Chemistry's Correct
Summary: Xander and Graham's first date runs into a Hellmouthy kind of problem
Date: June 28, 2000

**********  

Well, as first dates go, this has been. . . marginally less painful then oral surgery?

It's been awful. Just awful. A complete, and total disaster kind of awful.

Is it written somewhere that evil can't take a break, not even for one measly little night? You know, I'm sure that demons could show a bit of respect for people's private lives, and still remain very demony. And. . . Oh wonderful, the capper to the night, I'm starting to sound like Buffy.

I think she's gonna be okay. She got knocked around pretty hard, but she's had worse. She'll be fine. We all will. . . though for a while there. . .

I wish I hadn't worn my good shirt. Some of these stains will never come out.

Yep, hindsight being 20/20 and all, I should have went with my rattiest t-shirt. But no, I wanted to look nice. I wanted to look stylish. I wanted. . . ah hell, fine, I wanted to look hot! Is that so wrong? I think it worked, too. The first time Xander saw me tonight, at The Espresso Pump, he kinda ogled me. Yep, the whole full body glance over. Man, it's amazing what a little leer can do for a guy's self esteem.

In fact, I can honestly say that that look of appreciation was absolutely worth the hour it took me to decide exactly what to wear. It was even worth Riley's snickers and snide comments during said hour. Mental note - either get a lock for my bedroom door, or get my own apartment. I'm not a vain person, but I refuse to take ribbing about my clothes from a guy that usually looks like he walked straight out of a cornfield!

Anyway, there I was, looking pretty damn good if I do say so myself, and Xander had just given me this look like he wanted to devour me whole. Yeah, it was that hungry. And, oh my, the possibilities that suddenly loomed before me.

I really hadn't given much thought to sex. Correction, I hadn't given much thought to the possibility of Xander and I actually having sex, like in someplace other then my dreams. I'm almost positive that he's never been with a guy before, so the last thing I wanted to do was swoop in. I figured that if I came on too strong, I'd scare him away, but as I walked to his table, I'm fairly certain that fear was the last thing on his mind.

I have no idea what caused it. . . maybe it was because we were on a *date* date. No Scooby meeting in sight, no friends to make light of the situation. Sure, Giles was going to be performing that night, but I was fairly certain he was going to keep his distance. Nope, it was going to be just me, and Xander, along with every single expectation, and consequence usually associated with dating. Whatever was happening between me and him, it became. . . real.

Hey, that's as good an answer as any to explain why it suddenly felt like we had both gone into heat.

Chemicals, pheromones, massive amounts of pent up lust, whatever, it was there. The air felt all heavy, and my throat was dry, and there was this tingle low in my belly, and I hadn't even reached the table yet. Xander felt it too, I could tell. His eyes tracked me through the room, and for a split second I had the distinct impression of being his. . . the word that keeps popping up in my head is. . . prey? Of course, that makes no sense. I mean, why would I get an feeling like that from Xander?

Anyway, I made it to the table, sat down, managed to order, and all the while kept my eyes glued to Xander's velvety brown ones. Hormones were flying hard and fierce. We probably would have pounced on each other then and there, if Giles' set hadn't started. Xander took one look at the bespectacled parental figure, blushed heavily, and began to pick at his food. It was charming.

Yes, charming. I decided that I was using the word cute far too often in describing Xander's various habits and mannerisms. I needed to branch out.

We listened to Giles for a while. The man really does have a good voice, although judging from his behavior I'm a bit surprised he didn't break out into giggles. Every time he started in on a love song he'd glance at our table and the corners of his mouth would quirk up a little.

There was nothing malicious about it. I think he was just. . . pleased. When Giles got off stage he didn't say anything, didn't even come near our table, he just looked at me, smiled, and gave me an almost imperceptible nod.

So, there we were. I was having a wonderful time, Xan was having a wonderful time, and the man that he regards as a father figure had just given me his blessing. The night couldn't get any better.

Of course, when something can't get any better there are usually two outcomes. Either it stays the same forever, or it gets worse. Sometimes, much, much worse. Guess what happened in this case?

Xander was on his second mocha, which Willow had already warned me was his caffeine cut off point, when I saw her and Tara hurry into the cafe. I admit, my first thoughts consisted of a stream of rather colorful language at the thought of any intrusions, but all of that disappeared when I got a good look at their faces.

They were terrified.

And, so ended the happy portion of the evening.

**********

As soon as Xan and I had seen the look on Willow and Tara's faces we had promptly collected Giles and hauled ass back to his place, stopping only long enough to put in a call to Ri and Buffy. Finding Anya and Spike patiently waiting on Giles' doorstep had been a surprise, but they said they were bored, and monster fighters can't really be *that* choosy.

So, once again we all found ourselves crowded around an ex-librarian's apartment, growing increasingly tired of Giles making Willow continuously repeat her story.

"Are you sure that's what you saw?" It was kinda unnerving, the way he kept asking that. . . or maybe it was the way he was polishing the lenses out of his glasses.

Willow let out an exasperated sigh. "Yes, yes, and yes

"Giles!" Buffy sounded more annoyed then anything else. "Willow, and Tara have told you what happened, like, ten times already. If you know what we're up against spill, if not, help us figure out what's going on." Riley was fidgeting off some extra energy, Buffy's hair was mussed. Evidently, this unforeseen bad guy hadn't just ruined one evening.

Giles grumbled a little, but stopped his jerky movements. "Fine. If I've correctly interpreted what the girls saw, and mind you, there is always the chance for error, I believe we are dealing with a Golem."

