If By Chance

There were advantages to being tall, Giles reflected, as he glanced down the corridor, past Cordelia and her comet-trail of heavenly bodies, and picked out Xander’s dark head unerringly amongst six just as dark.

And it certainly didn’t hurt to have a calling that taught you how to observe and remember what you saw, not when it meant that you could lie sleepless and people the darkness with a dozen choice memories, then spin them three steps further, so that Xander didn’t just offer you that donut, he straddled your lap and fed it to you, sticky piece by sticky piece, and he didn’t just bend to pick up a carelessly dropped book, he stayed kneeling, properly penitent, and waiting for a finger to tap against his lips, followed a moment later by –

Xander walked past him with a flickering, upward glance that never came close to being an acknowledgement Giles even existed, because he was with someone cool, and Giles bit his lip and wished he’d stayed in the faculty room just a minute longer.

He heard footsteps behind him as the bell drove the students from his path in an eye blink and Xander appeared, following him into the deserted library. “Sorry, Giles. Didn’t mean to blow you off. I’m a jerk.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Giles forced a smile.

“Yes, it does. It hurt your feelings, didn’t it?”

Giles shrugged. “You really don’t have to worry –”

A kiss, clumsy, off-target and over too soon, landed on the corner of his mouth, where he couldn’t decide if it was meant for his cheek or his lips.

“Kissed them better,” Xander said, flushing hotly and grinning, vibrating on the spot with nerves and anticipation.

Giles nodded. “You did,” he said quietly. “Thank you.”

And he never changed that memory, though it ended there as Xander backed away, still smiling, and hurried to class; never polished it and improved it, never edited it, though he wore it thin with handling.

If he kept it imperfect, he was never in danger of thinking it wasn’t real.

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