Graham stood awkwardly at the edge of the dance floor. He was extremely uncomfortable since the crowd was much younger than he was used to. Riley had talked about the Bronze often though, so he’d finally decided to come see the place for himself.
He wasn’t used to so much down time between classes, but with the Initiative soldiers disbanded or reassigned, he found himself with plenty of free time and very few people to spend it with. The life of an Initiative operative had been very closed off; he didn’t have many friends outside of Lowell House, with secrecy being a necessity.
Graham had opted not to transfer after the Adam debacle, choosing instead to take an honorable discharge and return to college full time. He planned to finish his courses, hopefully meet someone special to spend some time with, and get on with the rest of his life. Part of his plan centered on getting out and mingling with ‘normal society’ once more, and tonight he was finally remembering why that was such a daunting task even in pre-military days.
Graham ambled around the edge of the dance floor until he spotted an empty table. He seated himself with his back to the wall out of longstanding habit. He grinned as two girls passed him on their way to the bathroom; they smiled back before bursting into giggles. Shaking his head, he went back to his drink and his effort to not look so out of place.
He’d just made up his mind to leave when someone bumped into him from the side, sloshing his drink over the side and down his arm.
“Oh, man, I’m sorry,” the person said.
“It’s no problem. I was just leaving, anyway,” Graham said mopping up the mess with some discarded napkins left on the table. He glanced up, meeting a pair of pair of large, puppy-dog eyes. Chocolate was a word that sprang immediately to mind. Dark, sinfully decadent chocolate…
The boy snapped his fingers rapidly before pointing at him. “You’re, uh, Graham, right? Riley’s friend.”
“Yeah, that would be me.”
“Xander,” the smiling teen introduced himself. “So…you’re leaving?”
Graham glanced back at the table. “I was.” He shrugged. “Not much fun hanging out by yourself.”
Xander sat without waiting for an invitation. “Ah! Buffy and Riley must be doing the…well, I don’t really want to go there, do I?”
Graham smirked. “They said they were going patrolling.” He watched as those entrancing eyes danced in the flashing lights from the club.
“Ha! Patrolling; code for ‘making out in a cemetery’. Not that I use it…or do it…um, feel free to stop me at any time.”
“No, it’s cute.”
“Cute? Really? Huh,” Xander said, suddenly fidgeting in his chair and looking around nervously.
Graham sighed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Why? Am I not cute?” Xander teased, batting his eyelashes shamelessly.
Full, pouting lips drew all of Graham’s attention for a moment before his eyes slowly ticked up to meet Xander’s amused gaze. “No. No, you’re plenty cute. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, though.”
“No, it’s okay. I just didn’t realize you were…you are right? I’m not about to get my ass kicked for implying something here?” Xander asked nervously.
Graham gave him what he hoped was a bright, reassuring smile and not an ‘I’m-gonna-love-stomping-you-into-the-ground’ smile.
“I am. No ass kicking in sight.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Where Xander Harris goes, an ass kicking can’t be too far behind,” he laughed into his drink.
“So is that like a kink with you?”
“Wha?” Xander gasped choking on his cola.
Graham shrugged innocently. “Most guys settle for a little spanking.”
Xander laughed. “No fair teasing the straight guy.”
“You’re straight?” Graham asked in disbelief. “Seriously?”
Xander took on a suddenly horrified expression. “Why? Do I come off as gay?”
Graham cringed. “Sorry, I just assumed, you know, having only girl friends. And then there are the clothes—.”
“Clothes? What’s wrong with my clothes?”
Graham waved a hand toward Xander vaguely. “Well, they’re very…bright. And then, of course, you have the stylishly tousled hair.”
“Tousled? Wow, you really are gay aren’t you?”
“Yeah. I really, really am,” Graham grinned devilishly.
The two were silent for a moment, watching the dancers before Graham turned back to his companion. “So, do you come here often?”
Xander chortled. “I think your timing is a little off. You usually lead in with that one and follow up with a ‘what’s your sign?’ or the ever popular ‘don’t I know you from somewhere?’ which can also double as a lead in.”
Graham howled with laughter. The quick wit of the male Scooby was a refreshing change from the stiff, dry humor of his former Initiative comrades. “Actually, I’ve never been here, so I was genuinely asking.”
The two talked for a while, exchanging embarrassing stories about themselves and others. They laughed about some of the adventures of Buffy and the gang while fighting monsters and about some of Graham’s first experiences hunting demons in the Initiative.
“- and then Forrest fell into the ditch. He screamed like a girl when he landed in that cold water. He bitched about that for days. The man wasn’t afraid to go toe to toe with a demon twice his size, but throw him in a little muddy water and he bitched forever.” It felt good to be able to talk about his fallen friend again with laughter, the pain of his loss easing with the memories of good times.
The two men paused in their story telling to refresh their drinks. After Xander resettled at the table, he looked around at the crowd. “So, have you ever been a life-sucking mummy?” he asked suddenly.
Graham choked on his beer. “Excuse me?”
Xander smiled weakly. “Um…You and Riley seem really chummy. Have you known each other long?”
“Yeah, we were in boot camp together,” Graham answered with a slight frown. He was sure he’d heard Xander ask…nah! The loud music and people talking around them must be messing his ears.
