Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

Make Way For Librarians
By glossolalia
For Lostgirl

Oh, this is awful. Simply horrid.

It appears that waking up after having been a Fyarl is nearly as loathsome as waking up as one. Rather like a week's worth of hangovers rolled up in strychnine coating. Giles stays in bed, keeping as still as he can, for as long as possible. The room brightens inexorably, bringing up more pain. It soaks his eyelids, pools in the back of his rotten skull, drips down his throat.

Finally, he can bear himself no longer. He stinks of Fyarl, of the sweat of his own shame, of too many hours spent in bed. He trudges down the stairs, slowly as a nervous child, placing both feet on each step before moving to the next. Showering proves difficult; he sits on the rim of the tub and splashes the warm water over himself.

But afterwards, he does feel slightly better. At least not quite so filthy. He cannot bear the idea of food, but he gulps cold water from the jug in the refrigerator until it spills down his chin.

Buffy visits when he has nearly finished tidying up. Once again, he must admire her perfect instinct for avoiding any unnecessary exertion. He supposes that he ought to be thankful she doesn't view slaying as unnecessary. Otherwise, they'd all be dead and drained several times over.

After she leaves, Giles remains on the couch, head tipped back, wondering just how long it will take for the effects of the Fyarl to wear off.

He wonders, too, where Ethan is; now that the adrenaline and terror of the previous night has thoroughly dissipated, he can think of Ethan. Perhaps not with fondness - he was rarely fond of Ethan when times were good, let alone any time since - but with something akin to concern and affection.

Perhaps he's just getting old. Perhaps it's age and weariness that account for how everything feels just slightly out of reach these days, just beyond his capacity to grasp, to feel, to do.

Perhaps, he reminds himself, you are merely hungover.

A brisk walk will do him a world of good.

It better had, seeing as he no longer has a car.


His luck seems to have strayed over the line to bad and taken up residence there. Giles is certain of this as a general principle as soon as he ventures outside.

The sun is too bright, all the leaves seem sharp and too green, and his head pounds horribly under all the stimulation.

When a car's horn beeps behind him, insistently, and he turns to see Xander waving from the front seat, Giles is sure of his bad luck on an entirely new level.

"Hey, Mr. Demon Head," Xander says as Giles ventures over. "Need a ride?"

He braces his hand on the hood. "I'm fine, thank you."

Xander grins at him before leaning over to push open the passenger-side door. "Don't look fine. Look like you used to be a Fyarl."

"Yes, thank you for that timely reminder," Giles says. "But I'm fine."

"C'mon, Giles," Xander says. "Hop in."

It seems easier to comply than to argue. Arguing with Xander is always a ridiculous, entirely fruitless enterprise. He tends to skateboard through logical gates and end up maintaining the opposite position from the one with which he started. Sighing, Giles goes around the car and climbs into the passenger seat.

They sit in silence for a moment.

Xander stirs at last, his energy, as always, getting the better of him. "You know, I'm thinking if we're just gonna sit here, maybe I should put on the flashers."

"No, don't do that." Giles rubs his forehead.

"So, where you headed?"

That's the question, isn't it? Giles gives him a tight smile. "Nowhere in particular."

Xander tilts his head slightly to the left. Then to the right. He's badly in need of a haircut; the curls slip across his forehead like slow-motion punctuation. "Just out for a walk, huh?"

"Something like that," Giles replies.

"Old man walking," Xander says. He slides his gaze over at Giles. "No offense."

"No," Giles says, tipping his head back against seat. "None taken."


On Saturday afternoon, Giles has to acknowledge that his cupboards and refrigerator are nearing utter emptiness. He has been subsisting on takeaway and what groceries are available at the corner shop - tinned soup, tinned fish, sticky and over-salted instant rice. He needs to buy some real food, but the closest supermarkets are well over five miles away.

