by Jane Davitt and Wesleysgirl
* * * * *
The phone rang just as he was matching the blade of his razor to a
stubborn patch of dark stubble tucked under his chin. He knew that the
stubble was there, because he could feel it with his fingertips and see
it in the mirror, but his shaking hand and his imperfect vision
combined to make it tricky to shave it smooth.
And now he was bleeding, bright red blood staining and spreading and
stinging, because the imperious, unexpected ring of the old-fashioned
phone always made him jump as it echoed around the empty house.
"Xander?" Giles sounded startled, which wasn't surprising given the
irritated snap in Xander's greeting.
"Giles! Sorry, just wasn't expecting --" He took a quick look at his
watch. Seven. Giles usually called around now; after they'd both eaten
and before they went out. Not that either of them went out very often,
but even so... "I mean -- look, can we start over?"
Giles chuckled, the sound managing to make it from London to Iona
without losing any of its familiar warmth. "I suppose we can. Hello,
Xander. How are you?"
Xander felt the towel slip from around his waist and grabbed at it
hastily. He couldn't talk to Giles when he was naked; it just didn't
seem right, somehow. Even if Giles didn't know that he was.
"Fine. Just had a shower and I'm going -- fine."
Xander heard a faint creak as if Giles was settling back in the leather
chair in his front room, but the abrupt ending of his sentence passed
without comment, even though Xander was miming banging his head against
the wall and gritting his teeth with frustration. Why the hell didn't
he just tell him, for God's sake?
"I hope I didn't get you out of the shower," Giles said, sounding a bit
odd somehow. Distant.
"No. I'm only wearing a towel and I'm a bit damp around the edges, but
I was already out." Wasn't going to mention the practically
naked. Why did I --? Oh, shit. I'm over-compensating... babbling in
ten, nine, eight.... Did I just tell Giles I was out? I did, didn't I?
Now, why would I say that? Come on, Xander, you can tell me, I'm you,
you total, complete --
"So what's new on your end, Giles? Heard from Buffy? Or Willow? How's
Dawn? Been a while since I spoke to her. And didn't you say Andrew's
working for you now? How's -"
"Xander!" Giles' laughing expostulation halted him mid-flow. "What on
earth is it? You're just -- not yourself at all. Would you like me to
call you back? When you're less, uh, naked, perhaps?"
He was about to say 'yes' when he realised that he wouldn't have time.
Giles and he usually chatted for half an hour, or longer, and he liked
that. He liked it a lot. Looked forward to it, even.
But not tonight.
"Giles, look, I'm in a bit of a rush here. Can we do this tomorrow,
"Oh." Giles sounded hurt. Did he? Did he sound hurt? Why would he --?
"Of course we can, Xander." No, he was just Giles. Normal, comforting,
reliable Giles. "I wasn't calling for anything important. Just to say
hello, and I think we've covered that." Saying hello
is important, Xander wanted to say. I'm on an
island, thousands of miles from home, which isn't there anyway,
hundreds of miles from anyone I know -- well, almost -- and I get
lonely, damn it, which might be why --
"Yeah. Guess we did."
Giles had barely finished speaking when Xander hung up and sank to the
floor, resting his head on his knees and groaning. God, what the hell
was he doing? Somehow, it was turning out to be even harder than he'd
expected to tell Giles that he was, well... gay.
Or at the very least bi, although it had been a while since he'd been
interested in a woman. It could probably be blamed on the fact that he
was in the middle of nowhere and there weren't all that many people
around, let alone people that were interested in hanging out with him,
what with the whole outsider, missing eye thing. Or it could be blamed
on the fact that John McIntyre hadn't at all tried to hide the fact
that he was interested. Or it could even be blamed on the fact that he
was young and horny and sometimes the thought of anyone else touching
his dick -- even another guy -- was enough to make him hard.
On the other hand -- and that was an awful lot of hands, now that he
thought about it -- it could just be that he was gay. And John was
really, really attractive, and studied Xander's face when he talked,
like Xander was the most interesting person he'd ever met.
