One Too Many by Djinn

"Where is he?" Buffy wanted to grab the bartender and pound the info out of him. But this wasn't Willy's, and violence would be frowned upon.

It was, however, still a demon bar. One Giles had no business being in. Much less being drunk in.

The bartender scowled at her and pointed toward the back of the bar.

"Thanks," she said, not wanting to rile the guy. Faith had said he was occasionally helpful.

She heard Giles before she saw him. Speaking very earnestly to a full-face female vampire. "But do you find any satisfaction from this life? Deeper meaning?"

"I don't need deeper meaning, sweetie. I get to feed. So, do you want to pay me now or later?"

Buffy stood just behind Giles and crossed her arms over her chest, waiting for him to--please God--tell this vampire to get lost.

"I didn't come here to let you feed on me."

Score one for the watcher.

"I just want to know why you do what you do?"

And points off for stupid questions. "Giles," Buffy said, pulling him out of the booth. "It's time to go."

"Hey!" The vampire was up and striding toward them.

Buffy pushed Giles into the nearest empty chair. "Oh, yes. Please let's fight." She pulled out a stake, tossing it lightly from hand to hand, grinning in what she knew was a feral way. She was so in the mood to throw this vamp down.

The vampire stopped mid step and then backed away slowly.

"Good call." A little disappointed, Buffy hoisted Giles up and half carried, half guided him to the entrance.

"Buffy, I'm quite capable of walking."

"Uh huh. And that's why Faith told me to get on the first plane to Cleveland. Because you're so damn capable." It had been a miserable flight from London. Babies and horny soccer players and a really smelly old man she was sure had been a demon. All at a time when the other slayers needed her back at Slayer Central. When Dawn needed her to just be her big sister. But, no--she had to fly across the ocean for this.

"I'm quite all right. We were having a nice conversation, that young woman and I."

"That young woman was expecting you to pay her to bite you."

"I may have led her on a bit in that respect, but I had the situation fully under control." He pulled away and his "fully under control" riff was ruined when he ran into a parking meter. "Bloody hell."

"Okay, Giles. Where's your car?" She reached into his coat pocket, dug out his keys, and hit the "honk" button. A red sports car down the way started to beep. "Nice wheels. Midlife crisis much?"

"Very funny." He staggered ahead of her to the car, and when he tried to head for the driver's seat, she manhandled him into the passenger side.

"I drive," she said. "You sober up."

"I am not inebriated."

"Maybe not, but you smell like a still."

He didn't have a witty retort, so she concentrated on getting them out of the parallel parking space he'd found--she really hated driving, even if she'd had to master it when her mom had been sick.

"I don't live down this way."

"No, but my hotel is down this way. And we need to talk."

"We can talk at my apartment."

"Yes, and then, when I leave, you can do some other stupid thing that might get you killed."

"Buffy, I assure you, I was in no danger and you--"

She punched the radio on, turned it up loud even though it was stodgy classical music. It still drowned him out.

She drove in silence--well, she was silent; the car was filled with the sounds of Bach or Brahms or one of those guys. And Giles was muttering, but she refused to reach over and turn down the music, and when he tried it, she slapped his hand. Hard.

Crossing his arms, he went back to muttering. She pulled into the hotel parking lot a little too fast, hit the brakes hard, and jerked them both into their seatbelts as she parked the car in the first space she found.

"Side entrance. Let's go." She got out of the car, walked around to his side, but he pushed her away. "Fine. Walky walky."

"Don't treat me like a child." He sounded pissed. And hurt.

"Quit acting like one, then."

"That's usually my line to you." His voice was cutting. Hard. His Ripper voice, not the Giles she knew and loved.

She ignored it. Grabbing his hand, she pulled him after her to the side door. "I have a coffee maker in the room. Coffee will be good for you." And maybe a cold shower. Or was that just in the movies?

All the fight seemed to have gone out of him. He followed her docilely now. And when he met her eyes as they waited for the elevator, he looked contrite. "I'm sorry you had to come all this way."

She wasn't sure what to say, so she nodded and pushed him gently into the elevator. Pushing the fourth floor button, she watched as the numbered buttons lit up. Two, three, then four. "Our floor, Giles."

He was staring at the floor, seemed to be looking past it. "What? Oh, yes."

He followed her down the hall, letting her nudge him through once she got the door open, then dropping into one of the chairs at the little table.

She took the other one. "So."

"You mentioned coffee, I believe?"

She had, so she got up and started the in-room coffee maker, then went back to sit down. "So?"

"So. Yes. Well." He took off his glasses, set them down on the table, and ran his hand across his eyes, rubbing hard. "I really was quite all right, Buffy, and I--"

"Cut the crap, Giles. This is me. I know you. You are not all right." She heard the coffee maker stop, went to pour him some, making it the way she knew he liked it. "I know about Jill," she said softly as she set the mug down in front of him.

"Jill fought well, from what Catherine said."

"Jill died."

"Yes." Giles took a deep swig of coffee, not seeming to care that it was just-brewed hot.

"Faith told me that you'd taken a special interest in Jill."

"Faith and I may have to discuss the concept of discretion."