Over the last several days, he has avoided going out. Embarrassment clings to him like cobwebs, sticky and inextricable. He fears, in a vague yet forceful way, running into Buffy or Willow; after that pointless ride around the tri-town area with Xander, Giles does not look forward to seeing any of the children. He was a demon, after all. Ethan could not have conceived of a more fitting trick to play. Encountering one of the group would bring all the shame shooting back to the surface.

He cannot, however, stomach another night of greasy pizza or, worse, sodium-laden beef fried rice with its random bits of chewy fat.

After going back and forth over the matter for a good forty-five minutes, he rings Xander. Perhaps he can borrow Xander's car for a trip to the giant supermarket down on the freeway access road.

"If it's not too much bother, that is -"

Xander coughs; there are vague sounds of clothing - perhaps paper? - rustling in the background. Bedclothes, perhaps, considering Xander's propensity for sleeping the days away. "No trouble. I've got the night off, so I'll come with."

"Oh, no," Giles says, "no, that's not necessary."

"Forget it. Running pretty low on the essentials myself."

Thus Giles finds himself hiking the endless aisles of this megastore, pushing a cart and fending off Xander's suggestions - for sugary breakfast cereal, beef jerky coated with teriyaki sauce, a jar containing alternating ribbons of peanut butter and grape jelly.

"No, really, thank you," Giles says firmly, taking the jar from Xander's hand and placing it back on the shelf. "You see, I have managed to feed myself for nearly three decades now."

"Of course you have," Xander says, turning on his heel and rummaging in a dairy cooler. "But have you experienced the taste sensation that is -" He waves a package of processed cheese slices. "Grilled Kraft singles on pumpernickel with hot mustard?"

Giles cannot think of anything to say. Under the antiseptic glare of the fluorescent lights, he feels livid, drained. Xander, however, is as bright and energetic as ever.

"Thought so." Xander tosses the cheese into the cart. "Whole new era, Giles. Gotta get with the program, you know what I mean?"

"I'm sure I don't."

Xander elbows him as they turn out of the aisle. "Sure you do."


One becomes aware of one's surroundings in an entirely new way when those surroundings are experienced on foot. When he resumed jogging this summer, he was struck by the differences - in the details of shrubbery, the angles of light, the sheer space of this single small town.

Walking brings with it a new level of detail, yet another difference in perception. Hedges that blur as he runs now resolve into individual collections of leaves and branches; entire blocks that he had known merely as intersections now acquire particular identities.

Giles is beginning to learn this, but only partially. He usually gets only as far as a few blocks before Xander hails him.

Some days, he hasn't even left the flat.

"Are you following me?" he asks the third time Xander interrupts an errand.

"Nah," Xander says and scrubs his fingers through his hair. "Just trying to help you out, that's all."

Giles opens the door and hangs his jacket over the seat. "I'm beginning to suspect you're employed by some shadowy automotive cabal dedicated to preventing pedestrianism."

"Caught me." Xander bobs his head and grins. "Why walk when Detroit's finest can get you there in style?" He glances into the backseat, which is, as usual, littered with fast-food wrappers and oversized drinking cups, then pats the glove compartment, sealed to the dashboard with duct tape. "Okay, style's kind of a relative term there."

"Yes," Giles says. "It certainly is."

"Point being," Xander says, rather more loudly than necessary, "the car is a beloved symbol of all that is fair and good about this great republic of ours."

"Such as?" Giles asks. The car is pulling away from the curb, heading toward the business district. Xander has yet to inquire after his destination.

Xander chews his lips for a moment, holding up his hand for time. "Liberty, definitely liberty. Convenience, of course. Personal, uh, personal -" His hand circles vaguely. "That thing where you're large and in charge?"

Giles cannot help smiling a little. "Autonomy?"

Xander points at him. "Good word. Yeah, autonomy. Auto-nimmy, get it?"

"Loud and clear," Giles says, then wonders, not for the first time, whether he ought to be concerned that, increasingly, Xander and his peculiar deformations of language make sense to him. "The fact remains, however, that I'm not an American. I'm excluded from all these qualities, however glorious they might be."

