A/N This fic was written as a wedding present for Sofy and Mir with all our love. Many thanks go to Kate for the stunning artwork.
"Xander wants to get married," Dawn said, leaving Giles blinking in shock, the phone pressed to his ear. He hadn't had a chance to say more than hello before she'd launched into her announcement.
After a moment, he recovered enough to ask, "Do you mean in general, or to me in particular?"
"To you, dummy! God, have you been living under a rock or something?" Dawn sounded angry with him, which seemed unfair considering this bit of news had just been sprung on him without warning.
"Could we please go back to the beginning and try this again?" Giles took off his glasses, set them on the table beside his chair, and rubbed his forehead. "Hello, Dawn. How are you?"
"I'm tired of seeing my friend hurting," Dawn said, apparently having no intention of playing nicely. "And you're the one who can do something about it, so I figured it was time someone said something to you."
"You're going to bully me into proposing to Xander?" To be fair, bullying wouldn't be required -- in fact, Giles had been thinking of suggesting they enter into a civil partnership, which was as close as England currently got to gay marriage, but there'd been a number of reasons he hadn't yet brought it up, not the least of which was Xander's previously terrible experience with his almost-marriage to Anya.
"You love him," Dawn said bluntly. "I know you do. And he loves you. You both talk like you're going to be together forever, and... that's just what people do when they're in love and have a life together. They get married. So why won't you?"
"It's not a case of 'won't'," Giles protested, stung by her attack. "And your assumption that Xander's the one who should be proposed to is appallingly dated. Do you see him in a white dress promising to obey me, too?"
Dawn sighed. "Yeah, great, thanks for that mental image. If either of you are cross-dressers, I totally don't want to know. Giles, you know how things ended up the last time Xander proposed to someone. And now he thinks -- I don't know, that it's because of him, that he's cursed, or something. So he won't ask you, no matter how much he wants to. And he wants to, Giles. Seriously. So -- can you do something about it? Please? I mean, assuming you want to, which I think you do."
"Of course, I do," Giles said and tried not to sound too irritable. Dawn's methods might be abrasive to the nerves, to say the least, but her motives were pure.
She wanted them to be happy. No, they were happy, Giles was sure of it. He woke up beside Xander every morning, and no matter how tired Giles felt -- evil didn't keep office hours -- Giles could count on Xander turning to him, half-asleep, and kissing him awake. Xander's way of saying 'good morning' always involved that brief hug and kiss, no matter how late they were. And when they weren't late and there was no rush to get up, that first kiss was one of many and Giles got far more than a hug.
So they were happy, but perhaps they could be happier? Giles couldn't think of much that he would deny Xander if Xander asked for it, from the ridiculously large TV that had been installed in their apartment to pizza for supper three nights running -- though he'd put his foot down when Xander tried to make it four.
He wasn't certain that a proposal was guaranteed to make Xander smile, no matter what Dawn said, but Giles knew that now she'd brought the matter up, it was something that he was going to have to discuss.
But with Xander, not Dawn.
"Thank you, Dawn," he said with a crisp formality honed by his years dealing with students who thought that library fines didn't apply to them. "I'll take it from here."
"Okay," Dawn said, obviously not at all chastened. "Good luck."
By the time Xander got home from work -- sporting, Giles noticed, a newly bandaged thumb and a guilty expression over the fact that he was late again -- Giles had formulated a plan. A nice dinner, the ingredients for which were luckily already in the house since he'd just done the shopping the afternoon before, and an even nicer bottle of wine. It was a bottle he'd been saving for a special occasion and then forgotten about at least three times, but this time, he was determined, would be different.
In more ways than one.
"Sorry, sorry," Xander said, sounding it, as he closed the door and hung up his jacket. "I know, I'm late again. It's just -- we got a rush order in, and it's for this little old lady who's going to celebrating her hundredth birthday, and they wanted me to make this jewelry box like one she had when she was a girl, and... how could I say no?"
Xander's skill as a carpenter, re-discovered when he'd stopped working for the council and taken a part-time job at a small shop -- "just until I figure out what I really want to do" -- had grown considerably, and he was garnering quite a name for himself amongst the locals.
