“Magna est veritas, et praevalebit.” (1 Esdras 3)
Chapter 44 - Giles 13
Warnings, notes etc are here.
Universe: Et Praevalebit
Specific chapter warnings: this is the expository chapter, so talking and also some sex happen. Happy birthday, munin.
He was keeping a grip on himself, but it wasn’t easy. The translation on his desk was difficult and he was struggling to concentrate; he was preternaturally aware of Xander all the time, of where he was at least, and he found himself inclined to turn and look, to see what Xander was doing. He did not need to know, he admonished himself, over and over. He did not care.
He had been much more aware than he had implied that Xander was working in the kitchen. He had heard every tiny noise of knife on board, and the hum of the oven. The supermarket potato thing had garlic in it and he could smell that as soon as it began to heat, even before Xander put the steak under the grill.
He had refused to think about what Xander was doing, other than to be aware of the elements of it. Xander needed to eat; Xander was arranging to feed himself. Somehow it hadn't occurred to him that Xander was intending to feed Giles; and when Xander called him to the table he was caught between wanting to snap that he didn’t want anything from Xander, and the knowledge that to say so would be petty and would make him ridiculous. Xander, pushing food and drink at him, was smoothly... almost indifferent; he gave Giles no hook on which to hang an argument, and the very fact that Giles knew that he was looking for a hook, that a fight would be manufactured rather than organic, made it impossible for him to start one.
After dinner he did snarl about the sleeping bag, but Xander wouldn’t take the bait, just agreeing calmly with him, and then retreating to the bathroom. When the door opened again, he kept his head down and his eyes on his paperwork. He was primed to snap at Xander for making noise, but Xander gave him no opening; Giles could hear him tidying up, checking the dryer, and then settling by the fire. He did sneak one glance over his shoulder; Kay's head was tipped sideways and he was drying his hair... Xander. Xander's head.
He forced his mind to his work, and ignored the later sounds of Xander moving about again. Work. An hour’s solid, uninterrupted work.
He re-read his translation; he thought it was a good one. He eased his back, and stretched, shifting his shoulders. Tea.
Cut price blended tasted-like-sawdust tea. Or the Twinings Assam that Xander had brought in.
His pride told him to drink the supermarket tea.
His stomach told him to grovel at Xander's feet, begging for the Assam.
He stood up, and turned.
Kay was – Xander was kneeling on the hearthrug with the orange light of the banked stove tinting his skin.
He was naked.
The end of his hair, not quite long enough to plait, hung over his right shoulder, with a leather tie trailing down his chest from it and another leather tie holding his slave tag in the hollow of his throat. He was half erect, which was made more obvious by the fact that he had... good lord, he had shaved everything. His hands rested quietly on his thighs; his knees were parted.
Giles heard his own voice, and a tinge of panic in it, but he had no idea what he said – it was, he thought confusedly, just babble, worthy of Xander himself. He found himself half way across the room to Xander when a slight shift in the muscles of Xander's chest brought the brand up, sharply limned on the skin, and he jibbed, caught himself, and backed away again, taking refuge, as he had taken refuge so many times over the past months, in anger.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? What is this? Let’s revisit Giles’ worst experiences? Let’s fuck up Giles’ mind, Giles’ life, Giles’ world, more than we’ve done it already? What do you do for an encore: call Angel and get him to break my fingers? What do I have to do to get you to leave me alone?” It started low and vicious, but by the end it was out of his control and he was shouting; his voice broke on the last words, and humiliatingly, he could feel tears of rage and despair on his cheeks.
Xander lifted his head.
“You have to tell me to go.”
Of all the things he might have said, that was the least comprehensible; Giles was startled into silence.
Xander's voice was low, and respectful, and utterly, utterly reasonable. “Master didn’t invite me here but I came; Master didn’t invite me to stay, but I stayed. Master didn’t seem pleased about it, but he never told me to go.”
His tongue didn’t quite seem to fit in his mouth. “You mustn’t call me that.”
Xander's gaze was steady. “Why not? It’s what you are.”
