When Buffy woke up the next morning, she couldn’t find Giles anywhere in the house. Normally, that wouldn’t have alarmed her. Giles was an early riser, and had been known to go out jogging before breakfast. What did worry her, however, was that the couch and coffee table were still cluttered with evidence of the previous evening’s research efforts, and that the sheets Giles had been using to sleep in were neatly folded and cool to the touch, as if they hadn’t been used.
She was in the kitchen, pondering these facts as she fixed a batch of scrambled eggs for Dawn’s breakfast, when Tara wandered into the room.
“Morning,” Tara enjoined, a bright and cheerful grin on her face.
“Mmmm,” was Buffy’s distracted answer.
The tawny haired wiccan approached her companion, her expression exhibiting concern. “Is everything okay? You seem...upset.”
“No, not upset,” Buffy quickly assured her friend. “Just, well, I don’t know. Worried, I guess.”
“About Giles?” Tara flashed a tiny, sympathetic smile. “I wouldn’t worry too much about Giles. Last night might have been a little disappointing for him, but he understands about these things. He knows we’ll eventually find a spell that’ll fix him.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about. Well, yeah, maybe it’s that, too,” the slayer frowned. “Giles being a demon is kinda weird, don’t you think?”
“He’s still Giles, though,” Tara reminded the other girl. “It’s not like he’s evil and gone over to the dark side or anything.”
“Not yet,” Buffy tentatively agreed.
“Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” Tara perceptively empathized. “There’s something about Giles that’s bothering you, something more than him being a demon.”
“It’s just...” Buffy sighed, her hand momentarily neglecting the eggs in the bowl before her. “He’s acting different. UnGiles-y.”
Tara giggled. “You mean the sex talk.”
With a sigh of disgust, Buffy resumed beating her eggs with a wire whisk. “It’s wrong, I tell you. Giles isn’t supposed to say those things.”
“Maybe something about being a demon has loosened his inhibitions,” Tara surmised. “He was kinda casual with only wearing a towel, and he’s usually very careful about being dressed right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that...exposed.”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Buffy retorted with a shake of her whisk. “He’s all bold, and sassy, and he flirts...and he’s got horrible potty mouth! It’s just wrong, I tell you. Wrong!”
“It is...different,” Tara admitted. “But it’s not the end of the world.”
“No, it’s worse. I want Giles to be Giles again. I need him. We need him,” she quickly corrected herself. “Me and Dawn.”
“Present!” sang out a voice from the kitchen doorway.
Dawn waltzed into the room, her long hair bouncing along with every step she took. Sauntering up to her sister’s side, she peered down into the bowl before her.
“Whatcha makin’?” the teen asked.
“Oh.” Dawn’s frown showed her disappointment. “We always have scrambled eggs. Why don’t we ever have fried eggs? They’re my favorites.”
“We have scrambled ‘cause the eggs broke when I was trying to crack them,” Buffy patiently explained.
“Mom knew how to crack the eggs. And they always came out perfect when she fried them. The yellow was never too runny, with just a little bit of dippy for the toast. And the white part got this yummy crunchy golden stuff on the edges.”
“Well, Mom didn’t have to deal with slayer fingers that break stuff wrong, so we’re eating scrambled.”
Tara listened to the two sisters banter back and forth for several minutes on the merits of egg cooking. As breakfast preparations advanced onto the next stage at the stove, the fourth and final female of the house finally put in her appearance. Willow joined the other girls, and the quartet quickly fell into a comfortable working rhythm. In no time, breakfast was on the table and they were eating.
Conversation naturally settled on the one missing member of the household. Buffy ventured her concerns that Giles had gone out the night before, citing the evidence of his undisturbed sheets. No one could come up with a plausible explanation as to where the Brit might have gone, but they all agreed that Giles was capable of taking care of himself, and he probably wasn’t in any real danger.
They finished up their meal. As Buffy cleared the table, Dawn grabbed her books and homework, and hurrying out the door, rushed off to school, leaving the clean up to those with more time. Neither Willow nor Tara had any morning classes, so the three girls each fixed a mug of herbal tea, and taking their beverages to the living room, they sat down to start in on the day’s research.
It was nearly ten o’clock when they heard the front door open. Looking up at the noise, the three women watched in shock as Giles snuck into the foyer.
“Where have you been?” Buffy huffily greeted her Watcher.
Startled, Giles spun around.
