Pairings/Warnings: Giles/Xander, no warnings
Rating: FRT, set post Grave
Word count: 4400
Disclaimer: They belong to Joss and ME, not to me.
Summary: Something happened to Xander after Kingman's Bluff. Giles finally comes to help.
Written for davinci_1985, for the Xander/Giles ficathon. Humble apologies for this being late. But believe me, it is better for the delay. I hope you like it.
Truth to tell, Giles always knew Xander was not long for this world. An average teenage boy, with no training to speak of, fighting side by side with the slayer? The only real question was how he would be killed. Innocent people die all the time in the battle against evil. Giles couldn’t allow himself to feel guilty about that. After all, his life’s work was to send a teenage girl into danger again and again until she perished, likely in a gruesome and painful manner. If the death of an ordinary boy meant the slayer lived one extra day, that was an acceptable sacrifice.
He’d tried to keep an emotional distance, so the boy’s inevitable demise wouldn’t affect him. But time passed, and the boy’s willingness to help proved invaluable. Eventually Xander’s death began to weave its way into his nightmares. Giles had awoken, heart racing, from visions of Xander turned by Spike and Drusilla behind The Bronze, killed by a mummy with a kiss in the museum, or by a demon with a broadsword in the library. Not once had Giles feared that Xander would be killed by Willow with a spell on Kingman’s Bluff.
And yet, no one has seen him since that day.
As he packs his suitcase, Giles tries once again to remember more about the last time he saw Xander. After they knew the world had been saved, Anya had wanted to drive Giles to hospital, but he’d insisted on going to Buffy’s house. Anya had helped him to the couch, and brought him a large number of ice packs. He’d fallen asleep – or passed out – for a while. He’d awoken to the sound of Willow’s sobs. She’d been sitting on the floor by the couch, crying broken-heartedly. Xander had been standing behind her, looking dazed. Giles has a vague recollection of blood on Xander’s face and shirt, but he has no idea how badly he’d been hurt. Giles’ full attention had been on Willow, on convincing her that she hadn’t killed him, that he would recover. It wasn’t until he’d heard the door open and close that he’d realized Xander had left.
The next day, he’d reluctantly taken some painkillers left over from Joyce’s final illness, and he and Willow had taken a cab to the airport. He remembers feeling annoyed that Xander hadn’t come to say good-bye.
Sunday evening had come and gone with no telephone call from Xander. Giles had held to his own rule against phoning Xander. The same rule that requires he ring off after half an hour if Xander phones him. Bad enough he’s far more attracted to the 21-year-old heterosexual than any 47-year-old man should be. He refuses to turn into some sort of pathetic stalker. Giles had forced himself to consider the very real possibility that what’s keeping Xander busy on Sunday morning is a woman he met on Saturday night. So far Giles hasn’t been able to change his feelings through logic and discipline, but that doesn’t stop him trying.
On Monday, Giles had visited Willow, then sent an email to Xander and Buffy telling them how she’s doing. Buffy replied. Xander didn’t.
On Thursday, Giles called Buffy. They chatted about what she’s seen on patrol, how Dawn’s dealing with losing both Willow and Tara, how strange it is with just the two of them in that house. Giles asked how Xander was coping. Buffy hadn’t seen him. She figured he must need some alone time to deal with Will trying to kill him. He’ll call when he’s ready for company.
The telephone rang on Saturday morning. The caller ID said Xander Harris. Giles smiled and answered the phone. “Hello, Xander.”
“Giles, it’s me,” Buffy said. “I need your help. I’m at Xander’s apartment. He’s not here.”
“Well, it’s Friday night there. Maybe he has a date,” Giles said.
“Xander?!” Buffy said in disbelief. “So not happening. He’s been a monk ever since Anya. Besides, I went by the construction site today. They haven’t seen him since before Kingman’s Bluff. His supervisor said it wasn’t unusual for workers in Sunnydale to leave without giving notice, which, you know, means they’re getting dead without giving notice.”
Giles closes his suitcase and heads for Heathrow.
