The Love Bug

Buffy squirmed uncomfortably and drew the flimsy sheet around her knees.

"Cold?" asked Giles.

She shook her head mutely, eyes huge and cheeks flushed with misery. She was hot, too hot. But she could preserve her modesty at least…

He frowned, appraising her worriedly, and she forced herself to give him a weak smile. "I'll live," she said. "And…thanks for coming with me…"

He softened. "Of course. I wouldn't…well, I mean…"

She was on the verge of mercifully cutting him off when the door blustered open and the doctor strolled in.

"Finally," muttered Buffy, eyes squeezing shut as she tried to collect herself.

"I'm sorry," said the new arrival sincerely. He swept a manicured hand through a mane of glorious Fabio-curls. "We had a tour bus crash, and we are packed to the gills. I'm Dr. Martin."

"Rupert Giles. And this is…"

"Buffy Summers," the doctor recited, reading off her chart. "Says here that you're having dizzy spells?"

She nodded miserably. "Came suddenly. We were sparring, Giles and I…he…he coaches me, and we were practicing…"

"This something you do a lot?"

"Uh huh. And I have NEVER had dizzy spells or…or anything, really. I never get sick. Never."

"Well, you are now," said Dr. Martin cheerfully. "Dizziness, elevated heart rate, rapid fluctuations in body temperature…any changes in energy levels?"

"Actually, yes," remarked Giles. "One minute she's coming at me like a…well, one minute she's coming at me, and the next, she's…"

"Slumped on the floor, completely winded and feeling like I'm about to pass out," finished Buffy. "That's when he brought me in. Against my will, I might add. I never get sick."

Dr. Martin folded his arms impassively. "Miss Summers, you ARE sick. In fact, if my hunch is right, you are not only sick, you are virulently contagious, and both of you will need to be quarantined for at least three days."

Buffy's energetic finger-tapping stopped abruptly. "What?"

"Third case I've seen this month," chirped Dr. Martin. "Goldberg- Zacharovsky Syndrome, if I'm not mistaken."

This time, it was Giles who swallowed hard and plaintively squeaked "What?"

"A flu-like virus that wreaks havoc with the body's hormonal system," explained Dr. Martin. "Physical symptoms like yours hit right away." He shrugged off-handedly. "You'll get the emotional ones as the virus progresses."

Giles cleared his throat. "What kind of progressing are we talking about?"

The doctor squirmed. "It's popularly known as the 'love bug,'" he confessed. "The hormonal changes…well, they can produce…powerful effects. Let's just say that I hope there isn't any unresolved sexual tension between the two of you, or it'll be a very awkward confinement."

He took in Buffy's panicked eyes impassively. "Look, we can try and make you comfortable, but as I said, we're packed to the gills right now and we simply don't have separate rooms. You two have to stay in here until you're both clear. If she tests clean and you haven't had symptoms, Mr. Giles, you should be all right: it manifests fairly quickly. With any luck, you'll both be out of here within a couple of days."

He tossed them some pamphlets. "You folks take a few minutes, have a look at these while I see what supplies we can round up for you."

"A noose," grumbled Buffy. "So I can hang myself."

Giles rolled his eyes. "A telephone would be lovely. I have some business to attend to, and perhaps I could have someone drop off a few things…change of clothes, perhaps a few books…"

Dr. Martin smiled gently. "Of course. Let us know if there is anything we can do."


As soon as Dr. Martin was out of sight, Buffy jumped from the cot and started pacing nervously.

"I can't do this, Giles," she told him. "I can't stay locked up in this little room for a second longer! I'll go crazy."

"I highly doubt that," he remarked.

"And I have things to do," she told him. "Dawn things, and home things, and…and slaying things!"

"Now, now," he soothed. "First phone call we make will be Willow, and she can take care of all of those problems. If we just maintain a positive attitude…"

"Positive attitude? Giles, we're being locked up like some sort of plague, like lepers with a…a freaky hormonal ebola virus…" She punctuated her litany of complaints with vividly swinging arms, as Giles eyed the pamphlet nervously. The fits of energy were almost orgasmic in their highs and lows. Any minute now, the adrenaline would leave her…

He rushed to her side to catch her as her knees gave out. No doubt, the hormonal avalanche made the ensuing tears more dramatic than they might otherwise have been, but as he folded her slackened limbs into his arms, he felt her body tremble in fear…and something else that he couldn't quite identify. Or possibly, that he was simply afraid to identify. He wanted her, but not like this. Not with a distasteful little virus magnifying her every hormonal…her every SEXUAL…impulse. No, he resolved firmly. It wouldn't do to take advantage of her, even if she looked hot enough, in every sense of the word, that if he didn't know better, he would think HE was starting to show symptoms of the virus. No, he resolved firmly. It wouldn't do to take advantage.


