Pairings: Giles/Olivia, Giles/Buffy (eventually)
Warnings: Coercive Council magic. Body piercing with questionable consent issues. Violence. Sex and lots of it. Dom/sub kink, piercing kink, bondage kink. Tattoos. And more. And if that isn’t enough, the odd four-letter word. Starts mild, however.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership and am making no money.
Continued from part 1 and part 2.
The next evening saw the entire gang convened in Giles’ living room. The session had started with brainstorming about the demon. Buffy reported that it had not yet forced open the mausoleum door, though she wouldn’t lay odds on how long that would last. She’d shored up the barriers before she came by. It would take two or three of them working in concert to get it open, she thought.
Dinnertime arrived, followed by several large pizzas. They lay draped on his floor and couch, eating the last slices and licking their fingers. The conversation drifted to frivolous topics.
Giles sat at his desk, thumbing through a book on defensive magicks. He had his eye on Buffy, sprawled across his armchair. She was dressed in one of the outfits he loved best: loose trousers, low-slung, a t-shirt cropped high to show off her navel and the ring, and an open button-down shirt over that, all in dark jewel tones. She wore bright chunky rings on her thumbs, which she played with, spinning them around. He’d been watching her all night.
“T-shirts are lame, Xan,” she said, in response to something he’d missed. “We should totally get tattoos. The five of us.” Giles shuddered.
“What of?” said Oz.
“Scooby,” said Xander. “We each get our Scooby character on the shoulder.”
“There is no way I’m getting a tattoo of Velma,” said Willow. “Next idea.”
Oz had one. “It needs to be something vampire-related. A stake, maybe. Through a heart. Giles, do you have any paper?”
Giles silently opened a desk drawer and pulled out a spiral-bound sketchbook. He handed the paper along with a pencil and an eraser to Oz. Oz flipped past several dozen pages of demon renditions and spell diagrams to find a fresh page. He drew a stake, then started working on a stylized heart. Giles was reminded of students drawing logos of metal bands on their book covers, painstakingly shading in jagged letters and garbled alchemical symbols. Willow looked at Oz’s results and made a face.
“Lemme try,” said Xander. Oz handed the pad up to Xander. His stylized stake and heart were much better. They had a certain style that Giles liked. He hadn’t known Xander had the skill. The boy tried a few more takes on the motif, then idly flipped back through the notebook.
“Shit, Giles, did you do these? This is the Cornutos to the life.”
“Council training,” he said, making a self-deprecating palm-down gesture. “Demon life drawing. So the Watcher diaries have accurate information.”
“You should do a tattoo design for us. Unless you want Oz’s sucky heart on your shoulder. Sorry, baby.” That last, apologetically from Willow to Oz.
Giles gritted his teeth. Willow couldn’t know. “I’m not much of a designer. Xander’s is much better than anything I might do. Xander, try something with swords in it. Like what Buffy is doing. Upright like that it’s a symbol of fidelity.”
Buffy was doodling in one of her college notebooks, designs with a sword and shield.
“Might as well do tattoo designs,” Xander said, a little gloomily. “Since apparently I do not have what it takes to fry donuts.”
Giles expressed sympathy, while secretly thinking that it probably was for the best that Xander not be able to supply him with all the jellies he could eat.
Xander held up a drawing of a sword.
“That’s good. An appropriate symbol for the Slayer’s assistants,” Giles said.
“Would you really get a tattoo with us?” said Willow.
“If Buffy wanted me to,” he said. After he spoke, he was aware of a strange thrill in his chest, a point of warmth radiating out. The magic, stirring. Then war, within him: pain and humiliation and the vampire’s mocking laughter, telling him he would never belong to her. If he were to gather the courage to go under the needle, it wouldn’t mean anything. It wouldn’t be what he’d lived to do. To cover his sudden misery, he got up and found a book on Celtic knotwork magic, and handed it to Willow. They could bind magic into the tattoos, if they were clever about it. Xander looked over her shoulder, pencil in hand.
The four young people went out for an early patrol soon afterward. Buffy said she wanted to disrupt the Corndog’s plans, even if she couldn’t kill it. She returned later, with his sword fouled with demon blood. Giles gave her a late cup of tea, and got the report on the patrol while he cleaned the sword. Three vamps, dusted in the act of unblocking the sewer access; one small Cornutos killed; and one large Cornutos driven back into the sewers before it had a chance to rampage.
