“It’s a what?” Faith asked. She was at the round table with all the other Scoobie-knights. She wanted to prop her boots up on it; the shine of the wood looked expensive and old and like it was meant for much classier people than her sitting at it. But that was this whole house, really. “Sorry, I didn’t catch.”
Willow repeated the word. Faith thought she heard about half of it. She wasn’t sure where the other half went.
“That’s not human,” Xander said emphatically. “Humans do not make those sounds.”
“It’s Bagnararilurian,” Willow said. Faith didn’t know whether that was agreement or disagreement. “But yeah. Autumnal equinox, balance, watcher and slayer, all that good stuff.”
“I don’t know that good is the word I’d use,” Giles said from across the table. He held his glasses out in front of him and squinted through the lens.
“Sorry,” Willow said. “But according to the what I’ve been reading, the world is a top, and sometimes it needs an extra push to keep it spinning.”
“A thrust, even,” Faith suggested. Xander snickered.
“So, Cliffnotes,” Buffy said. The table might’ve been round, but there was still no question which one of them was queen. “Slayer and watcher do the hokey-pokey, and the world keeps turning itself around.”
A long, thick, syrupy silence followed. Faith broke it by laughing, and everyone turned to glare. “What, like it’s going to be anyone except me and G?”
“He is the only living Watcher,” Willow agreed with a grimace.
“And he’s gonna get down and dirty with one of the baby Slayers? Or with Buffy?” Faith curled her lips around Buffy’s name. She took in Giles’ poorly-disguised revulsion with a grin. Buffy looked similarly enthused. “It’s gotta be me.”
The bickering that followed was inevitable, but so was the conclusion.
Giles found Faith in the kitchen the night before the equinox. He approached her with intent, and she braced herself: balanced shifted to the balls of her feet, shoulders back, spine straight. Finally he asked, again, “Are you sure?”
Faith kept her eyes on her grilled cheese. Didn’t want it to burn, right? “Are you?”
“Am I certain that I’m willing to do whatever necessary to prevent the world from unbalancing into utter chaos? Yes.”
She threw him a glance over her shoulder. “Right back atcha.”
“Yes, but I have no choice. I’m the only Watcher—”
“And there’s no better Slayer for the job than me.”
He didn’t deny it. He said, “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”
She spun and gave him a hard look in the eye. He seemed to be serious. “G. You send Slayers out to maybe get their heads torn off all the time. You sucked the powers right out of Buffy once and sent her to face a vampire alone, don’t lie and say you didn’t. She told me.” She watched Giles flinch and wasn’t sorry. “But this shit ain’t even dangerous. What’s the big deal?”
He looked past her. “Your sandwich is done, I think.”
“Shit. Shit.” Okay, so the one side was a little Cajun. That was okay. Faith dumped it on the plate. She poked at it and burned a finger in the process.
“It’s a line I never wanted to cross,” Giles said.
It took Faith a moment to track. “Hey, it ain’t a hardship, you know. You’re not that old.” There’d been a time once when she’d thought Giles was hot, even, before she’d killed a guy and gotten adopted by a giant snake and all that other cool yearbook stuff. She squinted at him now and tried to remember it.
“I shall endeavor to take some comfort in that fact,” he said. If he weren’t so starchy, Faith thought he’d have been smiling.
Faith’s alarm woke her an hour before dawn. She ate well – she planned to expend a lot of energy here shortly – and then she let Dawn and Willow dress her up in a clean white robe and a wreath made of plants. “Are you fucking kidding me,” she asked when she saw the wreath.
“It’s traditional,” Willow said primly.
“You know I’m not going to be wearing any of this shit for long, right?”
Willow looked ready to pretend that she didn’t, in fact, know that. She reached up to adjust the wreath on Faith’s forehead. “You have to do it right, or the world will fall over, remember?”
Like Faith was going to forget.
Finally Willow declared Faith good to go. Faith threw the room a wink and headed out with her head high, like she wasn’t about to have the freakiest, most high-stakes sex of her life. She made her way out to the garden under a gray sky just starting to pink in the east. Giles was already there. He wore a robe and wreath, too.
“Can’t believe we have to do this on the ground,” Faith said. Leave it to tradition to take as much fun out of this as possible.
“It would hardly be an authentic wiccan ritual if it didn’t involve outdoor nudity.”
Faith stared at Giles’ entirely straight face. Finally she cracked a grin. Giles looked pleased with himself, and Faith thought maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. “Okay, so?”
“So now we read.” Giles handed Faith a sheaf of papers stapled together. Someone had helpfully printed the ritual out in really large font, so Faith only had to squint a little in the pre-dawn light to make out the words. Giles said, “It’s call and response. I begin—”
“And I follow along like a good little Slayer. I got the memo.”
“—and then in the middle you take the lead,” Giles finished.
“…Oh.” Okay, maybe Faith had zoned before the explanation got to that point.
Giles cleared his throat and began to read. At his pause, Faith picked up the thread. The phrasing was awkward and the spelling didn’t seem quite right, but after the first few words they came easier. She paused at the end of a line that seemed right, and Giles began again.
