Giles pulled into the mostly deserted parking lot, managing to grab a space near the main entrance to Sunnydale Hospital. There were times in his tenure at the Hellmouth when he'd thought he'd deserved his own space. It would read, Rupert Giles - Most Likely To Be Bonked on Head. Exactly how many times could a man be concussed before he starts babbling the lyrics to Rock Me Amadeus? Well, he told himself, evidently you need to be hit on the head 22 times before you start thinking about that song. He nodded to the security person at the front desk. Even though he was no longer a frequent visitor they still recognized him. The weary scent of disinfectant and pain assaulted him as he left the lobby area and entered the hospital itself.
He trod the path to Xander's room and remembered how many times he had had made the same journey. How many times had he looked at the pale, drawn faces of the injured young? How many brave quips had he heard from them as they tried to joke and put up a plucky fašade to cover the fact that they were afraid and in pain? Giles remembered Cordelia demanding he get her fashion magazines. Willow always politely requested Discover, Scientific American, Popular Science and Wired. Buffy usually healed so quickly that she didn't need much reading material and she tended to favor watching Jerry Springer and his ilk to reading while confined to bed. Xander always said he just wanted sports magazines but Giles also knew to bring him a selection of comic books.
He hadn't brought comic books for this visit. Willow had said that reading was giving Xander a headache so he hadn't stopped and bought any. He'd tried to think of something else to bring. Sweets were always appreciated and he'd never known any of the Scoobies to turn down a box of chocolate covered pretzels. Maybe he'd bring some tomorrow, he decided. Most likely Xander would be asleep now. Giles ceased his musings to peek inside the door to Xander's room.
Willow was sound asleep, hand firmly gripping Xander's, her head resting on his legs, body twisted in an unnatural angle to keep it from slipping out of a chair. Giles' back hurt just looking at it. Dawn had been correct; Willow really did need a break if she was able to sleep in such an uncomfortable position. Xander was watching television with the sound turned off, he looked at Giles as he stood at the entrance to the room. Pointing towards the sleeping Willow, he then gestured towards the door.
Nodding, Giles came into the room and put a hand on Willow's shoulder. "Willow, Willow," he said softly, "time to get up and go home."
Willow's tousled head came up and she stared at him for several seconds before realizing who Giles was or where she was. "Wha?"
"Time to go home," Giles repeated slowly. "I called for a cab to meet you downstairs and take you home."
"No," Willow responded slowly as she desperately tried to wake herself fully up. But it wasn't working; her body was too exhausted to respond to her mind's demands. "I need to stay here with Xander."
"You need to get some rest," Giles said firmly. Willow opened her mouth to argue but was interrupted.
"Will, you really need to go get some sleep," Xander interjected. "And a shower."
"Harris, are you telling me I smell?" Willow asked with exaggerated shock.
"Rosenberg, not only am I telling you that you smell but that you have cooties," Xander retorted. Then his voice softened, "Go on, Will, please, you're exhausted. I'll be fine alone tonight."
"He won't be alone Willow," Giles said, "I'm staying."
Looking at the two men for a moment, Willow decided not to argue further. In truth, she was exhausted and knew, logically, that she'd be better able to support Xander if she had some rest. She gave Xander a hug and Giles' a small smile before she left the room.
Xander watched her exit and listened to the sound of her walking down the hall before speaking, "Thanks Giles, she's really worn out."
"No thanks necessary," Giles replied, he was about to make some small talk by asking what Xander was watching on the television but before he had the chance, Xander commented.
"You don't have to stay with me, I'm fine."
Giles shot him an appraising look even going so far to lift one eye brow to show his doubt at the fineness.
"Okay, I'm not fine but I don't need a baby-sitter. Go home, get some rest, you look tired."
"I thought you liked to be babied," Giles chided, "As a matter of fact I distinctly remember Anya mentioning something about a certain diaper fantasy."
Emotions played across Xander's face. Embarrassment and amusement warred for dominance. Taking a deep breath, he relied on years of making wise cracks to keep a straight face, "Well, I'm up for it if you are, Giles."
Giles narrowed his eyes and looked into Xander's single one appraisingly. Simultaneously they said, "Nah, you're not my type."
