Hey all. I needed more Giles fulfillment in my life. Story does contain a little adult language.
Xander's legs were both asleep and he wondered if they'd be able to hold him up when he finally stood. His head throbbed a dull country-western tempo. He was beginning to think he'd broken his tailbone when Willow had zapped him into that weird-ass temple. The burning pain from the welts she had ripped on his face and chest reminded him of some of the less pleasant incidents with his father. All in all, he felt like complete and utter shit. Which was surprising because he'd just saved the world.
He had cradled Willow on the hilltop overlooking the sea for a long time before Giles had come to pick them up. By that time Willow's heartbroken crying had subsided into small whimpers and he had carried her to the car and gently buckled the seatbelt around her. They'd gone to his apartment and he'd attempted to get the shaking woman into bed but she resisted. They'd ended up curled up together in a corner of his bedroom. Willow finally slept, emotional and physical exhaustion claiming her. Xander had been loath to disturb her so he'd sat and held on to her unable to sleep himself, thoughts of what had happened and what could have happened pounding in his head all through the night.
And now, he thought wryly, I'll never be able to stand up straight again. I'll be totally useless as a carpenter and have to get a job with Buffy slinging the ol' double meat. Fuck, he decided, if I don't move now I'll never be able to. Gently rolling Willow from his embrace, he left her lying on the floor.
Giles had tucked a blanket around them both earlier and he covered his best friend with it before stumbling towards the door. He left the door cracked a little so he could hear her if she woke up. It was morning, he realized as he entered the living room. Light was pouring through the windows. Giles was sitting at the kitchen table with a newspaper and cup of coffee in front of him. "Is Willow awake?"
"N..," Xander started to reply but his throat was too dry and rough, shaking his head he limped to the refrigerator. He was surprised to find something other than beer in it. A bottle of juice disappeared in one chug before he attempted to speak again. "No, she's asleep."
"Not surprising, she expended an enormous quantity of energy. How do you feel?"
"A number-one, G-man," Xander attempted to laugh and give a thumbs up sign but it hurt too much to get his hand in that position. It must have gotten hurt at some point. "Owww."
"You really look quite terrible," Giles decided, giving him a thoughtful look. "Stay here while I get the first aid kit."
It was half an hour later by the time that all of Xander's cuts had been tended to. The alcohol had stung terribly but he was too tired to even flinch away. Beyond a few commands to move this way or that, Giles said nothing. He began to wonder if the older man was angry with him. But he couldn't think of anything he'd done though to piss Giles off.
"You'll probably have scars," Giles declared.
"They'll go along nicely with all the other ones," Xander joked, "don't want the old body to look unused when they plant me."
"Don't." The ex-Watcher said quietly.
"Don't what?" Xander asked.
"Don't make light of what Willow did to you. She needs to know what she did, all the consequences of what she did."
"Great, only what are all the consequences of what she did? I mean, what are we going to do now?"
"I wish I knew," Giles laughed softly and ran his hands through his hair, "last night Willow said she used to think I had all the answers. Right now I wish I did. I wish I had a bloody clue as to what we should do next."
"I've given that a lot of thought."
"I think we should make pancakes." "Xander you are truly one of the most remarkable people I've ever met," Giles said in disbelief, "pancakes, indeed."
Though every movement was a new and interesting experience in agony, Xander mixed the ingredients for pancakes and started cooking them. The smell of the food stimulated his appetite and he realized he hadn't eaten in a day.
"Get out the syrup, it's up there," he jerked his head to the cabinet by the refrigerator.
"Maple or blueberry?" Giles asked as he peered into the cabinet.
"Blueberry syrup is a crime against nature," Xander declared, "only maple syrup or a maple flavored sugar solution should be poured on pancakes." The blueberry syrup had been Anya's. She had liked things that tasted both fruity and sweet.
"Dear God, I must be tired, that actually made sense," the British man grabbed the sticky bottle of syrup, Mrs. Butterworth-Lite. The two men sat down at the table and ate their first pancakes without speaking to each other. Xander resisted his natural inclination to make a joke or to get some inane conversation going. If he couldn't make jokes about what had happened, exactly what could he say?
The phone rang. Xander licked some syrup off his fingers and got up to answer it. He wasn't surprised that it was Buffy and that she immediately asked to speak with Giles. After passing the phone off, he helped himself to another bottle of juice and went back to eating. Giles made monosyllabic answers to whatever Buffy was saying over the phone, occasionally he rubbed his temples. "All right then, I'll expect to hear from you this afternoon. Good-bye."
"Well?" Xander asked.
"Well, I think you've got a new roommate."