Banging the dashboard, Xander shakes his head vigorously. "Nope, that's where you'd be wrong." He hits the dash again, apparently for emphasis, causing a knob on the radio to fly off. Ignoring it, Xander continues, "Very wrong, my intelligent and English, yet surprisingly naive, friend."

"I see. By the way, I was heading to the liquor store."

Checking over his shoulder, Xander makes a wide right. "Should've said something. Sneakiness isn't very American, either."


At some point, Giles begins to lose his reticence about asking Xander for rides. This point, however, is already ineffable and difficult to pinpoint. He realizes, almost subconsciously, nearly as a matter of course, that he prefers Xander's company to the quiet of yet another solitary walk.

He gets enough quiet at home. Although he has made good progress on an assortment of translations and an updated concordance of Slayer lore, he misses the bustle and noise of the library.

Since the girls started college, Giles has lost touch with the daily rhythms of the children's lives. They are, for one thing, hardly children any longer; they haven't actually been children for much longer than he cares to admit.

These rides with Xander, then, become his sole regular contact with his charges. They are, to be sure, poor substitutes for the library. Paltry, perhaps, but far better than the alternative. Better this, bickering and getting lost twenty miles from home, than sitting alone in his flat.

"Walking's totally un-American," Xander tells him on the drive back from the antiquarian bookseller in Santa Barbara. A copy of Loquado's De belli contra demonii has finally made its way into Giles' hands; he's already unwrapped it, unable to wait. Despite Loquado's persistent Latin mistakes and malapropisms, it should prove an invaluable resource.

"Mmm," Giles replies, deep in the index. He holds his place with his index finger. "I'm sorry. What was that?"

"How you're un-American," Xander says. "How by walking, you're violating everything that we hold dear. Stalin walked, you know. Uncle Joe? Big on the walking. Probably Mussolini, too. And Hitler, well, everyone knows he was a huge hiker."

Giles clears his throat. "That may be the case -"

"Also Himmler! Fat guy, but he walked everywhere. Not sure about Goebbels, but I've got two words for you: Goose. Step. Not goose cruise, or goose roadtrip, no -"

"As surprising and, frankly, surreal as this history lesson is -" Giles starts. He stops when Xander glances over at him.

"It's World War II week on A&E. You noticed, huh?"

"I do listen," Giles says.

Xander rolls his shoulder against his chin. "Thought you watched."

"Not officially," Giles points out. "Not since Buffy's last birthday."

Snorting, Xander starts to grin. "Technicality. Barely counts."

He really is the oddest person - it would appear that Xander has thought about Giles, and his current situation, and come to a conclusion. Only Giles is not sure what that conclusion might be. Xander seems to assume that his thoughts are as legible, easily discernible, as his emotions are.

But while his feelings may be read in a glance at his face, his thoughts are another matter entirely.


"You know," Xander says one afternoon, "if you're gonna keep mooching rides, I should get something in return."

He grins and ducks his head, apparently embarrassed, just after he speaks. Giles is familiar with this gesture - it means that Xander is attempting to nullify whatever it is he just said, to pass it off as a joke.

Giles knows that he owes Xander a great deal for all these favors. He is indebted to the lad, but confounded at how, precisely, to repay Xander of all people. He seems to lack for nothing, save such things, like ambition, direction and self-esteem, that Giles cannot give him.

"Perhaps," Giles says later, as they pull into his drive after a trip to the music store, "you could come for dinner?" Xander's mouth opens slightly and Giles adds quickly, "It's no bother, and I would like to -"

Xander straightens up slightly, fingers drumming on the wheel. "You don't owe me."

"Of course I do."

"No," Xander says, a little softly, "it's just what friends do."


On Tuesday evening, having dispatched a nest of Sra young - and quite handily, Giles thinks, considering that Buffy had a night class and could not accompany them - he wipes clean his sword's blade and claps Xander on the back.

"Well done," he says. Xander had handled the fight superbly, with a minimum of yelping and an economical grace with the dagger that Giles fancies he learned by watching Giles. "Very well done."

