“A father’s love?”
Giles looked down at the bowl of hot water, where he was soaking the cloth for another dab at her forehead. “You have a father,” he said.
“I do,” said Buffy. “Next week he’ll make it up to me by giving me a car, or taking me to Palm Springs. Or maybe he’ll get me a dog.” She made a little face, affectionate and exasperated at once.
“Just so.” Giles focused on her forehead, on cleaning the gash with minimal pain to her. He fetched the first aid kit. Antiseptic first. She flinched, but there was nothing he could do about that. A little antibiotic ointment, smoothed on gently, then butterfly closures. This had to get her through two days. By then her Slayer healing would have returned.
“What kind, then?”
Giles finished swabbing off her skinned knuckles before he answered. Even then, he didn’t speak. He merely brushed his lips against her fingers, a fluttering kiss that she could read as she would. He must step cautiously. He packed up the kit and returned it to its home behind the circulation desk, where it was easily accessible to anyone who might need it.
When he turned back, she was sitting on the study table. She beckoned him over. He went to her. She wrapped her hands around one red silk brace and tugged him closer. Giles studied her face. So familiar, so dear. Never more beautiful than it was now, to him, with rumpled hair and bandaged forehead and blackening eye. The face of his triumphant Slayer, fresh from hard-won victory. And he had been at her side, at the end, as he ought to be. As he ought ever to be, if she wanted him. She lifted a hand and brushed against his swelling cheek. He’d almost forgotten it: the thing that had been Blair had hit him in the face. He had bruises on his back where he’d been flung into the wall.
“What kind?” she said again, head tilted.
“Whatever kind you would like,” he said to her. She was his Slayer, no matter what they said, and she had just passed her Cruciamentum. He knew where his duty lay. As ever with Buffy, duty and pleasure often lay together. At her whim.
She took his tie and tugged gently. He bent obediently and met her lips with his, just a brief taste before she pulled back. “This kind,” she said.
“Let’s see,” he murmured. He bent to her again. She lingered this time. They broke apart for a moment to smile at each other. Giles stepped forward and laced his fingers into her hair. He took her mouth as he had been dreaming of taking it, without hesitation or reservation. He tasted peach lip gloss and salt from her tears earlier. Then she opened her mouth to him and he tasted Buffy. He kissed her long, and slow, and deep. He’d wager those feckless boys she’d been with had never kissed her like this, nor yet that brooding demon. Giles was hot and insistent. He knew what he wanted. He showed her what he wanted. He did to her mouth with his tongue what he wanted to do to her body with his. He did his best to set Buffy on fire, and was rewarded by her pants and her whimper of dismay when he released her.
“That the kind of love you meant?”
“Ooh,” Buffy said, swaying a little in his arms. Then she was his Slayer again, pulling him down and taking his mouth with the same passion he’d shown her. Giles yielded to her and let her claim him. He pressed his hips against hers.
They broke apart a fourth time, gasping. Buffy reached for the knot of his tie and slid it down. He stopped her with a hand over hers. “Not here, sweetest. Somewhere private. More comfortable.”
She nodded, with a wicked grin. Giles went to his office to snatch his vest and jacket, and his case. They left the library side by side, hands brushing, grinning so idiotically that Giles prayed the janitor would not spot them. What they had been doing, what they were feeling— their faces had to be screaming it to the world.
Giles shut the door of the Citroen on a now-giggling Buffy. The absurdity of the gentlemanly gesture in the context of the battered car appealed to him. He giggled himself. He finally realized they had gotten through it: Buffy had lived through the test, and she still loved him. He was laughing outright by the time he had buckled himself into the driver’s seat. He held her hand as he drove, not letting go even to shift: he just wrapped her hand along with his over the knob and they shifted together.
Giles scanned the street as he approached his drive. His usual parking space was occupied by a neighbor’s car. In front of the neighbor’s house was an unfamiliar van. He griped for a moment at Buffy, complaining that some neighbor must have a visitor.
