CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

The next morning Buffy woke up and came downstairs to find the whole house absolutely spotless. And not just a ‘run a dust cloth over the furniture and tidy up a bit’ kind of neatness, but a full out “gee! the dishes are done and the laundry’s all folded, and whoa! did somebody polish the kitchen floor, it’s so shiny!” level of immaculate clean. In the living room, not a telltale trace of ice cream remained to stain the couch, or the carpeting either for that matter. All the books that had been scattered over the coffee table the previous evening were now filed away, placed in orderly rows within a bookcase. Every lingering watermark on the furniture had been painstakingly rubbed out, the accent pillows fluffed and poofed to home decorator magazine perfection. Even her weapons chest had been spiffed up with a new coat of wax, leaving her to suspect that if she looked inside, she’d find each of the implements in a pristine and well-oiled condition.


“Doesn’t it all just look so spiffy?”


Buffy spun around to face the dining room. Dawn was sitting at the table with Willow and Tara. The three girls were eating breakfast, their plates in front of them piled obscenely high with the most delicious looking assortment of food describable. And then there were the additional platters spread out between them, another four at least, each holding a bounty of crisp bacon, sausages, eggs, home fries, waffles, french toast, and...grilled tomatoes?


“Whose bright idea was it to open the Denny’s franchise?” Buffy frowned, regarding the heaped plates before her housemates. Sauntering over to the table, she took the seat next to her sister, her empty stomach growling softly with envy as she eyed the generous repast each was heartily devouring.


“Ishint dish grape?” Dawn mumbled excitedly as she reached for her juice and took a quick swig. With her other free hand, the teen had jabbed her fork into a huge bite of golden brown french toast, and chasing it though the lake of maple syrup that flooded her plate, she popped the dripping morsel into her mouth. “Mmmm, lrook!” Her sticky tines pointed out the items on her plate. “Bacon and sausage!” she said, washing down her partially masticated mouthful with some juice. “It’s like having Christmas and Thanksgiving breakfast all rolled into one!”


At that moment, Giles walked in from the kitchen, his hands balancing another two filled to the brim plates. One held a mountain of colorful peeled and sliced fruits, while the other bore a carefully arranged pyramid of donuts.


“Buffy!”


The Englishman’s expression wavered, flitting tenuously between his happiness to see his slayer awake and looking so beautiful, and anxious guilt as he worried over whether she were as glad to see him. There was nothing in her face that betrayed what she was thinking, however, and Giles felt his heart sink as, fearing the worst, he interpreted her slight pout as a sign that she was still upset with him.


“There’s more?” Willow moaned, her eyes rolling dramatically as the Brit set the two new platters down on the table with the others. In spite of her protest, she eagerly devoted her attention to the presentation, carefully checking out everything that was available.


“Oooo, strawberries!” Dawn cheered. She jumped up, and reaching an arm across the table, snagged a handful of the ripe berries, depositing them on her already full plate.


“And cantaloupe, and honeydew, and...what’s that?” Willow asked, poking a fork at a golden star-shaped slice of fruit.


“They’re called Carambola,” Giles replied as he pulled up a seat at the end of the table. He picked up a glass from the empty place setting in front of Buffy, and filled it with juice from a pitcher on the table.


“Neat!” Dawn smiled, and forked one of the stars for a closer inspection. “How’d you shape ‘em like this? With a teeny little cookie cutter?”


Giles took a clean plate from the pile stacked near his elbow and passed it to the slayer. She accepted it politely, as she did the flat ware he pushed her way.


“No, Dawn,” he replied to the curious teen’s question. “The fruit grows naturally that way. All I had to do was cut it with a knife.”


“Cool!”


Dawn grinned and tossed the starfruit into her open mouth. Her loudly smacking lips pronounced it delicious, so she quickly snatched up another slice, adding it to the growing mound on her breakfast plate.


There were a few minutes of plate passing and appreciative commentary as all the girls at the table made their selections from the newest offerings before settling down again to eat. Choosing a toasty waffle, some melon, and a small portion of scrambled egg, Buffy joined her companions in their munchfest, her eyes wandering around the table, listening as everyone happily chattered away about nothing.


Only Giles seemed to be keeping his thoughts to himself that morning. Though the Brit would supply the occasional nod or reply to whatever question came his way, he made no effort to join into the conversation and remained quiet and reserved. Every once in a while Buffy thought she’d noticed the Englishman surreptitiously eyeing her, but whenever she looked in his direction, Giles would nervously glance away, and immediately find something else to occupy his attention.


