Warnings – M/M sex.
Summary – Things will be different in Cleveland.
British spelling because... well, because.
The characters you recognise belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The situations they’re in that you don’t recognise from canon are down to me.
They were going to Cleveland.
He wasn’t even very certain where Cleveland was, particularly now that Sunnydale wasn’t, but he’d looked at a map, and then he’d done a passable imitation of a sheepdog until they all stopped milling around and got on the bus, and then he had driven.
Well, who else was going to? Nobody in their right mind would trust a Slayer with a vehicle the size of a bus; Anya was dead; Spike was very dead and it was daylight - daylight-ish - anyway; Andrew was… Andrew; Dawn… just no; Xander appeared to be running on fumes; Willow and Kennedy were no better; Robin and Faith were inspecting each other for injuries and not taking much notice of anybody else.
When he could drive no further, he pulled into a motel, and took his credit card to the reception desk. He couldn’t think of any story to explain their presence, so he simply didn’t offer one; the clerk’s eyes were wide and horrified as twos and threes of filthy, bloodstained, exhausted Slayers and, and, and their support staff held out grimy hands for keys, half of them heading for showers and the remainder arrowing towards the small diner at the corner. He spent the next three hours going from room to room, bandaging wounds, praising weary fighters, reassuring them that he knew what they were going to do next, that everything was under control.
He was lying and they knew it, but the comforting lie had been a major weapon in his arsenal for as long as he had been the active Watcher. He would comfort Slayers and Scoobies as best he could. He wasn’t sure how much more he had to give, but he would give until it was all gone, even if he didn’t always know what he was giving. This duty, now. This problem. This weeping child who had killed for the first time and thought it made her into a monster. This shocked adolescent coming to terms with the cut on her face that would scar, in a country that put every ounce of value on good looks. This youngster - they were terrifyingly young - understanding in the gut as well as the head that yes, they were heroes, but that they could still have been killed. He comforted and approved and encouraged, never thinking of what he was going to say until he was saying it, never considering how it sounded, never wondering what he could say to the next one. This one, now. This girl was suffering and needed to be allowed to cry on his broad shoulder. This one was insecure in her new role and needed to be reassured that she was a good Slayer.
This one, now.
Eventually, the face that swam into his exhausted vision was Xander’s. Xander looked, frankly, like shit.
“You’re done, Giles.”
Oh. Presumably he looked like shit too.
“Got a room and something to eat.”
It was pizza - of course - and cold pizza at that, but Giles was past caring. Somebody who wasn’t Giles had arranged something.
“You get to share with me - sorry, but I couldn’t swing you a room to yourself. I got us the family room, though, so two beds.”
He shook his head, past caring. He would have slept on the floor if that was what was left. A bed was a glorious plus. And a decent sized bed, at that: Xander’s jacket was draped on the single bed and somebody - Xander again, presumably - had gathered Giles’ few remaining possessions and placed them on the double.
“Go get clean, G-Man. The water isn’t the hottest but there are plenty towels. I’m hoping that the red smear on your face is from the pizza but I’m guessing it’s not.”
When he came out, Xander was stretched out on top of his bed, looking blankly into space; Giles gathered himself to do it all again. He couldn’t have nothing left to give, however much he felt like it, not if Xander needed him to have more.
“How, how are you? Are you hurt?”
It wasn’t usual for Xander to take so long to focus; Giles sat heavily on the edge of his own bed, and waited.
“It wasn’t true. Good lie but a lie.” Xander turned his head away. “She and I… before…”
“I heard that too. I’m sorry, Xander.”
Xander’s eyes were squeezed shut, but the tears were seeping through; Giles reached over and touched his arm lightly. How could he be so at a loss? He had known Xander longer than any of the others except Buffy herself: why could he think of no words for this man? Had he spent them all on the girls, abandoning Xander, who had more right to his help than any of them, and who asked for it less?
“That was a… well, no, not a lie. We did. But it wasn’t… it wasn’t… it was just… I thought we were going to die. God, that sounds vile. I’m going to die, let’s fuck.”
