By the time they reached Revello Drive, Giles was teetering perilously close to a state of insanity. The magical goop plastering his clothing had quickly spread its burning prickle to every inch of his flesh. No amount of scratching brought him relief. As the tar continued to dry and harden, it formed a crackled transparent glaze over his entire body, much like a living and very pliant varnish. Worst of all, Giles swore that his skin beneath the brownish coating was crawling across his skeleton frame, rearranging itself, though into what, he couldn’t imagine.
The convertible pulled into the Summers’ driveway, and before it had even rolled to a stop, Giles was throwing off his blanket, and vaulting over the open side of the vehicle. He took off, his feet hitting the ground at a brisk trot, his only thought the shower ahead of him that would wash away his maddening itch. He was nearly across the front lawn before anyone else had managed to even get a leg out of the car, and in a writhing sprint, he stormed up the front stairs of the bungalow home, and threw himself at the front entry.
“Blasted door!” Giles snarled, impatiently rattling the doorknob. The house was locked. Slamming a shoulder against the door, he grimaced as a peculiar pain shot through his back.
“Giles, wait!” Buffy scurried up onto the porch, her hand digging into her pocket for the house key.
“Why now of all times have you decided to start locking your door?” Giles grumbled tersely at her. “You’ve never had any inclination to lock it before.”
“Just…move,” the slayer snapped back curtly in reply. “You’re standing in my way.”
Buffy sighed. She was trying her best to keep her temper in check. Giles had been just impossible to deal with during the ride over. What usually amounted to a short trip across town had felt more like a million endless miles. She had fought with her Watcher almost the entire way, and was irritable and all too eager to get him out of her hair. He had scratched and swore in a most un-Giles like way during their ride. His mutterings included words that Buffy couldn’t begin to guess the meaning of, and a few others that she wished that she didn’t know. Whatever the mysterious stuff covering Giles was, it had affected his disposition. And not in a way that was good. There was a brief moment where she thought she had seen the substance glowing beneath the blanket wrap, a fact that unnerved her to no end. But other than some caustically vocal complaints about the intense itching, and an admission that he suffered from a “whacking” headache, the Englishman appeared to have gotten away from his ordeal with little more than a few spectacular bruises and a swollen bump on his head.
Yes, physically, Giles was as healthy as an ox, the slayer mentally told herself. His mental condition, on the other hand, was another matter for debate. There was no denying that Giles’ more volatile side of his nature was boiling dangerously close to its edge. His irritability quota was testing the boundaries of its limited capacity, as it was Buffy’s. It was only a concern for her friend that kept the slayer’s own temperament in check, or she would have been only too happy to put an end to her Watcher’s cantankerous fussing with a well placed fist.
Giles paced in a tightly anxious circle, waiting for what felt like an eternity as Buffy fumbled with her key at the door. At the click of the turning lock, he impatiently shoved her aside, and in an atypically improper show of British incivility, threw open the door and ran inside ahead of her.
Since his return from England earlier that week, Giles had been a “guest” at the Summers’ house, rooming with Buffy and the other girls. It had been many years since he’d last lived dormitory style, and certainly never with a household of only women, and the experience had proved a true test of his masculine fortitude. He had been sleeping on the living room sofa, a position that granted him little if any privacy, what with all the comings and goings. The close proximity to so many divergent personalities had forced him to make numerous adjustments in his own personal agenda. He did his best to fit his life in among all those individual schedules, making several compromises so that things ran smoothly. If the truth be told, he had found it pleasant taking his meals with the others, and sharing in their lively conversations. The tedium of daily, mundane chores became more agreeable when doing them for someone else. But those small enjoyments were quickly forgotten when he found himself having to wait in line to use the only bathroom in the house.
And there lay the rub. Four women. One bathroom. It took less than twenty four hours for Giles to conclude that such and aberration of Nature’s laws was never intended to be. Between Dawn’s lengthy ablutions as she got ready for school, and Willow and Tara’s synchronous grooming sessions before their departure to classes, his own personal needs often went neglected for the better part of most mornings.