Buffy smiled tightly, shaking her head. "Don't pull that. And don't blame Faith. Discretion goes out the window when a friend is acting crazy."

"I'm not crazy."

Buffy didn't answer, just waited for him to say more things she didn't believe. Finally, he took a deep breath and put his glassed back on, and she knew he was going to give her the truth--or some version of it, anyway.

"Jill liked to study. The old texts. She often asked me to help her translate." He set the mug down hard. "She should have been a watcher, not a slayer."

"We don't make the rules, Giles. We don't say who gets called and who doesn't."

"Well, maybe we should." He wasn't meeting her eyes. That was never a good thing.

"And before Jill..."

He seemed to go very still.

"Elena?"

He finally looked at her. "Elena. Jeanne. Kaneesha. Just in the time I've been here." He played with his mug, turning it this way and that, as if searching for the perfect angle of repose. "I'd forgotten how dangerous a hellmouth can be. You. Kendra. Faith almost. You again. All the potentials we lost that last year--and later in the final battle." He pushed away from the table rising unsteadily.

She caught him.

"Let go of me, Buffy. I don't deserve your help."

"Why not? Because you failed them?"

"Didn't I? I'm the watcher here. I shouldn't have sent a girl who wasn't ready out to fight."

"You said Jill fought well."

"She wasn't ready. I knew that, but I let Faith take her on patrol anyway."

"Did Faith get careless?" It wouldn't be the first time, although Faith had seemed steadier since she'd taken the gig in Cleveland. Like she cared about the girls she was in charge of, like it mattered to her to be a good role model. Not that she was a good role model all the time. She was still Faith, after all.

"No, Buffy, this isn't Faith's fault. She asked Jill if she was ready, and she said yes. But she wasn't. She never would be."

"You know that from this perspective, but did you know that then?"

He walked to the dresser, leaned over, and stared at himself in the mirror. "Don't give me an out, Buffy."

She walked over, tried to see what he was seeing. "Giles, I know you. Better than you know yourself sometimes. And you would never have sent a girl out who wasn't ready."

"I did, though. I sent you against the Master. I sent those potentials..."

She slid onto the dresser, making him move his hand, breaking the hold the mirror had on him. "You would never send a girl out who wasn't ready. End of story."

He didn't answer, seemed to be searching her face as if it held some answer that the mirror had failed to give him. "Then why? Why did she die?"

"Spike told me once. All it takes is one wrong move and the vampire has a very good day. It was her time to die. It's awful. Her life was too short. But she's gone. And she's not coming back."

And Buffy had never even met her. Jill had been one of the many collected by Faith and Robin. So many newbies on top of an active hellmouth. It was why Giles had come here to help.

"I've tried to be a good watcher." He moved closer, lifted his hand slowly and stroked her cheek.

"You are a good watcher. You're the best watcher, don't you know that. If you were Jill's friend, then she was lucky."

"I've missed you so, Buffy. There's no one to talk to here."

"Robin and you seemed to hit it off when you were planning to murder Spike."

"He's rather distracted by Faith, I'm afraid. A nice enough fellow when we do talk, but it's not the same as having someone who..."

"Who depends on you? You had Jill."

He shook his head. "She was a child. She wasn't you." He jerked his hand away, went back to avoiding her eyes. "Am I going to fail you again, Buffy? Are you going to end up dead?"

"Odds are I will die. Possibly violently. Maybe prematurely. You might, too. It's our lives. It's how we've chosen to live them. Fight the good fight and all that?"

He nodded. "I suppose."

"Giles, if I die or if I live to be a hundred, it won't be because of you. It won't be your fault if things go wrong. You won't get to claim credit if I end up having grandkids. It's my life, and Jill's life was hers. She could have told you she wasn't ready if she'd felt that way. We have enough girls now not to push anyone out of the nest before they're fit."

"I know." He pulled away. "I should go."

"No way. You're staying here."

He glanced at the bed. "One only, my dear. And there's no couch. I'm a bit old to be sleeping in bathtubs." He started to laugh. "Remember how fun it was to keep Spike chained up in the tub?"

Buffy could feel herself blush. She'd done a lot worse to Spike that year Giles had abandoned her.

He seemed to read her face. "I guess you do remember."

"I guess so." She pushed him toward the bed. "Just lie down. Shoes and jacket off. The rest will just have to get rumpled." Not that he looked exactly fresh pressed right now.

She was already wearing comfy plane riding clothes. She waited until Giles chose a side and lay down, before she turned off the lights and joined him under the covers. It felt odd, having him next to her, even though he seemed to be trying to stay as far from her as possible.

"So," he said, just as the silence was getting uncomfortable for her, "just how long are you going to babysit me?"

"I don't know. How long are you going to need a babysitter?"

"I don't need one now, Buffy."

She didn't argue with him--it was rare that she'd win. "Tell me about her. About Jill."

She could hear him breathe in sharply, as if her request hurt. Reaching over, she found his hand and squeezed it. He let his own hand lie limp for a moment, then he suddenly squeezed back, holding on tight.

"She was eighteen. But young for her age emotionally--she hadn't lived much. Smart though. Like Willow, only without the experience of fighting at your side for two years."

"Was she nice?"

