Saturation - Chapter 7
written by Jane Davitt & WesleysGirl





If Giles had been the kind of man who froze in a crisis through shock, he would have been dust and bones in a lonely grave by now. It was remorse that held him in place as Xander fell, not surprise.

He had the advantage over Spike of knowing exactly what was wrong with Xander, but that wasn't much help when he was cursing himself for leaving Xander alone all day, when, if they'd been together, he'd have noticed the signs of an approaching attack of malaria.

It was what had sent Xander home from Africa, it was something Giles had nursed him through twice, each time hoping it was the last.

He didn't hesitate long, but long enough that when he knelt beside them Xander was cradled in Spike's arms.

"What the fuck is wrong with him?" Spike asked, his voice urgent and rough. "Call a doctor or something!"

"No need, not yet," Giles said tersely, not sparing him a glance. "It's a flare-up of malaria. We keep a supply of the drugs he'll need; we just need to get some into him and reduce his fever." He stared down at Xander as his eyes fluttered open, gazing blankly up at them. "Why didn't he say he was feeling ill," he muttered. "We could have started the treatment right away."

"Malaria," Spike repeated as if tasting the word on his tongue. "Thought they could give you a jab against that these days."

"No, there's no vaccine," Giles murmured absently, feeling the heat radiating from Xander's skin and cursing himself for the exceedingly bad timing of all of this. Spike's hand was, he noticed, rubbing up and down along Xander's bare arm where the blanket he'd had wrapped around had slipped down.

Xander blinked slowly. "Giles?"

"Right here," Giles said, trying to keep his voice level and reassuring. "You're going to be fine, Xander. We're going to get you back to bed -"

"He wants to be in your bed," Spike put in. Giles glared at him, thinking his comment ill-timed, but Spike went on, "He was getting all upset about the idea of going back to the spare room for some reason."

"Oh." Giles gave in at once, knowing that reasoning with Xander was pointless when he was in this state. And it wasn't as if he didn't want Xander back with him -- he'd been lying there wide-awake for hours, after all, missing Xander more than he'd thought possible. "Right. Help me up with him, will you?"

"Course."

Between the two of them they managed to get Xander to his feet, although the blanket had to be left behind. The heat coming off Xander was appalling, and again Giles muttered, "Why didn't he say something?"

He hadn't expected Xander to answer, not under the circumstances, but he oughtn't to have been surprised when Spike did. "What are you, stupid?" Spike asked. "You know why he didn't say anything -- because you were pissed off at him and he didn't know how you'd react."

Giles met Spike's accusing eyes. "No matter how I was feeling, he should've known that if he was ill -"

"Save it," Spike said curtly. "Not interested, Rupert."

Biting back a retort because Xander started to shiver, his teeth chattering, Giles lapsed into a silence that ended when they reached the bedroom.

"Hold onto him while I strip the bed," he said.

Leaving Xander in Spike's arms, his dark head resting against Spike's shoulder, Giles pulled back the top covers, and then went to the bathroom for an armful of large towels, spreading them over the mattress.

"Right," he said. "I'm going to fetch the medicine. Get him on the bed and stay with him."

By the time Giles got back with the tablets, a basin and sponge, Xander was curled up on his side on the bed with Spike sitting behind him, one hand smoothing Xander's damp hair away from his forehead. Spike was leaning over and murmuring something nearly in Xander's ear, something soothing, but he stopped as soon as Giles stepped into the room.

"Get that bottle of water behind you," Giles said, gesturing with his chin at the bedside table and refusing to acknowledge Spike's obvious feelings for Xander.

Spike turned and got it as Giles set the basin down on the floor and sat on the side of the bed, running his own fingers gently over Xander's face. Xander opened his eyes again, but it was clear from his dull expression that he was too fevered to make much sense of what was going on.

Giles shook out a tablet and then slipped his hand under Xander's neck, feeling the sweat-damp hair cling to his skin. Moving quickly, he pushed the tablet into Xander's mouth and then tilted the bottle of water against his lips. Xander tried to stop him, his head twisting from side to side, but enough went down his throat to wash down the medicine, and Giles sighed with relief.

It was a start.

The next stage was to get Xander cooled off. A tepid bath would be ideal, but Giles really didn't want to move Xander more than he had to, and he'd decided to see what he could do with a sponge bath.

Which meant stripping Xander out of the sleep trousers he was wearing, but he was damned if he was doing that with Spike around.

"I can manage now," Giles said, giving Spike a dismissive look. "Thanks."

Spike frowned. "What, one pill and everything's fine again? He's burning up... I think we ought to get him to hospital, don't you?"

"He hates it there," Giles said. "I nursed him through the previous relapse at home, and I can do it again. I don't need your help." Or want it remained unspoken, but hung heavy in the air all the same.

Xander curled up around himself a bit more as his chills returned with a vengeance. Fortunately, the medication would work fairly quickly on the worst of the symptoms, but at this point getting Xander's temperature down would make him comfortable a lot faster.

