First Appeared in Xander's Choice, Aug 2000
Title: Care and Dancing
Archive: sure, if you really want to.
Summary: They dance, Xander gets ill, they fix it. The beginnings of a 'ship.
Disclaimer: not mine, poor, don't sue.
Care and Dancing
"Giles, " Xander yelled as he walked into the small apartment. "Hey, Giles!" He turned around when he didn't get an answer.
"What?" came the grumpy reply from the bedroom. The older man walked out, buttoning up his shirt. "Do you know what time it is?"
Xander looked at his bare wrist then out the window. "Midmorning, or something like that, but I needed to share the news with someone." He got a disgusted look. "Okay and ask for a recommendation but mostly just to share news."
Giles poured some water into his teakettle, setting it on a burner and turning it on before turning around to look at his former student. "Well?" he asked when the younger man had been silent for a while.
"I was waiting for you to have some tea."
"Ah, that sort of news." He reached for his cup, setting it down beside the stove and looked at him again. "Do I need scotch for this conversation?" Xander shook his head, bouncing slightly. "What?"
"I've found my sport!" He almost radiated joy. "Not contacting type, takes rhythm, is a graceful sort of thing..." He grinned, hopping up onto the table to watch his friend make his morning tea. "Ballroom Dancing. And they're trying to get it into the Olympics."
Giles sputtered, coughing the sip of tea he'd been drinking all over the counter and his shirt. He coughed to clear his throat and turned to look at the younger man, scowling. "You timed it that way, didn't you?"
"Not really but it was a happy coincidence." He shrugged and bounced some more, still smiling. "What do ya think?"
"I think you might be able to participate but finding someone around here to teach you might be a bit difficult." The former Watcher carried his mug out to the table, pulling out a chair and scowling at the younger man. Xander took the hint and slid down into it, still smiling. "I looked, when I first got here, but there's no place nearby to get lessons." He took another sip and looked over him. "Why did you make this decision?"
"I was watching movies and when it ended the station was showing a special on dancing. I saw the ease of motion and the nice moves and.... "
"Thought to impress women?" Giles asked.
Xander nodded. "Some, but it looked so easy and fun and I can dance and all so it shouldn't be that hard." He shifted some, picking up a piece of fruit, biting a large piece of it off before continuing. "I thought," he swallowed, "that this was a sport I could do. Something easy and fun looking and it's still masculine so I won't be in trouble with the naysayers."
The older man smiled, shaking his head. "Yes, well, that would all be true, but it's not as easy as it looks. Those people are professionals. They've trained very hard to get where they are, many hours every day as in any other sport. That and lessons tend to be expensive." He took another sip. "And, for the record, I've seen you dance before."
"Hey, I'm not that bad. I'm just... being individualistic." The older man snorted as he took a sip. "I'm not that bad." He started into a pout then got a crafty look. "You know how to do it, don't you?"
"Very well actually. It was mandatory to learn while I was in school, part of our Social Instruction and Athletics program." He finished his tea and picked up the piece of discarded fruit, handing it back to the younger man. "Do finish it or I'll never feed you again."
Xander quickly ate the whole thing, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand until he was handed a napkin. "Thanks," he mumbled as he swallowed. He grinned, setting the napkin down. "Can you teach me? Just to make sure this is something that I *can* do?"
"Certainly." He looked at the clock then at the younger man. "Aren't you supposed to be at work at the moment?"
"Day off." He tapped the table nervously. "There's some big meeting with the regional people and the store was shut down. I'm supposedly looking for another job at the moment." He looked sideways. "Are you sure?"
"About teaching you?" Giles nodded. "Yes, I'm quite certain I remember how. I showed Willow some basics before the Prom so she wouldn't worry so much." He saw the pained blanch. "Ah, so that's when that started."
"Yup. That's when I figured out she was a girl all right." He looked at the table. "So, when?"
"Um," he looked at the apartment then at the clock again. "This afternoon. I need to do some shopping for tomorrow and start some things cooking, then clear out a large area." He smiled faintly. "The only space big enough right now exists in my bedroom and I believe that would be unwise."
Xander grinned. "Giles, I'm shocked." He put a hand to his chest. "What sort of man do you think I am?" He got a slap across the back of his head for that as the older man stood up.
"A very unusual one." He walked into the kitchen then turned to look at his visitor. "Did you want to help me shop too?"
"Only if you want me to." He stood up, pushing in the chair to avoid another frown, then turned toward the kitchen. "I could put in an application there and any nearby places to soothe the savage parents." He quirked an eyebrow. "That is, if you don't mind me tagging along."
"No, not at all." The older man looked down at himself. "Give me an hour. I need to shower and change." He looked at his student. "As do you."
Xander looked down at himself then back up. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"
"Nothing if you want to apply for a job as a grave digger," he muttered, walking back out. "Go put on some presentable clothes and I'll take you with me." He turned the younger man around and gave him a slight push. "Now, out. I'd prefer not to take a shower with you here." He broke out in a full smile as he was left alone, the younger man doing a happy dance out the door. "Xander," he muttered. "One day you'll not surprise me. I hope." He walked down the short hall, heading for his bathroom.
Xander carried in the last grocery bag and set it down on the counter with a groan. "Giles, are you feeding an army tomorrow?"
"Research party," he said, reaching around for the bag. "I'm expecting to feed you." He smiled slightly. "Go relax. We'll start the lesson in a minute." He tossed the frozen bread dough loaves into the freezer and reached for the berries, only to have to take them away from the younger man. "Xander, if you eat them all now, you'll not have anything to eat tomorrow night." He set the container down and turned the younger man around, walking him out of the kitchen. "Now sit and relax while I finish." He shook his head, walking back into the kitchen to quickly put everything else up. He turned, finding the younger man looking over the stack of books pulled for research on the table. "Didn't Buffy tell you why we were all doing this again?" he said softly as he walked out.
Xander jumped. "No, hasn't said a word to me." He turned, looking a little guilty. "We're not really together all that much anymore. What with them being there and me being here and all." He shrugged and sat down on a chair. "So, how do we start?"
