“He did everything you think he did, son,” Rupert said slowly, “but I can’t say that he didn’t have good reason. Heinrich thought—because he had been led to believe—that GSI was available. Of course, your mother had just… died…” he swallowed hard.
“I was rather lost at the time, Xander,” the Englishman went on. “Your… Joyce. Joyce was something I’d never expected to find. She was bright and shining, and within moments of meeting her, I knew she was meant for me. I consider myself blessed that she felt it too. When she was gone, I… well, I suppose you would say that I ‘lost it’.”
Xander’s brow furrowed and he shook his head. “That doesn’t mean that fucking piece of shit Aurelius guy had the right to…”
“No.” Rupert knew he was interrupting but he needed to make sure his eldest understood. “I had a crisis. I wanted…” He sighed deeply. “I wanted to forget, son. I wanted to pretend that Joyce was simply away. In fact, I think I truly did convince myself that she was merely annoyed and hiding, and a part of me thought that if I offered up our company, she’d… come back.”
Another deep frown crossed Xander’s face, even while he forced himself to remain silent but for an inquisitive “huh…?”.
“Even then, Ethan was working behind the scenes,” the elder Giles went on with an affectionate smile for his lover who was currently entertaining their guests, “because while I was too far out of my mind to realize it, he blocked Heinrich’s bid.” A small lowering of the brows was the only indication he gave of his own perplexity. “He still won’t tell me where he got the capital, but… well. Perhaps it’s best that I don’t know. But even at that point, Ethan didn’t come forward. He simply went back to whatever he had been doing before and watched through his many sources while I married Willow’s mother and discovered what a mistake that had been.”
“Sheila,” Xander grumbled. “At least you’re not still married to that witch. She was… evil.”
Rupert blinked a few times, then loosed an entirely unamused bark. “I understand why you might think that, Xander, but if you’ll recall, I never did divorce her. Nor she, me.” He shook his head. “No, Sheila is still my wife as far as the law is concerned. I simply count myself lucky that she’s never chosen to maintain any sort of relationship with any of us. Especially Willow.”
“I… what…? She’s… but where is she? How… how could she just abandon Wills? That’s… I mean, she gave birth to her, for fuck’s sake! I thought she was dead, or… how?”
His head shook again and Rupert smiled. “I don’t know and I don’t care, Xander. All that truly matters is… Willow is my daughter. Sheila has never sent her so much as a birthday card. Willow knows, of course, that her mother is still alive, but we—Ethan and I—have allowed her to believe that Sheila is so deep in the jungle pursuing her ‘research’ that she’s been unable to communicate.”
Xander’s eyes narrowed as he stared at his father. “But?”
Rupert sighed again and looked down at his hands on the table. “But the last batch of bills for her credit cards showed transactions in Paris, Rome and Brussels, as has been the case—among other places—for the last fifteen years. So, you see… she has no more interest than I in altering the status quo. If I were to cut her off, she might demand to see Willow and I will not allow that… and as long as I finance her lifestyle, she obviously feels no need to ask any such thing.”
Brown eyes closed and Xander sat… and sat.
He thought about everything his father had told him; thought about his hatred of the Aurelius family because their head had done exactly what Rupert Giles had asked for, even if his Dad had been somewhat insane at the time, and… and finally he thought about Sheila Giles abandoning their family when Willow was barely out of the womb, and…
“I still can’t say that I like the Aureliuses… but I guess I have to admit that Sheila’s way higher on my ‘hate list’ now.” Xander nodded sharply, entirely unaware of the fact that he was glaring. “We have to make sure that Willow never finds out, Dad. It’d be… well, she’d be upset at the very least.”
And as they were entirely in agreement, Rupert simply nodded and sipped his coffee.
William almost couldn’t believe that he’d agreed to go to Sunnydale. In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure of why he’d told Buffy that he’d join her and Angel there the following day.
Of course, that was when he pictured deep, nearly glowing brown eyes beneath slightly shaggy sable hair, and he remembered.
Xander was there. That was enough reason.
That his lover would likely discover who William really was worried him, but… it wasn’t as though he could keep the secret forever, after all. Xander would have to know sometime, and… as Buffy had said, if they were at the Annual Shareholder’s Gala, the brunette couldn’t make as much of a scene as he might otherwise… and as an Aurelius, William could quite legitimately demand a good bit of Alexander Harris Summers-Giles’ time. Perhaps enough so that he and he beloved might make up.
