What are you going to do to me?”

“I’m going to whip you.”

“Please,” he said, in a whisper, and his face was still hungry.

Buffy hopped down from the bed and picked up the whip.

The sound was what she liked best, the whistle in the air then the smack as the crop hit, Giles’s gasp. Then the sound of the chain squeaking as he flinched, too late to do himself any good. Again, and again, sometimes just a flick with the tip of the crop, sometimes a sharp stinging bite across his back. Nothing very hard yet. He wanted suffering, he wanted marks, but Buffy wanted to listen to these sounds for a while before she got serious with him. Heat him up, redden his skin, bring him into the state he needed to be in, the one he’d described to her on their first night together. Trance state, endorphins flowing, emotions at the surface, his control over himself stripped.

Buffy listened to him, and when he began to plead with her to show mercy she knew it was time to turn serious. To strike him hard enough to bruise, hard enough to shock him to silence, to wrest from him with the next a single word. Yes. Yes, he said, and Buffy took it as license. Licence to strike again. To give them both what they both wanted. To stand back and wait and watch him writhe and come still again. And then grant him another stripe. Just three, but they would stay with him.

She wrapped her arms around his waist, lifted him, and turned him herself. He groaned when she did that, turned on as he always was when she used her strength on him. She set him back on his feet. He struggled to find his balance but had a hard time, so she held him until he steadied himself. There were tears on his face, but when she wiped them from his face he said, “More?”

“Yes. Because you’ve been good.”

Three more, across the front of his thighs this time, lower down to avoid any chance she’d hit anything she didn’t want to. This time Giles cried out on each stroke. She hadn’t held back. He had his marks now, the ones he’d asked for as part of his fantasy. Buffy touched the stripes she’d left across his legs. They were hot to the touch. He have deep bruises, and if he went running he’d have to wear sweats or everyone would know his secret. Buffy thought that maybe Giles wanted people to know, almost, wanted someone to look at him and know he was her man. If he didn’t think that way, then maybe she did. Maybe she wanted someone to see how she’d claimed him.

“They’re gorgeous. Your new whip-marks.”

“Yes.”

“Thank me for them.”

“Thank you,” he said, and his voice was strange again like it had been the first time.

“I like the idea of always having some fresh marks on you. What do you think?”

“Please. Always.”

Time for a break, then, to let him rest on his knees and recover. Buffy unchained his wrists from the bedpost and eased him down to the floor. Slayer strength, so wonderfully handy at the strangest times. She didn’t give him any respite from bondage, however. Chain on the collar, to one of those eyebolts on the bed. Then carabiners to clip his right wrist to right ankle, left to left. She checked the clips. Solid. Then she knelt down with him, between his legs, and snuggled up close to him. One hand behind his head, pulling him down so she could kiss him.

“You need some water?”

He shook his head, then said, “Maybe.” He was definitely far into some altered state, then.

Buffy drank first, because the water was hers. Then she held the bottle for him and fed him a few swallows. She wiped his chin for him afterward, and kissed him again. This time he didn’t try to take command of the kiss but opened his mouth for her obediently.

Buffy played with the chain that hung between his nipples. Giles made a soft sound that she couldn’t decide meant pain or pleasure.

“Does this feel good?” she said, and did it again.

“So good. So bloody good.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Yes. Everything hurts. It’s good.”

“What feels the best?”

“Nipples,” he said, and his voice was husky. “Ring. Can’t tell. Need to come.”

“You deserve to come. Because you did as I told you.”

“I did. I waited the way you wanted me to.”

“And that means you can come now. As many times as you like tonight.”

“God, please. I want to come.”

“How would you like to?”

“Inside you. Anywhere. Your mouth. God, yes, your mouth.”

“In my mouth. Because you deserve it.”

Buffy liked giving head. She had this vague idea that she wasn’t supposed to, that it was something women were supposed to be degraded by or something confusing like that. But she liked oral sex. It was a gift, from her to her partner, just like anything else they might do for each other. And it was something they’d all loved. Even jerky Parker, who’d been the first guy she’d given it to, at the same time she’d received it for the first time. Parker had liked it. Riley liked it. They’d all liked giving it as much as getting it.

And Giles, he was loving it. A gentle kiss to the head to start, and he was already moaning. Licking the shaft, getting it wet so she could slide her hand over what she couldn’t take into her mouth. And there was a lot of that, because Giles was a big guy. Buffy took her time with this part and listened to him make those amazing sounds. Just as good as the sounds he made when he was being whipped, just as exciting, in a totally different way.

Buffy flickered her tongue against the head of his cock and felt him tighten in her hand. He’d been hard for so long, and unsatisfied for so much longer than that, that it wasn’t going to take much for him. Even with the ring slowing him down. Time to give him release. She shifted and took him into her mouth, let his cock slide over her tongue. His hips shifted. She reached between his legs and found the base of the plug and moved it inside him. He swore and thrust his hips harder. His cock found the back of her throat. Buffy let him in deep, all the way in, using every bit of experience she had.

“Gonna come in your mouth,” Giles was muttering. “God, can’t bear it, gonna come.”

Then he was coming, pulsing in her mouth and crying out her name. It was a long orgasm, long and slow and sweet. Buffy let her mouth fill with his come. Not the first time she’d tasted it, but this time she held it without swallowing, waiting for him to finish. When it was finally over and he’d fallen silent, Buffy stood and bent over him. She gripped Giles by the hair and pulled him into a kiss, open-mouthed, letting it all slide into his mouth from hers. He groaned and sucked at her tongue eagerly, and swallowed his own come. She let him lick her lips until it was all gone and he’d calmed.

Buffy released her grip on his hair and studied his face. He looked okay. More than okay. The expression on his face was that strange thing Buffy had seen on him only when they were together like this: serenity. Peace. His face was salty from tears, and he was completely at peace.

“Thank you, my Slayer,” he said.

“You’re welcome.” Buffy kissed him again, deeply, but his body was trembling against hers differently now. He was exhausted, and she needed to give his strained body some relief. Now came the mundane things: taking the plug out and setting it aside with the steel ring. Untying him so he could stretch. And taking off the nipple clamps.

“Brace yourself, sweetie,” she said. Giles closed his eyes and nodded. His jaw was clenched, but still he cried out when she released the clamps from his nipples.

She helped Giles onto the bed and spread the blanket over him. His wrists were locked together again, and he’d clasped his hands and rested them under his cheek. Buffy knelt on the bed next to him and ran her fingers through his sweat-damp hair. All sorts of strange emotions were running through her. She still hadn’t come yet, and it almost didn’t matter. Stroking Giles’s face was more important right now. It was normal, probably, maybe, to feel tenderness for the partner she’d just whipped. Normal to feel all melting inside at the expression on his face. Normal to want to fuss over him. This man, her Watcher, her mentor, her sworn companion, who wasn’t her boyfriend exactly, because that word seemed ridiculous for him, and for this relationship, whatever it was. Some time soon she was going to have to figure it out.

“You feeling okay?” she said, though her head was full of a thousand things she wanted to say instead.

“Wonderful,” Giles said, still with that slurry voice. “Quite-- quite wonderful. Been wanting it so long.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

“We’ll do it again?” He gazed up at her with hope on his face.

“It’s not over yet. I’m not finished with you tonight,” Buffy said.

Her Watcher smiled and closed his eyes.