Willow frowned. "A Golem? But, I thought they were supposed to be protectors?"

"Not necessarily." Giles gave his glasses one last polish before setting them back on his nose. "A Golem is a figure shaped out of clay and then animated to do it's master's will."

"So, this Golem thing is basically a tool." Riley spoke up. "Someone has to be controlling it?"

"Exactly."

"And, if this person is a whacked out nut job." Xander surmised. "We've got ourselves a rampaging pile of super dirt."

Giles glared at him. "Not to make light of a potentially deadly situation, but, yes."

For the first time that night Tara spoke up. "This is powerful magic. We need to find out who created it."

"Agreed, but first, we have to stop the mudman."Buffy looked hopefully at Giles. "There is a way to stop it, right?"

"Yes, it's quite simple, actually. There is a word on, the Golem's forehead, Amet. It's the final part of the spell that animates the clay. To de-animate it you must erase the first letter, turning the word into met... or death."

"Yeah, simple." Buffy's sarcastic tone was lost on no one.

"Well, compared to what Willow, Tara, Anya and I are going to be doing, yes, it is." Giles replied, sounding sort of peeved.

"Uh," Willow looked at him in concern. "What *are* we going to be doing?"

"Trying to find out exactly who is controlling the Golem. I have a few locator spells that might just do the trick. Tara, if you could please pass me that greenish book, and Anya, I believe there's some Mugwort in the far right cabinet. . ."

While our witchy contingent was working out the exacts of the spells, I snagged Xander and led him down the hall. His eyebrows rose considerably as I ushered him into the bathroom.

I closed the door, then faced him. "I didn't want to say anything in front of the others, but. . . maybe you should stay here."

His brows fell, and pushed together into a frown. "What?"

"Maybe you should stay here. You know, help with the spell, or something?"

Looking back , it was like a window blind being closed. Yeah, that's a pretty good analogy for how Xander's face just kinda shut down. In a split second his happy openness was replaced with an expression so frigid, I wouldn't have been surprised if Giles' pipes froze. In other words, Xander was pissed. . . and I had no clue as to why.

I tried to explain. "It's not that I don't want you to come, it's just. . . I don't want you to get hurt."

Boy, oh boy, was *that* the wrong thing to say.

He crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Just because I don't have Buffy's powers, or your commando skills, doesn't mean that I'm a useless, helpless lump." Then his expression became almost. . . disappointed. "You know, I honestly didn't expect this from *you*."

"I - I - I. . ."Had no idea what he was talking about, but couldn't form a coherent thought to save my life.

"Just. . . forget it." Xander stormed out of the room in a disgusted huff, leaving me standing there, confused, and more then a little worried.

*****

When I got back to the living room, Buffy was handing out orders. "Since Wil, and Tara spotted this thing at the park, we'll start there. Riley and I will take the north side. Graham and Xander can come up from the south. You guys got your phones?"

Ri, and I nodded. We had decided to decree two cell phones necessary equipment for a patrol, especially after my attack in the cemetery. They were just a logical addition.

Buffy's mouth set in a thin line of determination. "Okay then, lets. . ."

"Hey, what about me?" Spike looked at her, expectantly.

Buffy looked to Giles, who frowned at the vampire. "W-what about. . . er, you?"

"What do you want me to do? How can I help?" Spike rolled his eyes when no answers were immediately forthcoming. "When will you wankers get it through your thick skulls? In the here and now, I'm on your side." He straightened his duster. "I mean, if *I* can't wreak havoc on the general populace, then no one should be able to."

Giles put a hand to the bridge of his nose. "As always, I am temporarily floored by your unique reasoning. Very well, you can. . ."

"He can come with us."

All heads swiveled towards Xander. Evidently, our date was going so well, he decided to invite a neutered, but still evil, vampire to join us.

Spike accepted Xander's invitation, and somehow I resisted the urge to kick the crap out of him when the vamp smirked at me.

Regardless of what our friends might have been thinking, nothing more was said, and those of us who were going grabbed our weapons, and headed out the door.

We had just left the outer courtyard when a voice called out from behind us. "Xander, other person. . . wait!"

Yep, a few weeks ago I was a soldier, then I was Xander's date, now, I'm the 'other person.'

We turned back towards the voice and found Anya briskly walking towards us. She glared at Buffy, Riley, and Spike. "I don't believe I mentioned any of your names." There were a few snorts and unintelligible mutters, but the three continued on their way.

"You coming with?" Xander asked.

I gotta say, at that instant I was getting a little mad. And now, allow me be crushed under the weight of that understatement. I mean, first he invited the evil dead, now he was extending the same thing to his ex! Geez, when Xander gets aggravated he certainly develops a spiteful streak.

Anya seemed truly puzzled. "Go with you? Why would I want to see you get your asses kicked?"She shrugged. "No, I just wanted to say something now before either of you gets killed or anything."

Now it was Xander's turn for puzzlement. "Okay."

"I wanted to say. . . that I'm happy for you both." She smiled, obviously pleased with herself.

"You're happy for us." Xander repeated, slowly, as if spacing them out would cause them to make sense.

Anya nodded emphatically. "Yes, Xander. I'm glad you found someone with the corresponding body parts you desired." She then turned to me. "And you, whatever your name is, I'm sure you'll get a lot of enjoyment from Xander's penis. . . or his mouth. . . or his. . . well, I'm not all that certain of the logistics involved, but I know you'll derive pleasure from his body somehow. And. . . I really don't have anything else to say." She gave us each a decisive nod, then headed back towards Giles' building.

