Evil Deadening, part 3: Dinner and a Show
Giles' guest took his time in the shower and Giles was grateful for it. He needed a breather to clear his mind and get a handle on his libido. While Ash was as far from Giles' type intellectually, the Watcher hadn't been so captivated by someone since Ethan. It was the physicality of the man. He'd always had a soft spot for large, dark eyes with hair to match. It was Giles' kryptonite, as Xander might say.
He'd fared quite well with the meager cleaning supplies he had in the kitchen. He thought it would be enough to get him through dinner at the very least. He threw on his chores shirt, the one he used for painting and miscellaneous tasks around the flat, and tossed on a pair of joggers. He discretely slipped into the bathroom and placed his most comfortable robe and set of pajamas upon the toilet for his guest, catching a guilty glimpse of Ash's hazy figure through the steamed shower curtain. He was sure the comfortable choice would be appreciated, regardless of whether Ash voiced it or not.
The shower cut off just as the pizza arrived. Giles arranged to have the meal at the kitchen counter, setting up plates and a buffet of additional toppings Xander always liked for personalizing his pizza. The door to the bathroom swung open and Ash made a steamy entrance, barefooted and looking quite relaxed in Giles' burgundy robe. Free of the demon gore, the thick, mahogany curls atop his head were chaotic, giving him a youthful appearance. The robe fit handsomely along his broad shoulders but hung a touch long, evidence of their height difference.
"Did you find everything you needed?" Giles asked, waving Ash to join him at the counter.
"Yeah." Ash raked his fingers through his hair and took a seat on a stool. "You sure have a lot of frilly stuff for a guy."
"Yes, well, all in the line of duty, I assure you. I play host to Buffy's friends, upon occasion. They tend to leave necessities behind for future use."
"And the rubber ducky?"
"It was a gift from one of them."
"Why does it have fangs?"
"It was more of a gag gift." He served Ash a slice. "I hope you like pepperoni."
"Well, you can never be certain."
"What's this stuff, chocolate milk?" Ash gestured to the glass Giles placed near him.
Giles smirked. "Not quite. That would be the beer you requested."
"No, proper beer. That was the deal, was it not?"
"Yeah, but this isn't beer. Beer looks like piss and comes in a can."
"It's ghastly what horrible torture you've had to endure, my friend." Giles smiled. "Just give it a taste. You might like it." He sipped his own to ensure his companion it was safe for consumption. Ash took a speculative sip and nodded his satisfaction.
"So glad." Giles took a bite of his slice and watched as Ash followed his lead. They ate in silence for a few moments.
"What do you think?" Giles asked.
"About what?" Ash raised a brow.
"Does the pizza meet with your approval?"
"Anything's better than crap I've been choking down for the last month." Ash took another bite and glanced up to see Giles watching him. "It's good. Thanks."
"You're welcome." Giles took a swig of beer to wash down the pizza. "Oh, I nearly forgot. I have what I've been told is the worlds most comprehensive first aid kit in the bathroom. I hadn't noticed if you needed any…"
"Nothin' serious. I'll live."
"Yes, you seemed to have managed quite well so far, all things considered."
"You live alone?"
"Swinging bachelor pad, huh?"
"I suppose so, save the swinging. Why do you ask?"
Ash thought for a moment and answered unconvincingly, "Just wondering if I should expect anyone else like your high school buddies or girlfriend or something."
"Um, no, I'm not expecting anyone." Was that a hint, Giles wondered.
"You're not from around here," it was more of a question than a statement.
"How good of you to notice." Giles smiled, dismissing the annoying comment. His guest was simply trying to carry on a polite conversation.
" England or something, right?"
"Yes." He nodded and took another bite of pizza.
"Ever get homesick?"
"From time to time. I find it's best to keep busy. You?"
"Yeah. Miss Thursday nights at the bowling alley. Friday's at the bar. Sunday's with Mom."
"And your girlfriend, I'm sure?" Giles probed and saw sadness cross Ash's features. 'Oh, bloody good show,' Giles cursed himself. "She was with you, wasn't she?"
"Yeah." He lifted the slice to his mouth then dropped it, watching it slap unappetizingly to the plate and shoved away.
"Ash, I don't wish to pry but I may be able to help if you could tell me what happened to you, specifically your interactions with the Necronomicon."
"What's to know?" He grumbled and could see Giles wasn't about to accept such a vague response. "Me and Linda took a weekend trip to go camping in the woods. Place was empty except for an old reel to reel recorder. Got me curious so I gave it a listen. Didn't understand a word. Whatever it was, it was bad. Made her bad." He gulped down the details. "Got interrupted by a group of strangers who saw the blood and thought I was the killer. A dozen knuckle sandwiches and a kick to the kisser later, the bad comes back for a second helping and then a third. You get the picture. Then this brainy broad gets wise to the book, reads a passage from it and gets a knife in the back for her trouble. Then yours truly gets swallowed up by a big ol' vortex and spit out into a reject Camelot where the fun continues."
