They managed to draw more than a few double takes on the ride back across town. Driving with wings wasn’t as easy a process as Giles had imagined it would be. The simple cover his shirt had provided earlier had gone far in holding back his feathered limbs. Bare-chested now, the large appendages flutter freely, moving as they pleased. They were constantly getting in his way, interfering with his line of vision at critical times. It took a great deal of concentration and practice, but eventually he discovered that he could actually manipulate the strange muscles in his back and shoulders at will, even force them to remain still and calm when needed. All it took, however, was one brief incident with an impatient fellow motorist and a loud car horn to show him that his control was a mere illusion, and that he had plenty more to learn before he would ever gain sufficient command over his wings’ erratic behavior.
Buffy sat in the passenger seat next to her Watcher, trying her best to ignore his half-naked torso. It wasn’t easy. Every once in a while one of his wings would slap at her, distracting her from her study of the passing scenery. At first she had scooted further over on the seat, pressing herself into a corner against the door, but there was no escape from the insistent tickle of his feathers. She told herself that Giles wasn’t touching her on purpose, that he didn’t know what he was doing, but there were moments when she wasn’t quite convinced he was all that innocent. There was a devilishly incriminating gleam in his eye whenever he glanced her way, as if he were flirting with her, teasing her to see just what she would let him get away with. He was definitely being very un-Gilesish, and she was more than relieved when they finally pulled into the driveway at 1630 Revello Drive and she could finally put some comfortable distance between them again.
It was already well into mid-afternoon, and not one of them had eaten any lunch, so a kitchen forage seemed like a logical thing to do next. While Tara and Willow helped Giles tend to his burn, Buffy went upstairs to clean up and change. The few moments alone in her bedroom gave the slayer a chance to reflect and regroup her somewhat frazzled emotions. It was proving stressful having a demon for a Watcher, especially when he was as visually appealing as Giles. Up until now, she had been able to hide her embarrassing feelings, but the insults and jokes were beginning to sound flat and forced to even her. As for Giles, she was pretty sure that he had never considered her as anything but his slayer before, or at least he had been too repressed and British to allow her to know otherwise. Apparently, however, the demon that Giles had become possessed no such compunction against improper behavior for she’d caught him making eyes at her several times on the ride home, and the message in his smoldering look was one of unmistakable hunger and desire.
Sighing, Buffy rummaged through her drawers, hunting up an outfit to replace her soiled clothing. She dug up a pair of clean, faded jeans, and with those and a pastel yellow T-top in hand, she scampered across the hall to the bathroom to change. A quick splash in the sink removed any traces of monster muck, while a simple touch of make-up and a run through her hair with a comb finished off the modest make over. She took a few minutes to rinse out her old clother, pre-treating the more stubborn stains before tossing the batch into a hamper to wash later. She checked her reflection on last time, then bouncing down the stairs, she rejoined Tara and Willow in the kitchen where they were busy fixing lunch.
Giles was there with them, too. He was still shirtless, and looking slightly bruised about the face, but his wounds were all well on their way to healing. The cuts she had noticed on his hands earlier had closed over, and the injuries from his fight the night before had disappeared altogether. It seemed that demon Giles’ power of recuperation were nearly as swift as her own, and just as effective to boot. She had no doubt that by the next nightfall her Watcher would be completely recovered from his latest battle wounds, and his body would once again be perfect and unblemished from head to toe.
Giles greeted her arrival with a warm smile. His wings spread out behind him, fluttering excitedly and fanning the room with a sweet, cloying scent.
“There you are!” the Brit chuckled, sweeping across the kitchen. Before Buffy could object, her Watcher had his arms wrapped around her in an enthusiastic hug that was more befitting of a long and lonely separation than the brief interlude it had required for her to change.
“Yup! Here I am,” the slayer nervously replied. “I am here.”
The intimacy of Giles’ embrace was slipping fast into the realm of uncomfortable as he squeezed her body tighter against his. His hands were roaming, trailing surreptitiously downward toward her bottom, and by the lascivious sparkle in his eye it didn’t look like he didn’t intend to stop the tactile advancement any time soon. Deciding she needed to take evasive measures before her Watcher broached the normal limitations of public decency and British decorum, she shrugged Giles aside as nonchalantly as possible, and scooting around the center island, insinuated herself within the safety zone between Willow and Tara.