Xander's face was unreadable, though his cheeks had flushed to a bright pink. He watched Anya's back for a moment then turned around and started walking. He never looked at me.

Things had gotten way too wrong, way too fast, and all I really knew was I had to put them right again. . . oh, and also try and help stop a giant mudpie gone bad.

At least my life isn't boring.

**********


Hammersmith Park is like a lot of things in Sunnydale. Beautiful on the outside, but scratch the surface, and stand back to make room for the demons that spill out. Yeah, it's like a lot of things in Sunnydale. . . a lot of people too.

I think what threw me so much is that I never imagined Xander like this. You know, as a person. In my fantasies he was always just a beautiful face, an amazing body, a . . . fantasy. But, I had been given one hell of a wake up call.

The real Xander is just as complex as I am.

In the hour since we had left Giles' he had become an entirely different person, and I had been the catalyst for it. Me, and what I had said to him. I just couldn't get why he had gotten so upset at the idea of me wanting to keep him safe. Did he think it was none of my business? Were things moving too fast, and he suddenly didn't like the idea of me being serious enough to care about him?

"Hey, Commando-boy."

Somehow I had missed the signs when I entered hell. While Xan was keeping his distance, Spike had, for some ungodly reason, decided to stick right by my side.

"So, what's the deal? There trouble in poof paradise?"Bright blue eyes glittered malevolently. "The whelp not putting out?"

It is a testament to my self restraint that that bleached British jackass didn't end up a permanent part of the park floor then and there. Course, even my self restraint has it's limits.

"The next time you make a derogatory comment about Xander I'm knocking your teeth down your throat, understand. . . Seventeen?"

For a second I thought Spike was gonna rip my jugular open, chip or no chip. But in an instant the look of fury passed, and was replaced with. . . something else. I'm tempted to say respect, but I think that would be seriously pushing it.

He glanced over me, appraisingly. "Don't fret, pet. Kiddie hour didn't look good on you anyway."

I knew that he was just trying to rile me. . .cause I wasn't even gonna *think* about any other possibilities. I also wasn't going to get into a verbal sparring match with him.

I shot the vamp a glare, and decided that, no matter how upset he might be at me, Xander was gonna get a walking companion. . . if I could find him.

Evidently, while Spike was. . . being Spike, Xan had wandered off. Alone.

For a moment I couldn't breathe.. Spike was saying something I'm pretty sure I should have punched him for, but my mind was too full of gruesome possibilities to act on it.

Then. . . my mind cleared but before I could act like a reasonable person, Xander reappeared.

"Call Riley." He said. "We've found our Golem."

*****

"I don't get it." Xander's question was shared by us all.

This seven foot tall, preternaturally strong, clay monster was busy destroying. . . playground equipment?!

The see-saw had already been splintered. The slide was pummeled almost beyond recognition. And the creature was starting to slowly mangle the jungle gym.

"Well, we still have to stop it."Buffy's voice wasn't quite as adamant as it had been.

"How are we gonna accomplish that again?"

Buffy faltered a little. "Um, like Giles said, we just have to get rid of the first letter of the word on it's forehead."

"How are we gonna accomplish that again?" Spike raised his other eyebrow.

It was decided that Buffy and Spike would attack the Golem head on, and attempt to bring it down long enough for me, Ri, or Xander to take off that pesky letter. Doesn't that *sound* like a good plan?

Course we had no idea that Golems are stronger then both vampires, and Slayers. Kinda figured it out though when Buffy and Spike went flying off in separate directions.

The direct attack obviously wasn't working, and I needed to think of something before Xander and Riley leapt into the fray and got themselves thrashed, which I knew they would.

I'm not exactly sure where my idea came from. Like most good ones it just kinda popped into my head.

In my Junior and Senior year I was a starting pitcher on my high school's baseball team. Honestly never thought I'd be using any of those skills in the real world. . . never thought I'd be fighting demons either. Moving on. . .

I picked up a fairly good sized rock, tested it's weight for a second, focused on the thing's forehead, and let it fly.

The Golem was not please at the stone embedded in it's chest.

Hey, it had been awhile since I'd pitched, all right?

So, I tried it again. . . and again. . . and, you get the idea. Fifth time was the charm. *SPLAT* The stone obliterated the 'A' and it was like the monster was a puppet who's strings got cut. It crumpled to the ground, and, without magic to sustain it, started to dissolve.

"Little rusty, but overall very nice performance."Riley grinned at me, and Xander. . . didn't say a word.

Xander checked on Buffy, while Riley called Giles. "Hey, it's dead. . . Damn!" He looked up, and addressed us. "The spells didn't work." His attention switched back to the voice on the other end of the line. "Yeah. . . uh huh. . . right. . . you want what?!" Riley took the phone from his ear, and covered the mouthpiece. His face had a distinctly sour look on it as he spoke to Buffy. "Uh, Giles wants you to get something out of it's mouth."

She crossed her arms, and gave him what I believe was her best incredulous look to date. "And why exactly does he want this thing which will never happen?"

"He said that the only way to control a Golem is to put written instructions under it's tongue. . ."

Insert chorus of 'Ewww.' here.

"Yeah, but since the spells didn't work, Giles thinks we might be able to learn something from the directions. So. . ." He made a vague gesture towards the Golem.

Buffy stubbornly shook her head. "I'm not doing it. You do it."

"Uh. . . I'm holding the phone."

My hero.

"Xander?" Riley looked hopefully at him.