Great, a new weirdness, Buffy thought to herself. Like there isn’t enough of that going around already. Well, at least he’s behaving. So far, anyway. He hasn’t made any disgusting moon eyes or tried to kiss me. I guess that’s progress. That little talk we had last night must have worked.


When breakfast was done, and everyone had eaten their fill, Giles began gathering up the dirty dishes and clearing the table. Tara made a gracious offer to help with the mess, but the Brit informed her it was no trouble, and that he would gladly take care of things on his own.


Released from any further obligations, the girls found themselves free to do as they pleased. They quickly dispersed in various directions, each off to pursue their own plans for the day. Dawn called her friend Sara, and the two girls made arrangements to go to the mall. Meanwhile, Tara and Willow decided that a leisurely walk in the park would be a nice progression to their day. Buffy thought the idea of fresh air sounded good, but opted instead to stay a little closer to home, choosing the back yard as her refuge. Hauling a lounge chair out of the garage, she set it up in a patch of warm sunshine and then stretched out to soak in a dose of ultra-violet rays.


From the sanctuary of the kitchen sink, Giles watched his slayer through the window as he soaped up and scrubbed another greasy pan. The things she’d said to him the night before kept running through his head. Had his behavior as of late really been that bad? She was so obviously happy to see him when he’d returned from England, her hug at the Magic Box nearly crushing him. Now, it seemed that she couldn’t stand being in the same room with him, and he had only himself to blame for that.


Sighing, Giles scraped industriously at a stubborn crust of burnt fat. Buffy had said that she didn’t understand him. He wasn’t sure that he understood himself either. He could feel things, strange things happening inside him. Though he tried to reason out what was going on with his body, there were just so many changes, and he couldn’t sort out what was human thought from the tainted influence of his demon instinct. Even something as simple as eating was proving a challenge for him. His intellectual side told him of the value associated in a balanced meal that included vegetables, fruits, proteins and grains, but what his demon body actually craved were sugary, high-carbohydrate treats like cookies, cake, or anything that was even remotely sweet. Not exactly the most nutritious of choices, but he was finding his hunger for these things impossible to resist.


And there were the other quirks in his new demon persona that caused him concern. Not since his worst Ripper days had he been as promiscuous and uncaring as to whom he took to bed. In retrospect, he had to confess there had been very little selection involved in choosing these latest of his sex partners. Excessive alcohol consumption definitely had been a factor in his trysts with Phyllidia and the three demon sisters. But what about Sondra, the girl he’d met the previous evening? He’d been completely sober when he’d met her. He had only his unchecked demon hormones to blame for that bit of insanity.


Rinsing out his pan, Giles stretched and winced as he deposited it in the side drainer. He was still being punished for those moments of character weakness this morning. He might have special healing powers that rivaled those of his slayer, but pain didn’t just disappear overnight, and his back and abdomen were still very tender and sensitive. As he picked up another greasy dish to tackle, Giles ruminated on his foolishness. Thank the gods Buffy hadn’t pried any further into his activities with Sondra. He’d have been hard pressed to explain the new tattoo work that decorated his body, not to mention the extra bits of jewelry secreted out of sight below his waist.


A warm tingle of pleasure began to spread through Giles' loins as he reminisced about the feisty young artist. She had been so excited as she had let them into her small body art shop, which she explained that she shared with an older brother. He in turn had given polite praise as she escorted him on a tour of the various mechanics of their operation. He had obligingly flipped through books filled with intricate tattoo creations, and perused another featuring photos of the finished artwork displayed on various parts of clientele anatomy. She had proudly shown off her collection of unusual jewelry designed to fit in every imaginable part of the body, and had babbled on about how stimulating she found her work, how she was always looking for just the right body on which to immortalize her art. In truth, he couldn’t recall much of what she’d actually said to him. He’d been too busy pondering instead how he might get her upstairs and into her flat. But then he’d been distracted by the beautiful earring in the glass case, and the next thing he knew, he was in one of the back rooms, sans pants and stretched out on a table beneath the girl as she gave him a very personal demonstration of just what she could do for those “very special” customers.


Giles sighed and struggled to fight against the licentious impulses that throbbed through his body. He tried to ignore the persistent pulsing in his groin, concentrating instead on the dish in his hand. Good Lord, what was wrong with him? It seemed that all he could think about anymore was sex. Well, there was the fighting, and the getting drunk, and, of course, eating, and...oh, yes! Mustn’t forget the sex! Giles sighed. He’d lost count over the last two days of how many times he’d succumbed to his wanton urges. And not just with the girls. There had been multiple visits to the bathroom where he’d taken advantage of a moment alone to relieve himself with a quick toss. Unfortunately, the frequent bouts of self-gratification never seemed to satisfy him for long. The more he gave in to his raging libido, the worse it seemed to become for him when it returned. He was practically walking around with a perpetual hard-on, and it was only a matter of time before someone got around to noticing. And just how was he ever going to explain that one to Buffy? He could almost hear her, telling him he was “gross and disgusting”. She would never understand, and she would be even less sympathetic if she were to ever discover that he was having such depraved and wicked thoughts about her.


