Don't Ask, Don't Tell


Part One

Rupert Giles looked nervously over at Lindsey, who was buttoning up his shirt. “So remember, as far as Aunt Helen is concerned, you’re here to care for the horses and do chores about the place. It’s not exactly a lie—you do those things after all.”

“Among other things,” Lindsey replied, waggling his eyebrows. “And I get it. We’ve been through this about a million times. I still ain’t happy about it, though.”

“I know. And it’s only for a short time. But she’s an elderly woman and she’d find you quite . . . unsuitable for me.”

Lindsey snorted inelegantly. “I wasn’t so unsuitable an hour ago when I was riding you like a mustang.” He tucked in his shirt, fastened his jeans, and buckled the belt.

“And that’s just exactly the sort of thing I mean,” said Giles.

Lindsey had begun to walk to the bedroom door, his limp barely evident, but he stopped and turned to look at Giles. “And what is it about me that makes me so unsuitable, Rupe? ’Cause I’m a guy?”

“Well, yes. For starters. Also you are not a Watcher, you have a decidedly checkered past, your family background is . . . questionable. And you’re American.”

Lindsey had his hands on his hips. “Anything else? Like, maybe the old biddy’ll object if she finds out I’m one-sixteenth Cherokee, or maybe my hair’s too long, or—”

Giles put his hands firmly on Lindsey’s shoulders. “I’m sorry. I truly am. But she’s in her eighties. Her outlook on life is old-fashioned.”

 Lindsey stuck out his lower lip in a pout that, under other circumstances, Giles would have found adorable. Or deserving of a spanking. Perhaps both. “I understand old-fashioned,” Lindsey said. “But it’s your house. You shouldn’t have to cover stuff up in your own house.”

“It’s our house.” Which was true. Giles had recently added Lindsey’s name to the deed, so the family home near Bath was now jointly owned. “But it’s also the house where Aunt Helen and my father grew up, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and she wishes to make one last visit. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that she enjoy the visit without experiencing major trauma. It’s only for a few hours, after all. And then we shall go to the pub and I shall snog you thoroughly in front of everyone, all right?”

Lindsey’s lips turned up in a lopsided grin and he allowed his fringe to fall down over the front of his face in the way that he knew drove Giles wild. “Public pub-snogging, Rupe?”

Giles swatted his lover’s bum. “Perhaps even a grope or two.”

“Mmm,” Lindsey purred, and leaned against Giles. He had to tilt his head up to breathe into Giles’ ear, but Giles did so love the way those heavy muscles felt as they moved against him, the knowledge that all that power willingly belonged to him now, the memories of what those muscles were capable of. He embraced Lindsey and nuzzled his clean-shaven cheek.

But Lindsey stepped back, out of Giles’ arms. “Fine. I’ll play your game. But only if you agree that next time we go to the George, you’ll take the stage with me. And I get to choose the songs.”

Giles winced. Last time he had agreed to that he had been forced to perform a version of “Sweet Home Alabama,” much to the amusement of the patrons of the King George Inn. But he had to admit he was asking rather a lot of Lindsey, denying their relationship in their own home and demoting Lindsey from beloved to hired help. Not that the hired help fantasy wasn’t one they both fancied every now and then . . . but this was not a bedroom role-playing game.

“Very well,” Giles said.

Lindsey smiled so triumphantly that Giles wondered if the concession hadn’t been his intention all along. With a wry shake of his head—and a reminder to himself that his lover was a former evil lawyer—Giles followed Lindsey out of the bedroom.

Aunt Helen arrived a half hour later, precisely on time. Her son Robbie—Giles’ cousin—had driven her in his boring but spotless Vauxhall Astra, but he stayed outside in the light mist, smoking cigarettes under the protection of a chestnut tree. He and Giles never had got along, not since they were small boys and Robbie, who was a few years the elder, had stolen some of Giles’ prized toy soldiers and then denied the crime.

Giles hadn’t seen Aunt Helen in years, although they always exchanged Christmas cards. She was short and round, with a battleship-prow of a bosom, a floral dress with a pleated skirt, sensible shoes, and a brown hat with flowers pinned to it. She looked every one of her years and her movements were slow and pained-looking, but her eyes were as sharp and bright as ever.

“Hello, Aunt Helen,” Giles said when she arrived at the door. “I’m so glad you could visit.” He bent down so she could kiss his cheek, no doubt leaving a smear of lipstick.