Ignoring Spike, Giles spoke to Xander comfortingly and reached for the basin, bringing it up onto the bed and wringing out the sponge. As soon as the tepid water touched Xander's chest, however, Xander struggled backward, nearly bumping Spike off the bed and drawing a startled exclamation from him.

"Fine," Giles said tightly, as though Spike had voiced a determination to stay and help. "Hold him, will you?"

Spike gave him a swift glance and then pinned Xander's shoulders to the bed, his back to Giles, using a precision of force that was rather chilling, Giles reflected, when you considered how he'd acquired it. But Spike was bending his head and talking to Xander, a stream of soothing words that seemed to calm him, and there was nothing of the predator about him now.

Giles hooked his fingers in the waistband of Xander's trousers and pulled them down, peeled them down in fact, as they were clinging damply to Xander's legs. Impossible not to react to the sight of Xander naked, even like this.

No; especially like this. Giles dipped the sponge into the water again and squeezed it out just a little, his gaze travelling over Xander's body.

He lay sprawled, legs open, arms by his side, palms up-turned, utterly lost in his fever-dreams, his skin flushed and the hair on his stomach, the fine, dark trail of hair Giles had traced and followed down with hand and mouth so many times, a shade darker with sweat. Xander's cock was half-hard, resting against his thigh, as if responding to the weight of Giles' regard.

Edging up the bed a little, and wishing he'd thought to put more on than just a robe, Giles began to sponge Xander down, his arm brushing against Spike's as the man worked to keep Xander still.

Xander whimpered and twitched against Spike's restraining hands as Giles slid the damp sponge down over his fevered chest, his nipples hardening at once into tight points. It was upsetting to see him like this, but Giles couldn't allow himself to indulge in those sorts of thoughts. It was important to concentrate on doing what he could to lower the fever for now; soon enough Xander would feel better.

A droplet of water clung to the hollow of Xander's collarbone, and then slowly slid its way to his shoulder. Giles watched it as if spellbound, and then he glanced up at Spike, who looked up from the same droplet at that exact moment. Their eyes met and held.

"Seems like he's calming down," Spike said, sitting back on his heels and brushing Xander's hair away from his forehead again. Xander didn't protest the next fresh pass of damp sponge across his chest and belly, so Spike must have been right, and yet Giles didn't ask him to leave despite the fact that his assistance was no longer required.

Together, they watched the glowing sheen of damp on Xander's skin, painted on as though it were velvet. They both saw when, as Giles ran the sponge down over Xander's hip bone and along his thigh, Xander's cock swelled and twitched.

They both heard Xander's small moan, a moan that sounded as much like pleasure as pain.

And again, Giles glanced at Spike, seeing in his eyes an arousal that must have been plain in his own. The swift rise of an angry possessiveness was halted before he could give it voice when Xander's hips lifted as though begging for the cool relief of the water-laden sponge, the small movement drawing Giles' eyes away from Spike.

When he dragged the sponge over Xander's cock and Xander cried out softly, his eyes closed, Spike's hand reached out, gripping Giles' wrist.

"Let me help."

Giles wanted to refuse. Spike could look -- somehow he couldn't deny him that -- but his hands on Xander, while Giles watched? That was --

"Oh God," Giles whispered, so quietly it was an exhalation, not words, enlightenment bought at the price of peace of mind. To give himself time to think, he soaked the sponge again and passed it to Spike who took it with a nod and, with more composure than Giles was feeling, started to run it gently over Xander's thigh, down to his knee.

Giles watched him, thoughts tumbling and clashing in his head.

Angry. Yes, he'd been angry and jealous -- but he'd felt hurt, excluded more than anything. And the jealousy hadn't been as simple as wanting Xander for himself; it included Spike.

What the hell has he done to us? Giles thought, resentment and desire tangling within him. Confusing everything -- spoiling it all -

Xander shifted on the bed again, a whimper emerging from his lips. Giles glanced down and saw Spike draw the sponge up along the inside of Xander's thigh, finishing high enough that his fingers brushed Xander's balls.

Giles' hand flashed out to grip Spike's wrist, his fingers tightening brutally hard. "No," he said firmly, almost harshly. "Not like this."

Spike's hand stilled, and then he nodded. "How, then?" he asked.

"What makes you think I'll ever let you touch him?" Giles asked, his voice thin and tight. "Awake or asleep, he's still mine -" He faltered on the final word, because what had been true a week ago was now just a memory of a truth, hollowed-out and empty.

Here with Spike, in the dark hours of the night, with the restless, suffering body of the man he loved and Spike wanted laid bare for them both to see, it wasn't that simple.

