Giles/Buffy sword

"Thusia" commentary 3/4 (Giles/Buffy, mature)

Commentary continued from part 2.

Giles woke in the middle of the night to find Buffy huddled against him, trembling. He closed his arms around her reflexively.

"Buffy? What is it?"

She dug her hands into his shirt. "Dream again. Really nasty this time. Blood and fire everywhere and people screaming. Eternal night. Hung up on a wall. And the demon was-- it-- Jesus, Giles."

Pinch #1 in the Fieldian 3-act structure: a reminder of our as-yet-unconfronted antagonistical force. Buffy's still dreaming of her death and the prophecy.

He shushed her and crooned nonsense into her ear until she fell asleep in his arms, wedged tight between his chest and the back of the sofa. When he woke again, sunlight streamed over them from the windows overlooking the yard. Buffy was awake, and watching him. He realized that he had the usual morning erection, and further that it was pressed against her legs. It felt good, though he felt no need to do anything about it. He would let Buffy cue him. He looked into her eyes. What was she thinking? Did she want him now? What did the look mean?

And now we begin drifting into the sex that has been on their minds since the beach scene.

She broke the moment by reaching up and kissing the end of his nose. "Let me up, would you?" she said.

A little bit of realism. It also serves to draw things out a little.

Giles obediently shifted to give her room to clamber over him. He lay on his back on the sofa, rubbing his belly through the t-shirt. His erection waned, and with it his confidence. He needed to find a way to get through this. Since-- he shied away from the name-- since the demon, he'd needed artificial courage to get near women, and had been unable to be touched by men at all. Even Olivia, after eight years of on-and-off encounters, usually had to get a half bottle of wine into him. He'd wanted it last night to talk. He couldn't hide that way now. Not with his Slayer. She deserved his presence.

Character work, both in the detail about his past and his attitude toward her now.

She came back and stood next to the sofa. She looked shy. "My turn," he told her.

"Hurry back," she said, and this time her look was conscious.

He paused in the bathroom to wash himself and brush his teeth. Fusty morning sex was an acquired taste. He wanted perfection for her first experience. Buffy's pleasure would be his focus. If he didn't come at all it would be fine. He checked his hair in the mirror, ran his fingers through it. Took a deep breath. Walked slowly back to the bedroom, and to his act of sacrilege.

He wants to look good for her and to make it as good for her as he possibly can.

Buffy was on the bed now, on her side. She had unbuttoned the top buttons of her nightie, perhaps in an attempt to be more seductive. Giles wanted to laugh, but choked it down. There was nothing she could do to make herself seductive to him. Too naive, too straightforward; better for her to simply be herself. But she needed nothing less than his deepest and most complete respect, so he turned his face away from her and bent to his duffle bag. He took out the fistful of condoms and piled them on her nightstand.

I like this moment, both her attempt to be something she's not to help things along, and his reaction.

Buffy gave him a dry look. "Exactly how much sex were you planning on having, cowboy?"

He sat down on the edge of the bed. "I thought you might like to choose. I had expected to be giving them to you so you could... Well."

She extracted a green one from the pile and handed it to him. She swept the rest into the drawer. Then she lay back on the bed and looked at him, expectant. He looked down at the little plastic packet in his hand. He remembered the first time he'd worn one. Sixth form. When he'd been with his first protege, a nervous fourth-form girl whose virginity the two of them had offered to Apollo. As his had been offered, two years earlier, by an older boy. Giles' voice had cracked during the ritual.

Watcher traditions.

Buffy was older now than he'd been. Old enough to know what sex was, old enough to have tasted it in some form, he suspected. Old enough to know desire. Old enough to have died.

The age difference in fact matters greatly to Giles. He doesn't have a problem with her age, just with the the gulf between them.

"Buffy, before we start." She sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees. When he was satisfied he had her solemn attention, he continued. "Would you like me to stop after, after I, uh, after you're, um, no longer a virgin?"

He was blushing furiously, and to his surprise so was she. She stared at his hand, closed around the condom.

"I was kinda hoping... well, that we could, that it would be my first time, for real? I'm ready to, like I said. And you probably know what you're doing. You can teach me how to, how to... you know. Do it right."

