Keep on Truckin'
Giles sipped his whisky and listened with less than half an ear to Xander chatting. It had become a habit, sometime around the time Buffy and Dawn had finally come home from Rome, to take an after-dinner drink outside and sit on the low wall that separated the garden from the quiet suburban street and just let his mind drift. It had also become a not uncommon occurrence for Xander to join him to talk through the events of the day, or the demon of the week, or whatever else was on his mind. He never stayed long and was scrupulous about giving Giles his thinking time, but in the long months when Xander was away in Africa, Giles found himself missing their eclectic and often oblique conversations.
But tonight, Giles felt unsettled. Restless even. He couldn’t seem to focus on Xander’s words as he watched the lights from the traffic on the distant highway into Cleveland centre go by.
“What are you thinking, big guy?” Xander said.
“What?” Giles started and tightened his grip on the whisky tumbler in his hand.
Xander lifted his beer bottle and waved it in Giles’ general direction. “You, you were away somewhere else. In your head, I mean. Here I am, giving you a perfectly riveting report on Andrew’s latest cooking disaster and you weren’t listening. Not that I really blame you, because Tuna Casserole, a la Borg, not the most stimulating conversation starter, I agree. But you usually make an effort to at least look like you’re interested.”
“I’m sorry,” Giles replied. “Andrew. Tuna casserole. How could I possibly have tuned out? My bad, as Dawn would say.”
Xander nodded. “Nice, Giles. Just a faint hint of sarcasm and a backhanded bitch slap to the modern American teenager. Great to see a pro at work.”
“I’m glad you approve. My cup runneth over.”
“But seriously, Giles. You were all…” He waved the bottle again. “I don’t know. Somewhere else.”
“In a dwam?” Giles suggested.
“Maybe. I feel like I should agree, because you’re like, word man, but I reserve the right to disagree, mainly because I don’t have a clue what that word means, or even what language it’s in.”
“It’s English, you heathen. Or more specifically, Scots.” He raised his whisky to make the point. “My great aunt Morag used it a lot, mainly to describe the state of mind of pre-pubescent boys who should have been thinking about their homework, but instead were usually wandering about in a dwam.”
“Still not getting it.”
“It means that the person is elsewhere in their head. Perhaps because they’re thinking about something else, but normally, and certainly in the case of pre-pubescent boys, just staring blankly into space.”
“What about boys who’ve hit puberty, do they get in a dwam?”
“Sometimes, but since they’re mostly thinking about sex, their distractions are usually a little too muscular to qualify as real dwams.”
"So, if you were dwamming, and is that really a word? Is there a whole grammatical rundown – he dwams, she dwams, they dwam –“
“Xander,” Giles interrupted.
“Sorry, I got a bit off track.” Xander took a swig of his beer as if it would help his focus. “So back on track, what were you dwamming about? I’m assuming since it’s you, that you weren’t just staring blankly into space, because that big brain is always up to something.”
“Thank you. Your faith in my cognitive abilities is touching.”
“That’s what I’m here for, big guy. So, are you going to answer the question, or do I start talking tuna casserole again?”
“No need to get nasty,” Giles replied. “If you must know, I was thinking about trucks.”
“Trucks?” Xander replied.
“Trucks,” Giles confirmed.
“Okay, that’s pretty random, but I’ll roll with it. Any particular reason? Is it trucks in general, or specific trucks? Did you not get the toy truck you wanted as a kid and now you’re projecting on an entire set of motor vehicles, because if so, that’s a bit childish, and if trucks were people, or even demonic, which obviously, they’re not, unless you’re talking monster trucks, which is another thing entirely –“
“Have you quite finished?” Giles said.
Xander grinned. “I’m sure I’ve got more, but you caught me a bit on the hop with this pathological hatred of trucks you’ve got going on.”
“I didn’t say I hated trucks.”
“But you didn’t say you liked them, either. And the way you said it is what counts. You said ‘trucks’ in the same way you used to say ‘Xander’ when I’d dropped doughnut sprinkles over some sacred tome.”