The heat they'd taken from Xander with each cool stroke of the sponge was soaking into him. Giles could feel it suffuse his body, a reckless, urgent heat, clamoring and insistent. He laid his free hand against Xander's stomach, low down, so that when he spread his fingers against skin that was already warm, not burning, his thumb scraped softly against Xander's cock, making Xander groan, the sound all the heat inside Giles needed to explode.

"You -- fucking -- no," Giles managed to get out, and then his hand was around Spike's neck and he was pulling him close enough to kiss, biting down savagely on Spike's lip, sucking at it hard.

Spike... well, it would have been an exaggeration to say that Spike kissed him back. It was more that Spike allowed himself to be kissed, and that was enough to make Giles hesitate; but, in the moment he did, Spike turned the tables, making a small, eager sound and returning the kiss with no less desire than Giles felt, lips parting under Giles' determined tongue and letting him in to taste the inside of Spike's mouth.

Just as Xander had -- which was all the reason and all the excuse Giles needed, somehow. And with Spike's tongue warm against his, and Spike's hands sliding inside Giles' robe, pushing the loose folds open, baring Giles's shoulders and chest, it was enough.

His cock was achingly hard and he wanted -- oh God, what did he want? Revenge? No. Not that. Acceptance, assurance that he belonged, that he was wanted? Maybe. Spike's hands on him? Yes, that. He wanted that.

Spike's T-shirt hung loose over his jeans, allowing Giles to reach his back, touch skin he'd seen gleaming cool and pale in the past and been stirred by, aroused by, but he would never -- and he hadn't, no, he hadn't. Vampire. Soulless. Evil.

And none of that was true now, and Spike was warm and alive in his arms, straining to get closer, until they both moved off the bed, sliding to the floor and kissing frantically, pulling and tugging at what little they were wearing, kicking and shrugging out of it until they were naked and close, soft, harsh whimpers mixing with guttural words, all silenced with kisses.

Spike's skin was so warm Not that Giles had touched Spike all that much in the past, but even still, he couldn't get over it now. Had to keep touching, sliding his hands over every bit of skin he could reach, especially that muscled, flat abdomen that couldn't have been more perfect.

They were on their knees, Giles' insistent cock riding the sharp line of Spike's hip, Spike's hands on Giles' arse pulling him closer, seemingly as desperate for more as Giles was himself. Spike's mouth was eager as well, the skill of his kisses betraying his hundred plus years of experience with each talented movement, and Giles couldn't help but wonder what a mouth like that would feel like on his cock... There was a soft sound from the bed that brought him slamming back to a reality that he didn't want to return to, a hoarse, small voice saying his name. "Giles?" Xander sounded confused.

Spike's fingers tightened; a startled reflex that brought their bodies together one last time, and then Giles sighed, leaning his forehead against Spike's for a second. He expected to feel shame, even anger at himself or with Spike, but there was nothing but confusion and disbelief filling him and so much of it that it left him groping for a reaction.

Then Xander spoke his name again, his voice drowsy, and it all became simple, because Xander needed him.

"Go," he murmured to Spike. "Please?"

Letting his arms slip away without regret, even with some relief that when he did as Xander had done and confessed, he'd have no more than this to tell, Giles pulled on his robe and got to his feet.

Spike picked up his own clothes and headed for the door, although Giles could hear that he stopped just outside it, presumably dressing again, as Giles sat on the side of the bed and reached a hand out to touch Xander's forehead, which was still quite hot.

Xander opened his eyes at the touch. "What happened?" he asked, sounding as if the words were difficult to come by.

"Another malaria attack, I'm afraid," Giles said, keeping his voice steady with an effort. "You've taken your medicine, don't worry; you'll feel better soon, I promise."

"Damn," Xander said, closing his eyes again. "I thought we beat it last time." At least he was coherent, Giles thought; that meant the fever had reduced somewhat. Xander opened his eyes, his gaze flickering about. "I'm back in your room." It was clear that he wanted more information.

"You went downstairs for something," Giles said, wondering how much Xander remembered. "Spike woke and went in to you. I was... not sleeping, and I went downstairs."

Because I thought you were going to him. Because I needed to know. Was even looking forward to an argument after the hours of silence, the chance to hurt you both as I'd been hurt -

The shame came then, bowing Giles' head as he tried to compose himself.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Xander didn't seem capable of noticing that anything was wrong past what he already knew. He reached out and tangled his fingers with Giles', but tentatively, as if expecting to be rebuffed. "You still mad at me?"

"No," Giles said, the single word forceful and sharp. "Xander, I'm so sorry about that. We'll -- we'll talk about it when you're better, not now, but you need to know that I love you, and I'm just -- I'm sorry." He brought his other hand up to cover Xander's, squeezing it gently.

God, he could see now why Xander had just blurted out a confession like that. The urge to tell, to be forgiven, was strong, but it would have been selfish and cowardly to give in to it. Xander didn't need to be upset right now, and he deserved to be told when he wasn't reliant on Giles for his care.

Xander tugged at his hand weakly. "So if it's okay for me to be in here, would you lie down with me for a little while? Please?"

