The shrimp puffs had been a sad disappointment, tasting of far too much cardamom and far too little shrimp. In fact, he’d been planning on telling Angel as much when his brother had motioned him over.
Fortunately, Lindsey had wandered off somewhere because William truly had no interest in even looking at the man, much less speaking with him any further, and he had no idea of why he’d been so fixed on him, anyway.
Lindsey had been fun, certainly, when William had still been Spike. He’d even imagined that he’d loved the bloke.
Why he’d continued to believe that after the two years of sweat and pain while he’d defied all the doctors and forced himself to walk again was a mystery to him.
Hell, Lindsey hadn’t even been able to look at him naked and had never quite managed to keep his eyes—and the look of horror he always bore within them—from his scarred brow.
Still, that didn’t matter, he reminded himself, because Xander never looked at him like that. Xander’s eyes always reflected awe and desire when they were focused on him, and… and Xander hadn’t called him.
He shook off the worry, making his halting way to his brother’s side and giving a small smile to the truly tiny blonde nestled against Angel’s much larger form.
“Well hello,” he murmured, silently admitting that if he weren’t gay he’d find the girl more than slightly attractive. In fact, before the accident, he’d been known to swing; mostly because of the media, but… yes, he would have definitely given the girl a tumble then. “I don’t believe we’ve met, Miss…”
“Giles,” she answered with a grin, “But you can call me Buffy. Any brother of Angel’s is a bro… good guy, I’m sure.”
William laughed, catching the obviously taken expression on Angels’ face. “I believe you might be somewhat biased, Buffy, but it pleases me greatly that I’m acceptable simply due to my familial relationship to Angel.” He winked, even while hiding his surprise that a Giles would be there deliberately. He wouldn’t be if their positions were reversed, after all. Not after what his step-father had tried to do to GSI. “Perhaps you will decide later that I am worthwhile based upon my own merits, though.” His grin made it a teasing comment and only grew when the girl’s smile became larger as well.
This was the supposedly brain-damaged step-brother? This good looking blond man who—okay—had limp and a scarred brow? But he was so… together, and the limp wasn’t even that noticeable and he was talking in complete sentences and everything!
Angel shook himself, finally speaking up. “Buffy, this is my brother Spi... Uh, William. And Will, this…” His eyes got a bit dreamy as he looked down at the blonde against his side. “This is Buffy. She’s…” he forced himself to stop before he embarrassed himself further.
William laughed silently, well aware of what the look on his brother’s face meant. “I’m thinking that what tall, dark and broody here is trying to say, pet,” he said with an amused smirk at Angel, “is that you’re special. It’s not an insult or anything. He simply has a less than stellar command of the language.” He winked again, playfully, sure he was right in his assessment when Angel didn’t even blink, much less comment. “What say we wander off and compare notes, hmmm…?”
It was the teasing but still sweet smile that William directed at Angel that had Buffy nodding and squeezing Angel’s side once more before pulling away and taking William’s hand. “I’ll be back soon,” she called over her shoulder, giggling as the blond with her grumbled about the unsavory taste of the shrimp puffs one of the staff was passing about while he hung his jacket in the closet carefully before leading her outside.
Angel found himself blinking, his side suddenly cold as his girl walked off with his brother… and all he could do was hope Spike wouldn’t say anything too embarrassing about him.
Then again, he trusted his brother. No matter what kind of brain damage the younger man had.
“So, I don’t get it,” Buffy said bluntly a few minutes later.
She sat on the edge of the pool, her slacks pushed up to her knees while she dangled her sandal-free feet in the cool water.
William’s brow furrowed slightly, even as he gazed longingly at the shimmering aqua-blue and envied the girl her freedom. “What is it you don’t get, then?” he asked wistfully, entirely unaware of the longing on his face.
The young woman arched a curious brow for a moment before realizing that the look wasn’t intended for her, but rather for the swimming pool. “You are allowed to use the pool at your own house, right? Because if you’re not, you might want to renegotiate or something.”
A laugh left him even as he blushed. “I… yes. I simply don’t wish to… that is, my leg. The… scars.” He swallowed and shook his head. “I imagine it would feel rather nice, though. The water, I mean.”