"Dawn doesn't want Willow back into the house, does she?" Xander guessed. He was not surprised. Dawn had been badly treated by Willow several times when Willow had been using magic. The girl had told him, after Willow had been responsible for her broken arm, that she was trying to forgive Willow and help her but that there was always a little specter of fear that kept knocking. Dawn hadn't wanted to talk to Buffy about it; she figured her sister had enough to deal with already.
"No, not for a while anyway," Giles replied sitting back down at the table. The two men continued eating in silence for several minutes. Xander discovered that eating on the left side of his mouth hurt and that sitting in companionable silence made him extraordinarily nervous. Finally, he said, "Thanks for getting the juice and stuff. I haven't been doing the nutritional shopping thing lately. Those four basic food groups, just outside my reach, you know."
"I think your beer bottle collection told me all I need to know about what you've been eating lately."
"And that's supposed to mean?" Xander snapped irritably.
"That's supposed to mean that I'm not just worried about Willow, I'm worried about you as well," Giles responded evenly.
Xander stared at the other man like he had grown another head. That comment had come so far out in left field it was probably right field, or something like that. He suddenly felt very sad, no witty or caustic remark coming to mind. Shifting his gaze, he looked intently at his pancakes. "I'm sorry about you and Anya," Giles continued. "I know that you both cared deeply about one another."
"Yeah, we did," Xander replied.
"And you still do," Giles stated.
"What difference does it make? She's a vengeance demon again and that's all my fault."
"It is true that if you didn't think you were ready to get married you should have said something a little sooner than at the wedding. But if you had doubts, perhaps it is better that you didn't go through with it," Giles said, then he sighed, "I'm not sure what to say about her being a demon again. Still, she helped us stop Willow and her support was invaluable."
"Anya wanted to help Will," Xander explained. "Even though they never were bestest buds, she wanted to help her. I thought ..."
Xander cocked his head and looked at Giles for a moment. He used to think, as Willow did, that the older man had all the answers. Things were so much easier if somebody knew what to do. Not just for the hellmouthy stuff, for all the little interpersonal stuff that went with being a teenager. "I used to think demon equal bad, human equal good. But look, Anya as a demon is a helluva lot nicer than that shit Warren."
Giles nodded. "Very few things are clear cut in life."
"And what about Willow? She killed somebody, she tore the skin off him and then burnt him up like bad barbeque," Xander said quickly, his legs starting to fidget despite their ache. "Does she get a check in the bad column now? What do we do with her? Go to the cops? And she..."
"She said stuff, Giles. Really nasty, hurtful things to everybody. Was that just the dark magic talking or does she really feel like that?"
Giles regarded the young man in front of him. The vulnerable hurt in his eyes reminded him off the pain he saw too often reflected in the younger Xander that he had first met. He had been so insecure, positive that he was just a dumb class clown. The intervening years struggle that was life in Sunnydale had made him stronger. Xander had been very lost for a while until he'd found a job that he was good at, one that people respected him for. A job he could talk about. There were very few pats on the back for risking your life night after night to kill creatures that nobody believed existed. But part of him was still the boy Giles had first met. The boy now asking if his best friend really held him and their other friends in contempt.
Giles poured himself some more coffee and took a sip before answering. "Xander do you doubt that I love Buffy very deeply?" Xander shook his head in response. "Do you doubt that at times I could wring her scrawny neck for making me worry needlessly, for having a strange fascination for shagging vampires, being a horrible driver and ignoring me unless she wanted something?" Xander shook his head again. "Exactly. I care very deeply for Buffy but if my inhibitions were suddenly removed I could certainly say a number of very hurtful but very true things about how I feel about her. No matter how much you care about someone, there's always something about them that annoys you."
"Yeah, that's true," Xander nodded thinking of some of Anya's stranger habits. But what Willow had done had gone far beyond revealing some of her less kind thoughts. "So then what you're saying that the dark magic doesn't give you the hate and nastiness. It just lets it out? That if you were really good all the way through it couldn't make you do anything bad?"
"I don't know, Xander," Giles responded slowly. "I'm not sure anybody does. Human beings nearly always have something dark inside them that can be tapped into."
"Does how nasty you are show how much nasty you have in you?"
"I don't know," Giles shook his head. The statement was not entirely true. He believed that the amount of corruption the magic could work on you indicated how much darkness was already in you. At least at the beginning, anyway, after that, the darkness would just keep escalating. But he didn't think Xander could currently deal with all the implications of what Willow's behavior might indicate. Lord knew he wasn't sure of what the implications were. He went back to sipping his coffee, thoughts spinning.
