All The All Of Me


When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state

This is quite the most absurd situation of Giles’s recent years. Surely so, and despite a plethora of competition. It’s a measure of the delirium that unemployment occasionally induces in him that any part of this proposition appeared rational when he agreed to it.

There is the fact that he has a date with his massage therapist. Which was pleasant and flattering when first suggested but - since that cheerful exchange of Why not? It’s not like I’m your doctor. I like to talk with you and Giles’s bizarre Oh… er… very well. That would be… agreeable - has increasingly morphed in his mind into a grotesque mismatch of age and social place. Which, on top of everything else, will probably mean he’ll have to find a new masseur. Dammit. Eighteen months after the torture, he still needs regular sessions, and finding a Sunnydale therapist not into the occult took more time than he wants to lose again.

Which may be why he agreed to the other part. The really foolish part. The part where he was, cautiously, talking to Xander about his situation, and found the boy offering to share his pain. “Because this girl is clearly, clearly demonic. I don’t know how or why, but she will try to kill me on this date, and I’d kinda like you to be there to help with the saveage.”

So here they are: Tandi, Xander’s rather flashy looking date - who is not evidently a demon, though Giles has nonetheless stocked up in anticipation – Giles, Todd and Xander. Xander whose jaw hit the floor the moment Giles introduced them, and who is eating his burger as though every mouthful is trying to choke him.

Possibly, Giles hasn’t previously mentioned Todd’s gender in advance. Possibly that would have been kinder. The boggling is getting somewhat tedious.

In fact, it is a relief when Tandi manifests as a K’var and has to be inculpated with extreme prejudice and some of Giles’s stock of flaxweed. Breaks the tension between Giles and Xander as they get into the old routines. Pretty efficient, for a retired Watcher and a civilian.

It also resolves Giles’s worry about keeping on a friendly basis with Todd, whose horrified face as he backs away is matched only by his stuttering “I thought… those injuries… you were serious about a vampire attack?” and the speed at which he flees.

Not romantic, of course, but Giles hopes he may retain Todd’s massage skills at least. And he’ll be able to stop making up excuses for his various new bruises.

Xander apologises, relatively gracefully, for the gawping. “…I guess we never really think of you and… you know… sex. And with Jenny…”

Quite. It’s never seemed particularly necessary to explain his sexuality in detail. To almost anyone, let alone the children. Though if Giles is seriously proposing to share dates with them, he had better stop calling them children, even internally. Besides, they aren’t – Xander’s an adult, albeit one who has Giles considerably worried with his lack of direction.

Well, they’ve both been left behind by life, to be brutal. Giles is not dating masseurs because they add to his rich and fulfilled social whirl. It’s because he has bugger all else to do.

Bloody, bloody hell.


And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries

Xander was thinking about their disastrous double date the first time he tried to kiss Giles. He cringed a little, remembering how young he’d been, just a few months ago. How heavily in denial about The Gay Thing. How obvious that must have been to anyone who wasn’t Xander.

It was a few days after that date that he’d first jerked off to a mental picture of Giles. Just Giles’s hands, on the table at the restaurant beside Todd’s. Thinking about what those hands might have done later, if not for vampirus interruptus.

Xander hadn’t gone gay for Giles. The stupid thought made him vaguely queasy. But knowing Giles knew what was the what in the wonderful rainbow world that Xander found himself on the verge of... that was good. Comforting. Inspiring. Exciting.

So there was that.

Plus, Giles was always there. He got Xander’s post-school ennui, and didn’t condemn it. He blotted Xander’s bloody nose after Tony finally twigged who the “friend” he was seeing was, and only once offered to beat Tony to death, taking Xander’s refusal with calm. He made sure Xander kept in with the Scoobies, the one thing that still seemed to have meaning in his aimless world.

Giles was there, supporting, teaching, fighting, screwing gorgeous young masseurs nightly for all Xander knew. He got under Xander’s skin, into Xander’s brain. Xander started to think about him in ways that did not include the word tweed. Or Librarian. Or Buffy, Watcher, research or, most definitely, father figure.

Which was why, one evening, when they were both a little bruised and a little tired but also a lot righteously triumphant, Xander leaned over to Giles and said, “I’ve been thinking about this for way too long. So I’m going to kiss you now.”