"Oh, yes. Very sweet. Studious and quiet. Not much of a sense of humor." His laugh was a soft puff of air. "A bit like me, I suppose."

"Nothing like me."

"No. Nothing like you." He suddenly let go of her hand.

She moved closer, felt him shrink away. If he did it again, he'd be off the bed.

"I've missed you, too, Giles. Talking to you."

"You have Xander. Dawn and Willow."

"Not the same." She backed away, rolled to her side and faced the wall. "Did you have feelings for her?"

"For Jill? Good God, no. Nothing like that. Is that why you think I'm upset?"

"Faith wasn't sure."

"And Faith is such an expert on relationships?"

She had to give him that one. Although Robin was still hanging in there, so they must be doing something right.

She felt him move closer, his breath was warm on her ear. "I let Jill die, Buffy."

"Just like you let me die."

"Yes. What kind of man does that?"

"The kind of man who has to." She turned, realized they were lying very, very close.

He didn't move. She didn't, either. Then he leaned in and kissed her.

She had, upon occasion as she grew older, considered what kissing Giles would be like. This wasn't like any of her fantasies. He tasted like coffee, booze, and cigarettes. And he pulled away immediately, murmuring something about boundaries and decorum.

She had a feeling he was going to make a run for it and grabbed his arm, keeping him in the bed. "Go to sleep, Giles. You'll feel better in the morning."

"I couldn't possibly sleep here now."

"I'll make it easy for you: either you fall asleep or I'll knock you out."

He quit fighting her grip, lay still, and was probably trying to wait her out. She didn't let go of him, and she finally heard the sound of his breathing shift to the rhythm of sleep.

She still didn't let go of his arm.

---------------

A soft tapping woke her. She slipped out of bed and hurried over to the door, checking to make sure Giles was still asleep before she opened it. Light streamed into the darkened room, and she stepped outside, holding the door open with her foot.

"Hey," Faith said, handing Buffy a plastic shopping bag. "I had Robin go get Giles' stuff. Figured he'd be better at picking out guywear than I would."

"Good call."

"How is he?" Faith peeked in. "Ooh, Summers, one bed, two of you--that's math even I can manage."

"Shut up." She was so not telling Faith that Giles had kissed her.

Faith's grin faded. "How is he?"

"I'm not sure yet."

"But you'll stick around until you are sure, right?"

"You want me to hang out?"

Faith copped some of her old 'tude, fingers hooked in her pockets, hips stuck out a bit, a trace of a sneer. "I'm not looking for quality big sister time, B. But Giles is good people, and if he needs your help, then yeah, I want you to stay and help him."

Buffy felt oddly touched. Faith could always surprise her. "Don't worry. I'm not leaving him till I know he's okay."

"So, he was at Damien's?"

"Just like you said he would be. Having a heart-to-heart with a vampire of the female persuasion. I think he was about to launch into a talk about self-actualization and personal fulfillment."

Faith gave her a "What the hell are you talking about?" look. Buffy smiled--it was nice to think she still remembered something from her brief time at college. Maggie Walsh had been a nut job, but a heck of a good teacher.

"He was being stupid."

Faith clearly got that concept.

"He said Jill wasn't ready, Faith. Was she?"

"She was. She fought like a tiger, B. Staked two vamps before the catwalk she was standing on collapsed--another vamp got her while she was unconscious. I tried to help her, so did Yeni and Mary. We didn't get to her, not in time. It was one of those bad things, and it wasn't cool that it went down that way, but it wasn't anyone's fault. But Giles seems wicked determined to blame himself for her death."

"They weren't involved."

Faith rolled her eyes. "I didn't really think they were."

"Then why'd you make me ask him that?"

Faith gave her an odd smile. "Why'd I call you to come help him instead of Willow or Xander?"

"Because he was my watcher."

"Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that, B." She pulled Buffy to her in an awkward hug. "Good to see you. Don't be a stranger."

"You, either." She watched Faith stride away, oozing bad girl vibes in all directions.

Turning to go back in, she saw that Giles was watching her from the bed.

"Good morning," he said, his voice raspy.

"Hey." She handed him his clothes. "Faith brought these by."

"So, I see--and heard."

"You heard us talking?" At his look, she frowned. "How much did you hear?"

"Only everything." He gave a tight smile.

"I'm not going to say I'm sorry, Giles. She's worried about you, and it takes a lot to make her worried enough to want me in her town. You know that."

He closed his eyes and took a long breath, as if gathering strength.

"Are you feeling like breakfast?" She hoped he was, because she was starving.

"I'd rather go home."

"Yeah, that part's not happening until I get a better idea of why you're acting like a moron." She kept her voice perky in the Buffy-of-old way.

He didn't smile.

"Giles, I'm hungry. And I need caffeine and all that's left is decaf in the in-room basket."

He sighed, then finally nodded.

She hurried into the bathroom and made herself presentable, then changed into jeans and a sweater. Then she traded him, and he took his change of clothes with him, and did the guy getting ready thing. Only really fast. She was zipping up her boots when he walked out.

Robin had brought him nearly an identical outfit. Jeans. Brown sweater. It was a look. She waited for him to pull his shoes on, then took his arm when he stood.