The first thing Buffy noticed was that the Brit looked disheveled and rumpled, as if he’d gotten dressed in the dark, or in a big hurry. He was wearing his outfit from the day before, but the pants now sported a torn knee, and the sweater was marred with several red stains round the collar. The long, feathered tips of his wings stuck out from the back hem of his sweater, and twitched and fluttered with tiny, spastic movements, like two unruly children refusing to stay put. And on Giles’ face were more traces of red, and what Buffy could only interpret as an expression of unmistakable guilt.
“Is that blood?” The slayer’s gaze was riveted on a ruby colored smear gracing the Watcher’s chin. Setting aside her book, she scurried across the room to have a closer look at the damage.
“It-it’s nothing,” Giles replied, dismissing Buffy’s concern. He winced as she touched his jaw, and began tilting his head to scrutinize his battered features. “Simply a few small scratches. That’s all.”
“Uh-huh. And that?” Buffy pointed out a spot on his forehead where the skin looked unusually raw.
Clucking her tongue, Buffy squinted and surveyed several suspicious looking purple patches. “Those are bruises,” she announced, her voice ringing with a definite edge of reproach.
“Possibly,” the Watcher contritely admitted, dropping his gaze submissively before the frowning slayer.
“I’d definitely say they’re bruises,” Tara corrected. The blonde wiccan and Willow had joined the pair in the foyer, and were obviously concerned by his combat-scarred condition.
“God, Giles, what happened to you? You look like you got caught in a bar room brawl,” Buffy scolded the Watcher.
“Yeah,” Willow added. “And it doesn’t look like you won.”
“But, I did!” the Englishman proudly announced, his face breaking out in a wide, rakish grin.
The three girls looked at each other, then turned their disapproving glares as one on the Watcher. Giles cringed, nervously retreating under the visual barrage. Sensing any further discussion of the matter would only aggravate his already precarious position, he began to back away, brushing past the trio to head for the stairs. He had managed to get as far as the second step when Buffy grabbed at his shirt and stopped him, pulling him back down to the foyer with a firm hand.
“Not so fast there, mister,” she grumbled, turning the Watcher to face her haughty glower. “I think someone here has some explaining to do. Why don’t we start with why you left me sitting here at home, worrying about you, while you went out to pick a fight in some sleazy bar?”
With a sigh, Giles leveled a look of weary patience on his slayer. “For the sake of setting the argument straight, I was not the one responsible for starting the fight. I merely an...interested participant.”
“Sorry, Giles. That’s just not going to cut it,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “What were you doing in a bar anyway?”
“I decided to go out for a drink.”
“A drink?” She echoed the word with disbelief, her face darkening with a scowl. “What? My water isn’t good enough for you?”
“What I was interested in drinking was a little stronger than water.”
“You mean alcohol,” she retorted sharply. Her contemptuous snort obviously said his answer had not pleased her. “Giles, after all of yesterday’s craziness, how could you even think about sneaking out to booze it up?”
“I don’t know,” the Watcher sarcastically sneered in reply. “Perhaps it was because of all the craziness. For God’s sake, Buffy. I had my life and limb threatened by a psychotic sorcerer, was nearly flattened by the means of my own livelihood, and turned into a demon. I’d think that was reason enough for any man to go out and get himself royally pissed.”
“But...you’re not any man, you’re Giles!” the slayer pouted in protest.
“And yet, as difficult as it may be for you to believe, I happen to be a person, too, Buffy.”
“No you’re not.” Bated by his dour frown she explained. “You just said so yourself, you’re a demon. And demons have no right going to bars.”
“If it makes you feel any better, it was a demon bar,” Giles returned.
“You were in a demon bar?” Apparently the announcement didn’t help his argument any. “You were in a demon bar? Fighting? With other demons?”
“Considering my present condition, I hardly thought an establishment populated with curious humans an appropriate place to seek a drink.”
“But...a demon bar?” she keened, refusing to acquiesce.
“No! No, you don’t get to Buffy me,” she snapped back, wagging an irritated finger at the Brit. “I mean, God, Giles, did you even think about what you were doing? What would have happened if someone you knew had been in that bar? Or something you knew? Or something I knew? You could have got yourself killed. Or worse!”
“Well, none of that happened, and I managed to get myself back here in one piece, more or less. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m tired, and feeling a bit grotty. I’d like to shower.”
Grudgingly releasing her Watcher from the inquisition, Buffy crossed her arms and gave him a stern look.
“Well, okay,” she frowned. “But you and I are going to have a talk when you’re done, mister.”
