DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Too bad.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Joyce's missing body has struck Buffy hard and she very nearly killed a human intruder at Cortina's, only to be stopped in time by Spike. The white demon has had some sort of confrontation with Quentin Travers, but she has yet to tell the Scoobies about any of the details…

*************

Chapter 10: The Comrade of Thy Wanderings

When he emerged from the stacks, it took him a moment to realize Spike was no longer in the room, the book he'd been reading shoved dispiritedly aside, the piles around his chair knocked askew. Giles frowned, glancing at the door. It had to have been urgent for the vampire to leave in such a hurry, which meant it had to be about Buffy. The question of whether he should investigate further flitted across his mind, but he quickly dismissed it. Right now, she needed the type of comfort Spike could offer, and, for whatever reason, the Watcher knew that she would get it.

Research so far had been slow, the answers few. Twice now, possibilities had arisen that had excited him, only to be tossed aside when further reading rendered them out of the question, but his greatest surprise had come from Spike. He knew the vampire was intelligent, had suspicions about his education prior to being turned, but his diligence in searching through the texts, the questions he had posed, hinted at an insight Giles suspected ran deeper than anyone had ever realized. Well, except for Buffy, he hastily amended. And perhaps Willow. And Cortina had certainly sung Spike's praises strongly enough. He hesitated, almost physically shaking his head in self-reprimand. Perhaps estrogen was a requirement to appreciate the blond vampire right away.

He was lost in the words before him when he heard the door open and then softly close, the quiet click only momentarily diverting him from his reading. Everything must be better, he thought, and waited for the steps to come join him at the desk, one hand absently pushing his glasses further back onto his nose.

"Rupert…"

Her voice was hauntingly low, an airy melody that never ceased to surprise him, and he felt the familiar tightening across his thighs at the sound of it. Although he'd never been truly fond of his first name, somehow, Cortina's lips almost made it sound sensual, and it was with a slight smile that he turned to look back at her.

"You should be…" The next word was supposed to be "resting," but it got caught in his throat, disappearing as he drank in the sight of her, caught yet again in her web.

Her hair was down, flowing around her bare shoulders in a silken white sheath, forcing the eye to follow it downward, to trace over the exposed ivory flesh. The gown she wore---if it could even be called that---was a gossamer wing that left little to the imagination, her dark nipples shadowed only slightly as they stood erect beneath the translucence, the sharp curve of her hips offering the promise of lush pleasures, while even the pale mound of her pubic hair became a sultry hint behind the diaphanous fabric. The effect was startling…and quite literally took Giles' breath away.

She didn't say a word, merely lifted her arm to hold out her hand to him, standing there waiting, as if there was no doubt in her mind that he would come. The smile that curled her lips when he stood didn't quite meet the pale blue of her eyes, but the Watcher didn't even notice, taking her invitation with care, gently curling his fingers around hers so as not to disturb her bandages, and in silence, was led from the room.

*************

Her bedroom was in near darkness, the only illumination a single candle flickering on the nightstand, and Giles felt himself swallowed up by the closeness of the air, the heat within belying the cold he knew was outside. As he closed the door behind them, he felt Cortina's hands slip around his waist, sliding up the front of his shirt as she pressed herself into his back, deftly beginning to undo the buttons even with the hindrance of her recent wounds. His arousal stiffened, and his own fingers met hers to hasten her movements.

"No," she said, batting him away. "Don't help. I want to do this."

He turned in her embrace then, gazing down at the downcast eyes so intent on their work. With one hand, he pushed back the hair that had tumbled over her shoulder, baring the deceptively fragile-looking flesh, and traced the fine line of her clavicle. "This does not constitute resting," Giles murmured.

"It will when we're done," she teased, glancing up at him through her pale lashes.

He chuckled, and felt her palms meet his chest as she slid the shirt from his torso, suddenly rapt with circling his skin with her own. She seemed to be everywhere, hands dancing…fingers sliding…massaging the muscles of his upper arms…outlining his nipples with a single nail…each touch sending a cascade of tremors through his body, all of them converging on his cock. The moan escaped his throat, and this time he couldn't stop, scooping her face between his hands to tilt her head back, leaning in to brush his lips over hers.