"Breakfast. On the double." She handed over his keys and smiled at his look of sheer terror. "Yes, I did drive your pretty little car. Don't you remember?"

"Barely."

She followed him out of the room, and into the waiting elevator. "So you don't remember doing other things?"

"Other things?" But he was turning red, so she knew he was lying.

"Kissing things?"

"No." He sounded enormously British. Very wounded pride man, which ticked her off more than a little--when did kissing her become an offensive thing?

"Because you'd never kiss me, even drunk?" She stormed off the elevator, not even waiting to see if he was following. Then she wondered if that was his plan: piss her off so much she didn't care if he came or not. Glancing back, she saw that he was following her, his eyes resolutely cast at the carpet as if he was in fear of tripping.

"It wasn't good, by the way."

That got his attention. His eyes were up and locked with hers.

"Ooh, the gentleman does remember."

"I was rather drunk."

"You said you weren't."

"I was wrong, then, wasn't I?" He held her door for her, closing it gently and taking a very, very long time to move around the little car and get in. He finally opened the door, sat for a moment, adjusting the mirrors, then turned to her. "Why?"

"Why were you wrong?"

"Why was it bad?"

"I didn't say it was bad. I said it wasn't good." She smiled at his expression. This wasn't the tack she'd intended to take, but he was finally acting more like the old Giles--even if the old Giles would never, ever talk about kissing her.

"Oh, well, that clears it up immensely."

"You'd been drinking booze and coffee, not the breath mint flavor of choice. And you'd been smoking. An aromatic trifecta."

He laughed softly. "Sorry." There was a long silence as he navigated the car out of the spot. "But other than that?"

"Other than that? Well, it was quick and that's really all I had time to assess. Then you went all wiggy and tried to leave. Which is not the kind of thing a girl wants after a kiss, by the way. Not really the approved watcher romance strategy. Or maybe it is. Do watchers have much of a love life?"

His smile was growing bigger as she rambled on, as if her teasing and lightness was making this easier for him. She reached over and settled her hand on top of his where it sat on the gearshift. He glanced at her, gave her a small smile--a shy one, too.

A very sweet one. She pulled her hand away slowly, met his eyes again, saw a question in them. "What?"

"Is this a strategy?"

"A strat--you mean a make you come clean by coming on to you thing?"

He nodded.

"Well, no. I mean if it's working I may incorporate it into my master plan, but no."

He laughed softly. "I've missed you--how you are."

She realized she'd missed being this way--was really only this way around him because he was the only one who reacted to her this way, as if it was still new and fun for her to be silly and light.

He pulled into a Denney's. "This all right?"

"Who can say no to a Grand Slam?" She grinned at his expression. It seemed watcher man was a fan of the heart-attack-on-a-plate, too.

The hostess was uber perky, the waitress even more so as she poured them coffee, then pulled out her pad. "What can I get you folks?"

Buffy ordered for both of them, saw Giles smile as she picked the right things for him. After this many years, she didn't know his tastes? Once the waitress left, she leaned forward, "I'd have ordered bangers and mash, but they are tragically out."

He laughed. "Yes, I'm sure you're mourning English cuisine."

"Well, in Scotland we get to add in the haggis. Go national pride."

They both made a face.

"How are things going there?"

She shrugged. "Miss you. Not just for the witty repartee, but for the training. You're better with the brand new slayers than I am. I think I lost my sensitivity gene somewhere along the line, Giles. Even Faith is warmer and fuzzier than I am these days."

"Faith hasn't died twice."

"Well she nearly died twice. Does that count?"

"No." He sipped his coffee. "You can't afford to get close, not when you may have to send them off to..."

"To die?" She sighed. "That's what we do, Giles. It's horrible, but it's what we do. It's better than it was, though. No girl ever has to go off alone." Although at that moment, at that crucial moment, whether you were fighting the Master in his cave or taking your sister's place on the top of a tower or battling at the side of other slayers in an alley, you were alone when you died.

He met her eyes. "I've sent too many."

"You'll send more." She let her voice be implacable. Grown-up Buffy, not the girl who'd so challenged him. Buffy the general.

Buffy the killer.

But for the sake of the world. For the sake of innocents.

Wasn't that what the watchers had said all those years?

"Okay, now I'm depressed."

"I wish I could help, Buffy." He gave her a bittersweet smile.

"This is who we are. We didn't ask for it, but it is." She leaned forward, words coming out of her mouth that she hated, that she'd never wanted to say to him. "Do you want to quit?"

"What?"

"Do you want to retire or resign or storm off or whatever it is watchers who are sick of it do?"

"Generally, watchers don't do that. They...die." He looked down.

"And you don't mean in an alley fighting vamps, do you?"

"No, Buffy, I don't. There is an inordinately high suicide rate among watchers. It's heartbreaking to lose someone you've invested so much in. Not just time, but energy and devotion and..."

"You can say it. Love."

"Yes, love." He shook his head. "I loved Jill. I thought I could keep her alive." He laughed, a bitter, harsh sound. "But then I could never keep you alive."

"I kept myself alive, Giles. And when I didn't, I had friends who brought me back--for good or not." She touched his hand. "Do you want to go? Be a librarian or sing songs at a pub or do that fighter pilot thing you always wanted?"