It went on like that. She stopped stumbling over the words. They almost seemed to speak themselves, falling off Faith’s tongue in a solemn, inevitable rhythm. It thrummed in her. It pumped the blood in her veins; it rolled slow and certain through her clit. It beat the air, too low to hear, humming in her chest like a distant subwoofer.
She stood captive in it, but Giles didn’t. With each turn he took, he drew closer. He wasn’t even looking at the paper anymore.
And then, with a single word like the swinging of a door, momentum shifted. Now it was Giles caught in sway and Faith who advanced – like a predator? a tectonic shift? She came toe-to-toe with him, and the crown of her head still only came even with his chin, but she’d never felt so tall.
She cut off his final words with a kiss. She snatched them from his lips; she swallowed them, suddenly ravenous. His hands skimmed up her sides. “Down,” she said into his mouth. She pressed on the tops of his shoulders, and gracelessly he stumbled to his knees. She bent down and kissed him again. She knelt and seized his shoulders and pressed her hunger to his lips. Heat wound through her. “Off.” She shoved at the useless white robe that hung between her and what she wanted. The need of the world thrummed in her blood.
She managed to wrestle her robe off, and then she helped Giles with his, too. Well, “helped”; the robe wouldn’t recover. But once Giles was bare, his dick stood at the ready, flushed and thick, straining towards her. She kissed him again. He met her halfway, fierce, demanding.
Something stirred in her chest – something enormous. It shifted in her like gravity, undeniable, inevitable, far deeper than need. Certainty.
“Soon,” Giles said against her mouth. “We have to—”
“I know.” Faith shuffled forward, half into his lap. She wrapped her legs around him and gripped his shoulders with both hands. His hands closed around her hips, steadying her, and from a great distance the thought came: So that’s what a Watcher is for. Then she eased down onto his dick.
The burn of it woke her a little. She stared down Giles, his hair graying at the temples, his wreath askew, his mouth gapped open and his eyes nearly shut. He’d lost his glasses at some point. Time stretched without limit between night and day, past and future, and Faith stretched with it, but in that capsule of eternity, Giles remained only human. This was what she was supposed to protect - this fragile, perishable humanity.
An old, old memory of another Watcher surfaced. She hadn’t been able to save that one, but she could save Giles. She took his face in both hands and kissed him again.
“I know.” She brushed her thumb over his ear. Then she pulled him in close until his breath was warm on her shoulder. She began to rock, and he rocked with her.
That clarity was gone; Faith was swallowed up again in something far bigger than herself, far more present than the drag and thrust of Giles in her pussy. He groaned with the shifting of the earth, and she was a spring, a raging current. The entire salt sea flowed from her. Storms gusted from her lips on each exhale. They rocked back and forth, and together they wound the clockwork circuit of the stars.
Then, like the clock striking the hour, the sun broke the horizon, and Faith broke with it. She gripped the back of his neck and gasped into his shoulder as she came – as he came, too, shuddering beneath her.
When she opened her eyes, the sky was gold. She met Giles’s gaze. “Hell,” she gasped.
She clasped her hands around the back of his neck and tried to catch at her breath. Giles’s hands remained around her ribs, warm and sure. That thought floated up again: this was what Watchers were supposed to do. Although maybe not quite so literally. She started to giggle. The corners of Giles’s mouth lifted.
Her legs were still wrapped around Giles’s waist. “So, uh. I kind of just figured I was going to ride you. Was the freaky yoga sex thing your idea?”
Giles blinked at her. After a moment, sounding puzzled, he said, “Not that I’m aware.”
Faith found some comfort in that. “Not that I’m complaining, that was pretty good. Although kinda, uh.” She searched the lightening sky for a word.
“Cosmic?” Giles offered.
Faith huffed. “Yeah.” The memory of it was already fading, but when she concentrated, in her chest she still felt the vertigo of spinning planets. She closed her eyes. She breathed, in, out, unhurried– a leftover of the yoga sex, maybe. It took her four or five to realize Giles was breathing with her.
No one moved.
Faith peeked at Giles. “Did you—was it only me having mystical sex visions?”
Giles met her eyes, sober and serious. There was something of the weight of stars in that gaze – not a burden, but an anchor. Steadying. She got plenty of time to consider it before Giles finally said, “No.”
Suddenly his gaze made her squirm. “Yeah, I don’t really want to know what you saw.”
He looked—fond. Oddly, the fondness settled her. “My place in the universe, perhaps. As trite as it sounds.”
“Yeah,” Faith said.
She should have been freaking out. You don’t fix stuff by fucking it. She of all people would know. But there was a gear somewhere inside that felt like it had finally caught, and call her crazy, but she didn’t think that particular gear was going to slip again.
And meanwhile, here was Giles. And if fucking didn’t fix things, it went a long way to improving them, sometimes. “Uh, don’t freak out.”
Faith took Giles’s weather-lined face, his warm smile in her hands, and she leaned in and kissed him again. She had time to notice now how his lips were warm, how he tasted of slightly bitter tea. How he was a person who knew how to kiss. He wasn’t all tweed, she thought, smug. “This was what you meant, right?” she said against his mouth. “Your place in the universe?”
His grip around her tightened. “I—yes. Close enough.”
“Good. Because I’m going to do you so many different ways.”
He laughed outright. “But perhaps on a bed?”
“Sure,” Faith said generously.