Buffy and Dawn meet him at the Sunnydale airport. He hugs them both fiercely, but his first words are “any news of Xander?”
“Yes,” Buffy says. “He’s alive.”
“Thank God!” Giles says. “Where did you find him?”
“Dawn called Sunnydale Memorial,” Buffy says. “He’s in the psych ward.”
They drive directly from the airport to the hospital. The Sunnydale Memorial Psych ward is not state of the art. Giles remembers when Tara was there. If Willow hadn’t taken her home, she would have been strapped to a bed in a room filled with patients.
That’s what they’ve done to Xander. Not that he notices. He just stares at the ceiling, his eyes wide. He’s completely oblivious to his surroundings, not acknowledging their presence even when Dawn bursts into tears. Giles wants to smash something.
When Buffy was catatonic, Willow was the one who had able to reach her. Giles doesn’t even know how the spell was done. He’d been in hospital himself at the time. His first thought is to ask the coven in Devon for help, but it would be at least 24 hours before anyone of them could get here. Surely there must be a witch in the US who could cast the spell. Or a warlock – Arthur. The girls are relieved Giles knows someone who can help.
Xander is completely passive as they move him to Buffy’s car. If pulled into a standing position, he will stand. If prodded forward, he will walk, but only until the prodding stops. Getting him to sit in the passenger seat of the car is difficult, and his head hits the edge of the car above the door with a thud that makes everyone wince. Except him.
Giles drives. Conversation seems somehow wrong when Xander isn’t participating. They travel in silence and before long Buffy and Dawn are asleep.
Buffy wakes up as he pulls off the highway.
“Las Vegas?” she asks. “You know someone who lives in Las Vegas?”
“Yes,” Giles answers.
“Oh, yeah, there’s a college here or something, isn’t there?” Buffy says.
“I believe there is,” Giles says, “but that’s not where he works. He’s a mage, not a watcher.”
“Huh,” she responds.
Giles stops at a red light and nods towards the left. “That’s him there.”
Buffy looks at the people on the street. None of them look to her like friend-of-Giles material. “Which one?” she asks.
“Not the people, the sign.” The light turns green and Giles drives forward. Buffy turns and stares at the sign advertising the casino’s headline act, a famous comedian/magician.
“The Adequate Atwood?” Buffy says. “You know The Adequate Atwood?”
“Yes, he has a show there. It’s quite amusing, really.” Giles smiles. “He pretends to be a bumbling magician who—”
“I know who The Adequate Atwood is,” Buffy tells Giles, indignantly. “I’ve seen his HBO special.”
“His what?” Giles asks.
“He was on television,” Buffy explains.
“Yes,” Giles says. “I understand he does that occasionally.” Buffy gives Giles points for not sounding condescending.
“How on earth did you meet the Adequate Atwood?” Buffy demands.
“I asked him to tie my shoe,” Giles says.
“You what?” Buffy asks.
“He’d just tied his own, so it was obvious he knew how.” Giles says.
Buffy stares at him.
“We were both five,” Giles explains. “I hadn’t mastered the skill.”
“Huh.” Buffy can’t help imagining a very short, yet still tweed-clad Giles, struggling with shoelaces.
After a few more minutes, Giles pulls into a driveway. “Come along,” he tells Buffy as he gets out of the car. “Arthur’s always wanted to meet you.”
“What? Why?” Buffy asks.
“Because you’re the slayer,” Giles says.
“Oh, yeah. I am,” Buffy says. “So The Adequate Atwood knows about vamps and stuff?”
“Yes, with emphasis on the, er, ‘stuff,’” Giles says, ringing the doorbell. “As I said, he’s a mage.”
“Isn’t that cheating?” Buffy asks.
“What?” Giles says, ringing the doorbell again, “Calling himself a magician and then performing magic?”
“Yeah,” Buffy answers.
“As I understand it, most of his act is stage magic.” Giles says. “Very well done, too. I know some of it is real and some of it isn’t, but I can’t tell which is which.” Giles rings the doorbell a third time. Then shrugs and leans on it.
