Act Of Nature - Chapter 4
written by Jane Davitt & WesleysGirl

And in the dark I know that I can't see
Cause here you are and still don't see me.

For just a second - even though it felt like a really long second - Xander froze, way more surprised than he should have been that Giles was kissing him. But it only took that second for him to figure out that Giles was quite possibly the best kisser ever, and then one more to start to return the kiss tentatively, his hand that had been holding onto Giles' shoulder sliding down to grip onto his upper arm.

Giles' hand was moving slowly on the back of Xander's neck, possessive and reassuring, until it tightened and then slid away, moving down Xander's back until it reached his ass. That wasn't reassuring; that was wet finger in a socket shocking, and if his hips couldn't decide which way they wanted to move, so that he ended up wriggling against that warm, wide hand, no one could blame him, right?

He groaned softly into the kiss and then broke it off with a gasp, trembling just a little bit, too many emotions too close to the surface for him to let it continue. With his forehead leaning against Giles', Xander took a deep breath then said, "Okay. Um... wow. That was... kind of unexpected."

"Yes, it was." Giles moved his hand up until it was in the small of Xander's back and sighed. "Is that the same as unwelcome?"

"What?" Xander was more startled about that than he'd been about the actual kiss. "What gave you that idea? Oh right, it must have been the way I yelled and pushed you away." He pulled back a few inches so that he could give Giles a stern look. "No. Definitely not unwelcome."

"And not more than you're ready for?" Giles asked, placing the faintest emphasis on ‘ready'. His other hand came up to cup Xander's face and his thumb brushed lightly over the mouth he'd just kissed.

That just made Xander want to kiss Giles again, but instead he rubbed his hand up and down Giles' arm in what he hoped was a comforting way. "I'm not sure either of us is ready for this right now. Don't get me wrong, I'm..." He had to search for the right words. "I'm really glad you're here. And I think maybe it might not be a bad idea to kind of, you know... wait. Just for things to be a little less..."

Wow. It was hitting Xander all over again exactly how bad at this kind of thing he really was.

Giles nodded and stepped back. "I agree with every word, but I still want to do that again." He smiled a little ruefully. "Perhaps you should feed me and sober me up, then I'll have an early night." The smile slipped a little. "Putting this day behind me might be the wisest thing I can do."

Xander felt his own heart do that desperate clenching stutter it did every single time he remembered again that Willow was dead, the one that explained the low nagging feeling that something was wrong even in the moments he wasn't remembering.

Then he thought about the fact that Giles had a whole day's head start on feeling that way, and instinctively moved forward and pulled the other man into a tight hug. "It's gonna be okay."

Giles hugged him back, but something had changed, and the awkwardness returned for a moment before Giles relaxed, turned his head enough to kiss Xander briefly on the cheek, and then let his grip loosen. "I can't think that far enough ahead just now, but I'm sure you're right about that too. I just - I feel as if we're surrounded by ghosts. How many people have we lost in the last few years? Now this. It makes me feel... overwhelmed."

"Yeah," Xander sighed, letting Giles go and running a hand through his hair. "I'm with you there. So. Food?"

"Food," Giles agreed, walking towards the door. "So what were you planning to serve with the fish? No, wait, don't tell me. Toast?"

Xander snorted. "That would require bread, and sadly, I ate the last of that this morning. Mrs. Stewart will be by early tomorrow with the shopping though, so we'll be okay for breakfast."

This was easier to concentrate on, the normal everyday stuff. He'd just think about that for a while, and deal with everything else later.

In the kitchen, he started some rice and then cleaned the fish expertly - he'd learned his lesson there - and got it into the oven while they made small talk about Giles' trip. Then all there was left to do was wait for the food to be done.

"I don't think I've ever seen you cook," Giles observed. "Eat, yes, and the memory of you and the chocolate glazed donut Buffy bet you couldn't eat in one mouthful will stay with me for many years to come, but cooking - that's new." He tilted his head and said quietly, dropping the lighthearted tone, "This place has changed you, Xander. In so many ways."

"You have no idea," Xander said, thinking about the fact that he'd had to go to Tobermory three weeks ago to buy new pants - slacks, he corrected himself - because he'd gone down two sizes and belts just weren't cutting it anymore. He didn't think he'd lost all that much weight, just that what he carried had kind of redistributed itself. He sat down at the table and looked at his hands, calloused and more than a little bit scarred in places. "Can I ask you something?"

Giles looked a little startled, but he didn't hesitate. "Anything. Really."

"When was the first time you, you know..." God, this was hard. "With another guy?"