He gathered up the tea things and took them into the kitchen, carrying the tray one-handed. He returned and stood near her.
“Buffy,” he said. “I wanted to let you know. Olivia called after you left. She’ll be in town tomorrow night. She, uh, we’ll, well, I’ll want some privacy. But please, call me if something comes up. Promise me you’ll call me. Okay?”
“If it’s serious. Otherwise I’m gonna stay out of your hair. No more barging in.” She grinned at him. “Giles? This thing with Olivia going somewhere?”
“Not really. I can’t leave Sunnydale, and she certainly doesn’t want to do more than visit.”
“What keeps you in Sunnydale?”
“Buffy! You do, of course.”
“Do I?” She paced away from him, then back. She softened for a moment, and went up on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Have a good time with Olivia, Giles. Relax, let her fuss over you.”
Giles blushed, and she was gone.
Giles spent his morning cleaning the house. His natural tendency toward clutter needed to be fought, or the books would pile up on every flat surface. He was certain Olivia knew who he was, at heart, knew that he was a bookish academic, and would not truly mind the evidence of his obsessions scattered over the flat. The demonologies, however, he wished to keep hidden. And the armory was probably best treated as eccentric decoration. The bronze sword he’d cast in the workshop, that was decorative enough to put on the wall, just in case of demon invasion. But the rest of it got put away. Giles locked the weapons chest over the litter of swords and knives he’d spent so much time sharpening.
After lunch, he thought about research, but decided against it. He deserved a day off now and then. His battered body needed a day off. He stretched out with the historical novel he’d been meaning to read for the last week.
Olivia swept through his door in late afternoon, dynamic and powerful as ever. Stunningly dressed, of course. She smelled wonderful and tasted wonderful in that first kiss, spun into before they’d so much as exchanged greetings. Or perhaps it was their greeting. It lasted long enough to set his heart pounding and his body stirring, then she pulled back to look at him.
“Rip, what the hell happened to you?”
Arm in a sling, black eye just starting to shade down from black into the more exotic bruise spectra— Giles had to admit he did look as if something had run him over. “Mugged,” he said, shrugging.
“Tell me another.”
“Truly. It, uh, he had a club.” One could, at a stretch, describe the demon’s intention as mugging. Liv wasn’t stupid, however. He had to watch it. And eventually he might have to come clean.
They went out to dinner in the early evening. Giles tugged the flat door shut behind them and shrugged one arm into his leather jacket. Liv held his sling for him while he threaded the injured arm through. He turned to lead the way up to the street, and her rental car, but she stopped him.
“You were mugged the other day, and you’re leaving your door unlocked?” She was baffled. He bowed to her display of practicality and locked the door. He was reluctant to launch into explanations and embarrassed by the prospect of explaining the group of teenagers with whom he shared his life. Buffy had a key; she’d had one for years. It wouldn’t matter.
Giles had a little too much to drink at the restaurant, one glass too many of the chianti with his pasta. He was twitchy, and nervous, and worried about Buffy, which was absurd. What he said to Olivia was that his arm hurt, and he was worried he’d be no use to her in bed. He knew what she came to him for; it was not a relationship, but a slow-motion fling.
And indeed he couldn’t be as athletic as he usually liked, with his arm still in stitches, but Liv promised to compensate. She made it slow, soothing. She started with a massage, with the scented oil she always used. He was aroused with the first stroke of her hands across his shoulders, just from the scent, amber and vanilla and something musky. She said nothing about his back; she had never asked him about any of the marks on his body. When she caught him rocking his hips gently into the bed, she turned him over and worked on his chest and thighs. It seemed like forever before she touched his erection, and longer still before she allowed him inside. She kept him on the edge for ages.
Giles lay awake afterward, sweat cooling on his face and chest. Olivia’s warm cheek rested against his shoulder.
This was what he had needed: a beautiful woman astride him, moaning his name. Nothing complicated, no magic, no responsibilities, just a woman and a man, behaving as they have always behaved. God, no responsibilities. Not even for her pleasure; she’d just taken over and carried him along. It had been surprising how much this had released him. It had been some of the best sex he’d ever had. He replayed the moment of her orgasm again, in satisfaction, the way her body shuddering around his had sent him over at last. His body twitched. Perhaps he’d wake her in a bit. He wanted that feeling again. Or not. There was always the morning. He nuzzled her hair, and let himself slide down toward sleep.