Buffy groaned softly. “God, you have no idea. Don’t get me wrong, okay, because I love my Jimmy Chou’s, but after a few hours I can’t say my feet are happy. So yeah, the water feels divine.” Her next grin was cheeky. “I’m pretty sure I won’t be scared away from it by a few scars, William. Now get those boots off and dip your feet. If mine hurt, yours must be screaming!”
He wasn’t sure of whether he was amused or upset by Buffy’s insistence. He hadn’t ever been comfortable with people seeing his damaged leg but she had no way of knowing that and it would be foolish to hold it against her, wouldn’t it? Not to mention rude; especially if she was as special to Angel as she seemed to be.
Well, yes. It decidedly would, he told himself, even as he worked slowly at the laces of the special boot and then the regular one. And even more so, he admitted, when the girl was so clearly concerned for his comfort.
“If you’re certain, Buffy, then I believe I will join you. However, if it proves to be too upsetting a sight, you must tell me and I will be happy to cover it again, alright? I have no wish to distress you even slightly.” Xander was the only one who hadn’t seemed sickened by it, after all, so why wouldn’t this young woman find it just as disgusting as Lindsey and even Angel did?
The girl blinked before a soft, bell-like laugh tripped from her lips. “”You know, I didn’t think anyone but Daddy and Uncle Ethan could use so many words for a simple thought. It must be an English thing. It’s… it’s like a little bit of home,” she smiled.
Buffy tried not to look too closely as William rolled his slacks up, but… “I’m sorry,” she added, “I know I’m being really rude for staring but… you’re so worried about scars that I can’t help looking…”
William sighed and finished rolling the fabric up on his bad leg before steeling himself and turning under the soft lights around the pool. “I… please do. I know it’s not… attractive. I…” He frowned.
Buffy frowned as well when she saw the seams of mended flesh, not because it was so terrible but because it reminded her of… something. She couldn’t remember what right then but it would come to her; she knew it would.
“You’re right,” the girl said after a moment of studying the scars. “I wouldn’t call it pretty but it’s not likely to send me screaming off into the night, either.” She dimpled up at him. “It must have hurt really badly, too. You know, after you stopped nearly dying from it. How far up does it go, anyway?”
It was while he was telling her an edited account—carefully led by her questions—of his accident and some of the things that had happened afterward that she suddenly found herself remembering the incident in question… and everything William had lost.
“Oh… my… God! You… you’re Spike Martin! God, I am so dim! Angel even almost called you Spike and I was too distracted to catch it!” She could feel herself blushing bright red even as she noticed the look of shocked horror on William’s face. “Oh… shit. I wasn’t supposed to say anything, was I? Shit.”
“N-no… y-you w-weren’t… I never thought… Angel promised me…” He could feel his eyes hardening, his face drawing tight as he realized “He’s betrayed his word.”
“Okay,” Willow was saying while Xander wracked his brain, trying to figure out how to tell William the truth without making it sound like he’d deliberately kept it from him… even though he had.
“Okay,” the redhead said again, “I figure you have two choices, Xan. You know, two good choices. You can either call him up and tell him tonight while he’s still in Texas and you’re here—which of course means you’ll have a ton of ass-kissing to do when you go back…”
Xander sighed. “And not even the good kind. What’s my other option?” At least Willow wasn’t telling him how stupid he’d been for not telling William the truth from the beginning but then again, he was telling himself that enough for the both of them.
Willow grinned, her eyes sparkling a little bit wickedly. “Go home, Xander. Blow off this whole week and just… go. Take him out somewhere nice and treat him like a Quee… uh, King. Remind him that you love him and then… tell him about Daddy and the dare. Make sure you tell him everything. If he’s anything like what you say, he’ll understand.” She giggled a little bit at her brother’s baffled stare. “You’ll still be kissing a lot of ass, but you’ll probably enjoy it more.”
She was right. Xander knew she was right. He wasn’t sure of how she’d gotten so smart about men, and he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know. Ever. She was still his baby sister, after all, and therefore automatically virginal and completely inexperienced, even at the age of twenty.
“Dad would kill me,” he finally said with a deep sigh. “This one week a year is all he asks for, sis. If I leave… well, you know what the Board will think.” His eyes closed as he thought. “But it’s a good idea and if it’d work right now, it’ll work when I go home, too. I… thanks, Willow.”
