written by Soft Princess
Spoilers: Post-Chosen (BtVS 7:22) and some slight spoilers for Damage (AtS 5:11)
Summary: Xander dreams of a different kind of rain.
Dedication: Written for Willa (willshenillshe) for the Giles/Xander ficathon. SO Sorry it's late. Had muse and RL stuff coming my way. I am really sorry.
Author's Note: WARNING: Angst.
Feedback Author: Sofy aka Soft Princess
Author's Website: Fly With Me
"I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand"
Sting - Desert Rose
* * * * *
Two months now, and Xander needed the rain so much it hurt.
He'd left the next day, just like he'd told Giles, feeling relaxed and ready to face this new life. But he hadn't been prepared for the shock, the confusion, the utter loneliness he felt being there, on his own, in a country he hadn't even known existed before.
Seriously, Ghana? Not really a subject he studied in geography. Although he had never really paid attention in geography, either, so maybe they HAD studied Ghana and he just hadn't been listening.
He'd been to Morocco first. Then Libya, Burkina Faso, and now Ghana. He'd found so many mini-slayers that he'd stopped counting.
He talked to Giles regularly on the phone. Every Thursday at 8 p.m. Greenwich time. They avoided THAT conversation a lot. They actually hadn't talked about it at all since Xander had left England, except for the occasional references to the rain.
"Is it raining?"
Xander could almost hear Giles nod at the other end of the phone line. He hadn't missed the rain much at the time. After a while, though, they stopped talking about anything but work, both of them pressed by time to go back to their duties. Xander started to yearn for the sound of the rain falling.
It wasn't that he was still mourning; he had finally coped with that part of himself. But he was so lonely. Alone, standing in the crowd. No one knew him. He didn't have time for friendship.
It was Thursday.
Just like every Thursday, Xander quickly went through his morning chores: he showered, shaved, tidied up his tiny hotel room, and ordered breakfast. He had to type his report from the last week and e-mail it to Giles, so he would have enough time to read it before their weekly rendezvous.
He sat on his bed, his laptop perched on his knees, with toast and coffee balanced on a bed-tray that didn't seem very steady but served its purpose. Taking a bite from a piece of toast, Xander went to work.
Except, the words weren't coming. He had found four more slayers that week, all of them under the age of 12. It was disturbing, really, that the more he looked, the younger the girls became. At first, they had been 16, 17, one of them even 22 and married with two young children still in diapers. Now, they were barely out of childhood, not even old enough to really grasp the concept of being a slayer.
Giles needed to know all that. Oh, he knew Xander had found them, their names and where they lived, thanks to the handy-dandy little form that Andrew had thought of.
Xander always filled it in as soon as he found a slayer, and promptly sent it off to Giles. But the weekly report was for more than just the obvious details. This was about the families, the ties and bonds that held the slayers where they were. Any obstacles to their training were to be reported.
But, the only thing Xander could think of was how much he missed the rain.
He missed its sound, its caress as it trailed down his skin. He missed the comfort he found in the rain.
'Giles, I miss the rain.'
But no, that wouldn't do. Xander erased it and forced himself to think about the slayers. He really needed to focus. He wasn't supposed to crack yet. He was supposed to be strong and stay away, like all the others did. Find a place he could call home and settle down. But he hadn't, and he probably never would. At least not here, not in Ghana, or anywhere else in Africa.
He couldn't live without the rain.
And yes, sometimes, it did rain. He knew it. The people here talked about the rain season, but Xander had yet to see for himself.
He worked well after noon, forcing himself to write what he needed to. He kept itching to write about the rain, ask Giles if there had been any in the last week. But he didn't.
Finally, he finished his report, quickly scanned it for spelling mistakes, and sent it off to Giles.
Two o'clock. He still had some time before the phone call. He got up from the bed, gathered his camera and notebook, and left the room.
It wasn't until just before the sun was about to set that he returned to his room. He ordered dinner, showered again, and waited.
