AUTHOR: Helena K.
DEDICATION: To M. who gives meaning to my life.
WARNING: M/M slash; auto-erotica (not the predictable interpretation); a tragic story, but not necessarily a sad one.
SUMMARY: How far can Giles fall.
TIMELINE: Post Chosen, 2007, real time
Emphasis in thought or speech
DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Joss and a whole bunch of alphabetical entities. I know the Polish alphabet. Not the same thing. Not for profit, just fun.
FEEDBACK: Lay it on me, but without any condemnation!
DISTRIBUTION: Posted to summer_of_giles and my LJ; anybody else, please ask.
Rupert Giles woke gasping, gulping, unable to catch his breath. There was an oppressive mass settled on his chest. The air was thick, viscous ... like melting tar. He could ... barely ... think. He'd only had the two glasses of whiskey, neat, in order to attain some semblance of rest, hoping for sleep.
He opened his mind and ordered his body to still, despite its natural inclination to take in much needed air.
//Still in place. Not breached.//
He knew what that meant. He was in grave danger. He knew there was someone ... some thing in the room with him. And that could only mean that an incredibly powerful mage had been summoned. Such creatures were usually not inclined to work for the forces of good.
Whispering the syllables of a Revealing spell, he flicked the lamp switch next to him and was less than overwhelmed by what he saw.
Trembling before him in the middle of the room was what appeared to be a bundle of rags, steeped in Janivar-demon bodily fluids. //Fuck! Once you smelled a Janivar's excretions, you never forgot.//
Logically, he knew there was a skeletal form cocooned amidst the rags.
Summoning the courage he could barely muster, he demanded, "Show yourself!"
The trembling did not abate, but the limbs seemed to reorganize themselves. With extreme difficulty, a head covered in matted hair rose like a periscope, but the eyes remained downcast. A rasping whisper was his only reply. "What year is this? What's your name?"
Giles wasn't keen on being interrogated by a bundle of rags. He flipped the covers off and jumped out of bed, foregoing his slippers. But he paid no heed to the chilly floor. This was far more urgent. "Damn it, man. You have no right to question me. If you're so befuddled, the year is 2007. July 26th, to be precise. And who in hell's name are you?"
The simple response stupefied him.
Of course, this had to be a trick. Exasperation and belligerence exploded out of him as he bellowed, "Ethan! I know you're behind this, you stinking pile of shit. Show yourself."
He was brought back to earth by the sound of a pathetic cackle dwindling into a prolonged bout of coughing.
Anguished, bloodshot eyes were raised and, for the first time, he stared, horror-struck, into his own eyes. Just as Buffy had recognized him, despite his Fyarl skin, he couldn't deny that he was looking into his own eyes, into his own face, though it was marred by a florid nose and slack cheek muscles.
Despite the fact that the man could still cause trouble and stank to high heaven, Giles sank onto his knees and reached out with a trembling hand – hardly any different from the tremors wracking the other's body – to lay gentle fingers on a cheek wet from tears and, most likely, said demon's fluids.
He stammered at futureGiles, "How? Why?"
FutureGiles's trembling eased as he stared back, knowing that he had succeeded in arriving at the right time. "Because, you bloody fool, I had to save you from turning into me."
Giles found it too easy to assume his usual pretentious air, tending to forget all the times when he had not had the solution for everything. "Ah, and I take it the Coven members were unavailable to assist you in this grave venture? Out gathering herbs ... or meditating, perhaps?"
FutureGiles shrugged. He knew himself; there was no point in upsetting himself. Or should that have been himselves? "D'you think I didn't bloody try conventional methods first? Think back, man, if you're not already too far gone. I tried to come through on the solstice, but they couldn't get me to shift over completely. Didn't you feel as if ...."
"Somebody was watching me. All day. Yes, though, at the time, I thought it was just the whiskey talking."
Another cackle in response. "Oh, I don't think you're that far gone. You've yet to really hear the whiskey talk. Give it a few more years."
Giles flushed, embarrassed at being perceived as a disreputable person he had not yet turned into. It was all too confusing. "Then ... then, if you'd used the Coven the first time, why didn't you try the safer route the second time?" He almost felt like putting a hand on one hip, confident in presenting a logical, unemotional facade.