The continuous tone is beginning to drive Buffy crazy when the door is finally thrown open by a tall, bearded man wearing pajamas and a robe. “What the hell do you think you’re— Rupert!”
“Hello, Arthur, I’m afraid I need your help.” Giles says.
It proves almost as difficult to get Xander out of the car as it was to get him into it. Giles does most of the work himself as Buffy and Arthur have begun their own mutual admiration society, and Dawn is asleep on her feet.
“If you ever tire of being the slayer, you could be phenomenal as part of my act,” Arthur tells Buffy.
“Really?” Buffy asks, “How?”
“Oh, Let’s see, we’d start with some very heavy prop that I was unable to lift. I would do some kind of magic to make myself stronger but, as always, my magic would malfunction. The spell would be cast on my beautiful, fragile-looking assistant instead. We’d do you in light pink, with low heels, everything possible to make you look dainty, feminine and small. It would be a running gag through the show, with you being able to lift and throw heavy objects and me growing progressively more frightened of your strength. The finale would have you lifting me into the air for some reason. Could you do that?”
“Sure,” says Buffy.
“Of course the most impressive thing would be if you could dust a vampire onstage. Everyone would be dying to know how we got that effect. But it could be fairly dangerous, and getting a steady supply might be problematic.”
“Not if you import them from Sunnydale,” Giles says, as he finally maneuvers Xander into a standing position.
“Really?” Arthur says, “How would you transport them?”
“Arthur, I was joking,” Giles says. “Buffy, I beg you, do not develop a vampire slaying act.”
“I don’t know, Giles,” Buffy says. “It’s tempting. You tell Quentin Travers that the next time the Council gets out of line, I’m moving to Vegas.”
“Lovely,” Giles says. “Now, Arthur, where would you like Xander?”
Arthur leads the way through his house and out to the pool. There’s a large, well-lit patio with a high privacy fence running all around it. Buffy is prodding Dawn along in almost exactly the same manner that Giles is prodding Xander.
“This is easier to clean up than anywhere in the house,” Arthur says. He looks at Dawn. “I thought you had only one victim.”
“She’s just tired,” Buffy says. “She’s not usually up this late.”
“Neither am I,” Arthur says, “and I work until midnight. Put them in deck chairs.”
Arthur sits down next to Xander and studies him. “What happened?”
Giles describes what he witnessed of the events at Kingman’s bluff.
Arthur nods. “I reckon she didn’t even take the time for a proper spell. She just took all the hate and rage inside her, incorporated it into her magic and threw it at him. Some people react to rage by fighting back. If he’d been that kind, they’d have killed each other up there on that bluff. But your Xander didn’t fight back. He just took it and held it inside. It saved the world, but it’s killing him now.”
“So what do we do?” Buffy asks. “Anger management classes? Group hugs?”
“We have to pull the anger and magic out of him.” Arthur stands and strokes his beard. "It’s going to rather like rinsing out a paintbrush. About 90 percent of the anger should come out when I cast the spell the first time, then 90 percent of what’s left the second time. I’m not sure whether we’ll need a third casting. At some point, just goading him into an argument should be enough to finish the job.”
Arthur looks thoughtful for a moment, and then nods. “I think I have everything I need. I’ll just go have a look see.”
Buffy and Giles follow Arthur into his kitchen, where he begins to rummage around in the cupboards. When he pulls out a sack of flour and places it on the counter, Giles grins. Arthur adds a large ceramic bowl, measuring cups, yeast and some spices. He takes a plastic container of milk from the fridge, stares at it and puts it back. “Brilliant,” he says.
He opens a kitchen drawer, removes a piece of chalk and heads for the pool, leaving everything else in the kitchen. Buffy and Giles trail after him.
Arthur pulls a deck chair over next to Xander, and then kneels and draws a series of runes around the two chairs. Then he stands and dusts off his knees. “My apologies in advance, Buffy,” he says. “I’m not apologizing to you, Rupert, I’m sure you deserve everything you’re going to get.”
