Still Life
written by Rubywisp


Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Set sometime in the future, maybe six or so years after Chosen.
Summary: There will *always* be blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Saturday mornings.
Thanks: Thanks to soft_princess, ladycat777 and ravyns_lair for encouragement and read-throughs, not to mention acting as sounding boards. *kisses*
Dedication: For: Maybedarkpink, who wanted plot galore and a fic that wasn't entirely smut. I hope you like it.
Feedback Author: Rubywisp



With Copper Coffeepot and Two White Bowls

Xander makes quick work of scraping the mud and slush off his boots, eager to get inside. Several years of Cleveland winters have done absolutely nothing to change the fact that he's Southern Californian by nature, nurture and inclination, and he always misses the beach and the sun most desperately during the ritualistic Dance of the Shedding of the Snowy, Wet Clothes.

Finally, he's normal-sized and comfortable again in nothing more than his white long-sleeved t-shirt and blue jeans. Xander's quixotic protest against the bitter cold - and, he claims, much to Giles' amusement, his last connection to the casual, taken-for-granted warmth of his childhood - is manifested in his refusal to wear even socks indoors, heating bill be damned.

He pads down the hall toward the kitchen in his bare feet, drawn to the scent of garlic and onion that means Giles' infamous stir-fried crab is already well underway.

"Ah. Coffee, how I love you," he says upon entering the room, spying the full, steaming pot gratefully.

"Hello to you too, Xander," Giles says with a chuckle. "Once you've recalibrated the caffeine imbalance in your bloodstream, would you mind setting the table?"

Xander nods hello and acquiescence over the brim of his already-half-drained cup. The rich, fragrant coffee burns going down, but he's still half-frozen from the walk from Hotel Slayer down on the corner, and the heat thudding in his belly is as gratitude-inducing as the thick, full taste of it.

Another couple of swallows, and he's primed and warmed enough to be useful. He sets the mug in the sink and collects dishes, napkins and silverware to place at either end of the small, rectangular table under the window. Two bottles of beer complete the preparations, and Xander makes himself comfortable in the chair against the wall, safely out of the way while Giles serves.

"How are the repairs coming along?" Giles asks once he's sat down and they've started eating.

Xander nods, digging into his bowl enthusiastically. "Good. The hole's all patched up; everything should be dry and ready to paint tomorrow afternoon."

"Excellent."

"You know, I'm still thinking redoing that one wall might not be a bad idea," Xander says, poking his fork in Giles' direction. "Do you have any idea how much that picture window is costing the Council? Every single Slayer we've trained has put a staff through it at least once."

"Xander-"

"I know, I know," Xander says, interrupting what he knows is coming, holding one hand up in mock surrender. "You like the view, the sunlight is good for them - which, while I get your point, still makes them sound like plants and not girls - I know." He shrugs, a thoughtful expression on his face as starts in on his food again. "What about French doors? You've still got your view, or most of it anyway, your light, your breakable glass..."

Giles shakes his head, but he's chuckling, and Xander doesn't miss the interested look that flickers across his face.

He drops the subject, but as he sips his beer, Xander's already calculating frame dimensions.


Bowl with Daisies

Giles' footsteps are slow and labored all the way from the front door, and Xander has the ibuprofen and muscle-relaxing lotion sitting on the table next to Giles' favorite chair by the time he makes it to the living room.

He takes the flowers Giles hands him with hardly a blink to betray his confusion and places them on the mantel over the fireplace. He knows better than to offer to help, even if after so many years he's still not sure whether it's pride, embarrassment, or just plain old stiff-upper-lip Britishness that causes Giles to throw him a dark look from under his lashes any time Xander is overly solicitous about his well-being on nights like this.

"How's Shelly doing?" he asks casually over his shoulder as he goes to retrieve the heating pad. Unspoken assistance is allowed, if only tolerated.

"She sent you those," Giles answers with a small smile and a nod toward the fireplace.

The flowers take on a new and fearful meaning, and Giles laughs at Xander's look of panic. "And what I meant to say was how did training go today?" Xander asks, escaping to the hall closet, where the heating pad lived, and supernaturally strong girls with disturbing and equally-strong crushes did not.

"I do believe we've mastered breakfall techniques finally," Giles answers. Xander doesn't have to see him to know that he's having to work at keeping the groaning out of his voice.

Xander winces sympathetically, safely unseen, and reaches for the hot water bottle instead: the heating pad's cord isn't long enough to allow Giles to use it on his lower back. He shakes his head in frustration, unable to understand why falling is something none of the Slayers-in-training seem to be able to learn without Giles hitting the ground half-a-hundred times in example.

"You know, I could swing some free time tomorrow," he says, carefully not looking at either the flowers or Giles when he returns from the bathroom with the now-full water bottle.

Giles doesn't answer. Xander wraps the bottle in a hand towel and gives it to Giles to slip between his lower back and the chair. "I could come over. Help you out for the afternoon," he says, taking a seat on the sofa and ignoring the glower he can see threatening to descend from on high.

