Xander arrived at the library just as Buffy was leaving, bright hair sleeked back in a pony tail, face glowing and damp. “And is this a well trained Slayer I see before me?”
She flicked at him with her towel and grinned. “It’s a hot, sweaty Slayer who, before you ask, needs no help in the shower. Catch you later at the Bronze?”
Xander nodded. “Sure. Later.” He pushed against the door, but paused for a moment, watching her walk down the corridor. She was limping slightly and he frowned. If Buffy was hurt then Giles must be –
“You shouldn’t let her do this, Giles.”
The words came out before he had time to think how they sounded. Giles was sitting at the large table, upright, but looking as if it was only willpower that was keeping him so.
“Good evening, Xander.”
“Don’t give me that social niceties crap, Giles. She’s gone and you can relax now and put the brave face away.”
Giles smiled and winced at the same time. “Relax? Hurts too much, I’m afraid. I’ll settle for waiting until the feeling returns to my limbs and I can properly appreciate the pain.”
Xander dragged a chair out and sat beside Giles. “Seriously, Giles? Why don’t you say something? Tell her to ease off?”
He got a glare for that. Giles took a deep, slow breath. “Xander, just what do you think I’m here to do? To get Buffy killed even faster? She needs to train. It’s my job to help her. What, do you think being a Watcher is a purely – a – ” He paused and Xander realised, with a feeling like ice water had been dumped down the back of his neck, that Giles, man of words, was lost for one. “It’s not passive,” Giles said after a long moment. “I don’t just watch over her, you know.”
“I know.” Giles fought with Buffy when she needed help, always had, always would. Xander knew that.
“I’m responsible for her. To the Council she’s just one in a long, unending line of girls, but to me –”
Xander shrugged. “I know that too, Giles. You love her. Guess what? She loves you too. She knew she was leaving you beat-up, bruised and yeah, bloody, she’d freak.”
“You won’t tell her.” It wasn’t a question.
Xander looked Giles over. He’d seen boys sit like that after a football game, pads removed, bodies fragile and shrunk, sitting very still as if the tiniest jar would shatter them into a thousand pieces because hours of being hammered had left them covered with hairline cracks, ready to fracture.
“You need to get cleaned up, Giles. Hot shower might help, maybe?”
Giles nodded, moving his head a bare millimetre. “It usually does. I keep a towel here, supplies...” He smiled. “I find the water in the school showers is usually much hotter than I can get at home. Benefit of being over the Hellmouth, perhaps?”
Xander chuckled at the small joke, more to encourage Giles than because he thought it funny. The school showers weren’t anything to joke about even before he’d come within two fin flaps of becoming a fish. Naked and defenceless weren’t good things to be when you were a nerd, a loser, and there was soap in your eyes.
Giles put his hand on the table and pushed up. Xander stood too and reached out a hand. Giles froze it in place with a lifted eyebrow. “I think I’m capable of standing, Xander. I might be nearly thirty years your senior but I’m hardly on my last legs.”
Xander smiled and stepped back. “See me agreeing with everything you say, old man.”
Giles took two steps and said, “Somehow, I don’t think that’s you being English.”
“No, it’s me being rude to someone who’s not letting me help him when he needs it. That would be someone being stupid. Seems to me when I’m dumb, you let me know about it.”
Giles paused. “I do? Yes, I suppose I do. Very well, in my office, in the cupboard, there’s a blue bag. Would you be so kind as to fetch it for me and save me some steps?”
“Are you being sarcastic?”
Giles rolled his eyes. Probably got that trick from Buffy, Xander thought. “No, Xander. That would be the stupid man remembering his manners. Please?”
Xander didn’t think he was capable of refusing a request from Giles when he said ‘please’ like that, his voice softened and appealing. From his lips it was a magic word. He turned and went into the office, seeing signs, in the scattered papers and half empty cup of tea, that Giles had been in the middle of some paperwork and left it to be a target for a girl who could punch through concrete and do no more than skin a knuckle. He found the bag and pulled it out. It reeked, not of sweat-soaked socks, as his did, but of liniment, the kind that felt as if acid had been rubbed into flayed skin when it started to work. The bag was heavy enough that when Xander went back into the library, he didn’t hand it over to Giles, who stood, hand outstretched.