Giles grunted, and before the slayer had a chance to change her mind, he turned and escaped up the stairs. As he hurriedly retreated down the second floor hall, the three girls stood shaking their heads after him in silent wonder.
“Can you believe that?” Buffy fumed. Leading the way back to the living room, she flopped down on one corner of the sofa, leaving a generous space beside her for her two friends. “Giles lied to me. He was supposed to be in bed. But instead, he traipses off to some skanky demon bar. In the middle of the night!”
“Maybe it was a nice demon bar,” Willow diplomatically offered.
“It was open at two o’clock in the morning,” Buffy groused in return. “And they apparently have fights there. And demons. Trust me, Will, it’s a sleazy bar.”
“At least he didn’t stay there all night,” the red head shrugged, taking the seat next to her friend. A strange look crossed the slayer’s face. “What do you mean?”
Willow hesitated, realizing that she probably shouldn’t say any more.
“Don’t you hold out on me,” Buffy pleaded brusquely. “If you know something...”
“It’s not so much that I know anything,” Willow hemmed apprehensively. “Its...” Making room for Tara, she shifted closer to Buffy, and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “I think that some of the red stuff on Giles’ shirt might not have been blood.”
“You think it looked like lipstick, too?” Tara asked.
“Lipstick?” The slayer incredulously repeated, her mind reeling at this new revelation. “You-You can’t think...Giles couldn’t have...he-he was with a-a woman?”
Buffy wasn’t sure how much more of this she could take. Her brain was in overload, refusing to absorb the unthinkable. Giles. Fighting. Drunk. And with a woman! No matter how she added it all up, it came out bad.
“But...” she groaned, unable to accept the obvious conclusion. “Giles doesn’t know any women.”
“Maybe it was someone he met last night,” Tara said.
She had offered the words to soothe the slayer’s growing distress, but the information had a completely different effect.
“I bet she was some floozy,” Buffy rankled, her teeth practically gnashing as her temper quickly heated. “You know the kind. Tawdry, and painted up like a cheap Lady of the One Night Stand. The ho’ probably spends all her time hanging around in bars, waiting for some desperate older guy with a few bucks to buy her a drink. When she saw Giles, she had him pegged for an easy mark. When she tried to ply him with her womanly wiles, he resisted, and she got all huffy and incensed. Then her Neanderthal boyfriend with the greasy hair and the rose heart tattoo, who’d had too much to drink, picked a fight with Giles. And that’s how he got those bruises.”
Willow regarded her friend with a skeptical frown. “I suppose that’s one way it could have happened.”
“What other explanation is there?” Buffy demanded, her defensive glower daring the two girls to contradict her.
“I don’t know,” Tara timidly replied. “It’s...Giles is pretty smart, and I guess I have trouble imagining him as the type easily taken in by anyone’s wiles.”
“Well, his dating track record hasn’t exactly been the greatest,” Willow conceded, siding reluctantly with her slayer companion’s assessment. “Sometimes Giles can be kinda clueless about that sort of stuff. I mean, it’s not like he’s had a lot of experience with women. At least, not lately he hasn’t.”
“I know you said he and his friend Olivia had a parting of ways,” Tara frowned. “But don’t you think it was because of the extenuating circumstances involved?”
“You mean The Gentlemen?” Willow asked, continuing with Tara’s reference.
Buffy snarled. She remembered the particular circumstances in question with painful clarity. A group of creepy, mine-like demon men had moved into Sunnydale, and after stealing everyone’s voices, they set about cutting out people’s hearts for souvenirs. Since no one could talk, or scream for help, the townsfolk were pretty much captive targets for the demented monster mob.
Olivia, a friend and sometimes paramour of Giles’ from his earlier days, was in Sunnydale paying the Watcher a visit at the time. She had seen and experienced things that had left her considerably shaken, and even though Buffy had defeated The Gentlemen, restoring order, and the gift of sound to her fellow Hellmouth citizens, the young woman had left Sunnydale, never to return, and as far as Buffy could determine, hadn’t contacted Giles since.
“Yeah, well, The Gentlemen were only the latest chapter in the short story of Giles’ excuse for a love life,” Buffy blithely explained to the tawny-haired wiccan. “In all the time I’ve know him, Giles has dated only three women. First there was Jenny,” she said, ticking off on her fingers each subject and their situation in turn. “She died. Body left in his bed. Then there was Micaela. Betrayed both the Council, and Giles. Oh, and let’s not forget the lovely Ms. Moon and the little walk they had together down No Memory Lane. **(Author’s Note: Micaela and Ms. Moon are characters from Simon & Schuster Buffy novels)** Let’s face it. In a world where any guy that’s not gay, in prison, or who’s heart functions under its own power is considered a good catch by the females in his age group, there’s an obvious reason Giles’ has managed to make it all the way to confirmed bachelor status. He’s just too Giles-y.”