"Since it's a vital clue I probably shouldn't be entrusted with it." I'd heard Xander make a lot of self depreciating comments before. . . too many, actually, but this wasn't even an attempt at humor. The venom in that sentence had been directed inward, and all I wanted to do was dig a little hole to crawl into.

"Oh for the love ah. . . I'll do it!!" Spike took off his duster, rolled up his sleeve, got down on his knees, and plunged a hand into the creatures gaping mouth.

Insert chorus of 'Ick.' here.

"Got something." With a really gross squish Spike pulled his arm free of the clay. He shook open the retrieved piece of paper. "Destroy playground equipment." He read.

"Is that it?"

"No, wait. . . Destroy playground equipment, kill the Slayer, run for President, and take over the world. Yeah, that's it!" The vampire snorted. "Contrary to James Bond films, most bad guys do not write out detailed summaries of every evil event they're planning."

Buffy looked like she was bout to offer a retort, but instead turned on her heel, grabbed Riley's arm, and limped away. "If there are any other crises tonight, don't even think about calling us."

Spike derisively shook his head as he watched them leave. "Either your boy is an idiot, or that sex must be unbelievable."
Those were pretty much the only two options I had thought of.

The vamp thrust the muddy paper at me. "The Watcher will be wanting to see that, but I don't fancy seeing him." He shrugged into his duster. "I"m off, then." He waggled his eyebrows. "Have fun, pet."

I sighed. . . deeply, and hoped that some miracle might occur and Xander would allow me to at least walk him home. I turned to ask him, but. . .

He was gone.

*****

So, that's it. Everyone else went back to their respective homes, or crypts as the case may be. Everyone but me. Why on earth would I want to go home when I could sit on a swing in the middle of the night and contemplate the ruin that is my life. Okay, it isn't exactly *that* bad, but it feels pretty damn close. I have to fix it. Somehow, I have to. . .

"Graham?"

Oh. . . Xander. Talking to me. Uh, what should I say? "Hey." Good one, very noncommittal. Go with that.

"Can we talk?"

Say no. Drag it out. Say No. Buy some time to fix whatever I did wrong. Say no! Don't give him the opportunity to end it. Say NO! "Okay."

**********

When I was a kid I used to love swings. They were my all time favorite piece of playground equipment. Everyday, at recess, I would race out and spend the entire hour teetering between the fear of flipping over the bar, and the exhilaration of flying higher then anyone else dared to.

I don't think I've even thought about that in ten years. But, here I am, feet dragging the ground, waiting for Xander's talk.

Talk. Short on letters, big on implications. *The* talk. Let's. . . talk. We should *talk*. Is there a more ominous word in the English language?

"Graham. . ."

Here it comes.

"I just wanted to say" It's over. "I"m sorry." But, it's over. "For acting like such a jerk." That"s right, it's ov. . . What?



"Is that it?" I ask. Xander bristles, and I get the overwhelming urge to kick myself again.

"Oh, I'm sorry." He scowls. "I forgot to prostrate at your feet. Would you like me to try it again, oh master?"

Crap. Not only have I dug my own grave, it seems I've made a sub-basement to it. "I don't. . ." Okay, think! How the hell am I supposed to fix this. I don't even know what . . . "understand."

Xander frowns in confusion. "Understand what?"

"This!" I kick at some dirt. That's good. Act like a five year old. "Things were going good, right? I mean. . . at least I thought they were."

"They were." A ghost of a smile appears on his face. "Things were very good."

"Then what. . ."

"It was what you said." He bows his head. "I know I overreacted, it's just. . . Willow, and Buffy, and Giles, they treat me like that all the time. I'm used to it from them. But when you started in the same way. . ."

So, we all want him to be safe. What's wrong with that? "What way?"

He blinks at me. "You think I can't take care of myself."

Oh. . . things slowly drifting into focus. "I never said that."

He glowered. "Not word for word, but it was implied."

"No, it wasn't." What exactly have the others been telling him to make him think like that. "I know what I said to you , I know what I meant, and it wasn't that."

He doesn't believe me. "Then what did you mean?"

Should I go for the truth here? It might scare him, but anything less. . . "I wanted you to stay at Giles' because I knew it would have been safer, not because I thought you might mess up in the field. You could have Buffy's powers, and I'd still wouldn't have wanted you to come with us." The chains creak as I scoot closer to his swing. "I want to protect you, and. . . take care of you. . . I'm sorry if that weirds you out, but. . ." I put on my best sheepish grin. "I've got it bad, remember?"

Xander stares at me. His warm brown eyes search my face, probably trying to discern if I really meant what I just said. "It does kinda weird me out." He finally admits. "I'm not used to people. . . caring, like that." For a split second he looks so lost and forlorn. I just want to gather him in my arms and never let go. "But, I think it might be a nice feeling to get used to. Just don't be all condescending about it, okay." He puts on this mock stern look.

"No condensation here." Witness my wonderful verbal skills. "Uh, cause that would mean that it would be cloudy."

Xander laughs, but I'm not put off by it. Not when the awful tension that had been polluting his face disappeared, and his eyes sparkle and get all crinkly in the corners. I love it when he's happy.

He scuffs his shoes in the dirt. "So, are you willing to overlook my inherent moronic-ness for the last hour or so?"

"Not overlook." His face crumples in almost comic distress. "Accept."

"Huh?"

"I'm not going to forget that I upset you, but I am going to try my damnedest to not do it again. Xander, you have to understand that I would never intentionally hurt you. And for the times that I'm going to unintentionally do that, you've got to tell me."