“What are we making here?” she queried. Her voice sounded just a little too rushed and breathless, and she blanched, hoping that no one else had noticed.
“Peanut butter sandwiches,” Tara replied. She gestured toward a loaf of bread on the counter, and several open jars sitting amidst a pile of flatware. “We have crunchy and smooth.”
“And strawberry or grape,” Willow finished with a dramatic game show model flourish of her own hands. “Which makes for a veritable smorgasbord menu of peanuttery yumminess.”
Buffy directed a skeptical eyebrow at her red headed friend. “I think a real smorgasbord needs to have more than just two choices,” she said, frowning critically at the spread before them. “No offense, Wills, but this looks more like a bordless smorg.”
“It is a little lacking in the variety,” Willow admitted with a sheepish grin. “Though,” she brightened, warming to her defensive argument. “If you really counted all the different combinations you could come up with using just these four simple ingredients...”
“I take it the cupboards are bare again,” Buffy sagely surmised. Both wiccans nodded.
“Yup! The place is like Old Mother Hubbardsville. We’ve been due for a grocery run since yesterday,” Willow replied.
“Maybe Willow and I can pick up a few things at the market later, on our way back from the Magic Box,” Tara suggested helpfully. “But, in the meantime...”
The tawny blond timorously slid a plate holding twin blank canvases of bread across to the slayer, and handed her a knife from the pile of flatware on the counter. With a strained smile, Buffy accepted the witch’s piteous offering, and reaching for a jar of peanut spread, obligingly proceeded to assemble herself a sandwich.
She looked up at the interruption of a rustling coming from across the island. Giles was watching her, an amused grin tilting at his lips as he munched from a bag of snack-type food.
“How come he gets potato chips?” Buffy snarked childishly, her mouth pursed in an exaggerated pout.
“I guess ‘cause he’s the one that found them,” Willow shrugged. “Besides, I’m not sure Giles likes peanut butter. I’ve never seen him eat it.”
“Hey, anyone that can eat that nasty brown stuff I’ve seen him spread on his toast should be able to survive a little PB and J.”
Buffy shuddered, recalling a morning several years earlier. It had been one of those all night patrols, and she’d stopped off at Giles to make her report before going home. He’d obviously been in the middle of his breakfast. The scent of tea and toasting bread had filled his apartment, and set her empty stomach to rumbling loudly. Ever the gentleman, Giles had graciously insisted that she join him, pulling up a chair for her at the counter beside him. It was an invitation that she readily accepted, and while he popped a few extra slices into the toaster, he suggested that she go ahead and help herself to what was on his plate, and he would wait for the next batch.
As Giles had moved off to rustle her up some juice and tea, she had greedily snatched up the two slices of proffered toast. They were still warm and crunchy, and as she discovered after her first bite, also very much dry and plain. Apparently, she’d burst in on her Watcher before he’d gotten around to buttering his bread. She’d glanced around, and spotted a small, bulbous jar with a yellow lid sitting on the counter nearby. Naturally, she’d assumed it was some kind of jam, so she’d slathered a thick layer of the container’s contents onto her toast. The brownish goo had looked a little odd, however, and roused more than a few suspicions, but she’d been hungry, and easily convinced herself that it was some weird gourmet type of spread, the kind that was very expensive and probably imported from some little overseas country she’d never heard of.
Putting aside her initial reservations, she’d gamely taken a huge bite...
“Bleech! Marmite.” Making a face of disgust, Buffy tried to erase the memory of that ghastly mouthful as her taste buds cringed in sympathetic protest. “I don’t know how anybody can eat that stuff! It’s so...blyeeeehhh!”
“Maybe it’s an acquired taste,” Tara diplomatically proposed. She flashed a placating smile at the Englishman, who looked mildly affronted by his slayer’s vocal opinion. “Sometimes things you’re not used to taste strange the first time you try them.”