The answer from his future self dissolved his veneer of self-confidence. "Because, you fool, there wasn't enough time. As far as I could remember from my personal scribblings, these few days are crucial in determining whether you will turn into me or whether you rise up from the muck you're getting mired in and be the better man. The Coven would have rejected me, as I knew they should, because I hadn't recovered from the first attempt. I didn't want you to live my life, so I sought the services of a warlock. Grimshaw." He shuddered just forcing out the two syllables.
"Ah ... I'm not aware of that name."
"No reason you should be. He hasn't been born yet. Though he's a right bastard. Agreed to do it, get me through to your time ... but at a steep price."
"Which was?" Giles wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer, knowing the likely outcome.
FutureGiles's look was one of pure exasperation. "My life essence, no matter how little I had left. And Grimshaw made it perfectly clear to me that he didn't care to partake of what I had to offer, so passed me around to see who'd take a fancy to me. It just had to be a Janivar."
Giles didn't need an introduction to that species of demon. What they did wasn't pleasant. When they fed, they wrapped their enormous bodies around the victim, encouraging fear and pain as delicious stimulants to their main course. If that weren't enough, they left their victims covered in vile-smelling fluids. A being (for they didn't only favour humans) had to be extremely desperate to allow them to feed.
His gaze penetrated his future self's eyes. This man had been desperate enough not to care who took him. Giles tried to hide his feelings of revulsion, even though he knew these had not been normal times. After having appeared to be dazed for a minute, he gasped out, stupidly, "But you'll die!"
A bony hand emerged from the ragged bundle and fell onto Giles's knee. "I'm dead already, Rupert. But you don't have to be." With that, futureGiles seemed to shrink in on himself, beginning to shiver again, having exhausted however little energy he had left.
Giles shook himself to full awareness. Whatever the condition or future of his future self, he had to provide comfort. A refuge.
He sat back on his haunches. "Can you walk? I think we need to get you out of these mucky clothes into a hot shower and then bed."
"I don't know if I can move. Perhaps if you'd support me."
With a grace belying a man of his age, Giles rose, grasping under his future self's arms. Somehow the two managed to stagger to the bathroom which was thankfully warmer than the bedroom had been. He sat futureGiles on the edge of the tub, grateful that he did have more than just a shower stall in the smaller bathroom, and began to slide off the filthy trousers, boxers and shirt. No socks or shoes. Well, that was a good thing, in retrospect. Fewer items to remove. He worked quickly, trying not to grimace or show any negative reaction to the wretched state of the body beneath his hands.
A whisper from his future self broke through his concentration. "I'm sorry, but I don't think I'll be able to stand by myself. You'll have to ... wash ... me." The last two words were barely more than puffs of air propelled by misery.
Giles nodded once, perfunctorily. "We'll manage." He then quickly stripped off his sodden sweat pants, kicked all their clothes as well as the poor bath rug into a corner and made a mental note to toss the whole lot in a bag to be taken outside to the bin at the first light of day.
He picked up a bottle of antibacterial soap. This wasn't going to be one of those flowery, pleasurable shower experiences. As well, he tossed the discarded washcloth into the basin and reached for the scrubber instead. He'd have to go over every bit of his future self's body to make sure that there was no trace of demon contaminant remaining before scrubbing himself down.
Giles stepped in and then reached for his double, giving him a chance to swing his legs over the side before lurching up on painfully thin legs. He turned the water to a comfortably hot, though not scalding, temperature. If he still needed to, he could give the man a proper bath afterward.
As he reapplied fresh soap and scrubbed it off, Giles shut his mind down, refusing to feel the specific textures and dimensions of the trembling body under his fingers. After the body was washed, Giles rested the other man's head against his shoulder and quickly washed his hair. With a thorough rinse, he decided they were done. He couldn't afford to take the extra time to assess whether he still had any demon slime on him, but he could always towel it off. //Get rid of those, too.//
Giles laid a clean towel onto the floor before helping his double out onto it. Despite the hot water, the man was still shivering uncontrollably. Giles reached into the cupboard and withdrew two robes. He'd kept a duplicate, ever hopeful of an overnight stay from a relationship that had never leaned in that direction. That was a particularly bitter memory. He bundled his double into the warmer, hooded robe before shrugging on the thinner one. He was healthy. He could survive goose-flesh and shivering on the way to bed.
Giles gently herded his double back into the bedroom, avoiding the splatters on the floor between the middle of the room and the bathroom. He'd mop up in a bit; the most important thing was to get the man into bed.