For such a feather touch, the electrical charge that leapt between them was staggering, sucking at both of them to draw them closer, mouths pressing harder as they parted, allowing the other one entrance to the fire within. Giles' eyes fluttered shut, the unceasing sensations of Cortina's fingers combined with the sweet tang of her kiss creating a kaleidoscope behind his lids that seared as well as surged. He wanted to just grab her, to throw her back on the bed and plunge inside---kissing her always seemed to draw out the beast in him---but he knew, could tell from the way she let her hands slide over him, that that wasn't what she wanted. And if nothing else, the thing that got Rupert Giles off harder than anything was giving a woman what she wanted.

She was guiding him backwards, towards the bed, steering him from obstacles in the path without breaking the contact between them. When he felt the edge of the mattress press into his knees, he started to turn, only to be stopped yet again by the white demon as she tore herself away from his lips to stare up at him. Her face was half in shadow, one side brightened by the nearby candlelight, the other veiled in black, and Giles just stood there frozen, mesmerized by the pale blue irises, his very breath hanging on the path of her delicate fingers as they dropped to the waistband of his trousers.

"Cortina…" he murmured, but was silenced from speaking further by the return of her lips to his.

"Sshhhh…" she whispered into his mouth, breath both hot and cold.

It was the only cloud in the pleasure that suffused his body and he felt it flit in and out of his mind as she continued disrobing him. Regardless of the mood---playful, violent, tender---Cortina was a very vocal lover, sometimes chatting, often spurring him on with words either dirty or dainty, always allowing her enjoyment to escape through sounds or screams. For her now to ask him to be quiet, to be so silent herself, meant something…although, with the headiness of his own response to her expert touch, Giles was in no position currently to analyze it.

He gasped as she wrapped her hand around his erection, reminded yet again of the demon strength housed within her frame, sliding up its length in languor before letting her thumb graze over the head, catching the drop of pre-cum before sliding back down. The muscles in his legs quivered, tightening as she pumped him, and it felt distinctly as if the floor was pitching beneath his feet.

Cortina's face was solemn as she separated from him, using one hand to push him gently back onto the bed, freeing his trousers from his ankles as she did so. This was about Rupert…this was for Rupert…but just the sight of him lying sprawled there…one arm behind his head, the other at his side…the long, lean lines of his torso joining into his narrow hips…made her mouth water, to forget her purpose and want to fuck him senseless, to hear him scream her name…

He watched as she pulled the straps from her shoulders, allowing the fragile fabric to fall to the ground, and Giles' eyes darkened to black pinpoints as she stepped out of it, pale flesh gleaming in the dancing orange of the light. Her breathing was labored, breasts rising and falling in a hypnotic rhythm, and he found his own lungs straining to work properly, especially when she leaned forward and stretched her body over the length of his. All of a sudden, the slickness of her pussy as it slid over his cock seemed the only thing in the world, and his arms came down, fingers sinking into the curve of her hips, mouth opening to welcome hers.

They were both hungry, tearing into the kiss like it was their last, or their first, and everything slipped away, the two lovers wrapped in the moment of black velvet as their bodies strained to complete each other. As Cortina lifted her pelvis, positioning herself over the tip of his arousal, Giles curled one arm around her waist to hold her closer, forcing her to work for the penetration, tightening his grip as she found him…swallowed him…burying his hardness deep within her until she felt the bones of their hips grinding into each other.

She was the one who regulated their movement, riding up…and down…in…and out…so slowly at first that he thought he'd scream from the intensity…then picking up speed, barely even noticeable…the slickness of her channel squeezing around him, drawing him deeper…and all the while, her lips on his, as if by breaking the kiss…kisses, really…she'd be letting loose some lifeline…and not once did either of them make a sound.

Cortina came first, letting herself go, knowing that he would purposely hold back until he knew she was satisfied, and rode the waves of her orgasm clinging to his shoulders, legs wrapped around his, inner muscles clenching around him as he quickened his thrusts, plunging and driving until his own excitement peaked, his cock shooting in long bursts deep inside her as his body shuddered from ecstasy. Giles buried his face in her neck, using her flesh to muffle his cries, remembering her inexplicable desire for quiet in spite of his own need to scream out, and she smiled, rubbing her cheek against his hair.