He smiled. "At my age, I think grocer is more apt."

"That's a valid life choice, too. What are we with without our groceries?"

His smile was rather sad.

"Giles, I'm serious. If you want out, if this was the one that broke the watcher's back, I'll understand." She wasn't sure how she'd get on without him, but she'd understand.

And be envious. Slayers didn't have an escape clause.

"I can't leave you."

"Don't think of it as leaving me. Think of it as saving yourself."

He studied her, a frown deepening the lines in his forehead. "Do you want me to go?"

"No, I don't want you to go."

"Oh. Good." He looked relieved, as if he'd really thought for a moment she'd want to be rid of him. "I don't know what I want, Buffy."

"Well, then think on it. It's not a one-time offer."

"Right." He gave her an uncomfortable little smile, and she tried to remember if he'd ever given her that particular look before. She realized he hadn't, but she'd seen it--he'd used it with Miss Calendar.

"Why did you kiss me?"

His blush was immediate, his eyes everywhere but on her. "As we've established, I was drunk."

"Thanks."

"Buffy, what do you want me to say?" He took a sip of his coffee--a time-tested stalling measure whether with java or his more traditional tea.

"The truth would be nice."

"I kissed you because I wanted to. I kissed you because life seems unnaturally short, and opportunities are not often presented."

"Then why'd you back away."

"Well, it's not as if you enjoyed it, now is it?"

"Hey, let's rewind. I did not criticize the skill level. Just the taste sensation."

He sighed.

"So. Backing away. Why?"

"Because that's not what our relationship's about."

"Hmm." She studied her coffee. Then she met his eyes. "Should it be?"

"I beg your--"

"Do you think it should be? Jeez, Giles. Basic English used to be something you were good at."

"Buffy--" He started to get up, and she slammed her hand down on his, earning herself a look from the other patrons.

"Sit. Now." She let go of him as soon as he settled back in. "I need to know something. Are you doing this because you want to go? Is this some weird last ditch thing before you leave us? Or do you feel this? Do you want more from me?"

"Why? Do you want more from me?"

"I...I hadn't really considered it."

"Well, then, there's your answer." He sounded very stuffy, very British.

"It is an answer. An honest one. I didn't say the thought gave me the wiggins or anything."

"Well, thank all the gods for that." He crossed his arms over his chest. His face was getting red and his voice was getting louder. "And what if I did want something? Would it be so very wrong if I did?"

"Who said anything about wrong?" She frowned, realized he was about to get up again. "Giles, please don't leave."

"You can't stand for me to go?"

"Well, that, and I have no American money. I forgot to change my Euros."

It was absolutely the right thing to say. He laughed and sat down. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry, too?" She wasn't sure what she was apologizing for, but it seemed like the kind of moments where the sorries had to go all around. "Can we go somewhere? I've never been to Cleveland. And there must be somewhere that neither of us have seen?"

He smiled, was saved from coming up with ideas by the arrival of their breakfasts.

"Excuse me," she said to the waitress. "We're new in town. And we'd like to go somewhere fun or interesting or pretty. What do you suggest?"

"There's the zoo. The science center. Or the art museum." The woman smiled. "Or my favorite is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

Buffy saw Giles smile. "I think he's already been there."

Giles nodded.

"The Science Center is fun?"

"My nephew likes it," the waitress said. "A little over my head sometimes, but there's lots of hands-on things." She left them alone.

"The art museum sounds nice," Giles said as he dug into his eggs.

"I grew up with art, remember? Mom and her gallery. Art and me: not so much."

"Fine, the science center it is. I suppose I'm springing for admission?"

"Well, unless you see a bank along the way where I can change some money. That would be fine."

"I think I can afford it."

"Cool." She ate with relish, loving the total American-ness of the Denney's experience, right down to the little individual jams in the dual tower--but why were they always out of the kind she wanted? Tons of marmalade for Giles and apple jelly. Who ate apple jelly? Although, maybe that was the point. No one ate it, and if they left it in the tower, they never had to restock it.

"Excuse me," she said to a passing bus boy. "Can I get some other kinds of jam--grape and strawberry? This just has apple."

He dug into the other towers, brought her enough jams to take care of a loaf of toast.

"I think he's trying to impress you," Giles said softly once the boy had gone.

"Yeah, well take a lesson." She grinned at his expression. "So I wonder if they have IMAX? Do you think they'll have IMAX? I love to sit right in the middle and get sick."

"Oh, joy."

She laughed at his expression and decided not to spoil any more of their potential fun.

------------

There was IMAX, but she hadn't gotten sick, probably because Giles had carefully steered them away from the middle seats--big wuss. They'd spent a lot of time in the center, carefully not talking about things that needed to be said, just enjoying the day and each other and the cool sciencey things.

As he drove them back to the hotel, she closed her eyes and relished not being on call, not being in charge.

"Are you tired?" Giles voice was tender. Had he always sounded that way with her? He'd been concerned. Parental. But this was different. This was...grown up.

Should that bother her? That he sounded more like a boyfriend than a watcher, than the father figure he used to be?