“Well, these lips have no intention of ever touching that vileness a second time,” Buffy firmly asserted, adding a lumpy dollop of strawberry jam to her peanut butter sandwich. With a deft slash of her knife, she pushed the thick lump around, mashing it down into the layer of nutty spread beneath. “In fact, given a choice, I’d swallow my tongue before I let it get anywhere near that stuff. Or any surface that it had contaminated.”
Giles scowled, but said nothing, dismissing the vehement condemnation with a simple sniff of indifference. Experience had taught him there was little use in arguing such cultural issues with his young American companions. Dipping his fingers back into his potato chip bag, he crammed a large handful into his face and munched loudly, hiding his frustration behind the busy crunch of the salty snack food. But the tense flutter of his wings betrayed his brooding mood to those around him, and earned him a dour pout from his slayer.
The negative reaction only served to further pique Giles’ already disintegrating mood. Ever since their battle at the university, he had felt strangely apprehensive and tense. At first he’d written off his unease as the latent effect of an adrenaline rush. In time the feeling would undoubtedly fade. A half hour or more had passed since their return to the house, however, and the discomforting anxiety had not diminished one bit. In fact, it had increased in its intensity, building up inside him until he thought he might lose his mind. A fierce hunger nagged at him, and though he had tried stuffing his insides with what food he could find, it seemed to do nothing to satisfy his enigmatic need.
Approaching at his peculiar affliction from an analytical standpoint, Giles attempted to rationalize the mysterious symptoms he was experiencing. He felt a definite build up of tension within his body. His heart was thumping heavily within his chest, not racing, but certainly pumping harder than necessary, or what he guessed would be considered normal for the demon species he had become. Perhaps his original supposition of excess adrenaline wasn’t completely wrong. It was as if his muscles were expecting some release, an outlet to vent all the unusual energy pent up inside it. He could sense a great craving deep within his body. It was commanding him, but to do what he couldn’t say. That he couldn’t name the compelling need had him somewhat concerned. He’d tried appeasing it with food, eating the few remaining brownies he’d found and a package of cookies hidden in the back of a cupboard. The potato chips were only vaguely pacifying, the salt even less sating an ingredient as sugar. No, he wanted something else. Something tastier. Riper. With more body to it. Something...
A low, rumbling cluck vibrated inaudibly within the Brit’s demonized larynx as his gaze fell upon the three young women standing on the other side of the kitchen island. The ravenous desire within him began to heat, and suddenly he realized that it wasn’t his belly that demanded gratification, but another equally primal need. It tingled warmly in his blood, urging him to give in, to indulge in the base instincts of his loins. He wanted to revel in the hot embrace of female flesh, to ravish and devour, to hear the breathless gasp of someone expressing ultimate delight. He wanted sex!
“Hello? Earth to Giles! Hey, wake up!”
Giles slowly blinked, his eyes focusing on his petite, blonde slayer. Buffy was glowering at him, her sweet lips puckered in a deliciously tempting pout that fueled his imagination with wicked thoughts.
“Think maybe you could find a shirt to cover up all those manly pectorals there?” the slayer grumbled in a snippy huff as she slapped the two halves of her sandwich closed. “There are those of us in the room who would appreciate eating without the Chippendale show.”
Willow giggled, her eyes taking on a slightly nostalgic mist. “Oh, I loved that show. Xander and I used to watch it all the time.” She sighed, her mouth twisting in a thoughtful frown that Giles found irresistible. “I could never figure out which one was which though. Was it Chip that had the red nose, or Dale?”
“It was Dale,” Tara answered with a coy smirk. “He was the funny one.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Willow snickered. “ He was Xander’s favorite. I always liked the mouse girl.”
“Gadget? She was definitely the brains behind the Rescue Rangers.” Tara shot a sly wink at her girlfriend. “Kind of reminds me of someone I know.”
Willow beamed warmly, moving closer to her tawny haired companion. The two girls exchanged a hug and a brief kiss.
“Wait.” Frowning, Willow contemplated Tara with a worried expression. “You aren’t saying that because you think I have big ears, are you?”
“No, silly,” Tara smiled, her fingers reaching up to brush back Willow’s hair and touch one of the appendages in question. “Your ears are perfect. They’re just the right size for your head.”
