“Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Dawn asked.
The younger Summers frowned, annoyed by her sibling’s rude interruption. Arriving home only minutes ago, she had been relating what she felt was a compelling and very amusing story that explained her tardy appearance, when Buffy, in typical over-dramatic slayer fashion, had stolen away her audience.
“That,” Buffy pouted, sitting forward on the edge of the sofa. She could hear a noise coming from upstairs. It sounded like… No, it couldn’t be!
“It’s Giles ” Willow announced with a delighted giggle. “He’s singing!”
Buffy blanched, her expression registering something akin to dread. “Giles?” she gulped, wincing in mental anguish. “Singing?”
She wanted to say more, to voice her profound disapproval of the ridiculous concept. How could her Watcher inflict such a hideous torture upon them? But somehow, she couldn’t bring herself to throw out the insult. In fact, as she continued to listen to the Brit’s rapturous uninhibited crooning, she found herself thinking that Giles had a surprisingly nice voice. It was only his outdated selection of lyrics that she decided should be called into question.
Apparently, this one time at least, Dawn exhibited a complete reconcilement with her older sister’s opinion. “What is he singing?” the teen asked, her lips pursing in a disdainful, crooked grimace.
“I think it’s ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’,” Tara replied. She concentrated thoughtfully on the ceiling overhead, listening to the tune. A smile slipped over her face. Feeling the curious looks of the others upon her, she blushed, shrugging apologetically, as if possessing knowledge that the others lacked was somehow shameful. “My mother used to like Procol Harum,” she explained.
“Who’s he?” Dawn prompted blankly.
“Actually, he’s a them,” Tara gently corrected the young teen. “They’re a group from back in the Seventies. Or, maybe it was the Sixties,” she thoughtfully amended.
“That sounds right up Giles' era,” Xander retorted with an amiable smirk. He chortled as the Brit continued his song, belting out another soulfully executed verse. “Man, Giles sure can ‘trip the light fandango’. I bet he’s up there just a rockin’ and a shakin’ his old groove thang all over the place.”
“Uggh, please ” Buffy groaned, her body convulsing in an exaggerated shudder. “You could have spared me that image.”
The others responded with a round of appreciative laughter, voicing their concurrence. Giles’ terpsichorean abilities, given his age and background, were something which they could only imagine as suspect at best. Only Anya held back from their raucous solidity of hysteria, a fact that didn’t pass unnoticed by her boyfriend.
“What?” Xander challenged, frowning curiously at the ex-demon. Anya was smiling, and an alarming twinkle danced wistfully in her eyes.
“Oh, nothing,” she sighed. She leaned an elbow on the arm of her chair, dismissing whatever thought had preoccupied her with a casual wave of her arm. The strange smile stayed, however, and refused to fade in its intensity.
“That is not a nothing face,” Xander accused, goading the girl to share her private reflections. “It’s definitely a something face. Come on, Ahn. Give.”
“Well, I was thinking...” Anya sighed, pausing briefly before continuing her narrative. “It’s a thing that we all do on occasion,” Xander quipped, grinning at his own observation. “But, please. Go on.”
Sitting up, Anya leaned forward, her face lit with excitement as she included the others in the revelation she was about to impart. “Have you ever looked at Giles’ butt?”
“Can’t say that I have,” Willow replied, choking back an astonished hiccup. She looked nervously toward Tara. The blonde witch was staring at Anya in stunned silence. On the sofa beside her, Buffy and Dawn gaped with mirrored expressions of wide-eyed bewilderment.
“Ewwww ” Dawn finally managed to retort. Her freckled face screwed into a contorted mask of repulsion. “Why would anyone want to look at Giles’ butt?”
“My sentiments, exactly,” Xander quickly enjoined, his own distaste for the idea registering strongly on his features.
“If you had bothered to look, you wouldn’t be asking that question,” Anya scowled at her peers. “It just so happens that Giles has a very nice butt. It’s firm, attractively shaped, and extremely well proportioned. Plus, he has these tight, round muscles that -”
“Whoa, there ” Xander vehemently motioned his hands for a time out. He gaped in disbelief at his girlfriend, his jealousy swiftly rising to surmount his appalled horror. “Are you saying you’ve actually checked out Giles’ butt?” he demanded. “When?”
“Oh, I do it all the time,” Anya returned with a casual aplomb. It was obvious she saw nothing wrong with taking such interest in her boss. “The retail business is quite physically challenging. Not to mention, very sexy. All that bending over, and stretching up to reach for things.” Her eyes took on a far away, dreamy expression, her lips tugging back in a smile. “When Giles lifts something really heavy, he always takes his jacket off first. He says it’s to allow for greater mobility. I just know that when he leans down, his pants pull up against -”
She stopped in mid-sentence to frown at her obviously unappreciative audience. “You don’t have to look so disgusted,” Anya snorted in protest. “Giles is a man. One, I might add, who is remarkably preserved and fit for his advanced years. Just ask Buffy. She knows what I’m talking about.”
