Dear Lord, not again!
A wave of dumbfounded panic seized Giles. He was a demon. Only, this time, instead of the curved horns of a brutish Fyarl, the inhuman appendages in question were a pair of wings. With dazed rapture, the Englishman reached behind him to touch one of the feathery limbs. A dozen never-before-experienced sensations flooded his conscious being, overloading his brain with a tidal wash of information he was ill-prepared to process. As he ran a hand along a delicate length of bone, he felt strange new instincts suddenly possess him, his nerve endings firing off in a haunting familiarity. The tactile stimulation reached deep into some part of his primal memory, and touched off an involuntary fluttering that caused his wing to vibrate within his tentative grasp.
Shaking off the muting stupor that had gripped him, Giles swore. “Fan-bloody-tastic ” he grumbled, his tone heavy with his desperate exasperation. “Could this day possibly get any worse? If it isn’t the end of the world, it’s some other blasted deviltry.”
With a warbling sigh, the despairing Brit closed his eyes. Please let this be the dementia of some chemically induced hallucination, the calamitous side effect of that blasted magical tar playing tricks upon my mind, he silently prayed. But when he opened his eyes again, his image in the mirror remained unchanged, taunting him with the truth of its cruelty. He was still a demon.
His spirit sinking, Giles turned his back on the mirror and cast his eye glumly about the bathroom. That some magic was responsible for his transmutation seemed a painful given. Under most circumstances, that knowledge would make the solution to his problem an obvious and forgone conclusion. Reverse the spell, and he would become human again. Simple, only not. An impossible mountain of complications stood before him. There had been hundreds of ingredients on hand in the Magic Box, any endless combination of which may have been thrown into the spell’s mix. And even if he could somehow isolate those particular elements from the conglomerate of others, estimating their various proportions would be an insurmountable task. Add to that the multiple magics invoked simultaneously from several individuals with very independent thinking sources, and suddenly the possibility of any success dwindled from merely “non-existent” to “not a bloody chance in hell”.
As Giles gaze once again fell upon his reflection, he shuddered, and sighed. Like the some great bird, his wings flapped, fanning the air gently around him. With a distracted frown, he brushed his fingertips inquisitively through the orderly rows of quills, and teased the sensitive downy feathers growing beneath. No, he had to face the facts. He was looking at a seriously indefinite tenure as a citizen of otherworldly persuasion. But even that ambiguous fate paled next to the impossibility of his more immediate problem.
Just where on Earth was he going to find a dry change of clothing?
Crossing her legs, Dawn clamped them tightly against each other as she bounced anxiously at the edge of the sofa cushion. She had been waiting to use the bathroom since she came home from Janice’s house. To her disappointment, the others had informed her that Giles was taking a shower. She had sat down and joined in their conversation to help pass the time. But as the minutes accumulated, what had at first been a need quickly escalated toward potential disaster, and the young teen began to fidget impatiently, doing anything she could to keep her urgent little secret from “leaking” out.
“Giles has been up there for over an hour now,” she whined, catching her sibling’s gaze with a plaintive look. “I thought you said he was almost finished.”
“That’s what he told me,” Buffy returned with a diffident shrug.
“What’s taking him so long?” Dawn grumbled. She wriggled, and re-crossed her legs in the other direction. “I mean, he’s only Giles, not the top contender in some Mr. Clean competition.”
“Actually,” Xander informed the teen. “I’d say he was more in the running for the Vile Giles pageant. Definitely not the guy you’d be want to spend a night with in closed quarters.”
“He was pretty…ripe,” Tara said, a timorous giggle tripping from her tongue.
“Well, I hope he gets out of there soon,” Dawn whimpered, pouting piteously.