It did not go as it had in his head, the fifty or so times he’d rehearsed it, apart from the very first nanosecond when Giles’s eyes went to Xander’s mouth and his tongue very faintly touched his own bottom lip. That was enough for Xander’s optimism to start rising. Way too soon.

Giles jerked away from him immediately after, looking horrified if not actually nauseated. “No. No, you can’t-“ He drew a breath, and found his inner stuffed shirt. Xander’s optimism went off to find a rock to die under. “It would be grossly inappropriate. Grossly. I am in loco parentis.”

Xander had no more optimism. But he had a reasonable level of bullshit detector still going. “Nuh-uh. Firstly, I have parentis, they suck, I do not need more. Secondly, you're an unemployed librarian and I work in the fast-paced world of pizza delivery, so where in your contract or mine does it say you're my dad?”

It felt, briefly, incredibly good to say all that. But Xander regretted phrasing it that way, as Giles flinched on the 'dad' part. Still an important thing to have said. Xander did not date guys who wanted to be his dad.

Xander’s optimism peeked out from its rock. Maybe there was something worth living for after all. There could be other guys. Okay, not Giles. Okay, maybe not totally down with the Sunnydale underbelly and Xander's double life as the world's least heroic superhero the way he’d prefer, but still. There could be guys.

But they wouldn’t be Giles. Optimism sighed heavily, and vowed to work with what it could get.


And look upon myself and curse my fate

Mourning kills sex drive. Surely everyone knows that?

And yet, here is Giles, bereaved of his Slayer, yet obsessing. He blames it on summertime. After work, Xander sits in the Magic Box, thin shirt sticking to his warm, slightly sweaty flesh. He’s not even slightly provocative. He has his pleasant boyfriend on hand, the two of them having apparently got closer during the past tragic weeks. A nice young couple. How heart-warming.

Giles is glad that Xander has someone to help him through the loss of Buffy, especially someone as agreeable as Grey. He wishes he had someone to help him work out some of this pain, any way they could.

Not Xander, however much Giles may watch the trickle of perspiration that runs down his neck, into his collar, down onto his chest – Giles is imagining now, but in his mind the picture is vivid. It’s hot enough for the fan to be running on the research table, and Giles imagines the cool breeze it spreads, penetrating that thin shirt and- yes, the draft is enough to shift the fabric, so that it hugs Xander’s chest. Catches on his nipples, stiff in the breeze.

Congratulations, Rupert. You’ve achieved the sexual aesthetic of a pornographic magazine. Soft-core, to boot.

He hopes that this is his midlife crisis, and not a symptom of the way he is mourning Buffy. She deserves better.


Wishing me like to one more rich in hope

Mourning killed sex drive. Everyone knew that. Seemed to be so much crap, in Xander’s experience. But it killed Xander’s relationship with Grey, in the end, too sad and quiet for Grey, who gave it a few decent months, but still left for a better life in San Francisco and didn’t understand why Xander wouldn’t come too. Xander shrugged, though it hurt. Guys who could walk out on Sunnydale in its time of need weren’t guys he could be with long term.

Giles left. That pretty much finished Xander. Not the way it did with Grey; he knew Giles was running, not walking, fleeing the pain of inevitable failure, not heading for a happy new life. But he still left Xander behind to manage the fallout. Stared at him all summer, while Xander let Grey slip away and salved his ego by torturing Giles with his apparently newly-irresistible self.

There had been moments when Xander could feel opportunity poised and inviting. He could have picked up where they’d failed before. But it wasn't the time. He didn't have the stomach for losing another friend, and he was pretty sure Giles wouldn’t be staying in touch if Xander had tried anything this time.

Surprisingly, Giles did keep in touch. His computer-hatred was such a Scooby joke that it felt weird to be emailing, but evidently hotmail won out over moral objections, for convenience. It was fun, sometimes, sending Giles internet funnies and getting Oh Good Lord in return. Giles sent him a picture from England, sinister steaming hot springs vanishing into a gaping rockface. “Hellmouth, do you suppose?” Xander came very, very close to offering to drop by and help with the research. He could do that, right? Cross continents in the cause of fighting evil?

Giles on email was more fun than Giles on the phone, more relaxed and willing to play. It felt like a step further in their relationship, but after the catastrophe last time he tried something, Xander wasn’t going to push.