The phone rang. Giles sat up, suddenly and violently awake. “Hullo?” Willow, from the hospital. His stomach dropped away. He tried to sort out the situation from Willow’s babble, which was less coherent than usual. Xander injured. Xander in emergency surgery now, to stabilize his ankle. “Buffy,” he said. “Is Buffy all right?” Yes, yes, Buffy was fine; Xander was the only one injured. His stomach stopped the freefall, but still roiled. He cut Willow off and promised to be there as soon as humanly possible. Liv had turned the light on and was blinking at him, looking worried.
He began pulling clothing from drawers and throwing it on. “A friend of mine has been in a bit of an accident,” he said. “One of my students, the group I was telling you about. His leg, or his ankle. Willow wasn’t clear. I need to see to him.”
“Of course,” she said. She sat up. “Shall I come with you?”
“No, no. Get your sleep. It’ll likely be hours of sitting around waiting for nothing much to happen. God, hospitals.” He kissed Liv. “Don’t invite anyone in while I’m gone.” He shut the light off for her. He was down the stairs and out of the house, moving quickly but quietly so as not to alarm her.
Driving bothered his arm, though he gritted his teeth and simply did it. He tried shifting the gears with his left hand reaching across his body, but that was annoying. He’d begin rehab with it soon enough, and might as well get a start at using that muscle again.
He found Willow in the emergency room waiting room. Hadn’t he just been here? She threw herself at him. He caught her with his good arm, and tried not to wince when she pressed against his bad one.
“Xander’s out of surgery. He’s been asking for you,” Willow said. “He’s okay. Just loopy and stressed out.”
“How long ago?”
“Got here three hours ago.” Willow looked guilty. “We didn’t call you at first. It was all kinda confusing. Mr Stamford said you would come if you were needed.”
“Is he still here?”
“Buffy sent him away a while ago.”
“Where is she?”
“In with Xan. One person at a time.”
Giles then patiently extracted from her the details of the injury and the fight that that produced it. They’d stopped by at his place before patrol, but the door was locked. Buffy refused to let them in, saying that she didn’t want to interrupt anything. Giles dropped his head into his hands. He hadn’t been there; nothing would have been interrupted. But when the four had encountered the Cornutos and a minion later on, Buffy was without effective weapons. Xander had thrown himself at it, much as Giles had done, fallen, and caught the club on his ankle as a reward. Willow blamed herself for not being quick enough with the light spell.
Buffy emerged. “Giles,” she said, then nothing after that. She was white-faced. He inspected her, quickly, seeking signs of injury that she hadn’t bothered telling anyone else about. Her body language was odd, tight, maybe even resolved, but she wasn’t favoring any sore places. He made as if to hug her, but she held up a hand. “Go. Talk to him. He needs you.”
Giles brushed a hand against Buffy’s shoulder and went into Xander’s room. The boy was in the usual mess of machinery and wires, IV and monitors, ankle swathed and elevated, a nurse fussing about in the background with paperwork. Giles recognized the stains that shock left on a face: pale cheeks, black circles under the eyes. Xander smiled at Giles, though.
Giles slipped into the chair by the bed and took Xander’s free hand. “How are you, my boy?”
“Kinda zonked on the good stuff. Which is nice, because prior to that I was passing out from the pain. My ankle went crunch. You know? I actually heard it go crunch.”
“That sounds bracing.”
“Yeah. Bracing. That’s the word I used. Right before I screamed like a girl.” The bravado left Xander, and he looked up at Giles in fear. “They started saying a bunch of stuff about surgery and pins and rehab and specialists and ‘walking again’. Giles, what am I gonna do about that? I don’t have… I don’t have insurance.”
Giles’ throat closed up. He held Xander’s hand tight. “Xander, my boy, I’ll take care of it. It’ll be all right. The Council has… I can get them to pay. You were with the Slayer.”
“And th-th-they have healers who can do a few things doctors can’t. You remember the Council doctor who took care of my fingers, yes? I’ll get a specialist out here for you, my boy.”
The life crept back into Xander’s voice. “God, thank you. Giles. Dunno where I’d be without you. In so many ways.”
Giles cleared his throat. “I’ll, uh. Well.” He rested a hand on Xander’s sweaty forehead. “Is your pain manageable? Do you need anything?”