None the less, he considered begging off when he imagined the look of betrayal on his love’s face when he did find out, but… his brother and Buffy were already in the air and reaching either of them was unlikely at the moment. Besides which, he was nearly five minutes late for his appointment with Cordelia, and the young woman wasn’t known for her patience.
Her patients, yes. But patience? Not even slightly.
William climbed slowly from his car, following Cordy’s orders even in his haste. After all, she could possibly be watching and while his bad leg hadn’t been giving him more than a slight twinge every now and again lately, he’d promised to obey her with regards to his treatment.
He counted himself lucky a mere two minutes later when he walked into the lobby of the building and found the very attractive young woman standing there with crossed arms and one foot tapping irritably against the faux marble floor. Her hair was up in her typical messy bun, two pens protruding from it at odd angles.
“You’re late,” she snapped, looking him up and down. “And don’t even try that old ‘traffic sucked and I couldn’t find a parking space’ thing, either. You know enough to allow an extra half hour when you’re coming this far downtown. Now move, Mister! You have a date with a treadmill and Rocky.”
William groaned silently at the mention of her massage-therapist assistant. The man was constantly giving him those looks, after all, even knowing that William was involved with someone else… not to mention the hands that lingered in inappropriate places during their ‘sessions’. Fortunately, William wasn’t even remotely attracted, so there was no wondering involved on his own part.
“Bloody hell,” he sighed. “Guess I’d best tell you the worst of it, then. You know… since you’re already punishing me with the gormless git.”
Cordelia frowned prettily, her forehead creasing ever so slightly. “Tell me on the way down the hall. Move!” she demanded again, smiling on the inside at the obvious worry William was displaying. It was just fun being around the blond and she was fairly sure that he knew her bark was far worse than her bite. She would never actually hurt the guy and she already knew what he was going to tell her, thanks to a very brief but welcome phone call from Buffy Giles.
It was interesting to Cordelia that while she knew who Xander Harris was and knew who William Barrington was, the two had never come clean with each other. That William knew Xander’s true status and name was simply icing on the cake.
Maybe it wasn’t much of a secret since William did know about Xander, but… the blond had sworn her to secrecy with regards to his own status during their first session, so…
It was good that William was going to see Xander, she’d decided. If only because however it worked out, she could stop worrying about accidentally saying something she shouldn’t.
Yeah, that was it, she told herself. It couldn’t be that she felt guilty for keeping secrets from Xander. Cordelia Chase didn’t do guilty.
“Change,” she ordered once they’d reached the locker room door. “Three minutes or I’ll come in after you myself.”
William shivered slightly as he ducked into the room to get into his therapy togs. The girl would do it; he knew that much from experience.
He was more tired than he’d ever been in his entire life when he slowly climbed the stairs to Xander’s apartment after his appointment with Cordelia.
Still, he was impressed at his speed, considering the fact that he’d managed each flight on his own and while exhausted both mentally and physically.
He couldn’t quite manage to be as frenetic as he’d thought he’d be since she’d told him that she’d changed her mind and his bad leg was strong enough for ‘whatever kind of acrobatics you’re thinking about doing with Xander… as long as neither one of you is actually airborne…’.
In fact, he was finding it difficult enough to put one foot in front of the other and open the door with the key his beloved had given him two months earlier.
Finally, he stumbled into the apartment he’d avoided since hearing about Larry, and he simply stood in the doorway between the living room and bedroom, eyes slowly finding the few things he was sure Xander would want with him for the next few days.
The cowboy hat they’d bought on a whim—white, to contrast with William’s black one. The Native American blanket they both had known was a fake, even while buying it—Xander had kept it at his place for the rare night they weren’t together because it reminded him of Will, he’d said. And the dirty-looking jacket made of some odd patchwork of lather, suede and lizard skin that the brunette had insisted made him a local, though William thought it merely made him look gullible.
“Right, then,” William mumbled, his eyes locked on the bed now, “Have to remember to pack them up in the morning…”
He made his way shakily across the floor, fingers loosening the fastenings of his clothes, and when he reached the side of the bed he simply groaned and fell forward.
It had been a long while since Xander had slept in that bed, but William could still smell him just a bit on the pillows… and that scent followed him down into slumber.