The waiting. It was the part he hated the most. Sometimes, he could and would go for days without speaking to anyone. On Thursday, though, he knew he'd be talking to someone, someone he knew and trusted, someone he lo- cared for.
When he was waiting for the phone call he knew was coming, he was alone, truly alone. He felt it deep down in his heart. He had no one.
But then, just then, for 15 minutes, maybe an hour, he could have Giles. With him, hearing his voice, which strangely sounded like rain in Xander's ears. He had never realized just how lovely Giles' voice was.
Well yes, he had realized it, many times, actually. But while it was something to think, 'Giles has a nice voice,' it was quite another to think, 'Oh God, he's got such a nice voice. I wish he'd never stop talking.'
"Giles." Xander picked up just as soon as the phone rang.
"Is it raining?"
Oh God, he hadn't meant to ask that, really hadn't meant to. At all. But it was out now, and Giles would laugh at him and think he was a slacker, a coward, for wanting out after only two months, but Xander couldn't take it anymore. He HAD to know, had to believe Giles had meant it when he said...
"Yes. Do you want to hear it?"
"Hold on for a moment." Giles' voice was full of... *something* Xander didn't want to identify, because it still freaked him out. But it warmed him anyhow, made him feel like... like home wasn't so far away anymore.
And there it was, the soothing sound of the rain falling onto the pavement, caressing it.
"Can you hear it?"
They stopped speaking, neither of them talking for several minutes. Giles was probably letting the rain caress him like Xander had done that day, because there was no way Xander could hear the rain so sharply unless Giles was *in* it.
"My pleasure." The same deep voice Giles had used two months before, working its way into Xander's heart, making him wonder just exactly what Giles' pleasure was besides comforting Xander...
"I'll talk to you soon."
They hung up and Xander suddenly felt free. Giles hadn't laughed, hadn't scolded, hadn't tried to force Xander to change his mind. He just understood.
Just like Xander had hoped he would.
The next morning hadn't even started to show when a loud banging on his door awakened Xander.
"Mr. Harris, sir." The strong accented voice of the bellboy resonated into Xander's fogged brain. "Package for the mister, sir. Says t'is urgent."
Xander rubbed his eye, leaped up from the bed, and opened the door. He grabbed the package from the bellboy, already knowing what it contained. "Thanks."
He almost forgot to tip the boy in his haste to open the package. With that taken care of, he closed the door and sat on his bed, trying to calm himself down. He was acting like a teenage boy again.
He ripped the envelope open and spilled the contents on the bed.
If the weather services can be trusted for once, it should be raining tomorrow night.
Xander was to fly from Bolgatanga to Accra in the morning, and then catch a direct flight to London. He'd be home in less than 24 hours. If he could call London home.
There were no words to express the relief that swept through Xander's heart and mind as he read the details of his flights, the times of departures and arrivals. There had been no questions about his work or his reports, no note to remind him he was leaving his assigned place of employment, which he was deserting in a way. Nothing.
He quickly gathered his things - it didn't take him too long, there wasn't much to pack - checked out of the hotel, and called for a cab. Soon, he was waiting for his plane in the small Bolgatanga airport, clutching the plane tickets in his hands.
Xander was going home.
* * * * *
The flight was long and exhausting, but finally Xander could see the London night-lights from his seat. It didn't bode well for the rain, since there were practically no clouds in the sky, but the sight warmed him none-the-less.
Giles would be there, waiting for him.
God, he'd missed Giles even more than he'd missed the rain. It was a disturbing and scary feeling, but not new. He'd felt it many times before, no matter how much he'd tried not to. He couldn't be feeling that way for Giles. Not now. Not ever.
Except that he did feel that way, no matter what it took to admit it to himself, and now he would see him in less than an hour. Xander felt like a teenager all over again, excited and nervous and... what if Giles wasn't happy to see Xander? What if Giles didn't feel the same way? There were so many insecurities looming over him. Scared was probably more accurate than nervous.
The pilot finally announced the plane's decent into Heathrow airport.
"It's currently thirteen degrees celsius outside, that's fifty-five farenheit for you foreign folks, and barely any clouds in the sky. It's quite a lovely night. Enjoy your stay."
