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

not what I came for
By Cidercupcakes
For Lesley Lu

It's during the summer where everything is wrong, and none of them dare to admit it. There's a missing piece, something by whose lack they are all the more starkly outlined -- no. Let's not waste words here, Rupert, he tells himself, or sometimes, when he's at his most desperate, he hears her voice, telling him to speak English (so that he wants more than anything to ask her if she appreciates the irony there).

Buffy is gone that summer, as she was last summer, except that this time none of them know where to or when (if, though none of them will admit it) she'll be back.

It's a bright day, just like the day before, and the one before that. They ought to be out enjoying their holiday, making irresponsible decisions, being children, which is exactly what he says to them.

"But you said there was that nest of demons near the park, and Buffy's -- " They all look at Willow like she's called up some ancient Unnameable then, and she changes the subject, meek as he's ever seen her. No one argues with her perhaps not entirely pretended interest, even if no one tries to match her enthusiasm, either.

So they pass the week, and then the month, and soon it's July and they're still maintaining the illusion.

Xander's even glummer than usual; Willow explains (trying, for Oz's sake, to keep as much glee out of her voice as she can) that he and Cordelia broke up again. When Giles supposes that they'll probably make up quickly, she slumps a little and agrees, then forces a smile and tries it again with an attempt at cheer. Oz just smiles, pats her knee, and hands her the glass of that abominable stuff she calls tea (there's ice in it; Giles will only take "when in Rome" so far).

It's busy work, of course -- they're kidding themselves, of course -- and finally they give up, leave him to wallow in his own misery as he's been longing for them to do all day. Nearly all of them, anyway; not five minutes after they leave there's a knock at the door, and Giles finds Xander there, shuffling from foot to foot and looking like someone who has a confession to make. His heart springs when Xander says he has to tell someone, that he is already preparing for "she asked me not to tell anyone she was back yet, but I knew you'd want to know," or "she's at her dad's and bored out of her mind, she just wanted you to think she was gone," because Giles has enough guilt over how he forced her to confrontation by letting himself be caught that he would only be delighted by it for the first few minutes before he recalled how petty it is.

"Willow doesn't know," Xander says, though, and then adds, "and she can't know, ever. I'm serious, G-Man."

"Don't call me that," Giles tells him, and is trying to tell himself as well that this is already not shaping up to be what he's hoping for.

The disappointment is his own fault, of course, but Giles is nothing if not more childish than his charges when he really cares to be, and so he can't help a little resentment that Xander doesn't deliver any kind of end to this torment.

"After all," she tells him, "he kinda already did, remember?" A smirk, and Giles can't help but return it, points out to her that really, it was she who did the rescuing, and they just got out of her way.

Instead it's a confession, one more case of them blaming themselves. Xander explains to him what he'd done, what he'd said, the lie that he'd told. "Do you think -- " he begins, and then abandons the sentence. Giving voice to their doubts means admitting that there is something to doubt, after all, and that means admitting that something is wrong, and none of them will allow for that.

It's an easy out, and shamefully (though really, what's a little more shame), Giles thinks about it for a moment, feels anger flare up in him, because maybe this is his fault, for lying and taking all her hope away instead of giving her something to cling to. Maybe somehow it's not Giles's, then, or not just his.

But even for Giles, even now, that would be a little too much, a little too cruel, and Xander is no Slayer, no girl who needs to hear the hard words sometimes, no warrior to be honed. "I'm hardly going to defend Angel, if you'll recall," Giles tells him. It's no answer, and it's an even longer way from being the absolution that the boy is clearly craving, but he can't bring himself to be that forgiving just yet; he has to cling a little longer to blaming someone else.

He ought to see it coming, ought to anticipate it, but he doesn't, and before he knows, the stillness in his apartment has given way to Xander pressing a quick, clumsy kiss at the corner of his mouth. The progress from there is predictable; neither of them even sheds clothing for it, and when Xander drops to his knees, won't let Giles pull him back up (after all, it would all be acceptable if he just fucked the boy, that would change everything). Objectively, he isn't bad at it, though it's obviously his first time doing it, and after a few nervous looks upwards Giles takes the hint and begins offering him gentle instructions -- "don't be afraid to use your hands" gets him Xander's left hand on his balls, while his right moves a little more around the shaft -- "you don't need to hurry, it's all right" and the fevered pace slows down a bit. It appears his knowledge is still useful for something after all, if only this absurd parody of his training sessions with Buffy.

"Wow," she says, sitting on the stairs and looking over at them. And then -- "..."

It would be something very cutting, of course, or some reference that everyone but Giles will get, which is why the sound goes off, then, her mouth forming words he can't make out.

It would be easy to say that it's just about need, but it would also be one of the greatest of the many lies they tell themselves that summer. Neither of them needs it, really -- they barely want it, for that matter. At its core, all of the sweat and the fumbling is nothing but a feeble attempt to fill the void she's left behind, and to say it fails is the greatest of understatements.

He does try, at least, to do right by the boy, as much as can be done in these circumstances -- sees to it that Xander always spills across his stomach or on Giles's still-balled fist -- and even by his ridiculous teenaged relationship; neither of them speak of it ever, but they never even indicate to each other that they might need it when he and Cordelia aren't broken up.

When she finally appears on his doorstep, she is silent, and for the first time since July Xander is able to look at him. But it barely matters, because Giles can look nowhere but at her.