"I can," he said. He found it in himself to smile at her. She grinned back, relieved.

He set the condom aside and pulled off his t-shirt and his sweatpants, exposing himself no more than he had last night. He stretched out next to her. She cleared her throat, and reached for the waistband of his boxers. He put his hand over hers.

"Slow down, little Slayer," he said. He moved her hand to his shoulder, then scooted himself closer to her. He put his lips to her ear and whispered. "Let's get to know one another first."

Midpoint: the reversal/revelation in the 3-act structure. This is more "revelation" than reversal on the surface. Note also that I use the verb to know here, with all its connotations previously called out explicitly. Later it'll be revealed to be more of a reversal: this act complicates matters for our hero.</p>

Letting our protagonists get together at the midpoint is interesting, because it often happens at the end of a fic for a reason. Unresolved tension does indeed drive the story forward. But this story isn't about whether they'll get together; it's about whether Buffy is going to die because of a prophecy. That tension is enough of a driver on its own. And it gives all this a bittersweet tinge, because she might die. Or they might not end up together.

He began with a simple kiss, almost chaste, a brief touch on her lips. Then again, lingering. One kiss, many kisses, many gentle touches, their bodies slowly melting together as they grew used to each other. She knew how to kiss, and met him as an equal, sweet and fierce in turns. She was no passive flower, waiting for him to take something from her. She was giving it to him, because she wanted him to have it. She laid her hands on his chest, and Giles felt her eyes on him, wondering, though not quite asking. Giles offered himself up to her exploration. He would teach her this, and anything else she cared to learn. And she wanted to learn. Her hands wandered everywhere over him, curious and insistent.

Buffy is not passive! She wants this and is actively enjoying it.

She was fascinated by the hair on his belly, by all the places where his body was different from hers. The scars on his right thigh he'd earned fighting a hellhound. The muscles of his legs, lean from jogging. She tugged his earring and made him swear never to be without it again, never pretend he was the tweedy bland man again.

She ran her fingers around the edges of his tattoo. It tingled oddly. She refused to touch it directly. "Bad vibes. You kept trying to hide this last night. What is it? A secret Watcher tattoo?"

Giles shook his head.

"Gonna tell me?"

"Not, not yet. Shouldn't ever affect you. From far in my past."

Hmm, I wonder what this universe's version of "The Dark Age" might be like. I think Giles might be far more violent with Ethan because the betrayal was far nastier in this universe. No old flames getting together for those two here. Giles might try to simply kill him.

She looked doubtful, but moved on to his forearms and his hands. To his ring, which he'd been given when he'd been dedicated to her, with her symbol and his engraved on the flat black stone. Up his arms to his chest, down to his stomach again. Finally she coaxed him out of his boxers to look at his sex, straining and eager to be one with her. She had learned quickly, oh so quickly, how to set him on fire.

He sat up and laid her back on the pillows and explored her in turn. He'd touched her a hundred times before in training, correcting her grip on a sword, her stance. He'd been close enough to her to smell the silly scents she wore in her hair. She wore nothing now, but she smelled sweet to him, like honey, like drowsing in heady summer sunlight. He was drunk, dizzy with her.

I let myself get all flowery and stuff. And I avoid four-letter words and any explicit descriptions. I was more nervous then than I would be now about writing this, given Buffy's age. It was shortly after all the Strikethrough foofahrah so the question of what jurisdictions she'd be underage in was on my mind. But also the story just doesn't want pure smut. It's about how the two of them feel.

She had some experience, his suspicion that she had at least touched and been touched before confirmed by her eager willingness to cradle him close, to wrap herself around him. And finally, to lay herself bare for him and accept his most intimate touch.

At last he knelt above her, looking down at her gloriously nude body, shining with life. She was smiling at him. Her eyes were dark with desire, desire for him. He knew he looked the same. He was far gone with need for her. But he paused before he took the final step.

"Know life," he said to her. "I will give you life and teach you all I know. I do this in service of Apollo, and take you under my care. As I am Apollo's beloved, so now are you my beloved."