Giles began to refuse; shared body heat was the last thing Xander needed, but Xander's anxious face was telling him that he needed more than words to convince himself that Giles still loved him.

He lay down beside Xander, touching him with the tips of his fingers, stroking them lightly down Xander's arm as they lay facing each other.

"I missed you while I was away," he murmured, setting aside the hours they'd been estranged, taking them back to the moment he'd walked through the door. "Hours of endless babbling in public, with all the real decisions made in private -- so pointless in some ways, but you'll never get them to admit that."

He felt Xander relax.

"And if you'd been there you'd have got to see me slamming my fist down on the table and saying something very rude to the Lithuanian delegate, which I'm sure looked very impressive, even if I did have to spend the next five minutes trying not to let the agony show as I'd hit the table a lot harder than I'd planned."

Giles held up his hand, showing Xander the bruise along his little finger, and then let his hand rest on Xander's hip, linking them without getting too close. Xander's eyes were half-closed now.

Xander hitched himself a bit closer, his breathing just a bit too quick as his body fought against the illness that Giles, too, had hoped not to have to watch Xander go through again. "I'm sorry," Xander whispered. "I didn't want to want to. I don't. I want you" The way the words spilled out, easy and somewhat slurred, indicated that he probably didn't realize how honest he was being. "Don't be mad at me."

"I'm not," Giles said helplessly. "Xander, I'm not." He surrendered and took Xander in his arms, just for a moment, holding him close. "I'm not angry at all," he whispered, kissing Xander's forehead, tasting the salt-heat there. "See?"

Apparently desperate for the contact, Xander pressed himself still closer, rubbing against the loosely fastened front of Giles' robe. The fabric parted, and Giles could feel Xander's hot skin flush against his own. Xander's mouth found his in a kiss so hot it made Giles breathless. "Love you," Xander murmured, settling down into Giles' arms, but clinging as though he had no intention of letting go. "Stay here, okay? Don't go."

Giles closed his eyes momentarily against the guilt and longing he felt. "Xander -" he said, and then shook his head. "I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I promise." He eased them apart a little. "But you're so hot, love. Let me try sponging you down again -- or do you think you could make it to the bathroom? Soak in a bath for a while?"

Xander shook his head, hiding his face briefly against Giles' chest, then sighed and pulled back slightly with an expression that Giles recognized well. It was the one that Xander wore when he knew he needed to do something he didn't particularly care to do. "I'm all yours," Xander said, rolling onto his back, spreading himself out for Giles' inspection and, presumably, care.

The fact that seeing Xander like that sent a fresh surge of complicated lust through him was something Giles had to push aside. Resolutely, he reached for the basin and sponge.

Xander whimpered as the cool water dripped on his skin, and Giles managed to smile. "I can practically hear it sizzle," he said lightly, making sure his face didn't show anything but concern. "Roll over; let me do your back."

Xander made a small, protesting grumble at having to move again, but he obeyed, and Giles bent to kiss his shoulder blade briefly. "Ready?" he asked and brought the sponge down as Xander nodded.

By the time he'd finished, Xander had fallen asleep, his body barely reacting to the slow sweep of the sponge.

Giles tidied everything away and stretched out beside him, staring into the darkness until exhaustion rescued him from thought.

*****


Xander woke up from a light doze and groaned softly. The muscle aches from the malaria relapse would have been enough to make him miserable even if he hadn't been feverish, but since he was, all he could do was curl up on his side in misery and wait for it to go away.

He'd spent the night with Giles, sleeping and waking and sleeping again, sometimes waking up fully enough to remember why he felt so upset, but never for a long enough time that he could think about it to any real degree. By the time the alarm went off and Giles got up, Xander was aware enough to ask if Giles was going to work, but Giles had said no, he was going to stay home and take care of Xander.

That had been a relief, because it meant that Giles was committed to trying to work things out. He had, apparently, sent Spike off to the office, and Xander was hoping that one of the reasons for that was so that the two of them could talk on their own. Not that he was really looking forward to the conversation, but he'd do whatever he needed to.

Speaking of conversation, Giles appeared in the doorway with a tray of food, not saying anything right away in case Xander was still asleep.

"I'm up," Xander said, not moving. "Although I have to admit there's part of me that's wishing for that IV at the hospital that makes everything go so soft and fuzzy and un-hurty around the edges."

"Poor Xander," Giles said, with just the right blend of sympathy and serene confidence that he could look after Xander better than any hospital. "But really, when I think of how you were last time, I'm sure this attack is milder. If we'd just caught it a bit sooner -"

He set the tray of food down on the bedside table and pulled a chair over, sitting close enough that he could take Xander's hand but not close enough to jar the bed, for which Xander was grateful.

"And that was my fault, as much as yours," Giles continued. "Leaving you alone while I, well, sulked is a kind way of describing it. Xander, do you feel up to talking about it? Because there's something I want to tell you, but it can wait, honestly."