“No, wait, I do recognize it. Was in the drive of the boarding house. Council van. That’s odd.”
“Huh,” said Buffy. “Indulge me. Let’s be sneaky.”
Giles drove around the corner and parked. They got out of the car quietly, and slipped around to the side entrance to the courtyard. A figure loitered near Giles’ door. Short, rounded shoulders, jacket, a bit of a pot.
“Giles… vamp. That’s a vamp.”
“That’s Quentin Travers. Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” They looked at each other. Buffy pointed to herself, then to the courtyard wall, then to him and to his front door. She pulled a gnarled stake from her overalls pocket and grinned. He was to divert. He boosted her onto the wall. She slipped away across the top. The ability to move silently did not depend on Slayer strength and speed, but on training. And Buffy had that. He’d made it so.
Giles took a moment to center himself, then allowed his shoulders to slump. He trudged down the stairs as if he were a defeated man, taking care to let his steps fall hard to mask Buffy’s transit along the wall. Travers turned from his doorstep to meet him.
“Quentin. What the hell do you want now?” Giles kept his gaze down, on Travers’ feet.
“Bit of paperwork that must be attended to before I go. Your termination form.”
“Ah.” Giles opened his front door and turned to watch what Travers would do next. He had the briefcase open in his hands, and was making a show of rummaging through it.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in, Rupert?” Travers busied himself with whatever papers it was he had taken from the briefcase. At that query, Giles knew for sure that Buffy was right.
“Maybe,” said Giles, thoughtfully. He took one step backward, over his threshold. He saw a flicker of motion behind Travers. “Well, I suppose I could put on some tea.” Travers looked up, then, and smiled. Giles recoiled for a moment at the triumph in that smile. Then, under cover of hanging up his jacket, he retrieved the stake from the umbrella stand, where he always, always kept one. He held it flat against his leg.
Giles stepped out again, to lure the vampire closer. Travers took the bait, and his face transformed. He snapped a hand out and gripped Giles by the tie, tugged him closer with mouth open for an obscene and fatal caress. Giles snapped up the stake. Travers threw a punch, far nastier than the man had ever been capable of throwing in life. The stake flew back against the doorpost. Giles staggered from the force of the blow. Then the thing that had once been Quentin Travers exploded and its death-scream echoed in the little courtyard.
Buffy grinned at him through the showering dust. Slayer strength wasn’t required; just proper leverage and Mr Pointy.
“That’s the nicest thing that’s happened all week,” she said.
“I must agree,” said Giles. He stepped back into his flat, scooping up his stake as he went. Buffy followed. He locked the door behind them, and turned off the outside light. Buffy was already in his little kitchen, filling the kettle.
“I ought to have realized,” Giles said. He ran his hand through his hair and made it stand on end. “I didn’t see him in sunlight once the entire visit. I was so on edge the whole time. I didn’t think about how he was acting. Dammit!”
“Nah,” said Buffy. “You don’t have the advantage of Slayer senses. You know, that honing stuff. The vamp warning system part is still working okay. Drugs haven’t touched it. He had me wigged back in the library, but I was too pissed off to tell what it was.”
“The entire test was a setup, probably. If I’d realized, you’d have been spared—” His guilt feelings spiked again. Of course the vampires would want to stack this deck. Of course they’d want to prevent… exactly what was going to happen here tonight.
Buffy peeked at him through the pass-through. “No freaking, Rupert. We’re okay now.”
Giles had the cordless phone in his hand. One piece of business to transact before he could return his attention to Buffy. He dialed a long string of numbers. “Hello, this is Rupert Giles. Yes, I realize I am no longer employed by you, Martin. I thought you might like to know that the Slayer just terminated a vampire in Quentin Travers’ body. I believe he’d been a vampire for at least three days. Yes, through the entire test… Yes, he was a vampire when he sacked me… That’s entirely your lookout. I don’t give a damn. I’ve been sacked, as you were so kind to remind me. … If you like. … Buggered if I know, Martin. Look, it’s beastly late here. Call me in the morning, would you? Ta then. Idiot!”
