Copyright disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to Joss W, and the corporate entities which lay claim. No profit, no foul on my side, no lawsuit on theirs.

Content disclaimer: this is smut of a particular kind -- consensual roughstuff. If it's not your cuppa, depart now with no shame. It's pretty tame, compared to what's out there, but...

And for those of you claiming that Giles is acting out of character, I refer you to the Smut Justification at the end of the story. So there

Spoilers: none, really. Takes place before PASSION (she's dead, damnit!)
Feedback: god, yes! I'm such a feedback slut...
copyright DYMK Productions, 1998

"When He Was Bad" by suricata

The week had begun with a glaring awareness of the date. Totally unmarked on his school-issue day planner, unremarkedin his journal, the date could have been circled in screaming red ink for the way he approached it, half in anticipation, half in dread.

But the day came, and went, and he moved on to the next day with only a fading sense of acceptance hollowing the core of his soul. He turned the page, and went on, as he always went on. Because that was what was Done.

And so the rest of the week passed; quietly, without Prophesy or Magiks or vampiric irritation to disturb the seemingly normal flow of life in Sunnydale.

So quiet, in fact, that he had no heart to put Buffy through her training paces that Friday afternoon. It was a warm spring day outside, the sun was shining brightly, and... he really didn't feel like being the Watcher. And the sedate behavior of the Hellmouth, coupled with this weekend's change in the clocks, made it easy for him to indulge in one small piece of rebellion. He would merely mask it as concern for his Slayer's emotional well-being, a thing he was often taken to task on by all concerned anyway.

Let them think they were making progress. That he was, in Ms. Calender's terms, "getting in touch with the unrepressed self." All he wanted was to spend twenty-four hours Not Being The Watcher. Perhaps he would go into San Diego and do some shopping. Or perhaps Los Angeles, take in a play and a movie. He had some friends there whom he had not seen in years. They wouldn't be at all surprised to have him show up at their doorstep -- their schedules were at least as eccentric as his. And the woman Griffin was now emphatically not-dating sounded quite interesting. Yes, a weekend off, away from each other, would do them all some good.

He was just about to suggest this to Buffy, that she perhaps needed some sunlight for her own health, when Jenny Calender and Willow appeared in the library, each bearing a stack of books.

Normally, such a sight would have done wonders for his mood. Today, however, he groaned inwardly.

"Relax, England," Jenny said. "These have already been scanned. I just thought you might to look through them before we put them back into storage."

He nodded acceptance, and the two came forward to place them on the table where he was sitting.

"They're not very interesting, at least to me, but I'm never quite sure where you're going to have an interest next," the brunette said, teasing.

He was just about to defend his admittedly eclectic reading habits when there was yet another entrance into the library. This time it was Xander and Cordelia, from the bickering. He didn't look up, well-used to the group dynamics by now. Cordelia would make some comment, Buffy would react, Xander would be caught in the middle, and Willow, despite her worst intentions, would end up playing peacemaker unless Jenny kicked her. He had seen that happen only once, but from the look of gratitude Willow shot her teacher, it was apparently an on-going process. He approved, but had no desire to be caught up in it. Let them manage their own social educations. His only job was to keep them alive, not turn them into well-adjusted adults.

So he instead opened one of the books, and proceeded to flip through it, skimming the contents.

Because of that, the sound of a new voice, the third person who had come in just behind Xander and Cordelia, took him by surprise.

And yet, if he were to be honest, there was no surprise at all.

"So, where can a girl go around here for some wicked debauchery?"

Giles paused at the sound of that oddly accented voice, but didn't look around. He knew without looking that she would be leaning against the door frame in best slink mode, body canted to display her well-toned musculature, her head tilted, dark eyes sparkling with terrible energy.

"I'm afraid there's not much debauchery available in this one-camel town," he replied, elaborately casual, only his thickening accent giving him away to one who knew. And she did. She always did.

