Xander's thoughts were no less disturbing than they had been the previous evening.
For the last few weeks, owing to pressure of general Hellmouth management, he had been spending a lot of time in Spike's company. For reasons probably to do with the increased opportunity for mayhem and slaughter the vampire had been less snarky and more relaxed in his attitude towards the others. Bloody-minded was such a good description of Spike, on more than one level.
As a result, Xander's previous offhand dismissal of Spike as an unpleasant, unnecessary, unwanted, undead monstrosity was being modified and shades of grey were creeping in to soften the harsh contrasts of the vampire's monochromatic image in his mind. However, he had to admit that it was not Spike's character that he was considering right now and he realised that he was not going to be able to carry on considering it all by himself any longer. He stopped his agitating pacing and turned to Giles, who was absorbed in one of the Magic Box's dustier tomes. Oh, it was the accounts ledger. Things had changed a little since Anya had left.
"I want to ask your advice about um, you know, er, sex stuff. "
Giles looked up at Xander with a deal of amusement in his eyes. "Mine was the generation that invented sex, Xander. Open, loud, married, unmarried, swinging, straight, bi and bent. We also like to pride ourselves that we passed on our enlightened attitude to those who, er, came after, so you'll only disappoint me by feeling embarrassed about the subject. What do you want to talk about?"
<gnargh, where was the old fusty, uptight, librarian-Giles, when you wanted him?> "Oh, um? So, like, gay is all right, too?"
"Yes, Xander, we were also the first generation to grow up in a male-homosexuality-is-legal Britain."
<way, to go G-man. Right, you wanted some serious life-choices advice, not an inter-library loan> "Yeah, well about that, you see... hang on, female gay isn't legal there?"
"No, Xander," Giles rubbed suddenly tired eyes. "It was never illegal."
"So, like, it was always OK for the gals to, like get it together and no one minded? That's, well, that's like really cool. Tolerant, much?" Xander swung a chair around and sat astride it, his arms folded across the back, chin resting on bare forearms. <why does this seem familiar as if I was watching it from the outside? Oh.> Xander pushed thoughts of a blond vampire as he last saw him, slouching in just this position, <position, positions. Gah.> firmly out of his mind.
"No, it was just not accredited: women were not perceived as having the, um, equipment, so to speak, to have sex with each other. Something to do with Queen Victoria's lack of imagination as well, I believe, although I can't quite remember the actual context."
"Huh? Queen Victoria? Queen Victoria was gay? I thought she was, like, way uptight and no sex allowed."
"Oh for heaven's sake, Xander, she had nine bloody children how do you think she got them, 'Wal-Mart (babies) Inc? 'HeirsRUs'(by Royal Appointment)?"
"So she, like, you know, both?"
"Xander, what the hell are you babbling about? Why should it even occur to you that she was.... Oh, I give up, I don't think I want to know!" Giles tapped the tabletop with his pencil in a staccato rhythm that beat out growing irritation.
"No, well, yes, you were the one that said that she, um, what did you say she was?"
Giles sighed and put his head in his hands, "I didn't say she was anything. However, she was a very happily married woman very much in love with her husband, enjoyed enthusiastically all the joys of nuptial bliss and went into near-terminal decline after Albert died."
<oh, right> "So you mean, uh what... exactly? "
The older man's head raised slowly; the eyes glaring back at Xander were more Ripper than Rupert.
"What I mean is that Her Glorious Majesty, Empress of India etc etc was so enthralled with her husband's schlong that she found it impossible to believe that her addiction wasn't universal. Therefore, no devotees of Lesbia, no desire for Sapphic love but a perceived increase in sodomy, buggery etc etc. therefore court cases, therefore Oscar Wilde etc, etc, et in extremis."
Xander nodded wisely, "I know him. Yeah, that Oscar guy - he was in Frankie Goes to Hollywood wasn't he? One of the old bands my dad still listens to. But, see, what I don't get is, Albert - I don't remember Queen Victoria and King Albert. Hey," a sudden burst of inspiration. "Yes, one of your history stories. He cooked some cakes didn't he? On the beach."