“Forget it. I’ll carry it, you stick close to the walls in case you need something to grab as apparently I have cooties.”
“You have what? Never mind. Xander, I can carry the bag, I can walk and –” Giles stared at Xander, who kept his face expressionless, and sighed. “Thank you, Xander.”
“Anyone ever tell you that you learn fast, Giles?”
“When I’m feeling more myself, I’ll take offence at that.”
They walked slowly down the deserted corridors, dimly lit where the cleaners had finished working, bright where they still had a day’s worth of litter to sweep up. The locker room was empty and the floor damp from a recent mopping. Xander put Giles’ bag down on the long wooden bench nearest the entrance to the showers and hesitated. He didn’t want to just leave Giles, but in a few minutes Giles would be naked and the thought of that was freaking him out. Tingling sparks of freakiness that were making it hard to speak normally were chasing up and down his body. Then Giles lifted up his hands and tugged at his tie and Xander relaxed. It was a locker room. You stripped in it. No weirdness there. If they’d been in the library it would have been different. He sat down, staring at the wall, and wondered what band was playing at the Bronze.
Then Giles made a sound that was a breath gone wrong and Xander’s head came around fast. Giles had unbuttoned his shirt and was trying to pull it off his shoulders. Lifting his arms even that much was hurting him by the look of it, but the problem was that the shirt was stuck to his back.
“Giles?” Xander stood and walked behind Giles. “Giles, stop it. Don’t. It’s – it’s stuck.” With blood, but Xander had a feeling Giles already knew that. There were two lines of it across the shirt, one level with Giles’ shoulder blades, the other a few inches below that.
“Damn.” Giles sounded aggravated rather than angry. “It’ll wash out, I suppose.”
“Oh, sure it will. Only blood. Not like it’s demonic slime. Now that takes an extra rinse cycle and a cupful of bleach.”
“If you’re quite done giving me laundry tips, perhaps you could help me?”
“Sorry.” Xander reached up and pulled the shirt down a little way, but the blood had dried and when he tugged gently to free it, Giles hissed with pain.
“Forget it. I’ll soak it off in the shower. I’ve got a change of clothes in the bag.” Giles began to unbuckle his belt and gave Xander a puzzled look. “You can go if you like, Xander. I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll stick around,” Xander said. “Your definition of fine seems to be from a different dictionary than the one I use. If you fall, knock yourself out, and drown in an inch of water, I’d be traumatised for life, scared to ever use a shower again, and my parents don’t have a bath, so I’d be condemned to a lifetime of smelliness and –”
“Enough,” Giles said. “Stay. Protect me from the dangers of showering alone. Be my bathroom buddy.” He paused. “Shall we forget I just said that?”
Giles stepped out of his pants and looked down at them as if debating whether or not to try and pick them up. Xander did it for him and got an embarrassed smile in return. Somehow, standing there as Giles took off socks and shorts wasn’t something he could do.
“I’ll go start a shower. Get it nice and hot, O.K?”
“Thank you, Xander.” Giles sounded kind, as if he knew exactly what Xander was thinking and somehow that made it worse. Face burning, Xander kicked off his shoes and socks and walked into the shower room. Deciding Giles would be better off with a shower next to the side wall in case he did slip, Xander walked the length of the room and made sure the shower was set to hot before turning it on. He pulled his hand back quickly but still got sprayed with water. “Oh, for the love of –” He was wearing a t-shirt underneath so he shrugged out of the damp shirt and turned to go back into the locker room. Giles was walking towards him.
Xander, if he’d thought about it, would have described Giles as tough and in good shape for someone his age. Seeing him naked, apart from his shirt, didn’t do anything to change that opinion, but he didn’t think he’d ever think of Giles as old again. Giles looked... real. It was the best Xander could come up with. Naked came in two versions in Xander’s world. There were the naked bodies he studiously avoided looking at in this very room, young and like his own, full grown but still unmarked by time, skinny or pumped, but still new. Then there were the pictures of perfection he stared at in porn mags, glassy-eyed but slightly dissatisfied, because common-sense was telling him that women didn’t look like that, not really.