He has the good graces to look properly chagrined  "But I do that whole storming off thing so well."

"Yes, that was very dramatic."  I sigh. "Not exactly the first date I had hoped for."

"It wasn't that bad." He smiles at my look of disbelief. "Hey, you didn't attempt to siphon my life-force, literally bite my head off, try and use asphyxiation in foreplay, or spend the evening regaling me with stories of all the men you've tortured in the name of vengeful women. All in all, I'd say this ranks as my best date ever."

I stare at him for a moment while I try and absorb what he's just told me. I had known that Xander's romantic life was sometimes comic fodder for the other members of the group, but I had no idea it was so. . . so. . . "Should I be worried about ex's?" I ask, only half jokingly.

"Nah. They're either dead, or in jail, or. . . Anya."  He frowns.

"Life with you is never gonna be boring, is it?" Uh oh. Did I just make a reference to a potential long term relationship? Gee, what's the level below a sub-basemen? Well, maybe he didn't catch it.

Xan raises an eyebrow. "Life with me?"

He caught it. "Planning ahead, are we?"

Gauging the reaction. No obvious commitment caused distress.  "Does that bother you?"

"Surprisingly, no." He coyly peers at me through those thick lashes.  "I like you, Graham. I like you a lot."

Okay, remember to breath. Breathing is good.

Xander edges closer to me. "I can't help. . . thinking about what Anya said."

Swallowing. That's good too. Drooling on his shoe - bad. Swallowing - good.

"I don't think this is about. . . corresponding body parts." Damn. "Although, those are really good too." Yay! "I think. . . I think. . ."

He puts his hands on my shoulders and pulls me close to him, swing and all, and. . . Lips so soft.

So warm.

Tingles going all over.

Oh, his tongue. . .

Tastes. . . Xandery.

Oxygen. . . gonna need to. . .

And, it's over, and we're both panting. . . on a swing set. . . in the middle of a partly demolished playground. This should probably be continued elsewhere. Okay, higher brain functions, need you to start working again. "We. . . should go."

He nods, still looking a little dazed. Damn, I'm good. He shakes his head and blinks a few times. "You're right. Don't want to be around when any authority figures see what Clayface Junior did to this place."

Oh yeah, him. "Wish we had been able to find out more about the guy behind it." He needs to be properly *thanked* for interrupting our date.

Xan shrugs. "I've learned, in my vast experiences dealing with the segment of the population commonly referred to as 'bad guys', that when you foil one of their nefarious plans they'll come up with a new one in about a week. Just ask Spike. He used to do it all the time."

Oh, *Spike* used to do it. Well then, if *Spike* used to do it. No, no, no. I don't care if Xander did invite the vamp along just to spite me. I refuse to be jealous of a fixed vampire!

"He didn't say anything to you, did he?" Xander frowns. "It"s not fair! Riley gets Buffy, and the only super powered person we get is Spike!"

See, I knew Xander didn't invite him along just to spite me.

"He's not *that* bad." I say. "Just remind him you can kick his ass to New Mexico and he'll behave."


Xander laughs again. "I like this side of you." He says, still chuckling.

This side? Oh. "Well, I. . . usually don't talk much, unless I. . . unless I feel comfortable with a person."  I gaze at him, trying to drink in every little thing about this moment. There's no weirdness, or awkwardness. It's me, and it's him, and it's not perfect, but it's damn close. And if I hadn't already loved Xander Harris I'd be falling right here and now.

He nods. "It"s good to talk, but. . ." He leans towards me again. "Sometimes, words can be overrated."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

**********

Let's Try This Again
Summary: Xander and Graham's second date goes a little better then their first
Date: July 15, 2000

**********

He's so beautiful. Yeah, yeah, I know, broken record. But I can't help it. Not now, not when his lips are moving against mine, and my body's pressed so close to his. Times like these I'm just kinda awed that this amazing creature is here with me. I mean, I've dated before and I've had lovers, but. . . I've never had a Xander.

It's been an occasionally trying, but infinitely rewarding experience.

Why am I thinking at all? I should be just enjoying the moment, riding the sensations, trying to figure out how to get our shirts off without letting go of each other, but for some reason my brain just won't stop with the higher thought process.

I gotta say, though, I am damn proud of myself for how I set things up.

Since our first date was so. . . eventful, I suggested our second simply consist of a nice, quiet evening at home. Pizza, videos, and a really comfy couch. Do you need more?

I had given Riley explicit instructions that, if at any time during the patrol major badness was sighted, he was to do everything *except* call us. The whole saving the world thing could get along just fine without us two mortals for one night.

He had agreed, albeit reluctantly. He definitely was not liking the currant plan of 'Lets wait and see what the bad guy does next.' Xander had been right, though. That was the most prudent thing to do. We had spent all yesterday just hanging around Giles' apartment, looking through various books, trying assorted spells, and we still weren?t any closer to finding out who created that Golem.

Last night had been fairly quiet, only a couple vamps, and Riley was starting to get antsy about the whole thing. He was used to being told exactly who to fight and getting a dossier about the whole thing. Come to think of it, so was I. Then again, my mind had much more important things to worry about, like. . . what kind of pizza topping Xander likes, and what would be the best strategic location for the box of Altoids. That was a tough one. It's placement had to say 'Get rid of pizza breath', but not 'Get rid of pizza breath cause I'm planning to throw you on the couch and kiss you til you pass out from lack of oxygen.' It was a tactical nightmare.

At least I already had the videos picked out.