Giles grinned, observing the gently intimate conversation between the young women with open voyeuristic delight. Somewhere in the back of his head a tiny voice tried to admonish him. It told him that it was wrong to find erotic enjoyment in a simple display of affection between two people. He knew that when similar circumstances had risen in his past, he had glanced away, allowing the couple some discretionary privacy to express their love. But a powerful demonic desire ruled his heart now, and his heated libido as well, so he merely stood and watched the cooing couple with amused interest, his own ardor continuing to grow with every second.
Living with Tara and Willow day to day had somewhat blinded Buffy to most of their little exhibitionistic moments of cuddling. It wasn’t that she didn’t see them. She had merely grown accustomed to the “cuteness” factor, accepting it for what it was. The two women loved each other, and she was okay with that. What bothered her was Giles. While he usually ignored the people around him when they started getting kissy, taking off his glasses to polish, or finding some inane thing to occupy his attention, he was behaving in very atypical Giles fashion at that moment, and it was totally creeping her out the way he was leering at her friends, like he was watching some sleazy live action porno show.
“Don’t you like have an elsewhere to go?” she scowled, directing a scathing glare at the Brit.
“Mmmmm?” Giles leaned against the counter, his eyes remaining glued on the flirting couple as they kissed.
With an exasperated sigh, Buffy plopped her sandwich down onto her plate, and with a purposeful stride, marched around to the other side of the kitchen island. Grabbing hold of her Watcher by one of his wings, she gave him a firm yank backward, and spun him around away from the scene in which he’d become so obviously involved.
Willow and Tara looked on in surprise as the slayer dragged the reluctant Brit across the kitchen and into the adjoining room. There was a loud thump, as if something, or someone had been thrown up against the wall with slightly more force than necessary, and then a beat of silence before Giles’ voice rang out in miffed protest.
“Here! What was that for?”
Buffy stepped back, her arms crossed over her chest. “Just what do you think you’re doing?” she scolded the Englishman in a petulant hiss. Glancing self-consciously toward the kitchen, she hoped that her relocation effort had removed them from Tara and Willow’s earshot.
Giles, however, didn’t seem to care in the least if their argument could be overheard. With a loud contentious huff, he frowned at the upset slayer, his wings shivering tremulously behind him. The agitated movement shook several small feathers loose, and the downy fluff fluttered softly to the carpet at his feet.
Mirroring his slayer’s posture, the Englishman defiantly glared down his nose at the smaller woman standing before him.
“I would think the better question is what do you think you’re doing?” he returned in loud challenge to her whispered query.
“Me? Oh, I was just minding my own business and wondering exactly where it was that you lost your mind. God, Giles! Could you possibly be any more disgusting?”
“And what precisely, pray tell, was it that I was allegedly doing that you feel you must take such pained offense to?”
“You know what you were doing,” Buffy grumbled back irritably.
Giles pouted, a single eyebrow quirking upward in the picture of perfect innocence. With a silent groan, Buffy realized she was going to have to actually explain herself, and heaving a disconsolate sigh, she spat out the words in a clipped staccato.
“You were looking at Willow and Tara while they were kissing!”
Rolling his eyes, Giles gave a mordant chortle. “Seeing as we were all in the same room, I think it would have been difficult for me not to have seen them,” he retorted. “It wasn’t as if they weren’t aware of my presence in the room. If it bothered them to have an audience, they could easily have moved things elsewhere.”
“Fine.” Though it was obvious his argument was anything but fine to her, Buffy was in no mood to debate the particular subject further. Still, she couldn’t resist at least one last dig at her Watcher. “Well, you could have at least had the decency not to lech all Dirty Old Man-like at them while they were doing it,” she griped peevishly.
Even as the words fell out of her mouth, Buffy realized how they could be misinterpreted to mean exactly what she had been trying so hard not to say. As Giles’ chortled, his grin broadening lasciviously, she felt the betraying heat of her nervousness blushing in her face, and she rushed to clarify her commentary better.
“Er, uh, not doing it as in, you know, ‘doing it’, ‘cause,” she laughed, attempting to wave off her unintended faux pas as she babbled on. “They weren’t actually doing it. They were only kissing. Which is okay. Not that it isn’t okay that they do it. The other ‘it’, that is. I mean, they love each other, right? So, what goes on in the privacy of their own bedroom is their business, and why am I even talking about this?” she finished in distressed agitation.