"I do adore you, Rupert," she murmured, uncertain if he could actually hear her, but at the moment, not really caring, her need to just say the words stronger than knowing he was aware of them.

As his body slowly stopped tremoring, Giles slid his lips up the side of her neck, meeting her cheek before pulling back to gaze into her pale eyes. "And here I thought I was just your boy toy," he teased. "You couldn't have left me that one little fantasy?"

Cortina laughed, pressing her forehead against his, unwilling to break the contact of their bodies just yet. "I just want you to know how much you mean to me," she said. "You do know that…right?"

He smiled, holding her as he rolled onto his side, letting her settle in the circle of his arms. "It's quite surprising, actually," he commented, brushing back a stray lock of hair from her forehead. "For two people as obsessed with words as we are, we seem to do our best communicating without them."

She couldn't help matching his smile with one of her own. "Is that a yes, then?"

His reply was a gentle kiss.

*************

She sat on the bed, arms hugging her knees to her chest, swaying back and forth as the tears slowly lessened. "What's happening?" Buffy asked, her voice a tremulous whisper. "Why does it feel like I'm falling and falling and everything around me is turning black?"

"That's grief, luv." He sat opposite her, as close as he could while still not touching, eyes fixed on her swollen face.

She lifted her head to stare at him. "No," she said. "It's not. It's something else. And it's scaring me."

"Do you want to talk 'bout what happened out there?"

"Honestly? No. Do I think I should? Probably yeah. But you can ask all the questions you want. I don't think I know any of the answers."

Spike chose his next words carefully. "You…wanted…to kill that bloke."

Her laughter was almost hysterical. "And you know what really bites?" she said. "I can't even lie about it because you'll know." He watched as she rubbed furiously at the dampness of her cheeks. "I don't know why. I just felt…I had to. I needed to. I wanted him dead. And it didn't make a difference to me that he wasn't even a demon. He was just some guy who was wandering around in the desert, although why I have no idea, and I wanted to tear his head off and feed it to Elvis."

This was the time to bring it up. He knew it. He could see what was happening to her, and in a sick way, it explained what was happening to him. But was she ready to hear it? What difference could it possibly make if she understood? But he knew the answer to that, and knew he really didn't have a choice.

"Stop thinking so much," Buffy scolded. "You're giving me a headache."

Slowly, Spike slid over so that he was sitting next to her, taking her nearest hand in his and tracing the lines of her palm. "We need to talk about the cleansing, pet."

"The cleansing?" Her voice was cloudy with confusion. "Why? What does that have to do with anything?"

"'Cause that's when all this started. 'Cause it's not just you." He tilted his head to look up into her bloodshot eyes. "There's stuff goin' on inside me, too. Stuff I wasn't payin' too much attention to at first, but it's snowballing, just like you are. And if we don't suss it out, and suss it out soon, it's goin' to eat us alive. And any wind demon thing is goin' to seem like cake in comparison."

Her face suddenly seemed old, and tired, and scared, and she looked at him with fear. "What is it? What's going on with us?"

"I think…pieces of us got…left in the other," Spike said slowly. "Like, you're not just Buffy anymore, and I'm not just Spike."

He watched as her lips curved into a smile. "Well, duh," she commented. "Welcome to the world of obvious."

"No," he argued. "It's more than that. You don't think I don't know what bloodthirst tastes like? 'Cause that's what it was, luv, whether you want to admit it or not."

She sobered then, and he felt like an ass for having to say it out loud, to make her feel like such a child when they both knew that the feelings were overwhelming to handle. "So…" Buffy started, "you think it's turning me into a demon or something? One day, I'm going to wake up and you and I will be Mr. and Mrs. Bumpy Forehead?"

Spike shook his head. "I don't know," he admitted. "But something's makin' you want to kill. Just like something's makin' me…" The vampire stopped, unable to find the words that he thought would be able to describe the feelings he'd been experiencing, the unresolved fear that seemed to grip him out of nowhere. He tried again. "Like tonight. When I went to your house. I was…it made me…" Letting her loose, he dropped his head into his hands. "Fuck," he muttered. "And I thought love was hard."

