Act Of Nature - Chapter 7
written by Jane Davitt & WesleysGirl
The silence of the house settled around Giles, peaceful rather than
lonely, quieting the thoughts that were chasing around his head.
Deciding that going without breakfast wasn't really a good idea, and
that the steady rain would probably bring Xander inside soon enough, he
set about making himself some toast and topping up his coffee. As he
chewed the thick, dense bread, apparently baked on the island from the
wrapper, he let John's words run through his mind. They were less
convincing without John right there, but after he'd listed half a dozen
reasons why it would be best for everyone if he left, all answered and
dismissed by an inner voice that seemed to have developed a Scottish
lilt, Giles gave up trying to argue with himself.
It might well not work out, but they'd never know until they tried.
Giles stood up and had a brief flash of Xander lying beneath him,
coming so hard Giles still had bruises where Xander's hand had dug into
his hip. Give it time? Give him space? He'd had an hour. That was
Giles walked into the hall and reached for his coat. As Xander seemed
to have developed the same indifference to the weather that John had,
perhaps he was still outside, in which case - a rhythmic thudding noise
began and Giles frowned. He walked around the ground floor without
finding the source and then saw a door he hadn't tried. He opened it
and looked down a flight of stairs. Realization dawned; Xander had told
him that the house had a huge cellar, surprisingly dry and airy, and
perfect for a training room. The thuds took on a familiarity that made
Giles smile, remembering hours of watching Buffy train, small fists
slamming against a punching bag and producing just those sounds.
He walked down the stairs and stood half way down, looking around.
Xander had put his heart into renovating this room, just as he'd done
with the one on which it was modeled. If not for the size - this had
easily three times as much floor space - he might have thought himself
back in the Magic Box. Then he turned his head enough to see Xander and
felt a surge of uncomplicated lust that left him breathless.
Xander was barefoot and bare chested, wearing nothing but a pair of
jeans that managed to cling to him and still ride low enough for Giles
to be fairly certain they were all he was wearing. It didn't take much
to work out why they didn't fit. Xander had lost enough around the
waist for them to be loose, but the weeks of hard work had added muscle
to his body. His back was turned to Giles, darkly tanned and smooth. He
was driving his fists against the canvas with enough force to make it
swing in ponderous circles, forcing him to shift position every few
punches. Giles could hear his breath rasping out and the grunts he made
as his fists connected. Xander's long hair was damp from the rain and
it clung to his neck in thick, dark strands. Giles remembered how it
had felt against his hand the night before and bit his lip. God, how
was he supposed to go over to Xander and produce rational, logical
arguments - or even heartfelt impassioned pleas - when all he wanted to
use his mouth for was getting more of those whimpery, desperate sounds
out of Xander?
Then Xander turned enough to see him and Giles straightened up and
walked to the foot of the stairs and over towards him.
Xander gave a small nod, acknowledging his presence before shifting to
the right and hitting the bag again in a series of punches that sounded
loud despite the size of the room. "Hey," he said. "Did you get some
breakfast?" He sounded as if he were trying very hard to act normally,
to pretend as though nothing had happened between them.
"Got some toast - you should have made it, I burned the edges a little
- and coffee to wake me up. Had a brief conversation with Mrs Stewart
who said I had to look after you while I was here -" Giles stepped out
of reach of the bag which swung wildly after a punch that was strong
but uncontrolled, "- and a somewhat longer, and considerably more
frank, discussion with John in which he told me much the same thing
using words I doubt Mrs Stewart would approve of."
The bag came right at Giles then and he leaned back without giving
ground, and then reached out to brace it so Xander could stay still and
hit it as hard as he liked.
Xander faltered briefly, looking at him as if trying to assess whether
or not this was a serious conversation. "John said what?" he asked,
taking advantage of the pause in movement and hitching his jeans up a
"You're lifting your shoulder too much," Giles said, feeling that
Xander's jeans had looked better where they were. "Hmm? John? Oh,
nothing vital. Ferry's not running, more rain coming - no, that was Mrs
Stewart. John's the one who told me you were in love with me. As you
can imagine, he had my undivided attention after that. Just out of
curiosity, were you planning to mention it yourself at any point?"
Instead of answering immediately, Xander rocked his weight forward
again and hit the bag three times, all with his right hand and with
enough force to make the tendons in his neck stand out in sharp relief.
"John," Xander said through gritted teeth, "needs to mind his own
business." Giles couldn't help but note that it wasn't a denial, and
that gave him hope that he was on the right path.
Xander stepped back, forward again, and slammed his left fist into the
punching bag, this time dropping his shoulder instead of lifting it.
"Better. Try and aim though; you're a little wild at times. Focus. Yes,
I told him that too, and mentioned that I was planning to leave as soon
as the ferry was running, at which point he called me a stupid fuck and
we parted best of friends."
Giles realized that he was enjoying himself because this was a fight,
yes, but it wasn't one he planned to lose. Exhilaration fizzed and
sparkled through him, countered by an ache low down every time Xander
snarled and thumped the bag. As foreplay, it was proving effective, if
"Well, good," Xander said, shifting to the left
before giving a quick series of jabs, narrowing his eye. "I'm
glad you and John are getting
along so well." He punctuated the words with swift
punches, then surprised Giles by spinning and adding a kick to the mix.
Giles rode out the kick. It had hurt, but as he'd been very close to
delighted laughter before most of his breath had been knocked out of
him, that was probably for the best.
"You'd rather we came to blows over you? Pointless. Even if he won -
and he might be younger than me, but I doubt he would, and if you
disagree, I'd rather you kept silent on the matter to spare my ego - I
still wouldn't let him near you." Xander glared at him and Giles gave
him his most charming smile. "It'll probably wear off, but right now
I'm feeling more than a little possessive. Comes of being so close to
losing you, I suppose."