“Could you just kinda sit with me?” Xander looked more out of it than he had when Giles had entered.
“Of course. You should get some sleep.” He fumbled for the boy’s bed controls and pushed the button that turned off the light.
“Big expert,” said Xander, muzzily. Giles took his hand again and watched. If Willow’s recounting of how the evening had gone was accurate, this was his fault. His fault, for not being there to tell Buffy to leave the demon alone. His fault, for not being there to arm them better. His fault, for having spent the day with his lover instead of researching a known threat. His fault, for shirking his duty.
Xander would have the best medical care imaginable if he had to pay for it by selling his property in England. Not that it would come to that; the Council would likely meet his demands to provide assistance. He would pull rank. He had rank. Rank falsely obtained. If he’d truly deserved it, he’d have been at Buffy’s side and this would not have happened. No wonder Buffy was so tense and upset out there. His inability had cost her friend dearly.
When he was sure Xander was asleep, he slipped out into the hall. Willow and Buffy were still in the waiting room, heads together and talking. He sat next to them, slumping in the chair. Buffy looked at him expectantly.
“He’s asleep. Specialist in the morning, at ten. I’ll be there to talk to him. You two should get home and get some sleep. He’s likely out for the rest of the night.”
“Will you drive us to the dorm?” Buffy didn’t speak to him, other than to ask him that. Giles couldn’t blame her. When they got there, Buffy asked Willow to go ahead; she had some things to talk about with Giles. He swallowed, dreading what she’d have to say.
Buffy sat for a minute with fists loosely balled in her lap. Giles waited, head down.
“I screwed up tonight, Giles.”
“You— No, Buffy. It’s my fault. I wasn’t there with you. When you needed me.”
Buffy turned in the car seat. “It’s my responsibility. It’s always my responsibility. I’m the Slayer, not you.”
“But it’s my job to give you what you need. Support you.”
“I’m in charge, right?”
“Then I’ve gotta be in charge. I’ve got to make sure I have what I need. Xander’s gonna have a cane for the rest of his life because I didn’t do that. Giles, I’m sick of screwing up. We should have figured out this thing already. Yeah, you should have been researching until you got it. But it’s up to me to ask for that from you.”
Giles rubbed at the steering wheel. He knew what he ought to have been doing. “You shouldn’t have needed to ask. I should have just known. Buffy, I’m not sure this is working.”
Buffy punched at his dashboard. “We haven’t given it enough time! We’ve trained exactly once since we agreed to work together again.”
“Buffy, you don’t understand. You don’t know what you’re missing. You complained about feeling off-balance, remember? You’re missing a Watcher.”
“I don’t believe you. Things were fine before that stupid test! We did okay.”
“But you can do so much better now. With a bonded Watcher supporting you. A real Watcher. What I can’t be.”
Desire welled up in him again. Go to his knees, beg her, allow her to seize him and make him hers. If only he could. If only he could bring himself to do it. Offer her tainted goods. His body, already marked by another, ruined. The magic would reject him.
“No. You’re… Giles, you’re the one. If I can’t have you, I don’t want anybody.”
“You have to.” And he had to talk her into it. Giles felt as if he were signing his own prison sentence. No, death sentence. He wanted to die.
She was silent for a minute, head down. “I’m gonna try to think of something. You said ten for Xan’s doctor?”
“G’night.” Buffy kissed his temple. Then she got out of the car and closed the door on him. He watched her run up the walkway into her dorm.
How he kept his composure enough to drive, Giles wasn’t sure. He was operating on automatic, following familiar streets. His chest ached. He wanted to die. He couldn’t let himself die. He had to take care of Xander. And maybe… maybe she would still see him, after she found another Watcher. She’d said she loved him. He pulled himself together. Xander. Care for Xander. He had a purpose in life with Xander. Making up for his failure.
Giles was on the phone the moment he got home, to the Council. He explained the situation, and then demanded action. They called him sir, to his shock, and promised instant response. A Council healer-medic would be on his way within two days, and the insurance information would be faxed to Stamford at his hotel. Giles was taken aback by how easy this was.
Status. The charade. He’d end it soon.
He slept through what little remained of the night on the couch. He awoke to the smell of coffee brewing. Olivia was awake. She made him breakfast, and extracted the story from him. He invented something about a fall down a flight of stairs. He had no idea what Xander had decided to tell the doctors about how it had happened. The usual nonsense about a PCP gang? Olivia drove them to the hospital in time to make the morning appointment with the specialist. On the walk up, he saw she had a wrapped package in her hands. How had she managed that, at this hour? He asked her what it was.