"Are you tired?" It was the first trick of not answering a question. Ask it right back.

"I am. Full day."

But she knew he didn't mean that the way most people would. Full day, but not full of death. Not full of fighting and worry and dread. A full...normal day.

It felt great. "Yeah."

He parked in the same space she had chosen, turned and said, "Do you want me to--"

"Yes. Come in."

"Buffy, you need to be sure about this. I won't be coming in for you to save me. I won't be coming in for coffee. I'll be coming in for one reason--to be with you."

She made a face. "Oh. I just wanted you to show me how the pay-per-view works."

He laughed--fortunately. Could have gone either way. "That was a bit overdone, wasn't it?"

"No," she said, serious now and leaning toward him, touching his cheek. "No, it wasn't. I'm just...nervous."

"Are you?"

She nodded.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Are you sure you do?"

He took a deep breath. "Buffy, I'm in love with you. It's one of the reasons I volunteered when Faith asked for help."

"You didn't want this?"

He turned, touched her hair. "There were so many reasons why this was not a good idea. And you and Xander seemed to be growing closer. I...didn't want to interfere. I also didn't want to stay and watch."

"Oh." She shook her head. "He's just my friend, Giles. He and I...we're connected. He saved me. That first time--he brought me back to life. But we're not..."

"He might feel differently, Buffy. Perhaps you should go back to Scotland and find out?"

"Perhaps I shouldn't?" She opened her door and got out, then leaned down. "Coming?"

He got out, followed her to the door. He met her eyes, and the look made her tingle way down in her stomach. "I'm actually quite a good kisser."

"Sure of yourself much?"

He shrugged--an amazingly sexy movement for a watcher. But then he wasn't any watcher. He was Giles. Ripper. Rupert--could she ever call him that?

As they walked into the elevator, she asked, "If I always call you Giles, the way Scully always called Mulder Mulder, will that freak you?"

"Buffy, I think hearing Rupert coming out of your mouth would 'freak' me so much more."

She laughed. "Good." She dug the key out of her pocket, handed it to him.

His smile was extra sexy, too. Knowing and nervous and loving all at once.

They made it in record time to the door; he didn't even fumble as he unlocked it. Then he held it for her, ever the gentleman.

Once the door closed, the awkward hit. There was a long moment, then she started to smile. "One of us needs to make a move."

He leaned on the dresser, his back to the mirror he'd searched for answers in last night. "Come here."

"Bossy." But she did what he said. Which was, quite possibly, a first.

He smoothed back her hair, seemed to be studying her. "Losing Jill brought back memories of Glory's tower. Burying you. God help me, it was never about Jill."

"It was. We're all one, right? Slayers all."

"No, Buffy. There's every other slayer and then there's you." He was rubbing her back, strong hands moving up to her shoulders, then up her neck, to her cheeks. His grip was firm as he held her, then leaned in and kissed her.

He really was quite outstanding in the kissage department. When he finally let go of her and pulled away, she was a little off balance, and he looked very pleased.

"Oh, get over yourself." She pressed herself against him, holding his face the way he'd held hers, grinding a little as she gave him a kiss guaranteed to make him weak in the knees.

He was probably glad he wasn't standing when she finished. "Oh, my."

"Fashion your seatbelt, Watcher Guy."

He laughed as she drew him up and led him to the bed. "There are no seatbelts in bed."

"Then I hope your health insurance is up to date."

"I'm British, remember? Universal coverage." He scooped her up suddenly, kissing her fiercely before tossing her onto the bed. "I've wanted to do that for a while."

She laughed. "Who knew you were the 'sweep her off her feet' kind of guy?"

"I've carried you before."

"Yes, but the frenching part is new."

His chuckle was very sweet. Also very self-satisfied.

"Thought I wouldn't notice the addition of tongue?" Not that he wasn't very good with that tongue. She could imagine how many other ways that tongue might be put into service.

"You're blushing," he said as he crawled onto the bed.

"Am I?" She mock hit his arm. "Then it's all your fault."

He settled down next to her, then lay still for a moment, studying her. "So many years we've known each other."

She rolled so she could cuddle against him. "Is that your subtle way of telling me I need Botox?"

He laughed. "No. Although I might."

"Lines make you look distinguished. Besides, you've always had them. I'm just catching up."

For a moment, he looked like that comment bothered him. Then he smiled. "This really doesn't bother you, does it?"

She lay back, turning her head so she could look at him. "Maybe it's a slayer thing. Live in the moment--only not in the Faith-moment. But no, it doesn't bother me."

"Our past. I had a role in it that had nothing to do with kissing you."

"I know. And that girl's dead. She died once, and grew up some. And then she died again, and grew up more."

His face was very grave.

"In the Hellmouth, when we were fighting the Turok Han, I think I almost died there, too."

"What?"

"I was stabbed. And I fell. I even threw the axe to Faith. Gave up."

"You never told me that."

"The First came to me. Wearing my face, my clothes, my blood. Mocking me. That was the end, I think, of the child inside me. That moment. Because I got up. And I fought on. And we won. And when I ran for the bus, I could barely feel the wound. And when we stopped it at the edge of the crater, it had healed to almost nothing. And I don't understand it--but maybe I did die. One last time." She pulled up her shirt, ran her fingers over the large, lumpy scar.