"I'm afraid clinches and tackling are next," Giles reminds him, trying to dissuade him by way of warning.

Xander shrugs and grins. "You'll be there. I'll be safe."

"I appreciate the offer, Xander," Giles says in a tone that's meant to convey just how much he doesn't. "But you have that meeting about the McLaughlin building tomorrow, don't you?"

"Yeah, but Robert will be there, and it's not like he hasn't spent the last six weeks in my back pocket. He knows that proposal as well as I do." Xander answers automatically, even though he knows he's already lost this particular argument, him and his damned overgrown sense of responsibility.

"I'm sure he does."

Giles moves, settling himself more comfortably in his chair. "I'm also certain that Mrs. Dempsey will appreciate the personal attention of the head of the company that's trying to win the contract for her massive remodeling project, rather than being fobbed off onto his obviously young and inexperienced-" He holds up one hand as Xander opens his mouth to protest. "Though quite knowledgeable, assistant. She doesn't seem the type to let such a slight go by unnoticed," he finishes, though not unkindly.

Xander slumps against the couch in defeat. "Yeah, yeah, I know," he admits ungraciously. "I just wanted-"

"To do my job for me?" Giles asks, one eyebrow lifted in an expression that would've quelled a lesser man, a younger Xander.

But more than three years of friendship and cohabitation have made him comfortable with his right to worry as much as he wants, and if he chooses to trample the 'don't ask, don't tell' rule once in a while, so be it. There'll still be blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Saturday.

"There's no reason for you to be hitting the ground sixty times a day, Giles," he says bluntly. "Not when you've got me to do it for you. Hell, call it part of *my* job and be done with it."

Giles bows his head, apparently searching the carpet pattern for clues as to how to find a new way to end the old discussion he never wants to have. "The Council doesn't pay you enough for all your work to be called anything other than thinly-veiled volunteerism, Xander," he says after a while. Easy serve.

Xander shrugs. "So? I was fixing Slayer-broken windows and doors long before it became a paying gig. Taking bumps and falls and breaking bones, too, remember?" There's no spin on it, but it's not just a lob over the net, either.

"I do." Giles meets his eyes squarely, jaw set to match. "And I was learning to train Slayers and suffer the occasional associated discomfort before you were even born. I think I'll manage to keep going for a while yet."

There's no answer to that that doesn't somehow involve the words, 'But I wasn't calling you old, honest.' Game, set, and match: Giles. Xander picks up the remote and flips around the dial like he's actually paying attention to the TV. He pretends not to notice the pained grimace on Giles' face as he reaches stiffly for the muscle balm.


With Absinthe

"Hey, Giles!" Xander is almost bouncing through the house, shedding sneakers, socks and jacket in a haphazard Hansel-and-Gretel-for-goats trail on his way to the kitchen.

"You're never going to believe this: not only did we come in under budget, but we finished the McLaughlin project early enough that mondo supremo bonus clause number one kicked in. Want to come with me to pick out my shiny new truck?"

There's no answer. Xander deflates slightly, looks around. The kitchen is empty, as is the living room - still - when he backtracks.

He pokes his head into the den. "Giles?"

Nothing. Maybe Xander's got his days confused, and tonight is one of Giles' regular late shifts at Slayer Central.

He flips through his mental calendar, then the real one on the wall over the desk. No, today's definitely Thursday. Thursdays mean paperwork and stroganoff, which Giles took to making regularly after the third time Xander tried to prove that he did, in fact, know how to cook his favorite meal, but merely succeeded in almost setting the kitchen on fire instead.

No Watchery reports, no food...Xander's either forgotten something important, or something is very, very wrong.

Xander walks slowly down the hallway toward Giles' bedroom, hyperaware of the deep carpet squishing up between his toes, the scuffs and chipping on the molding that tells him it's almost time to repaint, trying not to worry about why Giles isn't where Giles is supposed to be, or what he might find when he peers around the door.

It's almost a relief to find Giles slumped in a chair and studying the glass in his hand with a blank look on his face. A two-thirds-empty bottle of Scotland's finest sits on the windowsill within easy reach; a bottle Xander's only seen twice.

Oh, shit. Yeah, he's got the day right. It's the date he forgot.

He pulls back, intending to slip away without disturbing Giles'...lack of peace, but Giles hears him, maybe sees him moving out of the corner of his eye. Something anyway, and he looks up, catching Xander in the act of disappearing not quickly enough.

"Xander."

"Sorry," Xander says with an apologetic wave. "I didn't mean...I just-" He doesn't want to admit he forgot, and stops with a frustrated sigh. "Sorry," he repeats, wincing slightly. "I'm just going to go lose myself in whatever brainless thing I can find on the TV, okay?"

"Why don't you come in, have a drink with me instead?" Giles asks, tilting his head at the whisky bottle in the window.