Xander pondered what Giles had said then decided to think about it again when he'd had more rest. He knew he still loved Willow and for right now, that was enough. Time enough later to deal with the rest. Giles was sitting silently in front of him and he thought of Giles' earlier silence. He wondered if the other man was irritated with him. "Uh, is there something special that I did to annoy you? You seem kindaŠ"
"Upset?" Giles said, shaken out of his reverie.
"Yeah, the upset thing," Xander responded.
"Well there has been this entire Willow ending the world thing that has me a bit put off," Giles replied dryly.
"None of you bothered to tell me about Dawn's stealing, your failed wedding, Anya's conversion or Willow's magical addiction problems," Giles ticked off the points on his hand. " All I've heard from the lot of you is brief e-mails saying everything is fine," he snapped.
"We didn't want to bother you," Xander explained, "We thought you were busy getting your life back and didn't," he paused, "and didn't need us bugging you all the time with our problems."
"And you don't think it was a tad inconvenient to be imbued with magical powers and teleported across the Atlantic to find everything in a total cock up?"
Xander found he couldn't say anything; he had an irresistible urge to grin. He gave in to it, "Well, this is Sunnydale, what the hell did you expect?"
"I don't know, how about a trip to Disneyland?" Giles retorted. "You know we do have phones in England, one of you could have called."
"Again, the bugging thing."
Giles voice softened, "Do I really make you all feel like you're nothing but an annoyance to me?"
"No," Xander replied fixing his gaze on to a wall. "No, you're probably the only adult we've had in our lives that didn't make us feel like that. Well, Buffy's mom didn't, but she was Buffy's mom and you were more like," he brought his eyes back to Giles, "you sort of belonged to all of us."
Giles nodded, too filled with emotion to reply, and took another sip of coffee. Slowly swallowing, he then said, "And I feel that all of you belong to me."
Strong feelings left the two men unable to speak for a moment. Neither was comfortable with expressing feelings to another man. But, Giles thought, life is short and regrets can last forever. If we don't take the chance to let another know we care for them, they can be gone in heartbeat, like Jenny, like Joyce and now Tara. He reached a hand across the table and gently grasped Xander's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "I do care very much about you," His hand slipped from the shoulder and went back to the coffee. "What I said before still holds, I am worried about you."
Xander didn't reply. Part of him wanted to go around the table and give Giles a hug, part of him desperately wanted to make some kind of joke to shake off the emotions he felt. A large part of him feared rejection if he did try express how much he cared for and respected the older man by hugging him. His Mom rarely hugged him and his father only touched him in order to hurt. Then he thought about Tara, she had been a wonderful person and she'd died. Died not in some apocalyptic battle but because some shit with a gun had a shot that went wild. How many times had they all nearly been killed in the last few years, hell the last day?
Without making a conscious decision, he got up from the table. His legs were still aching and he was even more positive he'd cracked something in his back but he walked around the table. Bending down, he enveloped Giles in a tight hug. Xander would have pulled out of the hug quickly but the other man had put his arms around him and held on for several moments. Giles released him with what he hoped was a manly pat on the back. Walking stiffly back around the table, Xander sat down again. There was an awkward silence for several seconds before he broke out in a large grin.
"You do realize that we, the men of the group, finally saved the day."
"Why so we did," Giles smiled back. "The women were virtually useless."
"Buffy was down in some big hole doing sisterly bonding with Dawn," Xander said with an exaggerated sigh as if the two girls had been out shopping.
"Anya was nagging me about how poorly thought out my plan was," Giles shook his head in exasperation.
"So we had to step in and save the day," the younger man held his hand up for a high-five. Giles slapped his hand. Both men winced in pain and made loud owing sounds.
"I feel terrible," Xander declared, "of course since I'm a stoic, manly kind of guy, I won't mention that."
"And I won't mention the fact that I got bounced off the ceiling a few times and can barely move." "And I won't whine about the fact that my car is totaled and my insurance rates were already through the roof."
"And I won't go on about the fact that I didn't enter the country legally so it's going to be a bitch to get out. Oh, and the fact that all the money in my pocket is pounds. I had to buy the bloody juice on a credit card."
"Good thing we're men and we don't complain about such things," Xander nodded.
"Too right," Giles agreed, "you got any pain killers?"
Xander creakily stood up and headed toward the medicine drawer. Years of fighting on the Hellmouth and breaking, straining, spraining and generally injuring nearly every part of his body had left him with a large selection. "Yep, you need a muscle relaxant too?"
"I seem to have a very unmanly back spasm, so, yes please."
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