"Well," Giles said, looking around the apartment. "We need to clear an area out to do this properly." He frowned at the cluttered room. "But not in here." He looked down at the younger man. "Would you mind if we did this in the bedroom? Or outside," he offered when he saw the wince.
"No, bedroom would be better. I think if people saw me right now, I'd be laughed at so the less open the better." He saw the frown. "Think Buffy." He raised an eyebrow, waiting for his point to get across.
"True," the older man admitted. "She would be most perplexed and possibly unkind about finding us dancing together." He smiled and held out a hand. "Come, let's start this. Manners were the first lessons I learned when I was being taught."
Xander grinned, taking the hand to be pulled up. "Does that mean I have to act polite and stuff?" Giles nodded. "Oh, well, I think I can handle that." They walked into the bedroom together, working silently to clear a large open area in the small room. "Now what?"
"Well, I only know one way to do this. I'll lead for now and you watch. Then you'll lead and show me what you learned." He shrugged and held out his arms. "Come on," he said when he saw the hesitation. "I'm not going to bite you."
Xander walked around the room and closed the blinds on all the windows before walking into the solid arms. "Okay, like this?"
The older man shook his head, adjusting the arms and hands quickly. "Better." He looked down and kicked the larger feet a little further apart. "Much better." He looked at the radio, then removed himself to turn it on, coming back and smiling at the remembered positions. "Very good." He took a step back, pulling the unresisting body with him. "Follow my lead and don't look down." Xander looked back up, grinning and blushing slightly. "I used to get beaten for that. Our teacher was a most unkind woman at times." He smiled slightly and moved again, showing off a simple group of steps.
Xander swallowed nervously but followed along easily. He only looked down a few times, each time correcting himself after a slight pinch to his back. His smile got brighter as each pass got smoother and easier. "See, not so hard."
"Ah, but this is an easy step. And only one of many in this particular dance." Giles stopped and rearranged their hands and arms. "Now you lead." He smiled kindly at the first shaky steps but it turned to radiant pride when they became less hesitant and sure a few minutes later. "Very good. Let's get a drink and move on to a new one, then we'll combine them." He stepped back, letting his arms fall to his side. "All right?"
Xander nodded, happy smile still evident. He followed the older man out to the kitchen, grabbing the soda can he was handed and popping it open. He looked out the window as he drank, spitting it back out. "Um, Giles, Buffy's at the window."
The older man grimaced but went to let her in. "How long were you peeping?" he asked her as she passed.
"Not very." She looked at Xander. "So, what's up?"
"He's helping me with something," Xander said quickly, leaning against the counter to hide his unease.
"In the bedroom?" She looked up at her former Watcher. "Really?" she asked dryly.
"Yes, Xander asked me to help him with a way to get Anya ... away from him. I was showing him something in there." He walked around her, going back into the kitchen. "Was there a reason for you to come today instead of tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I was looking for him." She looked at the younger man. "I was trying to tell you about the research thing tomorrow night."
Xander nodded, emptying his can and crushing it slightly. "I know already, rode over with Giles when he went shopping and put in applications." He shrugged, still leaning against the counter but crossing his feet casually, or at least to fake casually. "How's Will?"
"Same old, same old." She sighed and leaned against the table behind the couch. "What's wrong with your girlfriend this time?"
"Nothing, I just wanted some alone time." He looked at his watch. "Later?"
"Of course," Giles said, setting down his cup. "Anytime after supper would be fine." He smiled as the younger man walked past him with a subtle pat to his arm. "Oh, and if you have something you'd like to try, do bring it with you."
"Sure." He grinned and left the apartment, not slamming the door since he'd gotten that lecture earlier.
"What's really going on?" Buffy asked.
"I was showing him some music she would most likely dislike and some old pictures from my school days," he covered. "Was there something else?"
"No, just curiosity." She smiled and stood up. "I thought, you know, that you might be trying to steal him away from her or something, in which case I would suggest lots of chocolate." She was still smiling as she walked out and he choked.
"I've got to get her away from those novels," he muttered, wiping up his spilled juice, jumping when Xander walked back in. "Oh, good. I thought it was her."
"Nope, not her. I think you're only allowed one Buffy surprise attack a day." He hopped up onto the counter, grinning. "Did you want me to come back later though?"
"No, not at all." He looked at the door and smiled when he saw all the locks thrown. "Good man," he said, waving a hand at the hall. "Shall we?"
"Let's close the windows first," the younger man suggested, hopping down and doing so. "I was lurking and heard what she said."
"I really must have Willow take those novels back." He watched in fond tolerance as every possible way for anyone to look in was covered and the door rechecked. "Satisfied?"
"Yeah," he said softly. "I just don't want them to know."
"Perfectly understandable," Giles soothed, walking him back to the bedroom. He went to the closet, looking through the contents for his box of albums, coming up with the one he wanted with a happy grunt. He watched as it was taken from his hands and carefully started, Xander taking as good care of it as he would. "I didn't think anyone of your generation knew what a record was," he said, amused. He walked back over, taking the younger man back into his arms.
"My parents gifted me with their old system when I was ten. I had to learn how to do it right or go without music." He checked his hands and feet, then looked into the older man's eyes. "Okay?"
"Yes." He waited a beat then started off again, showing off a new step. "This step would follow that last one or might be thrown in elsewhere." They started around the cleared area again, merging them.
Xander looked up over the edge of his book again and smiled at the man sitting across from him, reaching over to steal a cookie off the plate between them. Giles slapped his hand without looking and turned a page, picking up the next to last one himself to nibble on. "You've had enough," he said.
"Na-uh, I've only had three." He shifted, putting the book on the table to lean over it and put both feet on the floor to let them get blood flow again. He snatched a cracker from Willow's plate, smiling at her grunt.
"Xander, go ahead and fix yourself something," Giles said, still not looking up. "I know you're hungry."
"Not an unusual occurrence," Buffy seconded. She looked up and smiled. "Find anything?"
"Not a peep in this one so far," he said, marking his spot and getting up to head for the kitchen. "Anybody want anything since I'm up?"
"Soda," Willow and Buffy said together, holding up their glasses.
He grinned and walked out, pouring some for each of them and putting a new bottle of juice next to Giles. He poured himself some soda before going back, then started to look through the cabinets for some munchies.