“Hope you don’t mind, Rip,” she said. “This was going to be yours. I think it’ll do for your young friend, though. And he needs presents more than you do.”
Giles leaned down to kiss her before they went in. Maybe, when he was back in London… Unlikely. Liv tired of him quickly. A week was the most she’d ever managed.
The specialist was there already, early, with x-rays and a mouthful of jargon. Liv made a little signal to him and slipped away to the waiting room. Giles strode in and apologized for missing the beginning. The doctor paused and asked for an introduction.
“Rupert Giles,” he said, painfully stretching out his right hand to be shaken.
“Are you any relation?”
“It’s okay, doc. He’s on my forms as next of kin. He gets to know it all.”
Giles took Xander’s hand and squeezed, then focused his attention on the doctor. They had a short conversation, to the point. Xander would need a series of surgeries to repair as much of the damage to bone and ligament as they could. Not all of the damage was reparable; he’d never walk easily on that ankle again. But if he responded well, and didn’t shirk rehab, he would walk on it again. In a few months.
The Council’s healer would improve his chances considerably, by ensuring that he responded well to surgery, and by speeding all natural healing processes. But even that boost would not make it a sure thing.
Xander didn’t have many decisions to make just yet, other than how quickly he was willing to undergo the first reconstructive surgery. He met Giles’ eye, gripped his hand a little tighter, then demanded that it all start happening as fast as possible. He’d go under the knife again Tuesday. The specialist set it all in motion, and swept out.
Giles felt better. He’d begun to step up. He pressed Xander’s hand tight. Xander just sighed, and closed his eyes for a long breath.
“They knock you out for this planned stuff, at least. It won’t be like getting stitched up after a bad vamp-fight. I won’t remember a thing. So, Giles. I heard you had a lovely supermodel visiting you. Where is she?” Irrepressible, that was Xander.
“I’ll just grab Liv so you can meet her,” said Giles. He found her in the waiting room, talking cheerfully with Stamford.
“I see you’ve introduced yourselves,” he said.
“You mean you’re the—” Stamford shut his mouth, then began again. “Yes, fellow countrymen bonding over the dreadful tea.” He lifted the styrofoam cup in his hand and made a face.
Giles introduced Liv to Xander, then stood back while she gave him his present. It was a silk dressing gown, black, utterly decadent. Giles raised his eyebrow. A lovely thing. Xander was speechless at first, running his hands over and over it.
Liv said, “I hear you’ll be spending a lot of time here. You need something to wear to attract every single nurse in the building.”
“Holy crap,” said Xander. “This is the nicest item of clothing I have ever owned.” He rubbed it against his face. “Okay, gotta shave before I do that again. This woman has incredible taste. What are you doing with an ex-librarian, anyway? What did he do, offer to catalog your shoes?”
Olivia sat on the side of Xander’s bed and leaned into to him. She spoke in a conspiratorial whisper pitched to reach everyone in the room. “Confidentially, a librarian is not the only thing this man used to be. He has a very rackety and exotic past.”
“Got any blackmail material to share?”
“Let me tell you about his history as a male model.”
Seeing they were well underway, Giles drew Stamford out into the hall for a moment. Stamford led him back to the waiting room, which was empty. He looked Giles up and down. Giles knew he was haggard, underslept, distressed, in no condition for a verbal fencing duel with a Council scholar. Especially not one who seemed angry.
“Are you well, Mr Giles?”
“Bad night.” Giles took off his glasses and occupied himself polishing them.
“Nothing that need concern you.” Giles replaced the glasses, authoritatively.
“Are you quite certain? The Slayer had questions for me last night, Mr Giles. Questions I could not quite believe at first. About her birthright. She implied—” Stamford stopped himself and turned away. Yes, he was angry.
“What did I imply?” Buffy was in the doorway.
“Ah, good morning, Miss Summers.”
“What did I imply?” She advanced into the room, and nodded to Giles.
“That, ah, Mr Giles, here, is not what I had thought him.”
“What did you think he was?”
“Let’s not waste our time, shall we? Mr Giles, has Miss Summers claimed you?”