See, I had a feeling that Xander would be a squirmer in movies. You know the type. He gets into the stuff on the screen so much he actually starts moving around in his seat. Used to drive me nuts when Ri did it. . . course I never wanted *Riley* wiggling next to me.

So, armed with that hunch, I had decided to have an Alfred Hitchcock fest. 'Rear Window', a soft couch, and a slightly hyper Xander wriggling beside me.

Machiavellian, wasn't it?

It worked too, until we were about half way through 'North By Northwest' when I realized Xander wasn't squirming around anymore. I turned to him, wondering if anything was wrong, and I found him just staring at me.

It was. . . like I was caught by his eyes. Our faces were only a couple inches away from each other and I don't think I could have looked away even if I wanted to. How incredibly stupid does *that* sound? Words just cannot do justice to what I felt, what I always feel when he looks at me that way.

Without a word we covered the distance between us and began to kiss, and kiss, and kiss, and. . . you get the general idea. I could feel his hands on my neck and back, pressing me closer to him, then pulling me down over him when he laid back.

That's where we are now.

His body's so solid, and. . . just feels so right, under mine, and suddenly there are so many other things I want to do with my mouth. It just kinda hits me how much of his skin I haven't tasted yet. That needs to be remedied.

I pull back only far enough to look at his face. He's so beautiful like this, all flushed and panting and wanting. . . or is that wanton? Whatever.

I move to his neck. God, he tastes so. . . him. Skin's so soft, but the muscles underneath it are hard, and I can feel them tensing as Xan shifts underneath me. His head falls back, and his neck arches, and he's granted me access to his throat.

"Graham."

Flesh so tender and vulnerable. I can feel the blood rushing under his skin, and. . . he's mine.

"Graham. . . wait."

All mine, and. . .Wait? What?

"Ow! Wait a second."

Ow! He said ow! Oh no. Oh God. Oh no. What did I do? I pull back completely and sit up, giving him some space. I'll give him all the space in the world if he wants it. Please don't make him want that.

"What's. . . what?" I'm breathless. Funny how all the excitement just mutated right into mind numbing fear.

Xander grimaced and shifted a bit, his hand reaching under his back. "Remote."

Remote? Remote what? What did I do wrong, and what the hell is he talking about?

Xander scrunches his face, and I can see he's got something in his hand. "Sorry, I couldn't quite handle the tv accessory poking into my spine."

Oh, *the* remote. Huh, I had wondered where that had gotten to.

He pitches the piece of plastic onto the coffeetable, and then gives me a curious look. "What's wrong?"

What could possibly be wrong? You know, besides the awful gut wrenching moment I just had when I thought I had been forcing you to do something and this is insane! Xander's a nineteen year old guy, not a piece of porcelain. I'm not gonna break him.

That's it. I'm gonna stop being so scared about doing something he might be uncomfortable with. "So, this is okay?" Just as soon as he answers that question.

"What, you mean the kissing?" He grins. "Graham, that's more then okay."

Not good enough. I need to make sure. . . okay, I will allow a bit of internal gloating. . . and I'm done. "Not just the kissing, but. . . the kissing on the couch, and the reclining on the couch, and the me being on top of you. . . on the couch."

"Oh." Xan's eyes glance down at his hands for a second, then they're back up and locked on mine again. "Like I said, that's more then okay." He sighs. "But, I guess now would be as good a time as ever to get the whole boundaries thing out of the way, huh?"

Boundaries? This could be. . . boundaries? "Um, okay?"

"I *really* liked what we were doing. Not just the kissing, but being close to you, feeling you against me," Oh, isn't that. . . Did I just whimper? "But. . ." My hormones officially hate that word. "I've rushed into almost every relationship I've had, and I don't want to do that with us."

He said us. There's an us. Oh. Oh. Warm Fuzzies.

"I want this to last, Graham." Xan's hand comes up and I feel this feather soft touch running down the side of my face. "Is that okay?"

Is that okay? Is that okay?! Is he kidding? "You wanting this to last? Yeah, I think I'm okay with that."

"No. I mean. . . waiting, you know, for. . . sex?" His eyes lower.

"Oh that." Man, he looks so adorable when he's being bashful. I just. . . I want to lick him. Whoa, down boy. "We can wait til you're ready." And if you're ready at any time during the next hour or so, that'd be great. "Just so we're clear, what exactly are the boundaries?"

"Uh, I?m not sure." His tongue comes out to wet his lips and. . . Mmmm. No. Important conversation here. Focus. Focus! "I've never been in a relationship like this before."

"You mean, like with another guy?"

"Yeah, or someone who hasn't tried to kill me. . . or was plotting to kill me in the future." The grin on his face dissolves into a troubled frown. "You don't fall into either of those categories, right?"

"Of course not." Okay, technically I had only *thought* about killing him, but there were massively huge extenuating circumstances, and he *really* doesn't need to know anything about that.

"Nice change of pace." He jokes, and snuggles close to me as I wrap my arms around him. Oh yeah, this is good too.

"How about, we just do what feels good, and you tell me if I push. Okay?"

Xander nods. "Okay." He gives me a sly grin and leans in and the door comes crashing open.

That isn't supposed to happen.

We both jump up, and this *really* isn't supposed to happen. This was supposed to be an uninterrupted night. Oh, Riley Finn is. . . flung over Buffy's shoulder?!

Well, this is just about the most surreal thing I've ever seen.

"Ran into another Golem." Buffy said unceremoniously dumping Riley on the couch. "He got knocked on the head."

This is so not fair. But, Ri's hurt, and that takes precedent over lust. Man, sometimes I hate being all responsible adult like. "Should we take him to the hospital?"