Xander grins. "Chop, slash, hack? No big. Don't know why they need a Slayer for this."

"Indeed," Giles says. He is flushed with the excitement of the kill, with the exhilaration of victory, and, just possibly, with the thrill of independent success. "As a matter of fact -"

Eyes widening, Xander grabs at Giles' shirt with both hands, yanking him close. They are nearly face-to-face, his fingers digging into Giles' chest, his breath hot and sudden on Giles' cheek.

"Xander -" Giles begins, shocked at the boy's forwardness. But Xander pays him no mind, instead wrestling the sword from Giles' hand and waving it over his head, pushing past Giles.

Giles ducks. Behind him, something crackles, then squishes, and in a moment, Xander is leaning on the sword, helping Giles back to his feet.

"Sorry. Another baby," Xander says, shaking bluish ooze off the blade. "Things have more comebacks than Howie Mandel."

Giles nods, attempting - and failing - to regain his breath and his balance. Xander has not yet released Giles' elbow; he, too, appears to be struggling for calm. His cheeks are stained red, sweat glittering along his hairline.

"I say," Giles finally manages, forcing himself to look away from the sight, from Xander, tousled and gleaming and breathing heavily. "That was unexpected."

"Every night's a surprise party on the hellmouth," Xander says. His hand slides upward to grasp Giles' shoulder. His grasp is sure, and broad, equal parts comforting and exciting. Squinting slightly, he adds, "We should probably get that looked at."

"Erm?" Giles blinks several times, but his vision does not clear. "Get what looked at where?"

Xander licks his index finger, then touches Giles' temple, which does seem to be throbbing rather more painfully than usual.

"You," Xander says, brows knitting together briefly. "You and that oozing gash there."

"Oh." He'd thought Xander was making a pass at him. Ridiculous. Absurd. He straightens his back and pulls gently out of Xander's reach, adding, "Oh, yes, of course."

He is surprised at the disappointment in his voice.


The following Friday, Giles has a follow-up appointment with the neurologist. He had argued, unsuccessfully but passionately, against the need for such an examination. With as many concussions as he has racked up in the past three years (and those, Xander reminded him in a whisper, are only the ones that the hospital knew of), there was no escape. The insufferable nurse informed him of this with something like glee, if it is possible for such a cow to feel anything close to delight.

He sets out shortly after breakfast, thereby giving himself plenty of time to walk to the Medical Arts Annex for his 10:15 appointment.

It proves to be a lovely morning, cooler than average, large clouds like clipper ships scudding to the south. When a horn toots behind him, about five blocks from his flat, Giles ignores it. The horn is a shrill sound, much more like a child's bicycle horn than anything else. He doesn't know anyone with a bicycle.

The horn sounds again as a small black hatchback pulls up alongside him, matching Giles' pace.

"What do you want?" He turns, squinting against the sun, irritated out of proportion.

Keeping one hand on the wheel, Xander leans across the passenger seat and opens the door. "Hey, Giles. Climb in."

"This isn't your car," Giles says, remaining on the sidewalk. Xander's car is much larger, an old maroon American sedan; this is hardly a car at all. It appears to be fashioned from tin foil and plasticine, and is barely big enough to hold Xander, let alone the two of them.

When did he become so aware of Xander's size? When, precisely, did the breadth of Xander's shoulders and the length of his limbs impress themselves on Giles' mind?

Surely he has always noticed such things.

So why is Xander's voice, in the back of his mind, saying, 'don't call me Shirley'?

And why, moreover, is Giles smiling at that awful pun?

"Earth to Giles," Xander says and pats the seat. "You dawdle out there much longer and Nurse Ratched's gonna have your head. Permanently."

That nurse was a horror. Mere mention of her is more than enough to push Giles into the car.

Afterward, Xander insists on treating Giles to ice cream. "It's what my mom always used to do after I went to the doctor," he says, then frowns. "Okay, once. And I'd broken my arm. And the ice cream came a couple months later. Same difference."