And then there was Buffy. With her uncanny psychic ability to gauge the exact moment he had decided to head off to the loo, and the speed with which she rushed by in the hallway to beat him there, Giles had all but given up on the notion of ever having a moment of unhurried solitude, or knowing the simple joy of answering his body’s most primal demands without submitting to indefinite periods of delay.
But tonight, thankfully, such was not the case. The path lay clear before him. Suddenly, all the humbling experiences that he had endured in the past days– the panty hose soaking in the lavatory, the prodigious inventory of shampoo and cleansing products cluttering every available flat surface, the myriad of strange personal hygiene items for which he had no fathomable clue as to their function or necessity – it all seemed so trivial. His one source of salvation lay upstairs, and no one, but no one stood in the way of his getting to it.
Giles all but flew up the stairs, disappearing around a bend in a flurried patter of footsteps. Pausing in the doorway downstairs, Xander shook his head in amazement.
“Wow Look at Giles go. I never knew he could run like that.”
“I guess it’s true what they say. ‘When you gotta go, you gotta go,” Willow giggled, coming through the open door behind him.
“And Giles is definitely gone,” Tara smiled jovially.
“Good riddance to him,” Buffy huffed. Following the others into the house, she clomped across the threshold and closed the door with a firm slam. “I sure hope that foul mood of his washes down the drain with all the rest of his troubles.”
“Poor Giles,” Willow sympathized. Her doe-like eyes turned toward the ceiling, tracking the absentee subject of their conversation. “He must be feeling pretty miserable.”
“The word insane would sum up his behavior more accurately,” Buffy corrected her friend. Wandering into the living room, the slayer flopped down on the sofa, her companions slowly filing into the room after her. “He didn’t stop scratching for one minute! It was all I could do just to keep the shirt on his back.”
“Well, it all looked very questionable from where we sat,” Anya frowned, dropping into a seat across from the slayer. “You and Giles were bouncing around in the backseat of the car like that couple in that movie Xander and I watched last week. Have any of you seen it?” she asked. “It’s about this man who gets stranded on a deserted island with four beautiful women who want to have sex all the time.”
“I don’t think I know that one,” Tara shyly blushed. She looked nervously toward Willow to see if she were more familiar with the referenced production, but the red head merely shrugged.
“Oh, it’s a very funny movie,” Anya informed the blonde wiccan. “You and Willow would probably enjoy it. There are quite a few lesbian scenes where the women are having sex with each other instead of with the man.”
Willow’s blush easily rivaled her girlfriend’s pink coloring. “I think we’ll just wait until the book comes out on that one.”
Anya turned toward Xander, who had folded up his lank form to sit on the floor at her feet. “There’s a book?” she asked.
Xander sighed. There were times when Anya’s naivete could be funny in a strange “alien lifeform learns all about the foibles and quirks of humankind” sort of way. Other times it was frustrating. It wasn’t easy having to explain the everyday, commonplace way of things to someone over a thousand years old who was experiencing life for the first time again. Mostly, however, it was all just embarrassing, like now.
Deciding tactful avoidance was the most socially acceptable way to handle his girlfriend’s query, Xander stretched his legs out before him and lounged back against the chair behind him. With a thoughtful frown, he regarded the slayer across the magazine cluttered top of a coffee table. “So, where’s the Dawnster tonight?”
“She’s at Janice’s” the blonde replied. Drawing her up legs beneath her, Buffy tucked her heels in against her thighs in a loose pretzel-like yoga position. “The two of them have got some kind of dinner slash study thing going tonight. She should be back soon, though,” she continued, glancing across the room toward the clock sitting on the fireplace mantle. “I told her to be home by eight, and it’s almost…” Buffy pouted, squinting the timepiece’s hands. “Does that say it’s ten after, or twenty ‘til?” With a resolute shrug, she sighed. “Guess it doesn’t matter. Either way, she’s toast.”
“Aw, come on, Buffy,” Willow said, speaking up in defense of the teen. “She’s only a little late. Besides, that clock always runs fast.”
“Yeah, that’s what I used to tell my mom, too,” Buffy chuckled. With a wistful sigh, she leaned back against the couch, her arms sweeping up a pillow to hug. “I guess there’s no harm waiting a couple more minutes before I start pasting photos on milk cartons.”