Ritual words. Here Giles is putting this in the terms that will allow him to do it with a clear conscience. Of course, his personal feelings are involved more than this.

A moment of resistance, and he was one with her. She clutched at his back with fierce strength, holding him motionless. Then she slowly relaxed, and he slipped into her gently, giving her time to learn the feeling. To learn her own body.

"All right, beloved?"

"Yeah. Oh, yeah. Please... keep going."

He began to move.

Rumors and whispers, old-boy elbow-nudges over brandy and fizz, about those girls and their urges, the things a Potential would get up to, once she'd passed the age and was allowed to be human again. All nonsense, all titillating rumor, all not one tenth of the reality. Though how much was Buffy and how much was Slayer, Giles would never be able to tell. She liked this. She took pleasure from him and gave pleasure to him joyfully. She was the Slayer, and she was master of her own body. Her strength was magnificence.

I wrote this sequence early and this paragraph in particular is in some of my earliest versions of the file. The Watcher ethos here isn't quite in tune with the later, more elaborated versions of it in my head. But the detail about Slayers being required to abstain is there.

He had been waiting his whole life for this. The god had made him for this moment, raised him from a boy for this act.

From sacrilege to this. You might call that a reversal.

His orgasm was elusive. He didn't mind. It gave him the chance to see her utterly satisfied, wringing cries from her again and again. When she seemed to have had her fill, he made as if to withdraw, but she held him tight, one Slayer-strong hand on his hip clasping his body to hers.

"You, too," she said. "You deserve it too. I want to hear you. Want to see you." Her words in his ear led him to it at last; her coaxing opened the door for him. At the moment of inevitability he allowed himself to give voice to the joy he felt. A moment of pure pleasure and union, and gratitude. He shook with deep, whole-body tremors that left him draped over her, drained.

There's too much going on inside him for him to just let go. She has to talk him through it. She cares about him enough to want him to feel pleasure as well. Giles hasn't stopped to ask what Buffy feels about him and he probably never will. So long as he has her trust and respect, he has what he needs. For the moment.

Afterward Giles leaned back against the headboard. Buffy lay between his legs, her back against his chest. He held a water bottle for her, then drank what she'd left. He traced his fingers up and down her arm. Muscle and smooth soft skin. She smelled like clean sweat now, and musk over the honey. Like sex. Giles knew he'd never be able to forget this, that every time he saw her from now on he'd remember what she looked like beneath him, face flushed with arousal. Even if they never did this again. Especially if they never did this again.

I love the detail about him giving her the water first. It tells you how he sees his role with her.

"Nice," Buffy said. "That was nice. Does it always feel like that?"

Giles laughed, quietly. "Yes, beloved. If things go well."

"You must be good at it." She sighed. "'Cause Pike said he'd done it before, but when he touched me it wasn't... well, it wasn't like that."

Giles laughed softly, and felt her laugh as well, against his chest. "Practice. That's all it is."

"What was that stuff you said to me?"

Giles shook his head, above her where she couldn't see it, and tightened his arms around her. Of all the things she'd learned about him in the last day, this one might be the most alien. "A statement of intent. To the gods. To say why I made love to you. That I wasn't doing it because you're beautiful or because I wanted you selfishly, but because I was taking you under my care. There's... there's a thing we do, we Watchers, with each other. An older one takes a younger one as a sort of protege. The act is a, a symbol, of the gift of knowledge, from me to you."

He has performed the Watcher ritual with her and taken her under his care. She's now one of the Band of Thebes (sort of). He has possibly attracted a god's attention by doing it.

She made a thoughtful sound. "You've done that? Merrick did?"

"Yes. All of us have."

It was a statement of intent to him, more than to the gods, but he suspected she would not understand. It also meant that she belonged to the Watchers now, bound to them by sex and ritual, as he was bound to them, and they to each other through the centuries. Not that the Watchers would stop to care.

Oh, I see I've explained it here in the text.