"I'd thought you'd know where everything was by now," Buffy said, looking up briefly as she turned a page.
He turned to frown at her. "Buffy, was that a remark or a comment?" He leaned on the counter to stare at her until she looked back up.
"Neither," she said quickly, after seeing the look leveled at her. "Just an observation."
"Keep it for the books please," Giles said, looking up to look at her. "I've already explained to you why he was here yesterday and none of us need to start a fight tonight." He set down his book to look at the younger man in the kitchen. "There's popcorn in the far left cabinet. Why don't you make some." He smiled gently, earning a happier grunt from his target. He looked at Willow, who was watching him. "Did you want some also?"
"No, just wondering why there was a sniping contest again," she said, turning a page and going back to her book. "But, Xand, could you please bring back some nuts or something crunchy like that? I need protein and hard stuff."
The younger man opened a cabinet and pulled out the bag of nuts, frowning at the shells. "Cracker?" he asked.
"Second drawer," Giles said.
"No, I have some of those, thanks any ways," Willow said at the same time. She blushed when the bag and the nutcracker were put down next to her. "Oh, thanks." She turned her head to smile at him. "I thought you were talking the Triscuits type."
He shook his head, going back to save the popcorn before it burned in the microwave. "You ate all those already," he said. He melted some butter while pouring the white kernels into a bowl, sticking out his tongue as he poured the yellow liquid in a nice pattern over top of them. He looked over his shoulder, seeing Buffy still watching him. "Needed something?"
"No," she said, looking back down at her book. "Just watching and staring out into space." She ran her finger down the words, frowning. "Is it just me or is this thing written in another language?"
Giles leaned over to look over her arm. "Olde English. Pre-Middle Ages." He sat back, smiling at the bowl that appeared at his elbow. "Thank you Xander." He adjusted his glasses as he watched the younger man eat. "Please don't get any butter on the books though." He smiled more at the napkin being waved. "Thank you." He picked up a handful of the snack, eating it a piece at a time, going back to his own text.
Willow looked at the clock and frowned, closing her book. "It's late and I've got to finish that paper still," she said. She looked at the pile of note cards on the table. "Do we have enough for tonight?"
Giles started, looking up at her. "What? Oh, yes, of course. You shouldn't ignore your studies for this," he reprimanded gently. "Do you need a ride back?"
Buffy slammed her book closed, coughing a little at the dust in jest. "Nope, got it." She stood up. "Have fun guys, but we need our beauty sleep."
"Yeah, you do," Xander muttered. He turned a page, eating the last grape on Willow's plate. "Tomorrow night?"
Giles looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "It's one am, Xander," he said. The younger man looked up and nodded slowly, silently asking if he had a point. "Maybe you should go to bed also. You do have work tomorrow."
"Nope, place closed today. Just have to go pick up my check tomorrow." He set his feet back down, uncurling from his comfortable chair. "And I just found a reference so I'll go soon as I make the notes." He smiled at the girls. "Sure you don't want a ride? I drove." He pulled over a note card and a pen, jotting down the information he'd just read and the page number, after checking it.
"Nope, we'll walk. It'll work off all those calories you fed us," Buffy said. She grabbed Willow's jacket, holding it out for her as she put it on. "Be safe getting home, Xand." They walked out the door together.
Xander handed over the card. "Just found a large section on our current threat," he said quietly. "But if you want me to go so you can sleep I will."
Giles smiled. "No, I'm not tired. Well, of this anyway." He looked at the information on the card and smiled. "You found it," he said, getting up to move to the chair next to the younger man and pulled the book onto the table so they could both look at it. He read quickly, flipping through a few pages. "Yes, this is exactly what she needs." He smiled as he looked up. "Very nice work."
Xander grinned. "Hey, it took me almost twenty minutes to figure out why I was staring at it." He shrugged. "And I don't start my new job for almost a week. I'll be out at the bookstore by the grocery store. That big chain place."
"Horrible thing," Giles muttered. He looked at the younger man. "They've taken all the charm out of the bookstore and turned it into something commercial and uncomfortable to those who like to read."
Xander patted his hand. "I know, but they pay okay and I'll be working thirty hours a week." He stood up, stretching, then gathered up all the dirty dishes, taking them into the kitchen to be placed in the sink. "Need anything?"
"Just an answer." He paused to pick his next words. "Why don't you want them to know about the dancing? You're doing very well."
"Because." He turned, frowning, leaning on the counter to trace the subtle pattern on it. "I brought up the special I saw and Buffy made rude comments and noises. I just don't want her to know." He shrugged. "I get picked on enough as is."
"Ah," Giles said. "That's reasonable. I thought you might be ashamed of it."
Xander grinned slightly. "Ashamed that I'm good at something? Not me." He looked up, grinning a little more brightly. "You're a good teacher."
"Well, we do seem to be doing all right with that one dance. It does get harder though." Giles stood up, walking into the kitchen to get another bottle of juice. "How's your basement? I've not asked recently."
"Oh, parents are getting snarly over things like Anya and music and locks and stuff." He shrugged, walking back out to the table and taking his chair back to turn around and sit in it backwards. "Mom thinks I'm doing my impersonation of a bunny rabbit with her so she interrupts."
"Is she getting pushy?"
"Oh, yeah," he sighed. "Very." He looked at the older man. "She's always ready, keeps trying to make me a love slave. And I've got to sleep sometime too." He shook his head. "I've turned into an old man, I'm complaining about getting sex." He shook his head some more and looked at the older man. "How's Olivia?"
"Oh, she's well. Far away but well." The older man smiled, looking up briefly. "And you're not old, she's too excited. It's not at all normal the way you two are."
"All her," Xander defended. "Not me, na-uh. I don't jump her at all." He blushed slightly. "At least not anymore."
"Maybe you should ask her to calm down some," he said. He patted the hand next to his arm. "Don't sit like that please. It puts too much pressure on the chair back and it breaks sooner." He turned a page. "I do believe this is the book we'll need when we go drive the spirit out."
"Then it's a spirit instead of a demon?" Xander turned the chair around, bending down slightly to look over the book also. "I thought we were going with the demon angle for now."
