Title: Seeing from the Right Side
Notes: One month post-Chosen.
Summary: Xander accompanies Willow for a night out. Complications ensue.
“So, is this your thing?”
You turn to look into the face of the blond guy standing on your left. “What do you mean?”
“The whole rugged look. The eyepatch. Makes you look sexy.”
“It does?” Anya had said so, but you thought she was just looking for sex.
Like this guy... Oh.
You glance toward the dance floor where Willow moves like a girl who hadn’t been deserted by her girlfriend two weeks before. “I’m just here with a friend.”
“So you’re not...”
“Won’t say I’ve never considered it.” Once. One flash of something, a long time ago, which you’d buried further than the rubble of Sunnydale, because it was never to be acted upon. Ever. Even on those nights when you were feeling a little “lonely”.
The guy is speaking to you. You catch the tail end of his question. “...considering it now?” He slides his hand down your back.
“Tonight I’m just here with a friend,” you reiterate, moving off the barstool to get a bit of distance from the blond guy. You stick out a hand. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
The guy grabs you by the arm. “Look, I’m trying to do you a favor here. You think anybody is going to approach a one-eyed...”
You clench your hand into a fist, but then, from behind you, “Xander.”
Well, this is just great, you tell yourself. Now the one-eyed freak has a daddy fetish. Shit! Where did that come from? Might as well go with it.
“Giles!” You turn around and mouth the word “sorry”, just before pulling Giles into a kiss that goes on just long enough for the blond guy to walk away.
“What are you doing?” Giles asks, and then since it’s obvious to everyone within earshot that you were kissing him, he clarifies, “Here. What are you doing here?”
“Willow needed some cheering up after the train-wreck that was Kennedy.”
“Ah, very good.”
“Been here a while?”
“Half hour. There’s a bar by the entrance. I hadn’t realized everyone here would be so...”
“Gay? Well, Cleveland is a new environment. You want a drink away from that lovely Hellmouth action so you come here because it’s a bar.”
“Well, that’s a tidy explanation. I was actually going to say ‘young’.”
“So you knew.”
“Yes, Xander. Between the pink triangle and rainbow neon lighting, I had sussed it out.”
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“Seeing as how you’ve more or less ruined my chances for...”
“Giles, I beg of you not to finish that sentence.”
You motion the bartender over and give the drink order. “Another diet, a scotch neat...” You spy Willow crossing the dance floor. “And a strawberry margarita.”
“Hey,” Willow says to Giles. “We needed back at the base?”
“No,” replied Giles.
You smile at her. “Look at you, getting your groove back out there on the floor.”
“It was fun.”
“So, see anyone you like?”
“I don’t know. The dancing is fun but once we start talking, it’s different. I guess I got kinda spoiled being around people who knew about stuff like slaying and witchcraft and, well, here, everybody’s so normal.”
“And to think, they live on a Hellmouth.”
“We used to be normal too. No, no, think about it. When it was me, you and Jesse everything was just ordinary. We didn’t know anything. We were just like these people.”
“And now, we’re the one-eyed freak, the witch, and the old guy.” You raise your glass in a toast to the three of you.
“Hey!” says Giles.
Willow glances around at the rest of the people in the club. “You kinda are. What are you doing here anyway?”
“I came here for a drink.”
“There’s a bar downstairs in the hotel.”
“Let it go, Wil.”
“I’m just saying.”
“This music is obscenely painful.” Giles states in a deliberate attempt to change the subject.
“It does make the Dingoes sound like Nirvana.”
“Oh, hush. It’s perfectly fine.” Willow scolds and then there’s a brunette at her elbow asking her to dance. “Keep my drink cold,” Willow says, shoving her margarita at you, before heading back to the dance floor.
You turn back to the bar, frowning into your diet soda. “What happened to the girl that used to blush every time I smiled at her? I wish we could go back. Like she said, back when we were norm- oblivious to everything. I’d have two eyes and be buried somewhere at the bottom of a crater, but we’d be – I don’t know – us. Happy, oblivious us.”
Giles places a hand on your shoulder and squeezes gently.
“I’m sorry I’m such shit company. Maybe you should be out there.” You gesture toward the dance floor, only half-hoping he’ll go. “Meet somebody who can take your mind off everything for a minute.”
“I don’t think that’s possible.”
“Meeting somebody or the other?”
“Both, perhaps. As you so kindly put it, I am the ‘old guy’ in this place.”
“Some people are into that.”
“I’m not interested in filling some sort of role.”
“You’ve got the sexy British thing going too.”
“You think so?” Giles mused, a faint smile touching his lips.
“Oh yeah, totally. Very James Bond. But Connery Bond, not Roger Moore.”
“He’s actually Scottish.”
“But still a lot sexier than Moore.” You go still as you feel Giles’ fingers drift over your collarbone to settle at the pulse point in your neck.
“Thank you,” Giles whispered, close enough to your ear to send your pulse rocketing.
Relax, Xander. He probably didn’t notice.
“Xander?” He seems farther away now.
You turn your head to face him. And he’s. Right. There. So close that if you had two good eyes, they would have to be crossed to look at him. You have a headache from the thumpa-thumpa of the music and to try to focus right now is killing you. So you do the natural thing, you close your eye.