“I do?” the slayer queried, looking lost and confused.
“Of course you do,” Anya countered with mild annoyance. “You should know Giles’ body better than any of the rest of us. I mean, you two are always rolling around on the floor, pressing your bodies together, getting all sweaty wrestling and stuff.” The ex-demon sighed, pouting at the other girl’s lack of affirmation. “Oh, come on,” she grumbled curtly. “Don’t tell me you never noticed how robust he is when you were putting your moves on him.”
“First,” Buffy rebutted, her denial ringing with the fury of someone unconscionably insulted. “I have never ever, and I can not stress this strongly enough, ‘put moves’ of any kind on Giles. Nor is there any ‘pressing’, or ‘sweating’, or-or other…‘stuff’ going on between us. Well, okay, maybe there’s some sweat,” she conceded with meek reluctance. “And-and we do wrestle...on occasion. But only in a no touching way,” she emphatically declared, her eyes blazing, making sure they understood. “With Giles, it’s strictly training. Nothing else. Anyway,” she shrugged, offhandedly dismissing the issue. “Giles probably never even thinks about that kind of stuff anymore. Not at his age.”
“Right,” Anya smirked knowingly, as if she were party to some unspoken secret. “Believe me, men never stop thinking about ‘it’. Even men like Giles. He especially thinks about it whenever Ms. ‘Hotsy Totsy Can You Tell I’m Not Wearing Anything Under This Dress’ drops by the shop to flim-flam him out of another ten percent discount.”
“You mean Mrs. Lambert?” Tara inquired curiously. Turning to Willow, she reinterpreted the ex-demon’s description. “You know her. She’s the lady that buys all that angel stuff.”
“Oh! You mean that hippy-dippy brunette with the…” The red head made a gesture over her chest that could easily have served as the universal sigh language for an amply proportioned bosom. Nodding, Tara blushed a bight pink. “She is pretty sexy,” Willow chuckled agreeably. “In a kinda crunchy all natural granola sort of way.”
“Mrs. Lambert?” Dawn echoed. The teen’s voice crackled with disdain at the idea of two older people linked in some tainted romantic tryst. “As in, she’s a married woman?”
“Actually, she’s a widow, or so she told me,” Tara replied, setting the troubled teen's mind at ease. “Anyway, I’m not so sure Giles was interested in her. At least, not in ‘that’ way. He’s just friendly to her because she’s such a good customer.”
“Yes, he makes a point of flirting with all our best customers,” Anya agreed, her tone cloying with sarcastic insincerity.
“Mr. Freeze flirts?” Xander cackled in hysterical astonishment at the unlikely thought of the Watcher responding in anything but his usual, stoic demeanor. The ridiculous notion was enough to make him forget his earlier jealously. “Way to go, Giles ”
“No No go, Giles ” Buffy protested in a panicked whine. “Oh, especially, don’t go there.” “I second that emotion,” Dawn quickly chimed in after, her hand shooting up to signal a vote of agreement.
“Fine. You people think what you want,” Anya sniffed as she settled back into her chair, her unwavering resolve lingering on in her smoldering eyes. “It doesn’t change the fact that Giles has a tight, sexy butt. And you’d think so, too, if you just bothered to take a look at it.”
“Well, that ain’t ever gonna happen. Not with these eyes,” Buffy emphatically vowed.
The ex-vengeance demon merely returned a sly smile. With both sides having reached an impasse, the argument swiftly dwindled to an inevitable close. In the absence of any continued conflict, the room fell quiet, and the distant tones of the Watcher’s exuberant serenade once again began to echo throughout the house .
Wrapped in the thirsty warmth of a towel, Giles grinned, his body shimmying in a release of unconstrained effervescence. He was in exceedingly high spirits. The relief of having survived his recent perilous encounter with one of the Hellmouth’s more dastardly denizens provided a positive spin to his good humor, as did, he suspected, a few possible mood altering ingredients included within the mysterious goo that had covered his body. A feeling of euphoric elation permeated his disposition, and he found the effect to be almost intoxicating in its intensity.
With a deep sigh, Giles rocked back on his heels, reaching behind himself with the towel to buff his bare back. The rough terry surface scratched deliciously over his shoulder blades, awakening the residual itch left behind by the tar. Crawling at the surface of his skin, the strange tactile impression felt like hundreds of tickling feathers. Grunting, he flexed his muscles, but the irritation only grew worse, swiftly escalating to a bothersome annoyance as he rubbed harder with the towel.
“What the -?”
Giles gasped, his jaw dropping in shocked disbelief. The bath mat at his feet was covered in hair. His hair. His mind reeling, he dropped his towel, and ripping back the shower curtain, looked into the tub. To his horror, the floor was thickly littered with hair, great clumps of it. The strands clung to the sides of the tub, and gathered in an unruly, tangled mass around the drain opening.