"No. No hospitals." Riley makes a feeble little motion with his hand. "I'm okay."

"He'll be fine." Xander pats my shoulder. "Believe me, I've had more head injuries then I can count. . . which might be because I've had so many head injuries." He frowns. "Huh, hadn't considered that angle before."

Oh, that's reassuring.

Ri looks so pitiful. "I told Buffy I could make it to Giles' place."

Buffy sighs. "This was closer, and Graham and Xander weren't really doing anything, just watching videos. . . on the couch. . . in a semi darkened room . . ." Buffy looks at us, *really* looks at us, and her eyes go all wide, and her jaw kinda drops, and I realize what Xander and I probably look like after our less then chaste behavior. "Uh, oh, uh." She glances at Riley who's still wearing his apologetic face, then back up at me and Xander. "Maybe we should go to. . ."

This really isn't funny, so why do I have this overwhelming urge to laugh my ass off?

I wave off whatever else she's going to say. "Stay put. Keep him conscious. I'll go get the first aid kit."

I walk down the hallway, shaking my head the whole way. I'm right outside the bathroom door when strong arms wrap around my waist. "We're never going to have a completely normal date, are we?" I ask, twisting around to see Xander's face.

"Probably not." He smirks. "But we'll have fun trying."

Okay. That'll work.

**********

Declarations
Summery: The Golem thing is resolved, Xander and Graham talk about living situations, and Graham meets someone new. . . kind of
Date: August 27, 2000  

**********

I think tonight was the first time I ever felt cheap when helping to stop evil.

After Riley's concussion, Buffy went totally gung ho about finding the creator guy. Magic wasn't helping us any, so we turned to science. Actually, Willow turned to science, the rest of us just supplied the appropriate ohs and ahs. She 'borrowed' the use of one of the University's chem labs and did a few tests on a sample from our mud man that Ri had been kind enough to provide. Meaning, it was some that had gotten stuck in his hair. Willow then compared her findings with a geological survey she 'borrowed' from someplace else, and she gave us three possible locations for where these things were being made.

Buffy and Riley went to place A, Xander and I went to place B, and Spike and Anya went to place C. Yep, Spike and Anya. *So* not gonna try and analyze that one.

Anyway, half an hour into stomping around place B the cell phone rings. It's Riley, who says that they found the sculptor. Turns out, it was some little guy that the core Scoobs knew from back in high school. I think Xander called him J-something. . . Jackson? He looked really familiar. Probably saw him around campus.

Buffy launched into this lecture that cumulated in her seriously denting a lamppost and then comparing it to what she would do to the guy's spine if he continued with his unique form of claymation. Needless to say, J-something swore up and down that his evil magic days were over.

Lesson learned, boys and girls? Hell hath no fury like a Slayer who's nookie time keeps getting interrupted.

I guess things are officially back to normal. . . well, what passes for it around here at any rate.

It was pretty late after we got the Golem mess sorted out, so I offered to walk Xander home, explaining to him how I wasn't being condescending, I was just being practical since I was carrying a crossbow.

He smiled, told me he knew I wasn't being condescending because it wasn't cloudy, and accepted my offer.

Condescending. Condensation. Cloudy. A guy makes one vocabulary mistake and he gets marked for life.

Anyway, I have realized that my whole walking Xander home thing, may not have been the best idea. You know, there are very few things that are worse then being in Sunnydale, in the middle of the night, keeping an eye out for evil monsters. One of those things is being in Sunnydale, in the middle of the night, keeping an eye out for evil monsters, with your extremely beautiful, extremely kissable, and extremely horny boyfriend beside you.

"Come on."

"No."

"Please?"

"Xander, I said no."

"But, you're walking me home, shouldn't you at least try to take advantage of me?"

I shake my head, not even trying to stop the smile that pops up on my face. Ever since our relationship got a little more physical, Xander's been, well, wanting to get even more physical. Not that I'm complaining. No way. I'm just not quite up for getting attacked in the middle of it.

"Graham," Xan's voice is teetering dangerously close whining territory, but since he's trying to cajole me to make out with him, I guess I'll let that slide. "Buffy and Riley fool around on patrol all the time."

"That's different." I shift the crossbow to my other arm. "Buffy's a slayer. She isn't quite as vulnerable if she's caught with her. . . her pants down." Oh, that was just. . . wrong of me.

Evidently Xan feels the same. "Gee, thanks for *that* visual."

"Sorry."

He lets out this huge sigh, and sorta deflates. "It's just hard, ya know, being around you, but not being able to act on all the things I want to do to you."

"Oh, I wouldn't know *anything* about that." I give him this 'You should really know better then to complain to me about there not being enough touchy feely stuff in our relationship' smirk. At least, that's the smirk I hope I gave him.

He rolled his eyes, but smiles, and puts his arm around me. This is. . . nice. Xan's not comfortable being this close to me around other people, except for our friends. To tell the truth, I've never really been Mr. PDA guy, myself. There's no one but us out on the street now, though, so I lean into his embrace. And, yeah, this is nice.

I had thought we had reached Xander's neighborhood, but I wasn't really sure until I felt his body stiffen and pull away from mine. "Um, this is good. I can make it the rest of the way."

"Are you sure?" I ask, even though I already know the answer.

He flashes me a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. They never do when were this close to his house. "Oh, yeah. No problem."