"It's quite a simple word," Giles said with a smile, enjoying the sight of Xander stretching as he rotated his shoulders, clearly stiff from hours of painstaking, detailed work, "but I can understand why you wouldn't want to use it in a case like this. Are you working from photographs or a description?"
"Photos, thank God for the internet," Xander said. "Well, and a description, too, but it's one of those things where you never know if people's memories are actually accurate or what. How was your day?"
"Tedious in places, enlightening in others," Giles said and refused to elaborate until Xander, showered, changed into comfortable clothing free of sawdust, and looking relaxed was sitting opposite him at the table.
Their earlier conversation seemed to have slipped from Xander's mind, but when Giles poured him a glass of wine, Xander raised his eyebrows. "Isn't that the bottle you said was worth more than my first car -- not that the same couldn't be said for a bottle of diet soda and a packet of chips. Did I forget a birthday or an anniversary or something?"
"No. And if you did, I wouldn't mind given my advanced age. " Giles let the wine trickle slowly into his own glass, the peppery, spicy scent making him want to taste it. "It's more to set the scene for something I wanted to ask you."
"Oh." Rather than sounding pleased, Xander seemed apprehensive. He picked up his glass, took a healthy swig that was likely more about getting alcohol into his system as quickly as possible than about tasting the wine. "So... what? I mean, what did you want to ask me? Because, if you really want me to, I'll go see that guy you were talking about. That therapist. But I thought things were better."
Immediately, Giles could see where this misunderstanding was headed. Xander, prone to vivid nightmares on occasion, had been experiencing them almost nightly for several weeks while he'd been considering ordering a prosthetic eye. Giles had suggested, gently, that a therapist might help, but Xander had shaken his head stubbornly and instead decided that it wasn't the right time to make that sort of change. Unsurprisingly, the frequency of the nightmares had decreased sharply, and, indeed, Xander had seemed much more relaxed and, as he'd said, better.
"They are better," Giles said and made his tone as reassuring as he could. "I can see that, though you haven't actually said as much to me. It's your decision, in any case, and I wouldn't dream of pushing you into anything that you weren't ready for."
"I just -- I couldn't figure out how that would work," Xander said. "It's not like I can be honest and tell people how this happened." He gestured at his eye patch, which had become such a part of him that Giles barely remembered it was there anymore. "And that's, like, the whole point, so..." Shrugging, Xander set his elbow on the table and sighed. "Anyway, I'm taking over the whole conversation, so how about if I shut up and let you talk?"
"I'd prefer it if we had a conversation," Giles said. He speared a piece of chicken and eyed Xander with mock severity as he chewed and swallowed it. "I know in the past, your reaction to a lecture from me was intense boredom coupled with some muttered asides to Willow that I'm perfectly sure you intended to be audible."
It was still, after all these years, impossible to mention Willow without mourning her, but the pang of loss was easier to bear than forgetting her would have been.
Xander nodded. "Right. No lectures. Conversation. Only can it start now, because waiting to find out what it is you want to talk about is killing me." His voice was somewhat strained, and Giles felt guilty for worrying him.
Phrasing his question was still far from easy, though. It was too important a question to blurt out, but Xander looked on the verge of panic.
"How would you feel about you and I -- about making changes -- no, not changes, because nothing would change, not really -- " Giles heard himself revert to babbling with a dismal sense of inevitability. Give him a room full of Slayers to instruct and he could talk smoothly and at length on the most abstruse subjects, but this, oh this was so very different.
Getting down on one knee was simply out of the question; he would feel ridiculous and Xander would be expecting something else entirely. Giles took a deep breath and met Xander's bewildered gaze. "I want us to get married," Giles heard himself saying. "I want us to make that commitment to each other."
"I." Xander looked utterly shocked, and if Giles wasn't mistaken, some of the color had drained from his face. "You. With the. And. Me. Concussion?" He rubbed his head experimentally, testing.
"Not that I know of, no," Giles said.
"But. You." Taking a deep breath, Xander let it out slowly before trying again. "You want to get married to me."