“At least a few,” Tara congenially agreed.
The sound of running water gurgled softly from some remote location above their heads. In unison, five pairs of eyes turned to stare at the living room ceiling overhead.
“I hope he remembers not to use the good towels,” Willow worried as she chewed thoughtfully at her lower lip.
“I just hope he remembers to use a lot of soap,” Buffy snorted. “I’ve smelled some smells that were pretty smelly, but Giles’ smell was by far the smelliest smell I’ve ever smelled.”
An estranged hush fell over the room as the Scooby gang continued to look vacantly up at the ceiling. The only audible sounds in the room were the soft ticking of the mantle clock, and the muted spatter of the shower on the second floor. Then suddenly, the five young adults erupted into a spontaneous round of animated conversation, and began to exchange the humorous and engaging anecdotal details of their day. And that was how they passed away the time as they waited for the Englishman to return to their midst.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
From the tiled isolation of the upstairs bathroom, Giles could hear an occasional burst of laughter drift up through the floor below him. It was a gratifying sound, comforting and reaffirming, proof that life continued on, even in such an unlikely place as Sunnydale, California, the epicenter of the world’s only currently active Hellmouth.
With a heartened sigh, the Brit raised his face toward the warm spray that rained down on him from overhead. It felt good to stand under the pounding water. The rejuvenating liquid had substantially quelled the burning fire on his flesh, and dulled the worst of the maddening prickle that had been spreading over his back. As the shower’s heat gradually softened the encrusting layer of tar on his body, the black goo melted away in tiny, chocolate-like rivulets. It dripped from his hair, and rinsed down from his shirtfront, collecting in a dark, swirling puddle on the tub floor at his feet. He watched as with each passing minute, another layer of sticky grime slowly burbled down the drain, until, finally, the adhesive qualities of the strange, mystical substance had been compromised enough that he could finally begin to remove his clothing.
His immediate need for relief had been so desperately great that Giles had forgone the usual procedure of disrobing before stepping into the shower. It had seemed a wise move at the time, considering as how his clothing was indelibly glued to his body. Unfortunately, he now faced the difficult and somewhat disagreeable task of stripping off the whole soggy mess of his outfit.
Heaving a weary grunt, he leaned a shoulder against the smooth shower wall, and bending at his waist, reached down to remove his saturated footwear first. With a sigh of relief, he tossed a shoe out through the curtain, and winced as he listened to it hit the floor with a gushing thunk. A second later he sent its mate thudding wetly after, followed quickly by both of his saturated socks.
The pile of sopping laundry on the floor steadily grew larger. It took several minutes of frustrated fumbling to unbutton his shirt, then some additional contortionist worthy shucking before he finally managed to remove the sticky garment from his torso altogether. Next, he attacked the daunting obstacle of his undershirt. The cotton material seemed permanently stuck to his flesh. Peeling it away slowly over his head, he grumbled under his breath at the decided discomfort, but eventually he won the struggle, and the soiled sheath joined the rest of the puddled mess on the floor outside of the shower.
With trepidation he turned to tackle his trousers. Mumbling a silent prayer that they might have been spared the brunt of the tar’s mess, Giles cringed inwardly when he saw that the goo had practically glued his pants to his body. It took a fair amount of soaking and shimmying, but eventually he was able to pare back the adhering material, and with great care and trepidation, he stripped his trousers down his legs and sent them sailing onto the laundry pile with everything else.
Last, and not without a great deal of apprehension, Giles shoved his last remaining piece of clothing down to the floor with a piteous and wounded groan. Discarding his underwear atop the oozing heap that had once comprised that day’s casual wear outfit, the Englishman released a respited breath, and pushing away from the wall, stepped back under the full spray of the running shower. The water’s heat re-liquified the remaining traces of dark goo that had somehow penetrated the multiple layers of his clothing to coat his flesh beneath, and the mess slowly trickled down his torso, thinning in the hot water like a translucent, sparkling ink. With the exception of a few pink and tender areas of rash, Giles idly noted that the substance hadn’t done any damage to his body. Rumbling a relieved groan, the Brit put the more unpleasant aspects of the night’s incident behind him, and after removing his glasses and setting them safely outside the shower, he settled down to the serious business of scrubbing himself clean.