“It’s common, both before and after. Robin and Faith couldn’t wait to be rid of me. Did Anya object?”
Xander’s head turned slowly, left and right. “She was thinking the same. But I knew that’s all it was, Giles. I knew we weren’t getting back together. I might have… I can’t remember what I said. I don’t know if she thought… I don’t know. She might have thought that I meant… that I was serious this time. I might even have told her so, that we could make something work, I can’t remember. I knew all along we couldn’t.”
He kept his voice gentle. Comfort this one, now. “If she didn’t think so, then… then she wanted what you wanted, and she wanted it for the same reason that you wanted it. That I wanted it, Xander. If, if you had said to me, if anybody had said to me, beforehand, ‘Giles, we’re going to die, let’s fuck,’ I’d have had my clothes off so fast… I think that Buffy, that Faith, were the same way. It’s, it’s human nature. And if she did think so? It doesn’t matter now. If it was a comfort to her, if it gave her something to fight for, then there was no harm in it. Let it go, Xander. Don’t go regretting things you can’t change, when you don’t know what she thought or what she wanted. Let her go. Be grateful for what was good; forgive whatever she did that hurt you; remember what you did to hurt her, and promise yourself not to make the same mistakes again, and then forgive yourself too. Grieve for her, and remember her tenderly, and don’t allocate blame. We’ve all got enough hurting us, without looking for more.”
Xander, his eyes still tightly closed, nodded once, and after a moment, Giles, recognising that nothing more was coming, turned away. Neither of them spoke again.
In the night, Giles half roused at some sound. There was enough light for him to see that Xander’s bed was empty; presumably he was in the tiny bathroom. He didn’t come back; after ten minutes Giles was fully awake, straining to hear anything, Watcher senses shrieking that something was amiss.
“Xander?” He tapped on the door, and when there was no reply, carefully turned the handle, conflicted between concern, and the desire not to intrude.
Xander was sitting on the bathroom floor, back against the bath tub, face buried in a bundled towel; his shoulders were heaving. Giles came hard to his knees, a hand extended. “Xander? What…” He carefully extracted the towel from Xander’s desperate grip; behind it Xander was holding his breath to control himself, his face red and wet, twisting with the effort to be silent. “Ah, no, don’t. Don’t, Xander.”
“Didn’t - mean to wake you,” gasped Xander, snatching for air. Giles reached for him, dragging him close enough to hug.
“Why not?” It was spoken into Xander’s hair.
“It was… I just… I can’t!”
“No,” agreed Giles, consolingly, not sure what he was agreeing to, but recognising the need to agree. To succour. To deal with overwhelming grief, and guilt, and fear and the gods alone knew what all else. “I can’t either. But you don’t have to, you know, not on your own.”
Xander tried to speak again, but it turned into a indrawn heave of breath and an explosive, uncontrollable howl, half muted against Giles’ shoulder. Giles made a vague humming sound, arms tight around the lean body. Comfort this one, now. And deal with more: Xander was shaking, whether from delayed shock or from sitting on a cold linoleum floor in a tiled bathroom in the middle of the night, for heaven knew how long before Giles had become aware of his absence. He shifted and began to work them both upright. It was surprisingly easy to manoeuvre Xander back to the bedroom; he seemed to have no will of his own, and followed where Giles led, even into the double bed, where Giles hastily threw the covers over both of them before pulling Xander against his shoulder again. He didn’t try to find words: there were none. How could he tell Xander that everything would be all right, when they both knew how far away all right was? All he could do was hold his friend through the crisis, and expend his strength as freely in Xander’s cause as he would have done in his own.
He let his free hand run gently down Xander’s back, over and over, until the racking sobs died away to a series of long sighs, and even after. Xander shifted, and scrubbed his cheek on the pillow, but he didn’t speak. Giles had half expected him to apologise, and to retreat in embarrassment; he hadn’t expected the lips touched first to his jaw, and then to his chest, but suddenly he heard in his head what he had said earlier. If you had said to me, let’s fuck, I’d have had my clothes off so fast. To me. If you had said to me.