As futureGiles sat on the bed, Giles lifted his legs up and swung them onto the mattress before drawing the covers up to the man's chest. Giles seemed to have regained full composure, knowing that he needed to stay alert and in control. Though futureGiles had closed his eyes, Giles knew he wasn't sleeping. So, he asked, "Would you feel better with a cup of tea?"
The figure on the bed didn't open his eyes, but murmured, "No, but I'll appreciate it anyway."
A sad, wry smile graced Giles's face. "I'll be back in a few. Then, if you're not too knackered, I hope we can talk. I need to have more information."
Before he turned away, his future self gave his assent. "Do what you need to do." Giles didn't know whether he meant the tea or the talk. He hoped it would be both.
With a small sigh, he went downstairs, turning on the lights in the hallway and the kitchen. Right now he needed the illumination to clear his head. //What a nightmare.// He would have preferred to have poured himself another drink, but that was absolutely the last thing he needed, given the circumstances. He busied himself measuring out the tea leaves and putting the kettle on to boil. While the water was heating up, he fetched a mop from the cupboard and wetted it. When he returned to the bedroom to make a hasty wipe of the floor, there was no recognition of his actions from the bed. He slowly waltzed his way into the bathroom, then rinsed the mop and left it to drain in the tub. Another thing he would take care of in the morning.
By this time the kettle was whistling, so he hurried back downstairs to fill the pot. He stood and stared blankly into the darkness outside for a few minutes before fetching two large earthenware mugs from a shelf and pouring. He added milk and sugar to the strong brew then, flicking off the kitchen lights, carried the mugs back up to the bedroom.
Giles placed both mugs on his side of the bed before slipping under the covers. He nudged his future self's shoulder. When his double opened his eyes, he seemed to be less agitated. Obviously the heat of the shower and comfort of the bed had done the trick. With a little help from Giles to prop himself up against the pillows, he gratefully accepted the mug, gasping at the sudden heat. But he continued to hold it steady.
The two men savoured the calming liquid for many minutes. Eventually, the double sank back into the pillows, murmuring, "I've had enough."
Giles quickly relieved him of the burden and placed both mugs back on the side table. He moved to the hall only to extinguish the lights, then came back to bed. Sliding in, he switched off the last light.
He lay still, on his back, wondering if his double was ready to talk yet. He turned toward his double's face and was overwhelmed by the look of anguish, loneliness and pain. Yet the picture was not totally bleak, for there was a trace of hopefulness where none had existed mere hours earlier.
Giles was transfixed by the words he heard next.
"I'm still cold. Hold me ... please."
He rolled over to face his double completely and then, delicately, slid one arm under the other man's neck while gently grasping the arm farthest from him. Giles still felt tiny tremors and a racing heartbeat. Of course, both were common effects of alcoholism. His double had already exhibited most of the others. His body in the bath had been a road map to ruin.
Still there was something different about these tremors. They had less to do with delirium tremens than with //Odd, that I'd think this now// desire and passion. When Giles looked again at his counterpart, he knew he had not been mistaken. There was a spark of longing in the man's eyes, his intent unmistakable.
Giles shook himself, terrified. How could his double ... how could he want to ...? With himself? It defied everything he had ever learned ... though, truth be told, this went far beyond the dangers of narcissism.
Yet a contrary portion of his brain decided to take up the argument. //He loved you so much he came back to save you. Can you not love him even though you can't save him? Perhaps, just by loving him, you will have redeemed him. He wants you. He needs you. He loves ... only you. You need to love him in return.//
Giles's mind was doing strange things to him. He was not accustomed to carrying out an argument with himself in the second person. Perhaps it was just as well that he had no counter argument to present. He was here. He could show generosity and gratitude both, with one gesture. He'd decided he would love himself.
The time for thinking was past and Giles reacted instinctively. The hand on his double's arm moved up to ruffle through the hair, soft now after a good wash. His double was startled, because he hadn't expected a positive reaction. Giles soothed him with a feather-light kiss on the forehead and trailed more kisses down the side of his face. He struggled out of his robe and slid his double's arms out of his.
Then it was just skin. Taut or slack. Muscled or wasted. None of it mattered. The touch of each on the other was transcendent.
Giles had to love this man.
Giles wanted to love this man.