Dr. Martin appraised his quarantined patients with some amusement.

"I see we're having temperature changes," he observed.

Buffy, still without her change of clothes, had been reduced to a quivering, goosebumped bundle of chattering teeth, Giles' arms wrapped chivalrously around her.

"Bite me," she seethed, trembling miserably.

"Now, now," said Dr. Martin. "You aren't supposed to be difficult, dear. The opposite, in fact. You are supposed to be so hormonally crazed that my gleaming, suntanned skin and shiny Fabio-curls stun you into a libidinous spell of submission."

Giles glared at the doctor and tightened his embrace around her protectively. "She's fine," he said.

The doctor smiled. "Yes, well, I have some things for you," he said. We've found an extra cot, which a nurse will bring in with your dinner. And a fellow named Xander came by with some clothes, some books and a cell phone."

He dropped a knapsack at their feet. "If I may offer a final piece of advice? The amount of sexual tension you may or may not be feeling…whether induced by a virus, naturally occurring or some combination of the two, one thing remains true: it really does feel better if you work through it somehow."

With a small salute, he departed, and Giles felt Buffy squirm.


She climbed shakily off his lap and started going through the knapsack.

"Sweater for me, sweater for you…oooh, tanktop. Goody, I'm hot again."

Without even thinking, she pulled off the hospital gown, and Giles sucked in a breath. She was beautiful. He'd always known it, of course. But until now, he'd always seen her body sheathed in the same sort of small, soft tanktop she held in her hand. Of course, as her watcher, her trainer, he had on occasion felt the strength of those firm, even muscles rippling beneath the faint spread of cloth. But to see it all before him…

She hadn't noticed. She was going through the rest of their supplies, and after a moment she put aside a pair of sweatpants and held up the boxers that Xander had packed for Giles.

"Giles? You don't need these yet, do you? Do you mind if I…God, I'm so hot, I just can't wear sweats now. Can I…"

"Of course, Of course," he said distractedly, not meeting her gaze. "Buffy, I…"

As fully clothed as she planned to be, she settled on the floor beside him, wrapping his arm around her. "What is it? Giles, what?"

With conscious effort, he dismissed the electrical tingle of her bare arm against his own. Get a hold of yourself, he mentally urged. She needs you. And right now, she finds your touch a comfort. You are the watcher. She is the slayer. You must ignore your own feelings, and care for hers. You've felt like this before, but the symptoms…hers, and increasingly, yours…are magnifying it. Mind over matter, old chap. It wouldn't do to take advantage.


Time crawled. Sometime, there was dinner, and they ate heartily. Sometime, too, he felt her retreating. A subtle shrugging off of his arm. A subtle inching away from him, pretending to absorb herself in a paperback novel, a phone call home…and sometime, he started inching close to her in infinitesimal fidgets that closed the distance she was putting between them. And sometime, the night shift came aboard. A new nurse popped her head in just to say hello. And the harsh fluorescent lights dimmed to a softer nighttime glow.

It was almost pretty, the yellowy-orange light. She was still in the white tanktop, and the light cast gentle shadows on her tiny form. And he, in jeans and a burgundy t-shirt, the light reflecting off the fabric and bathing his face in a fiery haze of softness…

Instinctively, he crawled toward her, and she jumped back.



She crouched away from him, body tense. "Don't. It's getting stronger, Giles. I don't think I can control myself anymore."


"Stop!" she croaked, voice cracking with tension and pain. "I mean it, Giles, I can't help it. I'll jump you. I can't…I need…"

God, he didn't think he could stand it either. She was still crouched on tiptoes, and her legs trembled as her muscles fought for balance. She was in his boxers…how close was that to…him…and there she was, he could SEE the muscles of her thighs as they supported her weight, he could SEE a tiny sheen of sweat as she fought the hormonal surge, the terrible crush of feeling, poor thing, fighting yet again, always fighting, poor, dear thing, did it have to be so hard…and echoing in his poor, soft brain, the words of the doctor: it really does feel better if you work through it somehow.