Red-painted lips smiled as Willow was wrapped tightly in a strong hug. “You’re welcome, Xan. Any time. And I mean that. I miss you.”
Lindsey MacDonald was still unsettled. Unsettled and—he admitted silently to himself—pulling an Angel, meaning… he was brooding like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Not that Angel had been brooding so much lately. Not since the Giles girl had walked up to him at that charity tennis tournament a few months earlier and basically proceeded to wrap the big man around her tiny little finger.
Still, he was definitely brooding and he honestly didn’t know why.
He’d been the one to end things with William when it had become clear that the man wasn’t ever going to be the Spike he remembered. Seeing the disfiguring scars and knowing they’d never disappear completely had been the final nail in that coffin for him.
And Angel was right. He was superficial, but Lindsey had never claimed to be anything else, had he?
Well, no. And why should he be? He was one of the wealthiest young people in Texas, as were most of his friends and all of his lovers. He could afford to be picky.
And yet… William had moved on. To a peasant!
That had to be what was really bothering him, Lindsey figured.
It wasn’t that William had apparently gotten over him but that the blond had basically ignored him in favor of whatever uneducated, uncouth shit-head he’d hooked up with. And what had Angel said the guy’s name was? Something… strange.
Zipper… Zippy… no, that wasn’t it.
Lindsey frowned into his tequila as he tried to replay the earlier conversation.
“Harris. Something Harris. Zephyr…? Zapper… Xander! That’s it! Xander Harris!”
His frown deepened. “What the fuck kind of stupid name is that?”
He let himself brood for a little while longer then finally tossed back his shot and made his slightly stumbling way to the door. “Jacket,” he muttered. “Can’t forget that. Has my keys in it.” He laughed.
It was as he was shrugging into the lightweight black suede that he heard the ring tone and a moment later he’d traced it to Sp… William’s raw silk.
He dug through the pockets, then smirked when he found the phone and saw who was calling.
“H’lo? This is Lindsey, who’s this?” His smirk grew, even while he tried to sound baffled. “Huh. Never heard of you. Why are you calling William?”
He listened to the stammering voice, congratulating himself on just how right he was about William’s so-called boyfriend. Hell, the guy couldn’t even manage a complete sentence.
Then again, maybe that was the attraction for Will, he realized. He could be the smart one for a change.
Yeah… this Xander Harris was obviously all brawn and no brain. Much like every other construction worker in the world, Lindsey suspected.
“Yeah, well. I’ll tell him you called, Xavier. But he’s kind of… busy right now. It might take him a while to get back to you.”
He ended the call with a smug grin and slipped the phone back into William’s jacket then slid out through the front door and into the night.
“What the fuck?” Xander demanded of his empty room, eyes still staring at his mobile. “Lindsey? That was Lindsey answering Will’s phone? But… what the fuck is he even doing anywhere near Will?”
Oh, God. He should have known, should have suspected something when Will hadn’t been more upset that he was leaving, but he hadn’t and he’d called and… and that fucker had answered and where the hell was Will? Why was some other guy—and especially Will’s ex—answering Will’s phone?
“He… he’s been playing me this whole time,” Xander whispered, swallowing hard. “Leading me on, making me love him, and all the while he’s been seeing that fucking prick behind my back and…”
His voice faded and Xander took repeated deep breaths, trying to turn the building tears into rage. He had every right to be angry, after all.
Or did he, some rational part of his brain wondered. He’d spent every night with William in that big, soft bed his lover adored so much. He’d seen him each and every morning and they’d shared the sweetest kisses… the most passionate moments.
And from what Will had said, Lindsey and he weren’t even friends, much less anything more and while the words could possibly have been lies, he truly didn’t think Will could fake the disgusted tone of voice he always seemed to slip into whenever the other man was mentioned, and… Lindsey was friends with William’s brother, or so Will had said, so maybe Will was at Angel’s for some reason and left his phone out or something, or Lindsey was just trying to make trouble.
He didn’t know the Texan himself but it sounded like the kind of thing a guy who’d be so cruel to a man like Will would do.
There was only one way to find out for sure, though, Xander figured.
He took a shaky breath and forced himself to call again, and this time he smiled when the voice mail picked up.