Giles dropped the phone into the litter on his desk and came around into the kitchen, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Well, I might get my job back. Even those idiots can’t be entirely happy about doing the bidding of a vampire. What are you doing on my counter?”
“Easier to reach you,” Buffy said. She hooked her stockinged feet around his waist and drew him against her. Giles sighed into her kiss, and let her closeness and her scent woo him from his bad mood. He trailed soft, wet kisses up her neck. He found her ear and tugged her earrings gently with his teeth, then licked. What made her shudder? What made her sigh? Giles would learn by doing. He nuzzled into her ear.
The kettle went. “Don’t need tea,” he growled. “You taste better.”
It continued shrieking, damnable thing. Giles broke away from her reluctantly to spin off the gas. He returned to the circle of Buffy’s legs, lifted her, and carried her giggling up to his bed, hands under her bottom. He made her hit the light switches on the way up.
At the top, he tossed her, laughing, onto his bed. He lit a beeswax candle, then sat on the edge of the bed pondering a moment. First he reached into the nightstand to pull out what they’d need. Two. No, three. There was the morning to think about.
“Ooh, ambitious,” Buffy said, leaning on her elbow.
“A Watcher is always prepared,” he said, with mock gravity. That dealt with, he bent to unlace his shoes. Buffy slid up his back, twined her arms around his neck and down his chest, and interfered. She undid his tie, his first few buttons, slide his braces over his shoulders and tangled them around his arms, and nuzzled the back of his neck. He gave up and kicked off his shoes still laced.
“You wear too many clothes,” Buffy complained.
“Do something about it instead of getting in the way.”
At that, she pulled him down onto the bed again, still tangled in his braces. She unbuttoned his shirt. He pulled his arms out of shirtsleeves and perforce the damn braces and started wreaking his own havoc on her. He struggled with the hooks on those silly, practical, unsexy overalls. If he’d been calmer he was sure the trick would be immediately obvious. But he was aroused, and breathless, and Buffy was straddling his hips, and it was difficult to think of anything but the need to rock himself up under her, into her, to drive the two of them forward to ecstatic union… There they went. Hooks, brass buttons on the sides— it was going to take forever to get her out of this denim tent. At least his clothing was straightforward. Buffy had already undone his trousers and worked them down his hips. Clever Slayer.
Over-eager Slayer. Buffy’s hand found his starved flesh. Confident fingers stroked him, began drawing it out of him. He gasped, reached down and stilled her before she inadvertently brought matters to a swift conclusion. At least for him. Giles reviewed Latin noun declensions until the urge receded.
He rolled onto his back and sat up a little to deal with the condom. She watched him intently, as if studying his technique. He had no idea how many lovers Buffy had had. Perhaps just the one. The brooding vampire, the corpse. The creature had to have been an icicle inside her. Not like he would be. Not like his body would be for her. Now.
He rolled with her again, ending in the timeless configuration of man and woman, lying cradled over her, within her, surrounding her and surrounded by her. Giles found speech again.
“You’re mine now, understand? Mine. Mine.”
“Yeah? You’ve been mine all along. Since you gave me that book. My Watcher. My Giles. Been waiting for this.”
Giles began moving, thrusting deep into her, slowly. He wasn’t going to deny it. The only surprise was that she’d known it, and hadn’t ever given him a sign. His Buffy, legs wrapped around his waist, lips against his shoulder, saying sweet things to him. Wiser than she’d appeared.
Vampire Travers had said what he said to prevent this, to drive them apart. He’d known what they would become, what always came from the union of a Watcher and a Slayer. Once in a hundred years it happened, and when it did… the demons fled.
Faster, faster now, moving ever-closer to that moment. Giles drove them forward toward their future.