It came off him in waves, and Buffy rested her hand on leg, desperate to help. "You were scared," she said softly.

"Wrong," he said into his hands, and then looked up. "I was fuckin' terrified. So shit-faced scared that my bloody hands were shakin'. And of what? Seein' a dead body?" He snorted. "I used to bathe in blood, walked through fields of corpses, didn't faze me one iota. Now, all of a sudden, I've gone soft, turned into a regular nancy boy 'til I don't even recognize myself anymore." Flecks of gold danced in the depths of blue as he stared at the woman next to him. "And I hate it."

She took a deep breath. "We need to tell Giles."

"I hate it when you're right, too."

Picking up his hand, Buffy laced her fingers through his, pulling him against her in an embrace that was both needing and giving. "You said it this afternoon," she murmured. "And it's true. Whatever happens, we're in this together. You and me. And nothing's going to change that."

Spike lost himself in the golden length of her hair, biting back the tears. There was more she needed to know---so much more---but there would be time enough for that later. Now…it was time for rest.

*************

The library door seemed too loud in the hushed slumber of the caves, and she slipped inside as quickly as she could, leaving it ajar so that her exit could be more silent. She didn't even bother with the light; the book she wanted had stayed in exactly the same place for the last hundred years, its placement etched in her memory like a recurring nightmare, and Cortina knew she could find it with her eyes closed and both hands tied behind her back. Though she knew they would have questions in the morning, and undoubtedly some rather strong reactions, she also knew that this would give them some answers, and in light of what she was about to do, that was the least she could offer them…even if it didn't do them any good.

It was there. A single thin volume, bound in black, no title on its spine. They would never have found it. It was designed specifically to be overlooked, for its oblations to remain hidden from casual eyes, and no amount of searching by Giles, or Willow, or Buffy would've brought it to light.

Sliding it from the shelf, decades of dust settled around her, and Cortina sneezed, covering her mouth and nose in an attempt to stifle the noise. She didn't want to wake them; they would never understand. She could only hope that this might ease some of their confusion.

She returned to the desk, glancing around at the piles of books already there. It had to look casual, like one of them had already pulled it out, yet she had to place it so that it would be easily and quickly found and, more importantly, read. She decided on a stack in the center, easing the top tome aside to rest the black book underneath it, replacing the first slightly askew so that it looked more disorderly before stepping back to examine her handiwork. There, she thought. That'll work, and quickly turned around to leave the room.

Even without the library light on, she saw him in the doorway, clad only in his trousers, chest bare as he leaned against the door jamb. The illumination from the hall behind him did nothing to reveal his face, but she didn't need it. Cortina could feel his blue eyes boring into her.

"What are you doing?" Giles asked, his voice a mere murmur.

"I couldn't sleep," she replied, affecting a bright smile. "Thought I might do some reading." She edged herself sideways, trying to hide the desk behind her.

"You're a terrible liar." There was no mistaking the edge in his voice. "So I'm going to ask you again, and this time, I'd appreciate the truth. What are you doing?"

Her smile vanished. "Why couldn't you have stayed asleep?" she said, stepping forward, closing the distance between them. "This would've been so much simpler if you'd just stayed asleep."

"That sounds strangely like good bye," Giles said. "In fact, this whole night…that's what you've been doing ever since we left Sunnydale. Do you think I'm stupid? Do you think I don't notice these things? If Quentin Travers threatened you in some way, we'll deal with it. It doesn't give you carte blanche to just run away."

"You can't stop me." There was no point in denying it; he was right.

"I hate to think I'd have to."

"You don't understand---."

"Because you haven't given me a chance!" His frustration erupted and he straightened, gripping her shoulders, his knuckles white. "I bloody well love you, Cortina. I refuse to allow you to walk out of my life just as casually as you walked into it."

If he hadn't said the words, she could've done it. She'd been ready, prepared to leave without getting a proper farewell, knowing that facing them would've just made it harder. It would've been like pretending it was all just one great game, no feelings getting hurt---well, not too hurt anyway---but that wasn't going to be possible now. Not after hearing it. And now it was going to hurt even more…for all of them…


To be continued in Chapter 11: Tameless