“Delighted,” she said, and allowed him to lead her inside. He took her to the parlor, which was largely untouched since her girlhood days. Giles and Lindsey spent little time there, preferring instead the cozy library or the room—the man cave, Lindsey called it—that they had furnished with comfortable leather furniture, a flat-screen television, and a shockingly expensive but very good stereo system. The parlor, on the other hand, featured dowdy wood furniture, faded needlepoint upholsteries, and Giles’ grandmother’s collection of porcelain dogs. Lindsey called it The Museum.

Using Giles’ hand for leverage, Aunt Helen managed to seat herself on the yellowish sofa. She looked about and nodded as if she approved of the décor.

“Would you care for some tea?” Giles asked her.

“Yes, please.”

The kitchen was next door. Giles plugged in the kettle and spooned tealeaves into the pot. While he waited for the water to heat, he arranged some biscuits on a plate. Nothing too fancy or too hard to chew; Aunt Helen had always had troubles with her dentures. When the water boiled, he allowed the tea to steep for a few minutes, then poured it into three cups. Sugar and cream and lemon slices were already waiting on the tray. Finally, with a deep breath, he carried everything back into the parlor.

“Three?” Aunt Helen said when he set the tray on a spindly little table. “Very kind of you, dear, but I doubt my Robbie will be joining us.”

“Erm . . . yes. But Lindsey McDonald might.”


“My . . . my hired man.”

She blinked at him. “You hired a Scotsman? I find the accent so hard to understand. Those horrid rolled r’s, you know.”

Giles shook his head. “He’s American, actually. Of Scottish ancestry, I expect.”

“Oh,” she replied, her face making it clear that Americans' accents were even less savory than Scots’. “A colonial.”

Giles wasn’t sure whether she was joking, so he simply nodded and handed her a cup. She added some cream and sugar herself, and although her hand shook a bit, she didn’t spill a drop. Giles took his own tea straight, although he rather wished he’d been able to sneak some whiskey into it. He seated himself opposite her, in an uncomfortably lumpy chair.

He took a sip of his tea. “You’re looking well,” he said.

“Nonsense! I look like what I am: a decrepit old woman. I can hardly move with my arthritis, my heart goes into palpitations at a moment’s notice, and my bowels—”

“Yes! Well . . . time does take its toll, I expect.” He cleared his throat. “Terrible weather, isn’t it? We’ve—I’ve hardly been able to ride at all lately with the rain and the mud, and my heating bill is enormous.”

“Central heating,” she replied with a sniff. “A lot of nonsense, I say. We used the fireplaces when I was a girl, and we managed quite well. People today are simply spoiled.”

“Erm, yes. I expect we are.”

They sat there for several minutes, neither of them touching the biscuits, while Giles cast wildly about for a suitable conversational topic. Just as he was about to bring up the weather again, the door from the kitchen swung open and Lindsey walked in. His hair was damp, as were the cuffs of his jeans, but he was wearing tennis shoes instead of boots. He smiled at them both. Aunt Helen’s pencil-thin eyebrows rose to her hat brim.

Giles rose to his feet. “Aunt Helen, this is the man I was telling you about, Lindsey McDonald. Lindsey, my aunt, Helen Chapman.”

“Nice to meet you,” Lindsey said, and stuck out his hand.

Aunt Helen looked doubtful for a moment, then touched his hand only briefly before dropping hers back to her lap.

“Would you care for some tea?” Giles asked, and hoped that Lindsey would decline.

But Lindsey didn’t. “Don’t mind if I do,” he said with a grin. He picked the last cup off the tray and plopped himself down into the chair next to Giles. He slurped noisily, which made Giles struggle to suppress a glare. The boy didn’t even like tea.

“So, Mr. McDonald. Have you lived in England very long?” Aunt Helen asked.

“Nope. Just a couple of years.”

“And what brought you here?”

Lindsey snuck a quick look in Giles’ direction. “Oh, well, a change of pace, I guess. And I got kinda banged up in an accident back in the States, and it seemed like a good place to recover. National Health, right? And lots of fresh air. Not so much of that in LA.”

“You are from Los Angeles?”

Lindsey shook his head and grabbed a biscuit from the tray. “Nah. Texas. But I’ve lived in La-La Land for a while.”