Reaching for one of the ubiquitous bottles of shampoo that always seemed to litter the shower’s shelf, Giles thumbed open the cap and took a sniff at its contents. The cloying scent of flowering lavender assailed his nostrils, and with a disdainful frown he flicked the lid closed, setting the bottle back on the shelf again. He tried another bottle, and then another, working his way through the varied inventory of floral and ripe, fruity scents, until at last he found something a bit less feminine. Squeezing out a generous dollop of coconut smelling gel onto his palm, he carefully returned the slippery container to its home, and leaning his head back, began to smear the viscous soap into his hair, vigorously working it into a rich, foaming lather.
A faint smile played lazily at the corners of Giles’ mouth. As his fingers raked through the plastered thatch of his hair and massaged the tingling scalp that lay beneath, the mysterious glop gave up its seemingly permanent hold, breaking down into a stickly distasteful syrup that he easily rinsed away. A duck under the showerhead removed the first soaping, as well as a noticeable amount of the tar. Another judicious application of a shampoo, and some energetic scrubbing reduced the problem further, until, with a third and final lathering, every trace of the gooey residue had disappeared, and he was left with a squeaky clean head.
Filling his cupped palm with more soap, Giles slathered up his arms, shoulders and chest. He scoured at his tar coated body, gradually extending his sudsy attack to include his neck and face. The bubbly foam did wonders to sooth the discomforting itch he had been experiencing, and with gratified relish he rubbed more of the miraculous balm over his flesh, encasing his entire body in the slick, soapy gel from his prickling hairline to the tingling soles of his feet.
Giles closed his eyes. Stepping under the faucet to rinse off, he felt a strangely compelling urge stir within the recesses of his thoughts. The smooth, sensual sensation of his hands caressing his own body had been pleasurable, and not just because it bought a cessation to the nagging itch that had caused him such suffering. Gently, he allowed a hand to slide over his bare belly and stroke his sensitive flesh. He was immediately rewarded with a delightful firing of the delicate nerve endings that lay just beneath his skin. It had never felt this good to simply touch himself before, and he sighed, smiling blissfully as he began to explore the wondrous adventure of his form in all its newly found tactile splendor.
The light brush of his palm riding over his chest sent a delicious and gratifying shiver through Giles’ entire body. A sly, libidinous leer twitched briefly at his lips, his throat constricting tightly around a soft, muffled moan of pleasure. Dear God, that feels good, he thought. At this rate, you’ll be right raging randy by the time you get yourself clean.
His sybaritic grin continued to spread as he soaped up his body with direct, deliberate strokes. It had been some time since he’d had the pleasurable satisfaction that came with a proper, sweaty session of one on one body slamming with a member of the opposite sex. Olivia’s last visit had been almost a year ago, and though he had entertained the idea of getting together with her while in England, the phone call from Willow telling him that Buffy was alive again had put that bit of his life on hold.
The faint interruption of several indistinct voices sounded from somewhere downstairs. His young companions were moving about the house. Giles could hear doors banging in the kitchen as someone searched hungrily for a snack. He wished them luck. Only that morning he had made the hunt himself, and for all his exhaustive efforts, had come up with no success. The stock of groceries he had brought into the house only days before had been quickly depleted, by those who lived on the premises as well as those moochers with visiting privileges. With all the activity concerning the wizard and his nefarious plottings, Giles hadn’t been able to spare the time and make another run to the store for food supplies, and as a consequence, the Summers’ cupboards were, for all practical purposes, bare.
As he luxuriated within the titillation of his soapy explorations, Giles idly pondered the risks of surrendering to his body’s rapidly growing desire. If he remained quiet, the others would never even suspect his mischief. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time he’d satisfied his carnal urgings under near public scrutiny. He chortled, smiling wickedly as her remembered the last instance he’d dared such an escapade. It had been the day of his infamous band candy binge, and a very cooperative Joyce Summers had been his partner in lust. She had succumbed to his seductive charms atop the hood of a police car while dozens of people passed by on the sidewalk nearby. Yes, that had been a good night indeed, and its lasting memory had fueled many an illicit fantasy for months thereafter. Even now, just thinking about those stolen moments was having a notable effect on him. The excited writhing of warm female body beneath him, Joyce’s willingness to be taken - it was tempting to answer the need that was building in his naked loins. In fact, it was almost more than he could bear.