"I'll jump you, I swear it," she whispered.

He felt his own thighs tremble. "I like it better other ways," he whispered back.


He took the sleeping pills. He had to. It wouldn't do to take advantage, after all. Years ago…years ago, he took her in, he trained her, he grew to love her like a daughter. But she had grown beyond him now. He couldn't imagine how he had ever seen her as a child. The things she had been through---Angel, Faith, losing a mother, then becoming a mother for Dawn's sake…he came to love her all over again, and not as a child. Not as an equal, even. As a superior. She entranced him, plain and simple. Her playfulness. Her beauty. That heartbreaking maturity, that stunningly exquisite pain…what was he, alongside that? He loved her, loved her far too much to take advantage of a decidedly awkward situation. He took the sleeping pills, and so he was not awake to catch her watching him.

She missed his comfort, although the slightest touch of his skin to hers made her want to tear him to pieces. She could almost smell the pheromones. The virus had amplified them, split them into thousands of tiny little beads that sparkled like shiny stepping stones in the small river he was sweating through that shivery skin. But surprisingly, once he was sleeping, she stopped begrudging him the submission to unconsciousness.

It was his breathing. It lulled her, almost as much as the skin-on-skin, the thick, black hairs of his arms that tickled her suddenly extremely sensitive little-girl skin. It lulled her, the slow in-and-out of his chest, rhythmically, reassuringly, up and down, like that. He had modestly, bravely tucked himself in, but he had kicked off the thin hospital sheet at some point before he was completely out. She could see now that he had taken off the jeans, that he slept in the same kind of boxers that she was now wearing. Like him. It was almost closeness, almost…contact, and it gave her a visceral thrill. He kept the t-shirt on, but that was no impediment. She could still see the rising and falling, the in and out of his chest…he would never know it if she touched him while he slept, just a little stroking of those pale, sad arms, those beautiful arms with the scar, with the burn mark just above the elbow, with the faint white marks she could not identify…such brave skin. Such sad skin. He would never know if she stole a tiny touch, but she forced herself not to. After all, the longer she waits, the better the release will feel. And she would enjoy it more if he could scratch back.


Morning, day two. He awoke to her angry footfalls pacing the room like a caged tiger.

"I can't stay here, Giles," she told him. "I'm going crazy."

He said nothing. His insides were burning so much that he didn't trust himself to speak.

"The hot and cold thing's stopped," she reported glumly. "But I think I'm becoming noise sensitive. I can hear everything, Giles. The water running through the pipes. The blood, tunneling its way beneath my skin, beneath YOUR skin, and sweat dripping out and the tiny little arm hairs thudding into your bones when the air conditioner passes over them." Her eyes were glowing; she hadn't slept. "And I can hear the electricity," she finished softly. "So much noise, so much power…and I can't tell them apart, the electricity inside the walls and the one inside of us, and it's so loud and so sharp and I think I'm going crazy…"

Instinctively, she reached for his hand, and felt his pain when he grasped it. He was feeling it too, worse than she was, in a way. He was feeling it too, and it was hurting him…

"What should we do?" she asked softly.

He closed his eyes, forced himself to breathe softly, in and out in slow, even breaths. He could hear the blood too, and it was coursing faster than it ever had. And all those little tunnels of nerves felt like landmines, the rush of blood setting them off one by one. He tried to separate the pheromones from the nerves. He tried to separate the lust from the blood. He tried to look within himself, deeply, for what lay beneath it all. And again, he heard the words of the doctor: induced by a virus, naturally occurring….or some combination of the two. And he saw it, for one brief, blissful moment, He reached for her hand.

"I won't regret it later," he said.


She was in too much pain to hold herself back. He was there, and he wanted her, and she couldn't help it but it was so strong…note to self, she attempted, as she tugged on his clothes. Remember, even with the lust, even with the love, even with the terrible, wonderful whatever, remember to be gentle later. No time now, too much, too fast, but later…later, you'll be gentle. And you'll tell him that you won't regret it either, that you never could regret his letting you in, letting you mark the soul that lay beneath those brave, brave scars. Later you'll tell him why you've never asked him, why you've never…why you needed this impetus to what you were having. You'll tell him how you worried that you could never make it right enough, special enough, profound enough…that you've been hurt, just like he has. And that you're glad you waited until this moment, when everything is sharper and stronger and THERE…you'll tell him that, won't you?