“Hey, baby… it’s me. I’ve been having some… trouble reaching you tonight. I guess you didn’t hear the ring, so… God, Will. Call me back when you get this, okay? I… I don’t care what time it is; I just need to hear your voice.” He sighed, running the fingers of his free hand through his hair. “I won’t sleep until I talk to you, baby. I… fuck, Will. I wish you were here. I really, really do. Just… call me.” Xander sighed again. “Love you, Will. God… okay, going now. I’ll be waiting.”
As soon as he closed his phone, Xander groaned at how incredibly needy his message had sounded but he hadn’t been able to help it. He’d meant every word.
Meaning it or not, he was still beating himself up a good forty-five minutes later when his phone finally chimed out an incredibly muzak version of ‘Endless Love’. He was blushing even as he opened it and held it to his ear.
“Will…?” he checked before letting the truly huge and sappy smile spread when he heard the soft voice answering, “Where are you, baby?”
So far, spending time with Willow had been the only good part of his visit.
Well, that and finally understanding Ethan a little bit better… and the phone call with William the night before that had led to some truly inspired dirty talk once Xander had discovered that he was right and Will really had been at Angel’s… and that Lindsey had been there but they hadn’t spent more than a few minutes together.
Xander had kept himself from mentioning that he’d spoken with the fucker himself; he figured William didn’t need to know what an enormous shit-head his ex was. It was enough that Xander knew.
So maybe the visit hadn’t been entirely horrible yet, but there were still six days to go and…
It was day two and he’d had barely a glimpse of his father so far, much less had an actual conversation with the man.
Of course, they’d spoken frequently on the phone over the past year but it wasn’t the same as a face to face talk and he really wanted to tell his Dad about William in person.
“Is he available? At all?” he asked Daniel, his father’s personal assistant for the week, though the young man usually acted as senior programmer for GSI’s technical division. “Even five minutes would be fine, okay? I just…”
The redheaded young man behind the desk grimaced slightly. He’d known Xander for years, ever since his own father had gone to work for Mr. Giles in the same position Daniel currently enjoyed, but it was still a little bit awkward.
They’d become friends after Daniel’s mother had gone back to work; mostly because when Xander’s father had found out, he’d insisted that Roger Osborne bring his young son to the house instead of putting him in daycare. ‘Built-in playmates for my own brood, as well as your boy’, the Englishman had called it.
That had been all well and good, but Roger had never let Daniel forget that they weren’t the equals of the Gileses, and now that Roger had been dead and gone for two years and Daniel had taken over his father’s job, he still wasn’t quite sure of how to speak to the much taller and somewhat older young man whom he’d seen crying more than once as a child.
It didn’t help that he was also dating Mr. Giles’s daughter Willow behind everyone’s backs. It made him… nervous, even though it had been his own idea to keep their relationship a secret until she finished school.
“Come on, Oz,” Xander tried again, using the old nickname easily because that was still how he thought of the guy, “I really need to tell him something. It’s… important, okay?”
Daniel gave the man a sunny smile at the reminder of their shared past. “And he’s your Dad and you haven’t seen him up close yet, right?” And suddenly he wasn’t feeling so awkward anymore. “Let me see what I can do, okay?”
Xander relaxed slightly as his old friend scanned the schedule on the laptop in front of him. It had been years since they’d spent any real time just hanging out but he knew Oz well enough to know that when the smaller man set his mind to something, it usually worked out however he wanted it to.
They’d tried to keep in touch after Xander had graduated from Sunnydale Prep, but their lives had gone in different directions and they’d just… fell out of the habit, Xander supposed. But that didn’t mean it had to stay that way, and…
“Got it,” Daniel announced with a good deal of satisfaction in his voice. “I can shift your Dad’s lunch today with the Wyndham-Pryce kid to the day after tomorrow. They’re here for the whole week anyway and I’m pretty sure he just wants to try talking your Dad into investing in whatever hair-brained scheme he’s got going now.” He grinned and lowered his voice even further. “Last I heard, he wanted to start his own business. Bounty hunting or something… because he’s another ‘Dog’. In his own mind, I guess. His own father isn’t willing to invest, so I don’t know why he thinks yours would, but…”
Brown eyes blinked wide as Xander’s mind boggled at the unexpected number of words coming from the smaller man. Something was clearly going on with Oz, but he’d find out what it was later. Right then he was more concerned with “Where and when, buddy?”
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