His heart pounding in his throat, Giles stared at the snarled mess before him. There was no doubt. It was his hair. With trembling trepidation, he looked down to regarded his naked body. Not a single solitary hair anywhere graced his smoothly denuded flesh. Not on his chest, his arms, or his legs. It was all gone. He was completely and utterly bald from foot to head. Even his pubic hair had seemingly vanished, a fact that for some reason filled him with disturbing unease.
As he pondered the strange phenomenon of his bodily deforestation, a new terror seized Giles’ thoughts. With a vanity inspired dread, his hands flew to his scalp. To his surprise and great relief, he discovered that the tousled shock on his head had remained miraculously intact, and with a silent prayer to the Powers That Be, the Englishman breathed a heavy sigh of thanks.
Combing a hand slowly through his hair, Giles pondered the unusual affliction that had stuck him. It was possible that something in the tar had acted like a chemical depilatory. Given time, his hair would probably all grow back in again. Still, it didn’t explain why his scalp had remained unaffected. There had been just as much goo plastered there as there had been anywhere else on his body. This was a strange development indeed. In fact...
Giles frowned, his fingers twisting through the damp strands of his hair. If he were to trust the judgement of his touch, the mop on his head actually felt thicker than he remembered. Much thicker. And...longer? Impossible! Holding his breath, the puzzled Watcher raked his fingertips through the long, dripping strands of his mane. The unbelievable tresses fell in veritable waves, sweeping back behind his ears, extending down to brush his shoulders in a luxurious cascade of shaggy splendor.
A very pleased smile found its way across Giles’ face. He hadn’t had a head of hair like this for years. With a deep chuckle, he teased back a thick lock that had fallen across his face. It was amazing, and yet, at the same time, very unsettling. He could only surmise that whatever capricious creature of fate had been responsible for removing the hair on his body had compensated for the loss by readjusting the balance to his head.
Dozens of troubling questions flittered through Giles’ head. This was all very strange. Snatching up his discarded glassed, he stepped over the towel lying on the floor, and made his way toward the mirror hanging over the bathroom sink. He braced his hands atop the lavatory bowl, his heart racing as he eagerly peered into the silvered glass. The incredible vision reflected back before him all but took his breath away. It was a sight both reassuringly familiar, and yet, different beyond fathomable belief. His hair was every bit as gloriously healthy and beautiful as he had imagined. There was still a prodigious amount of silvering among the curls at his temples, but he certainly had no complaints about anything else that he could see.
Giggling gleefully, Giles swiped a hand across the mirror, clearing the steamy moisture from its surface. Once again, his eyes widened in astonishment. His eyes, his nose, his mouth - they were all as they should be – except...he gulped, unable to believe what he saw there before him. He was young! Well, younger looking, at any rate. Shadowed cheekbones framed an astonished gaze that was devoid of the crinkled furrows he had grown accustomed to over the last decade. His crow’s feet had been smoothed into true laugh lines. Even the deeply etched character lines acquired in his advancing years had lessened in their refinement, giving him the appearance of someone closer to thirty years of age, rather than the fifty milestone he was actually approaching.
Raising a hand, the Englishman gingerly touched his face. The skin beneath his fingertips felt smooth, and was as perfectly unblemished as that of a youthful woman’s pampered complexion. And his body? Expanding his scope of vision, Giles eagerly took in the chiseled form of his torso with its broad shoulders, hard belly and narrow waist. He hadn’t looked this fit in years. Every inch of his flesh was sculpted into a well-toned athletic symmetry. Not that he had ever been one to neglect his health. The responsibility of training a young slayer had provided him with ample opportunity for vigorous exercise, but it had become more difficult to maintain his physique as time began to exact its toll, adding the odd unwanted inch added here and there. As his physical endurance slowly waned with his years, he was often left tired and feeling the accumulative aches and pains of his age. Many was the night he crawled into bed, nursing his battered bones, grateful to have made it through yet another day. But now, that was all changed. With his newly infused look of youthfulness, Giles could sense a tremendous surging of energy within him as well. It coursed through his blood, delivering an ardent zest for life that was impossible to ignore.
Like a hormone inebriated teen infatuated with the burgeoning developments in his body, Giles grinned and apprised his body. There was firm definition in his biceps and pectorals. Flat, sinuous bands of muscles complimented a ‘six-pack” of rippling hard abdominal muscles. Long, lean legs rivaling the supple limbs of a seasoned ballet dancer looked almost sculpted in their shapely perfection. And then there was his slender waist, the broad, swimmer-like shoulders, and what had to be the most impressive pair of wings he had ever seen…
Giles blinked. His heart did a thunderous flip-flop, and then stopped dead in his breast. If what he had seen up until that moment had been unbelievable, the specter reflected in the glass before him could only be described as staggering. For there, angling out from behind his back, spread wide in a reveal of feathered avian glory were two wings of simply enormous majesty.
And those wings were attached...to him!