Title: After 8:30
Summary: Giles likes fountain pens. Wesley likes Giles. He’s not the only one.
Disclaimer: BtVS and its characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Sandollar, Fox, UPN, WB, who the hell knows, but it ain’t me. This is just for fun, not for profit.
Acknowledgements: My thanks, as always, to Ruth for the beta. You’re a gem.
Artwork: The cover art is by the enormously talented katekat1010, to whom a thousand thanks.
Author’s Notes: Set maybe a year or so post-‘Chosen’. Ignores certain events in AtS canon. Didn’t happen. Didn’t.
This is in answer to Gileswench’s Birthday Challenge to write a fic inspired by a product name at http://www.lush.com/.
Happy birthday, gileswench! Hope you like your prezzie!
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Rupert likes fountain pens. They’re impractical, he admits, but he says he likes the sense of history they provide him, the tangible connection to the past.
He showed them to me one day, his small collection – though he calls it an accumulation, says he’s not a collector since his pens are for using, not just for admiring in a glass case while one hopes they’ll appreciate in value. His aren’t pretty, most of them, and they certainly aren’t perfect. They’ve all been used, some of them used hard, scarred, used by his own hands and by others before him. Some have other people’s names engraved into them. He says he likes that, likes to imagine the person who owned and used this pen before him and cared enough about it to have it personalized, or, better still, received it as a gift from someone who loved them enough to have it engraved.
He’s at his desk now as I sit on the sofa with my book (well, his book, really), ostensibly reading and researching but surreptitiously watching him instead. Buffy’s in the recliner across the room with a book in her lap, an unwieldy tome lavishly illustrated with horrific woodcut engravings. She’s supposed to be researching, too, but I can see her from the corner of my eye and I catch her stealing looks at Rupert as often as I see her actually reading.
He picks up the pen cup on his desk and idly pokes at his pens with a fingertip, choosing.
He fingers his favorite, a slim green one with a rippled metallic sheen and interchangeable nibs. It was an inexpensive pen in its day, he’d told me, not quite smiling as he turned it slowly in his hands, and still to be had for a song half a century later, still reliable, still tough as nails.
That same almost smile is there now, hovering around his eyes, not quite reaching his lips. I can’t look away.
He selects another pen, originally his father’s, one of the few he owns that’s truly beautiful. He’d shown me this one, too, one day not so long ago. He’d held it up to the lamp for me, showing me how the light kindled the translucent swirling reds and golds into solid flame while he talked about the beauty and warmth of celluloid and the seven years it took to cure the rods before this pen could be manufactured. I’d looked at the pen and seen the glowing colors and the art of its design, and I’d seen his long fingers holding it and the texture of the skin on the back of his hand and the subtle play of muscle in his forearm as he slowly spun the pen in front of the light.
His shirt stretches taut over his back now as he reaches across his desk for the inkwell. He’s leaner than he used to be, hardened from long hours spent training the young Slayers in combat techniques. He shifts in his desk chair, and the worn denim of his jeans molds to the contours of his thigh. I wonder if the fabric is as soft as it looks, and the muscle beneath it as hard.
There’s quiet competence in Rupert’s movements as he opens the inkwell and fills the pen, lifting the lever and lowering it once, then again before pulling the pen out and wiping the nib with a soft ink-stained cloth. Competence is so very attractive, far more than the flex of a wrist or smoky green eyes or soft hair curling behind an ear, though those are attractive enough.
I steal another look at Buffy. Her hooded eyes, too, are on him, but she’s looking at his bare foot, just visible just beneath the desk. I can tell even through her blouse and bra that her nipples are hard. She glances over at me and catches me watching her watching him, and drops her gaze back down to her book.
Rupert’s attention is focused on his work. He scans through the book on his desk, occasionally picking up his pen and scratching a few notes, and for a while I manage to invest almost as much attention in my own research as I do in watching him. I’m making some progress, if only by elimination, when I see him reach for the small plate of bite-sized pastries at the corner of his desk. I glance sidelong at Buffy; her lips are slightly parted and her gaze is locked on him as he slips a pastry into his mouth. I look back at Rupert in time to see him slowly chew and swallow before absently licking powdered sugar from his thumb, then his fingers, and I stir restlessly on the sofa.
He looks up at me. “How’s it going, Wesley? Find anything yet?”
I clear my throat. “Er, no, not yet, I’m afraid.” I duck my head and make a short-lived effort to pay attention to my work.
“Buffy? Any luck?”
“Nope. Still among the luckless over here.”
“I’m afraid I’m not doing much better.” He closes the book in front of him and trades it for another from the stack at his right. “Perhaps…” His voice trails off as he begins to read once more.
The stained glass lamp paints warm, soft colors across his face; his lips are slightly pursed in concentration. I abandon all pretense at work and just watch him from under my lashes, hungry to know the taste of his mouth, the texture of his skin.
Suddenly I’m aware that Buffy is looking at me, has been for some time, and that the book in my lap has slipped to one side, revealing the incipient swelling in my jeans. I turn my head and meet her eyes. She holds my gaze for a long moment before the corner of her mouth turns up just a bit; it’s not quite a smile. She glances at Rupert and then back to me, and we share the first moment of complete accord that I think the two of us have ever known.
The mantle clock strikes ten and Rupert caps his pen and stretches, his back cracking once or twice.
“That’s enough for tonight, I think,” he says, standing up. “We can pick this up again tomorrow.”
Buffy takes a moment to shuffle her book and lower the recliner’s footrest before arising, giving me time to arrange my clothing to conceal the erection that has not yet entirely subsided.
“After eight-thirty, then, as usual?” I ask as I move toward the door.
“After eight-thirty,” he says, and closes the front door behind me.