“What’s the matter, Dawnie,” Willow cheerily teased the anxious teen. “You and Janice try to drown all your homework sorrows drinking too many sodas?” The alarming glower Dawn shot back at her told the witch she had struck a sensitive nerve. Her chiding grin quickly fell away, and she fixed a sympathetic eye on her younger companion. “Sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Didn’t know what?” Buffy queried. She had seen something pass between the two girls, and in a moment of jealousy, felt the need to reassert her sibling bond. “What is it? Is something wrong, Dawn?”
“No,” the teen lied. Biting her lower lip, Dawn squirmed, trying to disguise her discomfort, but the attempted deception failed miserably. “Okay, okay ” she finally wailed, blurting out her mounting frustration. “I need to use the bathroom, all right? And, as in really soon, or we’re all going to be sitting in a flood of sorry.”
Stifling a snicker, Buffy watched her younger sister writhe in a spasm of distress Dawn herself had once dubbed ‘The Wee-Wee Twist’. “Think you can hang-on a little longer?” the blonde slayer grinned. “Giles should be down any minute now. And if he’s not, I promise, I’ll march right up there and drag him out of that bathroom, even if I have to make Xander do it myself.”
Hearing his name, Xander's head snapped up in alarm.
“Hey How come I get stuck with the raw end of the deal?” he demanded. His features scowled with disgusted protest as he confronted the petite blonde sitting on the sofa across from him. “You’re the one with the slayer powers. Why don’t you drag him out?”
“Xander, you’re the only guy here,” Buffy replied. “And being the only guy, you’re automatically elected to cover all naked Giles duties. And I do mean cover, as in the figurative sense as well as the literal,” she emphatically enjoined. “The last thing these eyes want to see is a Giles in the buff.”
“Believe me, it’s not the kind of scene that rates high on my list of fantasies either,” Xander grumbled sardonically.
“That’s true,” his girlfriend affirmed. Sitting forward in her chair, she spike with a blatant directness that belied any thought of confidence. “Xander shares all of his sexual fantasies with me, and so far none have involved Giles. Though, there was that one dream you had,” she continued, frowning reflectively at the dark-haired youth sitting at her feet. “You know, the one with the cute little singing mice and the hot tub full of cherry jello -”
“Ahn ” Xander’s vehement exclamation brought the ex-demon’s dialogue to a sudden halt. His cheeks darkening in a crimson-tinged burn, Xander flashed a self-effacing apologetic grin at his companions before turning back to his girlfriend. “Remember that talk we had a while back?” he hissed pointedly between clenched, smiling teeth. “You know, the one where you agreed to never repeat certain things unless forced to do so under the dire threat of your impending death? Well, not seeing the dire here,” he admonished with a surly mutter.
“Well, you don’t need to get so upset about it,” Anya groused back petulantly in defense. “Everyone here knows Giles would never do any of those things with us. At least, I don’t think he would,” she said, frowning contemplatively. “Anyway, the jello would never stay set long enough once you put it in such a warm place, so that whole thing where we’re all bouncing on the-”
“What say we give Giles another five minutes,” Buffy suggested, jumping into the conversation with a timely interruption. “That is, if you think you can hold it together that long,” she prompted a fidgeting Dawn.
The young teen grimaced. She obviously wasn’t happy about having to wait, but she nodded a grudging acquiescence to the proposal.
“I guess I can survive another five minutes,” Dawn sighed ruefully. “But, that’s all Giles gets. Not one second more If he’s not out of that bathroom by then, I’m avowing all responsibility for anything that happens.”
“You got yourself a deal,” the slayer chuckled.
Shooting his blonde companion a grateful look, Xander mouthed a silent thank you. The annoyed glare Anya threw at the slayer was far less friendly, but Buffy tactfully chose to ignore the ex-demon’s disgruntled rumblings, and with a chipper smile, hopped to her feet.
“So ” she announced, starting toward the kitchen. “Who else is up for some popcorn?”