Exhaustion. She could feel everything starting to build in her again, but she was utterly spent. She could touch his skin, and it felt like skin again. The prickling tentacles of fire were gone; her limbs were no longer under control of the lust-filled monster inside of her, but they were limbs again, with feet that could massage his leg, and hands that could stroke his hair. The urgency, the need dispelled, he felt human again, and that was a different sensation, but it was a nice one. She ran her foot up his ankle, then his knee, then his thigh, feeling everything. And feeling him tense painfully as her foot traveled higher…

She rolled far enough away that she could see him properly, and gasped. He still looked miserable. He did not look…taken care of…the way she did.


"I love you," he choked.

Her chest tightened. "But?"

He sighed. "But it will take me some time to get used to your…technique," he said. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "If I were not a raging mass of insatiably hormonal need right now, I would have enjoyed a more…intense…experience like that. But I'm simply not used to that…approach, and I'm afraid we'll have to do it again, the old-fashioned way, if we're going to…"

She could not conceal her disappointment. "Okay. If that wasn't good, we could…"

"No!" His entire body quaking in agony, he crawled to her and took her hand. "You must never think that, Buffy, You must never think it wasn't…it was. But this…this whatever it is…God, Buffy, I love you, and I need you so badly right now that I can barely move. But this…it's like our souls have decided to be together, and now out bodies need to introduce themselves. Your technique---playful, intense, dramatic, and urgently, intensely visceral…that's you, love. And the only way to satisfy your need was to fulfill it honestly. Now it's my turn. Buffy, love---you know how my heart works. Let me show you how my body does…"

She collapsed against him, sobbing, and he pulled himself painfully away. "Nice and slow," he said as firmly as he could muster under the circumstances. "Even at times like this…anyway, we'll need supplies," he told her. "Love, if you could, toss me the phone…"

It was starting to build in her again.


He surveyed the room anxiously before it became too much for him, and he slumped to the floor.

"There are no bedposts," he grumbled, near feral.

"Bedposts? But that's…"

"That's important," he snapped peevishly. "Where else do you expect us to anchor the handcuffs?"

They tossed in the second knapsack after lunch, and Giles, with Herculean effort, uncurled himself from the fetal ball he had tensed into.

"Thank god," he breathed.

It was starting to build in her again, and every time he moved, she saw it slow-motion. The painful untensing of his knees. The terribly cute shaking of his self-controlled hands as he carefully unpacked the bag. He let it build much longer than she had, and she marveled that his body could contain what he was feeling. Yet even in such a state, he would not be rushed. He would not jump her like a wild animal, thrust himself until he hurt her. He would not…but what WAS he doing?

He was dampening a washcloth, and he laid her on the bed and gently ran it across her skin. Tiny droplets of water beading among the droplets of sweat, some hers, some his. And thus refreshed, she could feel the tiny kisses. Up and down, in the same slow, deep rhythm of his chest as he breathed, her kissed her, top to toe, up and down. He touched her softly, with his lips, with his tongue, with his fingers. Traced the gentle curve of her back as it arched under him. Ran an impossibly smooth palm over her tensed arm as she balanced on her elbows to meet his gaze at eye level.

He let her get deep enough in that she could almost see the sparks between them before he started touching her with other body parts. And like the rest of him, those parts started out soft and unbearably gentle, then slowly revealed the spine, the power, the steel that his body could muster when called upon to do so. The same steel that his heart had called upon all those years, whenever he loved or protected her. In his head, in his heart…and in his lust, even in the depths of his lust, and especially, necessarily in the depths of that lust…he shared it with her. He touched her, inside and out, with everything he had. And they were calm again.


There was still unfinished business, of course. The doctor was demanding blood tests, and they complied. This did not worry them. Getting the all-is- well from Willow at home and Dawn at work…this did not worry them either. And breaking the news about their newfound coupledom…this did not worry them either, believe it or not. But explaining to Xander just how they had broken his handcuffs…that would be a hard one.