A signal, considered since the first time man laid eyes on woman or on other man or woman on woman, to be a green light. Or whatever the hell they had back in the days before traffic and green light analogies.
So you shouldn’t be surprised.
His hand changes position slightly on your neck, holding you in place as he touches his lips gently to yours. Once, twice, then pulling back.
“Giles,” you say, opening your eye to look at him. He’s covered his mouth with his hand and looks at you with what appears to be regret.
His next words confirm your theory. “I’m sorry, Xander.”
The bitterness has been building for a long time and this is the moment it chooses to spill out. “That’s right. Mustn’t lead the freakshow on. I know I must disgust you. Imperfect. Incomplete. Cyclops guy. You know, I had to beg Willow to come with her tonight. She went on and on about this not being my scene and then ditched me for the dance floor as soon as she got here.” All right, the second part of that wasn’t entirely true. You told her to get out and dance because you were tired of her swaying into your left arm.
“But this isn’t your scene.”
“An hour ago, I would have said the same thing about you. Go find yourself a pretty boy to hook up with for the night.”
“Guys, are you okay?” Oh great, just what I need.
“Willow, do you mind if I take Xander home?”
“You feeling okay, Xan?”
“I’ve got a headache. You stay here. Have fun. Remember I get to live vicariously through you tomorrow.”
She rubs your back. It relaxes you somewhat. “See you in the morning.”
The drive back to the hotel is silent. You want nothing more than to head up to the room that you share with Andrew, take a Vicodin, drift off to sleep, and forget about tonight.
Not that it matters. Giles is leaving for London next week. You’re supposed to go with him and the rest of the original Scooby gang, but now, maybe it’s for the best that you stay here with Faith and Wood.
Willow and Buffy will call. I’ll be okay. It’s not like they actually need me there.
There’s more silence in the elevator. Two floors to go. One. The doors open. Ah, sweet free-
Why can’t he just leave things as they are? He’s making everything difficult.
“Good night, Giles.”
He lays a detaining hand on your arm. “Come with me, for a moment. I want to show you something.”
“Let me guess, your collection of etchings.”
Giles says nothing in response, just sighs and walks in the direction of his hotel room.
You tuck your key card back in your pocket and follow him down the hall.
Giles opens his door and waits for you to step through. You flip on the lights. The room is similar to yours, only there’s one bed in it and the position of all the furniture is flipped. There’s a picture of some abstract art on the wall – his has splashes of green and pink while yours and Andrew’s contains overlapping yellow and lavender circles. “Nice room,” you mumble.
“Sit down.” It’s not polite. It’s an order. You pull out the stiff-backed chair behind the desk and face him.
“What did you want to...?” The rest of your question dies on your lips as Giles begins unbuttoning his shirt.
“Um, Giles, I’m just gonna be going now.” You start to edge off the chair.
It’s enough to get you to stop moving.
Giles removes the shirt, folds it and lays it on top of the desk. “What do you see?”
“Look at me.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“What do you see?”
“You. Half-naked you. I’ve seen you without a shirt before Giles.”
“Would you say I was perfect? Complete? What do you see?”
Throwing your words back at you hurts more than you’ll ever let on. “It’s different.”
“This body marked with scars and age lines. Is it attractive?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to be honest.”
“When I look at you, I don’t see scars. I see where Buffy’s nicked you during training,” you say, pointing out a particular recent mark. “I see where Angel tortured you.” You graze your fingers down his chest. “I see where demon claws have left their marks. I see the remnants of your youth.” Your fingers travel over the place where the tattoo used to be. “I see strength and courage, safety and passion. And as for age lines, they mean you’ve survived. Which considering everything we’ve been through, counts for a hell of a lot.”
“How is that so different than what I see when I look at you?”
“It just is. Let it go, Giles.”
“No.” Giles kneels in front of you, touches your face. “I went to that club tonight because there was something that I felt I needed, but after five minutes in that place, I discovered that I would rather be with someone I could talk to, someone that I wouldn’t have to play the game with. And I realized that I probably wasn’t going to find anyone like that in there. I had every intention of coming back here to see if you wanted to join me for a friendly drink at the bar downstairs. But then I looked up and there you were. I don’t think you have any idea how... relieved I was to see you tonight.”
“Oh” is all you can get out because he keeps talking.
“I’m just very sorry that things went out of control like they did.”
You nod, even as you tell him, “I’m not.” You lean down, pressing your lips against his, continuing your downward momentum until both of you are on the hotel room floor. He chuckles softly against your lips.
“You sure you don’t want to do this on the bed.”
“Too fast,” you say, but to appease him, you roll with him until your back is against the floor and he’s on top of you. You rake your fingernails down his back and he growls against your lips. You take advantage of the opportunity to slide your tongue into his mouth, tasting the scotch on his breath as your hands move up again to tangle in his hair.
“Xander,” he whispers, dragging his mouth from yours and kissing along your cheekbone. He kisses your eyebrow and all the skin that’s left exposed around your eyepatch. And after every kiss, he whispers some new adjective – caring, strong, beautiful, selfless, courageous – words that you’re not entirely sure describe you.
But you’re starting to believe.