Yes, Xander would enjoy his stay, there was no doubt there. Or almost none.
* * * * *
Customs and luggage retrieval were a pain. A total complete pain in the ass and if his luggage didn't appear soon, he'd just leave it there. It wasn't like that hadn't happened before... losing everything he owned, because he felt the urge to run.
There it was, finally. Xander grabbed his suitcase and quickly made his way to the exit.
Giles would be on the other side, waiting for Xander to arrive.
* * * * *
It wasn't that much of a reunion really. It felt like Xander had never left. Xander found Giles, and they smiled at each other. Giles picked up Xander's suitcase and led him out of the airport to his car. They hadn't talked that much.
"Giles! So great to see you."
"Here, let me take that for you. The car is just outside, I didn't park very far out."
There was a lot of smiling, though, from both of them. Xander couldn't think of a moment when Giles' smile had seemed more genuine and *happy* than it was then. Or maybe Xander just wanted it to be that way so he was imagining things...
Or maybe he wasn't imagining anything. Maybe Giles was really that happy to see him. Maybe...
There were too many maybes and Xander much preferred to not think about them at that moment. It wasn't time for doubts or introspection, because they were stepping outside and he had to look at the sky. The clouds were gathering over the London night sky. Xander gave a small sigh of relief.
"It'll rain before we reach home. We'd better get going."
Xander smiled at Giles once more and nodded. "Sure thing."
They got into the car and settled into a comfortable silence as Xander mused over the idea of home. Giles had said home, had called his house home, and it felt like he meant it as Xander's home, too. It should have been overwhelming and emotional, but really, it wasn't. Xander felt this deep sense of calm and peace, and he couldn't keep the smile off his face for even a single second.
Finding out England could mean home after losing Sunnydale wasn't as overwhelming as Xander had thought it'd be. Maybe because he had seen it coming for a long time now and had thought of it as such while in Africa. Having this confirmation only made it that much more real.
"I suppose you're feeling rather exhausted now."
Giles' voice startled Xander out of his thoughts. "Yeah, but not that much. For the moment, I'm just happy to be here with... I mean, here and not there. Just waiting for the exhaustion to crash on me."
"Of course. Would you prefer we stop in London for the night? The trip back to Bath will take about three hours."
But would they be able to hear the rain in London? The hotels were big and crowded and there were cars everywhere. Xander needed the rain, needed to hide in it. He could feel Giles' eyes on him and knew he should answer, but at the same time, Xander wished Giles could understand without needing words.
"Of course, if you think you can wait just an hour before falling asleep, I know of this Inn down in Alton that's quite lovely. It's just about 30 minutes west of London."
"Thought you said an hour..."
"Well yes, we do have to go through the blasted London traffic to get there."
Xander smiled. Traffic in London was even worse than the traffic in L.A. "You could go around the city instead of through it."
Now, it was Giles' turn to smile. "I, of course, hadn't thought of that. How silly of me."
The comfortable silence drifted back as they left the London lights behind. The clouds were thicker now; Xander could barely see the moon. The rain would be falling from those clouds soon.
It started just before they reached Alton. It was soft at first, a few droplets falling on the windshield, but soon it was pouring. Xander felt himself grow calmer and calmer as the rain fell.
"We're nearly there. I have a raincoat in the back if you wish to put it on. I'll not force you inside, but at least cover yourself."
Giles sounded concerned, but not overly so - just enough to warm Xander's heart.
He didn't think he'd stay outside long enough to need the raincoat. The sound of the rain had already calmed him more than he'd thought.
They finally stopped at the Inn, and Xander stepped out into the rain while Giles left to secure a room.
As the rain drifted on his cheeks, Xander felt sure he didn't need it anymore. It felt good and soothing, sure, but he didn't need to be soothed anymore, at least, not by the harsh cold rain. No more hiding was necessary, except maybe for the one thing...
Shrugging off that train of thoughts, Xander entered the Inn, found Giles and with nothing more than a nod, followed him to their room.
