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The library door swung shut and footsteps, fast and eager, pattered down the hallway, Bronzeward-bound. Giles spared a moment to luxuriate in the sudden silence that spilled back into the room, rushing to fill each Buffy, Xander and Willow shaped hole, and then began to tidy up.

Crumbs were swept off the table into the empty donut box, sprinkles and sugar like rainbow snow, clinging stickily to his hands, books were sorted, stacked, carried and re-shelved, notes carefully scanned before he tore them up into pieces small enough to confound the patience of a curious cleaner...it didn’t take long, and as the coda to a successful night of research it beat the hell out of tending wounds.

When the door swung open again, he didn’t turn. He knew who it was.

“I forgot something.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“And what might that be?”

In the past it’d been a pencil, a coat; once, least believable of all, a homework assignment.

Tonight, finally, he got a truthful answer.

“Forgot to do this.”

The kiss was gritted teeth-determined and missed its target, mostly because at the last second Xander lost his nerve, so his lips brushed the corner of Giles’ mouth in an oddly endearing way.

Giles stood still and waited.

“This would be the part where you freak out,” Xander said. His face was starting to squinch in preparation for Giles’ reaction but he hadn’t stepped back and his hands were still resting on Giles’ shoulders, heavier than he’d expected, as though Xander were falling forward while standing still.

“I did. Three weeks ago. Now I’ve moved on and I’m merely impatient.”

“What?”

Giles wanted very much to remove his glasses and let reality blur just a little in the hope – always vain – that if he couldn’t see it, it couldn’t see him. As that would have meant shrugging off Xander’s hands, he did without the respite.

“If you want to jerk off in semi-public places – though the stacks are so little used, perhaps that’s not a fair description – you should keep your eyes open.”

“You...watched me?”

Xander could barely say the words, which emerged in a strangled yelp. His hands dropped away and he hugged himself with them, taking a step back. Giles didn’t move.

“No.” Giles hesitated and then shrugged mentally. Might as well get all the embarrassment over in one go. “I, ah, heard you.”

“That’s – kill me, Giles, kill me now.”

Xander went to a chair and sat down in it, suddenly, as if his legs had stopped being supportive and gone on strike. He sank his head into his hands and muttered something Giles had to strain to hear.

“No. Whom would I tell?”

“Then we can just forget about it?” Xander twisted his head, showing Giles a flushed face and imploring eyes. “Please?”

“I haven’t been able to for the last three weeks,” Giles said deliberately, “so I don’t think I can say ‘yes’ to that.”

Xander straightened, a skim of bravado settling over his face. “Look, Giles, maybe I’m over reacting. You know what it’s like; you remember –”

“Let’s stick with ‘know’, shall we?” Giles murmured.

“- and if I promise never to do it again-”

“I assume we’re talking about the location, not the act itself?”

“What? Oh...yeah.” Xander tried a chuckle. “So I stick to the bathroom from now on, and we don’t mention it.”

Giles walked over and tapped Xander’s mouth with his finger, effectively rendering him dumb. “I heard you, Xander,” he said softly. “Not just the grunts and gasps, the slide of your hand...I heard a name. My name. It’s why I went to you, it’s why I listened.” He smiled. “It’s why, when you left, I found the exact place you’d chosen and followed your example.”

“You –”

Giles slipped his hand underneath Xander’s chin and applied a slight upward pressure that brought Xander to his feet. “It was a good place, Xander. You chose it well. I think it’s suitable for more than the limited use you put it to, but I could be wrong. Am I?”

 He waited for Xander’s slow headshake and then kissed him just to make sure. When Xander’s lips parted, eagerly yielding, he let himself believe what he’d spent three weeks hoping for was true.

9/10/04


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