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Sometimes You Wonder

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They were sitting in the Student Lounge – the Slayer curled up in the corner of a sofa that had seen better days and Charles dwarfed by a great chair that could have only been made in Southern California. "Former art project installation," she'd said when he'd eyed it warily. "Rumor has it that half the football team crammed themselves into it while it was still in the quad. I personally saw the entire lacrosse team and four cheerleaders sit in it once. The term 'sit' being used loosely."

She was now eyeing him over her frothy coffee drink in its ubiquitous paper cup as he sipped at a green tea. "Good?"

Charles dipped his head. "Surprisingly."

"All my tea-friends have the same reaction. Not that you and me are friends or anything," she added conversationally. "But just to let you know that I make my suggestions on good authority."

"Noted. Buffy."

She wrinkled her nose. "In your head you're not calling me 'Buffy' are you?"

His lips lifted in a vague smile. "I wouldn't dare call you anything but what you are."

"Perky college co-ed?"

Charles actually laughed. All the Slayers he had known were serious young women (one little more than a child), deeply aware of both their duty and mortality. This one was unlike any of them. The air of mortality hung around her, but he thought if he hadn't known it should be there, he wouldn't have.

"He smiles!" the Slayer said brightly.

"I've been known to."

"Uh huh." Her eyebrows were in her hairline as she hid behind the cup of her coffee drink.

"But I didn't come here for pleasantries."

The Slayer sighed heavily. "No one super ever does." She untucked her legs from under her body and scooted to the edge of the sofa. For the first time since their unexpected meeting several days ago, she was all business. "You said you -- well, the Marrok -- wants to know who turned Oz and Veruca."

"Correct."

"I have no idea who turned Veruca. From what I got from Oz, she'd been a were way longer than he was, at least a whole year. Oz has only been turned for a few months."

"But you know who turned him."

She shook her head. "No, I don't know the wolf who turned Oz."

Charles was convinced that if she wasn't lying, she was skimming the very edge of truth. Brother Wolf agreed. The question, of course, was why. Why would a Slayer not give up a rogue wolf who was turning teenagers into Hellmouth tainted wolves? He would have thought it went against everything she was. Unless she was halfway to being a rogue slayer. The only problem with that theory was that, based on everything he could find, Buffy was every inch the righteous Vampire Slayer, down to the reckless fascination with her own mortality.

Unfortunately, Charles wasn't as fond of the kinds of games his father and elder brother (and he suspected this Slayer) excelled at. "You're lying to me."

Her jaw dropped in outraged surprise. Then just as suddenly her expression was again all business. "I am."

"I'm curious to know why."

"Will you leave Sunnydale if I say it's none of the Marrok's business?"

"No."

"Figures." She looked genuinely unhappy by her lack of options.

And distressed, Brother Wolf supplied.

Which only raised the question of why again. Instead Charles said, "So you do know the wolf who turned Oz?"

"I do not know the wolf who turned Oz," she said again, and it still was and wasn't a lie.

"Look," she said breaking into his thoughts, "isn't it enough that I'm here? I'm the Slayer, right? And so far I'm the longest lived one in history. Sorta technically. If the Slayer says she's got it handled, can't that be enough for your Marrok?"

"Is the rogue one of your relatives? A father or brother? Son?"

The Slayer almost spilled her drink. "What?"

Charles' reflexes and longer reach saved her from making an unintentional mess. He wondered if this would turn into a metaphor for his interactions with her in the future.

The Slayer all but snatched the disposable cup from his hands. "Why do you think the rogue's a relate?"

It took him a moment to determine what she meant. When he did, he said, "In my experience it's always the family who fight hardest. Even when they know better."

"I'm not related to the wolf that turned Oz, and I don't know him, but I'm not giving him up either." The Slayer stood. "He's mine."

Only centuries of self-control restrained the territorial growl that threatened to spill from his throat. Brother Wolf howled and tried to split his skin.

"I will not give him up to the Marrok to destroy."

Charles rose from his seat, using, he knew, muscles than a normal human man should not possess to do so. Standing, he dwarfed her by a foot or more even with the space between them. She looked him squarely in the eye and refused to back down. Only the presence of so many people -- students, faculty, workers -- kept the encounter from escalating into a fight.

"You're willing to go to the war with the oldest and most powerful wolf in North America over a rogue, Slayer?"

"No. I'm not. Gnaw on that bone."

She shifted around the small table between them. Charles snagged her wrist as she moved past. "Why did you choose to do this here, Slayer?"

Spine stiff, she tilted her head to one side. "Let. Me. Go."

Charles slowly released her wrist.

She took a very deliberate step away without appearing to lose ground. "Go back to the Marrok. Tell him I've got the rogue handled. Do not come looking for him again."

Then she left.

Charles swore and pulled out his phone.

Fin[ite]