For once, I don't return his smile. I need to say something to Xan. I glance around the deserted street. There's no one around, but this is something that you just shouldn't say in the middle of a sidewalk. I grab his hand and drag him behind this big tree at the edge of someone's yard. With a huge bush to one side of us, and out of the light of the street, it's fairly secluded.

Xander looks confused and hesitant. I drop the crossbow, put my hands on his shoulders, and press him back against the trunk of the tree. Now he just looks lustful, and I do have to smile at that. His arms wrap around my waist and pull me to him. Our bodies touch, and it feels like all the blood in my veins has been replace by this electric current. I wonder if that's what he feels too. I press harder against him, loving the way his eyes darken, the way his cheeks flush and his mouth opens just the tiniest bit, like he can't wait for me to slip my tongue in.

Heaven forbid I disappoint the boy. I move my hands to his head, letting my fingers tangle in that soft hair, holding him still. I lean in and lick across his lips before pressing my mouth against his. Soft. . . full and supple. . . just, so right. . .

It's perfect. It always is. It's so perfect it has to stop. Now. I can't. . . I need to tell him something. It's not going to be easy. I stop the kiss, pulling back, holding his head so he can't follow. He looks a little frazzled, and a lot like he wants to eat me alive. Oh man, I love that look.

His hands find the hem of my shirt and start stroking lazily over the skin at the small of my back. Talk about electric current in the veins. . . No, no, need to say this. Need to make him understand.

"Xan. . ." Just say it. "I. . ." Oh, for God's sake, don't be such a wuss, Miller. "I love you." His eyes widen, his mouth drops open a bit, but he's not trying to push me away, so, that's. . . that's good. Now, for the rest. "I want to make you happy, and keep you safe. I want. . . I want to protect you from. . ." My eyes flicker in the direction of his house. "from everything." Please, make him understand.

Okay, I think he does understand. I also think he's gonna punch me, or, maybe. . . he blinks a few times. Oh, Xan, please don't cry. That's not what I wanted. Dammit, this is why I should just not talk!

He's moving. No, I can't let him get away from me, not like this. But, he's not trying to get away. He puts his head on my shoulder, nuzzling into my neck, and all I can do is hold him. It's all I ever wanted anyway.

"Graham," His voice is so soft, so quiet, I can hardly hear him. "You do make me happy, and you always make me feel safe." He stops, and I can feel him take a deep breath, shuddering, making me automatically squeeze him. "But, there are some things you can't protect me from."

Like hell! "Bullshit!" Gee, didn't mean to say it quite *that* loud, but it gets a chuckle out of the man in my arms. He lifts his head, his eyes glistening, but a smile on his face.

"You can't stay in that house, Xan."

The smile dissipates. "And, where am I supposed to stay?"

"With me."

"Uh, Graham, I-I don't, um, think I'm, uh, ready for. . ." Oh, great. First I upset him, and now, I've scared the crap out of him.

"No, I don't mean with *me*, I mean, with me. No, wait. . . I mean, with me and Riley, but not *with* me and Riley." Good. If all else fails, get him confused. "At our apartment. On the couch." Think he got all that?

"Ah." His eyes are twinkling as he snickers. "You know, I think I've been a bad influence on you, babble wise." He sobers, then gives me this slightly amazed look. "You really mean it, don't you?"

"I've meant everything I said to you, Xander." Not going to use the l-word again, but I think he gets what I mean anyway.

"But, what about Riley?" He asks, frowning. "Would he be okay with it?"

"Of course." If he knows what's good for him.

"I need to think about it."

I nod. "I know."

"I'd better. . ."

I let him go. "I know."

He brushes his lips against mine. "You know everything, huh?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Do you know that I. . . I. . ."

"Yeah, I do." He doesn't have to say it. Right now, it's just enough that he feels it.

A shy smile appears on his face. He kisses me again, a light, soft touch. Then, he's gone.

*****

It's never a good idea to be deep in thought when walking through Sunnydale at night, but I just can't help myself. I'm still about a mile from home, and all I can think about is. . . okay, okay, that kiss is getting some air time, but mostly, I keep seeing Xander's face. I can't help thinking about his expression when I said I loved him and when he realized I was serious about him staying with me. I just. . . You know, not all abuse is physical, but the kind I want to heap on Xander's father sure would be.

Hmm. What a nice image, working out all my frustrations on his face. I always knew all that hand to hand combat training would somehow come in handy in real life. I mean, of course, besides fighting vampires.

Vampires.

Shit! Vampires!

Three of them, going after this girl!

Nice, quiet evening on the Hellmouth.

I lift the crossbow, aim, and. . . Yes!

Two vamps going after this girl. No, one vamp going after this girl, the other one coming after me.

Great.

No time to reload, throw the crossbow to the side. That's it, come on. Come right to the guy that's been trained to kill you.

He looks like your average vamp - deadly, but stupid as hell. Nothing but an animal at this stage. He rushes me, knocking us both to the ground, pushing himself against me. . . and the stake I have in my hand.

They always look so shocked right before they disintegrate. Yep, that's right, bye bye, idiot.

Dammit, this means I need to do laundry again.

Better check on the girl.

Huh, the other vamp's gone. Guess he ran off, or. . . there's a piece of wood in her hand. Did she get him?

I approach her slowly. She looks more then a bit out of it. Her brown hair is wild, and she's got a cut above her right eye. I gently touch her arm. "Miss, are you all right?"

She jumps about a mile, eyes wide, dazed. "What?!" She glances at the piles of ash scattered around us, and for the first time I notice just how many there are, how many she must have dusted before I got here. "Yeah." She suddenly grins. "Five by five."

**********


Part 3
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