Pairing: Giles/Buffy (with hints of Faith/Wes if you squint)
Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. Plot lines aren't even really mine; they're just beamed to me via satellite. All hail the mighty and benevolent Joss for making it all possible.
Feedback: Very much welcomed!
Notes: Set in Season 3, begins at the very end of Helpless and goes through The Zeppo and into Bad Girls. This is sort of half-fic, half image – I made the graphics first and then the text, and I'm posting them all together. Quote in the third section from the transcript of The Zeppo [found here]
Summary: Before the Cruciamentum there was the bond between Watcher and Slayer.
Word Count: ~1,500
from the Introduction to Bernard’s Council History of the Tento di Cruciamentum
In 1457 the Watcher’s Council ordered the practice of bonding abandoned. We had at last perfected the Cruciamentum formula to weaken not just the slayer, but the development of the bond between Watcher and Slayer, as it was deemed too much of a risk to allow bonding. For centuries the death of a bonded slayer also meant the death of her Watcher, and to lose the lore-master when our tool also died was deemed an utter waste. Of course, the administration of the serum during the Tento itself changed over the years, and came to serve as a test of both Slayer and Watcher – the Slayer of her own reliance on her wits, the Watcher’s a test of loyalty: would he serve the Council or no?
Rupert Giles, while he had read centuries-old Watcher’s diaries, had been carefully protected against the knowledge that when he defied the Council, when he faced down Quentin Travers, he rammed long-buried bond instincts into startled life. Suddenly cleaning the blood from Buffy’s forehead became fraught, weighted, imbued with ... wordless importance.
Buffy ducked her head into the book again. She was reading. Yep. Reading. Hard. Lots of reading. Something about the last few days made her jumpier than usual, and it wasn’t just that she was returned to strength. Xander was out of the way, but Giles . . . and Willow . . . and Angel, of course . . . were right in the middle of the end of the world, again, and it was making her crazy. Like nails on the chalkboard crazy. Like spontaneously curl her hair crazy. Like her skin was buzzing with it. She couldn’t stand it, even her clothes felt too small, and she normally liked them that way. Every time Angel touched her, she flinched. She wasn’t supposed to do that with her frigging boyfriend.
Especially at the end of the world. The only place she could stand to be was the library.
Giles had driven to ground every lead, tracked every rumor, consulted every oracle he could think of and there was nothing to stop the oncoming darkness. Dread etched his bones. The end was coming. They would end not in a blaze of glory, but in a whimper, and the only saving grace was Buffy’s hope. The only time he believed they’d win were when he was in the same room as she. His every action was only charged because of his faith in his Slayer, the one who he’d let down, but wouldn’t this time. He resisted, again, the impulse to reach out to her, knowing the simple touch of his hand to her shoulder would bring him comfort he didn’t deserve.
In other words they try and stay away from each other and yet Buffy can't help looking out of the corner of her eye to watch Giles. And Giles throws himself left, right, and center, to prophecy and oracle and book to resist this pull towards Buffy that he feels grow stronger every moment. It's one of those games that they don't realize they're playing. Buffy tells herself that she's all about concentrating. The end of the world is coming. This is important. Giles tells himself that it's only her faith and her confidence he's drawn to, that it's just he's not hopeful and she is making him want to be near her. The entire time they're looking away they're fighting against their own desires subtly drawing them closer to each other.
Buffy: (to Giles) I don't know how you managed. (he looks up at her) It was the bravest thing I've ever seen.
Giles: (grins) Stupidest.
It was everything, having her faith again. At least he’d done that. He’d shrugged off everything Watcher’s weren’t supposed to do with this last apocalypse and simply acted as he felt was right, by her side. He tried to hide just how much her words made the bruises and scratches lighten, and her half smile made him calm and warm and confident again. They could, they would, face anything together.
His face was scratched and bruised and all she wanted to do was pull out the ice packs or hold his head in her hand, as if she could leach pain or something. Oh, sure, her heart had stopped when Angel fell, but in one of those ways where she knew he was gonna get back up or she was gonna go on. But Giles? When Giles had leapt that last bit? She wanted to scream out no. Yet it had felt right and proper for him to be the one vital by her side, both their sword arms brought together. She couldn’t do this without him. He couldn’t do this without her. She saw that now.
The most she could do was tell him how brave he was, and the most he could do was bask in her appreciation and her welcoming face. Or at least that's what they told themselves. That they were back to normal after the Cruciamentum and that warm tingly feeling they were both wandering around with was just the cementing of their watcher-slayer togetherness. Where she went, he followed. It was the natural order of things, properly remade.
Or maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was something else. Maybe they went home that night and, each in their separate bedrooms, while they were taking off day clothes and brushing teeth and slipping in between the sheets, maybe they both got breathless. Maybe both their bodies warmed at the thought of the other. Maybe suddenly they were surprised by something deeper and stronger, welling up intense. The thought of their bodies coming together in heat the same way it did during the middle of the fight – every move anticipated, recognized, in perfect concert with knowledge. Maybe it was too strong to really ignore.
Of course then Giles tells himself that's totally impossible, tells himself that he's never going to act on feelings that come rushing like a freight train through his body now that he's accepted them. He spreads his hand over his belly but won't even touch himself, not while he's thinking about his slayer in this new (and yet oh so comfortable, oh so unsurprising) way.
And Buffy? Buffy's laying naked underneath her sheets, hand between her legs, twisting, almost at the edge of dreams wondering how the hell her Watcher's getting her hotter than her usual thoughts of Angel. Her skin feels sticky, her body clenches, as she imagines sitting next to him again. There's something about the twist of his mouth yesterday, something about the way his shoulders sit under his jacket, something about the way his voice makes her weirdly desperate, soft flesh wet and getting wetter as she writhes.
Everything was different now. Buffy felt it in her bones. New watcher. New Slayer-friend. New philosophy. But her new watcher would never be her watcher. Her new philosophy was kinda feeling dangerous. Her new friend was dangerous too. And her new feelings?
Her watcher who sat right next to her, who wasn’t stiff and formal anymore. Her watcher, who knew when she was joking and how to support her, to be the one who helped her and listened and gave her strength to make the next plan. She thought about giving the medallion to Angel, thought about hanging with Faith, but couldn’t stop the feeling that she was supposed to be somewhere else. By his side, like he was by hers.
She sits on the table next to him and flirts, and she knows she's doing it, and she feels amazing right now. She knows his hesitation is for real, but she also knows she's gonna get past that, gonna prove to him what this is, gonna explain how dangerous, explosive, and absolutely perfect they're gonna be. She leans against him and he leans back, she snarks the new watcher and he laughs – oh, not out loud, but she can feel that subtle shake of his shoulder where hers is curled into him. She knows she's gonna have him under her, soon, maybe even tonight, gasping and shuddering as the avalanche takes them both.
And after? After the tops of their head blow off the sky's gonna open up and they're going to fly. 10,000 feet and going higher, in perfect sinc, in perfect bond, Watcher and Slayer as the best they could be, forever.
And you know what happens after that? There's no skipping class to hang with Faith because Buffy's mentally planning her way into her Watcher's house and then into his bed. There's no dancing at the Bronze that leads to the bashing in of windows and the stealing of weapons, and there's no attempted arrests and no killing of a man. Faith finds Wes and they manage to electrocute the crap out of Balthazar themselves. And later she finds her own bed. And later still she finds that maybe she wants something like B and Giles have, something strong and bright and true, and maybe their example teaches her that it's ok to want it with a Watcher of her own.