“Oh. Texas,” she replied, as if he’d said Mars instead. “I expect that explains your . . .  your interest in horses.”

“Yep. I do like to ride me a bronco.”

Giles set his cup onto the tray with a clatter. “More tea?” he said, probably more loudly than necessary.

Aunt Helen gave him a look. “I am still drinking this cup, Rupert, and if I have more than one I shall never make it to London with forcing Robbie to stop somewhere. And those petrol station toilets . . .” She shuddered delicately.

“London’s a great city,” Lindsey announced. “I mean, I’m really more of a country boy, but as cities go, it’s a good one. Old. Not like the States, where everything’s practically brand new.”

She gave him a long, appraising look, and then nodded before drinking a little more of her Earl Gray. “And what did you do before Rupert took you on, Mr. McDonald? Surely you weren’t caring for horses in Los Angeles.”

“Nope.” He stuffed the biscuit into his mouth whole, chewed two or three times, and swallowed. “Not a lot of call for that in LA. Actually, I was a lawyer.”

“A solicitor? And how does a solicitor come to be a hired man?”

He shrugged and took another biscuit. “Like I said. Change of pace. I decided . . . my old life wasn’t a good one. My clients, well, they weren’t so nice and neither was I. But here with Ru—with Mr. Giles—I can be proud of what I’m doing.” He shot Giles a significant look and popped the biscuit into his mouth.

Giles squirmed uncomfortably and Aunt Helen turned her sharp gaze on him. “And what have you been up to, Rupert? Too young for a pension, aren’t you?”

“I’m still working. I . . . I consult when needed, sometimes for my colleagues in Scotland and sometimes for . . . well, colleagues in LA.” He hated how this woman made him feel like a tongue-tied youngster again, a youngster who was in danger of being upbraided at any moment. Perhaps it was her strong resemblance to her brother. Giles’ father never had been able to look at his son with seeming to judge him, and harshly at that.

“Colleagues in Los Angeles? And who might they be?” she asked.

“Well, there’s a Slayer there. Kyna. And her . . . her husband.” He sighed. “Angel, who is a vampire with a soul.” There went Aunt Helen’s eyebrows again. He might as well tell her the rest, he decided. “There’s another souled vampire there as well, and his partner Xander, who is a werewolf. Also Wesley Wyndham-Price, who was once a Watcher.”

“I remember the Wyndham-Prices,” she responded, not sounding as if she approved.

“He’s a good man. He’s had a hard time of it. But they do excellent work there. They’ve defeated several very dangerous enemies, as a matter of fact.”

She drank her tea skeptically, then set the cup down. “And when you’re not consulting?”

“I do some research. We’re—I’m compiling a list of demons unique to the southwestern United States; their diets, habits, weaknesses, and so forth. And my diaries are quite extensive. I’ve gradually been putting them in order.”

She humphed noncommittally then waved her arm in the air, indicating her desire for assistance in standing up. Giles rose to help her, but Lindsey got there first, hauling her to her feet with a smile and even a courtly sort of half-bow.

“I should like to see the rest of the house,” she announced. “Just the ground floor, of course. Can’t manage the stairs.”

“Of course,” said Giles. He hadn’t expected her to venture upstairs, and it was a relief that she wouldn’t try, because then she might notice that the bedroom was shared, or at least realize that only one of the bedrooms was currently being used. He looped his arm through hers and led her slowly into the kitchen. Lindsey tagged along behind them.

Aunt Helen sniffed disapprovingly at the microwave and clucked at the coffeemaker, which had been one of Lindsey’s additions to the household. She opened one of the cupboards and peered at the collection of breakfast cereals and spices that was stored inside.

The library met with more favor. She commented on several important volumes that Giles was missing and said his edition of Greystoke’s Malificus wouldn’t do at all, but she did like the method in which he’d organized the books and she actually smiled at his collection of hex-reversal spells. “You’ve Singh and Kruszynski! That’s excellent, my boy. Everyone always thinks that if they have Singh they have enough, but Kruszynski has much better treatment of bad luck hexes.”

Giles found himself beaming with pleasure over the praise, at least until Lindsey butted in. “He searched for months for the one by the Polish guy. I told him to go online but he wouldn’t listen. So then I looked for him, and there it was on eBay. Got it for practically nothing, too.”

Aunt Helen tilted her head at him. “You do more than look after the horses, then.”