And who knew if the gods would care about his oath? Apollo might listen, and understand, or he might not. Artemis would be angered regardless. If any of them decided to care. That was the trouble with gods; their concerns were unpredictable to mere humans. But Giles had stepped far beyond where he ought, and he knew there would be consequences, eventually. Either glory for his great daring, or painful death for his hubris. There was no telling. But Buffy did not need to know any of this yet.

He's following the rules as they've been set out to him, but he doesn't know where this is going to go.

He tightened his arms around her for a moment, then continued stroking her arm.

"That's why you keep calling me 'beloved'. Special name for me. What do I call you?"

"Lover. Or mentor. Or just Giles. It doesn't matter."

She poked his leg. "What else do I get with my enrollment in the Watcher sex club?"

Giles laughed. "You have certain rights over me. I owe you my attention and time, and my love. My body. And a gift of arms when you decide to release me from my obligation. Because you need more weapons, of course. The four swords over there in the corner just aren't enough."

Buffy giggled. "And does it mean I get to ask you to make love again?"

Giles flushed. "Yes, it does."

"Right now?"

Giles sobered. "Buffy, I-- I don't know that we should. What we're doing... to say it would be misunderstood by outsiders is an understatement. Not even your friends would understand. And if the Council discovers this, I... the consequences to me would be severe. Even if this saves your life."

She sighed. "I know. I know." She leaned her head back against his shoulder, then spoke again. "Until the Solstice. I might still die. If I'm gonna, I want more of this before the end."

"Until the Solstice, then. I'm yours. But you will live, Buffy. I swear it."

Giles is going to keep his word.

She made no answer at first. "Would you want me? I mean, if you didn't have to?" Uncertainty in her voice, self-doubt.

"Oh, Buffy. Yes, you are beautiful, and I do want you. Fiercely." Two hours ago it would have been a lie, but now-- Giles held her tight against his chest. There was magic in the oath, but a stronger and older magic in what they had done together. It was why the oath was sealed that way.

Oh, Giles, already letting your heart take over.

Later, they lay together, quietly talking, touching again, then sleeping.

Buffy woke him with a hand on his shoulder. Giles sat up and rubbed his face.

"What's the time?"

Buffy shoved her alarm clock around to read the face. "Oh, jeez! Past noon. No wonder I'm dying here. Let's go get lunch. I know a great burger place near the beach. We can catch some rays."

They spent their days on the beach, in the sunshine. Giles allowed her to rub coconut-scented sun lotions into his back and chest, but would not touch her that way in public. She laughed at him, and made a show of anointing herself. Coconut would forever after be intensely erotic to Giles, the least whiff of it sufficient to arouse him.

A beach montage! What is a summer in Redondo Beach without some time spent on the beach? This is also sequel to the previous climactic (er, I mean in the fictional structure sense) scene. Every big scene needs a sequel in which the characters have a moment of pause and reflection. The tension is lowered for a while.

She coaxed him into renting a surfboard and a summer wetsuit for her from one of the shops. He watched her learn to ride the Redondo breakwater. She learned quickly, that being the gift of the Slayers. She had an audience of young men who clustered around her, vying to teach her secrets, show her the best places on other beaches, take her out for tacos. She smiled, and paddled out with them, and let them show her when to catch the wave.

Giles lay sprawled on the sand and watched her behind his sunglasses, without worries. She was the Slayer, and the sun shone on her. Evil could not walk near her.

They spent their nights together, hunting vampires in hotspots in the city, along Sunset Strip, Venice Beach, and other places. Anywhere civilization had been worn away and poverty and homelessness left humanity easy prey for jackals of all species. One week was not enough time to drive them away, but it was enough time for the fear of the Slayer to spread.

And after the nightly hunt, they went to bed.

Buffy's dreams had stopped, which relieved Giles beyond words. It had worked. She was not the Slayer of the prophecy. Some other poor devil of a Watcher would sleep with a demon and unwittingly doom his or her Slayer to die a sacrifice, and perhaps die with her. Some other Watcher would live in the end times. Not he.

Here comes pinch #2, the reminder that the antagonist is as yet undefeated and the hero has not solved his problem yet.

Buffy slept in peace, nestled against his shoulder. And in her place, Giles dreamed.