It was hard not to be flattered.
Xander got up and went back to the bathroom to finish getting ready. He
kept telling himself that it wasn't a date, but it was. He'd met up at
the hotel bar with John before, lots of times, but there'd always been
someone else with them; usually some of the men working on the
renovations to Traighshee House, most of whom seemed to be related to
John in one way or another; all of whom had known him for years by the
sound of it.
Tonight, it was just going to be the two of them. John couldn't have
made it any plainer that he'd wanted it that way and Xander, after a
moment of wondering what the hell he was doing, had stared back into
John's blue eyes, expectant and hopeful, and nodded agreement because
he hadn't trusted himself to speak.
Which could've had something to do with the fact that John's hand was
warm against his leg under the table and he was dealing with a sudden
surge of arousal that had kept him sitting there for a good five
minutes after John had left.
He changed shirts twice before settling on what he was going to wear.
Oh, yeah. Definitely a date.
By the time Xander walked to the bar, his hands were sweaty with
nervousness, but as soon as he saw John sitting at one of the tables,
his smile open and friendly, he relaxed. It was fine. He
liked John. A lot, actually. And talking to him was
the easiest thing in the world, like talking to Giles. Most of the
time, anyway. When he wasn't trying to figure out how to tell Giles
that he was going on a date with another man.
"Hi," Xander said, sitting down and noting for future reference that
guys didn't stand up when another guy joined them, even if they were on
a date. "Am I late?"
"I don't know," John said. "I was too busy staring at the door and
hoping you'd be coming through it soon to waste time looking at my
watch." He was halfway down a pint of bitter which, assuming it was his
first, meant -- well, nothing, since John could spend an hour sipping
at a beer or down it in a series of smooth, unhurried swallows in less
than thirty seconds.
"I'll just get a drink," Xander said, starting to stand up again.
John shook his head, reaching out and catching Xander's wrist to keep
him in place. "No need. Shona's bringing one over for you and another
for me." He nodded towards the bar and Xander twisted around and saw
Shona walking towards them with a tray, deftly snagging empties off the
tables as she passed by, and then depositing the two brimming glasses
in front of them with a smile.
"There you go, lads," she said, moving on before Xander had time to do
more than smile and murmur 'thank you'.
Xander took a sip and then grinned at John. "Are you trying to get me
drunk?" he asked, moving onto teasing him, just a little, with a small
quiver of anticipation uncurling in his stomach because, damn, it'd
been a long time since he'd... flirted? Was this what this was?
"Depends," John said slowly. "Do you want me to try to get you drunk?"
It was weird how John always seemed to know what to say to make
everything okay again. Just a few words and he made it clear that the
ball was in Xander's court, that nothing was going to happen unless
Xander was okay with it. "I don't think I'd mind," he said, shifting
his chair a little bit and letting his leg slide forward under the
table until it was touching John's.
John smiled. "Maybe I don't want you too drunk," he
said thoughtfully. "Or me, for that matter." His knee was definitely
pressing against Xander's, but again, there was no feeling of being
rushed, nothing to make Xander feel panicky. John raised his glass to
his lips and took a small sip. "It's been a busy week for you, hasn't
it?" he asked, changing the subject. "I'm not surprised you're feeling
a bit rushed."
"Yeah," Xander said, thinking a little bitterly about deliveries that
didn't show up and workmen who did only to disappear when the lumber
finally arrived. "It has, but I was late because, well, a friend called
and I was -- I didn't want to just tell him to go, and --" He ran out
of words and then met John's eyes and let out a long sigh. "He -- Giles
-- he's known me for a long time. Years. We've been through a lot. It's
just -- he doesn't know I'm -- I couldn't tell him where I was going,
and it felt weird lying to him. Not that I lied, I just didn't say why
I couldn't talk like normal, and --" He gave John a beseeching look.