"And the others at the cabin?"
"Dead, every last one. Those things killed them, or... or I did."
"You did what you had to do."
"What do you know about it?" Ash challenged defensively.
"You'd be surprised."
In seeing Giles sober expression, Ash responded regretfully, "Maybe I would."
"I'm sorry for your loss."
"Yeah, well... your sorry won't bring them back, will it? So save the tears for your gal pal."
"You lost someone you cared about in a cruel, inhuman way, Ash. It would do you well to talk about it."
"I don't go for all that touchy, feely mumbo-jumbo. All's I need is a way to get home."
"I might be able to help with that. But I need to know what happened. I need to know the details."
And so the details came. Ash was pitilessly with crude words spoken through clenched teeth. The tale was told without embellishment or justification, just cold, hard facts, every one more agonizing than the next. Death, decapitation, self mutilation, demon possession, and unbelievable mental torture. He'd survived far more than Giles thought humanly possible. And as Ash described the torturous night, Giles found himself impressed by the unfathomable strength the young man had. It was no wonder he was as crusty as he was, being a matter of necessity to deal with the tragedy forced on him. When Ash had finished his tale, he sat back in the chair, visibly shaken and fatigued.
"Thank you. I know how hard that must have been for you, telling me."
"Sure it isn't all peaches and cream to heard, either." Ash eyed his abandoned pizza slice then pulled it near and picked off the pepperoni, slowly regaining his appetite.
"Quite but I'm familiar with such occurrences. First hand, I'm afraid. Odd bit of good fortune, you running into me."
"Sure, I'm all kinds of lucky."
"That remains to be seen," Giles mumbled under his breath. "Point is, I have the book you're searching for."
"The Necronomicon, I have it. Actually, it's a reproduction but it should be enough to get you home."
"Why do you have the book? You evil or something?"
"That's a matter of opinion," Giles chuckled. "Actually, it's required reading at the academy, a rather infamous text not to be taken lightly."
"Academy? You mean with your watching thing?"
"The Watchers Council, that's correct. The original manuscript was destroyed ages ago, deemed far too dangerous for continued existence."
"But this second edition of yours will get me home?"
"Only if we can deduce what went wrong with your previous attempts to return home. If memory recalls, it required a spell to be performed on consecrated grounds, of which Sunnydale has in abundance."
"Cemeteries should serve that purpose well."
"Ah, holy ground. Got ya."
"There's a potion involved, isn't there? Willow and I should be able to manage that."
"If you could make it not taste like puke, that'd be groovy."
"Then I believe it's simply a matter of reciting the required passage, correct?"
"Um, yeah... that sounds kinda... kinda familiar." He glanced away, suddenly uncomfortable.
"So what precisely went wrong the last time?" Giles sipped his beer.
"I dunno." Ash shrugged.
"Well, something didn't go as planned. Did you get interrupted?"
"Failed to perform the spell on consecrated ground?"
"No, got that right."
"Was the potion mixed incorrectly?"
"I don't think so."
"It was the words, okay?" Ash shouted in frustration. "I messed up. I'm not so good with words and I messed them up. Why do they have to be so perfect anyway? I mean, no one knows the words to anything anymore. Hell, I don't even know the Pledge of Allegiance or the words to the Twelve Days of Christmas. There should be a grading curve for that thing. It just not fair."
Giles couldn't help but smirk.
"What's so funny, English? You laughing at me?"
"No, not at all." Giles smiled. "It just so happens I'm rather good with words... translation, I mean. It's what I do. My friends often refer to me as the Book-guy."
"You mean you can say the words to get me home?"
"No. I'm afraid the passage must be spoken by you. I'm saying I can teach you."
Ash heaved a sigh. "Look, truth is I'm a drop out, bub. Totally flunked out of English."
"Then we're rather fortunate the passage isn't written in English, aren't we?" Giles suggested. "Listen, there are two sorts of people in this world, those who find comfort in words and those who find comfort in action. It's quite obvious to me that action's more to your tastes."
"How about you?" Ash asked. "Which type are you?"
Giles offered a sly smirk. "Let's just say I go both ways."
Ash chuckled and then went quiet, staring curiously at his host. "Then I guess I am lucky." He concluded with a grin that sent a rush of heat pulsing through Giles.
The Watcher took up his glass and chugged the remains of his beer, trying to cool down. "Yes, well, I think the both of us could use a good nights rest. We'll begin in the morning."
"Morning, right." Ash finished off his beer and gave the glass a wiggle. "But first, you got any more of this stuff?"