"Ah." Giles fell silent for a moment and then looked up at Xander with a faint smile. "Would you believe me if I told you that what's making me pause isn't an unwillingness to answer so much as acute embarrassment at telling you his name? Or is that enough for you to guess who he was?"

Xander couldn't say that he was all that surprised, once he'd thought about it for a few seconds. "Ethan? But... I mean, it didn't seem like you... liked him very much."

"I didn't - how could I? He was endangering my Slayer, for one thing." A flicker of anger Xander hoped was never directed at him went over Giles' face and then faded. "And when I was younger than you; nineteen or so, I still didn't like him sometimes, but I couldn't keep my hands off him. I was rebelling, remember, fighting a destiny that irritated me every bit as much as Buffy's did her. Ethan was only too happy to help me." Giles looked wistful for a moment. "We had fun. Right at the start, we had fun." He lifted an eyebrow. "Why do I think you're dying to ask me what happened the night before I woke up turned into a demon?"

Strangely, Xander hadn't been thinking about that at all, but as soon as Giles mentioned it, he got curious fast. "Did you? I mean - wait a minute! That wasn't some kind of a kinky sex spell, was it?" Oh God, did he really want to know?

Then he pictured the two of them together - Giles and Ethan, who okay had been kind of hot in a naughty-older-guy kind of way - and shifted a little bit in his chair.

Yeah, he wanted to know.

Giles placed his hands on the table, his fingers locked together. "No. Fairly straightforward potion in my beer, triggered by an incantation after I'd passed out. I worked that out afterwards, just out of curiosity." He rolled his eyes. "I cannot believe I was stupid enough to drink with him. He played me. Saw how useless - how old - I was feeling, and used it to get me remembering the good old days." Giles glanced over at Xander. "Which, besides raising demons and killing friends, included sex with Ethan at every available opportunity. So I'd like to be able to tell you that, remembering all his misdeeds, when we left the bar, I went home alone, but I can't."

"So you didn't like him, but you still wanted to have sex with him." Xander tried to work that out in his head.

"Lust doesn't have to go hand in hand with love - or liking. Nice when it does, but they're very different things. And it was like fucking a shadow. Part of it was the fact that we were both drunk. I don't know if you've ever... maybe not. There's this point you reach where you could go on for hours, but it's just because you're not really feeling anything anymore. Everything's distant... far away." Xander got an apologetic look. "Am I shattering every illusion? The main problem was that it wasn't Ethan as I remembered him. Not because he was older; that didn't matter. No. I'd always had this idea that beneath it all, he was still reachable - now that was really stupid of me."

It wasn't like Xander hadn't had sex with people he wasn't in love - or even in like - with, so he got that. It was more the thought that Giles would do something like that. He'd always thought, well, that Giles had better sense. "That's what happened with John," he offered, looking at his hands again. "The drunk part, I mean."

Giles seemed to tense up at that, as if it was one thing to discuss ancient history - and four years felt like that after all they'd been through - and another to talk about something that had happened just a few weeks ago. He sounded cautious when he answered, as if the way he'd behaved earlier made him wary of stepping over a line only he could see. "But not the - the rest of it?"

"You mean did he turn me into a Fyarl demon? There I'd have to say no." Xander grinned sheepishly as he remembered that night. "No, we didn't... I mean, I've never. With a guy."

He got up abruptly and went over to check the rice even though it didn't really need checking. "We got drunk, we kissed. Um, kind of a lot. And there may have been some groping involved." There had definitely been groping involved, and more of it had been him groping John than the other way around.

Giles sounded as if he was trying to keep his voice under control, but he wasn't doing a very good job of it. He sounded hurt, maybe even a little bit angry. "I can see the attraction - for both of you. What I can't see is why you've never - or was he the first - God, I'm sorry. I'm usually capable of forming complete sentences. I think you just gave me rather too much to think about there." He rubbed his hand across his mouth. "You didn't mention it. All the times we talked and you never said anything." It was almost a question, but not quite.

"What was I supposed to say?" Xander asked, reaching up and adjusting his eye patch nervously. "I was kind of freaked out at first. Okay, very freaked out. I needed some time to think about it. And then once I had - once the freakage faded - it didn't seem like there was anything to talk about. It happened, and it wasn't going to happen again." He cleared his throat. "Not with John."

Giles stood up, which wasn't usually enough to make the air leave the room, and walked around the table then paused and leaned back against it. His arms were folded and he looked as if he was about to deliver a lecture, but Xander didn't remember any that were about him groping men and failing to report back. "I think we've talked about John for long enough. At the risk of making myself look like a fool, do you think it's likely to happen with me? When we're not so - when the timing is a little better? Or am I reading too much into what happened upstairs? Was it just another trial run?"