"No, well not quite." Giles took off his glasses to rub his eyes. "It's the spirit of a demon, one that is trapped between planes at the moment. This," he said pointing at a part written in a different language and handwriting, "is a spell to cast it out." He traced over the letters. "Fairly simple to do. Shouldn't be much of a problem." He looked at the younger man. "Why did you apply at the bookstore? I didn't think you'd enjoy working in a place like that."
"Oh, it's okay," he covered. "I was talking to some others who worked there and it's a pretty easy going place. Not too much to do, not so much heavy lifting. Well once a week when the shipments arrive. It seems to be a pretty easy job with low stress." He sipped at his glass of soda, looking at his friend. "Why?"
"Just wondering. You never seemed too attached to books is all." Giles smiled. "I remember your initial distaste at the first book I made you look through."
"Ah, but it was grimy," Xander said, holding up a finger. "The spider web, dirty, dusty, nasty kind." He grinned, putting back down his arm and standing up. "Tomorrow?"
"Well, if you wanted to stay for a while, I could teach you another step." He looked up at the smiling younger man when no answer came. "Should I take that expression as a yes?"
"Sure," he said happily, putting his glass in the sink and heading for the bedroom. "Would love another lesson."
Giles got up, marking the pages and closing the book, as he heard the record come on. "Let's try something new, shall we?" he said as he walked in. He walked over to the record player and switched songs, hitting one he liked. "Ah, yes, a little more passionate since it's night time." He turned to smile at his student. "Shall we?" He held out his hands, waiting patiently as they were filled.
Xander used his key to walk into Giles' apartment, flopping down on the couch and covering his eyes with an arm. He didn't look up as someone walked up behind the couch and touched the top of his arm in concern. "Anya," he said simply.
Giles made a soothing noise as he wiped the excess shaving cream off his face. He'd only had the chance to take two strokes when the younger man had come in, but it was something he could easily do later. "What did she do this time?" he said, walking around to sit on the end of the sofa. "And please take your shoes off the couch."
Xander moved his feet down, listening to the shoes he kicked off thump as they hit the floor. He moved his arm slightly, looking at his friend. "She tried to nag me about the time I spend here." He shook his head, recovering his eyes. "So I had to tell her you were teaching me something to help us."
The older man smiled. "Well, it might impress her but I'd doubt it. She doesn't seem like the kind to dance to me." He patted a socked foot and stood back up. "You're more than welcome to hide here for a while." He walked back into the bathroom, humming under his breath.
The younger man thumped his head on the couch a few times. "But I don't want to share this with her," he muttered, pulling a pillow over his face when it fell over.
Giles walked back out into the living room a few minutes later, taking the pillow from his student's face when he found him trying to suffocate himself with it. "None of that, you'd make a mess." He smiled slightly at the startled smile. "Napping?"
"Yeah, kinda." Xander sat up, rubbing over his face. "She came over last night and jumped me then nagged afterwards. I don't think I got any sleep at all." He lay back down when the room started to spin. "Can I hide here and nap?" He looked over his friend's body. "Or am I going to be in the way?"
Giles looked down at himself and shook his head. "No, there's a meeting with the school board today and I need to go to that but you're more than welcome to crash on the couch." He straightened his vest and put back on his glasses. "More proper now?"
"Much," the younger man said, grinning. "More like the old you." He shook his head. "Stuffy library guy and all that." He giggled and covered his mouth. "I didn't do that."
Giles rolled his eyes. "Would some breakfast help?"
"No," Xander said, sitting back up enough to look over the back edge of the couch as his teacher walked into the kitchen. "I got to eat. Mostly because my mother forced me to, but I ate...something." He rubbed his stomach. "Come to think of it, I still don't know what that was."
The older man shook his head, pulling things out of the refrigerator to make himself some breakfast. "If you're sure..." he started, seeing the younger man rushing for the bathroom. His own face turned green as he heard the gasping retches from the bathroom so put back the food, giving him time to finish before walking in with a glass of water. "Here," he said softly, handing it over with a cool towel. "Come back to the couch..." He was interrupted by another bout of nausea.
Xander caught his breath and laid his head down. "Sorry," he muttered, grabbing his stomach and bending back over.
Giles looked alarmed, catching sight of the stuff coming up. "Was what you had for breakfast red?" he asked, seeing Xander's head shake in between heaves. "Then you're going to the hospital," he said. He waited until the retching had stopped before handing back the cool cloth and the glass of water. "Clean up and I'll take you."
Xander shook his head frantically. "No, I'm fine. I don't need a doctor." He started to dry heave, moaning in pain.
"Like hell," Giles muttered. He steadied the younger man, helping him to stand. "Let's at least get you horizontal, shall we?" He helped him out to the couch, letting him lay back down. "Now then, what did you eat this morning? And for supper," he amended quickly.
"Nothing and something that looked like oatmeal." He wiped over his face with a still wet side of the cloth. "Not in that order."
"I see." The older man stood up, grabbing his phone book. "There's a decent place for emergencies..." He never got to finish, hearing the pained moan. "Are you still ill?"
"I can't go to the doctor's," Xander said. He pulled himself up. "I'm fine. It's just the flu or something." He set the cloth down on a coaster. "See, not a big."
"Very much one. You were throwing up blood, Xander." He walked back over, sitting next to the younger man, looking him over. "I'll pay if that's what's worrying you." He saw the automatic head shake but it was slow. "Don't worry about it, you need to go see someone." He patted a covered leg, frowning at the slight trembling in it. "We're going now. Put on your shoes." He stood up, waiting for his command to be followed, then helped the younger man up and out to his car.
"Ulcer?" Giles asked. "At his age?" He looked at the doctor in confusion. "I didn't think he'd be prone to them."
"Had one before," Xander muttered from his position on the table, moving aside the cloth covering his eyes from the bad spinning room. He sat up, with some help from the doctor and looked at his friend. "In Junior High had a nasty one, needed surgery and everything." He grinned weakly. "Milk and toast again?"