Giles fit into neither of those categories. His arms were strong through work, not play, and his body looked... Xander tried to find words like ‘solid’ or even, in a flight of fancy, ‘weathered’ but if he’d been honest, he’d have to say the first word he thought of was ‘real’ because that’s what Giles was. Not a fantasy, not competition, just Giles. Relief that it was so easy to look at a naked Giles made dropping his eyes simple. The first step into quicksand was easy too.
Had he expected Giles to be like a Ken doll? No, of course not. Giles had a cock. Fine. So did Xander and now he was acutely aware of that fact for some reason. So did everyone who’d ever set foot in this shower. Giles’ was no different than theirs – but it was. Xander knew other hands and mouths had touched it, knew it had gone where he’d only dreamed of going, deep inside another body. Giles was a man who’d had sex and, for all the big talk, Xander knew most of the boys he showered with were as desperate as he was for that first time to hurry up and happen already.
Giles met his eyes when he finally raised them and smiled faintly without speaking. Xander watched him walk slowly under the spray and felt his stomach clench as Giles moaned as the hot water scoured and beat at his skin. The shirt went transparent, clinging to the contours of Giles’ back, bent slightly as he was leaning forward, hands flat against the tiles in front of him.
“Are you – is it coming loose?”
“I’ll try it in a moment.” Giles’ voice sounded faraway, as if he was concentrating hard on something. “Xander? I forgot the soap. Could you fetch it? Please?”
Again that single word that made Xander move to obey without even thinking twice. “Soap? Oh, yeah, sure.” Xander walked away, taking one last look at Giles. The shirt left half of Giles’ backside uncovered and the line of white cotton against skin flushed pink from the heat of the shower was – God, it was sexy, that’s what it was. Xander bit his lip and walked away. He fumbled in Giles’ bag, his fingers brushing against the softness of fleece, smooth wood that turned out to be, not a stake but a hairbrush – ah, there was a stake, right at the bottom – and finally a bottle of shower gel. He pulled it out and hesitated. Giles was going to need help getting that shirt off. He didn’t have a change of clothes like Giles did, so he either went home wet or he stripped.
He noticed his heart beating as he peeled off his t-shirt and realised how odd that was. Not something he usually paid any attention to, but now it was thudding and he felt dizzy. He sat down and let his head fall forward for a second, chiding himself into common sense. It might have worked if it hadn’t forced him to notice something he’d been ignoring. He was hard.
Giles’ voice sounded puzzled over the noise of the shower. Xander drew in a shaky, ragged breath, stood up and finished undressing.
Giles was still leaning against the wall and Xander walked quickly towards him. Maybe, if Giles didn’t turn around, he wouldn’t notice – He made it and stood behind Giles, hooking the gel over the tap. “Let’s try and get the shirt off, Giles.”
Giles looked down and must have seen Xander’s bare leg, because his head started to turn and then stopped. “I think – yes, it should be fine now.” He pushed away from the wall and stood straight, his arms by his side. Xander eased the wet shirt down, sighing with relief as it peeled away from the skin easily. He maneuvered Giles’ arms out of it and tossed it to one side. Then he saw Giles’ back and grimaced, reaching out to touch the two lines that ran across the broad, smooth back.
“I fell against a shelf.”
“Buffy punched you, you did a bird imitation and the shelf got in the way, you mean.”
Giles dropped his head and sighed. “It’ll heal, and it won’t be hand to hand contact training again for another four days.”
He reached for the bottle of gel and Xander took it from him. The water was bringing out the bruises on Giles’ body. He could see them; faint purple marks like shadows under the skin.
“I’ve got your back, Giles.”
Giles made a sound that could have been a chuckle, but the water washed away the humour. “Be gentle with me.”
“Ah, now we’re moving to ironic, are we?”
Giles seemed to consider that for a moment, as though it had been a serious question, but before he could answer it, Xander’s hands met his back.