Giles looked at Xander from within the embrace of a profound and surprisingly peaceful shock. His outburst over and his irritation waving goodbye to him, as it fluttered off on the silken wings of the Great Gobsmacking Butterfly, he sat as if poleaxed.
Slowly, inevitably, Giles dragged his thoughts back to where they needed to be.
"Prince, Xander, not king. Albert was Victoria's consort, he was not a reigning monarch. And no, that was Alfred and no, that was Canute and again, no, Oscar Wilde was never in Frankie Goes to Hollywood nor any other band. He was a famous and highly successful playwright in England, the foremost wit of the late-Victorian era, lauded and celebrated wherever he went and the darling of high society. But, in what I presume is this context, he was homosexual, lost a court case involving his lover's father, went to prison for 2 years for gross indecency and died a broken, wretched outcast three years later in Paris and what the hell are we talking about and when we can start doing so?"
Mentally shrugging aside irrelevancies <so who's the guy in Frankie?> Xander resumed his pacing before halting in front of one the display shelves. He fiddled with some of the items before he realised he was fingering an ugly looking fetish in the shape of an unpleasantly large and aggressive looking phallus. <eep>
"Er, yes, well, I sort of wanted to know if a guy who isn't really gay but finds himself unaccountably attracted to another guy, who also isn't really gay but who he doesn't expect to have any problems with the idea of being gay even if they aren't and even though they don't get on particularly well even when they're not being gay, or not..." Xander finally turned round to face Giles, stared somewhat wildly at him and took a deep breath. "Sort of like, what should he do about sort of getting it together? Them together?"
"Make sure you both want it, make sure you've got enough lube and make sure you've got a pack of three so that if you enjoy it you can have another couple of goes.
"Of course, the condoms aren't necessary in this case. Vampires are unable to host any sort of living microbe or disease - and you hardly need worry about pregnancy.
"Now, I don't want to be insensitive but I have got a great deal of work to get through if I don't want to be sued so, if there's nothing else please, please, just go and sort it out with Spike and have done with it. As you say, traditional vampiric sexual tendencies would indicate that you should have no, er, moral compunctions or homophobic attitudes to overcome."
Xander's sense of shock was off the register as his mind struggled unsuccessfully to accommodate Giles's casual acceptance of what he, himself, had been trying to deny for so long.
"Uh, Spike?" Squeaking at Giles was not guaranteed to preserve any sense of dignity. Xander cleared his throat and tried again, "How do you... Why on earth would you suppose I was talking about Spike? I mean, Deadboy Junior, jeez, as if..." Xander's pitiful bluffing tailed away at the spectacle of the Giles raised eyebrow. <argh, another frightening-eyebrow-raiser man. How do they do that?>
"It may have something to do with the way that you've been watching him for the last couple of weeks, <huh? Oh right, not the eyebrow!> at one point last night I thought I was going to have to offer you brandy. It's all right, none of the others have noticed, you don't need to worry about that. You are worried about that?"
"Er, yeah, I'd sort of, like, not to have to deal with any other hassles right now. You are sure no-one else has noticed anything? Not that, I'm like, it's just that I'm not too... and it's not as if... or anything really, is it?"
"Your secret's safe with me, Xander, but I do wonder if just one other person might have noticed something." Giles watched with interest as the younger man gradually registered his meaning. Yes, there it was, the previously-blushing Xander was rapidly becoming a whiter shade of pale. Giles's inner Ripper smirked wickedly at the image of a matching pair of virgin-white lovers.
"Oh, no. No, I mean I couldn't... you really think he... Oh, god what am I going to do? Please, don't let him have noticed anything."
"It traditionally makes your task easier if the object of your, er, desire already has an inkling of your feelings." Giles's comment was kindly but hung about with irony.
Xander muttered some words of thanks that even he didn't bother to listen to, spun on his heels and headed towards the door. As he walked out of the Magic Box in to the late afternoon sun, he was not sure whether he felt reassured or just plain terrified.