“Perhaps it’s jealousy,” Giles chuckled teasingly. Stepping forward, he sidled in closer to the young blonde, his physical presence crowding dangerously within the invisible personal comfort zone that surrounded her. His voice dropped into a velvety smooth warble, and Giles lowered his face to hers, his breath whispering warm and sweet against her cheek as he spoke. “I’d been watching them instead of paying any notice to you. I was being very rude.”
He knows! God, he knows! Awash in a flood of shame, Buffy fought the impulse to blurt out a confession to her elder mentor and friend. Would it really be the end of the world if she admitted the truth, that she had feelings, naughty feelings, for her sexy Watcher? No, she hadn’t sunk that low. Not yet. Giles was probably only guessing. He couldn’t possibly know anything for a fact.
“No, no,” Buffy firmly replied, shaking her head in denial. “I’m pretty sure that’s one notion that never entered into this.” She laughed, ridiculing his accusation, but inside her heart pounded in betrayal, her body quivering tensely with restrained excitement as Giles pressed in closer.
“Come now, luv.” Giles’ accent slipped momentarily into a more casual street vernacular, his tone fairly dripping, holding a promise of seething passion. Buffy felt tiny shudders of delight race up and down her spine, and she all but melted as she fought an overwhelming impulse to throw herself into the Brit’s waiting arms. “We both know that all these protests of yours are nothing but an act,” Giles continued, whispering now, his lips gently brushing against her exposed neck. “It’s very clear what you’re really thinking.”
“It-it is?” Buffy gulped, her stomach twisting in a tight, fidgety little knot. Maybe she was wrong and Giles did posses psychic powers. It was entirely possible that he had become the demonic equivalent of a Ms. Cleo, and even now was channeling her innermost secret thoughts.
A shocked gasp escaped Buffy’s throat as something moist and warm tickled her earlobe. Instantly, her pulse kicked up a notch in tempo, her blood running hotter. Was Giles licking at her ear? Oh, God, he was! He was teasing the curved inner shell, his teeth nibbling ever so lightly. With a tender flick, his tongue lapped out again, this time washing the sensitive spot just behind her ear, and with a tortured moan she felt herself sway forward, her body pressing against her Watcher’s naked torso.
“I can smell it on you, you know,” the Brit cooed suggestively as he nuzzled his nose softly against her flesh. Buffy’s emotion frazzled brain buzzed in sensory overload, her breath coming in tiny, anxious pants. She was slowly falling away, slipping into a passion induced thrall, but there was still a part of her mind that refused to let go.
“You-you smell me?” Buffy frowned, momentarily pulling back to the edge of reality. She was confused. She’d washed and changed her clothes when she’d come back to the house. The monster stink should be long gone, as well as any unflattering sweaty aroma that might have been on her body. What could Giles possibly smell on her?
“I can smell the perfume of your desire,” Giles sighed, answering her unspoken question. “It’s all over you, so deliciously ripe and beautiful. It’s inviting me to come and take a taste.”
“Taste?” She breathed the word, her voice not even capable of raising to a whisper. Something in Giles’ voice was drawing her in, taking away her self-will. He had her within some strange enchantment she couldn’t resist. Didn’t want to resist. All she wanted was to feel the touch of his lips, kissing her, ravishing her, bringing her to a trembling moment of ecstacy.
Buffy sighed as Giles’ mouth brushed lightly against her jaw. Slowly, his lips grazed their way across her flesh, moving toward her waiting mouth. She impatiently anticipated the glorious kiss he would soon bestow upon her, and her heart began to beat faster, her chest heaving as she panted with growing excitement. As she felt the moist lick of her Watcher’s tongue run delicately over her lower lip, she dared to risk the full heat of his deep, piercing gaze. The endless expanse of green staring boldly back at her burned hot and bright, alive with fiery passion that was almost frightening in its splendor. An empathic trickle began to flow from deep within her loins, and her heart thudded heavily, hammering away within her anxious breast. So loud was its beating that it nearly silenced the screaming voice of reason that tried to warn her to stop, to wake up from this intoxicating dream before it was too late.