He was rather baffled and disoriented when he woke; mostly because he wasn’t sure of exactly where he was at first, but then it all filtered back.
Cordelia. Therapy. Pain. And the words he was still holding close to his heart, as well. ‘If you’re careful and you don’t try to hold him up, your leg will be fine, William… but if either one of you becomes airborne—in any way that doesn’t involve some sort of a harness—you’ll be answering to me, and trust me. You will not enjoy that!’
William couldn’t help the smile that spread over his lips, even as he leapt—carefully—from Xander’s bed and gathered the items he’d decided upon earlier.
They wouldn’t make Xander any less angry, he was certain, but they might make the brunette smile once they’d made up.
And they would make up, William told himself sternly. There was no other option. He loved Xander. Was in love with him, in point of fact, and there was just about zero chance that he was going to let the younger man end things for good, no matter what his beloved might think he wanted on the spur of the moment.
It took much less time to gather his own things once he’d returned to the condo he’d thought of as ‘theirs’ since the moment Xander had entered it and stayed.
Less than forty minutes passed before William found himself standing outside his own door with six packed bags and a bum leg, though it wasn’t as bum as it had been before.
“Bloody hell,” he grumbled. “At least two trips.”
Xander couldn’t help the suspicious gaze he was giving Liam Aurelius.
It wasn’t entirely because of the history between their families, and while he admitted that to himself, he wasn’t sure of whether he would ever admit it out loud.
Still, he appraised the man with his eyes, seeing… a tall, looming presence. Spiky brown hair that was carefully highlighted to appear sun-kissed. Dark eyes that gleamed whenever they locked onto his sister. A strong, athletic body which seemed designed to let the D&G suit hang just right… or the suit had been tailor made, which was actually more likely.
He also saw possessiveness in the stare locked on Buffy and arrogance in the way the man held himself.
Xander couldn’t help frowning, even as he leaned down to murmur in Willow’s ear.
“Are the Aureliuses part caveman? Because that overhanging forehead doesn’t scream ‘modern day human’ to me…”
Willow laughed softly, smoothing her hands down the burgundy silk of her gown. “Xan… he doesn’t look like a caveman!” She grinned cheekily then cocked her head as she considered Liam. “Maybe a little Neanderthal-ish, but not caveman-y.” Her eyes left the man in question and met her brother’s. “Okay. He’s not my type. He’s not your type. But Buffy… looks like she’s in love.”
For the first time, Xander actually made himself look at Buffy without weighing who it was she’d brought home, and…
She was laughing. She was chatting. She was having the very occasional sip of champagne while she worked the room.
She was in her element and…
And she was looking at Liam every few minutes and her free hand—the one not holding the champagne flute—was clenching slightly, as though she wanted it to be wrapped in long, thick fingers that made her feel… something, and…
“Bloody…” he caught himself before he could add the ‘hell’, although the fact that he’d started to use one of Will’s expressions made him miss his lover all the more.
“So maybe,” Willow went on, giggling on the inside, “you should actually meet him. He might not be a bad guy.” She smirked. “Of course, you’ll never know if you don’t try, right…? And I’m sure he’d understand about not trusting him right away… considering. I mean, honesty is the best policy, isn’t it?”
The fact that his youngest sister was telling him to take a risk was both amazing and amusing, considering what he’d found out in the last day.
Xander smirked slowly but deeply. “Hmmmm… maybe. Of course, if you weren’t hiding the fact that you’re sleeping with Oz, your whole ‘honesty’ platform might hold a bit more weight. As it is, a few feathers would sink it, Wills.”
It was almost disappointing when Willow blushed bright red and rushed off. Only almost, though, because Xander had decided that she was right.
He owed it to himself—and to Buffy—to at least talk to Liam Aurelius.
And if the man wasn’t good enough for his sister, there would be some serious violence.
Liam had that look, after all… the look of a man who would not be thwarted once he’d set his sights on something. And since the man had clearly set his sights on Buffy, Xander figured he should just make sure.
He didn’t hear the person slipping up behind him, but Xander knew who it was by the way the long, slender hand rested on his shoulder.
“So…?” he said softly, a tiny quirk tipping his lips when the hand tightened.
“I can make him disappear in a heartbeat… with none the wiser, Xander. On your say-so. If he’s not what he seems, he’ll deserve it.”