Groaning softly, Giles leaned against the counter before him and pressed his tortured loins against the hard surface. A lecherous smile curled at his lips, his narrowed gaze searching out his slayer. She was resting peacefully, completely oblivious to the possibility that anyone could be watching her. Her blonde hair glinted like fine gold in the sunlight, and she looked like a nubile goddess, her pert breasts thrusting upward in twin peaks of perfectly balanced symmetry.


Giles drew in a ragged breath. Unconsciously, his hips began to grind, rubbing against the counter’s edge. It didn’t take much to fire his imagination or his overactive sexual drive. There had been instances in the past, fleeting moments when Buffy had inadvertently “bared” herself while he was tending her wounds. Being a gentleman, and a proper one at that, he made an effort not to look at anything more than was necessary to patch up his slayer, but there had been an occasion, possibly two, where she’d revealed more than she had meant to, and he was most pleasantly rewarded a sight that had impressed itself onto his very maleness. And that was why he was able to fantasize a near accurate vision of his young slayer, lying there naked on her lounge chair, her soft womanly curves inviting...


“No!”


The soapy pot slipped out of his hands and landed in the sink with a resounding clatter. The loud noise nearly drowned the strangled shout of denial that tore from Giles’ throat, and in a panic, the Brit jerked his head up, his eyes wide with guilt, so sure that Buffy had heard him. He watched, pulse racing as his slayer sat up, her head turning curiously toward the kitchen window. Quickly he ducked back, hiding behind a convenient veil of curtain as he waited, praying that she wouldn’t get up to investigate. After a moment, when no other noises broke the silence, the young blonde gave a shrug. Lying down again, she resettled herself on the lounge, closed her eyes, and went back to her basking.


Giles groaned and clutched at the counter top. His body was shaking with relief, but his knuckles were white and tense with unresolved frustration.


“Dear God, Buffy, what am I doing?” he wailed, his voice sticking thickly with his anguish. “Please, forgive me. I-I don’t know what I’m doing. These feelings I have, they’re so strong. I don’t know that I can control them for much longer.


“Oh, Buffy! All I’ve ever wanted was for you to be happy, and it seems that lately I haven’t been much help with that. I can’t go on like this, knowing that all I cause you is heartache and pain. You deserve so much more.”


With a wrenching sigh, Giles pushed himself back and straightened, his heart suddenly weighing heavy in his chest like a stone.


“You need someone that you can rely on, that you can trust, no matter what,” the Watcher whispered with a sad frown. “And I’m afraid I simply can’t be that man for you.” A spontaneous chortled burst from somewhere deep inside him, the laugher bitter and piteously self-deprecating. “I’m not sure that I was ever that man when I still was a man,” he muttered wistfully, his gaze caressing the slayer’s youthful body with longing. “Though, if circumstances were different, and I twenty years younger, I would give all I had in this world for just a chance to prove myself wrong to you.


“But...” The Watcher slowly exhaled, his soul deflating in defeated resignation. “Alas, I am no longer young. Nor am I a man. I’m nothing but a vile, filthy creature that isn’t worthy of your pity, let alone your love. Dearest Buffy, what am I to do? I can’t go on, not like this. You were right. It’s only a matter of time before I...hurt...someone. And God forbid that someone were to happen to be you. No, it’s simply too dreadful to even think such a thing! I could never...” Giles’ voice trailed off, his head hanging in dejection as he remembered his thwarted attempt at seducing his slayer the previous afternoon. “Yes, yes I could. And I nearly did. Oh, Buffy, I’m a horrible monster! How could I possibly expect you to forgive me?”


His head bowed in shame, Giles picked up the discarded pan he had dropped in the sink. Scrubbing furiously away at its soiled interior, he forced himself to direct his frustrations into the task of cleaning, avoiding any further thoughts about sex or Buffy. But he was unable to dismiss his feelings of self-loathing, and his mood grew more glum in spite of his efforts to throw himself into his work. It wasn’t until much later, when he had set the last pot aside and closed the loaded dishwasher, that he finally slunk upstairs to the bathroom and gave in at last to the shameful and overwhelming urges of his demon body. With his desires no where near hope of being quenched, he crept back down to the living room and buried his nose in one of his books, attempting to seek out some small degree of solace in the research his slayer had abandoned.







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