He touched her gently. "I never knew."

"I didn't want you to know. Didn't want anyone to know, I guess. I don't understand what happened. I don't know how I got back up."

"I'm very glad you did." He leaned in and kissed her gently on the lips. A quick kiss, but a tender one.

"What would you have done if I hadn't?"

"I thought you had fallen. We left you behind and I felt dead inside." He pulled her close, tucked his chin over her head, clutching her convulsively. "I would have gone on. The girls needed me. But without you, I wouldn't have had much to give them." He let her go, seemed to need her to see his face. "I imagine I would have found a way to get myself killed."

"Like you were doing last night?"

"If you'd checked my coat pocket, you would have found a cross and a stake. I was angry and depressed and acting stupidly. But you're still alive, so I don't want to die."

"That's a lot of responsibility to put on me, Giles. Because odds are, I will die. You'll probably outlive me, even with the head start you have."

"I know." His voice was very bleak. "I'm not sure I like us very much. Or me, anyway. What kind of man does this? Sends girls out to die?"

"We went over this. The kind of man who has to."

"You're the best I've ever seen and you've died twice. What chance do these children stand? I know that and I try to pull away from them, not get too close. Just as you said you're doing. But Jill was so much like myself that I couldn't. I wanted to save her, Buffy. Make her a watcher, take her out of training."

"Did you tell her that?"

He nodded. "I..."

"You what?"

"I forbade her to go out patrolling that night. Told her she could have a different life. But she did exactly what I did at that age."

"Rebelled?"

"Yes. She'd kept up on her training with Faith. Enjoyed fighting as much as translating. I just didn't want to see it."

Buffy sighed, so this was what he'd been hiding, what he'd been obsessing over. Not Jill's death so much as his own betrayal of...what? Jill? Buffy? Their horrible system?

She snuggled in against him again. "As long as I've known you, you've always surprised me. Gone your own way when you felt it was right. You threw out the slayer handbook because it wouldn't have worked with me."

"I'd actually lost my copy of it."

She laughed softly. "I know you had words with Snyder over me being readmitted to school. You intervened in the Cruciamentum--although you did lose points for subjecting me to that at all."

"Understood."

"You quit the Council for me. You never stopped helping me. It surprised me when you left me alone with my life after they brought me back. But you thought it was best. You thought killing Spike was best, too." She could feel him tense. "And now you did this. For Jill. Not against the Council, but against me, right?"

"Ultimately, yes. I betrayed you. And for what? She still died."

Buffy held him for a moment, then she leaned up, whispered in his ear. "There was a girl who came to us just after you left. Barely fifteen and the worst fighter I've ever seen. No killer instinct--she used to set flies free outside instead of swatting them. I sent her home, Giles. I taught her basic self-defense and what weapon to use against what baddie, and then I sent her home and told her to call us if she needed us."

"You let her live."

"Maybe. Maybe she'll do worse than if I'd kept her with us. But I did what I thought was right."

"How did the other girls take it?"

"She would have been a liability. Someone they couldn't trust to have their backs. Someone they'd have had to look out for. No one said anything." She felt his arms tighten around her. "This is our brave new world, Giles, and we're going to have to make the rules up as we go. If you find a slayer like Jill, who really does want to be a watcher instead of a slayer, we'll make her one. Okay?"

"All right." He held her tightly, more tightly than she thought he might have done if she wasn't the slayer. She didn't return the favor--he could be surprisingly strong, but he was still a normal human.

Finally, he let her go.

She sank back, smiled as he took his glasses off and set them on the nightstand, then moved closer.

"Buffy, do you mind if we stop talking for a while?"

"So I can't talk during this?" She kept her voice light, trying to get them to happier ground.

"Well, that would be asking the impossible."

"I think there might be times you want me to talk. Like, for instance, if you're doing something particularly nice. Or do you prefer no feedback?"

He was laughing as he kissed along her cheek, to her ear, down her neck. It made her shiver, he knew exactly where to touch and for how long.

"Or maybe you're a 'talk dirty to me' kind of guy?"

"Yes, that's exactly what I am. Show me what a gutter mouth you have." He chuckled as he moved lower, unbuttoning her shirt as he went--why had she chosen a shirt that conveniently unbuttoned all the way?

"Sorry, you'll need Faith for the real trash talk."

"I prefer you. Besides, she's taken."

"Is she? Really?" Buffy shook her head. "I wouldn't have seen the two of them making it."

"Perhaps the rule should be no talking about other people during this?"

"Fine. Shutting up." She busied herself with playing with his hair as he kept going with the shirt. She expected him to work back up to her chest, but he launched a full attack on her jeans, pulling them off quickly, underwear following.

Her surprise faded to bliss as he put that tongue to just the use she'd been thinking about. She was making sounds--no one could really call them words--in no time.

Then he worked his way back up to her chest. She kissed him when he finally got back in range.

"So," he asked, whispering into her ear as he bit the lobe gently. "Any complaints about my technique so far?"

She laughed and pushed him to his back, making just as short work of his bottoms as he'd made of hers. She climbed on top of him, didn't wait, didn't have to. He was ready, so was she.