And while it made Xander shiver to hear that, it also made him smile. “I guess Willow was right,” Xander finally said as he leaned back into that somehow comforting grip. “I need to meet him. But if I don’t like what I find, I’ll let you know.”
The hand gripping Xander’s shoulder loosened. “I hope you mean that.”
The young man’s brow furrowed as he considered what might happen if he judged the other man wrongly, but… family was family. He would never let one of his sisters attach themselves permanently to anyone who was… wrong for them. Inappropriate.
And if Liam Aurelius was playing Buffy…? Then he deserved whatever he got.
“I do mean it. You’d be more likely to end things between them than any number of restraining orders anyway, Ethan.”
A chuckle. “My way is also a more… permanent solution.” Ethan smirked. “Not to mention untraceable.”
“I don’t think it’ll ever come to that. Ever.” He shivered again. “Or I hope not, anyway.”
Ethan forced himself to look repentant. “I didn’t mean it in the literal sense,” he lied. “I merely meant that I could put the word out that Liam Aurelius was persona non grata in Society.”
And suddenly Xander felt better.
“I still think I should at least meet him before I declare his death to Society, though,” Xander murmured. “Besides… if Buffy loves him, he must have some redeeming qualities, right…?”
Ethan sighed. “Right, Xander. Whatever you say.” He’d be having some words with Rupert later, however… and if his lover gave him the all-clear, well… time enough for that later, he told himself with an entirely internal shrug. And Xander might be right, after all.
Ethan hoped so, for Liam Aurelius’s sake.
So many, many things didn’t matter to William right then.
That he’d actually had to make three trips with all the luggage didn’t matter.
That he’d been unable to fit it all into his car and had then had to call a taxi was also on the ‘doesn’t matter’ list.
The fact that his flight had been both delayed and too long so for his own liking…? Also on the disregarded list.
In fact, the only thing that did matter was that… he was there. At Xander’s family’s home.
And maybe it was Xander’s home, too, but William was hoping not. Hell, he was hoping that Texas was Xander’s home now, and that he was possibly a bit of ‘home’ for the younger man, as well.
Xander loved him; he knew that much. The bloke had said so more often in the last three months than Lindsey had in the years they’d been… whatever it was they’d been. Not lovers, certainly. Or not in the way William now understood it could be.
So, yes. He was nervous, but nervous wasn’t the same as scared, and…
“I’m not certain of where I’ll be staying as I’ve just arrived, but if you wouldn’t mind…” he announced to the man who opened the door and looked surprised by William’s luggage. “Perhaps you might see to my things? I may possibly be visiting with Xan… I mean, Alexander, but…” And if his heart was racing from his own uncertainty now that he’d arrived, nobody would ever know, he figured.
Now all he had to do was find his lover, tell him who he really was, and… “Bloody hell,” William whispered to himself.
She’d been staying away from Xander ever since he’d told her that he knew about her and Oz, but when she’d seen the blond in the foyer and heard what he said to Jennings, Willow hadn’t been able to help laughing and moving closer. “You have got to be William, right? God, I’ve heard more about you in the last few days than I’ve ever heard about any of Xander’s… infatuations since he left.” She’d dimpled prettily at him, well aware of the fact that even gay men couldn’t resist her when she did that. “I’m Willow. Xander’s sister.”
It might have been that he was so shocked to realize that Xander’s youngest sister knew who he was that had had William gaping at the girl. Or the fact that she’d clearly been expecting him although he hadn’t called ahead.
Maybe that was why William had found himself smiling at the redhead, even while his nervousness increased.
“Willow,” he’d answered with a shaky smile, “it’s lovely to meet you. I…” William sighed and forced himself to laugh. “I hope to be more than an infatuation for him, as well.” His brow firmed as he took on a determined air. “I will be more than that,” he declared.
The redhead couldn’t help giggling as she took the man’s hand. “Oh, trust me, William. There’s no way he sees you as anything transient. Not with the way he talks about you. Um, to me,” she’d added after a moment’s thought. “And possibly to Daddy… and maybe Uncle Ethan. But the fact that he’s mentioned you at all—and by name—pretty much implies that you’re… special to him. And not like that fucktard Larry, either. I mean, even when he was talking about him, he always sounded so sad!”
Willow had blushed at the sheer volume of words that had left her mouth on one breath, then met William’s wide blue eyes again.
“When he talks about you,” she offered with a smile, “he always sounds… thrilled. And that’s good enough for me to be all ‘yay, Will and Xander’… just so’s you know I’m rooting for you.”