It has always been easy for Giles to dismiss Xander in his mind. He is loud, and silly, and very young. Yet, as he finishes his dish of 'my God, could you be more boring?' French vanilla ice cream, Giles is sure of one thing. Loud Hawaiian shirts and crap puns work just as well as tweed and precise subordinate clauses when it comes to disguising oneself.

"Would you like to come in?" he asks, unlatching his seatbelt.

Xander has managed to drive one-handed, holding his triple-scoop monstrosity with the other. He hesitates now, tongue curled around a fudge chunk. "Depends. Are you being polite again?"

"Well, yes," Giles says, momentarily baffled. Of course he's being polite; it's the least he can do.

"Then no." Xander bites into the chunk and chews it loudly. He slaps Giles on the shoulder. "Shoo."

Giles remains seated and turns the empty paper dish in his hands. "I'm sorry?"

The top scoop of ice cream starts to slide off its fellows as Xander brandishes the cone at Giles. "Don't need to be polite to me."

"Of course I -"

"Forget it." Xander slumps back, rescuing the scoop with a long lick, and does not look back at Giles. "Stuffy English guys and their politeness," he mutters, as if Giles is already gone. "Stodgy jerks."

"I beg your pardon?"

With one swift motion, Xander leans across him and pushes open Giles' door. "Nothing. Bad mood. See you tomorrow?"

Tomorrow a prince of the outer depths is due to rise. Giles tripped over the portents on yesterday morning's jog, just outside the old Lover's Lane. Charred mammal bones, arrayed in a rough pentagram pointing east: they could only mean one thing.

"Yes," Giles says faintly, unfolding his legs and climbing out. "Thank you."

Before he can close the door, Xander is already turning the key and gunning the motor.


The so-called prince is, in Xander's terms, a total poseur.

He is no demon, just a UC-Sunnydale junior meddling in the black arts when he'd be better off mastering glamours to conceal his chronic acne and overwhelming halitosis. Disgusted and disappointed in equal measure, Buffy and Riley hustle him away a bit more forcefully than is strictly necessary. Willow follows them, citing an important, not-to-be-missed Wicca meeting.

This leaves Giles sitting uneasily in the front seat of Xander's sedan. Lover's Lane is deserted; according to Buffy, it hasn't been the same since the werewolf attacks in 1998.

That's a shame, Giles thinks. The lights of the town are spread out before them like necklaces glittering in a display case.

Beside him, Xander fiddles absently with a knob, then the lighter, his knee jiggling against the steering wheel.

They haven't spoken since their quarrel, or squabble, or misunderstanding - whatever it was - over ice cream.

"Lovely night," Giles says at last.

"Yeah, gorgeous." In the quarter-light from the dash, Xander's down-turned face is a vague collection of softly textured shadows and long eyelashes that brush his cheeks. He knits his fingers together in his lap, almost as if he, too, is annoyed by his fidgeting, and sighs out through his nose. "Look, Giles, about yesterday? Forget it, would you? All of it."

Xander's kneecap is sharply outlined through his jeans. It bobs into the light, then down into the shadows, then back up.

"All right," Giles says. "Consider it forgotten."

"Liar." Xander turns, smiling slightly, the corners of his mouth deepening as he bites his lower lip. "Probably impossible for you to forget anything. Probably remember word for word the first book you read."

"Hardly." Hesitantly, Giles returns the smile. "Remember, I'm quite advanced in years, and the memory is the first thing to go."

Snickering, Xander turns around to face him fully, crossing one leg beneath the other, resting his elbow on the steering wheel. For such a large frame, he is strangely pliable, almost boneless.

"Still getting used to you in jeans," Xander says after a bit, musingly.

"I imagine, then, that Fyarl-me came as something as a shock."

Xander rubs his jaw. The faint sound of whiskers rustling stabs into Giles' memory, making him think of early mornings with Ethan, late nights with other men. He swallows decisively and leans a little forward as Xander says, "Freaky doesn't cover it, nope."

"I never apologized to you for that morning," Giles says. It's true; he has been hoping, he supposes, that the others would forget the Fyarl fiasco, though he never will. "I am truly sorry."