"You know, people who know me, friends, I mean, they usually kick me
around now and say, 'Xander, stop talking.'"
"I like listening to you talk," John said. "And if I told you to stop,
then I think we'd both be sitting here staring at each other. Not that
I mind the view."
God, the way John looked at him made Xander hard. He didn't want it to
-- not here, this wasn't the time or the place -- well, maybe it was
the time but it definitely wasn't the place -- but
it did. The front of his jeans, jeans that had been getting looser in
the time he'd been here, felt pleasantly tight as his cock swelled. "I
feel stupid," he admitted. "I should have just told him."
"I don't think you're stupid," John said. "Maybe not too sure about
Xander thought about that and then shook his head. "No... I know how I
feel right now about being here with you and I'm sure enough about
that." John's face relaxed into a smile, and for some reason
that made Xander panic more than the brush of John's
hand against his as they both reached for their drinks, because they
were moving, moment by moment, word by word, to a time when they
wouldn't be talking, and for someone who'd been blessed with an
uninhibited, practical and lusty girlfriend, he really shouldn't be
this nervous about the thought of kissing and maybe touching -- Oh God.
Touching John. Dry-mouthed with longing and terror, Xander took a long
swallow of his beer and drained it just as Shona walked by.
"Another, lads?" she murmured, not waiting for a reply.
"So did you go to school with this Giles, then?" John asked when they'd
both got fresh drinks in front of them.
Xander almost choked on his beer. "Um... sort of," he said. "It's kind
of hard to explain." He felt strangely protective of Giles, and he knew
it would seem weird to someone who hadn't been there. Well, you see, he
was the librarian. Yeah, like a teacher. But yes, we're friends. It
just sounded... wrong. Like Giles was some kind of pedophile, or maybe
like Xander hadn't been able to make friends his own age.
"You don't have to," John said.
"No, it's just..." Xander frowned and drank some more, trying to find
the right words. "We've known each other a long time," he said finally.
"But it's one of those things where first it was just that we were kind
of thrown together, you know? But then we started to be friends. And
since I've been here -- he's kind of in charge of the company that's
doing the renovations on the house, did I tell you that? -- we've been
talking a lot. At first I thought it was just because he felt kind of
sorry for me, being out here alone, but then it started to feel like we
really were friends. We talk about everything. It's good." It was. He
hadn't realized it until he'd just said it, but it was true -- it was
like he and Giles could talk about anything. Which was maybe why their
conversation earlier had been so weird.
There was a slightly perplexed look on John's face now. "I'm not quite
seeing why you mind him knowing that you're gay. He's not likely to
sack you, is he?"
"No, no," Xander said. "It's not that."
"So he'll be a fair bit older than you, then?" John was clearly groping
for an explanation that made sense. Xander wished him luck. "Maybe a
bit narrow-minded? Set in his ways?"
A vision of Giles brandishing a sword encrusted with demon-blood, green
eyes blazing with determination and exhilaration rose up in front of
Xander, and he shook his head. "No, not at all. And when my friend
Willow came out, he was fine about it. I'm not even -- well, I think he
might have -- years ago, there was this man -- oh, I don't know! It's
just -- I can't --"
"Stop talking," John said, and kicked him gently.
The beach at night was eerily beautiful. Low clouds were scudding fast
across the face of the moon, and the waves sounded sleepy as they
surged and tugged at the shore. Lying back on their coats and staring
up at the stars, sheltered between the dunes, Xander almost wanted to
drift off to sleep, which had a lot to do with the five or six pints of
beer he'd had.
But John was beside him, and it turned out Xander'd drunk just enough
to have lost his doubts.
He rolled his head to the side to find John already looking at him.
"You got me drunk," Xander said.
"You said you didn't mind," John pointed out.
"I know. I didn't. I don't." Talking was a lot of effort, and when
Xander shifted onto his side to face John the sand crunched underneath
his coat deliciously, making him shiver even though he wasn't cold. "I
want to kiss you." Xander said it without thinking.