Xander looked at their hands together, thinking that how miserable he felt now was nothing compared to yesterday when he'd thought Giles might never even be this nice to him again. "Hey, you know me, Blurt-It-Out guy," he said. He figured some more apologizing wouldn't be out of place. "I'm sorry. Really, really sorry." A sudden bolt of fear shot through him, and he didn't know if he should hold onto Giles' hand more tightly or let go of it. "The thing you want to tell me... it's not that it's over, is it? Please tell me it's not."

Giles hesitated, which was so not what he should be doing, and then he shook his head. "I love you, Xander. More than I've ever been able to tell you. I don't want to lose you. Ever." The vehemence was reassuring and scary at the same time, because it was obvious Giles wasn't done. "But that might not be the way you feel when I tell you -"

Giles' fingers clasped his, and then Giles pulled his hand away and took a deep, I'm about to break your heart, breath. "Last night -- Spike helped me get you up here. Do you remember that?"

He tried, really tried, to remember, but most of the night before was a blur. Xander didn't even remember going downstairs in the first place. "No. You didn't... you didn't beat him up or anything, did you?" He answered his own question. "No, I know you didn't. Sorry."

"God, if only!" Giles muttered. He ran his hand over his hair and gave Xander a desperate, pleading glance. "Xander, I kissed him. A lot. On this bed, with you lying between us, then on the floor, and I don't know where it would've ended up if you hadn't called my name, and -"

Giles ran out of words, which just never happened, and sank his head into his hands. "I am so bloody sorry," he said after a moment, when Xander was still staring at him in a stunned silence. He lifted up his head. "I wish you were well enough to hit me or something. I deserve it. I deserve worse than that. The only thing I don't deserve is you."

Xander had no idea what to say. He didn't even know how he felt. Well, other than sick, and that was kind of a given just then.

"Give me a minute, okay?" he said, looking at Giles, then he clarified, "Don't go anywhere. Just... let me think."

Giles didn't move, just kept sitting there with his head in his hands like he was waiting for a death sentence or for Xander to yell that he didn't love him anymore or something.

Some things were simple. Xander did love Giles, and he didn't think anything could change that. Other things were more complicated, like that fact that Xander was starting to think he liked Spike way more than he should.

"You kissed Spike," he said, slowly.

Giles straightened. "Yes," he said, sounding wretchedly unhappy. "You were -- you were naked. I was sponging you down and you were -- you wouldn't keep still. Spike held your shoulders -" Xander felt a sense-memory surface, of strong hands and blue eyes and the splash of ice-water searing his skin, and then sink back again. "You -- God, Xander, you don't know what it was like!" Giles' voice dropped, thickened. "You were there, between us, and I was so tired and so worried and I felt as if it wasn't happening, not really."

Giles swallowed and sat back, his eyes never leaving Xander's face now, as though he was determined to hide nothing. "Seeing you like that aroused me," he said bluntly. "Unforgivable and completely inappropriate, I know, but it did. You were hard, I'm not sure why -- you certainly weren't aware enough, but -- and you were making these sounds -" Giles face flushed and Xander felt his own skin heat, not with fever but embarrassment and a stirring of lust, basic and primal. Shit. He could see himself spread out naked on this bed with both of them staring at him, and both of them hard because of him, and shit, that shouldn't turn him on this much...

"He wanted you, too," Giles said, the words spilling out. "He asked to help bathe you and I -- Xander, I let him, and when I saw him touch you, saw you respond, I just -- I snapped and grabbed him. I wasn't doing it to get back at you, or because I don't love you, I just -- I wanted you and I couldn't have you, and Spike was mixed in with it all somehow, and he -- we didn't, you have to know that we didn't -- but -"

And finally, finally, Giles stopped talking.

Xander was still feverish. He knew he had to be, because that was the only explanation for why he was kind of turned on knowing that Spike and Giles had been sitting right here, looking at him, naked. That they'd... Xander could picture them both, and even despite the fact that he was sick and exhausted, his body responded to the mental image of the two of them together.

"You didn't," he repeated, and Giles confirmed it with a miserable nod of his head. "Okay, well, that's good." Possibly it was good because he'd have hated to have missed it, but maybe this wasn't the right time to add that.

Then again, maybe it was.

Xander reached for Giles' hand, taking it in his own and pressing it over his swelling cock, wanting Giles to understand and not sure how else to explain it. He was naked under the thin sheet, and he drew a shivering breath as he pushed his hips up, rubbing his growing erection against Giles' palm. "There, see?" Xander said. "That's... God. When I think about the two of you together, it's..." He groaned when Giles' fingers traced his length under the cotton sheet, not letting go of Giles' wrist because he didn't want this to stop.

