Secrets We Keep
Giles awoke with a start.
He lifted his head from D’Allaird’s Compendium of Prophecies (the unabridged version, of course) and pushed his glasses back up his nose. He saw that he’d creased a page with his cheek and he reached out his fingers to smooth the wrinkle. This was a rare volume and it wouldn’t do to damage it. It was on loan from the Council and he’d never hear the end of it if he returned it in less than perfect condition.
He’d been having the strangest dream.
His tea had, during his little nap, gone cold. Giles pushed back his chair and, taking his cup with him, made his way over to the little galley kitchen. He refilled the kettle, turned on the gas and rinsed out the tea pot. He wouldn’t bother with leaves just now; he reached for the box of PG Tipps instead.
While the water boiled, Giles went upstairs, changed out of his pants and sweater and slipped into sweats and an old Oxford t-shirt he’d found at a jumble sale on a return visit to England a few years back.
The kettle whistled and Giles headed down from his loft bedroom. Before he’d reached the bottom, the whistle had stopped and when he turned from the stairs towards the kitchen he was surprised to see Angel standing there, pouring water into the prepared tea pot.
The vampire put the kettle back on the stove and turned.
“Sorry. I knocked.”
“I didn’t hear,” Giles said crossing the room.
“Perhaps,” Giles said. “It’s late.”
Angel tipped his head to the side as if considering Giles’s observation.
“Although not for you, I suppose.”
“Not really, no,” Angel said.
“Well, as you’re here, did you want tea?”
The last thing Giles wanted to do was sit down over a cuppa with Angel, but it seemed rude not to offer, particularly when Angel had practically made the pot.
“No, thanks,” Angel said. Giles’s relief was short-lived when Angel added: “But I’ll sit with you.”
Giles nodded. “Right.” He joined Angel in the tiny space, certainly far too small for the two of them. He reached up for a clean mug and excused himself as he got the milk out of the refrigerator and then, gratefully, made his way back to the living room. Angel trailed silently behind him.
“How did you make out on patrol tonight?” Giles asked taking a tentative sip of his tea. Perfect.
“No problems. I walked Buffy home about an hour ago.”
“Good,” Giles said.
Angel sat on the chair across from Giles. He leaned forward, resting his forearms on this thighs and letting his long graceful hands dangle in the air between his parted knees.
“You’re well, then?”
Angel smiled in a way that revealed that he understood this was small talk.
“Of course,” Giles said.
The two men eyed each other warily.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t come here—anymore,” Angel said finally.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t let you in,” Giles said. “But then, you let yourself in so that was that.”
“If Buffy knew--”
Giles set his mug down on the table and stood. “But she won’t. Obviously.”
Angel stood, too.
Angel’s back was broad and flawless and the sight of it always surprised Giles. He was constantly amazed by the fact that Angel’s flesh seemed to have no memory; there was not a scar or mark to indicate Giles had trespassed before.
Angel discarded his shirt on the edge of Giles’s neatly made bed and walked to the wall. He stretched out his arms, the neat bulge of his triceps visible with the effort and leaned forward, resting his forehead against the brick.
Giles felt a chill prickle along his back. He turned and walked to the closet. “Do you have a preference,” he said over his shoulder?
“Something that hurts,” Angel said.
Giles pressed his lips together and nodded. He reached into the back of the closest and grabbed the cat o’ nine tails, letting the whip’s long tails slide through his fingers. He moved to stand behind Angel and counted slowly to ten.
Angel was so still.
“Giles,” he said.
Giles lifted his arm and flung the whip through the air. The knotted strands hit Angel’s back with a low thwack.
“You’re gonna have to do better than that,” Angel said.
“I know,” Giles said, lifting his arm once more.
This time he was rewarded with a little hiss of sound from Angel.
“I did break your fingers, after all,” Angel said, his voice cool.
“I bloody well remember,” Giles said. He sent the whip zinging through the air. And again. Tiny red marks appeared on Angel’s white skin.
“Don’t forget Jenny,” Angel said. The words seemed vile coming, as they did, so casually.
That earned him several bruising blows.
“And I fucked your Slayer.”
Giles sucked in a breath. This was a line Angel had not dare cross in the past.
“Angel,” Giles said, his voice a warning.
“She tasted like--”
Whatever Angel was going to say, the words were lost is a flurry of whip-snaps and grunts. Giles was hard when he finally broke Angel’s skin.
“Can I ask you a question,” Giles said. “Please.”
Normally they didn’t talk when Giles was done, but tonight, as Angel let him tend to the mess on his back, Giles had to ask.
Angel nodded but didn’t speak.
“I thought you knew,” Angel said. “I thought it was obvious.”
Giles rung out the cloth in the little basin of water and pressed it against Angel’s wounds. He’d done some real damage here tonight and yet Angel had not cried out, hadn’t flinched or begged him to stop. He sat now, pliant under Giles’s careful hands.
“I want to hear you say it,” Giles said.
Angel twisted around on the bed; the water in the bowl slopped onto the spread.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Tell me,” Giles said.
Giles smiled. “These things often are. My own part in this little drama, well, perhaps we could exchange motives.”
“I deserve it,” Angel said.
“Is that the best you can come up with?” He asked, ringing the cloth out for the last time and putting both it and the bowl on the chest at the end of the bed.
“I really hurt you tonight, Angel,” Giles said. He couldn’t quite meet Angel’s eyes.
Angel said nothing.
“And I have to be sure--”
“Sure?” Angel’s mouth quirked lopsidedly. “Sure of what? That I’m breakable after all?”
“I need a drink. You?” Giles turned and left the room.
He poured two large scotches and was sitting, ankles crossed on the coffee table, when Angel came down the stairs. Angel hadn’t put his shirt back on and Giles’s gaze was drawn to the vulnerable skin just below his shoulders.
“Thanks,” Angel said. He tipped his glass towards Giles and then took a sip of the amber liquor.
“Tonight you went too far,” Giles said.
Angel’s eyes were emotionless.
“I can’t guarantee your safety.”
“Do you think I need you to?” Angel asked.
Giles saw his point.
Angel swallowed the last of his scotch and set the glass on the table next to Giles’s feet.
“It’s late. I should go,” he said standing and reaching for the shirt which he’d left on the arm of the chair.
Giles stood, too. He watched as Angel shrugged into his shirt. Giles knew his back must hurt like the devil; of course, Angel and the devil were intimate bedfellows and Angel didn’t even wince.
Giles stopped him at the door.
“You know, sooner or later this won’t be enough,” he said.
Before Giles shut the door, Angel turned back.
It was a long time before Giles fell asleep. He emptied and rinsed the tea pot, washed the scotch glasses and then he went upstairs where he cleaned the cat o’ nine tails before putting it back on its hook behind his neatly hung jumpers and blazers.
Then he sat on the edge of the bed and tried to rid himself of the picture of Angel’s beautifully marred skin and the feeling of his own shameful erection.
Not for the first time, Giles wondered if Angel wasn’t helping him as much as he was helping Angel. But admitting that meant Giles would have to reveal his own shameful secrets and he wasn’t ready.
It was easier to blame Angel.
It was always easier.
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