Only one thing prevented Giles from throwing caution and modest civility to the four winds. In spite of his rising desire, he continued to suffer from another distracting sensation. It was centered mostly across his back and shoulders, but at times he swore could feel it moving throughout the rest of his body as well. In some ways it was almost painful. His muscles ached, as if being held captive under the surface of his flesh was something alien and wrong. He tried to ignore the discomfort, but it niggled at his very being, until with a frustrated growl, he gave in to the returning demand of the persistent itch, and began to rub his back up against the shower wall, seeking relief from his torment.
Panting, Giles blinked back the steamy droplets that weighed wet and heavy on his eyelashes. God, that felt good! Scrooching his shoulders across the slick, wet tile, he groaned at the combination of pain and bliss invoking stimulation. He scratched harder, his mind growing numb with the pleasure, his eyes squinted tightly shut against the pounding water flowing over his body. The need to satisfy the burning itch became overwhelming in its intensity, until it blotted out even the pain from his incessant rubbing. He never even noticed when his flesh began to rip, or when the rivulets of red began to flow down the wall behind him. His blood stained his feet, and swirled like liquid rubies as it rushed down the drain. Giles moaned, his mind consumed by the ecstasy echoing warmly within him as his muscles twitched and leapt, finally tearing through his flesh casing, bursting forth in their violent need to escape.
A strangled cry burbled from the Watcher’s clenched lips. His body trembled, as if wracked by some tremendous orgasm. But the relieved glow he was experiencing had not been brought about by any pleasurable release. It was agony that drove his pulse at such a heart pounding rhythm, that had made his blood boil in his veins with such heat. The pain ripped away at his soul, stripping him of his very humanity as it wrenched a raucous crow from deep in his throat. With a whimper, he convulsed against the wall, shivering in the aftermath of some strange and frightening climax, until at last, the moment passed, and he felt the world gradually returned to normal around him once again.
He wasn’t sure how long he had stood there, gasping for breath as his body hugged the shower wall. He became aware of a tentative knocking at the bathroom door, and a voice called out, awakening him from the clinging traces of his lethargic stupor.
“Giles? Are you alive in there?”
It was Buffy. Gathering his strength, Giles leaned forward, and stepped back under the shower’s direct spray.
“Yes,” he replied. The word had come out thick and unconvincing, and he harumphed, loudly clearing his throat before speaking again. “I’m fine, thank you.”
“Good. So...” She seemed to hesitate a moment. “Do you think you can hurry it along then? There’s a line starting out here. Other people have needs, too, you know.”
“I'll be out soon.”
Abrupt silence signaled an end to the conversation. Giles held his breath, listening, but he couldn’t tell if the slayer was still waiting outside the bathroom door, or if she had walked away. So much for uninterrupted solitude, he thought with an inward sigh. Turning back to his shower with a tired resolve, he allowed the hot water to wash down over him, enjoying a few last minutes alone before finally shutting down the flow, and pushing back the curtain to exit the tub.
The thick, terry bathmat felt soft beneath his feet. It drank up the moisture running from his body, absorbing it with thirsty gulps. Giles reached for a towel, and marveled at the discovery that, for the most part, the bulk of his aches and pains had faded away to near nothing. He was as free of discomfort as he was the objectional smelling substance that had caused it. All that remained of the torturous tar was a vague, general tingle that lingered on between his shoulders. It was a miraculous recovery indeed.
Inspired by his newly robust health, Giles felt the strains of a song begin to tease at his throat. The buoyant jubilation practically threatened to burst forth from its confinement, and for a moment, sanity prevailed, his stoic will-power tempering the urge. But then a devilish smile crept across his lips, and tossing aside all caution, he surrendered to the heady impulse, and throwing back his head, brazenly let loose with the harmonious modulations of a rocking and brassy tune.