In the silence which followed -- the shocked silence, he noted -- the sound of bootheels on the linoleum warned him as she stalked forward across the library's floor. They stopped when she did, coming to to stand behind him where he sat. Her scent was still evergreen, overdone by California standards perhaps, but well-suited to her. The smell fo deset air still clung to her skin, despite the inevitable hours of recycled airplane fumes. Warm, firm hands slipped down from his shoulders, across his chest, and then she was leaning in to whisper huskily, "depends on the camel now, doesn't it?"

Giles almost forgot they had an audience, until a loud cough from Buffy recalled him to the present. Still enjoying the feel of those familiar hands on him, he finally looked up.

"Um, Xander Harris. Willow Rosenberg. Cordelia Chase, Jenny Calender," and here he paused almost a fraction of a second, "Buffy Summers. And this is Keren Zahavi."

Keren took them all in with one sweeping glance, lingering a moment on Willow, then another, longer moment on Jenny, and finally ending on Buffy. "Pleasure," she said, almost meaning it. Her dark brown eyes were wide and sharp over a hawk-ish nose, and the strong lines of her face could have broken granite. And yet it was an attractive face, perhaps more effective in motion than repose. Her body, too seemed made for action, whipcord lean underneath tailored, dust-colored slacks and a red button-down shirt of almost military design. Wavy black hair, tied back at her neck, was the only hint of softness to her.

Buffy took the offensive, moving forward and attempting, perhaps subconsciously, to stake her claim.

"Where do you know Giles from?" she asked, not caring how she sounded. "Another...old friend?"

"Buffy," Giles said in a warning-off tone that was, as usual, disregarded.

Keren smiled, showing all her teeth, startling against a olive and sun-kissed complexion. "I like her, magister. All vim and vigor. I assume she's..." her voice trailed off, and Giles shook his head at her belated attempt at subtlety.

"Few secrets in this group, Zev. Yes, Buffy is the Slayer."

At that, the entire group relaxed somewhat. If Giles, ever-cautious Giles, was sharing that kind of information, then this was, if not a friend, at least not someone to be wary of. Even if she did still have her hands pressed possessively against Giles' chest. Hands that he didn't seem to mind at all. The silence turned speculative.

He shut the book, turning to look at Keren, but not rising from his seated position. That would have implied politeness, a social code they were following, and they had always disdained those kind of formalities.

"So. You showed up. Late."

"You're a difficult man to find, magister. There's not exactly a Watcher forwarding system, you know."

"I take it we're interrupting something," Jenny said, her voice brittle, and Giles realized that Keren's hands were still on his chest, and that his movement having left them in a slightly compromising position. He didn't move, didn't push Keren's hands away. And felt a twinge of enjoyment at the pain in Jenny's voice.

"A birthday celebration," Keren agreed. "Rupert here promised me, if I made it to thirty, we would celebrate."

"The aforementioned wicked debauchery," Xander said, his voice as cool as Giles had ever heard it. No "way to go, man"or similar male bonding emotions the teenager typically attempted to indulge in with his usual deplorable timing. He was no doubt -- and for once in his life -- picking up on the feminine tension in the room. Perhaps there was hope for the boy yet.

"Yes. Although I shudder to think what Keren's definitions have expanded to include over the years."

Keren slapped at him playfully.

"So, I take it you won't be joining me on the hunt tonight, huh Giles?"

"I think, all things considered, that we could take the weekend off, yes?"

Buffy, never one to turn down something to her advantage, nonetheless hesitated slightly, looking from Giles to Ms. Calender. "Are you sure?"

"Generally, areas which follow the habit of shifting their clocks tend to have lessened vampire activity during that switchover. It appears to...disconcert their internal clocks. So go, take advantage of the lull."

His Slayer didn't need to be told a third time. Grabbing her bag in one arm, and taking Willow by the other, she herded her Slayerettes out of the library as though afraid he would change his mind.