“Which was too bloody often. But yes, very well, you’re right, I don’t like trucks, happy now?”
“Ecstatic. So, why don’t you like trucks?”
A dozen glib answers were on the tip of his tongue, but despite his banter Xander looked genuinely curious so Giles took a meditative sip of his whisky and considered what he wanted to say. “They’re just so, so ubiquitous and for the most part, so unnecessary.”
“Okay,” Xander replied. “And just like I could get what you really meant by your tone of voice, I hope you can read between the lines that the tone of voice I just used means I really don’t get it.”
“I just don’t understand what’s wrong with driving a car, or heaven forbid, actually walking,” Giles replied. “And before you say anything, I know that lots of people here drive cars, and that north America is, in fact, a car culture. I also realise that trucks are useful for all sorts of purposes, but why does virtually every north American male over the age of 16 seem to want to drive a truck?”
“And an even more burning question - why is it linked with having a baseball cap permanently attached to their head?” Xander added.
Xander shrugged. “It’s a guy thing, Giles. I know you’re a guy, but you’re a Brit guy, which as far as the truck thing goes, is a whole different species. Truck love is a north American guy thing. We love our trucks. It means we’re manly and macho and we can haul around toolboxes and tree trunks and dead moose off the sides of the road because again we’re manly and macho. And yes, it’s a penis metaphor, but it’s also a language, a shorthand for telling other guys who you are.”
“Who knew that a large lump of metal could be so versatile? I should alert the United Nations. Who knows what world problems they could solve.” Giles said.
“And again with the sarcasm, Giles. I guess I just don’t see trucks as being weird, because I’ve always been them around. My dad had a truck. My uncle Rory used to have a truck when I was a kid, or at least he did until the DUI’s started stacking up, then he bought that crappy Chevy Bel Air, which was his idea of driving under the radar, but that’s a rant for another time. Hell, you know I own a truck, and a toolbox, but I had the ball cap surgically removed by Willow when I was ten, so at some point I’m probably going to have to hand in my keys and my guy card.”
“I’m very well aware you have a truck, Xander. And very useful it’s been on occasion, not least for hauling around dismembered demon parts when Buffy has been a little over enthusiastic. I suppose that’s my point in a nutshell. You have a use for your truck. For your construction work and for our slaying activities. It has utility. I suppose I just don’t see the point of having a truck for the sake of it, when all some people do is use it to pick up their weekly grocery shopping or do the school run. It seems pointless. I understand that it’s cultural, but I suppose it annoys me that it annoys me, if that makes sense?”
“Because you think your big brain should be able to accept the cultural differences and move on instead of obsessing and being petty like a real-life normal person.”
“Well when you put it that way… All right, yes, I think I should be able to accept that it annoys me and move past it, instead of getting grumpy every time some lout in an F150 comes roaring around the corner as if they’re practising for the next Grand Prix."
“See, you are human, after all, Giles. You know, you’re allowed to be petty and grumpy and illogical. In fact, I insist on it. It makes me feel a lot better.”
“I live to serve,” Giles replied.
“Go me,” Xander said with a grin. “I gave you a reason to go on living.” He paused and took a long pull of his beer. “Come on,” he said, standing up.
“The truck?” Giles repeated.
“Yep, come on.”
Giles sighed. “Why?”
“Because I said so,” Xander replied. “Come on, you’ve faced down all the scary stuff that goes bump, squish and slurp in the night. Don’t tell me you’re scared of an itty-bitty truck?”
“I’m not scared of them. I just find them bloody annoying. And if you don’t stop talking to me like I’m five years old, I’ll find you bloody annoying too.”
“You can be annoyed at me later. Truck now.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, all right. If you insist.” Giles pushed himself off the wall, a final protest on his lips but Xander was already walking away. He contemplated a tactical retreat into the house, but knew that Xander would only harass him until he came out again. Defiantly, he pulled a small silver hip flask out of his pocket and topped up his glass before he followed in Xander’s wake.