Even Giles’s stark fear when they resurrected Buffy felt right, to Xander. He was glad someone was asking the questions. He was glad Giles wasn’t leaving Xander out of the loop. Different to Watcher-and-sidekicks or teacher-and-students; it was a new relationship.

It felt like partnership.


Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d

It is oddly pleasant to have returned to Sunnydale, apocalypse notwithstanding. He has felt so very solitary since he left. "One man against the world" dignifies his struggles. One man, though, is exactly what he has been, lately. It’s good to be part of his family once more.

It is, admittedly, vile and undignified to bed down on the kitchen floor, but now that Xander has joined him there, it’s better. Better than sharing with Andrew, anyway. And it feels good to have someone to chat to after one tough, tedious day succeeds another.

After the disaster with Faith and the girls, it’s Xander who keeps him going. They share guilt over Buffy, share nursing duties, put the surviving weaponry back in order – are a pair, working together as though it hasn’t been months since they really spoke. He changes the dressing on Xander's eye, and apologises silently for not preventing that loss. Xander shakes his head, because he doesn't expect Giles to fix his life these days.

It is beyond comfortable, familial. It is partnership. It’s perhaps time Giles accepted that thought, and considered what it might mean.

He thinks this, in the atrium, as they split up for what, logically, they have to assume is the last time.

He thinks it again as, miraculously alive still, they usher bloodied children onto the school bus, and he’s buoyed by the knowledge that Xander is there, safe, ahead of him, even as he frets for Buffy until her tardy appearance on the bus roof. Not the last time he will see Xander. There is, perhaps, time for them.

Though not if Xander’s falteringly tactful words on the bus are any guide. Giles listens, bewildered, as Xander gingerly suggests that Giles must be pleased that the Sunnydale mission is resoundingly complete. That he, obviously, will be heading off alone for England sometime soon.

Giles keeps calm right up until the moment Xander nudges his shoulder in a comradely way. "It’s okay, Giles. We don't have to stick together now."

"We bloody well do." Those words explode from him, unbidden. The moment they are spoken, he knows they are a covenant. A covenant with Xander, specifically. He’s had enough of self-delusion.

Xander knows it too, judging by his smile.

They’re going to do this. Giles returns to tending severely injured teenagers, smiling inappropriately wide.


Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope

It felt earth-quakingly new for something with a guy he’d known for seven years. But Xander was going on a date with Giles. An actual date. Out of Sunnydale. No stakes, no demons. Candles and… imagination failed, but Xander was sure Giles would come up with some other things appropriate to an early relationship.

Heh, relationship. He might actually be having a relationship with Giles, if this went well.

About damn time. After three years of yearning had come four months of frantic, stupid coping and rationalising and organising. No one had a life outside for that time. Way too much needed. Xander wondered if Reconstruction felt like that, and was weirded out that he remembers even that much from history class. Maybe 1865 was a year of major blue balls for those guys. Man, how did they cope without internet porn?

It wasn’t a totally barren few months for the not-yet relationship of Giles and Xander. There had been moments, really good moments of rediscovering each other and working together to form something better for the future. Also, they had kissed. More than once. Xander was hopeful that this actual date would be the cue for a kiss after which neither of them would jump backwards and apologise, which was how it had gone so far.

And so it went. Good food that pleased both of them (yay, steak). Talking, with interest and no awkwardness (yay, demons). A kiss, that both of them sank into. Stupid stuttering kiss-failures of the past had been the preparation for this, when Giles’s mouth met Xander’s and there was no oddness or awkwardness. Kind of the reverse.

Xander wasn’t a first date slut. Honestly not. But after this date, there was actual sex. This was surprising. Xander had assumed, what with the fumbling efforts to get a first kiss going, that actual sex was a few decades in their mutual future. Not so much. From kiss to hands in new, extremely welcome places took maybe thirty seconds. There was a moment when they exchanged startled glances, almost freaked by how freaked out they weren’t. But (shrug) they could work with not freaked.

Giles tasted almost exactly like Xander would have guessed, and it was a surprise and a thrill all the same. He was a little rougher, more demanding, than in Xander’s early fantasies but that was good. Xander had grown up since then, and learned more about what lay under Giles’s tweed layers.

Now, of course, he discovered that literally.