"Do you, now?" John murmured. "Well, I'm right here."
His hand came up to stroke slowly across Xander's lips, which shouldn't
have been enough to make Xander moan. But it was. Something sparked
deep in John's eyes, and his hand slipped behind Xander's neck as he
did what Xander had been just about to do himself, really he had been,
and tugged Xander towards him so that their mouths touched, and after
that it was easy.
It turned out that kissing a man was different in the details, but not
enough to take Xander right back to his broom closet, nose-bumping
days. It turned out that John liked a lot of the things the girls
Xander had kissed had liked; slow, sure slicks of tongue over dry lips;
the bites and nips and kisses that left lips tingling and swollen --
and the hard, desperate kisses when kissing stopped being enough.
"Xander," John said hoarsely, with his hand warm against Xander's bare
back and his mouth busy finding all the places along Xander's neck that
really, really appreciated the attention. "Was there
anything else you were wanting to do besides kiss me?"
"I hadn't... hadn't thought that far ahead," Xander gasped. He moved
closer until they were touching all along the length of their bodies,
his arm around John's waist. "God, that feels good." He shut his eye
tightly and tilted his head to the side as John's lips found his ear.
John's hand slid a little further up inside Xander's shirt and then ran
down his side, touching skin that hadn't been touched by anyone else
but Xander for way too long. The gentle tug of his teeth at Xander's
ear lobe was sending all sorts of messages directly to Xander's cock
but there was enough alcohol in him to make his arousal just distant
enough to be manageable.
"It does." John sounded a bit hesitant somehow, and Xander opened his
mouth to ask him why when John shifted so that Xander was left in no
doubt about how John felt. There was something about that hard, solid
erection snug against Xander's belly that was sobering him fast. This
was real, not some fantasy to jerk off to, with strong hands on him and
the scrape of an unshaven chin against his as he was kissed, with
everything else blurred out until the moment before he came when he
imagined, just for a second, that the cock he was working was someone
else's. This was John, in his arms, or maybe John had hold of him, and
they were kissing and John was going to expect more
and somehow Xander wasn't sure he could give it to him.
And he didn't know why, which was driving him crazy.
Then John's teeth bit down on his ear again, hot breath blowing over
Xander's skin, and Xander forgot to care. He was half hard, and rubbing
against John felt pretty good. Curious, he got a hand between them and
cupped John's erection, feeling it press against his palm through the
layers of fabric and hearing John's soft groan. The sound did more to
arouse him than anything else, and John's lips found his again, and
kissing was good. Kissing was very good. John tasted like ale and
Xander rubbed at John's cock, tracing it, running the heel of his hand
lower to feel John's balls, too. He loved the noises
John was making, hot and desperate, and he rolled onto his back,
letting John lie half on top of him and thrust against him, grinding
their bodies together.
That felt good, too, but deep down Xander was starting to realize that
he couldn't do this. Oh, his body probably could, even despite how
drunk he was, but in his heart he knew something wasn't right.
John's hand came down and fumbled at Xander's zipper and he tensed, his
hand batting frantically at John's fingers. "John -- no! I can't."
John sighed and his hand twisted, grabbing hold of Xander's wrist.
"Stop that," he said, sounding resigned. "It's all right. I won't touch
you." He waited until Xander relaxed, his thumb stroking gently against
the pulse beating fast at Xander's wrist, and then let go of him and
rolled to his back with his arm flung across his eyes.
"John -- " Xander sat up, hugging his knees. "I'm sorry. God... I'm so
"Don't be sorry, Xander. It's my fault." John didn't move or look at
That set Xander back on his heels, figuratively, at least. "No, it's my
fault. Wait -- this is the part where we're supposed to argue about
whose fault it is, right?" He tried for a light tone, but his voice was
"No. This is the part where I apologize for pushing you into something
you didn't want, and you forgive me," John said, turning toward Xander
again and meeting his gaze now. "If you can?"