“Wow, that’s cool.” Xander turned to the stage, nodding his head with the music for a moment before turning back to his companion. “So, have you ever been a virgin devouring insect?”
Graham’s eyes widened in confusion. “What?”
“Eh, being in the marines must demand respect.”
Now Graham was looking suspicious. “I guess so.”
Xander could feel his smile stretching his face too wide but couldn’t seem to do anything to tone it down. “I remember how it felt when I got turned into our costumes that Halloween I was dressed as a soldier. It was really cool having all that knowledge and military training right there at my fingertips. So… haveyouevercursedamantomakehispenisfalloff?” Xander asked, watching Graham innocently as he picked up his soda and calmly took a drink.
Graham blinked for a moment before he sat his drink down. He took a deep breath before asking, “Xander, what is this?”
Xander feigned surprised innocence. “What’s what? Just two guys sitting around, getting to know one another.” He smiled in what he hoped was a comforting way.
The ex-solider could practically see the lines of tension running through Xander’s body. “Look, if this has made you uncomfortable, all you had to do is say so. I didn’t mean to freak you out or anything.” Graham stood up quickly, getting ready to leave. Obviously coming to the Bronze had been a bad idea.
“No! I mean, don’t go.” Xander stood as well, running his fingers through his hair nervously. “Really, don’t go. Look, I’ve kind of had a…history about people hitting on me. Please, sit down and I’ll explain. Okay?” he added hopefully.
Graham sat reluctantly, sure that he should have just kept walking and not looked back. Sure, Xander was cute, but was it worth the obvious mental instability that seemed to run in the slayer’s group? He sat silently as he waited to hear what Xander would say.
“Okay,” Xander said finally before stopping once more, completely at a loss on how to begin. “The thing is, I’ve always seemed to attract a…different type of person than most people.” He paused, looking at Graham to judge his reaction.
An eyebrow lifted in response as Graham waited for the other man to continue, his face otherwise stoic.
“See, my dating history is kind of…varied. Graham, you’ve dated right?” He waited for the hesitant nod before continuing. “Girls and guys?” Again the affirmative cautious nod. “Anyone else?”
“Else?” Graham asked. “What else is there?”
Xander’s sudden laughter caught Graham off guard. He waited a little more patiently now, finding the boy intriguing and certainly a puzzle that he needed to figure out before he could possibly walk away. Graham had found out long ago that he couldn’t just abandon something before he had all the answers. His Initiative training had taught him that there wasn’t anything out there that couldn’t be explained if you could figure out the right questions first.
Graham listened as Xander told him about insect teachers and mummy girls before moving on to cheerleaders and ex-demons. His eyes widening during some parts and he burst out laughing at others. He was totally captivated as Xander recounted his experiences.
“- I mean, she just dropped her dress and asked to interlock parts. It was freaky in that ‘oh-my-god-there’s-a-hot-girl-naked-in-my-basement’ kinda way.”
“So, Cordelia was the only normal one?”
Xander snorted. “Cordelia would be the first to tell you she’s anything but normal. But yeah, she was human…I’m pretty sure,anyway.”
“Wow,” Graham said, sitting back in his chair. “And here I thought I was totally weird for only dating girls that had hot brothers. You’ve got me beat hands down.”
Xander gave a little shrug and nod. “Eh, what can I say? I’m a demon magnet…one time literally.”
“Sounds like you’ve got a story I haven’t heard yet.”
“I’ve got a ton of stories you haven’t heard yet. I’m just not sure you’re ready for them.”
“Remember that road trip I told you about?” he asked, waiting for the other man to nod. “Well, I ended up washing dishes in Oxnard at the Fabulous Ladies Night Club.”
“That sounds like a strip club,” Graham snorted.
“Oh, man.” Graham’s eyes widened and he snickered at the other man.
Xander nodded. “Things were going great until one night when one of the other dancers called in sick,” he said pointedly.
“Wow! So, did the ladies love you?”
Xander leaned in after looking around to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “See, the thing about the Fabulous Ladies is that once a month, they have a Guy’s Night Out.” He sat back in his seat, a smirky grin on his face as he waited for the other man to comment.
“So you—” Graham’s eyes glazed over thinking about Xander stripping on stage, surrounded by a crowd of excited men who were whistling and cheering him on. Good God, why couldn’t he have been stationed in Oxnard?
“Yeah. You know what the funny thing is? Men tip better.” Xander grinned evilly. “Also, they tend to grope a little more.”
“But I thought you weren’t—”
“I’m not,” Xander cut him off.
“Oh,” Graham sighed, disappointed.
Graham’s head shot up. “Seriously?”
“Any chance I could see your act?”
“Well, I do still have the leather pants and the collar. We’ll have to see if I can get that much whipped cream this late at night, though,” Xander mused. He ignored Graham’s whimper as he slid off his stool and headed for the door. He turned around when he realized the other man wasn’t behind him. “You coming?” he called out.
Graham awkwardly lurched out of his own chair before making his way over to Xander and into his personal space. He could feel the heat coming off the other man as he breathed in a lingering hint of aftershave and sweet soda. “Not yet,” he whispered close to Xander’s ear, delighting when the other man shuddered.
“No, but soon,” Xander answered back, grabbing him by the arm and dragging him out into the night.