He lay looking up at the ceiling, after, trying to stop the bubble of happiness showing on his face. Then, fuck it, let the huge grin beam up into the night. Giles rose up on an elbow at that very moment. Their eyes met, and Giles’s lips twitched, tempted to join Xander’s silent celebration. But he bit it back, still playing the librarian a little.

Couldn’t apparently resist a few words of triumph though. “About bloody time.”

Xander reached up to pull him down, bringing their celebrating mouths together.

Oh yeah.


With what I most enjoy contented least.

Six months after their first date, they are technically, sort of, living together as a couple. Giles knows this, because his bedroom is a mess, he can't find anything in the kitchen and all his books and albums are in the wrong order. Albums, he can almost understand – Xander likes to play the vinyl sometimes, marvelling at the difference from his own CD sounds – but books? Giles is pretty sure Xander doesn’t read anything without pictures.

He says as much, one night, and gets a hurt look. Deserved, of course. Who doesn’t have a few dubious hobbies? And patronising is never a good look.

But then there are the nights Xander stays out with some of the trainee Watchers, rolling in after midnight full of drunken affection that Giles simply doesn’t have the energy to respond to, especially on a work night.

Not that he wants to draw attention to that in those terms. Two decades of age difference are making him edgy about confessing to tiredness. He’s exercising more, eating better and has rarely felt so bloody exhausted. It turns out to be rather tiring, having a younger man in tow at the same time as trying to recreate a worldwide supernatural-fighting organisation.

He’s glad that Xander has a job out of the fray, though the contrast of an eight-to-five construction job against his own constant toil is sometimes grating.

As the months are passing, Giles is learning to dislike himself. He hears his thin, elderly voice carping at Xander. Not just cracks about his reading habits, but comments, glancing or pointed, about mess, about modern music, about careers that count versus jobs that can be left at the office. He means virtually none of it (apart from the stuff about the electronic pap Xander considers to be music). It’s a reflex, acquired from years of playing the ancient fogey for Buffy’s amusement. But he’s tired enough and tense enough that the fun sometimes drains out of him. And it’s Xander who bears those moments.

Even his sanguine, unworried nature will crack eventually, Giles knows, but he’s still surprised when it does, after six months and one week.

“You can stop this anytime.” Xander doesn’t look angry, more calmly resolved.

Giles tries to bite off his response, but the reflex, “Stop what?” proves to be inevitable.

“This effort. You don’t have to do everything for everyone.” Xander sits down on their sofa, close to Giles’s exhausted form. Giles watches with interest as Xander leans towards him. “You don’t have to work so hard. Definitely not for me. I know who you are, Giles. I know you’re exhausted. Who wouldn’t be? You don’t have to pretend to be Superman. Turn off the phone, switch the TV on. I’m gonna get some beer. We’re just gonna sit tonight, okay?”

Giles manages one faint protest. “You’re still calling me Giles.” He tells himself that he resents it somewhat. It keeps a distance between them.

Xander leans towards him, gently butting shoulders. “Yeah. It’s your name. Sorry.” The affection in that makes a mockery of Giles's protest. He's never honestly felt like a Rupert. Perhaps it's time to accept the inevitable.

They sit quietly. As they do, Giles realises this is what he needs. Togetherness. Also, a quiet night in. They have a little time. To relax and talk. To… He sternly counsels his cock to stay out of this, but it has no effect. He is lazily moving towards arousal.

Xander Harris is a wise, wise man. Rupert Giles should remember that.


Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising

Stupid. It wasn’t a great word to have buzzing round your brain, but it had set up home in Xander’s.

He was just incredibly stupid. Not for fucking up this one time, although, yeah, could have done without the near-death experience and minor Apocalypse issue. But stupid to think Giles wouldn’t react the way he always did. With resignation, and a sigh, and a Daddy’s coming to sort out the kids' mess vibe. Which, considering what Xander was doing with him right up to the Apocalypse-ish, squicked Xander so hard it was almost more important than the near death.

So he'd left. And he didn't know where to go with himself. Because away-from-Giles hadn't been an option since he was fifteen. But now away was the only option.

He went to Buffy, and crashed on her couch, covertly. It was uncomfortable. More so after the first week, when she stopped pretending it was okay any more.

More than once – hell, possibly more than once a day – Xander wanted to phone Giles and ask to come home.

But not this time. Not apologising, because not in the wrong. If Giles couldn't or wouldn't see him as an equal, there really wasn't anything to go home for.