"Yes," Giles said truthfully. "Very much."
"Gay marriage isn't legal in the UK," Xander pointed out.
"No, but civil partnerships are. Legally, they're just as good, and as for the rest -- well, we don't need some religious officiant to give our relationship legitimacy, do we?"
Xander frowned. "No, but -- Oh my God!" Something new seemed to have occurred to him, and he dropped his face down into his hands. His voice was muffled when he said, "Dawn called you, didn't she."
Giles debated lying for the time it took to stand and walk over to Xander and drop to his knees for a different reason -- it put him at the perfect height to wrap his arms around Xander in a hug. With the familiar tickle of Xander's hair against his cheek, he knew that nothing but the truth would do.
"She did, but strident and forceful though she can be at times, this isn't something I'd let myself be bullied or manipulated into asking you, if that's what's bothering you. It's been on my mind for a while, but I wasn't sure how you would feel about it, given, well..." Giles ran his hand over Xander's back, wishing that he could see Xander's face. Through the thick, soft sweatshirt, he could feel each breath Xander took. This close to him, it was easy to be honest. "Given what happened the last time."
"I don't want that to happen to us," Xander said, still through his hands.
"It won't," Giles told him. "It couldn't. Believe me when I say I wouldn't suggest it if I thought there was the slightest chance it would result in things going wrong."
Xander shook his head slightly, difficult though it was given the position they were in. "I do want to." Even muffled he managed to sound miserable.
"Then --" Giles exhaled sharply in frustration and moved back a bit. "Xander. Would you look at me, please?"
After a moment's hesitation, Xander slowly lifted his face from his hands and met Giles' gaze.
Giles wasn't used to seeing that expression on Xander's face; dread and misery tangled up with longing. The longing, yes, and he loved putting that look there and hearing Xander hiss out a plea for him not to stop doing whatever he was doing, their bodies warm against each other, but even when Xander had been stressed, he hadn't been unhappy precisely.
He curved his hand around Xander's cheek and brushed his thumb over lips that were set tight, as if Xander were trying to stop them from trembling.
"I love you," Giles said, with all the force he could put behind the words when he was murmuring them into the silence that had fallen between them. "That hasn't changed. That never will change. If we do this, it won't end with you walking away from me because we won't do it unless you're absolutely sure it's what you want."
"It -- it is," Xander whispered, and now his lips were trembling. "I am sure. I'm just scared as hell that I'll screw things up, somehow, and that's what I don't want. I don't want to lose you. I can lose everything else -- Anya, Sunnydale, Willow -- and still keep on keeping on; but I can't lose you." In the middle of this, his hand had found the front of Giles' shirt and gripped onto it, emphasizing his point. "So just -- promise me, if we do this, that you'll make sure it's okay. Don't let me fuck it up."
"I won't, I promise," Giles said, and felt the enormity of that promise, because Giles had made so many mistakes in his own life that he wasn't sure he deserved to be trusted with someone else's. Xander was usually the one to lift the mood with a joke, but Giles did his best. "Xander, we're together, we're happy -- unless there's something, some issue I'm not aware of, we're sickeningly blissful, for God's sake. There's nothing that can go wrong. It's going to be you, me, our closest friends, a simple ceremony and a small party to follow. Or we can tell no one and break it to them afterwards."
"Are you kidding? Dawn would kill us if we prevented her from having an excuse to buy a new outfit." Xander offered Giles a slightly strained smile and reached out to touch his face, the side of Xander's thumb brushing the age-wrinkled skin under Giles' eye that seemed to have deepened each time he looked in the mirror. "We can do this. Right?"
"We've handled an apocalypse before breakfast," Giles said. "I think that we can cope with this."
Xander was too close not to kiss and that was what Giles did next, the brief touch of his lips turning into something more, hunger building with each second that passed, until Giles was aware of nothing but the sweet insistence of Xander's mouth and the cool silk of Xander's hair as he drew him closer still.
Xander's hands were hard and desperate where they clutched at Giles, and after a few more moments he slid down off his chair to kneel on the floor, too. Between kisses, Xander was murmuring something, and eventually Giles worked out that it was, "You're mine -- you're really mine."