The next punch went wild, striking a glancing blow that caused the bag
to rock awkwardly and made Xander bring what were presumably skinned
knuckles to his mouth briefly. "You never had me," Xander snarled,
shaking his hand and stepping in to slam it into the bag again. "Trust
me, I'm doing you a favor."
"'A favor'? Not from where I'm standing. And what about last night,
Xander? Was that a favor too? Show me what I could have had? Send me
away with a happy fucking memory? Remind me to thank you properly for
that little Christmas present."
Giles was getting angry now, losing the fine edge that had let him goad
Xander so effectively, and discovering what it felt like to be on the
receiving end of a few well-chosen words.
"Last night was because -" Xander started defensively, then he cut
himself off and shook his head. "It doesn't matter." Two more punches
that weren't nearly as effective as they should have been. "This is...
it's just better this way, okay? Just let it go."
Giles schooled his voice back to the cheerful breezy tone he'd been
using. "Oh, I'm sorry; did I miss the part where that made any sense at
all? Let's see. I come here, desperately in love with you, find out you
love me too from someone you've apparently been boring to death by
talking about me, have sex that, yes, was over just a little too fast,
but I'm sure with practice we'll improve, and if I let my mind wander
just a little bit, it seems to default to a picture of you on your back
moaning my name for some reason, can't think why that stuck with me,
and - go on, tell me again why I should walk away from that? From you.
Because I just can't see it, Xander."
Giles moved back and punched the bag savagely, stepping past it as it
swung to the side, and pushing Xander back out of the way of the return
swing with a hard shove.
The expression Xander turned to him then, little as Giles liked knowing
he'd had a hand in putting it there, seemed to be the first honest one
he'd seen all day. Desperate, haunted, hurting. "I can't
do this again," Xander said, his voice raised. "I
can't. Giles, I -" He turned away, his back to
Giles, visibly trembling beneath the fine sheen of sweat on his skin.
"Do what, Xander? Tell me? Please?" Giles' voice was calm now and as
gentle as he could make it. He lifted his hand and then hesitated and
let it drop back. Not yet.
"Can't -" But Xander stopped himself again, turning to drive his fist
into the bag so low and off-center that it rocked on its chain and spun
in a lazy spiral. "I'm not stupid, you know." He reached out and
steadied the punching bag with his left hand, then hit it again with
"You're hurting yourself for nothing," Giles said. There was a red
sheen of blood across Xander's knuckles now and the skin was fretted
and raw, but that wasn't what he meant. "Sorry, but I can't see that as
being particularly clever."
"For nothing?" Xander turned to face him, fists
clenched. "I'm trying to - you think I can just stop? Well, sorry to
have to tell you, Giles, but it's not that easy."
"Tell me? You're not telling me anything, that's the
problem. Just what exactly are you trying to do? Give me details, and
forget the not rushing, need space crap because that's all that is."
Giles didn't take his eyes off Xander's face, searching for something
amid the confusion and pain that would make sense of all this. John had
said Xander was scared of losing him - hadn't he made it clear he
wasn't going anywhere? What was stopping Xander from seeing that?
"I'm trying not to lo-" Xander stopped, looking down at the floor.
Giles began to think that he'd gladly give any sum of money for Xander
to just finish a bloody sentence, but he waited, hoping that his
continued silence would allow Xander to complete his thought. Finally,
Xander said roughly, "Everybody dies, right?" His gaze flickered up to
meet Giles' for the briefest instant. "Or maybe just everybody I love."
"Everybody dies?" Giles grasped that dangling end and began to tug at
it, trying to unravel the knot Xander had made. "Yes. Everybody does.
It's what happens. To some people - Willow and Tara, for instance - it
happens sooner than we'd like. Sooner than they deserve. Agreed. But
you love plenty of people who are still alive, Xander, so don't make it
sound as if you're some sort of jinx - oh. You do, don't you? You think
there's a connection. You love them; they die." Giles felt the surge of
satisfaction he got from knowing he'd translated something correctly;
an unshakable certainty. Then it was lost in anger. "Of all the
arrogant, idiotic assumptions! You're scared I'll die if you love me?
Is that it?"
Xander didn't respond, just stood there with one arm wrapped around his
torso, hand gripping the opposite elbow. He looked for all the world
like someone waiting for a lecture that he was determined not to listen
to, but there was something about the way he was breathing - just the
tiniest bit unevenly - that let Giles know that Xander was more upset
than he appeared.
"You loved Willow all her life, Xander. You saved her life, if it comes
to that. You didn't take it from her. Her own -" Giles forced himself
to say it, knowing Xander wasn't the only one who'd been hugging guilt
to him like a comforter. "Her own actions did that. You had nothing to
do with it. Loving me won't doom me. It'll make me happy. Make me
proud. God knows, we've earned some happiness." He stepped close to
Xander, still not touching him, and stared at him, willing him to
understand. "Do you think Willow and Tara would have chosen not to have
loved each other, if they'd known how short a time they'd have
together? I don't. I can't promise you years, I can't swear I won't
die, but I can tell you whenever it happens I'll die loving you and you
can make all the decisions you want, but you can't make me stop wanting
you, needing you."
Empty of words, Giles stood and waited for Xander to speak. Outside,
the storm was sweeping over the island, and the cold rain was whitening
to sleet, but here, protected by thick walls, built to withstand worse
than this, there was nothing but an expectant, charged silence.
Xander's breath hitched, his arm tightening around himself. "It's not
fair," he said in a small voice that clearly revealed his misery.
To Giles' relief, Xander stepped forward, allowing himself to be
wrapped in a comforting embrace.
"I need you too," Xander whispered against Giles' shoulder, and then he
began to weep almost silently.
Read: Chapter 8