"That's how it was for us," Giles said, curling his fingers around Xander's cock. "Seeing you. And when you told me about you and Spike, I was hurt and angry at first, but I had all day to work it out, and it wasn't because of what you did as much as the fact that I wasn't included." Giles frowned, sliding his hand up and down almost absentmindedly, Xander thought, concentrating on his thoughts, not his actions. And, because he was Giles, still managing to do a good job of bringing Xander to the point where he wanted the sheet out of the way. "Does that make any sense?" Giles asked. He shook his head. "I really can't believe you're not furious with me. You have every right to be, you know." He huffed, sounding a little indignant. "And with Spike, who seems to have done a wonderful job of disrupting our lives, as per bloody usual."

"Maybe I just don't have the energy to be furious," Xander said. It was a reasonable enough suggestion, he thought, even if he doubted it was true. Giles' hand kept moving slowly, so Xander let go of Giles' wrist and slid his hand up Giles' arm. "I like him," he said. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I didn't want our life disrupted either; I liked it the way it was. But this feels okay, too." He didn't know if he was talking about Spike or what Giles was doing with his hand.

Giles leaned forward and kissed Xander, which was way better than talking, because Giles was kissing him just like he always did, making Xander feel safe after hours of worrying. If Giles could kiss him like this, he still loved him, and no matter what he -- and Giles -- felt for Spike, which Xander hadn't figured out yet, this mattered. He had to know Giles was there for him or nothing else would be right.

And Giles was. Xander lay back and let Giles draw the sheet away, the cool air touching him in a barely-there caress, with Giles' hand warm and hard against him a moment later.

He was feverish and he ached, but with Giles touching him, Xander didn't care as much. He closed his eyes and pictured Giles the way he looked with his head thrown back, cock buried deep inside Xander. He moaned softly. He wasn't sure he could come, but he didn't care about that, either. This was more about comfort and reassurance, Giles showing him that things were going to be okay. Xander whimpered and shifted restlessly.

"Shh," Giles said. "Be still."

Xander tried to obey, he really did, but he couldn't quite manage it. All his muscles ached, and he rolled toward Giles again, curling up on his side. "I hate this," he said, knowing that Giles would understand that he meant being sick.

Giles slipped from the chair to his knees beside the bed, with a comforting pat against an erection that Xander knew was already flagging, the arousal having been mostly in his head. The spirit had been willing, but his flesh wasn't weak as much as tormented.

Positioned like this, Giles could kiss him again, and he did, soft kisses that asked for nothing in return, so that Xander could lie there and feel those warm lips on his without needing to do more than that.

"You'll feel better tomorrow," Giles said with a certainty that should have been irritating, given how very far from well Xander felt right then, but somehow, when Giles pulled back and smiled at him lovingly, it became something to hold on to.

"Promise?" Xander asked.

"Yes," Giles said. "Now if you're quite sure you don't want to use what little energy you have in punching me, I think we should concentrate on achieving that goal, don't you? So sit up and try to eat something."

"Okay." Xander let Giles help him to a sitting position with a pillow jammed between him and the headboard and looked without much interest at the soup and sandwich and juice on the tray. He wasn't hungry, but he knew Giles was right that he'd feel better sooner if he ate, so he was determined to do what he could.

As he looked up at Giles, Xander realized that he'd do whatever he could for him, too.

*****


On the couch the next day with a totally unnecessary but made-Giles-happy blanket around him, Xander sighed and clicked the remote again. He didn't know why he bothered. There was never anything on.

Giles had gone off to the office for the afternoon; he'd said more than once that he didn't absolutely have to go, and that if Xander wanted him to stay home he would, but Xander had rolled his eyes and insisted he'd be fine. It was only a few hours, and Spike was there in case anything happened, which it wouldn't, because after two days on the medication Xander was well on his way to recovery. The worst of the aches and fever were gone -- at this point he was mostly just kind of tired.

The awkwardness of the whole situation had faded into a mutual, if unspoken, agreement not to talk about it, but Xander knew that now that he was well again things were going to have to be said.

He didn't know if he was looking forward to that or not, but anything was better than another day of watching Spike be studiously polite, and Giles withdrawn and edgy whenever Spike was around.

Spike had gone to his room as soon as Giles had left, and Xander guessed he planned to stay there, but what would that solve? Taking a deep breath, he yelled, "Spike! Come here, will you?"

Spike appeared in the doorway, looking as tired as Xander, a frown furrowing his forehead. "What?" he said, without crossing the threshold, not meeting Xander's eyes. "You need a drink or something?"

"No -- I'm bored. Come talk to me." Xander didn't think Spike would go for it, not really. He figured Spike would make some excuse and go back to his room. So he was surprised when Spike hesitated, then nodded and came into the living room, sitting down in the chair that was as far away from Xander as possible and glancing up at him warily.

Xander shut off the TV and set the remote on the cushion beside him. After a minute, Spike said, "Maybe I should get you something to read. A book? Could run down to the corner shop and get you some magazines?"