She smiled at them. "No, medicine and a slightly modified diet. No more fried foods until it's healed. All your tests are coming back with no more bleeding so we're not looking at doing the surgery right now." She handed over the prescription and a sheet of paper. "Eat better and more frequently. Your eating pattern is out of whack and it's not helping you any." She looked at Giles, who was frowning and rubbing his eyebrow. "Let him deal with whatever's stressing you, okay?" Xander nodded, reluctantly after getting stared at until he did. "Good, Mr. Harris. I'll pull Mr. Giles out into the hall to talk to him while you put back on your shirt."
She walked out, clutching the chart to her chest, turning to look at the older man as he closed the door. "I know it's not your fault. He told me what it was. Stop his girlfriend, stop his mother, and become a barrier from stress for a while. He should be better within a month, or at least healed this time, but he needs to make some changes so he won't end up in surgery again. Like I said earlier, the bleeding has stopped and it's not looking like so much of an emergency anymore." She smiled, then patted his arm. "Whatever you do for him is what's been keeping it in check. I'd recommend doing more of whatever it is." She handed him a sheet of paper. "Here's his diet sheet. Try to keep him on it."
Giles read over it quickly. "Shouldn't be a problem. He usually eats at least one meal a day at my house."
"Ah, that would be the fruit and vegetables he's been getting then." She shook her head, looking over his shoulder at the door. "I'm going to give you an identical prescription and one for a tranquilizer. An as needed only, but he needs to use it for the next few days. Try hard not to appear too mothering, but try to keep him sedate and laying down." She grabbed a pad and wrote out two of them, handing them to him. "Okay, the first is the same as I gave him and the second is the mild tranquilizer. I want him on it for the next three days at least, then whenever he's upset for a while. Got it?" The older man nodded. "Good, now get him to bed. That milk and toast idea's not so bad but I don't want him to drink the milk, I'm worried about it's effects on his digestive system since it's been so long since he's had any. I also want him to start taking vitamins to counteract the single meal a day theory he's been living on." She turned and walked away, handing the chart off to a nurse after making another notation and taking another.
Giles paced outside the door, waiting for his friend to come out. He looked at his watch and cringed, but Xander walked out then.
"No, I still have a half hour." He smiled, putting a gentle hand on the younger man's arm. "I'll drop you off at my place before I go and I'll get your medicine on the way back. How does that sound?"
Xander shook his head. "I can go home." He looked into the worried eyes. "I'll be fine." He started to walk away, looking down at his feet since the world was still a little spinny.
"Like hell," Giles muttered, taking his arm. "I don't want you someplace that Anya can get to you readily." He led them back to the car, settling the younger man in before getting in himself. He started the car, looking at where Xander was leaning back with his eyes closed. "I don't mean to be so pushy, but you seem to need the quiet right now. I'll be gone for a few hours and you can rest. All right?"
"Sure," Xander said softly, turning his head. "Thanks."
"It's not a problem. I refuse to see you suffer." He turned on his blinker and checked behind him, backing out slowly into traffic. "Come on, let's get you to my bed, shall we?" He put the car into drive and started down the street.
Xander groaned, reaching a hand over to bat at the annoying thing that was making noise. He picked up the handset, bringing it up to his ear. "Yeah," he said quietly, still not very awake. Then he sat up, eyes wide open. "No, Buffy, I was sick this morning and Giles made me stay while he went to a meeting." He rubbed his stomach, frowning at the thing in his hand. "No, I'm not sure." He looked at the clock. "He should be home soon, he said a few hours and that was at one." He nodded. "Okay, yeah, I'll tell him." He hung up, sliding back down. "Damn," he muttered. "Just what I didn't need. Now she'll say something." He pulled the extra pillow over, covering his head with it.
He was soon back to sleep.
Giles knocked on Xander's house door, tapping his foot while waiting for the boy's mother to answer. "Hello," he said, smiling slightly, just to seem polite. "I'm a friend of Xander's, he was one of my students while in High School. He was sick this morning and is over at my house for the next little while." She nodded, prompting him to come up with a good reason to have bothered her. "I thought you'd like to know." She shrugged, shaking her head, as she closed the door.
He frowned as he walked back to his car. "No wonder he has an ulcer," he muttered, getting in. He looked in the mirror then opened the door to look at his friend's girlfriend. "He's not home, Anya. He's at my place." She frowned, putting her hands on her hips. "He got violently ill this morning and I had to take him to the doctor's. He's resting but needs some time alone."
She walked closer. "What's wrong?" At least she looked genuinely concerned. "Was it something he ate or did he get beaten up?"
Giles shook his head. "His stomach's giving him fits." He closed the door. "Just give him some time, say a few days or a week or so." She nodded, stepping back as he started the little car and pulled out.
He made a stop at the pharmacy, going inside to get the prescriptions filled and to get some food that was on the list to soothe the injured stomach. By the time he got home, he was almost feeling better. Then he saw Buffy trying to pick his lock. "Keys work much better," he said, walking up behind her.
She jumped, startled, and turned to face him. "I tried to call earlier but got Xand. I tried to call again but he didn't answer so I came over." He frowned some more at her, pushing her aside to get to the lock. "What's up with him anyway?"
"Stomach virus or such," he covered, getting the door open. "Don't do that again," he warned. He walked past the kitchen, setting the bags down, heading for the bedroom. He stopped to watch the body on the bed shift, the pillow still held tightly over his face. "Do you enjoy trying to suffocate?" he asked, softly, trying hard not to startle the younger man too much.
Xander jumped, sitting up. "What?" He looked around, spotting Giles, then Buffy. "Oh, good, she found you." He grinned weakly. "Hey, Buff, got a bad belly."
She nodded, not getting closer. "So he told me." She tipped her head. "Virus?" Her friend shrugged. "Okay, well, I don't need it so I'll go in a minute. Do you need anything that Will or I can get?"
Xander shook his head, turning onto his side to look at them. "Nope. Giles' forced me to the doctor's this morning and I've got drugs. I'll go home tonight and deal there so I'll be fine."
"No, you won't," Giles said. He leaned against the doorframe. "I stopped to talk to your mother and I'm sure now that you're not going back tonight. I'll sleep on the couch, but I don't want you someplace that you can't be monitored." He frowned a little more. "I also talked with Anya when I ran into her and she's agreed to leave you alone for a few days." He heard the small groan. "Buffy," he said, turning to her. "Was there another reason for your visit or the attempt to break in?" He looked at her coldly, his body and eyes telling her plainly he didn't want her there at that time.