He dreamed of graceful youths, naked and glistening with oil and paint, performing gymnastics for the gods. Leaping onto the back of a live bull, riding it, swinging from its horns, laughing. Buffy was one of them. But the bull grew restive and angry. One by one it tossed its young riders into the air and gored them, or trampled them underfoot.

Last of all, the bull tossed Buffy, and Giles, without thinking, stepped forward and caught her. She was light in his arms. She clambered to his shoulders and launched herself at the bull from that vantage. She seized its horns and wrenched its head back. He watched her ride it, and waited to catch her again.

The second time the dream visited him, he woke and stared at the ceiling. "Yes, thanks, I do think I've received the message."

But he dreamed it every night anyway.

This is prophetic, or perhaps a hint from Apollo about how he is intended to solve the problem he's about to face.

By Thursday, he was growing brown from the sun, and Buffy had grown skilled enough to complain that the waves weren't large enough, or reliable enough. She wanted him to drive them north to Santa Cruz. Giles laughed, and told her that his car wouldn't survive the drive. She demanded he buy a new one, and pushed him down onto the sand playfully. He laughed, and remained where he was while she carried her rented surfboard down to the water, and the friends she'd made over the week. Giles watched her swim out to take her place in line, then searched out his mystery novel from their bag. Water, sandwiches in baggies, sunblock, towels, Buffy's shed clothing. He flushed at the sight of lace, and dug past it quickly to find P. D. James at the bottom. He was nearly done with it. He'd got in more reading time than he'd expected to this week. It hadn't been a busman's holiday after all.

We have gone from montage to a specific scene, and the details become concrete and specific to support it. Giles is at the beach! What does Giles bring to the beach? A mystery novel. He's still shy with Buffy, and reserved in public, but they are in a good place with each other.

Now something interesting happens: we introduce new characters.

Some time later, he looked up and spotted Buffy not far away, talking to somebody new. Two men, one in a wetsuit with a longboard, one in t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. The one who wasn't surfing had a camera hung around his neck. They were a little older than the usual boys Buffy attracted. The surfer, a blond youth with a goatee and a red shortsuit, was good-looking. He laid his board on the sand and stood on it, demonstrating something to Buffy. Buffy seemed interested, more so than with most of the boys. They talked for a few minutes, and Buffy gestured to the water. She and the blond boy carried their surfboards out. They paddled out into the surf and joined the line of surfers waiting for the next wave.

The other man stood and watched as well, then circled around to sit somewhere behind Giles. Giles extracted a bottle of water from the bag and surreptitiously inspected him. He'd spread a towel, and was busy rubbing sunblock into his legs. They seemed harmless enough. And, as ever, Buffy was more capable of defending herself than he was. Giles drank some water and returned to his murder mystery.

Giles's mind is on mundane threats, against which Buffy can protect herself. The detail about the man circling around behind Giles is intended to arouse the suspicions of the reader just a little bit. I am drawing your attention to him.

Buffy spent most of the day surfing with the blond boy in the red wetsuit. Late in the afternoon, when the beach was starting to empty and Giles had begun to worry, she at last returned to him, exhausted and dripping wet and grinning hugely. She dropped the board and flopped on the towel, spraying salt water everywhere. Giles closed his book and handed her a bottle of water. She drank half of it.

"Willow would be so jealous of me."

"Why?"

She unzipped her wetsuit and began wriggling out of it. "I just spent all day surfing with a guy in the Thera Collective."

The reader who is aware of the history of the Minoans and the Theseus myth has just sat up in her chair.

"Is that a rock band?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "No! It's a performance art group that Willow is into. She wants to see one of their shows, but her mom won't let her."

"Performance art?"

"Yeah. They do these big industrial installation things, with dangerous machinery. Lots of fire. People get hurt sometimes. They burned a stack of pianos once, and when they exploded somebody got a shard of wood in the leg. There's a flamethrower that walks around on remote control. And a big hydraulic plunger thing that smacks the ground really hard. Makes a huge noise and the ground shakes like it's an earthquake."