After a moment, Jenny left as well, and Rupert hazily, belatedly remembered something about plans for Saturday night. Some godawful idea of Jenny's that he would have to sit through, no doubt, and pretend that he didn't mind...although the outdoor bagpipe concert last month hadn't been unbearable.

"Interesting girl," Keren noted, as the library doors swung shut, leaving them alone. Giles's eyes narrowed at the faint trace of jealousy in her voice, his face changing ever-so-subtly, the familiar librarian replaced for an instant by another, less mild visage.

"You don't know the half of it," he responded, well aware of the effect that would have on the volatile Zahavi temper. But to his surprise, she merely smiled sweetly down at him.

"But I'm still your favorite, riiiight?" she purred.

He swallowed as her hands found a spot she knew damn well was particularly sensitive.

"Define.. favorite..." he managed.

"So," she said a few minutes later, leaning forward again so that her breath was a warm caress against his ear, her body almost touching his. "Where does one go to get debauched around here?"

"As I said, there isn't much in town. But I believe that I could manage a bottle of something, and a thick steak to celebrate your attaining an age of reasonable maturity..."

Keren licked his ear slowly, starting at the lobe and working her way into the sensitive inner folds. "I knew I could count on you. And after we've.. consumed the steak?"

Rupert smiled, the slightest quirk of his lips. "And then.. we shall see what we shall see."

They had bypassed the small dining room table, instead setting plates and wineglasses on the low coffee table, propping themselves up on cushions in a traditional Bedouin style familiar to them both. The steak had been thick and rare, the wine spicy and cool, and the conversation slow and filled with subtle innuendo and occasional reminiscence.

Rupert reached out to take the last bit of meat from Keren's plate. She growled at him, but since she had relaxed back into her cushions, wineglass held at a lazy distance, he felt reasonably safe -- until she lunged across the surface dividing them, snatching the meat from his fingertips without losing a drop of the wine from the glass held in her other hand. Then, her face expressionless, she held the morsel just inches above his mouth.

Moving slowly, to counterbalance her own speed, drawing the moment out, Rupert took the offered meat gently in his teeth, tugging it away from her. She resisted, instigating a tug-of-war, letting it go only when his teeth would have closed again on her own flesh.

Swallowing the morsel, he licked the juices from her fingertips still resting on his lips, then sat back and let out a satisfied sigh.

"You sound like a man who's not been fed in a while."

"Not steak of this quality, no." he admitted, reaching for his own wineglass and letting the ruby liquid roll against the crystal.

"That wasn't what I was talking about, magister."

He stopped, looked at her with a solemn, open expression. "Neither was I."

Dessert was a heavy port he had bought when last they were together, in the raucous bazaar of Old Jerusalem. She had been wearing khaki shorts, and a white, short-sleeved campshirt, and with her long hair and wide-open eyes looked like every other Sabra walking those streets. But the soldiers, even the street toughs, even the merchants who battered the ears and noses at every step, they all kept clear of her: all without knowing why, most without even recognizing it. They were not afraid -- merely cautious. And his presence by her side, the careless way he draped one arm over her shoulders, colored him with that same hint of danger.

Danger. He let the fortified wine sit in his mouth, tasting the memories encased within: the scented fires of their camps, the smell of gunpowder and salt water, the cool desert breezes of the night, and the unending sunlight that baked all weakness from your pores...

Nothing since then had ever left him quite warm enough.

Nothing but the flames banked within this one woman. This one very, very dangerous woman, looking at him as she had her steak, as though she meant to devour him whole.

And his blood leaped to the challenge.

"You lied, you know."

"How so?" he asked.

"You said that I would have my life together by 30."

"No," and he shook his head, reaching for the bottle. "I said that you should start to put your life together by 30. Assuming that you lived that long."

She snorted, grabbing the bottle away from him. Before he could protest, she had taken a quick sip from the bottle's mouth, and leaned forward, pressing her lips to his until he opened under the pressure, receiving a blood-warm mouthful of the heady liquid.