She nodded. "Just came to check on the research for tonight." She shrugged. "But I'm guessing that can wait." She backed up, not having seen the expression in the older man's eyes before. "Um, I've got a test in a few hours, I'll call later. Okay?" She turned and jogged out, not hesitating to slam the door behind her.
Giles turned at the sound of clapping from the bed. "Way to go," Xander said. "You scared her." He grinned, sitting back up. "I can go home, Giles, really." He started to move but was pushed back onto the bed. "Oh, come on. I'm a big boy now."
The older man shook his head. "You're not to move from there with the exception of going to the bathroom or coming out to lay on the couch." He looked him over. "I'll ask Willow to get you some clothes tonight when she comes over." He frowned. "Get under those covers, Xander, so I can go make you some soft food that you will, hopefully, keep down."
The younger man blushed in embarrassment but did as he'd been told, pulling the blankets up to his waist. "I'm not that sick, Giles," he said softly. "I don't need a babysitter."
The older man sat down beside him, moving a sweaty piece of hair off the damp forehead. "No, you need a friend and a caretaker. You've not needed a babysitter for as long as I've known you." He moved the hair again, watching as it fell. "Your mother didn't even look interested when I told her you'd been ill and I don't want you in that sort of environment. It'll only make the ulcer worse." He frowned, turning his head toward the door slamming. "I'll be back with breakfast and medicine, all right?" He got a small nod so walked out to see who it was this time.
"Willow," he said, nodding at her as he went into the kitchen. "He's in the bedroom." He stopped her, pulling her into the kitchen with him. "He is *not* to be stressed and would you please go get him some clothes for later?"
The red head nodded, biting her lip. "His stomach again?"
Giles looked surprised, turning to face her instead of the stove where he was pre-heating a pan. "You knew?"
"I went to see him while he was in the hospital the first time. His mother frowned at me when I asked her where he was. My mother found him and took me to see him."
Xander walked past the kitchen, heading straight for the table. "Yeah, you did a good, reading to me those nights." He grinned at her. "Yes, it is another ulcer. No surgery this time though." He sat down, grunting at the cold wood. "Please get me something to sleep in and some clothes for tomorrow?"
She nodded, picking up the phone since she was next to it. "Giles' house," she answered, then frowned. "You're sure, Buffy?" She scowled and hung up, looking back and forth. "Want the bad news?" Xander nodded, sighing, putting both hands on the table. "Your mother just kicked you out. Your stuff's out on the end of the lawn." She watched him sigh and put his head down on the cool wood.
"Go get his things," Giles said quietly. "I have a place to store it and he can stay here until I can get him settled someplace else."
She nodded, walking out to go hug her friend. "My mother's home, I'll go steal her car and bring it over." She patted the back of his neck. "It's for the best. She was causing it."
"Not just her," the younger man said. He looked up at her, sitting back upright, running into her soft chest. "Thanks though."
Willow nodded, giving him one last squeeze before letting go and walking out. As she closed the door, she and Giles shared a look.
Giles put the scrambled eggs in front of the younger man and the two bottles of medicine, along with a glass of water. "Eat something. It might make you feel better." He saw the gentle head shake and the slow picking at the food. "We'll find you someplace better, Xander," he said, sitting down and patting a strong arm. "Don't worry about it."
Xander started to laugh, letting it come out. He pushed the plate away and laid his head down on the table again. "Sure I won't." He closed his eyes. "I'll eat later, okay?"
"Of course, just take your medicines and go back to bed." He stood back up, moving the bottles and the glass of water closer.
Xander sat back up, looking at them then up at the older man. "Tranqs?"
"For the next three days at least then as needed." He smiled gently. "Don't worry, I won't let you sleep too often. I'll make you get up and help me put up the books and such." He saw him blanch. "Work?" he guessed.
Xander shook out the pills he needed, closing the bottles to put them back on the table. "Yeah, I start in a few days." He took the little pills quickly, draining most of the glass at the same time. "I need to get in touch with them to give them your phone number in case they want me earlier." He sighed, pushing back to stand up. "I'm going to go nap, if that's okay?" He looked a little confused, and a little shaky still.
"Of course you are," Giles said firmly. "I want you in that bed, curled up under those covers." He smiled slightly. "And do try not to suffocate yourself too much this time." He stood up, picking up the plate. "Are you sure you're not hungry?"
Xander nodded, shuffling back toward the bedroom. "Yeah, cover it and I'll eat it later. Maybe for dinner or something." He turned as he closed the bedroom door. "Yell if I snore too much," he said softly.
Giles snorted, smiling some. "I don't think it'll be a problem, Xander." He turned to look out the window, listening to the quiet noises from the bedroom as the younger man settled down. He heard the first quiet snore so headed for the table, picking up the book they would need for later that night.
Xander emerged from the bathroom, looking down the hall, hearing the quiet voices. He tugged his shirt lower as he walked toward them, smiling at the people assembled. "A party, for me?" He sat down beside Willow, patting her arm. "Need help?"
"Go to bed," his friend said. She looked over at him. "You're looking less sickly but you're still not better yet." She smiled, patting his hand. "Just a little casting and we'll be gone for the night."
He shook his head, standing up. "I can help, just tell me what to do." He looked at the door as Giles walked back in. "What can I do to help?" He crossed his arms at the frown leveled at him. "I'm not that weak or helpless."
"Sit." Giles watched as he sat back down. "Good, now I'll go warm those eggs for you and you'll take your medicine and go back to bed." The younger man started to shake his head. "Not tonight, Xander, you need rest to heal." He stopped behind Willow, looking over her shoulder to check her progress.
Xander raised an eyebrow. "Do you become this momish when they get sick?" He pointed at Willow with his thumb briefly. "Or am I just the lucky recipient tonight?"
"Nope, just you," Willow assured him. "But we've not been critically ill before either." She looked at him. "You would have been with Buffy but we're not letting you out of this apartment tonight and we're just casting a spell so you're free to lounge and watch or to go nap." She smiled gently and shrugged. "You picked a lousy time to get sick, Xand."