He kept his hand moving, shoulder to waist, no lower, asking for nothing, expecting nothing, Xander warm in the circle of his right arm, and waited. Asking for nothing, but refusing nothing. Whatever comfort Xander wanted… but oh, dear heaven, Giles could do with some comfort too. When Xander, tentatively, kissed him again, Giles allowed his mouth to open, shifted to his side and let his hand settle at Xander’s hip. Whatever Xander wanted… Giles would be restrained. It would be a wicked thing to take advantage of Xander’s grief, but if a little slow pleasure got Xander through the night…
And suddenly he was flat on his back, Xander’s weight on his chest, Xander’s tongue in his mouth, Xander’s thigh pushing between his, Xander’s hands tugging at his waistband; a little slow pleasure was clearly not what Xander had in mind, and after a split second, not what Giles’ body had in mind either. A little slow pleasure turned into a desperate frantic grapple, both of them pushing, biting, panting, licking, clutching. It was as much war as sex, on a cotton battlefield in a cheap motel. He wanted to touch all of Xander, and Xander, it seemed, wanted all of Giles. From the feel of it, Xander was new to the idea of having a man’s cock in his mouth, but damn, he was a fast learner. He was loud in bed too - Giles remembered Anya saying as much, oh, God, Anya, but he had to believe that she would be cheering them on, or possibly wanting to join in - loud and demanding, encouraging, and not, from his gasps of “Giles! Giles!”, in any doubt about who he was with. Giles didn’t know if the odd selection of items in his jacket included a condom, and he was damn sure that it didn’t include lube, but what the hell, sex didn’t have to mean sex, not when hands and mouths could do so much. It was fast and hot and hard and messy and just so bloody good because he was alive and Xander was alive and so many other people weren’t.
Afterwards, there was a hasty scrub with a handful of cheap tissues, and a rather embarrassed silence that he felt he had to break.
“I, I… just so that there’s no misunderstanding, I’m not expecting, I won’t assume tomorrow, well, it’s today now, but I won’t… Xander, that was fabulous, but if that’s all, if you don’t want…” He stopped, gathered his scattered thoughts and tried again. “If that was just that we’re not dead, I’m glad we’re not and I won’t ask for more that you don’t want to give. I don’t want to make things more difficult for you. I know that you, that, that…”
Xander turned onto his back. “Yeah.”
Giles shut up. They weren’t dead and he had got laid. He could call that a win, as the others put it. If there was to be nothing more, no other victory, however much he wanted it, then he would take this one, now, and be grateful. Xander’s eyes were closed; he shut his own. He needed to sleep: long way to Cleveland.
He felt the bed shift as Xander eased out of it; he thought he had been asleep for a couple of hours, and he knew that Xander had dropped off before he did. It was shifting towards daylight; somewhere outside a single bird was making ‘nearly dawn’ noises. Early yet. The bathroom door clicked, and after a minute, the toilet flushed and the door opened again.
There was no sound of movement. He made no sign that he was awake, but his heart pounded with anticipation and dread. He kept his eyes closed as long as he could, and then allowed himself to squint; in the half light Xander wouldn’t be able to tell. Xander was standing in the doorway; Giles saw his head turn from Giles himself, towards the single bed. He didn’t allow himself to wince, or shrink from the blow. They weren’t dead. They had celebrated it. Xander moved past the foot of the double bed. He’d had more than he ever expected, more than he had any right to expect. He had promised that he wouldn’t ask for more. He had never told any of them how desperately he wanted the support of something more than friendship, but he wouldn’t risk the friendship in the hope of having more. Other relationships weren’t as valuable to him as this one, now. Only… what was this one now?
The mattress behind him dipped under Xander’s weight, and an arm settled on his waist; a warm chest was pressed to his back, and when he dared to reach for Xander’s hand, he found his fingers squeezed, and Xander’s lips touched the nape of his neck. Ah. It seemed that…
Well, it seemed that it was this one now.