It rained more in Cleveland than in Los Angeles. Giles had had this fact explained to him at great length by Xander and Buffy both. He merely smiled and said he was rather used to rain, thank you, though yes, he agreed the thundershowers were exciting. And he was even used to rainy stakeouts, waiting in a cramped car while rain drummed on the roof and his vocally suffering Slayer did the dirty work in the wet. On this night, in this particular rainstorm, Giles sat with Xander in the group’s little Honda while Buffy and Rona chased a Polgara through the state park on the lake. They’d refused to let the two non-Slayers come with them, and Giles was forced to admit that Buffy’s reasoning was sound. She had backup she could trust now.
It rained, the humidity was dreadful, and the house they’d bought with the last of his money was a wreck, but it hardly mattered. There were four people left in the world whom Giles loved, and so long as he was near them he was content. Though the waiting always tried his nerves.
Giles sat in the driver’s seat, mostly dry and perhaps a trifle too warm, and drank tea from the thermos he’d provided himself with. He swatted Xander amiably when he attempted to turn on the radio. Xander seemed not to mind, but got his revenge by slouching far down in his seat and propping his feet on the dashboard. Giles glared, as expected.
“Xander. It may be battered, elderly, and frequently inoperative, but it is our only transport. And it is not improved by your bootprints on my windscreen.”
“Relax, man. Have some more of that soothing tea stuff, and do what I do. I’ve got this wait in the car thing down to a science.”
Giles had already given up. He joined Xander in the slouch, sliding down in the seat until his knees bumped the dash. “Oh?” he said.
“C’mon, sitting in cars for hours is a grand tradition. Long cross-country trips, drive-ins, make-out spots. It’s where we all lose our virginities.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“I’m in truth not speaking for myself here. I lost mine in a rathole motel to an insane chick who is, these days, a poster child for the concept that sanity can be regained, debts to society paid, and all kinds of weird stuff forgotten. But Giles! The American dream! The little deuce coupe and the pink slip. Fast cars parked in secluded locations. Recline the seats, look at the stars through the fogged-up windshield, try for first base if not the full home run. Paradise by the dashboard light.”
“I think I’ve been in the colonies far too long. I understood that.”
“Teenagers are universal. Surely you lived in a car when you were young, dumb, and uh, hormonal.”
“No, can’t say I did. We had a little car, but I wasn’t allowed to drive it. In London I didn’t need it anyway. Didn’t learn to drive until the Council taught me in my twenties.”
“And taught you they did.” Xander had more than once expressed admiration for Giles’s skills with driving at speed and with emergency maneuvers.
“And anyway, I spent most of my teen years away at public school, quite an old-fashioned one. Boys only. My experience was different to yours in many, many ways.”
“Pip-pip, cheerio, give us a kiss ducks, yo. So how did you lose your virginity, then, if not in the back seat of a car at a drive-in?”
“At university. Met someone at a party, snogged him frantically in the corner, then went back to his rooms. Where, ah, things proceeded as they are wont.”
“College, huh? That’s later than I expected for you. Hold it. Woah. Did you say he?”
“Oh, did I let that slip?” Giles’s voice dry enough to burn away the fog on the inside of the windscreen.
“You said he, you so very much said he. I thought you were straight as the ruler you threatened me with that time I–” Xander broke off and collected himself. “All the evidence we had on you said you were a chick guy.” Xander ticked off names on his fingers. “Miss Calendar, Olivia, Buffy’s mom…”
“Oh! Oh. Yeah. Right. Was he the guy at the party?” Giles shook his head. “So there’s been more than one? Enough for a trend?”
“Yes, Xander, significantly more than one of each sort.”
“So you’re bisexual. 'Kay.” Xander settled back into the passenger seat, seemingly content to have made this determination, and more than a trifle smug.
Giles rubbed at the fog on his window and peered out. No sign of Buffy and Rona, but he didn’t expect them for another hour yet.
“That’s another difference. You Americans are obsessed with putting everything into pigeonholes. I’d tick the box marked ‘unsure and frankly indifferent to the question’.”
“Hey, man, you can’t blame me. I’m just stoked to learn one of your secrets. You play everything so close to your vest and always have. Wouldn’t be surprised to find out you’d been married and had three kids and just forgot to mention them even once in the last seven years.”
Giles shook his head. It wasn’t so much an urge for secrecy as habitual reticence, simple good manners. And they hadn’t often asked him for details, even as they broadcast their own secrets to all and sundry. Though Buffy had known this one for years; apparently she’d been discreet about it.