He swallowed, and her tongue met his, dueling lazily. His hands came up to grip her shoulders, his teeth closing on the sensitive skin of her tongue until it couldn't not have hurt. But rather than protesting, rather than pulling away, she sank deeper into his hold, letting her solid weight press against him.

A mort, a normal, someone not trained to this life, would have been astonished by the strength in her whipcord frame. A mort would be snapped in two by the sculpted thighs which wrapped around his hips, pulling him to her.

Giles grinned, a savage baring of teeth that had nothing to do with humor, and flipped his partner onto her back, knocking aside the table. The port fell, staining garnet blood unnoticed on the carpet.

Positioned above her, Rupert ran one finger along the line of her neck, down to the vee of her shirt. His finger curled under the first button, and slipped it from its mooring. His finger slipped further underneath, and stroked the soft skin he found there.

And then, with a sudden sharp movement, he gathered the fabric of her shirt in one hand and ripped it open. Buttons pinged against the floor, overshadowed by the growl deep in his throat as he bent his head to the sweet flesh unfettered by a bra.

His hands reached up to clench hers, their fingers intertwining, flesh turning white under the pressure. He tried to push her arms over her head, but she fought back, the muscles in their arms cording as they fought for supremacy.

Keren laughed, a harsh, exhilarated sound that turned into a moan as his mouth closed on the mounded flesh of one breast, his teeth grazing her nipple first, then biting down sharply.

"Bastard. Harder. Come on, damn you."

He raised his head, looking up into her eyes. His skin was flushed, sweating. His eyes were wide, rounded, and completely open. He could feel her boring into his soul, scraping away the plaque of good intentions and civilized behavior, calling up the hunger, the temptations that even Ripper had shied away from.

But she could take it, mold it, turn it back on him. Bring him to levels that made his bones shatter and his blood turn to molten steel.

And god, how he loved it. Needed it. Cravedit.

Her body was tanned, sleek, like a river otter's. Lined with long-healed scars, he could trace their origins like a road map: this from a vampire outside Haifa. That from a ghoul by the Wailing Wall. These, from a terrorist bomb which had gone off in a small village in the Golan Heights. She had survived those attacks. The ones who laid the traps had not.

And there, the scar which had ended her career, sigalling the Choosing of another. He let his hands run down the ropey scarring between her breasts, the wound which only the Slayer's incredible healing ability and his limited magik skill had allowed her to survive.

Old Slayers never die. They just lose heart. Old joke. Bad joke.

But there were other scars on her body as well. Ones with more pleasant associations. Rupert shifted, his knees pinning her against the floor, his arms still holding hers occupied, and again took as much of one firm breast into his mouth as he could, worrying at it with teeth and tongue and the suction of his mouth, until he could feel her arching up against him, belly to belly. His erection stirred at that familiar touch, searching for the warmth hidden beneath her tight black curls.

No. Not yet.

He moved his attention to the other breast then, this time taking only the hardened nub of her nipple into his mouth, treating it as he had that bite of steak. His teeth closed on the sensitive flesh, tugging ungently. Small, wet marks formed alongside the aurole, pink against olive, and Keren moaned, arching again to force more into his mouth.

Denial wasn't a part of their relationship, and so he dropped her arms, moving his hands to her breast, squeezing and kneading fiercely, savoring the slide of tender flesh under his hands, the gasping whimpers which came from her mouth. His bites became fiercer, less tender, until he was close to breaking the sweat-slicked skin.

He pulled back then, breathing hard, and stared at her. The cord holding her hair back had come loose, and the corkscrew curls were spread out against the carpeting, framing a face that was, he knew, a partner to his own in need and hunger.

Her upper body lifted off the floor, countless reps of sit-ups allowing her to follow him, though her legs were still pinned under his. God bless the Israeli Army, he thought just before Keren grabbed him by the back of the head, fingers curling in his graying hair, and yanked, forcing his head back so that his neck was bared to her.