"Nah," Xander said, shaking his head. Then, watching Spike, "Giles told me what happened the other night."

He could see the relief on Spike's face, then wariness set in. "Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Spike stared at him in silence, and then shook his head, the ghost of a smile crossing his face. "This the bit where you ask me what the hell I thought I was doing? Because I'll save you the trouble; I don't know. It wasn't planned, any more than what happened with us was. Heat of the moment and all that." He sighed and sat back in his chair, looking contemplative. "You angry with me? With him?" he asked.

Xander shook his head again. "No. I was... I don't know, kind of sidelined for a little while. But I've had lots of time to think the past couple of days." He looked down at his hands. "And it's not like I can't see the attraction."

"Don't say that!" Spike growled.

Xander glanced at him in surprise, to find his face flushed with determination -- and how weird was it still to see color and warmth in Spike's skin, changing him subtly from alien to accessible?

"It isn't that I'm not flattered," Spike went on, his face softening a little, "and it's not that it isn't mutual -" Xander shivered as Spike's gaze flickered over him yearningly, "but you and Giles, you've got a good thing going here, and you don't want to fuck that up."

"No, I don't," Xander said. He didn't, obviously. He only wished it was that simple. That it was easy to turn away from Spike and pretend like there wasn't something there between them.

"Well then," Spike said. "Looks like that's settled then." He hesitated. "Giles -- does he want me to go? Because I will if it's best."

"I don't know," Xander said honestly. Giles hadn't mentioned it since Sunday; somehow, it had ended up on the list of things none of them were talking about. He hated that there were things they weren't talking about. "I mean... I guess you're not gonna want to stay. Right?" He looked at Spike.

"Not if I'm not wanted," Spike replied. "Had enough of that with Angel." He looked desperately lonely and proud; not a good combination as Xander knew only too well. "I never meant to -" His face twisted. "I can't do anything right, can I?" he said bitterly. "You two give me a place to stay, a job, and I go and - " He stood up suddenly. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry," Xander said, sitting forward. "It's not your fault. It just... happened." He wasn't sure how else to explain it. He wasn't sure he understood it, himself. "Look... promise me you won't go without saying anything."

Spike shrugged. "Yeah... see how it goes. Not like I've got anywhere to go, so you might be stuck with me for a while longer." He glanced at Xander. "You want anything? Because I didn't get much sleep last night and I might try to make up for it now."

That reminded Xander that yes, Spike actually was human now, and needed sleep, and that made him feel guilty. "I'm okay," he said, which was a lie, but it wasn't like he needed anything he could put his finger on; whatever it was he needed didn't seem to be something physical that Spike could get for him like a glass of water or a snack. "Go ahead and get some sleep. I'll be fine."

The day passed by with Xander counting down the hours until Giles got back and he had someone to talk to. Spike had emerged from his room after a few hours, not looking any more rested, and started to do some translation work at the kitchen table. Xander could hear the rustle of paper and Spike muttering to himself in a steadily more frustrated voice, and decided not to go and keep him company.

He slept instead, waking from a doze to blink up at Giles, who was standing beside him looking cautious and hesitant, as if he wasn't sure what to do next.

"I didn't mean to wake you," Giles said apologetically.

Xander yawned and stretched a hand out to Giles. "S'okay. I'm glad you did. C'mere." He closed his fingers around Giles' and pulled the other man down onto the couch beside him, wanting the contact. Needing it. "How was work?"

Giles was perched sideways on the edge of the couch, his back stiff, but when Xander kept hold of his hand, rubbing his thumb across Giles' knuckles, he relaxed and leaned forward, giving Xander a warm kiss. "Do you really want to know?" he asked, pulling back just far enough for Xander to be able to see the smile on his face. "Or can we pretend I bored you with an account of my day and move on to the part where I forget work exists for a few hours?"

"Okay, but only if you actually come sit with me," Xander said, tugging again until Giles moved closer. He put both arms around Giles, his cheek cool and nice against Xander's overly warm forehead. "Missed you."

Giles' arms were tight around him. "You can stop that now," he said with the twist-of-lemon humor it'd taken Xander a while to decode when he'd first met him. "I'm right here." He was sounding contented rather than stressed, which was good. "I might just stay here indefinitely, if that's all right with you."

"Sounds good," Xander said, feeling like everything was okay again. He sighed and closed his eyes.

"Started some dinner," he heard Spike's voice say, and he opened his eyes to see Spike standing in the doorway. "Thought you might... oh. Sorry. Didn't realize... sorry." Before Giles or Xander could say anything, Spike disappeared again.

Xander sighed more deeply and pressed the side of his face to Giles' shoulder.

*****


Giles didn't think he'd ever been so nervous about getting into bed with Xander, not even the first time it'd happened. No, definitely not then, with Xander's panic making his own seem like no more than a mild trace of concern by comparison, and none of it mattering at all in the face of their mutual longing.