Giles glanced from Buffy to the floor, then squared his shoulders. Time to end it. “No. I apologize for allowing you to continue to believe that. Before your visit I had no idea the Council had reached that conclusion about us.”
“That design on your back she was toying with?”
“Was not put there by her.”
Buffy crossed the waiting room to stand alongside him. “Okay, now you know. Leave him alone.”
“Can’t do that, I’m afraid. I’ll need to let the, er, Council know. Can’t keep this secret. Shocking behavior on your part, Giles. What were you thinking?” He’d lost the “mister”, Giles noted.
“Again, I apologize.”
“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.” Stamford was more than angry now. Giles watched him cautiously. His body language had changed utterly. He no longer seemed to be the eager young scholar who’d bounced through Giles’ door a week ago. He seemed older, more powerful. In command. When he rounded on Giles in a fury, Giles had to rein in the urge to flinch.
“Why? Tell me why. You’re devoted to each other. Any fool who spends five minutes with you can see that. Why are you denying her the tool her life depends on most? The weapon she needs most?”
Giles wished to argue no further. It hurt all the more because he knew Stamford was right. He held up a hand to stop Stamford when he opened his mouth to continue.
“I— I can’t. Can’t do it.”
“What on earth do you mean?”
“My back. Those scars. They… You’ve read my history. You know I was, was injured by the vampire Angelus.”
“Tortured, the healer said.”
Buffy went very still at Giles’ side. Giles flexed his left hand, unconsciously. “He did more than I reported. He…” Giles swallowed. “He enacted the claim ritual with me. He carved his tattoo into me.”
“Good God, man. Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I couldn’t have borne being sent away from you.” He said this to Buffy. She rubbed his shoulder.
“You’ll have to bear it, I’m afraid.”
“What?” Buffy snapped around and took a threatening step toward Stamford.
“I made my preliminary report to the Council last night. They should reach a decision quickly. A predictable one, especially once they hear this. You can expect a team to pull him out perhaps as early as two days from now. He’ll be kept away from here, once he’s recovered from the trauma of the separation.”
Giles shivered. He tried to imagine being separated from her, never seeing her again. Any of them. Never touching her again. He turned away from Stamford, because he wasn’t sure he was in control of the expression on his face.
Buffy had her own opinion. “No. You’re not. I’m not going to let you. He’s mine.”
“No, he’s not.” Stamford said it gently. “I’m sorry, Miss Summers, but it’s for your own good. And his. You need a Watcher, and he’ll need our help recovering from this experience. You don’t understand how much the lack of a Watcher is crippling you.”
“I don’t care. I trust him. He’s done things for me that none of you Council people have.”
“Buffy! Buffy. He’s right. You need a Watcher. I can’t be what you need. I wish I could. I wish I weren’t useless to you. But I am.”
“How do you know? Giles. This is what I came here to tell you. How could Angel have triggered it? I think he was just screwing with your head. He put you through some bad stuff, I know. But he might have been lying. Just to hurt you more.”
Giles froze, staring at Buffy. This hadn’t occurred to him. The sensations had been so intense, at the time, the drugs in his blood and the agony in his back so overwhelming. What if Angelus hadn’t touched the magic, truly?
Buffy turned to Stamford. “Am I right?”
Stamford played with the knot of his tie, tugging at it nervously. “I don’t know. Our mages might be able to test it. But it would take time. Time you don’t have. You could essay the bond ritual, if you wanted. Did the vampire exchange blood with you?”
“Dangerous. The Slayer energy component might react poorly. I wouldn’t recommend trying. It’s… Well. It’s powerful magic.”
Buffy looked at Giles once, then backed a few steps away. Giving him the space to think. Hope sparked inside him, and with it a return of deep fear in his belly. He didn’t give a damn about the danger. The question was, could he endure it again? Could he allow himself to be bound and hurt again? He closed his eyes. He was afraid. He felt his breath start to come fast and shallow again. Ropes and the knife. Drusilla and Angelus, laughing at him. But they weren’t here. And he trusted Buffy to carry him through.
If he didn’t try it, he’d spend the rest of his life wondering what would have happened.
“Buffy.” He held her gaze and very deliberately dropped to his knees. “If you still want me, I’m yours. Please. I’m willing.”
“For you, I’ll find a way.”
He was panting, fast and shallow. His fingers began to tingle. Giles attempted to draw slow, steady breaths.