Laughing quietly, Giles sat down in the chair that was still warm from Willow. Xander asked the older man, "Has Anya told everybody in Sunnydale about our, uh, activities?"
"Not just Sunnydale, she emailed me the bit about the diaper fantasy when I was in England. Nearly caused me to choke to death on my tea."
"Oh, man," Xander ran his hands through his hair causing it to become even more disheveled and sat up in the bed. "I'm surprised she hasn't created a website."
"Www dot kinkyxander dot net," Giles informed him.
"You're joking, right?" Xander's voice squeaked silently cursing himself for all those pictures he'd taken of his and Anya's activities during their time together.
"Possibly," Giles retorted.
"I should get royalties, shouldn't I?"
"You expect Anya to share money with you?"
"Good point," Xander agreed as he leaned back into the pillows. His head was beginning to ache again.
"Why don't you try and get some sleep?"
"I don't like closing my eye."
"Because it's not dark when I do. There's all these colors and sparkly things, something to do with the way my optic never was damaged when Caleb, when he," Xander's voice trailed off and he purposefully closed his eye.
"When he mutilated you," Giles finished for the young man. Neither said anything for a few seconds.
"You know I figured the bad guys might eventually kill me," Xander said, eye still closed, a kaleidoscope of colors pouring into his brain. "Getting something broken, just another hazard of living in Sunnydale. I lost count of how many stitches I'd gotten by senior year of high school. It's just thatů" Xander stopped talking; he crossed his arms in front of his chest and grew rigidly still. The muscles of his jaw worked a few times before he continued, "Did you see the card the slayers in waiting sent me?"
Not easily diverted, Giles responded, "It's just that what?"
"I dunno. I just don't know," Xander replied, the sound of his voice tight with stress. "I mean, after all we've been through why does this just seem so much worse?"
"Maybe because it is worse and you know that it will never be quite the same again."
"Yeah, I'm not the man I used to be," the young man tried to quip but his voice broke. Tears ran down his face from his remaining eye and he began to tremble.
"You're a better than the man you used to be," Giles said reaching over to grip Xander's hand. "It is alright to mourn, Xander." He continued holding on to the hand, his thumb rubbing gently back and forth.
"No it's not. It's stupid, we've gotů there's just too much stuff to do."
"Yes, there is the yearly apocalypse to contend with. But that doesn't mean you can't mourn what you've lost or that you have to pretend that everything is fine."
"I have to.. everybody is so upset already. It's stupid, I'm fine." The tears continued running down Xander's face as he turned it towards the pillow to wipe them away. He was too embarrassed to open his eye now, ashamed that he was crying.
"It is not stupid and you are not fine," Giles snapped but he didn't let go as Xander tried to pull his hand away. "No you won't have the luxury of coming to grips with this catastrophe in your own time. Lord knows that there's never enough time in this damn city to ever recover from anything emotionally before the next horror is upon us. But you don't have to pretend that everything is as it was."
"But won't that upset everybody else?" Xander said quietly.
"Maybe they should be upset, Xander, have you thought of that? This is the reality of what can happen when you fight evil. It's not always a quick brave death or a broken arm that's healed in a few weeks."
"Yeah," Xander gave Giles' hand a squeeze before pulling it away to wipe his tears. "I get it, thanks." The young man lay their quietly for a moment before locking gaze with older man. There was some sparkle back in the eye. "So, I'm like some kind of good life lesson?"
"Only if for those living on Hellmouths. You're a bad life lesson for the rest of the planet, all those comic books and bad television shows. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, you know."
"Waste?" Xander sounded shocked.
"Waste. Listening to you and Andrew babble for hours to each other about whether Jean Grey is still dead on the moon or not is enough to drive intelligent thought from anybody's mind. The amount of time and resources you've squandered on X-men tie-ins is truly appalling."
"Uh, huh and how do you know that she's a member of the X-men?"
"How could I not? I've spent far too much time in the last seven years in your presence."
"Admit it, G-man, you've read them."
"I admit no such thing. I am an erudite individual with a taste for classical literature."
"You read the National Enquirer."
"I do not."
"Dawn left the latest issue if you want to read it," Xander said around a big yawn. His headache seemed a bit better and he was tired.
"Well, since you need to get some rest and I seem to have forgotten a book...."
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