It seemed a simple enough problem, and the solution, at least as far as Giles saw it, should be just as straightforward. Somehow, he had to make his way from the bathroom on the second floor, to the small room just off the kitchen where he’d stashed the suitcase containing his clothes, all this while naked and remaining unnoticed by a half-dozen people moving about the house. Another possibility involved an excursion to the basement. He had thrown some things in the laundry earlier that day, and they were still in the dryer. Either way, getting by the others would be tricky business, and Giles scowled as he contemplated what he should do.
Glancing downward, Giles noted the damp towel he had discarded earlier. It wasn’t much, but it would certainly do for a start. Retrieving the damp rumple, he wrapped it tightly around his waist, tucking in the loose ends like a terry sarong. It did nothing to hide the huge wings growing so conspicuously out of his back, but it did manage to restore at least a modicum of his compromised modesty.
Leaving his glasses behind on the sink (he didn’t have a pocket in which to put them, and not having a spare pair at hand, he certainly didn’t want to risk breaking them), Giles stealthily approached the bathroom door, and opened it a crack to survey the hallway outside. It was fortuitously empty. Downstairs, he could hear voices talking, and by listening carefully, he was able to ascertain the whereabouts of each of his companions.
Xander was the most obvious. Raucous and talkative, the youth filled the living room below with his non-stop commentary, and he was loud enough that Giles had no trouble understanding every word he spoke. Anya’s distinctive repining was almost as audible, and never strayed far from her boyfriend’s side. Dawn had apparently arrived home at some point. Giles could detect her distinctive whining lament as it filled out the occasional gaps in the ongoing conversation, and he unconsciously breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Buffy could at last stop worrying about her sister being out and about.
Tara’s location proved more difficult for the Brit to pinpoint. The Wiccan’s demure and unassertive tones were nearly overshadowed by the more boisterous cacophony of her peers, but eventually he heard her, there, in the living room with the others, her shy murmurs creating the quieter moments in an otherwise noisy discourse.
Noticeably absent from the living room debates, however, were Willow and Buffy. The distant beep of the microwave in the kitchen, and the wafting scent of fresh made popcorn soon offered a solution to that riddle. The two girls’ bubbling chatter gradually drifted back toward the living room, merging with the others there, and satisfied, Giles cautiously pushed the bathroom door open, moving quietly out into the hall.
During her initial years as The Chosen One, and long before her mother had become aware of her special calling, Buffy had made mention how on several occasions she had used the windows in her bedroom to sneak out of the house. It was Giles’ plan to use that very same egress to make his escape. He would slide down the inclined roof outside, and after dropping to the ground below, circle around the house, slipping into the basement through one of the narrow windows. At that point, it was a simple matter of finding something to wear. Then he could crawl back out through the window, and slink off into the night without having anyone be the wiser about his “condition”. Later, he would give Buffy a ring, and let her know that nothing untoward had befallen him. After all, it wasn’t his intention to cause anyone undue concern.
With hurried footsteps, Giles crept on tip-toe down the empty hallway and entered the slayer’s bedroom domain. The room was dark, and as he crossed toward the twin windows overlooking the front yard, his bare feet padding quietly through the plush carpeting. He was struck by how much his surroundings smelled like the girl that slept there. Buffy’s distinctive scent seemed to fill the room with its cloying heaviness. Now, that is strange, Giles thought, frowning. I’d never noticed before that Buffy had a smell. Well, except, perhaps, on those few occasions when she was close enough that her shampoo or soap became impossible to ignore. But, this… Giles inhaled, drinking in the wondrous heady aroma. Oh, this is something much more delightful than some ersatz-fruited scent from a bottle. This was real. Yes, this was Buffy herself he was smelling, pure and earthy, and tantalizingly irresistible.