He managed a disdainful snort. “You know better than that. I know... Wesley Wyndham-Pryce explained it to you. I put that mark on your shoulder to prove that it wasn’t so. Isn’t so.” He could hear the shame and self-contempt in his own voice, but Xander was shaking his head.
“Even I know that’s not how gifts work. The thing about a gift, Giles, is that once you’ve given it, it’s gone. It’s out of your hands, and the person you’ve given it to can do what they want with it. You gave me to me, and thank you, I’ve accepted your gift, so now it’s mine and I say what happens to it. I can keep it or give it away or send it to Goodwill or... I say that I belong to Master. To you.”
“No... no.” It was a desperate whimper.
“Giles... why not? Why are you so upset about it? You wanted it, on Coblan. Not to begin with: to begin with you were way horrified when I offered anything, and I get that. You’re a free consent sort of guy, and anyway, it was Xander and you had way more than enough trouble with Xander even having a sex life, never mind a complicated one. Nearly as much trouble as I had with you having a sex life, never mind a complicated one. Add in that Xander didn’t know who Xander was or who Giles was or anything, and, and what did you call it? Stockholm syndrome? And Kay’s desperate need to please and the rest, and the very idea was way too wiggy for words. I get that. By the end, you wanted it, I knew you did, but you turned me away, and that was free consent as well, wasn’t it? You thought that I couldn’t, that I didn’t know what I was offering. Well, I did – Kay did – but I can see why you might think I didn’t, and I can see why you might say no to Kay simply because Kay wasn’t... wasn’t altogether me. And now... Tell me you don’t want to, Giles, and I’ll put my clothes on and we’ll pretend that all this never, never happened. Never speak of it. Because I’ve watched you while I’ve been here and I dunno why I think so, but I think that you want it. That you want me.”
The silence was unbearable; he had to find some means of saying, calmly, politely, untruthfully, that Xander was wrong, that he should dress, that really, he should just go, go to wherever Bu... wherever the Slayer was, and her friends, and live his life without any of this crap. Because Giles didn’t, didn’t want him. Wasn’t aching just at the sight of him, wasn’t wanting to touch that skin, to pull him to his feet, to wind a hand in his hair and use it to keep his head still while Giles took, and took, and took, all the kisses he had imagined and dreamed of and longed for. Giles never thought about having that bare body next to his own, or flexing under him, gasping with want and desire. Giles never imagined punishing him for some slight, real or imagined, until Xander, flushed and tear-stained, promised to be good in a tone that itself promised that he had no such intention.
“Why not?” prompted Xander again, and thank all the gods that he was staying where he was on the hearth rug, because if he approached, Giles would... everything that was Giles would burn until not even a shell was left.
It was hardly more than a whisper, and it had to be answered.
“Because I wanted it. Because even before... even before any of this started, I wanted it. All the things Buffy and Willow accused me of, I wanted to do. I thought about taking you to my bed on Coblan and you would have let me. I thought about marking you as permanently mine; for a while I thought it was the only thing I could do, and even after I worked out how else it could be done, I tried to convince myself that you would be safer marked to me. Even when I lifted that brush in the yard, with you caged in front of me, I didn’t know until I touched you whether I was going to write your name or mine. I’m easily as guilty as they thought I was; I could be indignant and offended and cry that I would never have done such a thing, but I wanted to. I’m no better than the bloody slavers.” He heard the contempt in his voice; he waited for the contempt in Xander's. He wouldn’t turn away. He would see Xander's face as he realised what Giles was.
Xander's expression was blank for a moment as he processed it all; then he shifted towards... not anger, Giles had expected anger, but... irritation?
“Is this still a left-over from the Eyghon thing? Or from the fact that eventually Angelus got what he wanted from you? Do you have to pick up all the guilt in the world?” He looked down at his chest. “You wrote my name. It would have worked, Wesley said so. So we didn’t need it in the end, but maybe the shock was what brought me round? If you hadn't done it, we might have been deep in the shit by now. O.K., so maybe some of your fantasies were... a little darker, a little dirtier than other people’s. You didn’t do anything about them.”