Giles made no comments nor asked any questions as they walked to their room. He did, however, apologize over the distinct lack of a second bed. Probably exactly like the concierge downstairs had. Xander smiled and shrugged. "No problem. Pick your side, I'm easy. I'll just go take a quick shower now. Plane smell, bad."
* * * * *
Clean, feeling refreshed, and ready to face Giles - and possibly a huge talk about his duties and how he would have to go back to them, Xander put his pyjamas on and stepped out of the bathroom.
"Xander? Is there anything you wish to tell me?"
Xander looked up in alarm and could only stare as Giles was holding one of his books in his hands, looking alternatively at it, then at Xander.
"How did you find that?"
Giles pointed to Xander's backpack, which seemed to have fallen on the floor and spilled its precious cargo. So *that* was the noise Xander had heard in the bathroom.
It wasn't like he hadn't known this conversation was going to be on the agenda at some point. Except he hadn't expected it to come so fast.
That was the real problem with Africa and its 'no rain to hide in' problem: way too much time on his hand for Xander to do the dreaded self-discovery thing.
He was quite proud to think he'd done pretty well with the denial before...
"You do know that you can tell me anything, don't you? This is nothing to be ashamed of."
Xander could finally move again as Giles' words registered through his mind. "You don't have to talk to me like I'm a kid, Giles, I know. It's just... I didn't really know how to tell anyone. Hence the books."
Giles nodded and put the book back down as Xander made his way to the bed and sat beside him. "Actually, it's not that new, it's just... I never really let myself think about it. I kinda got better and better at the denial thing."
Xander looked at Giles and shook his head. "I was brought up thinking homosexuals were worse than the plague and I needed to stay as far away from them as I could. My dad was the worse homophobe I know."
"I am truly sorry, but surely, when Willow came out..."
"It was different. She had Tara and it's *Willow*..." Xander let himself fall on the bed beside Giles. "Fuck, I was SO jealous, Giles. But at the same time, I hated myself for being jealous, hated the mere thought that I could want the same freedom, because I *couldn't* be gay, you know. I just couldn't."
"And you had Anya."
"And I had Anya. It was so complicated, and I wanted desperately to fit into some semblance of normal life. So I just went with it and got really close to Anya, and I loved her, I really did. Didn't stop me from thinking about what it would be like if I was with a man instead of a woman, sometimes. But I did love her, I never cheated on her and, what I felt for her wasn't a lie..."
"Of course, it wasn't, Xander. You did love her, and it showed. You shouldn't feel bad about thinking of men while you were with her. You were struggling with your own identity, and that doesn't make your feelings for her any less strong. It just makes you stronger than I ever thought."
Xander had to look down at that. He wasn't strong; he'd never been strong.
"Except I wasn't. Strong, that is. I cracked at the last minute and knew I couldn't do that to her. Because even if I kept denying it to myself, I *knew* it'd catch up with me at some point, and I'd probably end up hurting her way more."
"You'd wind up hurting her, because you were hurting yourself."
Silence fell into the room, for once uncomfortable. Xander could feel Giles struggling for words, as if he had to say something. But Xander wished he wouldn't, that Giles would just be there and hold him and make it all right again. Like he always did.
It was in the open now and Giles knew, and somehow it was a good thing.
Xander turned to Giles and looked into his eyes. "I spent way too much time alone with my own thoughts in the last two months. It got me thinking about myself, and I *hate* being introspective. It always ends up with me finding out stuff about myself that I'd prefer not knowing at all."
"Like this?" Giles pointed to the _Homo Handbook_, now sitting on the bed between them.
"Yeah, like this... among other things."
Xander picked up the book and went to his bag. He carelessly threw the book back where it belonged.
Now that Giles knew, Xander wondered if it would change anything. Would it make Xander's feelings somehow less wrong? Less scary?
"I'm bisexual myself."
The revelation was so sudden and unexpected that Xander almost fell down on his ass from the shock. "Huh."