"I did want it," Xander said desperately trying to work out when that
had stopped being true. "I -- God, John, I don't know what the fuck's
wrong with me, but you didn't push me at all, and there's no forgiving
because there's no wrong here. Not from you. Just me. Because I'm
apparently so fucked up I can do this to a friend and I am so very --
God, what the hell is the matter with me?" He pushed his hands through
his hair and then slammed his fist down against the sand. Because it
was that kind of a night, his hand found a stone, sea-rounded and
mostly buried but still hard enough to send a shock of pain up his
wrist and arm. "Oww. Oh fuck, that hurt."
He wasn't the crying kind, but pain, embarrassment, and a residual,
thwarted arousal because his dick hadn't quite gotten the message were
teaming up to make him want to bawl like a baby. Damn. Send him
anywhere, even a tiny island in the middle of the sea, and he'd ruin
someone's night for them with his total inability to follow through on
what he'd started.
"Let me see," John said gently, taking his hand and turning it,
pretending to look at a mark that was probably invisible. He brought
Xander's hand to his mouth and kissed it. "There we are. All better."
The flare of pain had been fleeting enough that it really was.
"Thanks," Xander said. "John... I'm really sorry."
"I know," John said, putting an arm around Xander's shoulders and
looking out to sea. "I know you are. It's all right."
Xander held himself stiff for a moment, feeling that he didn't deserve
people being nice to him, and not wanting to send the wrong signal no
matter how much he needed to crawl into John's lap and be hugged, but
John's arm was comfortingly heavy and his hand was rubbing slowly
against Xander's arm, and Xander sighed and huddled closer in a sudden
John said something that might have been the all-purpose 'imph' that
the islanders used in and out of season, sounding pleased, and Xander
let his head drop to John's shoulder and brought his hand up to clutch
tightly at John's sweater.
After a while, John gave the top of Xander's head a soft kiss, tilted
his chin up in a hand that wasn't quite steady and gave Xander's mouth
a much harder one, like he knew it was the last he'd be getting, before
moving away a careful yard or so.
"I'll be sorry if this costs me a friend," John said. "Are you going to
sober up and take a solemn vow to avoid me because it's all a wee bit
awkward now? Because you don't have to, you know. It might be someone
else you've got your heart set on, but I'm thinking we can still be
In John's soft, sincere voice, the words were stripped of cliché.
Xander got up, glad that he was a little less drunk now. "There's no
one else," he said. "I'm just... I'm too fucked up. It's too soon."
John didn't ask too soon since what, another thing that Xander was
grateful for. "I really want us to be friends. If I didn't piss you off
with my amazing on-again off-again action."
John looked up at him. "I'm not angry with you," he said. "Might have
been if you'd let me do more than I did because you felt guilty or
obliged, though." He got to his feet and they began to walk back to the
road with Xander shivering slightly in the September breeze.
"This friend of yours," John said. "Giles. Is he likely to be visiting
the island soon?"
Xander shrugged into his jacket. "I'm not sure. He was talking about
maybe coming to see how the renovations were going, but I'm not sure if
he really meant it. I'm supposed to take pictures." He rubbed his
mouth, still feeling the press of John's lips. "Guess maybe I should
actually do that, once things get going."
"Aye," John said thoughtfully. "He's not got family, then?"
"Only us," Xander said without thinking. "I mean, no, not really. Just
me and a few friends and we're, well, we're the closest he's got, I
"If you're still here in December maybe he'd like to come and help you
see the New Year in," John suggested.
It was an idea that never would have occurred to Xander, and he wasn't
sure if that was a bad thing. Giles must have other people he'd rather
spend Christmas with -- Buffy, for one. Plus he must have other
friends. Council friends. Well, okay, most of them had died in a really
big explosion, but still, Giles had to have friends, even if he never
mentioned them. "I guess," Xander said doubtfully.
"No harm in suggesting it," John said.