Something warm and soft tickled gently at her back. Giles had wrapped his wings around her, embracing her in a sweet-smelling cocoon of feathers. She swooned, and for the briefest of moments, she felt as if she’d been transported back to heaven. But it was only a pale illusion, and reality came swooping painfully back to remind her of that fact. It was in that instant that the feeble cry of sanity shouting away inside her suddenly became a deafening roar. Giles’ enchantment lifted like a fog dissipating before the force of a powerful wind, and she stiffened, a panicked gasp breaking her constricted throat as she became aware of her precarious position within her Watcher’s arms.
Reacting instinctively, she pushed Giles away, tearing herself out of his eager embrace. She jumped back, putting what she felt was a safe and civil distance between them, and then began to shudder as the full realization of what she had been about to do hit her.
“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”
Buffy’s heart raced wildly. For the second time in as many days, she’d come that close to kissing Giles! She could still feel a part of herself yearning for his touch. Her skin still tingled, her desire continuing to burn unsated within every nerve ending within her body. It took all the self-discipline she could muster to ignore the intense emotions that lingered on inside her, stabbing her like a phantom pain, refusing to release the hold they had on her heart.
I can’t believe I almost kissed Giles! I did kiss him...sort of. His lips touched my lips. His tongue was in my mouth. Ewwwww! How wrong is that? And yet... it wasn’t really all that bad. In fact, it was kinda nice. Whoa! Back up there, girl, and get this straight. You did not like kissing Giles! You only did it ‘cause he put a whammy of some kind on you. Besides, it’s not like it was a real kiss, anyway, so it didn’t count. On the other hand, it was pretty intense. Wow! Who knew Giles could kiss like that? God, I can’t believe I kissed Giles!
She was reeling in shock, her mind desperately trying to make sense of the impossible when, with a flap of his wings, Giles reached out and drew her back into his open arms.
“What’s wrong, Buffy, dearest?” the Brit trilled, nibbling tenderly at her earlobe. “We’re not getting cold feet now, are we? Well, never you mind that. We’ll heat things up soon enough, I promise.”
As if to emphasize his point, Giles’ boldly slipped his hand lower down her back. His fingers teased dangerously close to her bottom, sliding along the curve of her hip. It was an audaciously brazen move, and one that goaded the slayer into immediate action. With a startled “eeeep!”, Buffy fended off her Watcher’s attempted groping, slapping his wrist as she broke out of his embrace.
“Hey! Watch where you’re putting those paws, mister!” she scolded the Brit.
Giles chuckled, his grin feral and decidedly lecherous. “Someone’s certainly in a frisky mood.”
“Giles? Now, I want you to listen to me.” Batting away a flirtatious wing tip, Buffy adroitly dodged her Watcher’s ardent lips, doing her best to keep his grappling hands at bay as she made an attempt to reason with him. “This...this isn’t like you, Giles. Stop that! Something..something is making you...I meant it! It's making you...Giles! You behave...don’t! I said stop that! Get away! Whoa!”
Panting, Buffy fell back, retreating beyond the reach of her Watcher’s arms. Fighting off Giles’ amorous advances was like wrestling with an octopus. An extremely determined and horny demonic octopus, that is. One that had no comprehension of the word ‘no’. No matter how she blocked him, Giles managed to somehow sneak a hand or a wing past her defenses. She didn’t want to have to hurt him, but Buffy could see that strange, glazed look returning to her Watcher’s eyes, the same one that had possessed him when he was pounding on the demons in the university lab earlier. It seemed demon Giles found the idea of sex as gratifying as he did violence. Just what she needed! A Watcher that considered a punch in the nose part of foreplay.
“Look, uh, Giles?” Backing toward the kitchen, Buffy pleaded with her British friend, hoping that there was some human part of him inside that was willing to listen to reason. “Now, I’m willing to cut you some slack here. I mean, what with you being newly demon and all, you probably don’t understand what you’re doing. But that excuse will only get you so far. So, I’m warning you. If you don’t want to find yourself with one very pissed slayer and a fat lip, then...BACK OFF! I mean it, Giles. You’re really starting to creep me out!”