“No,” said Stamford. Buffy ignored him. “No. We’ll send you someone else. He’s, he’s tainted. Look at him. Even if the bond is possible, the experience has damaged him—”
“Shut the fuck up or I’ll break your arm,” said Buffy. She laid a hand on Giles’ head. He was on his knees, one hand braced on the carpet, struggling to control the incipient panic attack. “Giles. You don’t have to do this. We can figure something out.”
“Buffy, I want to.”
Buffy was silent, and for a moment he was afraid. Then she said, “All right. You’re mine. I claim you.”
Giles breathed in. He lunged up toward her and wrapped his good arm around her. She pulled him over and down onto the waiting room sofa. He held her and trembled. He blinked over the sting of tears. She stroked his hair. The emotion welling up still made it impossible to speak. Fiery joy, spreading out from his chest. The magic, already beginning? His own relief, that they had finally come to a decision? Simple human pleasure at being wanted?
He got himself back under control, conscious of Stamford’s sharp observation. With clipboard out.
“And now the fun part.”
Giles snorted. His capacity for sarcasm was returning as he calmed. “Fun for you, maybe. Do you… do you know what you’d like to do with me?”
“Does it matter? Haven’t you said yes no matter what?”
Giles tightened his good arm around her shoulders and thought about that. He studied her for a moment. He knew she was right. He would leap, and trust her.
“I would say yes no matter what. I do say yes. Buffy, I will be yours. Tell me when it’s time and I will do what you ask.” He slumped back. The fear was returning.
“I’ll make it something easy…”
“No!” He and Stamford said it at almost the same moment.
“Don’t waste it,” Giles told her. “If we’re going to do it at all, we have to do it all the way. Make it hard on me.”
“Mr Giles is correct. The bond is deepest when the ritual is most intense. The mark is best when it’s concrete, visible. Not merely symbolic. The same for the binding.” Stamford sounded apologetic, almost.
Buffy regrouped, and thought for a moment. “Okay. I know what I’m gonna do. What was it you said? Blood and pain and sex. I’ve got an idea for that.”
“It’s gonna be okay, Giles. Trust me. Hold onto me.” She gripped his left hand with hers. “The Slayer handbook has everything I need to know? We need equipment?”
“Yes. I have a ritual knife for you.”
“And you’ll need the, er, drugs. Which I have a supply of. If Miss Summers would care to accompany me? I will review the requirements with her.”
Buffy stood. “You going to be all right, Giles?”
“Go on. I’ve got to deal with Liv.”
“I’ll call you,” she said. “Might be today or tomorrow.”
She hugged him tight, and vanished with the Council puppy. Who was no puppy. Giles wondered what he was. After a while, he got up and went to Xander’s room. He hovered in the doorway, watching. Olivia was there, along with Oz and Willow. Xander and Oz were bent over something that was making a racket, all tinny bleeps and thin repetitive jingles.
“Gameboy,” Willow said, coming over to him and sighing. “I wanted to bring him books, but Oz said this was better.”
Giles nodded. He took his leave of Xander with a quick hand-squeeze. Liv did him one better and gave Xander a lingering kiss. They made conversation about hospitals on the drive back; Liv had spent little time in them, while Giles had become far too familiar with their rhythms. Back at his flat, Giles wracked himself for ideas about how to ask her to leave, politely, in a manner that made it clear to her that he’d like her to visit again. Liv removed the necessity, however.
“Oh! By the way. Got a call while you were in that intense conversation with the blonde girl. Job in LA. I might have turned it down, but I’ve begun to feel a bit in the way.”
“She’s the one who burst in a few weeks ago, isn’t she. Lucky Ripper, to have little blonde things hovering.”
Giles blushed. The truth, while less flattering, was still not something he wished to discuss with Liv. He followed her upstairs and watched her pack her bags.
Liv looked at him thoughtfully over her cosmetics case. “There’s something you’re not telling me,” she said. “Your arm, your black eye, that poor boy’s ankle, all those whispered conversations that end when I enter the room…”
Giles yanked off his glasses. His heart sank. “Liv, I— I believe it’s nothing that will affect you.”
“Eventually you’ll have to tell me.”
“Will you be coming back soon? I, um, didn’t get enough of you this visit.”
“If you want.” She slipped her arms around him, graceful and casual, and allowed him to kiss her. He was too distracted to enjoy it.
Concluded in part 4.