Written on Skin

“Am I taking advantage of you?” Giles asks, eyes curious as he traces oval bruises his fingers made, and licks and laps at love bites placed just low enough to be hidden behind a shirt collar.

Xander laughs, the sound trapped in his throat by the gag, spit-dark, that serves so many purposes, then lowers his eyes swiftly as Giles frowns.

A glance at the clock, mouth and hands are freed, and the question hangs between them, unanswered, until Xander tilts his head just so and Giles reaches down to unfasten his collar.

“God, I hope so,” Xander says, standing from kneeling without using his hands, as he’s been taught. He stretches out for one long moment, before coming to curl up on the bed against Giles, his movements awkward, as they never are when he’s under instructions.

“Why?” Giles asks, stroking over skin crossed, like a letter written when paper was scarce, with lines of correction, written in red.

A shift, too subtle not to be deliberate, brings Xander’s mouth close enough to kiss and the answer to that is deferred for a while but when the kiss ends, Giles raises his eyebrows and waits.

“If you’re not,” Xander says finally, “then I’m wasting my time. Or doing something wrong.”

It takes Giles no time at all to decide he doesn’t understand that and he says so.

Xander stirs the collar, lying forgotten on the bed, with one bare foot. “When that’s on my neck, there’s nothing you can’t take from me, so it doesn’t come into it. It’s not my choice.”

“True,” Giles agrees. “That’s what you wanted.”

“That’s what I begged for,” Xander says, correcting him, because no matter how adept he is at concealment outside this room, in it, his honesty is as real as toothache and as painful.

“And so -?”

“So when it’s not, when it’s us pretending to be normal –” Giles blinks at that but lets him finish, “ –I kinda like there being something you take that you shouldn’t.”

“Why?” Giles asks in a whisper, seeing the answer hover, feeling like a mouse who looks up into the empty blue and sees it fill with feathers and sharp, eager claws.

Xander smiles and hooks the collar to him with one foot, stretching down and picking it up. “You hurt me better when you’re feeling guilty, Giles. You know that.”

He holds out the collar. “We’ve got time before class. Put in on again. please?”

And the leather’s worn so thin at that hole that Giles knows they’ll need a new collar soon. He can’t just move to the next hole along.

Xander likes it on that one. Likes it tight.


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