Here I reference Survival Research Labs, drawing on my own experiences at their shows and then inventing some specific details that support this story. The word "earthquake" hasn't been mentioned in a while, but the earlier uses were a gun on the mantelpiece.

She dropped the wetsuit onto the sand. She'd track sand all over the inside of his car when they drove back. Giles sighed. As if she hadn't already filled his car with sand. No sense worrying about it. "Simulated earthquakes, really?"

"That's what Alex said, anyway."

"Alex?"

"The guy. He was kinda cute. Willow would like him."

"Not you?"

"Nah. He asked me out for Friday night, but I turned him down. I have Angel. And you." She looked up at him shyly, then pulled a t-shirt on over her bathing suit.

Friday night is an important night.

Giles wrapped his arms around his knees. "Ah. Don't hesitate on my account, Buffy. And, ah--"

"I know what you're thinking. You always get this look on your face when I talk about Angel."

He hadn't realized he'd been so transparent. He cleared his throat.

"Giles?"

"Mm?"

"Is it really such a bad idea to, to be with a demon?"

Giles could not lie. "Yes."

"Why?"

"Demons aren't meant for us, Buffy. They are our enemies. Enemies of all humans, because they are the children of Echidna. But especially ours, because we are sent by the gods to slay them." He'd slipped into lecture mode, he knew. But the alternative would be to let her hear his own, more personal, fear.

"Angel has a soul."

"Angel has a soul, and I know he's in love with you. If you love him in return and wish to be with him, I shan't stop you. But I would be a poor Watcher if I didn't warn you that it... likely will not last." For that and other reasons, but Giles was weary of it. If she could snatch some pleasure with Angel, however short-lived, he would close his eyes. Uneasily.

He keeps making this decision about her. He's really very fond of her.

"Now you're just being diplomatic," Buffy said. She sprawled on her face on the towel next to him.

Giles touched her arm. "You should go out with this Alex. If you like him."

"Don't push it, Giles. Besides, my dad's coming home Friday night. I'd rather do something with him. Hey. Have you ever had sushi? I know a place."

The blond boy was there the next day as well, this time with a second friend, another man in a wetsuit. They both had windsurfing rigs that they showed off to Buffy. Buffy had been making noises about trying that instead, if he was going to insist on not driving her to a better beach. The men seemed to think it would be better further north, away from the breakwater. Giles folded up the towels, ready to relocate if Buffy wished to.

"Just watching, then?" said the one with the camera.

"I'm here to provide the transportation," said Giles. His attention was caught by the man's t-shirt, which had a logo on it of stylized bull horns, with flames rising behind. Ah, the performance art group. Fire a speciality.

Oh, Giles, how are you not noticing these clues? You are besotted and convinced you've dodged the bullet, that's how.

The man smiled in return. "I've driven my son all over the coast this summer, it seems."

Giles made a polite noise.

"Your daughter's a really strong swimmer," Alex said to Giles. "Much faster than I am at catching the waves."

"He's not my father. He's a friend," Buffy said. She seemed annoyed.

They make an assumption about the Watcher/Slayer relationship (because they know that's who Giles & Buffy are) but things are not as usual between these two.

Alex was thrown off for a moment, then gamely continued, "Well, hey, come on, want to try this?"

"Not gonna surf any more, Alex, sorry. I need to return the gear. We're going to Universal today. Giles is a big fan of virtual coasters."

Giles glared at her, but said nothing to contradict. She was obviously letting the young man down gently. She'd decided to stay with Angel, he guessed.

Alex shrugged. "Here's a flyer to our show tomorrow night. Love to see you. And we have a big thing planned for the Solstice. A volcano, sort of. With real lava."

Oh you do, do you? How real is that lava?

"Dangerous enough for you, I think," said his father.

"Yeah, maybe. Does sound cool. Hey, it was great surfing with you yesterday."

They were gone, and Buffy lifted the surfboard over her head and carried it to the shop.

"Were you serious about this other plan?"

She grinned. "You would hate every single second of it, from the parking lot on. Nah. You're taking me to the Getty, where you can explain all the Doris Day columns and stuff."