“Besides,” Xander said, not noticing Giles’s moment of sulk, “it gives me some company. If the army of women in the house with us tries those stereotypes on me one more darn time, I can just point to you and say, hey Giles is no good at interior design either, so just shut up.”
Giles turned in the seat to see Xander better. “Did I miss a memo? Because your implication is, er, well, that you’re, ah, um–”
“Gay now. Yup. Wait. You hadn’t heard? I came out to Andrew by accident two weeks ago, and he talked about nothing but for a while. Dropping cryptic hints that he would explain at length if you stood still for more than ten seconds.”
“I listen to Andrew as little as I can possibly manage.”
“But this must have been what he meant by that bewildering business about friends of Dorothy.”
“Cuff me, gag me, mount me, that twee stuff drives me nuts. Anyway, it was a big secret and now it’s not and I am, as you can observe, feeling comfortable about that. I’m not so big with the secrets, unlike some British guys I could name.”
“I’m happy for you,” Giles said, with as much conviction as he could put into the words. He did so want all of them to be happy with themselves and each other. “What, er, what led you to this realization? Because, forgive me, things with Anya seemed serious for quite some time.”
“I slept with Spike, if you’ve gotta know.”
Giles stared, reduced to stunned speechlessness for the first time ever in Xander’s presence. Xander didn’t seem to notice but rattled on.
“It was mind-blowing though unfortunately not that other kind of blowing. When I could think again, I realized I’d been waiting all my life for that. Not that I said so to Spike. The first time I could say was just an accident, too much of that horrifying Jim Beam stuff. The fifth time I had to admit I liked it liked it. I finally got that whole thing Willow did about ‘gay now’ and stuff. At the time I was thinking, what was Oz? Chopped liver? Now, okay, yeah, Anya was definitely not chopped liver, but what I really wanted all along was the spicy mustard for my sausage.”
Giles snorted. He felt the giggle he’d been suppressing since he’d heard the name ‘Spike’ bubble up in his chest, and he put his hand over his mouth to keep it inside. Xander pouted.
“Shut up. Shut up. This is tender intimate confession time, not mock Xander’s metaphors time. Though maybe I’ll just stick with ‘gay now.’ Simple, classic, timeless, does not drag in disturbing food products all dripping with subtext.”
Giles made a complicated gesture with the hand that was not clamped over his mouth. Xander either interpreted it correctly or decided not to worry about it, Giles wasn’t sure which.
“That was Sunnydale, and I did some stealth dating in the last months there. Most of them were demons, as usual. Been trying to meet people here, but let me tell you, Ohio is not California. And turns out I kinda hate bars.”
“Never liked them myself,” Giles said, once again in control. He’d always been so shy, anyway. It took weeks before felt comfortable enough with someone to make a move. Unless he’d drunk enough beforehand, and he’d sworn off that. Sometimes he felt lonely, up there in his room at the top of the house, but he’d grown used to it. And there were compensations. He’d resigned himself to doing without and muddling through.
“Went through a bar phase anyway, despite the cheap calories. Making up for lost time, doing all the stuff I should have been doing all along. I thought I enjoyed sex before, and I guess I did, but it’s a whole new thing now. Women just aren’t into what I’m into.”
Giles wondered what might make Xander say that. In his experience, women were into exactly what men were into. Perhaps it was just how recent the revelation was for Xander.
“It’s all right if you come out the other end of that,” he said, carefully. “Took me a few years before the penny dropped that I could enjoy women as well. No need to choose sides if I felt I didn’t want to.”
Xander shrugged, with the magnificent casualness that youth had. And Giles had to admit it didn’t matter. Xander might feel that way and he might not, and so long as he was happy with himself Giles didn’t care.
“Hey, are you okay? Normally you’d be glaring right about now and begging me to put a cork in the disturbing sex talk.”
Giles’s turn to shrug. He wasn’t entirely sure himself. Perhaps it was just that Xander was one of his closest friends now. He’d lost everything else, but he still had those three, Buffy, Willow, and Xander. Giles watched Xander re-settle himself in the passenger seat and tug at the knees of his canvas trousers. He’d developed a habit, perhaps an unconscious one, of touching the corner of his left eye, the one that he’d lost. He had a convincing fake there now, and at times Giles forgot the loss, but Xander likely could not. But it hadn’t damaged Xander’s core, that cheerful heart, and that knowledge made Giles’s own heart squeeze.
“Long night ahead of us waiting,” was all he said.