"I'm not drunk," Xander pointed out. "And at the risk of mentioning his name again, what happened with John wasn't a 'trial run.' I wasn't just... experimenting on him. I wouldn't do that to someone I cared about. I wouldn't do it to anyone." He knew he sounded angry. "Anyway, what about you?"

"Why did I kiss you, you mean? Because I wanted to. Because I've been thinking about kissing you for weeks now, and no, I didn't tell you about that, did I, so I suppose we're even." Giles unfolded his arms, but didn't move away from the table. "I didn't mean to insult you. I just - why John? If you're saying you have... feelings for me, not that you have yet, then why did you - oh God." Giles' lips twitched in something that might have been a smile. "I think I've regressed to a teenager again. Randy, jealous and overly emotional. Yes. All present and correct."

Xander sighed and turned off both the burner under the rice and the oven, figuring the food could sit for a few minutes without anything terrible happening to it. "Why John? Because he was... I trusted him. I already knew he was gay, so it wasn't like he was going to beat me up for touching him, and... wait a minute. You've been thinking about kissing me for weeks?"

"Amongst other things, but I wouldn't want to umm, freak you out, by going into details," Giles said. "Not when you're giving me such an excellent deer in headlights imitation already." He shoved his hands into his pockets and said quietly, "It's not something I expected to happen, Xander."

"Me either," Xander said. "But -"

Before he could finish his sentence, the power flickered and went out, leaving them in the dark.

"Well, I can reach the candles, but do you remember where you put the matches?" Giles asked, sounding resigned. The kitchen was dark in a way that made coal cellars at midnight seem bright.

"There were some in the bag with the candles." He made his way gingerly in the direction of the table, sure he was going to slam into it. "Hey, at least the food's done cooking."

He collided with Giles after two steps and felt Giles' hands come up automatically to grab him and steady him. The darkness made everything more somehow, so that Giles only had to shift his grip a little for it to feel like a caress, only had to murmur, "Xander?" questioningly for it to sound like an invitation to show him just what that hour in the dunes, with the marram grass coarse and springy and sharp against his bare back, had taught him.

"Sorry," he said gruffly. He had to force himself to move away from Giles' touch, because this was still too soon. Not to mention Giles was drunk, and if they did something now and in the morning Giles regretted it, Xander wasn't sure he'd be able to handle that. "At least we know this is the storm and not some nefarious plot by vampires to take us out," he offered, wondering if he sounded as flat as he felt.

The hands had dropped away as soon as Xander shifted back so obviously Giles felt the same way. Too soon.

"Yes, I don't think there's ever been any recorded demonic activity on the island. It's why this was thought such a good place for the retirement home." Giles sounded discouraged and tired.

There was a rustle of plastic and then Giles reached out and pushed something into Xander's hand. "Here. You hold the candle in place and I'll try not to open the matchbox upside down."

"As if that would be the worst thing this floor's ever seen."

Still, Xander did as Giles had asked, and within a minute or so they had a few candles lit and had propped them up in makeshift candleholders.

Xander went to dish up the food, urging Giles to sit down and relax. "You had a long day," he said. "Let me do this. Besides, I know where everything is. Don't worry, I'll press you into domestic servitude in the morning." He put the plates on the table and sat down, and they both began to eat.

Giles swallowed a mouthful of fish and gave him a serene smile. "I'm on holiday. And a guest. I'm also spoiled rotten by finally being able to afford a cleaner, so you can do your own drudgery. I intend to sit right here, sipping a drink, working my way through the After Eights, and offering valuable pointers if I think you've missed a bit when you're washing up." He took another bite. "And as this tastes so good, I'll trust you to do all the cooking too."

He tried not to snicker with food in his mouth, and had to choke down the next bite before he could talk. "You haven't tasted what I can do to a pot of oatmeal, and believe me, you don't want to."

"Then I just won't get up until Mrs Stewart arrives with the bread for you to toast. You can give me breakfast in bed."

They finished the meal with a bit more casual conversation and then Giles stood up, carrying his plate over to the bin and, despite his earlier words, scraping it clean and putting it into the sink. "Speaking of bed, I think I'll call it a night, even if it's barely nine o'clock." He picked up a candle and walked back to the table, cupping one hand around the flickering flame. "Good night, Xander," he said, his voice as tired as his eyes. "You've been - you've helped. A lot. Thank you."

And the crushing reminders just kept coming. "Yeah, well... thanks for caring enough to come and tell me in person."

Xander watched Giles retreat into the hallway, then sighed and started to clean up.

It wasn't like he expected to get much sleep anyway.

Read: Chapter 5