Tara’s frown softened reflectively. “It does seem a little weird,” she remarked. “You know, Giles not having ever married. He always struck me as being perfect husband material.”
Buffy exploded in a sputtering laugh. She eyed the obviously deranged wiccan, and gave a curt snort. “And how do you figure that?” she retorted.
“Well, he’s very sweet. And polite. He’s always helpful, and considerate of other people’s feelings. He’s a little old fashioned, but not in a bad way. He’s just gentlemanly enough to make you feel all girlie and special, but not so much you want to give him a feminist lip lecture. Plus, he’s really handy to have around the house. He’s not afraid to wash dishes, or fold laundry. And he’s even a decent cook. Heck, I’d consider marrying him myself, if I liked men,” she said, smiling coyly at the red head. “Of course, it might be worth changing my mind about even that when it’s someone who can make moussaka the way Giles did the other night.”
“I think I feel a jealous urge coming on,” Willow teased.
“Oh, honey, you don’t have get jealous,” Tara assured her girlfriend with a warm smile. “Just get his recipe.”
“It was pretty yummy,” the other witch agreed. “Hey! Maybe we should both marry him! Then we could get all his recipes.”
Buffy shook her head, and stared at the two witches in alarm. “I don’t believe you two. You know you’re completely insane, don’t you? No one in their right mind would marry Giles.”
“Aw, come on, Buffy,” Willow jovially scolded. “I know we were only kidding, but you’ve gotta admit, for a guy his age, Giles is kinda sexy.”
“Ughhhh! Do you have to keep saying that?” the slayer shuddered in disgust. “This is Giles we’re talking about here. Ex-librarian. Stuffy Brit deluxe. The man likes tweed!”
“Giles hasn’t worn a tweed suit since we left high school,” Willow frowned in the Brit’s defense. “And after seeing him in that itty-bitty towel he had on yesterday...” The red head made a wolfish growl of appreciation as she waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
“Enough with the verbal sexual assault already!” Buffy implored in piteous revulsion. “You’re gay! You guys are supposed to be on my side. Look, I don’t care what you say, I refuse to think about Giles in ‘that way’.”
Tara patiently smiled at her friend. “You might not want to see him in ‘that way’, but sooner or later you’re going to have to accept that there are other women out there that do.”
“Tara’s right,” Willow said, reaching out to pat the slayer’s hand in a gesture of friendly sympathy. “Face it. Giles is a man, even if he does happen to be a demon, too.”
Buffy sighed. Much as she hated to admit it, Willow and Tara were right. Never before had she been so painfully aware of her Watcher’s provocative sensuality. Since his demonic transformation she had experienced a strange attraction to the Brit, had thought things she never would have dared imagine about him. Whether it was the result of some demon pheromones he exuded, or simply the shock of seeing Giles’ nearly naked for the first time, her assessment of the Englishman had changed forever. Of course, she wouldn’t ever tell her friends that!
Suddenly, Willow sprang to her feet, her panicked gaze focused upon the clock on the mantle.
“Oh, gee! Look at the time!”
Snatching up several spiral bound notebooks from among the antique volumes littering the coffee table, she shoved one at Tara before beginning a mad dash about the room to collect the rest of their class textbooks.
“We’ve got to go!” she frantically informed her wiccan companion as she drug her to her feet. Tara nodded, accepting the books her girlfriend thrust into her arms. She was quickly swept up in a Willowy whirlwind as the red head ushered her toward the front door. The blonde wiccan barely managed an abbreviated wave good-bye, and then she and her companion were off and running, scurrying down the flower-lined walk and off to school to take their test.
Buffy watched through the front window as the two witches ran down the street. Upstairs, she could hear the sound of running water as Giles showered. An involuntarily smile touched her lips as her thoughts momentarily wandered, wondering if her Watcher had remembered his clothes this time. She hoped not. She was looking forward to a repeat appearance of yesterday’s towel outfit.
With a wistful sigh, the slayer picked up a book from the coffee table, and cuddling into a corner of the couch, ensconced herself comfortably within a generous mound of pillows. Might as well get to work, she thought. Got to find a cure for Giles. And the sooner the better, before things around here start to really get crazy!