“Quite,” Giles says with a smile. “As long as some of your famous herb bread is included, I can endure a great deal.”
“You’re apologizing, why?” Buffy asks.
“I’ll be pulling a great deal of magic and anger from your friend Xander,” Arthur says. “It’s impossible to do that without being affected. I expect to be very angry in a short while. I may say things I’ll regret. Fortunately, I find baking bread calms me.”
“Several years ago, he had a less than satisfactory assistant.” Giles says. “I’d get weekly parcels of home baked bread. I was desolate when he replaced her.”
Arthur sits next to Xander, and begins to chant. In a few moments, red, roiling lights begin to stream from Xander’s chest into Arthur’s outstretched hands. The light collects in his hands, and then separates into clear light and a dark red substance. The clear light seems to flow into Arthur, while the red drips onto the one of the runes, steams and disappears.
After a few moments, tears begin to stream down Xander’s face.
“He’s hurting Xander,” Buffy says. She takes one step towards Arthur, but Giles reaches out and stops her.
“He’s brought the hate and anger down to a level where it’s no longer completely overwhelming,” Giles says. “To a level, Xander can react to.”
Next Xander wraps his arms around himself, and begins to rock back and forth in his chair. His breath becomes labored, as if he were sobbing silently. The stream of lights running from his chest and head into Arthur’s hands grows thinner and thinner. Eventually Arthur shakes out his hands, and it stops.
Xander drops forward with his head in his hands. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I tried, I tried. I’m sorry.”
Arthur stands and begins to yell about great bloody pillocks who wake people up in the middle of the sodding night. Giles ignores him, and kneels next to Xander’s chair.
“It’s alright, Xander,” he says, giving Xander’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Everything is alright, now.”
Buffy reaches out and strokes Xander’s hair. “You did good, Xander,” she says, “You saved the world.” Xander looks up at her with hope in his eyes. Giles forces down the envy he feels, and makes room for Buffy to come closer and comfort her friend.
Buffy ends up sitting on Xander’s lap, while he cries silent tears onto her shoulder. Giles suddenly feels the exhaustion of the day hit him. He woke up in England this morning, for Christ’s sake. He rouses Dawn and steers her to one of Arthur’s two guest bedrooms. Both rooms have king beds. Dawn and Buffy can share one. Xander can have the other. Giles will sleep on the couch.
When he returns to the patio, Buffy is standing and Xander is wiping his eyes with his hands. “Where’s Willow?” he asks. “Is she okay?”
“She’s fine,” Buffy says. “Giles took her to England and his witchy friends are going to run her through their twelve step program and make her all better.”
“Huh,” Xander says.
“Time for bed,” Giles says, wishing he didn’t sound like their nanny.
“Lead me to it,” Buffy says, and Giles does.
Giles gets Xander settled in the second guest room. The young man still seems dazed. Giles takes a pillow and blanket from the bed and heads for the door.
“What are you doing?” Xander asks.
“I’m sleeping on the couch,” Giles says.
“Why?” Xander asks, moving further to one side of the bed. “This bed is like an acre across. There’s plenty of room.”
Lovely, Giles thinks, just lovely. If he tells Xander why that is a phenomenally bad idea, the young man will never feel comfortable in his presence again. Still, maybe part of the truth will work. “You know I’m bisexual, yes?” he says. “Are you sure you’re comfortable sharing a bed?”
“Oh please. Me and Buffy and Willow fell asleep together during movie night all the time. Nothing ever happened.” Xander snuggles down in the covers and closes his eyes. He already sounds half asleep. “I think I can keep my hands to myself for one night.”
Giles just stands there, that last sentence running over and over again in his mind. It’s a joke, of course. It must be. Or else he misheard. Eventually Giles rouses himself from his thoughts, gets his bag from the car, changes into pajamas and climbs into the bed.
Giles is asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow and he sleeps past noon. He dresses and wanders out to find Xander and the others. A basket on the dining room table contains slices of homemade bread. A tub of whipped butter sits nearby. Giles butters a slice and walks into the kitchen where Arthur is furiously kneading bread.