"Vamp bait," she said to him in a harsh whisper, before sinking her teeth into the skin just above his jugular.

Rupert let out a yelp, not of pain but of arousal, as she did break the skin. She repeated the action below his chin, then on the side of his chin, growling like a dog with a bone all the while.

He groaned, the last of his self-enforced inhibitions crackling into dust, and shoved her away, tearing what was left of her shirt off and forcing her back to the floor. Taking her breasts, one in each hand, he clenched his fingers and roughly massaged them as he took possession of her mouth, teeth scraping and catching. There was nothing delicate, nothing loving -- very little that was affectionate in that kiss. It was a stamp of ownership, an imprint of posession.

Her fingers yanked again, but he refused to yield.

Surging forward off the floor with a move few non-contortionists could have managed, Keren threw Rupert onto his side, slamming him into the already-askew table. Rolling with him, she landed astride his body like a cowhand ready to rope her calf.

Not ready to be outmaneuvered just yet, despite the incipient pain in his spine where he had made contact with the table, Rupert twisted, grabbing her thighs and forcing them open enough to allow himself to slide away. He got to his feet, breathing hard, but was tackled before he could get more than a step away.

The momentum of that assault threw them both against the wall. They landed hard, clutched to each other, laughing hoarsely.

His jacket, tie and vest had been shed long before dinner, and now all she had to deal with was a green striped button-down shirt.

"That's godawful ugly," she said. "I'm doing you a favor." And then she reached her fingers inside the collar, and ripped it off him, leaving only a few shreds hanging from his shoulders. His arms flexed as she ran her nails along his now-bare triceps, leaving red stripes in their wake.

"I admire a woman who can, uh, make such a ringing fashion statement," he managed before she shifted, reaching for the closure of his pants.

Rupert had half a thought to save his expensive wool trousers, but that thought died swiftly when Keren removed them by the simple expedient of tearing the waistband open and shoving them down the length of his legs.

Trapped in place with his pants literally around his ankles, Rupert leaned against the wall and closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of her hands. Cool against his overheated flesh, she slid them up from his calves, curling her fingers into the tender flesh behind his knees.

Rupert gasped, kneeling forward slightly into her rough caress. She reached up, forcing him back against the wall with a flat-palmed shove against his stomach.

That hand returned to his legs, moving up to curve around his buttocks, slipping up under the material of his boxers to trace the line of his ass. His erection pressed against the side of her face, tenting the navy blue cotton. He stroked forward, grabbing at the hair framing her face to force her attention where he wanted it.

In retaliation, she dug her nails into his ass, and bit just above the hipbone where his skin was pale.

"God," and the hand in her hair dragged her to a standing position. "Get out of those damn slacks," he commanded, his voice harsh. "Or you won't have anything left to wear home."

She looked like she was giving thought to doing a slow striptease, but when he stepped out of his trouser-restraints and moved forward menacingly, she fumbled the button and slid them off, dropping the material, plus her underwear, into a puddle on the floor.

Crooking one finger at him, she beckoned him forward with a dangerously sweet smile.

Instead, he bent to pick up the wisp of red silk, holding them to his mouth, then to his nose.


He grinned then, dropping the fabric and moving forward with the grace of a stalking cat. "Let me give you something to take away with you, cherie."

"Ooh, tell me about it, magister. Bu don't use so many words. You've been talking so much, I'm beginning to think that you've lost your touch."

Before the last word had sounded, Rupert walked her backwards, coming up against the sofatable. A valuable wooden ritual carving followed a stacked pile of mail onto the floor in the scuffle that followed. He landed heavily across her body, pinning her on her back against the polished wooden surface.

Her head arched back as the vee-spread of his thumb and index finger wrapped around her throat just enough to threaten her air supply. His other hand fumbled with his shorts, reaching inside to guide his erection out into the cool air of the apartment.

Braced against the table, supported by his hand at her neck, she lifted her lower body enough to wrap her legs around his waist. A few seconds' positioning, and a sharp movement of his hips slammed him into her depths, a soundless cry coming from both their throats.