He shook his head, standing up. "Okay, I get the point. I'm not wanted." He walked into the kitchen, taking out the plate from earlier and popping it into the microwave, which he started. "Can I listen to music while you guys work? That way I'm not in the way."
Giles finished his walk into the kitchen, walking up behind the younger man and putting his hands on the slumped shoulders. "You're not in the way. You just can't help with this part." He gave the bony protrusions one squeeze then stepped back. "Now, eat, take your medicine, and either lay on the couch to watch or go back to the bedroom. You'll be able to help tomorrow night." He backed away, heading back to the living room. "Your medicine's are on top of the fridge and we'll be out here." He reached around Willow for the matches, striking one over her head to light a candle.
Xander watched the ritual with curiosity, stopping the microwave before it could go off and disturb them. He set the plate down gently, grabbing his medicines to shake them out, and ate at the counter, watching them say strange words and make odd motions with their hands. When it was done and the candles had been blown out by the brief wind surge, he put his plate into the sink, running water to wash it.
"I'll do that," Giles said, walking up behind him. He patted an arm, reaching around the younger man to get into the refrigerator for drinks for them all. "I'm not some mean slave driver that's going to make you earn your keep." He saw the small head shake and the worried look as the younger man went ahead with the cleaning anyway. He looked over his shoulder as Willow walked toward the bathroom. "Xander, stop for a moment, please." He waited until he was being faced. "You don't have to earn your keep. You're ill and I enjoy taking care of people." He handed over a can of ginger ale. "Just relax."
Xander opened the can and took a sip. "It's not right. I should be cleaning up after myself." He looked up into the deeper eyes. "It'll make me feel better, less moochy. Okay?"
Giles shook his head. "No, you need to rest. It's not a problem to do an extra dish." He smiled kindly. "Just think of this as your Grandparent's house. Surely you wouldn't have done that there." The younger man shrugged. "You would have?"
"Yup. She'd have made me cook for myself too." He shrugged again, moving to lean against the counter. "I need to do this. It's not strenuous, not harmful, and it needs to be done anyway. You're going to be busy with Buffy and Will and the Slaying stuff so let me clean up after myself." The older man started to roll his eyes. "Please?" He gave his version of the deadly puppy eyes, needing to do this himself.
"If it makes you feel better," Giles relented, "but nothing more than an occasional dish. I don't want you cleaning out the bathroom or vacuuming or some such thing." He saw the light blush. "I'll tie you to the bed if you say you cleaned that bathroom.
Xander grinned. "Just the shower." He backed up a step when he saw the glare. "That's what we do at home."
The older man shook his head. "Don't do it again." He patted a shoulder and walked out. "You needn't do it, I'm more than capable of cleaning out a shower." He saw the gross face come out. "It's not that bad. It's all soap by the time you're done."
"Still gross," Xander muttered, coming out to sit at the table. "So, more stuff for tonight?"
"Not for you," Willow said, walking back out. "You did a nice job though." She kissed the top of his head. "Now, good little boys need to be in bed." She stepped back, looking down at him when he didn't move, except for taking a drink.
"You'd make a great mother, Willow," Giles said. He smiled at her. "Maybe you should go see if Buffy's all right. She's not come back yet." She nodded, grabbing her jacket and walking out. He waited until they were alone. "She would," he said.
"Yeah, but I'm not her kid. We're not five and I'm not playing house with her anymore." He set down the can. "But you do a credible Dad impersonation." He waited, seeing the blush. "Giles, I'm a big boy and I don't need more parents. I can take care of myself."
"Then why do you have an ulcer?" He sat down across from the younger man. "Xander, I didn't mean it like that, but you're *not* able to take care of yourself right now." He smiled gently, reaching across the wood to pat a hand. "Let me, us, do it for a while. It makes us feel better, like we've done something important."
"I had that feeling when I picked up my first stray too," the younger man said quietly, taking another sip.
"You're not a stray cat or dog," Giles said. "Although I did feed you and you never wanted to leave before." He smiled at the small joke but it didn't go over well. "I'm sorry, my sense of humor is off again."
Xander shook his head. "No, I didn't leave before." He looked up. "I'll start looking for someplace tomorrow." He stood up, heading for the kitchen to put the soda in the fridge.
"Sit your scrawny butt back down," Giles ordered. He waited for it to be followed before going on. "That wasn't what I meant and you know it. You're no more a stray than Buffy is."
"She's supposed to be here," the younger man pointed out. "It's not right that I mooch." He started to stand back up but his hand was grabbed tightly. "Giles?" he asked, a little shocked. He looked across the table at the older man, seeing the pain. "I'm sorry."
"No, don't be sorry, be thankful I didn't know your family was like this before now. I would have had you taken away if I'd known earlier." He let the hand go, moving closer. "I'm not doing this to obligate you or to make you some sort of servant. I *like* taking care of people, it's a fundamental drive for me." He smiled gently. "I feel the need to take care of you for now. Get used to it. When you're in your own place, I'll still be watching over you then." He moved the annoying piece of hair that kept falling down over the younger man's forehead, watching it fall back instantly. "I would like to know what possessed that hair to make it not want to move from that spot."
"Cowlick." He grinned. "Bothered me too, that's why I cut my hair shorter." He pushed the strand away himself. "Why do you want to take care of me? I mean, Buffy and Willow have both been in the hospital and you never felt the need to take care of them." He started to get a picture, piecing together former words. "I don't need the charity, Giles. I'm really able to take care of me." He started to stand up again.
"Xander, sit down." He waited until it was followed. "Yes, *part* of it is your lack of support from your family, but not all of it. If that was all of it, Faith and Willow would both be here right now." He grimaced, not really wanting to have mentioned that one name. "Not that a mother could have cured that one."
Xander grinned slightly. "Yeah, she was well beyond the reach of mothering." He looked at his friend. "You're sure? I'm not a stray and I'm not in the way?"
"Well, you will start sleeping on the couch soon so I can have the bed but other than that, it's almost nice not to be alone for a while." He patted the firm arm, standing up. "Now, are you still hungry or do you want to go back to bed?"
"I'd like to read, I mean if that's okay." He picked up the book Willow had remembered to bring him. "And if I have a pillow, I can sleep out here."