“Get the hell out of my kitchen,” Arthur yells.
“Done the second round of the spell already, have you, Arthur?” Giles says, helping himself to coffee. “Thanks for that.”
“Damn you, Rupert!” Arthur yells as he pounds the bread dough.
“Will a third casting be necessary, do you think?” Giles asks.
“Of course not, you bloody idiot,” Arthur snarls.
“Ta,” Giles says calmly, as he leaves the kitchen.
The last step is up to Giles. Pulling Xander into an argument should remove the last vestiges of the spell. As Giles tries to devise an opening for this argument, he can’t help thinking of John Cleese. Simple contradiction is unlikely to do the trick. Willow and Anya are both promising topics, but may be a little too close to the bone. On the other hand, Xander is hardly likely to enter into a heated argument on a neutral subject. Debating with himself, Giles meanders through the house, eventually ending up on the patio.
Buffy, Dawn and Xander are sitting at a table by the pool, playing cards. Buffy and Dawn are wearing oversized t-shirts, and Xander is in a loose t-shirt and sweatpants.
“Hey, Giles, we’re going shopping as soon as our clothes come out of the dryer,” Dawn says. “Do you want to come?”
“No,” Giles says.
“Come on,” Xander says, “It’ll be fun. I’m planning to play on their feelings of guilt and make them go to that Star Trek place with me.”
“Oh, in that case,” Giles says, “absolutely not.”
Xander grins at him. “I could play on your feelings of guilt.”
Giles smiles and shakes his head. “There’s not enough guilt in the entire world for that.”
“Not even if I give you the puppy dog eyes?” Xander asks. He opens his luminous brown eyes wide and stares earnestly up at Giles. It’s a face Giles has seen in his dreams, but in those dreams it wasn’t a trip to a science fiction shrine that Xander desired.
Giles swallows and looks away. “Certainly not.” He clears his throat and changes the subject. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” Xander says, although he sounds disappointed. “Your friend did the second casting of the spell this morning, so I’m like 99% magic-free. And how cool is that? The Adequate Atwood did real magic on me. I wish I could tell the guys at work about it. I can at least tell them I met him, right?”
“I don’t see why not,” Giles answers.
“Cool. This is the greatest. Of course just being out of the coma-of-hatred is a whole world of sanity-having goodness. I’m just scared there’ll be flashbacks or something.”
“There will,” Giles says.
“Oh, God, really?” Xander asks.
“Not magical ones,” Giles tells him, “Just your mind remembering the darkness. This isn’t something that you recover from like…” Giles smiles, “like magic. Give yourself time to heal. Talk to us. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
“Okay,” Xander says, but Giles can tell he doesn’t mean it. Giles tries to remember the last time that Xander asked for anyone’s help. The only instance he can think of is when they moved him into his apartment. But did Xander ask or did they volunteer?
Ah, this may be a suitable topic for an argument. It certainly infuriates Giles.
“Why is it you never ask for help?” Giles says, “Do you not trust us?”
“What do you mean?” Xander asks.
“This catatonia didn’t come on you instantly. You were able to get Willow back to Buffy’s house. Even if you didn’t know what was happening to you, you had to know something was wrong. Why didn’t you ask for help?”
“Who was I going to ask?” Xander says. “You’d been beaten to a pulp. Willow was having hysterics. Anya, well, after what I did to her, it would take way more nerve than I have to ask her for help. I figured I’d just go home and rest and I’d feel better later.”
“You could have waited for Buffy and Dawn to get home,” Giles says.
“They had their own problems,” Xander says.
“Yes, Xander, we all of us have our own problems. But that doesn’t prevent us from helping our friends when they need it,” Giles says.
“Friend?” Xander asks. “Are you trying to claim we’re friends?”
“Yes, that is I thought we, er, I think of you as a friend,” Giles says. He knows it comes out sounding like the lie it is. He doesn’t think of Xander solely as a friend.