"God, yes," Giles said, pulling back just enough to allow himself to catch his breath. "Always." Arousal, and the desire to reassure Xander kept him in place, but his knees were aching and the hardwood floor was living up to its name. The meal -- and the wine -- were waiting to be consumed, too, but Giles had lost his appetite for anything but Xander. He smiled at Xander, noting the flushed face and a dazed expression he suspected was mirrored on his face. "Could I be yours in the bedroom? Or on the couch?"
"What?" Xander blinked, then seemed to come to his senses, which as far as Giles was concerned was a bit of a shame. "Right, yes. Bedroom." He got to his feet with enviable ease and helped Giles up, then kissed him again before leading him upstairs and pulling him down onto the bed.
It had been some time since they'd interrupted a meal in favor of more carnal activity, and it wasn't long before they were both naked. Giles found himself flat on his back with Xander kneeling between his thighs, Xander's hot mouth closing around the tip of his cock.
If Giles had needed any more proof than Dawn's impassioned rant that Xander, despite his misgivings, really wanted to get married, he got it right then. Xander had returned to the focused, avid Xander who'd kissed Giles' lips to a tingle and Giles, gasping, approving, ecstatic, was left with nothing to do but concentrate hard on not coming too soon.
Xander paused, as if he could tell how close to the edge Giles was after only a minute or two, and grinned up at him, his eye glittering with amusement and arousal. He didn't say anything, but then, he didn't really have to. Giles smiled back lovingly and reached down to stroke his fingers over parted wet lips, tracing their shape. Xander leaned forward and took one of Giles' questing fingers into his mouth, sucking it with his tongue curling around it, sending a jolt to Giles' cock, which was already protesting its neglect.
Giles groaned, heartfelt and appreciative, and pushed another finger into the wet heat of Xander's mouth, sliding them in and out slowly just to watch the shape Xander's lips made as they closed around them.
Pulling back, Xander licked at Giles' fingers, kissed his palm, then said. "I want you to fuck me. Like this, right here. No, don't move -- let me."
Giles waited, doing his best to be patient, through what felt like some of the longest seconds of his life as Xander knelt up and prepared himself. Xander's cock, half erect, gave a lazy and very visible throb when Xander pushed two slick fingers into his arse. Then, finally, Xander straddled Giles' waist and wrapped a still-wet hand around Giles' cock, guiding him inside soft, tight heat that was very nearly overwhelming in those first few, glorious heartbeats.
"Oh God," Giles said, more to distract himself than anything else. "Xander." Unable to help himself, he arched up the bare inch he was able to with Xander's weight pinning him to the bed, striving to bury himself deeper inside Xander, as if that would make Xander see just how very much Giles was, indeed, Xander's, body and heart. Xander stared down at him as if he could read every thought passing through Giles' head and began to move, a languid rocking, a slow, God, unbearably slow, rise and fall. Giles was inside Xander, but he was in control of nothing, ceding all the power to Xander.
Giles reached for Xander's cock, hard now, stiff and flushed, but Xander caught his hand and then deftly captured Giles' other hand by the wrist. Surrendering to a bondage as easy to break as a single thread, Giles allowed his hands to be placed above his head, held there by Xander's whim as Xander's grip was loose, a caress more than a cuff. The effect of the change in angle showed in Xander's next plunge down; his mouth fell open on a groan and then he bit down on his lip. Giles drank in each sign of Xander's enjoyment even as his own body revelled in the sensations suffusing it.
"Wanna do this forever," Xander muttered. "You're so -- perfect. Everything I ever wanted. Just -- oh God, don't come yet. Please. It's so good..."
Strangely, being told not to come only made Giles want to come even more, but he did his best to obey. In his mind's eye, he pictured the shelf behind his desk in his office, tried to remember the order in which the books were lined up, but it was hopeless -- he couldn't think properly about anything but Xander, who was moving above him, lips parted, gasping for air. Xander, who was fucking himself on Giles' cock as if he never did anything else. Xander, more loved and cherished than anything in Giles' life.