It felt amazing. It felt strange--she was making love with her watcher, and maybe it should wig her out and maybe it shouldn't. Right now she didn't really care, just wanted to move and kiss and touch. She saw his face contort with pleasure, felt a tingling that signaled her own wasn't far away, so she threw her head back and rode the feeling out.

She was having sex with Giles and it was really, really good.

--------------

She woke to a soft tapping, felt Giles murmur something as she moved out from under his arm, pulling the sheet over him as she commandeered the blanket as a wrap.

Faith stood in the hall, a knowing look on her face. "Had to knock awhile."

"I was in the bathroom."

Faith gave her outfit a once over. "You don't own a robe?"

"I forgot to pack it."

"I'm willing to bet Watcher Boy forgot to pack his. He's still in there, right?"

Buffy nodded.

Faith pushed open the door just enough to peek in. "Ooh, yes, looks like a naked watcher and slayer. Robin so owes me a steak dinner."

"You bet on this?"

Faith shrugged. "We're talking filet mignon. With fixings. I don't play around when that's on the table."

Buffy rolled her eyes.

"I guess he's feeling better?" Faith looked way too pleased with herself. "He better be. We slayers have mad skills."

"Right, that's just how he put it, too."

Faith laughed. "So, you sticking around for a spell?"

"I can't stay long. But yeah, I'll be here for the week maybe?"

"And then...?"

"And then I'll send you someone else to help with the new slayers, and he can come back to Scotland. Vi and Rona are getting bored sitting around in the castle training new girls on scenarios alone. They'd probably love to be on a real hellmouth again."

"Two slayers for one watcher? I'll take that deal." Faith grinned. "Okay, I'm going to motor. You get back in there. Enjoy yourself." She leaned in. "He's good, right? I always thought he'd be good."

"He's good."

"Robin's better." Faith winked at her, then skipped away.

Giles was awake, eyes open. "Good morning," he said, his voice smooth, the voice that had murmured so many naughty things in her ears. For a repressed Brit, he had no problem expressing himself.

"Faith was here."

"So I gathered. We were, I take it, the object of some bet?"

"Do you have super hearing or something?"

He smiled. "The walls are very thin, Buffy."

So their neighbor had heard them going at it for a good part of the night. Oh, well.

She moved toward him, dropping the blanket as she walked. He held the sheet open for her to crawl in, pulled her to him, and kissed her.

His breath wasn't the best. Hers wasn't, either. Neither of them seemed to care. He was ready, and he made sure she was, too. What else could they do but seize the moment?

"So you want me to come back to Scotland?" he asked as she kissed her way down to a specific piece of his anatomy. "And you'll stay here a week or so?"

She was not in a position to talk, so she just nodded.

"You want me to come back as your lover?"

She nodded again.

"And not a secret one?"

She let him go, looked up. "If you don't shut up, I will not do this."

He smiled. "So sorry. Please, continue."

She put her slayer wiles--and mouth--to the job. In no time, she had him whimpering for mercy. Eventually, she showed him that mercy.

He pulled her up, kissing her as he caught his breath. She could feel his heart pounding, then the way it slowed back to resting rate. He was in good shape.

"I love you," he whispered.

"I love you, too. And yes, I stay here awhile, and then you come back to Scotland, as my lover, and not a secret one."

He yawned, then smiled as she pouted. "I know it's stereotypically male of me. But I am quite tired. You and I did not get much sleep last night."

"Well, the 'Do Not Disturb' sign is up on the door. So if you want to get some more sleep, I guess..."

He pulled her to him, doing something to her back where he ran his fingers barely over her skin, causing her to shiver. She closed her eyes, relaxing under his touch.

When she woke up a few hours later, he was still asleep, and he looked peaceful and she let him be, cuddling against him as she made plans for who to send with Vi and Rona, and what girls needed to move up in training back in Scotland.

He woke a half hour later. Blinking and smiling when he saw her. "You must be terribly bored if you've been awake this whole time."

"Not this whole time. I slept some, too."

"Good." He moved away from her enough to stretch. "Did you want to do something today?"

"I want to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I want you to show it to me, and tell me things about groups that you loved and I've only heard of because Oz liked your album collection."

He smiled. "If you insist."

"I do." She handed him his glasses. "So, along with Rona and Vi, I think I'll send Clarice and Maura."

"Good choices. Rendella was getting a bit restive just before I left. Has she settled down any?"

"No, but she's not good yet at guarding anyone's flank but her own. She has to learn to play well with others."

"I trust your judgment." He seemed to put it out of his mind. "I need a shower."

"We both do. Are you a 'shower together' or 'shower is me time' kind of guy?"

He thought about it. "Well, this morning, I think I'm a 'shower together' chap. But there may be times I need that me time."

"I totally get it. Besides, you so don't need to watch me deep condition my hair or shave my legs."

"Sadly, I'm far enough gone that I'd probably find either activity charming."

She kissed him. "Very good answer, Giles." Pulling him up, she said, "You can even sing to me if you want. In the shower."

"Something loud and modern?"

"No." She smiled and kissed him again. "Make it something romantic."

END