“I’m your friend,” Xander says, standing up and walking around the table to confront Giles. “That’s why you call me sometimes – oh, wait, you don’t do that. Well, that’s why you talk with me for hours sometimes when I call you – no, you don’t do that either. Maybe that’s why, when you were thinking about leaving Sunnydale, you discussed it with me first– except you didn’t. So I guess I’m the kind of friend you don’t want to hang with and whose opinion means nothing.”
“I’ll just go check the dryer now,” Dawn says, as she heads for the house.
“I’ll help you,” Buffy says, following.
“I saved the world, Giles, and I’m still not good enough for you, am I?” Xander advances until he’s right up in Giles’ face.
Giles refuses to back down. “Certainly, Xander, I don’t give a damn about you. That’s why I dropped everything to come here when you were missing. It’s why I drove most of the night after a transatlantic flight to find help for you. It’s why I –”
“Did you do it for me, or did you do it for Buffy’s friend? Did you do it because you care even the slightest bit about Xander, or because it was what Buffy wanted? Admit it, if it weren’t for love of your slayer, you’d never even—”
“You think I’m in love with Buffy?” Giles steps back, appalled.
“No, of course not. But you love her, you love her so much.” Xander’s voice is wistful. “Sometimes when you look at her, I can just see it just shining out of you. And you love Dawn, and Willow. Willow tried to end the world, and you still love her. You were still bleeding from what she’d done, and you listened while she cried and you stroked her hair.”
Xander stops and runs a hand through his hair in frustration. “Why can’t you… Why aren’t I… What do I have to do, to be good enough?”
“Good enough?” Giles laughs.
“Fine!” Xander grabs Giles’ arms, shoves him sideways, and Giles finds himself falling into Arthur’s pool. He just has time for a deep breath before he’s submerged.
Giles lets himself go limp. He slowly releases enough air from his lungs to allow himself to keep sinking. He knows he’s behaving childishly, but this will stop Xander from storming off. He closes his eyes and counts the seconds until Xander comes.
Xander doesn’t disappoint. Before Giles reaches ten, Xander is lifting him, pulling him up to the surface of the water.
“Breathe, damn it,” Xander says as he tows Giles towards the edge of the pool.
“Thank you, I will,” Giles says. Xander is so startled, he lets go. Giles turns and does a leisurely backstroke away from Xander.
“So help me, I’ll drown you myself,” Xander says, thrusting out a hand to grab him. Giles swims nimbly beyond his grasp.
“You’ve always been good enough, Xander,” Giles says, finding a depth where he can stand. “But I’m not from California. I don’t talk endlessly about my feelings. Willow comes and weeps besides me. How easy that makes it for me to comfort her, to stroke her hair. You walk away and I don’t know what you want or how to give it to you. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I couldn't be more in love with you if I…”
Xander’s eyes go wide and Giles remembers that those words were never to be spoken.
He’s too horrified at himself to evade Xander’s next grab, but drowning him seems to be the last thing on Xander’s mind. Quite the contrary, this seems to be the kiss of life.
After a minute, Giles pulls back, smiling while he brushes the wet hair from Xander's forehead. “I thought you could keep your hands to yourself.”
“For one night, which I did. But in the future?” Xander rubs his thumb gently across Giles’ lips. “I don’t think I’ll be able to help myself.”
Scenario: Xander’s gravely ill, Giles finally comes to help him
Time period they would most want it to be set in: Post s6. Willow’s dark magic hitting Xander hint, hint)
Time period they absolutely do not want: if you just can’t set it in S6, or you have a better idea, set it in whichever timeline you choose
Two things they want included: Giles and Xander were not together (and hadn’t ever been together) at the beginning of the fic; Giles introducing Xander to one of his British acquaintances (he must have some, doesn’t he? Olivia came for him, after all).
Two things they do not want included: 1. Someone calling Xander stupid for no good reason (although, if you have a good one, you may), 2. Xander drinking alcohol to drown his sorrows. Non negotiable.