"'m gonna -- God --" And Xander came, hands tightening on Giles's wrists convulsively, cock twitching as it spilled onto Giles' chest.
That warm splash of come on his skin and the primal flash of satisfaction at being scent-marked by his lover, a reaction that Giles would blush over later, privately, was all it took to have Giles following Xander into a climax that robbed him of breath and thought. He dimly heard himself cry out, a hoarse, rough yell that was lost in the sounds Xander was making as he fell forward onto Giles, clinging to him, his hands clutching at Giles' shoulders.
By the time he'd recovered, Xander had as well, and was kissing him feverishly, again and again. Between the presses of their mouths together, Xander was saying, "I love you. God, I love you so much."
"Hush," Giles told him. "Shh. I know you do. You could never say it again -- not that I'm suggesting that -- and I'd still know. And I love you, more than I could possibly put into words. There, now. Are you all right?"
Xander nodded and shoved his face against Giles' neck. "Yeah, sorry. I'm okay." He laughed, sounding more like himself, and lifted up so that he could look at Giles' face. He was grinning from ear to ear. "I'm good. Really good."
"You'll get no argument from me there," Giles said, unable to resist the pun. He ran his hand through Xander's hair, still damp, though Giles didn't know if it was from the shower or their recent exertions. "So, just to make it official because I'm not sure I ever got an answer, will you marry me, Xander?"
Despite the fact that he knew the answer, he found himself tensing, as nervous as every man in this situation was traditionally supposed to be.
"Yes," Xander said, beaming. "Yes. Let's get married."
And, to seal the deal, Giles kissed him.
* * * *
"Let me do that," Dawn said, pushing Xander's hands out of the way.
He'd been trying to tie the bow tie that came with his rented tux. Trying, and failing, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to blame the fact that his hands were shaking or not.
"Breathe," Buffy suggested.
Xander gave her an annoyed look. "Yeah, thanks, Buff. That's what I need -- advice about breathing."
"Hey, it's one of those life skills every kid needs to master," Buffy said with a shrug. "You looked like you'd forgotten how to do it for a moment there."
"What I've forgotten is how to tie ties. If I ever knew." Xander flapped the ends of the tie at Dawn with a beseeching look. "A great man knows when to ask for help. Just think of me as Ghandi or the man who invented caramel popcorn and fix this for me? Please?"
"Which would be easier without your hands in the way," Dawn said impatiently, and Xander had the vague idea that she had already said something like that before. He dropped his hands to his sides and lifted his chin.
"Am I too tall?"
"For what?" Dawn asked, getting to work. "I'm not ten anymore, you know. I actually did grow. Eventually.""
None of them mentioned that she was never really ten, but that was just a fleeting thought in the maelstrom that was Xander's mind right then. As Dawn pulled the tie into place at his throat, he felt like he was choking. He was going to choke to death on a tie ten minutes before his own wedding, and how fucked up was that? Breathing -- not just a good idea, but vitally necessary. Who knew?
Oh, right. Buffy knew.
"Xander, breathe," she said again, and shoved him down into a chair that had appeared as if from nowhere. "Put your head between your knees or something. Dawn, go get him a glass of water!"
It wasn't until just then that Xander realized everything was kind of dark and hazy. He heard the sound of the door to the room opening and closing.
"It's okay," Buffy was saying. "This is totally normal."
"Well, it's not like I've ever done this myself, but I've seen movies. Read books. Heard my Aunt Helen tell me about what happened on her special day with the cockroaches in the cake frosting -- you know, I think I'll skip the reminiscing."
"Skipping sounds like a wonderful idea," Xander said grimly. A thought occurred to him and he sat up, ignoring the weird way the room was spinning. "Is Giles going through this, too, do you think? Who's with him? Because I don't care about the traditions; if he's feeling this way, I want to be there with him. We can throw up or pass out together."
There was a click, and when he looked up, Giles was standing in the doorway.
"See! I told you! This is major freakage here!" Dawn said, almost dancing from one foot to the other in nervousness.