"I want you where I can monitor you," Giles said.
Xander gave him a confused look. "How is me sleeping out here and you in there any different than you out here and me in there?"
"If I sleep on the bed, it'll take an act of God to get me up. Then I won't be able to check on you throughout the night." He walked into the kitchen. "You never answered me."
"Um, food?" He closed his eyes, thinking of his stomach. "Maybe some toast or something please." He opened his eyes, watching the steady movements to make the simple treat. "Thanks, Giles. For all of this."
The older man turned around. "I would do the same for any of my friends, Xander." He smiled, turning back around to pull the browned pieces from the toaster. "Butter, cream cheese, or peanut butter, which you're not supposed to have for another week?" When he didn't get an answer, he turned around to see the younger man crying quietly. He set down the bread and walked out, pulling him up into his arms. "You're fine," he said softly, rubbing over the shaking back muscles. "You're not alone anymore."
Xander looked up from his seat on the couch, watching as Giles walked in with bags of stuff. "Want help?"
"If you wouldn't mind." He set the first two bags down, watching as the younger man went out for the rest. "The keys are in the trunk also," he called after him. He smiled, setting the bags into the kitchen and going back out. They finished getting the groceries in, Xander getting the last load. "So, how was work?"
"Oh, okay. I'm through with the training stuff. Made my first alone-type sale today." He grinned, watching the short but swift movements as the older man put the stuff up. "I've found a place, but not until the end of the month." He paused. "It's down the street, not such a bad place."
Giles turned to look at him. "I'm sure it's not. Does it have windows? My first one had about half of one, and it faced a wall three feet away."
"Yeah, a few. It's over a garage, the mechanic's kind, and it's a big huge space for two fifty a month, utilities except cable and phone included." He grinned. "So, if you want to continue helping me with those lessons, there's plenty of room."
Giles leaned closer. "Furnished?" The younger man shook his head. "Hmm, well, we need to do something about that then, don't we." He tapped the counter. "I believe I have some stuff in storage...."
Xander put a hand over the one on the counter. "I can get it from Goodwill. Cheaply even since they have a furniture program for those just starting out or that need it." He patted it and stood up. "Oh, and your book order's in." He tapped the wrapped package. "My manager kept giving it funny looks so I brought it over."
Giles smiled, picking it up. "I'd guess it's not often she gets asked to pick up the unabridged version of the Necronomicon. Even if it is widely available." He opened the bag and looked down inside. "Book marker?"
Xander grinned. "A little thank you present. It kinda reminded me of me." He watched as the puppydog-face covered piece of plastic and paper was withdrawn. "See, he's even got my eyes."
Giles looked at it then at the younger man. "So he does." He put it back, still smiling. "I'll frame it later since I don't have a picture of you." He braced himself for the happy punch to his arm, but still rubbed it in jest. "Just for that, I should teach you how to cook."
"Might be a good idea," Xander said. "I can't keep coming over to have you feed me every meal." He walked around the bar and into the kitchen. "How about something simple? Pasta?"
Giles waved at the groceries. "Put those up while I go change and I'll show you how." He started to unbutton his shirt as he walked down the hall. "And we'll sneak in another lesson tonight also." He heard the quiet cheer from the kitchen, making him smile even more as he pulled on a t-shirt. "How about something daring?" he asked, walking back out. He saw the groceries all put up and the water on the stove. "Put it on high if you've not yet." He walked around the younger man. "I could teach you something a little more daring tonight if you wanted."
Xander nodded. "Sure. I'm good enough to do something more than waltz, right?" He got a nod as the older man's mouth was full of juice. "How about... a Tango?"
Giles smiled, taking out a spoon and handing it over. "Most daring indeed but I can do that." He looked at the box of pasta sitting on the counter. "Sauce?"
Xander shook his head, holding up the can of cheese. "Good enough for me."
"Ah, but not a proper meal at all." He opened the refrigerator, pulling out a jar of cheese sauce. "Let's try this instead. You've liked it before."
Xander looked at it, grinning. "Sure, cheese is always welcome." He handed the jar back and went out to the stereo, turning it on to the classical station they listened to while they danced. They cooked in happy comfort, eating at the table, each reading their own book, a mimic of other nights.
Xander finished first, being the teenage boy he was, and stood up, heading for the kitchen to start cleaning up. He'd just run the water when he heard the first notes to the dance he'd been wanting to learn. He dropped the dishes and the cloth back into the water, walking back to the bedroom, straight into the firm arms. He got his stance adjusted somewhat and they started with a tight snap of their bodies. He felt himself elevated, getting back into the music again, feeling the emotion that poured out through the notes. He looked into the serious eyes just above his, catching them in mid glance.
What was that emotion? What had those eyes said to his? What had his eyes said back, possibly a more important question. He waited for the next looking part, seeing it still there, but this time he recognized it. Lust. Pure lust. He moved a little closer, rubbing himself slightly against the firm body, and watched the eyes darken more. "You like this huh?" he asked quietly, turning to look the other way. "'Cause I do too."
Giles smiled, snapping the younger man's body again, holding him tightly. "So I've noticed during all of our lessons." He stopped them, panting slightly. "But that's not what this is about."
"Isn't that what this dance is about?" Xander grinned, moving a little closer. "Let's do it right, huh?" He held out his arms. "Time for me to lead?"
Giles nodded, stepping into them. "Yes, it is." He waited listening to the sounds of the cd restarting. He gasped as his moves were copied accurately, every nuance followed perfectly. "You're very good at this."
"Yeah, I am," Xander said, still smiling. He looked up into the eyes of his friend, and stopped them. "What do you want here?"
"Just this," he said, leaning down, taking the first kiss. "For now."
"Until I'm independent?" he guessed.
"Yes, until you're more independent." Giles sighed, moving closer. "There is something to be said for the new ways of doing things though." He fitted their bodies together, swaying like a couple of teens at a school dance. "I can see why you like this now."
Xander led them around the room. "Is kinda nice at that." He rested his head on the shoulder. "This is good too. We should do this too."
"After every time from now on," Giles promised, wrapping his arms tighter around the fragile body. "And any other time you want."
And the music went on.