Xander was waiting at the corner, standing under a large Dogwood that was just coming into flower. His truck was parked just a few feet away, in a quiet side street that bordered the property. Giles came to a stop in front of him. If he hadn’t been holding his glass he would have crossed his arms. “Well?” he said.
“Grumpy, illogical, petty and now with extra attitude. I’ll have you stamping your foot by this time tomorrow, Giles.”
“Don’t push me.”
“But it’s fun,” Xander replied. “But okay, I get it. This is just between you and me. No telling the girls about your truck hate, or about that hip flask either.”
“Just because I’ve got one eye doesn’t mean I don’t see things, you know. And before you ask, it’s kind of obvious what’s in your pocket. Unless you’re got a really weird shaped dick.”
“I really have no answer to that.”
“Probably wise. Anyway, moving on.” Xander grabbed Giles by the elbow and pulled him over to stand by the rear of the truck. “Okay,” he said. “Giles, this is Xander’s truck. Xander’s truck, this is Giles.”
“You call your truck, ‘Xander’s truck’?”
“Well I could call it Buffy’s truck, but that would be kind of weird, since it belongs to me.”
“I meant, you don’t have a name for it?”
“What you mean like Bob, or Shane, or the Xandermobile? I’m weird, Giles, but I’m not that weird.”
“I’ll take your word for it. Can I go now?”
“Nope, because now I have to show you why trucks are awesome.”
“I reserve judgement.”
“You’ve already covered some of the bases when you said they’re good for the construction gig when I’ve got that going on. And they’re good for heaving large bits of oozing nastiness which would frighten the local populace of Cleveland if we left them lying around.”
“As you say, we’ve already covered that.”
“But you know what makes trucks really awesome?”
“They’re great for making out.”
“Making out. You know, kissing, groping, working out what base you can get to.”
“I’m not ignorant, Xander. I do know what making out means. I vaguely remember having sex on occasion, somewhere back in the middle ages.”
“See this is where cars fall down. I know making out in the back seat of your daddy’s car is a classic as far as song writers are concerned. But you usually finish up in some weird position that does crappy things to your back and would earn you a yoga teaching certificate if you could be bothered to take the exam. But trucks come with flat beds.” He flipped down the tail gate of the truck. “Note the operative words – flat and bed. Put down a few blankets and a bit of padding and off you go.”
“Xander, why are you telling me this? Because really, I was quite comfortable in my vaguely irritated state.
“I’d have thought that was obvious,” Xander replied. “I want to make out with you. I’ve been looking for an opening for weeks, since I came back from Nairobi. And tonight, there it was. You and your irrational truck hate, it was just shouting at me.”
“You want to make out? With me?”
“Yep,” Xander replied. “Obviously not expecting to get to the blankets on the truck bed stage right away, but I thought I’d lay out the possibilities while we were having the conversation.”
“Very thoughtful of you, I’m sure.” Giles stared at the flat bed and took a deep drink of his whisky, pulled out the hip flask and topped it up again.
“Giles,” Xander said slowly. “Are you okay? Because Buffy’s going to be really pissed if I broke you.”
Turning around, Giles walked back to the corner and stood staring at the flickering lights on the distant highway, sipping occasionally at his whisky.
“Giles? Xander said. “Look, I’m sorry. Forget I said anything. Chalk it up to sunspots, or global warming, or the full moon or something, okay.”
Giles turned back towards him and stared until Xander shifted from foot to foot. “Right then,” he said and walked quickly back towards the truck and put the glass down on the flat bed. He pulled the almost empty beer bottle out of Xander’s hand and set it down next to the glass.
“Giles?” Xander said again
“That’s three times you’ve said my name in rapid succession,” Giles said. “I think we can dispense with a fourth, don’t you?” Grabbing hold of Xander’s shirt, Giles pushed him back a step until he hit the back of the truck, then followed him. He slipped one hand around Xander’s neck, leaned down and kissed him. After a moment of incoherent noise that Giles knew wasn’t a protest, Xander kissed back. The kiss went on for a very long time.
Trucks, Giles thought when they finally came up for air. Maybe they had their good points after all.