"Xander," Giles said. And all at once, Xander felt much, much better. "Dawn said --"
"That I was on the verge of passing out?" Xander said. "I'm sorry to have to tell you that she was telling the truth. It's this stupid tie." He tugged at it ineffectually. "I think it's cutting off the circulation to my brain."
"Girls, if you could give us a minute, please," Giles said, in a tone that didn't allow for argument.
Of course, Buffy being Buffy, she tried. "I was trying to tell him that this is normal! Cold feet, or whatever."
"I'm perfectly certain that Xander's feet are as warm as toast," Giles said with a comforting asperity -- well, it comforted Xander, reminding him of dusty books and dim light and Giles delivering a Watcherly smackdown when Buffy crossed a line. "As are mine."
Without ceremony, Giles got everyone out of the room and closed the door behind them. He looked like a stranger in formal wear, impossibly elegant and very, very hot. So, okay, not that much of a stranger...but Xander was used to the Giles who lay on the couch in sweats and a T-shirt or a raggedy robe and Giles in pristine black and white was a world away from that.
Giles eyed him, clearly taking in Xander's pale face and sweat-dewed forehead, and sighed. "I told you we should have eloped."
"Okay, you were right. Is it too late to make a run for it?" Xander looked at Giles hopefully.
Xander sighed, too, and tried to see the bright side of things. "Well, at least I got to see you in a tux. You look amazing."
"Thank you," Giles said. He walked over to Xander and began to fix Xander's tie with a casual competence that took Xander's breath away. "I can definitely say the same about you, but forgive me if I'm looking ahead to when I take it off you. Slowly." Giles raised his eyebrows, a distinctly wicked gleam in his eyes. "Ravishing you on our wedding night is definitely traditional, and of course, you'll have to return the favor."
And then Xander felt much better, as well as faintly -- or maybe more than faintly -- turned on. "I can do that," he said. They were staying at an upscale hotel for the next two nights, which he was definitely looking forward to, and now it occurred to him that they didn't actually have to leave the hotel room for the whole weekend if they didn't want to. "Will you put it on again, later, so I can take it off you again?"
"As often as you like," Giles assured him, the corners of his mouth twitching in a way that Xander had discovered a long time ago meant that Giles was trying not to laugh.
Giles stepped back and held out his hand. "Now, shall we go and get married? I don't see any reason why we shouldn't walk in together, do you?"
Because we aren't supposed to, Xander thought. Because there are rules about stuff like this, and we're supposed to follow those rules. But those thoughts only lasted for a few seconds, and then he remembered that this was their day, his and Giles', and they could do whatever they wanted. They didn't need anyone's permission.
"Yeah," he said, trying to sound braver than he felt. "Let's do this."
They walked down the corridor to the room where the registrar was waiting for them, a room filled with friends -- not family by blood, maybe, but family in every other way. People they loved. John would be there, his blue eyes warm, Ian beside him, the two of them planning to stay a while and see the sights. People they'd both worked with, people they saw daily.
Sunnydale people, even though the town no longer existed.
And there would be gaps in the crowd, Xander realized, tightening his grip on Giles' hand. Invisible ones, because every seat would be full , but he'd be able to see them and so would Giles.
Cordelia, Anya and Willow. The women he'd loved in different ways, all gone now, but leaving so many memories behind.
It was Willow's face he knew he'd see, just out of the corner of his eye, as he spoke the words that would make him even closer to Giles than he was now. Willow smiling proudly, mischievously at the two of them, wishing them well.
He would have given almost anything in that moment for her to be there. This always happened -- there were times when he missed her so keenly, like when he'd left the Council to get his own job again. He knew how proud of him she would have been.
"I love you," Xander said suddenly, and Giles turned his head to smile at him. "You know, in case you forgot since the last time I said it."
"That's something I could never forget," Giles said, "which doesn't mean that I don't like hearing it as often as you want to say it." His hand squeezed Xander's, a gently reassuring pressure. "I love you too. Isn't that what today is all about?"
"Exactly," Xander said with satisfaction, and he squeezed Giles' hand back as they stepped through the doorway to get married.
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