She tried to say something, and his hand tightened around her throat. "Shut up," he ordered her, his other hand braced against the back of the sofa. "Don't talk. Don't, don't say anything."

She bared her teeth then, twisted and sank them into his arm where she could reach it, just below the wrist. But rather than making him stop, the pain speeded the urgency of his thrusts, slamming his body against hers, hips pumping, the muscles in legs and arms cording, breath coming hard and painful.

Keren let go of his hand and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. "Bastard," she husked into his ear. "Ten years. Ten years wondering where the hell you vanished to. Ten -ah!"

He grinned, biting the edge of her ear and feeling her convulse around him. He pulled away, upper lip bloody, and thrust again, his hands clenching in automatic response to the flashfire running from his groin up into his veins and straight up into his brain.

Keren gasped from the combination of orgasm and lack of oxygen, and then they both collapsed onto the support of the table --

Which collapsed in a shatter of wood as it broke under their combined weights.

They lay there in stunned silence a moment, a tangle of limbs and heaving chests, his hand still at her throat. He groaned, shifting, let go, rolling over onto his back. She followed, curling into his side and biting the flesh of his face, just below the cheekbone, in an affectionate gesture.

"Hey, look," she said, holding up the leg of the now-ruined table. "Stakes!"

Rupert groaned, running one hand through his hair.

"We're both too old for this."

Monday morning rolled around in its usual inevitable fashion, this time heralded by the rare Sunnydale rainstorm. So dampened, the Slayerettes gathered in the Library, spreading rain-soaked jackets and sweatshirts over chairs to dry.

"So," Xander said, looking around. "Where's the Giles-man? Usually he's in here first thing, assuming he leaves at all."

"Weekend off, remember?" Buffy finished restyling her hair into a ponytail and looked up, unconcerned. "Maybe he took some downtime. I think Watchers are allowed to do that. Probably. Maybe he caught some snuggly time with Ms. Calander."

"I don't think so," Willow said, seeing the teacher in question poke her head through the doorway, obviously hoping to see someone other than the three students in front of her.

"Oh. Hey guys. Is, uh, is Giles around?"

"Nope. Haven't seen him yet this morning."

"Maybe that junkheap he calls a car finally broke down, and he had to hoof it," Xander suggested helpfully.

"Maybe," she said doubtfully, coming in to the room. "Nobody's heard from him?"

"Nope, I think --"

They broke off as the door opened again, letting in the missing librarian.

"Hoo-whee," Xander whistled. "Look what the cat wouldn't bother dragging in!"

Giles looked up to acknowledge the sally, and Jenny and Willow both gasped at the sight of his face. One side of his jaw was purple and battered, and there were indications of a severe bruise fading from the upper half of his left eye. He walked with a shuffling gait, unlike his normally strong, if hesitant, pacing.

"Giles?" Buffy had gotten out of her chair and started towards him. "What happened? Did you get mugged? What?"

"Something of that sort, yes," he sad with a trace of humor. "And no, I don't care to speak about it. A few days, and some asprin, and I will be back to --ow!" as he tried to shift his body into his usual chair. "Back to normal."

He looked up to see the four staring at him, with varying expressions of disbelief and concern on their faces.

"It's nothing," he assured them. "I, uh, pulled something. Moving furniture."

"Keren helping you out with that?"

Jenny. Venom dipping off the tip of that wonderful tongue. He met her glare with an even look of his own, as best he could with one eye still puffy from the edge of the doorknob. "Yes."

When in trouble, tell the truth. If nothing else, it confuses your opponent. And she did appear confused -- for a moment. Then she was gone, slamming out the door with dignified pique. He allowed himself a moment to admire, then turned back to his Slayer, already forcing himself back into the narrow constrictions of this term of his life.

School released them that afternoon without Giles shedding any more light on his obviously eventful weekend. Buffy frowned into the afternoon sunlight. Ms. Calander seemed to believe that Giles and Keren had...