William had blinked wildly, trying to comprehend the content of the girl’s words even while he deliberately resisted taking them as writ.
“Thank you, Willow,” he’d finally said, “but if I am to speak with him, perhaps it might be best if I actually… see him…?”
The next thing he knew, he was being dragged through throngs of people, and if this was what the annual shareholder’s ball for GSI was like, then… he truly didn’t understand why they hadn’t taken over ATS yet.
By the same token, of course, if ATS threw a shindig like this on an annual basis, there was a good chance that their Board of Directors, as well as their principal shareholders, would feel more… appreciated, and therefore more likely to invest more.
He filed the thought away for later, even as he let Willow lead him in a winding path between too-tanned men and women who wore too-trendy clothing.
His bad leg started bothering him and he pulled back on the small, soft hand in his grasp as he stopped.
“I can make it from here, Willow,” he said with a smile. “After all, I’m sure you have better things to do than squire your brother’s… me, yes?”
The redhead grinned and winked quickly ay the blond. “Well, I… my boyfriend is kinda…”
“Waiting?” William laughed. “Go, Willow. And thank you.”
He was rather taken with the way the young girl’s eyes sparkled when she laughed, and not solely because he could see signs of a deep sadness within her.
No, it was more that… he had a feeling she only showed that side of her—her joy and happiness—to a select few, and to be included amongst them…? Well, it actually made him hope that she might support him if and when Xander went completely mad.
Or got completely mad, anyway, which Will was certain would happen as soon as the brunette discovered just who he’d been sleeping with.
Willow’s brow furrowed just a bit at the swiftly changing expressions flitting across William’s face and she hugged him quickly, muttering “good luck” although she wasn’t sure why she said it. After all, William was going to surprise Xander. Why would he need luck?
It was a puzzle, but fortunately… Willow had always been exceedingly good at puzzles. Especially when she had Oz to help her, and she definitely had Oz.
Of course, he had her just as much, so it was all good, she figured as she stepped away from the blond and went in search of her not-so-secret lover.
Rupert Giles watched his youngest child drag the blond man as though he were a dog on a leash, his eyes narrowing just a bit when he realized exactly who the young man was.
It had been a few years since the fellow had last appeared in the Society pages, but it was definitely William Barrington, and that meant… “Oh, dear lord,” he muttered despairingly, “Buffy’s been at it again. That meddlesome girl.”
Ethan couldn’t help chuckling quietly to himself at his lover’s words. “Look on the bright side, Ripper old chap… if she manages to marry the eldest Aurelius, you won’t have to worry about her schemes and machinations ever again.”
Rupert sighed softly and leaned back against the man he cherished almost as much as his own children. “Yes… it would be something of a relief to have to deal only with your plots and plans, beloved. However, as Xander is unaware of the fact that ‘his Will’ is not only William Barrington of Dallas, Texas, but also William Aurelius of Aurelius Technology Systems, perhaps it would be best if they were not to meet until we’ve had a chance to speak with the young man ourselves.”
He somehow managed to cover his amusement when Ethan’s body tensed against his back. “Oh… hadn’t I mentioned that part? I am sorry, Ethan. Of course, I assumed you knew; simply because you always seem to know everything, but…”
Ethan frowned, fighting his own smile for a good few moments before giving in. It wasn’t often that Ripper managed to surprise him, but when it did happen…? Well, it only served to remind him of how lucky he truly was to be a part of this infuriating, annoying, wonderful family… and of the fact that out of everyone else in the world, his lover was truly his only match.
“Fine, Ripper,” he answered slyly. “We’ll rescue our boy’s bloke from a public scene. Besides, you’re right. We really should talk to this William. It wouldn’t do for Xander to become any more attached if the rumours of the younger Aurelius’s mental state are true.”
Rupert smiled and stepped away from Ethan with a quick glance over his shoulder at the other man. “I sincerely doubt that any version of clinical—or even criminal—insanity will sway Xander if his heart is set. God knows it hasn’t mattered to at least one other Giles I could mention.”
And Ripper would pay for that remark later, Ethan told himself with a wicked smirk. Of course, that was likely why his lover had spoken it, which was… actually very much to his liking.
The smirk was the only sign of his inner thoughts as he followed the man towards the blond their boy was so enamored of.
Feed the Author