Xander’s erection had subsided when he saw the livid marks on Giles’ back, confused arousal damped down by sympathy, but it was a short breather. After squeezing a puddle of green gel into his palm, gel that smelled of nothing identifiable – no, he discovered, as he squinted through the rising steam, this was a manly gel, which chose to smell like a natural disaster rather than fruits, pine or flowers – he spread it across both palms and placed them on Giles’ shoulders.
He’d touched Giles before; even swabbed blood from his back after a fight, with Willow’s anxious eyes large with pity as she watched them. That had been in public, though, with Buffy stalking up and down the library, still high from whatever got pumped into a Slayer’s blood when she fought, reliving the battle with Giles’ quiet voice pointing out small flaws in technique until she stopped and grinned apologetically and sat down, holding his hand as Xander picked bits of splintered demon claw from a deep hole. Xander could see the scar that had left, in the centre of the plane of Giles’ right shoulder blade.
But he’d never smoothed his hands over Giles’ skin, fingers skidding and skating over it, with the soap and water keeping it from being skin on skin, but still closer than he’d ever been before. He set his teeth, made sure his hands weren’t too soapy, and rubbed gently at the top cut. Giles groaned, the sound cutting off abruptly, as though he’d driven teeth into lip to seal it inside.
“Don’t need to be brave for me, Giles,” Xander said, his mouth close enough to Giles’ ear that he didn’t need to do more than whisper it.
“Clean them,” Giles said. “Just do it.”
He sounded angry and Xander wondered if it was because Giles didn’t like the idea that he could suffer. Stupid, really. Everyone could hurt. It was part of being alive. And Giles was alive. His back moved, muscles flexing in complex patterns as he breathed, as he braced himself against the wall again. The water had plastered his hair to his skull, making him look all edges and lines, stripping away any softness. Xander wanted to see his face, bare of glasses, hair flat, eyes still sharp, still keen. But Giles couldn’t turn around. If he did this would stop being a guy helping a friend and become something Xander didn’t have a word for.
He moved down to the second cut; shallower this one, barely a graze, and quickly cleaned it. His hands just had to slide down a few inches and they’d be against Giles’ ass, curved and solid like the rest of his body. He hesitated, his hands moving in small, distracted circles in the small of Giles’ back and then Giles’ foot moved sideways and somehow that meant his back arched and Xander’s hands were falling, dropping, and coming to rest. He glanced down and blinked against the water droplets that were trickling and tickling his face. Hands. His hands. On Giles’ ass. That was too much to deal with and he willed them to move, but will power didn’t seem to work in the wet, and they moved to grip Giles’ hips and splayed out, with his thumbs digging in, rotating in tiny circles, pressing into muscle.
Maybe he did have some will power after all. He kept them there instead of letting them move around to hold Giles’ cock, kept far enough back that he wasn’t tempted to rest his head against Giles’ shoulder and get as close as possible, his cock nudging between Giles’ thighs, his chest flat against that strong, hard back. In the end, it didn’t matter. It might have felt as if he’d been doing this for long minutes or forever, but it had been just long enough for Giles to jerk with surprise and twist around and then Xander was dancing back suddenly, mouth open and eyes wide with panic, like a child caught swiping cookies.
Giles looked... not angry, not even shocked. He looked focused and it was Xander he was focused on, in a way that gave Xander no place to hide. Green eyes. Never really noticed just how green they were, with eyelashes, like hair, darkened with water.
“Oh, Xander, you don’t make this easy, you know,” Giles muttered and even as Xander frowned, trying to make sense of that, Giles reached out, hooked his arm around Xander’s waist and pulled him in close before kissing him hard.
If it had been done slowly, Xander would have backed away. He told himself that, but it was a lie. If Giles had moved like a glacier, it wouldn’t have mattered. Xander didn’t want to go anywhere but closer and he didn’t close his eyes out of fear but because where Giles was standing was directly under the beating spray and Xander was suddenly blind.
Xander had kissed before. Frantic, sloppy, teeth –clashing kisses that Cordelia had tamed and trained out of him until he could kiss for minute after minute without coming up for air, his tongue as busy as his hopeful hands. Now he was back at frantic again but Giles wasn’t taming him, he was encouraging him, until Xander could feel his lips sting where Giles’ teeth had been, and his tongue was deep inside Giles’ mouth, exploring, tasting.