“I do a lot of stuff for Mr. Giles. Jack of all trades, you might say.”

Giles tugged Aunt Helen along by the arm. “Did you see the Arkanti talismans I have over here? Quite rare. Xander—he’s that werewolf I mentioned—he found them for me in Africa. Sierra Leone, I believe.”

She looked dutifully at the little statuettes and then moved on to explore the dining room, where she was very pleased to discover her grandmother’s china still in use. “Spode Canton,” she sighed, running a finger delicately along one plate edge. “It always seemed so exotic to me when I was a little girl. So special. King George himself didn’t dine off anything finer, I believed.”

“You may take them with you, if you like,” Giles said gently. “Lindsey can pack them in some boxes and—”

“No, no. What does an old lady like me need with china? You keep them. Just make sure you appreciate them, mind you.”

“Of course.”

She nodded and inspected the table, which was a new one and not very large. They didn’t often have company and they both preferred a more intimate setting. Lindsey probably would have been content eating most of their meals in front of the television, in fact, if Giles didn’t insist they eat properly.

The next room was a small loo, which Aunt Helen glanced at briefly, remarking that the plumbing seemed improved from her days. And that left them with the man cave. There she walked around slowly, staring at the various electronic components as if they might be demon species, narrowing her eyes especially at Lindsey’s laptop. And she spent quite some time looking at the photographs of Buffy and her children, of Dawn, of Willow. And of Spike and Xander, who were always touching one another, always looking completely and happily in love. Even when Spike tried to scowl and look menacing, he couldn’t hide the adoration that shone in his eyes for Xander, nor could Xander suppress goofy grins aimed Spike’s way.

“These are the colleagues of whom you spoke?” Aunt Helen asked after a time.

“Yes. They’re . . . well, I’ve known them all for ages. They’re nearly family, really.”

“It’s an odd sort of family, Rupert.”

He smiled wryly while Lindsey snorted and muttered, “You don’t know the half of it.”

That completed the tour. They found themselves back in the entry vestibule, where she glanced slightly longingly up the stairs and then straightened her shoulders. “Thank you, Rupert. I’ve quite enjoyed my visit. And it’s good to see you’re taking good care of the old place. A good house deserves to be loved, just like a good person.”

“You’re welcome back anytime, Aunt Helen.”

She shook her head. “I shan’t be returning. It’s such a bother for me to make the journey, you know, and in Robbie’s awful little box of an automobile. And he whinges about it so, as if driving me here is nothing but torture.”

“I could always come fetch you—”

“No, you needn’t bother,” she said with a wave of her hand. “This was enough. I shall leave with my good memories of this home intact.”

Giles thought she would turn to leave then, but she didn’t. Instead, she walked creakily over to where Lindsey stood, leaning against one wall with uncharacteristic diffidence. “You’ve made a good decision, young man. This is a good place to recover. To find a new life.”

Lindsey bobbed his head. “Thanks, ma’am.”

“Let me give you two pieces of advice. First, don’t let Rupert boss you about too much. He’s always was a bit of a tyrant as a child, always thinking himself so intelligent, as if he knew best about everything.” She pointed a finger Giles’ way. “He’s a bright enough boy, but doesn’t know as much as he believes he does.”

Lindsey’s eyes sparkled and he was clearly struggling to keep a straight face. “I’ll definitely keep that in mind. But you know, the hired man, he’s gotta do what the big guy tells him to.”

She glared in Giles’ direction. “And that brings me to the second item. The next time he tries to get you to pretend you’re not his lover, threaten to stop having sex with him. That will set him straight.”

As Lindsey nearly collapsed with laughter and Giles suspected he might now know exactly what apoplexy felt like, Aunt Helen turned about and marched to the door. She paused at the threshold, however, and without looking back over her shoulder, added, “Be good to one another. There’s little enough love in this world. One should treasure it when it is found.” And she left.

Lindsey slowly closed the door behind her.

They stood there in silence for several minutes. Really, Giles was still too shocked to speak. But eventually Lindsey sauntered over and patted Giles lightly on the bum. “Go find your boots, boss man. We’ve got a gig tonight. Pub snogging is on the agenda. And I think tonight’s a good night for a John Denver tribute. You know the words to ‘Country Roads?’”

And with a chortle and what might even have been a “Yee-ha,” Lindsey went off in search of their coats.

The End