Giles lit up. She took his hand and led him back to the car while he fizzed over with anticipation, and explained to her how many antiquities were in the collection, including some in his area of speciality. Buffy was surprised to hear he had a specialty, and he was subject to a long catechism about exactly what he'd done for a living before he'd come to Sunnydale. The questions lasted most of the way through the museum tour, and he found himself telling her far more than he'd expected to about his life. Afterward he took her somewhere nice for dinner, a place he'd read about in the paper. Her manners were perfect, her pleasure in the experience obvious. Giles drank wine and watched her glow. Not even Buffy's side-trip to stake the parking lot attendant dampened the evening, and it ended as all their evenings that week had ended: in bed, in each other's arms.

Adding a little depth to the relationship.

And then it was Friday. Buffy's father would return in the evening; the next day was the Solstice, and the crisis point of the prophecy. Neither one felt like going anywhere. They paced about the house. Buffy worked out using the weight machine near its highest settings. Giles re-read the Codex and double-checked his translations. He took out his whetstones and brought all of the swords in the house to the finest edge he could.

Now we're coming to it: did Giles's scheme work or not? The astute reader expects not, just because that would be boring. There must be no straight lines through the plot.

They made love one last time in the afternoon. Giles took his time about it, committing every last detail of her body to memory, every gasp he wrested from her, every caress she gave him. Afterwards he reminded her that it was their last time, that the Solstice was upon them, and things would change. "Maybe," she said, and she refused to look him in the eye.

Giles wondered if he'd have trouble with her, if he'd made an error when he'd agreed to anything more than their first time. He'd have trouble enough managing himself. He dared not reveal to her just how much he wanted to continue it. As much as she did, perhaps. But it was up to him to give her what she needed, no matter how hard on them both it was. So he showered and dressed by himself while she pretended to be cheerful in the kitchen, and packed his duffle. He gave her a last kiss at the door, and left her alone in the dead house. He drove his car away down the hills in the stifling heat, out of the maze of the homes of the wealthy and down onto the flats. He told himself he had no choice.

Giles's heart is telling him not to leave her. He has a million reasons why he should, only his own desire to tell him he shouldn't. And he distrusts that and is telling himself he shouldn't feel that way about her.

That evening he called her cellphone from his cold motel room and left his number on her messages. She called him hours later, after she'd climbed through her window for her patrol. They talked quietly, briefly. Her father had come home, loaded with more jewelry and a pair of cowboy boots. He'd taken her out to dinner and was full of talk about the partnership he might get out of his Taos business. He'd invited Buffy to go with him on the next trip, which would involve golf. Buffy was doubtful, but Giles encouraged her to go. It would keep her mind off him, distract her.

Just wanted to establish a good relationship with her father here. He's into his business but also fond of her.

They were to meet in the morning, early, at a nearby cafe, so they would be together when the exact hour of the Solstice came. Giles reminded her of the address and the time, and bid her goodnight.

He hung up the phone and turned onto his back. He was a long mile away from her, lying between stiff sheets that reeked of cheap detergent, listening to endless traffic growling past the motel. Giles stared at the ceiling and cataloged his sins, weighed his depravity in a balance. Sex with his Slayer should not have been such joy. Was he a monster? He had repeatedly violated what he had been told was one of his primary responsibilities toward the Slayer, and it had been sweet. She had been sweet to touch, to taste, to hear.

This was also written early. I knew I wanted this moment of reflection afterwards when he wonders if he should feel guilty.

No monster, no sinner. A Watcher who'd done his duty by his Slayer, and seen her well-pleased. His only error was leaving her to come to this motel, leaving her alone on the night before the Solstice. Now he understood why Slayers were taken from their families. He belonged with her. He was her shadow.

Giles fancied he could sense her, that long mile away, between him and the ocean. She would be as restless as he, longing for the hunt, but knowing she had to sleep, to be ready. Seven hours until the Solstice proper, and the resumption of the mantle of anxious Watcher. Giles turned onto his side and curled around a pillow.

Hmm, Act 2 feels like it's over, but it isn't quite. I have a section divider here anyway. I bet this is where I chose to break it when I posted it to LJ originally.

Commentary concluded in part 4.