Giles chuckled, and Xander thought he'd never heard a sweeter sound. He turned back towards Giles and tried to frown, but he realized it probably looked more like he was smiling, from the way Giles was looking at him.
"Yes, I've never found the need to let you know of that fact, but I am. I've been with both women and men in my life, and find that I'm attracted to both sexes."
"If you wish to talk more about this, you can always come to me."
Xander really wanted Giles' arms around him now, badly. He wanted to be comforted, to be caressed and held and loved. The rain wouldn't do tonight; for once, it wasn't enough.
Xander moved back to the bed and sat as close to Giles as he dared to.
He could feel Giles edging closer to him, and suddenly Xander wasn't sure he was ready for what he could feel was going to happen. Giles would probably wrap his arms around Xander, cuddle him close, caressing him in what he thought would be a soothing manner, but would certainly feel like torture to Xander.
Or maybe not. Maybe Giles would just cradle Xander's face in both his hands, like he was doing right now. Maybe he'd inch closer and closer still and Xander's eyes would be fixed on his lips, and Giles would...
Giles was kissing him. GILES had his LIPS on Xander's and was kissing him.
And it felt good.
Xander responded with a soft push of his lips against Giles'. It was a chaste kiss, nothing more than lips pressing together, but it warmed Xander's heart much more than anything had ever done before. And for the first time ever, Xander wished he could see what was going on in Giles' head. He really wanted to know if Giles felt just as shaky as Xander did, if he felt the same pull from his lips to his heart to his...
And Giles was starting to pull away; Xander could feel him withdrawing his lips, possibly to stutter an apology. That wouldn't do.
So Xander didn't let Giles get too far before he gripped the back of Giles' head and brought their mouths together again.
This time, it was passionate. A meeting of lips and tongues hotter, heavier, impossibly *more* than any other kiss Xander had ever experienced in his life.
It couldn't get any better than this.
Finally, when he believed Giles wouldn't start muttering apologies as soon as their lips had stopped touching, Xander let Giles break the kiss.
Giles' hand lingered on Xander's cheek right under his patch, caressing the skin softly. His eyes were impossible to read, but Xander at least got the feeling that Giles was happy.
"I believe we have rather a lot to discuss now."
But Giles wasn't talking. Which was good, because Xander really didn't feel like talking. He felt more like crawling into bed and holding on to Giles' while letting the rain lull him to sleep.
Maybe Giles had the same idea, because he was pushing Xander on the bed, beside him and then there were covers pulled up to Xander's chin.
"Better to leave the talk until morning."
Xander nodded, bringing his back as close to Giles' chest as physically possible. Strong, caring arms encircled his waist and a soft kiss was dropped on the nape of his neck, like an afterthought.
Oh. Xander's heart skipped a beat and had trouble finding its rhythm again. Xander swallowed and his voice was shaking when he answered, "Thank you."
Giles didn't answer back. And Xander knew it wasn't that he was already asleep, because his fingers were playing gently, soothingly, on Xander's stomach. But maybe Giles didn't need to answer, and that was okay. Xander hadn't meant it as a conversation opener. More like closure.
He grasped Giles' hands in his own and held on as sleep claimed him.
* * * * *
Xander woke up to the sound of rain falling on the roof. His legs were tangled up with Giles' legs and Giles' arm were still wrapped around his torso. He didn't open his eye for the longest time.
Instead, he listened to the rain falling.
It was soothing, calming his nerves, because he could feel the awkwardness of the 'morning after' building inside him, and he knew he didn't want to freak Giles out. Or even freak himself out by... well, freaking out.
The rain sounded different somehow. It didn't sound like a place to hide anymore. It didn't hold him in its embrace alone; it was closing down on both him and Giles, wrapping them together.
It made their embrace even more intimate.
Xander shifted in Giles' arms while trying to hold on to Giles' hands, which had drifted over onto his back.
"Awake, are you now?"
Giles' voice was sleepy, but steady, and Xander kind of wished he could hear that voice every morning for the rest of his life. Except he didn't want to make plans before they had time to talk...