Giles sniffed, his nose instinctively following the trail to its greatest source of concentration, the slayer’s bed. Leaning down, he pulled back the sheets and let his olfactory senses explore the exposed sheets and pillow. An unseen treasure trove of odors assailed his nostrils. The elusive scent was most compelling, and he grinned, drinking in the multi-layered overtones of perfumes and body odors. The overwhelming force of Buffy’s presence swept through his very being, his brain almost reeling in absolute rapture. He felt himself infused with an animal-like compulsion to roll in the sheets, to rub his body in the wonderful bouquet so that he could carry it away with him. Mmmm, or better yet, the Brit chuckled, a lurid grin creasing his features. A good roll with sweet Buffy herself. Now, there’s a lovely thought. The slayer, naked and panting, writhing deliciously beneath as…
Straightening upright, Giles jumped back in horror, his heart pounding with frantic guilt. Where the bloody hell had that come from? Shaking his head, he attempted to dismiss the lascivious thoughts tainting him with their treachery, but the damage had already been done. He recoiled from the bed, knowing full well why the lingering scent in the sheets had been so appealing. It was Buffy, all right. Her very essence. It was the smell of her womanliness, or, more specifically, her sex.
“Well, apparently there are bits of you that haven’t gone completely demon,” Giles grumbled aloud in a whispered hiss. He stared down at the untidy bed, and was overcome by a moment of shamed remorse. How could he even think such a thing about Buffy? About his slayer? “Because you’re a bleedin’ pervert, ‘s why,” he snarled at himself in reproach. “God, help me, I shouldn’t want her. Not like that!”
Tucking the sheets back into place, Giles hurriedly erased any evidence that he had been in the room before quickly departing the scene of his near undoing. Scurrying over to the window, he put his hands to the lower sash, and with a firm, upward push, pried it open. He was anxious to be on his way, but as he stuck his head outside to survey the landscape before him, Giles found himself hit by doubt as he pondered the feasibility of his so-called ingenious escape plan.
There was a nearly full moon in the night sky overhead. The pale round disk illuminated the grassy expanse that stretched out below him. Its silvery touch glazed every tree and shrub with an enchanting, faerie-like beauty. But it wasn’t the magical splendor of the layout that set Giles’ heart to pounding so furiously. It was the distance between himself and his goal. The ground suddenly seemed impossibly far below, and from his vantage point at the window, it looked quite inaccessible. But there was no other way out, so taking a deep breath, he gathered his courage, and lifting a leg over the low sill, Giles stepped out onto the porch roof before him.
The granular shingles beneath his bare feet were gritty and still warm from the day’s heat. Crouching low close to the roof line, the Watcher cautiously inched his way down the gradual incline, creeping toward its lowest edge. His arms stretched outward, leveling his balance as he shuffled along, one foot in front of the other. His bare soles afforded a slight measure of traction on the perilous surface, but he proceeded slowly nonetheless, so as to avoid any chance of falling.
Several long minutes later he found himself poised at the porch roof’s edge. All he had to do was drop the dozen or so feet to the ground below, and the worst of his journey would be over. As Giles steeled his courage for the jump before him, he heard the crisp rustle of leaves stirring in the trees around him. At moment later, a faint breeze teased gently across his face, the invisible caress running freely through his shaggy locks.
A strange spasm of muscles suddenly awakened throughout Giles’ body. As the wind touched his wings, a delicious shiver of anticipation ran between his shoulders, and he could feel his excitement rise. Acting under some instinctual prompt, the wings at his back suddenly unfolded. The damp feathers ruffled lazily in the stray breeze, the errant limbs tensing with an almost palpable expectation. Giles fought down a wave of bitter panic in his belly, his pulse quickening as a dog barked in one of the yards nearby. The sound left him momentarily distracted, and unprepared when the wind’s shear suddenly intensified in its force, bursting around him in a violent gust that pulled his wings open and swept him off of his footing.
With a startled screech the Watcher tilted his arms in the air like an insane windmill as he teetered precariously at the edge of the porch roof. A loud, heavy flapping battered at his back, his wings desperately trying to re-establish his balance. The effort, however, was both too little and too late. Plunging forward, Giles winced as the ground swelled up from below to meet him. With heart wrenching speed, his body plummeted to the lawn, smacking so hard that the wind whooshed from his lungs and he was knocked unconscious as he landed.