There was silence between them for a few minutes. Just the rain on the roof and the windows, and a gust of wind rattling wet leaves outside the car. Giles was pleased to notice that the silence wasn’t strained. At least not for him, and he doubted Xander was ever in danger of feeling awkward about the conversation. His feet were back on the dash, and he was thumping on his knees with his thumbs. Giles watched his forearms flex. He’d taken up weightlifting in the last few months. He had scavenged a set of free weights from somewhere and set them up in the basement, which was passing as their training space. Giles heard the sound of the weights clinking at all hours when he ventured down there, the Slayers spotting each other or assisting Xander. Xander’s body was hard, thick with muscle where it had never before been thick, and slender in the waist. Giles wondered if this were his adaptation to his new identity. Had he made himself over as an object attractive to the men in those bars? The thought disturbed Giles even as he admitted that Xander’s strong shoulders and biceps were indeed attractive.
That thought, once in his head, did not wish to leave. He found himself imagining Xander at those bars, going home with someone. What did Xander like? Was it at all near what Giles liked? The question made something flutter inside him that had not fluttered in years. He felt almost giddy and his hands were unsteady where they rested on the steering wheel.
“Hey. Just thought of something,” Xander said, his voice cheerful. “This means Buffy’s the only straight Scooby. The rest of us are bent like the Corkscrew at Cedar Point.” Xander looped his hand through the air to illustrate.
Giles shook his head and entirely failed to suppress the giggle. “You might ask Faith about that. Though I don’t think the incident’s been repeated.”
Xander slid his feet down from the dashboard and sat bolt upright. “Oh my God, my God, my God, my brain just melted. Good thing I didn’t know this at the time. I might have spontaneously combusted.”
“Both of you slept with Faith and with Spike. So you’ve slept with Buffy by proxy, as it were. Your dream come true.”
“Oh, God, you’re right.”
Giles watched Xander writhing in mock pain in the passenger seat, hands in his hair, knees up to his chin, face alight with mischief.
He decided at that moment to take a risk. Later he wasn’t sure what moved him to it. His personality until that day had been notable for his willingness to risk his skin for important causes while carefully shielding his heart from all danger. It had taken him days to work up the courage to speak to Jenny. Why, then, it was the work of a moment to decide to say what he did to Xander, he couldn’t understand. Perhaps it was that he’d known Xander for so long, had fought alongside him for so long, had finally relaxed with him, already knew he loved him in one way. Perhaps he’d made the decision already, at the very moment he’d decided to confess his sexuality to Xander. Perhaps it was that giddy ache in his chest, the one that told him he’d been holding tight to strong emotions for far longer than he ought.
Whatever the reason, Giles said, “I’m curious. Which location would you prefer for sex in a auto? Front seat or back?”
“Huh, good question. There are arguments for both. And, hey. Hold it. Did you just make a pass at me?”
Giles raised his eyebrows at Xander and waited. Xander studied his face, trying to sort him out. Giles let the corner of his mouth curl up, and gave Xander a tiny nod. Xander’s smile flashed out in return, and Giles’s chest ached even as a wicked grin escaped his control.
Xander said, “Back seat. Definitely back seat. More room for making out.”
He flung open his door and Giles did the same. Dove out into the rain, slammed the door, leapt over slippery tarmac and lunged, then they tumbled into the back seat, hair and shoulders soaked, laughing. Once there, presented with the reality of Xander’s body inches from his, without the gear shift in the way, Giles nearly quailed. But Xander was already reaching out to him, already sliding an arm around his shoulders, already kissing him.
Someone had taught Xander how to kiss, or he’d taught himself, or he was a natural. He was relaxed, eager without being uncontrolled, easy to please and happy to please in turn. Giving and taking, pushing and backing off, nipping at Giles’s throat and allowing his own throat to be explored in turn. His earlobes were ticklish, and he giggled when Giles sucked and licked behind his ears. And he was content simply to kiss. To be held close and breathed in and touched.
Giles was parched land soaking in Xander’s sweet rain. The thought came to him and he laughed at himself. Over-emotional already. Was a kiss all it took to undo him, was he that starved? Cramped in the back set of a car, windows fogged over, snogging like the teenager he had never been, Giles confessed himself undone.
It had been years since he had been with another man. Ethan was the last, the night he’d pulled the demon prank; they’d wrested pleasure from each other in a few short hours of intense grappling, more battle than love-making. But Ethan’s body was so light and lithe in comparison to Xander’s solidity. There was more muscle than Giles had realized in that broad chest, moving against his. Strength against strength. It was exciting because it had been so long, so long that he’d forgotten the pleasures of another bearded chin rasping against his. He fumbled with the buttons of Xander’s shirt and got them open. Found his target, a dark circle of nipple, and licked. Nuzzled his way back up to Xander’s neck, and barely restrained himself from biting. He wanted to, though. Wanted to bite and be bitten, to push Xander down and cover him. Or be covered. It hardly mattered. He was almost frantic with need.