Something in her voice finally managed to get through to the non-demon portion of Giles’ brain. The Englishman paused. Buffy could almost see the moment her Watcher became aware, truly aware of what he had been doing. A bright wash of guilt and shame combined to redden his painfully drawn features, and Giles stepped back, his eyes casting downward as an expression came over his face that was the epitome of mortified apology.
“Good, Lord, Buffy! I-I don’t know what to say! I...” Giles moaned, his actions rushing back to haunt him with a clarity that cut him deeply. “Please, forgive me. I never meant to...I would never...”
Giles’ voice faltered, the words choking in his throat like a rise of sour bile. He knew that anything he said would have been a lie. He had wanted to do things, horribly inappropriate things, things involving nakedness and acts of wanton depravity with his slayer. In those days long ago when he had called himself “Ripper”, he had experimented quite extensively with sex. He’d given his salacious vices a free rein, trying everything that his warped imagination, and his various cooperative partners, could come up with. There had been no shortage of young women in those days either. He’d found many a partner willing to share her body in some decadent carnal adventure. Drugs and magic were also familiar bed mates. Sometimes days would go, and he would awakened from one of those stupors, finding himself in some strange bed next to a woman whose name he couldn’t remember. And there were occasions when there was more one woman. Or not just a woman. He wasn’t always that particular.
With the passing of years, Giles eventually managed to put those mindless days of debauchery and mayhem behind him. There were occasionally nights when, in the midst of some vivid dream, he would relive a fractured remembrance of his rebellious past. Upon awakening, he would discover his bed clothing warm and sticky, ripe with the evidence of his renascent wickedness, and he would realize in dismay that the man he’d been as Ripper was not gone, but merely lay dormant, waiting for a chance to come out and play again.
As Ripper, Giles had lowered himself to unthinkable depths of indecency. Yet, all those past transgressions paled in comparison to his most recent lapse in propriety. One could even make the argument that his behavior toward Buffy had been a far greater abomination. Whereas he had barely shared an acquaintance with those confrere in his past, he had established a relationship of mutual trust with his slayer and cared about her very dearly. It was probably not unreasonable to say that Buffy was the single most important person in his life. There was almost nothing he wouldn’t do for her. No risk was too great should she ask it of him, no sacrifice too big to refuse. As a Watcher, he had accepted that he existed solely to serve his slayer. It was his duty to prepare her to face the evils of this world as best as humanly possible. Buffy was his student, his charge, his responsibility. She was his friend, and so much more. Buffy was his family, and he loved her, indeed as he had loved no one else ever before.
And when Buffy had died, his grief had been every bit as painful for him as it had for Dawn or the others. But unlike his younger companions, Giles had kept the true extent of his loss private within himself. As the lone “mature” adult, he had felt pressured to assume the role of wise and venerable “grown-up”. He couldn’t allow himself the luxury of giving in to his emotions. The others needed him to be stronger than they were, to provide them guidance and comfort, and to lead by example. Not that he denied himself the opportunity to share their sorrow. After all, no one expected him to be completely unfeeling. Still, it would have been nice if he could have occasionally leaned on someone else for sympathy, rather than having to accept the collected burdens of his younger companions while silently keeping the worst of his own mourning secret.
It was that and more that made this betrayal of his slayer so unforgivably heinous for Giles. And if his own guilt and remorse weren’t punishment enough for his violation, he had only to look into his slayer’s eyes, to see the fear and mistrust she felt toward him at that moment. Seven years of credibility and devotion gone with one act of stupidity. And while it may not have been the only patch of rough encountered in their years together, it was certainly one of the worst, rivaling even the horrific incident of Buffy’s eighteenth birthday and his reluctant participation in administration of the slayer Cruciamentum.
Straightening slowly, Giles took a moment to carefully compose himself. When he was sure he presented as calm and unassuming an image as possible, he turned to face his slayer with an expression of penitent discomfit.
“I-I can’t begin to imagine what you must think of me right now,” he offered with sincere remorse in his stutter. “I can only hope you believe me when I say I am truly sorry for-for what I tried...for what I did,” he contritely corrected himself. “My behavior was totally reprehensible. I don’t know what came over me.”