Xander was waiting in bed for him, naked and with the sheets barely covering his hips. The day's rest had left him well on the way to being fully recovered, although he hadn't protested when Giles said firmly that work was out of the question the next day and he looked wide awake.

"Are you coming to bed, Giles?" Xander asked, trailing his hand over his bare chest, absentmindedly scratching at an itch before rolling over to put the book he'd been reading on the night table. The sheets fell away as he moved and Giles caught a glimpse of the curve of Xander's backside and the broad expanse of his shoulders.

Wide awake -- and completely and utterly fuckable.

"Yes, in a moment," Giles replied, pretending that he was having trouble undoing the strap of his watch and wondering if Xander knew just what he was doing to him. Well, if he didn't, he would when Giles slipped out of his robe, because he was as hard as he'd ever been.

Just... nervous.

Sighing, Giles snapped off the main light, leaving the room lit only by the lamp beside the bed, and took off his robe, tossing it over the chair in the corner. He watched Xander's gaze travel southward and got into bed rather quickly, pulling the sheets up around him and keeping rather a lot of the king-size mattress between Xander and himself. Xander frowned, his dark eyes asking a question, and Giles gave up any idea of keeping his doubts unspoken.

"I want you," he said, reaching out to take Xander's hand, even that small point of contact enough to make him ache with the need to move closer. "Which can't be news, but I don't want you to feel... we don't have to. I could always sleep in the spare -- in your room. If you're not well, if you're not ready after all that's happened, I promise I'll understand." He gave Xander a reproving look. "Why are you snickering like that when I'm trying to be considerate?"

"It's just nice to know that I can still make you look like this," Xander said, although clearly there was very little looking going on as he freed his hand and slid it down along Giles' body to circle his erection. "Considerate's good. I like considerate. Especially if you're thinking that you're going to be considerate," Xander's hand squeezed in emphasis, drawing a gasp from Giles, "with this."

"You'll be able to get this reaction out of me for as long as I'm physically capable, I imagine," Giles said dryly, trying to control his voice. Xander's hand on him was robbing him of rational thought. Dropping the casual tone, he moved closer, slipping his arm around Xander and kissing him hard, trapping Xander's hand between their bodies. "God, there isn't a waking moment when you couldn't have me wanting you with a look, or a smile, do you know that?"

Moving with a slow purposefulness, he eased back a little and tilted his hips, thrusting his cock through the tight circle of Xander's hand. "Like I want you now," he whispered, biting down, not too gently, on Xander's lip.

Seemingly reassured, Xander leant forward and kissed him hungrily, warm tongue exploring Giles' mouth while Xander's hand continued to torment Giles' cock with a great deal of expertise. It was startling, Giles thought, how very quickly Xander had learned his body, learned what to do to drive him half mad with desire, to bring him to a shuddering release. "Wanted to do this last night," Xander admitted, bending his head to lick at Giles' throat. "I wish I'd had the energy."

"You seem to have sufficient now," Giles managed to say, turning his head slightly so that Xander could do whatever he wanted, which seemed to consist of flickering his tongue over every sensitive place on Giles' neck, leaving Giles pliant and close to squirming underneath him. "God, Xander -"

Raking his nails fiercely from Xander's shoulders to his arse and getting a moan and a biting, sucking kiss in return that left his neck smarting and tingling, Giles gave himself up to making Xander know how much he was loved, forgetting that they weren't alone in the house, letting himself be as vocal as Xander's mouth and hands demanded.

Xander crawled half on top of Giles and kissed him harder, groaning loudly as his cock skidded across Giles' abdomen and attempting to muffle the sound against Giles' shoulder. The two of them moved together, thrusting erections against each other's bodies, mouths meeting in kisses that were sometimes gentle, sometimes rough and careless.

Giles could feel the moment when Xander went from eager to determined, but even if he hadn't been able to, he would have known by the way Xander's voice changed. The muttered words became a bit louder, the squeaking of the bed more rhythmic as Xander moved faster.

"Want you in me," Giles said, feeling the eager shiver that went through Xander. "Need you to fuck me, Xander. Please. Want you to -"

The bedroom door was pushed open forcefully, revealing Spike standing in the doorway, silhouetted against the faint glow of light from the hallway downstairs. "And I want you to keep it fucking down," he snarled. "Christ, like I want to hear you two fucking right above me. You selfish pair of buggers."

Xander and Giles moved apart instinctively, with Xander's dismayed face mirroring the expression Giles was sure was on his own. Spike sounded angry, and Giles might have been moved to anger himself by the intrusion, but Spike's face was twisted with more emotions than simple rage, and even from here Giles could see the shine of tears in his eyes.

"Spike -" he began awkwardly, dragging the sheet up over him and Xander.

"Forget it," Spike said bitterly. "Comes easy to you two, right? Forgetting stuff. People. Yeah. Just forget it -"

He left, slamming the door behind him.



Read: Chapter 8