A Taste of Something New

Author: Nwhepcat

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Xander/Giles

Disclaimer: Sigh. Giles is not mine. Nor is Xander. Somebody else makes all the money, but I have at least part of the fun.

Setting: Cleveland (but not the Cleveland I usually write, or the Xander, either), a year and a half after "Chosen."

Challenge: For lostgirlslair's Drunken Gilesathon. Wanted: Christmas, giggling, smut. The smut didn't come quite as thickly as I'd have liked; hope you enjoy this anyway. Unwanted: Character bashing, angst. (Yes, nwhepcat without angst. Marvel.)

Author's notes: Finished in the company cafeteria at lunchtime. Therefore, no beta. Thanks to all who weighed in on the jumper question.

Summary: Giles and Xander share a bottle of wine.


Giles treads carefully as he returns from seeing the children -- he still thinks of them as the children on occasions like this, when they're so much like a family -- to the taxi. Not so much due to the ice, which has relinquished its grip these last few days before Christmas, but because he's well on the road to being pissed. Xander had brought some lovely wines -- he's getting quite expert on the subject -- and they'd all gotten a bit tipsy, except for Dawn.

He smiles to think of Xander during dinner, so animated as he talked about each new bottle he opened. Confident, without affectation. The rituals and gestures he performed so tentatively and self-consciously this time last year he now owns. Xander's settling into himself, growing into his adult life. Grief does funny things to people sometimes it even helps them find their path.

Oh, do shut up, he tells himself. Lucky for them the children left before he reached the pontificating stage. Giles pushes open the door he'd left ajar and stamps his feet to shake off imaginary clumps of snow. Christmas carols play softly, though he hadn't remembered putting any on. Something classic, not like that dreadful Manheim Steamroller techno-rubbish he'd been hearing everywhere.

He detours into the kitchen for the last bottle, which still had some in it. He's not sure which glass was his, so he finds a clean one and upends the bottle over it, then heads for the living room.

"God," says a disembodied voice. "I thought they'd never leave."

Giles can't contain a startled shriek, which elicits soft laughter from the direction of the floor. "Giles, you scream like a girl."

"I most certainly do not." He rounds the sofa and sees Xander stretched out on the floor, washed in a flickering sunset-hued glow from the television set. "What in God's name are you watching?" It looks for all the world like a close-up of a fireplace.

"The Yule log. I was hoping I'd find a channel that shows it."

Giles waits for it to fade to another shot, but the camera remains static. "It's a fireplace."

"It's the Yule log!" Xander scrambles to a sitting position, back against the sofa. "Come and sit down. You'll succumb to its hypnotic powers in no time."

He's more likely to succumb to the wine, but he sits on the carpet next to Xander anyway.

"I used to watch this back in Sunnydale. Early in the morning, while everyone was still sleeping it -- asleep."

Sometimes Giles wonders at himself. Thick as a brick sometimes. It's not just a path into the future that Xander's blazing; he's reshaping his past, reclaiming it. Spending the holiday with a family of his own making. Learning to savor the pleasures of wine without descending into uncivilized behavior.

Xander studies his face. "You think way too much, Giles."

He smiles. "I suspect that's true."

"Fortunately, there's a cure for that." Xander rises, relieving Giles of his wine glass. "No, stay there. I'll be back in a minute."

Surrendering to the hypnotic pull of the televised flame, Giles listens to the subdued clatter of activity in the kitchen. When Xander returns bearing a freshly washed pair of glasses and a new bottle of wine, he catches Giles struggling out of his jumper. "It's rather warm, don't you think?"

Xander grins. "You are so suggestible. No, actually, it's a suitably British level of frosty in here."

Giles stifles a giggle. Distinctly not a good sign that he's moved from internal pontificating to undignified giggling.

"Brought you a present." He settles in besides Giles once more, presenting the new bottle so Giles can read its label. "This is something I came to just recently." He splashes just a bit of wine into one of the glasses, pausing for a moment as an emotion Giles can't read passes across his face. " You'll have to tell me what you think." Then he looks up at Giles, dipping two fingers into his glass and then drawing them gently across Giles's lower lip.

At Giles's indrawn breath, something that could be a smile flickers at the corner of Xander's mouth. As his fingers withdraw, Giles touches his tongue to his lip. This is really... quite extraordinary, he thinks. "Xander," he says gently. "I think perhaps you've had too much wine."

Another flicker. "Judge? That would be me."

Now that he thinks of it, Giles realizes Xander has had very few tastes of the wine he's shared with his friends tonight. "Still," he murmurs, "I'd hate for you to do something you'd regret later."

Xander's gaze slides away from his. "The point is getting rid of regrets," he says softly. Producing a more definite smile this time, he reaches for the empty glass and splashes some of the wine into it. "Roll it around a little. Take some time with it." He hands Giles the glass and fills his own, raising it. "Happy Christmas -- isn't it how you Brits say it?"

Giles returns his smile. "It is. Happy Christmas, Xander." He touches his glass to Xander's, keeping his movements under tight control. He's sloshed, he knows, and he would hate to break anything. "May you have everything you wish for."

Xander drops his gaze to the glass in his hand, still smiling. "My best friends, safe and happy and with me for the holidays. The Yule log on TV. That pretty much covers it."

Giles looks toward the television screen. "How long does this thing go on?"

"All Christmas day. That's the beauty of it."

Following Xander's lead, he sips his wine, but instead of gazing at the roaring fire onscreen, he watches Xander's face, made ruddy by the glow of the television. He can't say when the last time was that he really saw Xander. When Giles had first come to Sunnydale, Xander was simply a part of the faceless sea of students who weren't the Slayer. Then, before long, he was one of "the children," his charges by extension. At some point, he surely must have noticed the boy's good looks, but soon he'd just been Xander, steadfastly loyal, foolishly brave, uncommonly irritating. Giles had grown quite fond of him over the years, but it had been a very long time since he'd actually seen him.

He was a handsome young man; Caleb's mutilation hadn't changed that. Giles had pressured the Council -- what had been left of it -- to pay for the best prosthetic eye available, so artistically crafted that there were tiny blood vessels, flecks of color in the iris. He'd adapted so well that few would ever know he was blind in the one eye.

The first thing Giles would have catalogued, if he were to list the qualities that made Xander handsome, would have been his eyes, warm brown, long lashes like a girl's. So expressive. But the same could be said of his mouth, so mobile, and his hands, which never stilled. Perhaps it was the constant motion that had kept Giles from taking a closer look. He'd never been a restful person to be near.

Except now. Gazing into the false flame, he gives off the air of a man who can wait, who's somewhere found a sense of deep stillness. When had this happened?

Giles takes two deep swallows of his wine. "Xander," he cautions, "if you've only just come to this realization..."

That expressive mouth flickers once more, so subtle you could miss it. "I didn't say that. It's the decision to do something that's all new and shiny." He turns toward Giles and cracks a grin. "This Yule log's been burning a long time, Giles."

"All day?"

"And then some."

Giles raises his glass slightly, indicating the wine. "This is quite fine. A lovely gift, thank you."

"I hoped you'd like it."

"I do indeed." He sets down his glass and leans toward Xander.

The wine tastes even better on Xander's lips.


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