But he was horribly afraid of the consequences. It had already been years since he'd been penetrated and, obviously, the situation would be much worse for his double. He'd been a fool, was going to become a greater fool, and had fallen to the absolute bottom in the future, judging from his counterpart's appearance. There was no doubt that his future self was impotent, having added erectile dysfunction to his litany of physical woes as a result of alcohol abuse.
Still, Giles had to try, for both their sakes. With shaking hands, he opened the drawer and retrieved a bottle of scarcely used lubricant. He held it up so his double could see it and merely raised an eyebrow. FutureGiles exhaled a long-held breath and nodded before closing his eyes.
Giles eased his double onto his back again before kneeling between his legs. He did everything he had to do ... trying to achieve an equilibrium between not too fast and not too slow. He believed he'd been successful, judging from the murmurs and moans rising from the bed.
And, then, in the one, still moment of the universe, he was ... inside. //Well, neither of us has exploded ... or imploded.// He shook off that bizarre notion as he concentrated on giving pleasure to his lover. Naturally, there was gratification for himself as well, but he didn't care, didn't half feel his neglected cock surging into unfamiliar territory. His attention was focused only on his lover, trying to arouse as many formerly atrophied nerve endings as possible.
Giles was more alive than he'd been in years. Obviously the same was even more true of his lover. As he rocked gently into his lover's receptive, pliant body, he murmured words of acceptance that he'd not heard himself for years.
His lover reached up for him, blindly, and he bent down, hovering over the other's lips before completing the circle, claiming him not out of desperation but out of love. His own body surrendered to the pulses that signaled completion. Though his lover was not able to achieve the same, he sighed, content, lost in memory, and drew Giles back down onto the bed. Their limbs tangled in a languid design and then they were still.
As they both sank into an untroubled sleep, Giles was well aware that they hadn't talked. That, too, would have to wait until morning.
Giles knew he shouldn't have been so surprised to have woken up alone, the other side of the bed having neither preserved nor reflected body heat. His future self was gone. He picked up the discarded thicker robe and pulled it on, hoping he could wear the other's presence – to be warmed by it. But that was a futile hope. The other was really gone.
Still, he noticed a folded piece of paper, snug between the empty mugs and the bottle of lubricant. He unfolded it slowly, suddenly too apprehensive to read it.
As you will have determined come morning, I am gone. I think I'm already dead. But, no matter. The important thing is that you will live. Thank you for having taken pity on this wasted wreck of a body. After decades without feeling the willing touch of another, I am at peace.
Remember that my showing up was just the first part of your recovery. You had so many questions bottled up. I will attempt to answer them all.
How did I fall so far? Pride and stupidity. I don't think I need to elaborate.
What about the Council? Well, after I reviewed the rules with intent to have the institution more closely reflect modern times – I was doing my best to do away with the draconian hold Travers had – then I sank into despair and the others forced me out. At this point I had no personal life and no professional affiliation. Oh, yes, they called me Director Emeritus but that was just for the letterhead. The inheritance provided for my daily needs and the flat (as you know) belonged to the family. Nobody came to see me. Nobody cared that I'd shut myself away. My bottle was my constant companion.
Why did I travel back in time with the intent of saving you from a similar fate? Because you've already begun to distance yourself from others. Alcohol has not yet consumed you fully, but you don't have much time. You do still receive the odd invitation, but you decline, having decided that the requests aren't genuine, that they are a result of pity, or obligation. And you're too tired to make the effort.
Really, Rupert, you must change this desperate scenario. NOW. I believe there are a couple of invitations for this coming weekend. From those who have not given up on you. Yet. Don't disappoint them, Rupert. Choose any of them, I don't care which one. But say yes.
Please. For both our sakes.
I love you.
Giles stared at the piece of paper for a good ten minutes, tears trickling down his cheeks. How this cursed man had suffered. Well, no longer. He'd been afforded a second chance and he wasn't about to waste it.
With fingers more sure than they'd been in months, he lifted up the receiver and dialed a still-familiar number. When he heard the warm voice on the other end, he said, haltingly, "Hello. Yes, I agree. It's been a rather long time. But, if the invitation still stands, I'd love to come out this weekend. Catch up. Yes. Alright. 3 in the afternoon. Lovely to have heard your voice, too."
The receiver dropped from his fingers back onto the cradle.
//Two days. Two days to become attached to the world again.//
He knew he could do it. For Rupert had shown him the way. And the only way to repay him was to go on living life to the fullest.