The kiss ended abruptly, both of them panting and Xander knew his own eyes were as wild as Giles’ because that was how he felt. He wanted Giles with no trace of doubt about the intensity of his need – but it would change everything and he wasn’t sure he was ready for that. His anguish must have shown on his face because Giles closed his eyes, said, “Oh, God,” very quietly and stepped back, his hand fumbling for the tap and closing off the shower.
The cessation of noise left Xander’s ears full of a phantom waterfall for a moment and then it cleared and all he could hear was Giles breathing and all he could see were green eyes, anxious eyes. Somehow, it was important that he change that and make Giles happy. Giles had been hurt enough for one night, and so Xander took a step forwards, shivering as his body cooled, and, without taking his eyes off Giles, reached down and let his fingertips lead his hand, until Giles’ cock was warm and hard in his grasp.
Giles’ mouth shaped a word that was never going to be ‘no’ and his head tipped back as Xander began to work his cock, adjusting to the oddness of a different angle, minute differences in shape and size. Didn’t matter. Giles was doing just what he, Xander, did, making the same sounds, biting his lip, screwing up his face in the way that would have looked silly if it wasn’t so raw and so fucking, unbelievably hot. Xander abandoned any hope of making what was happening match the fact that thirty minutes ago he’d been finishing off some overdue history homework and now he was jacking Giles off in the showers and moved in closer. He wanted to use both hands on Giles, wanted to cup his balls, feel that solid, shifting weight, but he also wanted to hold Giles, pull his head forward so he could kiss him, feel Giles’ lips part in a scream as he came, swallow that sound as he’d like to swallow Giles, but that was just too much to think about, even now with Giles jerking and shuddering and yes, crying out as he came, warm wetness coming out of him and over Xander’s hand and stomach.
Giles moved his head and let his forehead rest against Xander’s shoulder, his arms coming up to encircle Xander and hold him close. A distant, throbbing ache suddenly snapped into focus and Xander realised that he was wriggling and squirming against Giles, trying to rub his cock against his skin, begging wordlessly for a touch.
Giles raised his head and stared at him. “Stop that,” he said mildly. Xander stilled at once, knowing he couldn’t stay that way for long, but no more able to disobey an order than a ‘please’ when Giles was using that absent minded voice that couldn’t conceive of anyone hearing it and failing to obey. Willow called it his ‘sun never sets’ voice and once she’d explained it, Xander had nodded in agreement.
Giles reached out and ran a finger from balls to tip of Xander’s cock, dragging a strangled moan out of him and then pushed Xander back against the cool tiles. Xander knew what Giles was going to do, even before he began to kneel, and he wanted it more than anything in the world at that moment but he remembered why they were here and how hard the floor would be to kneel on, and he said something that was supposed to be, 'Giles, no, you’re hurt,' and came out in a jumble of words and gasps, because Giles moved fast. Maybe Watchers healed like Slayers because he lifted his hand without wincing and pinned Xander in place and wrapped the other hand around the base of Xander’s cock, and all before Xander got to ‘no’. When the spluttered sentence had trailed off, he paused, his mouth a lick away from Xander’s cock and glanced up, and for a heart-stopping moment, Xander thought he was going to change his mind, but he just smiled, and said, “Don’t worry, Xander. This won’t take long.”
Outrage couldn’t stiffen anything more than Xander’s resolve; he was as hard as he could get even before Giles sent his tongue across the head of his cock, but it made him determined to last as long as possible and the hell with Giles’ knees.
He made it last for about ninety seconds and then came, wailing, because nothing had ever felt that good and now it was over and he had his hands on Giles’ head and his hips were rocking back and forward and Giles was swallowing and he couldn’t stop, couldn’t have stopped for anything and then he was sliding down the wall and struggling to be within the circle of Giles’ arms because it was over and he didn’t want it to be.