And someday, he'd stop calling it home.


Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate

Giles is alone again. It isn’t entirely his fault, but he knows he hasn’t done enough to make things right. His subconscious appears to have been taken over by Oprah or one of her ilk, suggesting wise options for reconciliation. Which he will, if he can find Xander.

He has been searching for over a month before Willow offers to forward an email. Not perfect, not for Xander, who isn’t ever going to be a person who prefers written communication. But Giles tries, because it's a chance. He manages to make it brief, considering his usual style. He aims for contrition, though not self-abasement. It isn’t after all, entirely his fault. Xander did something absurdly dangerous, and he really is overreacting by walking out after Giles's concern. So there's no need to go overboard.

It is possible he is also somewhat self-conscious about transmitting it through Willow.

But it works. Up to a point. The point being that Xander calls, and Giles finds himself almost weak at the knees trying to force that one call to bridge the chasm between them. It’s awkward, but it’s good. They both give a little, to the point where meeting up seems the only possible next option.

Facing Xander, after the fury and then the silence, should be daunting. It isn’t, somehow. They have enough history to take them beyond stiff introductory noises, to the point of actually talking.

“I don’t think you’re an idiot. You must know that.”

“Okay. No. But you don’t take me seriously.”

“I do. I do very much take you seriously. Rather more than I think is good for you.”

“That. Right there. That is what you do. You decide what’s good for me, and then there's no more discussion. You just walk away, like it's all decided.”

Giles takes a long breath. He is tempted – oh, how very tempted – to snap back. Something about it being Xander who walked out on him. Or how Xander doesn't make good choices, and someone has to. Or- Well, almost anything guaranteed to destroy this attempt to address their differences. So, "What needs to change?" Admittedly, his voice is a trifle strained. But it's worth it.

Xander says simply, “If we’re doing this, we’re equals.”

“Of course we’re equals. I’ve never-“ But Giles’s analytical brain is working, rewinding conversations past, and impulses of a more recent date. “Oh. Bloody hell. I have, haven’t I? All the time.”

Xander nods, resignedly. “Yeah.”

“You must absolutely hate that.”

“Well… Yeah. Mostly. Sometimes it’s good. Like showing you want everything to be good for me. But… It’s like you don’t think we can be long term. So you won’t let us even try. So we never changed how things were between us. There's a little bit that still the fifteen year old and his high school librarian. And seriously, that does nothing for me.”

Giles is cautious before he says the next thing. It feels important. Even more than what has gone before.

“I’m afraid…” Xander is already flinching away, but Giles knows that, if he can get to the end of this thought without losing his audience, it could all be all right. “I’m afraid that I made one of those assumptions you have pointed out. That you couldn’t possibly see this as long term. We never said anything about it being… But… I would very much like it to be. If you still-"

“Yeah. I very still.”

There is a pause. Then Xander rubs a hand over his face. “This is one of those times when you want to correct my grammar, isn’t it?”

Giles laughs. Inwardly, he already has. But he's learning. "No. I think that sentiment was perfect."

It isn't going to be particularly simple. Xander may have grown up, but Giles was there first. He foresees a long period of self-censorship before equality comes naturally.

A long period, hmm? Already, his subconscious has internalised the long haul. That has to be a good sign.


For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

They had grown old together. Okay, technically, Giles got there first. But Xander had had some accelerated maturity, what with the one-eyed thing and a nasty twang in his back at the age of thirty-one following a demon raising fuck-up which brought an unwanted little extra “Ohhhh, ow” into his life each time he stood or sat down. It chimed beautifully with the clicking of Giles's knees. Mornings could be slow, and filled with mumbles and complaints as the day started and joints protested.

There were days when they grated on one another. There were days when Xander left toast crumbs on the counter and caused some kind of minor stroke in Giles's housekeeping brain or Giles got exasperated when his fun-filled afternoon of research didn't raise Xander's pulse a jot.

But there were days like this too. When last night's demon was good and Slayed. When the coffee was fresh, the breakfast was tasty, and the newspaper held interest for them both. When getting up definitively seemed like a waste of leisure, and they lay reading with muted golden light slanting through the bedroom drapes. When Xander finished the sports section and rolled towards Giles to distract him from financial news. When "old" didn't seem half so important as "horny and in bed with Giles".

This? This was the good life.

The End