He struggled valiantly, trying to find just the right words to convey his deep self-abasement. But as he continued with his apology, Giles could feel his body trembling. Whatever strange malady responsible for his strange unease since his return to the house, and most likely his abhorrent behavior as well, had not passed, but merely been put in delay. And worse yet, this newest resurgence of “demonic” activity was possibly even more intense, and growing more so by the minute. He didn’t want a repeat of his recent performance. His standing with Buffy was already on unsettled ground as it was. He would have to leave the house, and soon. Perhaps he could find isolated place where he could bide his time while waiting for “things to blow over” as his young American friends would say. Then, when he had brought it all under control again, he could safely return and finish patching things up with Buffy.
“...not your fault, Giles.”
She was talking to him, her voice sounding unusually pleasing and sultry to his ears. He told himself that it was only his imagination, that she spoke as she always had. Like Buffy. Nonetheless, he found himself becoming aroused as she continued.
“I mean, yeah, you sort of went all Georgie-Porgie psycho for a minute there with the kissage, but you’re okay now. Right?”
“Hmmmm, yes, of course,” he lied, nodding. It was difficult to concentrate on what she was saying. His attention kept wandering, drawn by the titillating rise and fall of her pert breasts beneath her thin top.
“So,” she sighed, and Giles’ heart raced, his belly warming to the swelling curves that lifted so temptingly before his eyes. "Since we’re both adults here, we can just forgive and forget, pretend non of this ever happened. And I cannot emphasize the part about forgetting enough, ‘cause, if anyone were to ever find out that I...we... you know,” she shuddered, unable to bring herself to even say the word. “I’m going to have to stake you on the spot. Got that?”
“What? Oh, yes. Understood. Completely.”
“Good. ‘Cause, you know, while I’ve had plenty of practice being a dead slayer, I’m not so sure you’d be able to find your way back from the grave even if someone gave you a map.”
Giles risked a brief affronted glare, which his slayer promptly ignored.
“Anyway,” she went on. “It’d probably be easier for everyone if you just stayed alive. We don’t need to make things tougher for Will than they have to be. Way I figure it, she and Tara have got their plate full just trying to figure out how to change you back to a human. No use adding rasing the dead to the list, too, though that they seem to be able to handle well enough,” she finished with brightly false enthusiasm.
Rumbling a concurrence under his breath, the Watcher nodded his acknowledgment. “I for one would deem that a wise decision.”
“Then it’s settled. We both play dumb blonde about, uhm, this...uhm, nothing. Okay then,” she nodded distractedly, rubbing her arms with nervous vigor as she dismissed the sensitive subject. “Moving right along. What say you pretend you’re a normal human person, and you go put on a shirt, and I’ll see if I can rustle you up one of those scrumptious gourmet peanut butter sandwiches?”
“If you don’t mind, I believe I shall pass,” Giles replied.
Buffy hesitated, stopping in mid-stride on her way back to the kitchen. “So it’s true, huh?. You won’t eat peanut butter?” she asked.
“Not if I can avoid it,” the Brit responded dryly. “Actually, I’m feeling a bit over wound at the moment. I thought that perhaps a nice walk might help to clear my mind.”
“Suit yourself,” the slayer shrugged. “But you don’t know what you’re missing. I guarantee you’ll never taste anything like my recipe for PB and J.”
“Yes, well, be that as it may, I shall manage to somehow survive.”
She smiled at him, a sad but simple-hearted little grin that immediately sent shivers of joy rushing up and down Giles’ spine. He unconsciously began to preen, running a hand through his long hair as his huge wings fluttered, unfolding behind his back.
Buffy quickly backed away, dashing off to disappear in the direction of the kitchen. He could hear Willow and Tara as they pumped their friend for information, asking her about what had gone on in the other room. Buffy mumbled some noncommital reply, which seemed to satisfy her two companions, and the conversation then turned to other mundane matters.
Searching through his luggage, Giles managed to dredge up something suitable to wear. Two layers of carefully tucked undershirts held his wings immobilized under wraps, and sufficiently disguised their bulky mass to some extent as well. A loose fitting sweater, topped off with a leather jacket helped finished off the look, and judging the results acceptable, Giles gathered up his wallet, stuffed his pockets with his keys and some change, and then headed out the front door into the beautiful afternoon.