Giles laughed softly, his hands moving slowly, soothingly against Xander’s back. “Now I really need a shower,” he said ruefully. Xander grinned back and nodded, shyness taking his words from him. He stood and helped him up, Giles’ hand warm against his. Giles reached for the tap, turned it on and without hesitation, pulled Xander to him, kissing him gently as the water sluiced them clean. They stood like that, silent, hands quiet on each other, not caressing, for a moment and then Giles sighed and shut off the water.
“We need to get dry and dressed.”
Xander nodded, still unable to speak and followed Giles into the locker room, taking the towel from him and patting Giles’ back dry carefully. The towel came away smeared with blood but not much. Sharing the towel, they got dry enough to be able to dress and Xander went back in to get the gel and the sodden shirt, wringing it out as best he could.
“Just throw it in with the rest of the stuff,” Giles said, rubbing at his eyes and then slipping his glasses on again. He looked up at Xander. “You don’t have to worry, Xander. About anything.”
“What kind of anything?” Xander said, the words bursting out of him. “Worry I’m gay? Worry you’ll tell people? Worry I love you or worse, I don’t? Giles, I’m worrying, O.K? I’m allowed to worry.”
Giles frowned. “Let me relieve you of one of those worries, Xander. I won’t be telling anyone.”
“Right. Because if you did ...what would happen if people found out, Giles?”
“Now I no longer have the Council’s protection? Quite a lot, and none of it pleasant. I’d have to leave, let’s put it that way.”
“I don’t want you to go.”
Giles sighed. “Nor do I want to leave but if we both keep quiet, that won’t be an issue. What else did you say? Gay? I don’t know. You don’t have to be. Wouldn’t say I was, if that helps.”
“But you’ve done that before!”
Giles looked at him and raised his eyebrows. “Well, yes, I have.” He shrugged. “I’ve done a lot of things to a lot of people, Xander”
“Men and women.”
Xander shoved that aside to think about later. “I don’t...I love you, Giles. Never thought I’d tell you that, but I do. Just - I don’t want to...I don’t want to date you.”
“And there was me thinking I was all set for the prom,” Giles murmured. He smiled and reached out to touch Xander’s face fleetingly. “I love you too. All of you in fact, in different ways. What just happened was – you want me to be honest?”
“Does that translate as ripping out my heart and tearing my self confidence into shreds? ‘Cause, sure, go right ahead.”
Giles moved along the bench, tipped up Xander’s chin and kissed him, letting the touch linger. “It was surprising – unexpected – and the speed at which I came should tell you how much I wanted you. You were – God, Xander, I’ll be thinking of the way you felt, the way you tasted, in every fantasy I have for the next year or more. But if you think – if you’re worrying – that I’ll be pursuing you in any way, then, no. This was wonderful and I’d be lying if I said the thought of you in my bed wasn’t more than appealing, but it ends here. No regrets, nothing but pleasure and happy memories, on my part at least.”
Xander looked at him. “Got to be like that, hasn’t it? I’m not stupid. We try to do this again and we’ll get caught.”
Giles nodded. “I couldn’t let that happen, Xander.”
“Because of Buffy. You don’t want to leave her.”
Giles’ eyebrows lifted. “Your perception does you credit, but I was thinking of you as it happens.”
Xander nodded and stood up. “I graduate in six months, Giles.”
“You do, yes.”
“I know where you live.”
Giles smiled. “I don’t plan on moving.”
“No promises, no ties, no regrets.”
Xander sighed, the pleasure flowing back, sweet and heavy as syrup, and followed Giles out to his car in silence. Giles got in and looked up at Xander through the open window. “Is there anywhere I can take you?”
Xander pictured the Bronze, noisy and hot, filled with people he didn’t want to see right now, thought about his cramped bedroom, untidy and stifling...thought about Giles’ bedroom, cool sheets, wide bed and the chance to learn everything Giles had to teach.
Xander grinned and leaned into the car. “You ever gone bowling, Giles?”
“No, and I hope to die with that still the case.”
“Fair enough. See you tomorrow.”
Giles smiled and drove away and Xander grinned and started to walk. Sunnydale was small; he could be anywhere in ten minutes if he walked fast.
But there was no rush.