Shutting down his thoughts, Xander turned and around and bumped nose with Giles.
"Well, I must say it's been a while since I've bumped my nose into something beside a book."
Xander smiled. He could picture it so clearly. Giles reading in bed, probably researching, maybe just learning, falling asleep with the book open and then waking up in the morning to find it lying beside him in bed. How Xander longed to be that book.
"Didn't you have anyone to bump noses with lately? I mean... there was Olivia..."
"Well, yes, there was Olivia over three years ago, which I don't call lately."
"But... didn't you have a lady friend when you came back last year?"
"Well, yes, actually I did. Though it was a gentleman friend and not a lady. There were no nose-bumping opportunities, however."
Xander shifted in the bed so he could look into Giles' eyes.
"Well, we would... I guess 'get our rocks off' would be the term, and then he'd leave. He never stayed the night."
"Hence, no nose-bumping opportunities. Well, we didn't get our rocks off... Oh! So THAT'S why we're still in bed, innit?" Xander chuckled before realizing just how stupid his joke was. This wasn't about sex, for once, one of his relationships - well, at least, he hoped he could call what he had with Giles a relationship soon - wasn't about sex. It was different, calmer, maybe not sweeter, but he already felt a lot less nervous than he did the first few days with Anya.
The feeling of Giles' lips on his nose threw him out of his introspection. "Huh... why did you kiss me there?"
"Well, it was easier to reach than your mouth and I'm feeling a little lazy this morning."
Xander smiled and put his head back on Giles' chest, listening to his heartbeat for a moment. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. No one had ever kissed his nose. It felt a bit awkward at first, but then... he could still feel Giles' lips there. It felt kinda nice.
Should it be scary that he was starting to think of them, together like this, as cuddly? Because it wasn't, and he hoped it would never be; it felt too good to be scary. Of course, he would never be able to call himself manly in the future, but that was a small price to pay for the peace he felt. And for once, it wasn't because of the rain.
"We have to talk about this, don't we?"
"Certainly. But I'm not going to push you into doing it, Xander. You have plenty of time to figure things out. I am a very patient man."
"Anything you need, Xander. All the time you need. I promise I'll still be here once you've thought things through."
"What if I told you I've already done all the thinking in Africa... and I'm ready for the talking part... well, the kissing first, then the talking... would that scare you?"
And Giles so totally tasted the same in the morning. Rough and hard, with a hint of morning breath, but nothing strong enough to make Xander stop from kissing back, just as hard as he was being kissed. It felt wonderful, just the kind of good morning kiss Xander had been waiting for.
"Not at all," Giles finally answered him when their lips parted.
"Good, cause I don't want to do that. The scaring part, I mean, not the kissing part. The kissing part is good... more than good, even."
Xander shivered, suddenly feeling incredibly nervous. There was the awkwardness he had been waiting for since he'd woken up, this feeling of uncertainty.
He didn't have all that much time to wallow in it, though, because Giles' lips were on his again and he would SO never get tired of this.
"Shouldn't we be like, talking or something?"
"Possibly. But kissing you is much better than talking."
Xander blushed. He could feel the heat burning his face. But it wasn't an embarrassed blush; he was pleased and happy. Like his heart could explode from all the feelings Giles was bringing him.
"Yeah, well, I figured... I like you - and a lot just doesn't seem to cover it - and you like me... I think..."
"...so how about we stop trying to talk about it and just wait to see where it takes us, right? I mean, I'm happy to be home, and you're here, and I think I just want to not think about it too much right now and just bask in it."
"Yes, that seems like a brilliant idea to me."
"Yeah, thought so, too."
There could never be enough cuddling, either. Xander loved to feel Giles' arms circling his waist. It couldn't be compared to the embrace of the rain; it was so much more real. The fingers playing with the hair on the back of his neck, the soft, slow circles being painted on his lower back were so real, so tangible, that the rain could never feel this good in comparison.
"We should get ready to leave if we ever want to reach Bath before lunch."
"Yeah. Maybe when the rain stops."