"Look, John..." They were almost back to the house, and it was clear
that John was going to go home, that they were going to go their
separate ways. "Thanks. For everything." God, this was awkward. "For
being my friend."
John didn't stop walking. "You're an easy man to like, Xander." He
nodded at him and then veered to the left. "We're still going fishing
tomorrow night?" he called back over his shoulder.
"Taking worms for a swim, you mean?" Xander said with a grin. "Yeah,
sure. Goodnight, John."
The house seemed lonely, empty. He walked around turning on lights,
then decided there was no point, shut them all off again, and went to
bed with a huge glass of water. It was late, but not that late, and
suddenly he really needed to hear the sound of Giles' voice. His hands
were actually trembling as he dialed and listened to the other end of
the line ring once, twice.
A muffled voice answering the phone. "Hello?"
"Giles, it's me."
"Xander?" Giles sounded sleepy and as irritable as Xander had earlier.
"What on earth is it?"
Oddly enough, Giles talking to him like that was reassuring. Familiar,
even. "I wanted to say sorry. For earlier."
"For God's sake," Giles growled. "Do you know what time it is?" Xander
didn't say anything, and after a few seconds, Giles said, more gently,
Part of Xander wanted to tell Giles everything, but it wasn't the right
time. He was too freaked out, and he didn't know where to start, and he
suspected that once he got going he wouldn't know where to stop,
either. "Nothing. I just... I had kind of a bad night."
He heard Giles sigh, and then the rustle of sheets. He pictured Giles
sitting up in bed, blinking, maybe, in the light of a lamp, his hair
rumpled and his eyes sleepy, with the striped pajamas he wore open at
the neck, and felt a wave of homesickness, even though he'd only spent
a short time at Giles' London apartment before heading north.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Xander. Is there anything I can do to help?"
Xander shook his head. "No. I just -- I couldn't go to sleep."
"Strange," Giles said dryly. "I wasn't having any problems until two
minutes ago." He cut off Xander's muttered apology. "Actually, that's
not quite true. I was -- well, I'm glad you called. Really. I was a
little worried in case I'd upset you in some way."
Something tight eased in Xander's chest, leaving him more relaxed than
he had been all day. "I don't think you could, Giles," he said.
"Really? Well, that's disappointing." Giles' voice was warm.
"What?" Xander said.
"Never mind. What happened?"
"Nothing," Xander said again. "Well, I had a little bit too much drink.
I guess I'm feeling kind of maudlin." It felt weird admitting it. "You
"I do. It must be very difficult, being alone there. We all appreciate
you being willing to take on the job," Giles said.
"I like being here," Xander said, a little surprised. "Most of the
time. It's peaceful, and the people are --" He swallowed, feeling an
ache of pity for John because he knew that John wasn't happy right now,
no matter how well he'd taken it. "They're really nice."
"It's very beautiful up there, I know," Giles said wistfully. "I spent
holidays in Scotland as a child and loved it. London has its
advantages, but it's certainly not peaceful."
"You could..." Xander couldn't believe that he was about to suggest
this. He'd blame the beer if Giles laughed at him. "You could come
here, if you wanted to. For Christmas, maybe?"
There was a silence that stretched out way too long for Xander's
nerves, and then Giles said quietly, "I'd like that very much, Xander.
Thank you. Are you planning to invite the others? I'm not sure what
they have planned, but --"
"No," Xander said. "I was thinking that maybe it could just be you and
There was no hesitation at all when Giles replied. "I'd be delighted to
be your guest, Xander."
Xander smiled. "That's great! I'll be... that's great. Really."
There was a distant creak, as if Giles had moved suddenly, and then he
could've sworn Giles chuckled. "I think I'll resume my interrupted
sleep now. I'll talk to you in a few days?"
"Okay." Xander felt better; like he'd be able to sleep, too. "Thanks,
Giles. Night." He hung the phone up gently and turned over, snuggling
into his pillow with a contented sigh.
His last thought before he fell asleep was that John and Giles were
going to like each other.
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