“I wanted to.”
Xander shrugged, a backlit delight of skin and muscle. “I don’t feel guilty about what I wanted to do with Amy Yip at the water park. My fantasies once or twice included persuading my dad out somewhere the vamps would get him. What do I go to prison for, Giles? Date rape? Murder? Because I’d have been as guilty if I’d let Spike have my dad as if I’d killed him myself, but I’m not. I didn’t do it. Thought about it, didn’t do it.”
Giles could see him mustering his thoughts.
“I told you on Coblan that I didn’t want to be free, I wanted to be yours, and you blew me off. And O.K., that was good, because, yeah, not so much with the informed consent. So I’ll take that back. I don’t want to be yours on Coblan terms. I want to be yours on my terms, mine and yours, because you came for me, and paid for me – and paid and paid and paid, and you never even thought about the cost until afterwards. You wouldn’t ever have asked to be paid back, Giles, would you? I don’t mean the money – that was a screw-up and we’re fixing that whatever way we can. I mean the real payment, what Giles paid. And it should never have taken me half this long to work out what Giles paid, and why Giles paid.”
“I didn’t buy you,” he objected hoarsely, not quite understanding. Xander couldn’t know. He couldn’t know, not know. “Not for me.”
“No,” agreed Xander. “For me. You gave me to me. Now I want to give me to you.”
He was silenced. Bewildered. He couldn't decide if he was angry, or hurt, or hopeful or... or what.
“You know you want to,” whispered Xander, “you just admitted as much. You called me ‘sweetheart’, right at the end, do you remember? And you told me I was a good boy.” He paused, and a look of discovery crossed his face. “No, you didn’t. You told me I was your good boy. Yours. It was true and it’s still true. It was true then; it’s now that you deny it that you’re lying,” and Giles felt the insult rise even as he took two quick steps forward, his hand lifted, catching himself before the blow could fall. Xander didn’t flinch, just looked up at him.
“That’s why not,” he said harshly. “Because I wanted to have you, to possess you on my terms and you can’t trust me. When you were Kay, I wanted... You have no idea. No idea. I told myself you would be happier if I took you to my bed, that you would feel safer, and I knew it was a lie, because as soon as you knew yourself again, you would know that I had betrayed you. You have no idea how much I wanted it. You can’t trust me.”
Xander didn’t look away. “That’s why. Because you wanted to and you didn’t do it. So I can trust you utterly. Kay knew that Master could be trusted completely, almost from the first day, and Kay was smarter than Xander, wasn’t he? The question now is whether or not I’ve convinced you that you can trust me. You seem to think I’m trying to hurt you, Giles, and I’m not.” He was moving now, working himself forward on his knees, hands lifting, gentle up Giles’ thighs, drifting lightly over his fly, making him gasp, scattering his thoughts, more firmly on button and zip, working inside, slowly enough that if Giles could only have thought of the words, remembered the reasons, he could have said no.
Until Xander's mouth closed on him, and then No was lost in a haze of OhFuckYes. He heard the breath hiss between his teeth and wasn’t sure if it was a response to the sensation or to the situation, and very rapidly everything was lost except the sensation and the pleasure. He wound a hand in Xander's hair, pulling the thong away, and simply let it happen, until his heartbeat eased, and he could open his eyes again. Xander's mouth looked swollen and his throat was convulsing as he swallowed, but his gaze was triumphant, and there could be no doubt that this was what he had wanted.
He managed a step away, Xander's hand falling lightly from his hip; he struggled to rearrange his clothing, and his body sent up a panicked message about the desirability of breathing on a regular basis.
“Touch yourself.” It didn’t sound like his own voice, but Xander obeyed, eyes hooding, tongue coming out to flick at his lower lip. His nose wrinkled endearingly when he came, and his head lolled back, but his eyes were fixed on Giles, even when Giles’ nerve broke and he turned and fled for the imaginary safety of his own room. Behind him, Xander spoke but he couldn’t make out the words.
They resolved themselves somewhere between his ear and his mind, hours later as he lay sleepless.
“That went well.”