Xander slid his hand down and cupped Giles through his trousers. It had been long enough since anybody else had touched him that Giles had to bite his lip. He pulled away hard and tipped his head back against the car seat. He tried to catch his breath.
“Okay? Going too fast?”
“More than okay. Just, Lord, nearly embarrassed myself.”
Xander knelt up on the seat next to him and rubbed a hand over the center of his chest. He kissed Giles on the temple, tenderly, Giles might have said, except the idea was absurd. They were two men making out in a car, not two lovers. But Xander said, “Wouldn’t be embarrassing. Would be hot. To see you turned on that much.”
“Don’t want this over before it’s begun,” Giles said. His face burned red despite Xander’s assurances.
“We can do it slow next time,” Xander whispered, and that was tenderness in his voice, unmistakable. Next time, he’d said. Giles had heard it, and despite everything he was amazed. “Let me. I wanna do this for you. I wanna see you. You can do me later, any way you like.”
“Please,” Giles said, and he let himself relax against the car seat, let his head rest cupped in Xander’s hand. Xander didn’t lunge for him straight away, to Giles’s surprise. He would have, when he was that age and that randy. Instead Xander kissed him again, in charge this time, patient, slow. Licking at Giles’s lips, completely distracting him from his worries in one way, and reminding him how much he wanted it in another. He couldn’t help but be aware of Xander’s hand on his belt buckle, tugging it open, sliding his zip down, reaching in and taking him in hand.
“Sexy guy,” Xander said in his ear, and Xander had to mean him because there was no one else in the car. “Let it happen. Let go.”
And it was too fast, in some ways, and just right in others, to come like this, half-sprawled across Xander’s lap in the back seat of a car with his boots braced against the window and his head on Xander’s shoulder and his eyes closed.
Xander tugged Giles’s handkerchief from his trouser pocket and put it to use. Giles couldn’t bring himself to move yet. Post-coital melancholy, a little bit of wistfulness. He wished their first time hadn’t been in the back seat of a car, wished it had been more mutual. It wanted something more sweet. He sat up at last and re-straightened his glasses on his face. He reached out and touched his fingers to Xander’s lips. Xander kissed his fingers. He looked pleased with himself, and this made Giles flush again.
“I’d like to do something for you,” he said. “Taste you, perhaps. Would you like that?”
“Home,” Xander said, firmly. “I can wait, and we can’t do what I want to do now in a car. Besides, they might be-- oh crap, here they come.”
Xander shoved away from Giles and buttoned his shirt. Giles tugged his own down with shaking hands, then did up his trousers. Then Buffy and Rona were there, pulling open the front doors and pouring in, over-excited, loud, and wet.
“Hello, Buffy, Rona. Back so soon?” Giles was painfully aware that his voice was high and tense, and that his belt was still hanging undone. They couldn’t help but notice-- the car smelled of sex and the windows were fogged and he’d left bootprints all over Xander’s window.
But Buffy gripped her ponytail and wrung it out, right there in the car, and all Giles could smell now was wet grass and rain. “Soon? It’s taken us two hours and we’re soaked through. My underwear is wet.”
“Killed it, though,” Rona said. “Found its hideout and squish! Hey! There’s tea left.”
“Good, good, well-done.” Giles tried to buckle his belt without obviously doing so, but Buffy leaned over the back of the seat to peer at him. Giles flattened his hands over his lap in a panic.
“Buffy!” Xander said, far too loudly for the enclosed space. “There is no way you are driving this thing.”
“What? I got my license, fair and square without cheating even much at all.”
Xander burst out of the back seat and ran around to the front, and pulled Buffy out of the car. She made a show of resisting him, but of course she wasn’t truly, or Xander would have found himself face-first in the mud. They struggled and squabbled cheerfully, giving Giles time to set himself to rights. He nipped round and installed himself in the driver’s seat before the rain-soaked pair could settle the question of which of them was to drive. Rona, a closet opportunist, had belted herself securely into what Xander called the shotgun seat. Xander and Buffy clambered into the back, still poking at each other.
“Jeez, Buffy, could you be any muddier?”
“Well, what did you expect? I was out demon-hunting while you guys were in here nice and dry, drinking tea with your knees crossed and a string quartet playing.”
“Hardly,” said Giles.
“I know you were up to something involving tea.”
“Don’t get mud on the seats,” Giles said, glowering back at the pair of them. Rona had already put her feet on his dash and was guzzling his tea straight from the thermos bottle. Xander winked-- his fake eye, most alarming-- and Giles put the car in motion before his blushes gave him away. Home, he’d said. And that’s where Giles drove.