Xander looks, starting to protest at the same time, the words dying on his lips when he notices the second glass. "Oh." He frowns and tries not to feel uncomfortable; he's never been in Giles' bedroom before. It makes him vaguely twitchy. "Are you sure? Because I could just-"

"Please."

He still feels like an intruder, but how can he say no to the gravelly ache in his friend's voice? Xander crosses the room and takes the glass Giles pours for him.

Giles tips his glass in Xander's direction; Xander lifts his in return.

"To Jenny," they say, together.


With a Basket of Apples

Xander's only halfway through his current chapter in Saving Our Architectural Heritage: The Conservation of Historic Stone Structures by the time Giles is finished with his shower.

"Why don't you soak in the tub for a while?" Xander calls out when he hears the water shut off. "Get rid of some of that stiffness?"

The door opens. Xander has just a moment to marvel at Giles' ability to look imposingly stern even while wrapped in nothing but a towel before his brain shuts down.

"I realize, in saying this, that I run a great risk of sounding too much like you," Giles says, one hand on his hip. He's frowning, but his eyes are twinkling. "But I thought you liked me stiff."

Surprised, Xander laughs, almost dropping the apple he's just plucked out of the bowl on the nightstand. "No, no, no," he says, waggling one finger. "You misheard me. Stuffy. I said I liked you *stuffy*."

"Ah. My mistake." Giles snaps the overhead light off, leaving only Xander's lamp burning, and moves next to the bed. He takes the apple from Xander's hand, frowns exaggeratedly at it and places it back in the bowl. "No eating in bed, young man."

Xander coughs to cover his laugh. He sits up, pushing his book to one side and glancing coyly at Giles from under his lashes.

"Are you sure about that?" he asks, lifting one hand and running his fingertips lightly along the top of Giles' towel, enjoying the sharp suck of indrawn breath he hears when he - accidentally, of course - touches skin.

"Not entirely," Giles allows. His hand winds into Xander's hair just as Xander tugs the towel loose and lets it fall to the floor. "It is possible that I'm capable of being...persuaded."

Xander grins and lays a kiss on the already-hardening cock in front of him. "I've been told I can be very persuasive when I want to be," he says, sliding his hands around Giles' waist.

Giles jerks when Xander cups his ass, running his tongue along the crease of Giles' hip simultaneously. "Please feel free to 'want to be' as often as you like," he says, finishing with a gasp when Xander turns his head and draws Giles' balls into his mouth quickly and smoothly.

The game and the conversation both stop while Xander practices being convincing. Giles moves, shifting to grip one of Xander's shoulders, leaning more and more, until he ends up bent almost double over Xander's head, murmuring encouraging inanities as Xander does his best to render Giles nonverbal.

Giles is tart and heavy on his tongue, the thickness of him in Xander's mouth, the way his thrusts make Xander's jaw ache turning him on almost as much as Giles' hands in his hair. He's hard, achingly so, and when he relaxes his jaw further, opens his mouth until Giles notices and starts fucking even more fervently, Xander can't keep from slipping one hand under the waistband of his sweats to take care of business.

The way Giles' hands tighten painfully in Xander's hair, on his shoulder, rushes through Xander's veins like barbed lightning. He comes, jerking, Giles' dick against the back of his throat, and he knows it's the feel of his moan that finishes Giles off. The thought makes him smile even while he's still swallowing.

They remain motionless for a few moments, Xander nuzzling into Giles' stomach, Giles running his fingers through the hair at the base of Xander's neck, until Giles breaks away with a deep breath and a kiss to the top of Xander's head. He circles to the other side of the bed and climbs in while Xander resumes his earlier position: propped up against the headboard, book in hand.

One arm slides itself over Xander's hips as Giles curls up next to him. "And just like that, you're going back to reading that bloody great book of yours?"

"Yep," Xander answers cheerfully, leaning over to kiss Giles' temple. "Now it's your turn to sit around with nothing to do while I pore over books thicker than the L.A. phone directory. Payback's a bitch."

Giles chuckles. "No, it's my turn to sleep while you read that boring thing."

"Hey! It's not boring. I like this stuff, remember?"

"How can I forget?" Giles asks, pushing at the heavy book on Xander's stomach. "Though I'm beginning to suspect that you just have a fetish for old things," Giles murmurs into his skin, voice thick with sleep.

Xander puts the book on his chest and slides down until he can look Giles in the eyes. "Hey," he says softly. "I love you."

"Love you too."

They kiss, soft and warm and deep, until Giles pushes Xander away with a tired smile. "Go back to your book. Delicious as it is, I don't fancy falling asleep with your tongue down my throat."

Xander grins and kisses Giles one last time before getting re-settled. After a few minutes, his stomach reminds him that he was hungry not too long ago, and he reaches for his abandoned piece of fruit. Munching contentedly while he reads, he considers turning the radio on low, then decides against it, the sound of Giles' deep breathing all the soothing background noise he needs.

END