"Forget it," Xander says. Light plays over the line of his shoulders, long and flexible, as he stretches, then settles back against the door. One hand circles slowly. "Just glad you came back."

Giles cannot be sure, but he may be blushing. All the familiar shame sinks into his pores. Perhaps it never left. Determined not to let it get the better of him, he keeps his voice light. "I do wonder why - given that I am apparently un-American, stodgy, overly bookish, and all the rest - why you continue to seek out my company."

For a moment, Xander squints at him, blinking rapidly, before his expression relaxes into a smile. "Because you're Giles."


"I mean, geez. Insecure much?" Xander smiles more widely and Giles can't be sure, but his voice seems to soften. Go slightly rough at the edges, like a well-used flannel. "You're Giles, right?"

Now he is blushing, make no mistake. His face warms, slowly at first, then in a rush, prickly patches of heat. "Oh," Giles says. "Oh, well -"

He doesn't want Xander to say anything else. He should never have spoken in the first place. This moment seems, increasingly, endless and terribly embarrassing.

But if Xander is anything, he is talkative. Nothing will ever change that, and certainly not one half-mortified, fully-unemployed middle-aged Englishman. "I've been thinking about this, right? And even if Will had never done that spell, I am a demon magnet, but it's not like it's my fault. Same as the whole Fyarl thing wasn't your fault."

"Xander -"

"Let me finish," Xander says, leaning over to face him and pressing Giles' shoulder back against the seat. "This is a thought and you know me and thoughts. Have to let 'em in when they do happen. So." His forehead creases and he shakes his head slowly. "Where was I?"

Honestly, Giles hasn't the first clue. "Demon magnets, perhaps?"

Xander nods. "Right, demon magnet. Not my fault. Fyarl? Not your fault. Because the hellmouth, see, it makes for strange bedfellows."

Bedfellows. The sound of that, spoken in Xander's faintly hoarse voice, trembles in the air between them. The prickling heat over Giles' cheeks and down his neck increases in time with his pulse, propagating across his chest. "I thought -" He swallows twice. "I rather thought that was politics."

"Politics, hellmouth. Six of one, dirty dozen of the other."

When Xander smiles this time, it is not a grin, nowhere near a smirk, and there is no trace of doubt or silliness there. It simply is, his curving upper lip widening, his cheeks folding softly.

Giles returns the smile wholeheartedly. This is an unexpected kindness, a surprise that is not in the least shocking, but familiar. Somehow, familiar, the texture of Xander's skin - softly stubbled and very warm - against Giles' palm, the hollow of his temple where a pulse beats gently against Giles' fingertips. His thumb traces the swell of Xander's lower lip, pressing a bit harder when Xander grasps his shoulder and pulls him closer.

Xander is still smiling, the arc of his mouth brushing against Giles' own smile, his hand closing around the back of Giles' neck. Strong fingers knead the top of his spine and Giles hears himself sigh out. Feels the warmth of his own breath caught between them, then licks it off Xander's mouth, slowly, gently, until Xander's lips part and kiss him back.

This is awkward, twisted and contorted as they are in these bucket seats, the parking brake digging into his calf. Awkward and familiar, rather like every nostalgia-laden American film Giles gobbled up in his youth. Lover's Lane and necking in cars, the sweet whisper of stubble against his own and strong push of fingers down the back of his shirt, up under its bottom hem, as they wrap around and around each other, the kiss sliding shallower, then throbbing more deeply.

There are any number of reasons not to do this. He should not do this out of indebtedness, he should not become involved with someone so young, someone for whom he has found himself responsible. He should not, but Xander's odd, sideways genius has, once again, careened into the right answer.

Strange bedfellows, indeed. Giles does this because he wants to, because Xander tastes like the night air and brings his own warmth with him like a second skin. Because he is no more the monster Ethan hexed him into resembling than the repressed librarian he once played, no more than Xander is the jesting fool. Because they are, unaccountably and marvelously, friends.