"Ugh. No way. Giles would never...not with someone else. And not... not like that."

Would he? There was a lot about Giles you couldn't tell from that tweedy exterior. Like raising demons. And old photographs that had to be good for something incriminating and blackmail-worthy...

Something tickled her senses, almost like when a vampire was nearby, but it was daylight, so that couldn't --

Buffy stopped, and turned. Keren stood there, half in the shadows of the trees by the school building. Her expression was reticent, but Buffy felt the pull. Slowly, leaving her friends chatting unconcernedly on the steps, she followed the call, moving through the crowds of students without seeing any of them.

She'd only ever felt that pull once before. With Kendra.

"You're a Slayer."

"I was." Keren's accent seemed familiar now, and once she was listening, Buffy could hear the cadences of Giles' own speech in the younger woman's voice. God, was she picking that up, too?

"His Slayer. Before me."

Keren nodded, her glossy dark hair pulled away from face that was unbattered. But looking closer, Buffy could see the purple-black marks around her throat, the shadows of exhaustion under her eyes.

"You're healing faster than he did. But he's still healing faster than --"

"Than normals. Than morts. And you're surprised by that."

"I -- Yes. I mean, he's Giles. A Watcher. Not.."

Keren smiled, sadly, and gestured for Buffy to walk with her.

"To be a Slayer is a cause, a destiny. Something that none of us can avoid. Giving in to it frees us to be more than mortal, more than a shadow in a crowd of shadows. But Watchers..."

"Watchers are given over to their destinies as well. Trained to be the guardians, the teachers, the companions of their Slayers," Buffy parroted.

"No," Keren corrected her. "Not trained. Bred. Like prize horses, looking for the best bloodlines; the best minds, the strongest sensitivities, the most protective impulses. And, some of the abilities we tend to think of as our own."

"Like healing."

"And a somewhat enhanced strength, to stand up to our training, our... temper tantrums."

The two exchanged slightly guilty smiles, then looked away.

"Why didn't he tell me?" Buffy wondered.

"Why didn't you ever notice?" Keren countered gently.

Buffy had no answer.

"There's something else," Keren said with the voice of someone about to impart news without knowing how it would be received.


"With those changes... ah, Buffy. Think about it. They bred them to crave our strength, to need it in order to live. Every Watcher is drawn to their Slayers, locked into them in some way we'll never be able to understand. But they pay a price -- the same price we pay."

"And what's that?"

"Lonliness. Even if he were to find another person to share his life, to understand..."

"There's that strength thing," Buffy ventured, woking it out for herself. "He could...hurt someone, if he wasn't careful."

"That woman, in the library on Friday. She looked like she would bruise easily."

Buffy stopped short. " mean he can't ever.."

Keren laughed, a brief snort of amusement. "Of course he can. And you will too. But you'll have to be careful. And sometimes you really, really just don't want to be careful."

"So you and he..."

"If it's any consolation," the older woman said, resting one hand on Buffy's shoulder, "I seduced him. Sort of." She laughed again at a long-ago memory. "And before you totally eww out, just remember that I'm considerably older than you, which means that Rupert's only about ten years older than me."

"Yeah, I know, but.. He was your Watcher! Isn't that like, kinda, I don't know, incestous?"

"Different Slayers, different Watchers, different relationships. You do what works. And Rupert's always known when to rewrite the rulebook -- even if he will deny it."

Keren squeezed Buffy's shoulder, dropped her hand, and pulled her car keys from her jacket pocket. "Don't sweat it, Buffy. I just thought you should know. Watchers and Slayers can't afford secrets from each other."

"And what am I supposed to do now?"

"Nothing. Or anything. You've always had that much of a choice."

And with that, she flipped her keys into the air, caught them, and walked with a crisp stride to her rental car.

"Oh man," Buffy said. "This is a serious mental messup."

But one, she had to admit, with possibilities.