Author's Notes: This is it. As I warned previously, there is smut in this chapter. So if that offends you, feel free to email me and I'll send you a smut-free version (much shorter).
I wanted to thank everyone who reviewed Articulation. It meant a lot to me and really encouraged me to keep writing this. I plan to do a proofreading sweep through the story soon, so if there are things that cry out to you for editing (Harry sounding American or Xander sounding British, confusing sections, characters acting OOC) please let me know so I can fix it at the same time. Thanks so much for reading!!!
Both Xander and Harry slept a whole 24 hours after their first brief awakening. The day after that Xander spent in going over damage reports with Willow and Giles. Several low-level magical items, like Xander's rosemary crystal, had been destroyed outright, and there were a few incidents of Wiccans falling down stairs or wrecking their cars when the waves had hit. On the whole, they had gotten off easy, and they all knew it. Once Willow had recovered, she'd been dispatched to help rebuild as many of the fallen shields and minor magics as possible. She had started by giving Xander a new bead.
Xander had looked at Willow questioningly when she came to stand beside him and slipped the bead into his hand. "I thought maybe you didn't need a safety net anymore. Y'know, now that you turn all glowy and can change the world."
She hadn't answered immediately, instead leaning against him and laying her head on his shoulder. "It's scary. Having this much power is scary. And just because I'm using it for good instead of doing badness with it doesn't mean I'll never be tempted. What if I thought I was doing the right thing sometime but I was really turning into Hitler? Or one of the Bushes?" She lifted her head to look at him and twined her fingers in his, holding the crystal between them. "It's not much, but I feel better knowing that you have this protection against me. Because I trust my bestest Xander-friend to stop me if he has to."
She'd looked so serious. "Wait, you have other Xander-friends? It's good to know that I'm the best, but I'd like to scope out the competition." Willow's intent face was washed away by an amused smile, and Xander mentally patted himself on the back. A lifetime ago she'd blushed and told him Oz said she had a sweet smile. Xander had to agree, and he thanked the Powers that he could still make it appear after all they'd been through. He tightened his grip on her hand. "You know I love you, right Will?"
"I love you, too, Xander," she said with a tender smile. Then her grin grew impish and her green eyes danced as she added, "We're so cute together! It's too bad we're so gay, or we could have beautiful children."
Xander grinned, "We should have them anyway, just so we can make Buffy babysit!" After that, the conversation had deteriorated into sheer silliness, as they planned baby names and argued over what religion their imaginary children should be raised in. It was absurd and ridiculous and utterly necessary; the two friends needed time to reconnect after the near disaster of the power flood.
Willow had left on her trouble-shooting expedition not long after that, and Xander had returned to work. After hours of studying reports, he was thrilled to return home. He rubbed his tired eye as he stepped in the door, and had barely closed it when he found himself pinned against the wall by 5'10'' of anxious wizard. He slid his hands around Harry's waist and drew him closer, returning the hard kiss. With the wall at his back and arms on either side of him, Xander didn't have any room to move, but he felt safe with Harry and gave himself up to the fierce embrace. Finally the younger man pulled back, breathing hard and still clutching Xander tightly.
"Hi," Xander said.
Harry had gone to the ministry after he'd recovered from the effects of the spell. There he'd been pressed into meeting after meeting, explaining what had occured. Thank Merlin for Hermione, or he'd have gone nuts halfway through the day. As it was, he'd had to restrain himself from attacking Scrimgoeur more than once. He almost wished he had gone mad just so he would have an excuse to hex the Minister. The man kept insinuating that he should have been consulted, making it sound as though Harry had created the problem rather than merely helping to solve it.
The worst part of the day, though, had been listening to Hermione's analysis of the threat and the spell. Harry hadn't really participated in the early calculations of the waves, and he hadn't had time to think about the danger posed by the containment spell. Now he had to sit and listen, over and over, while Hermione explained how much peril they had been in, how great the threat had been to the wizarding world, and, worst of all, how dangerous the spell had been to those serving as its foundation. As the meetings dragged on, Harry found himself picturing scenarios in which the spell had gone awry and Xander had been hurt. He imagined ways in which his own loss of control could have led his lover to his death, or burnt out his mind and left him a husk.
"Harry?" A hand on his shoulder drew his attention back to the real world. Hermione was standing next to his chair, a concerned frown on her face.
"Lord, Hermione. I could have killed him." Harry ran his hands through his hair. "I can't bear putting someone I love in danger again."
"You didn't. Haven't you listened to his stories? He's put himself in danger, all on his own. And this time there was a prophecy pulling him in. It wasn't you."
"But what if I lost him?" Harry hated the way his voice sounded, needy and fearful. It was bloody pathetic, but he couldn't help it.
Hermione merely patted him on the shoulder. "You didn't," she said simply. And Harry had to content himself with that. It didn't stop him from picturing those horrid might-have-beens, though, and by the time he heard Xander's key in the door of the flat, he'd worked himself into a terrible state of retroactive worry. He launched himself at the American as soon as he cleared the doorway, desperately needing to feel him and reassure himself that Xander was fine.
He pressed against Xander's firm body, rejoicing in his sold bulk. He sought out the open mouth and kissed it, hot and wet and alive and *there*. He felt Xander responding to him, and he began to feel a little more in control. He realized they both needed to breathe, and managed to pull away. He looked at his lover's face, flushed and dazed from his greeting, and felt a little guilty for being so forceful. He waited to hear the confused questioning, and tried to formulate an explanation for his behavior. Xander opened his mouth.
The soft greeting crumbled his defenses, and Harry pressed his face against Xander's collarbone. "Did you know we could have died?" he asked against the cotton shirt.
"I figured it out." Xander's hand was in Harry's hair now, fingers carding through the messy locks. It felt wonderful, and it did as much to sooth the young wizard as the sound of Xander's heartbeat. "We're okay, though."
"I know. Sorry. Delayed reaction, I suppose."
"It's okay." They stood for a few more minutes, holding each other tight. Xander's fingers never stopped stroking through Harry's hair. "Hey, Harry? You wanna go to the bedroom and verify that we're still alive and fully functional?"
"God, yes! I knew you were brilliant." Harry stepped out of Xander's embrace but grabbed onto his hand. Pulling him along, Harry led the way to the bedroom.
Xander was no stranger to 'Thank God we survived' sex. The fear and adrenaline of a dangerous situation often led to both lust and a need for reassurance. Harry appeared to be suffering from both right now, and Xander had no problem satisfying them. He allowed himself to be guided to the bedroom. Harry stopped when they were standing near the bed and kissed him again. Their earlier kiss had been intense and a little desperate, but this one was slower and sweeter. It was as though Harry were trying to relearn him, exploring his mouth and gliding his hands carefully over his body. Xander raised his hands to unbutton his shirt and found them slapped away. Harry broke the kiss and began reverently undressing Xander, taking time to kiss and stroke his chest as it was revealed.
Once the shirt was thrown to the floor, Harry started on the pants. They were quickly unfastened, but the Englishman lowered them and the underwear bit by bit, gliding his mouth over Xander's hips and down his long legs. When he got to the feet, he had to stop and take off the shoes and socks before allowing Xander to step out of his pants and boxers. Finally, Harry stood and gazed at the man before him. Xander felt a little self conscious, standing there hard and naked while a fully clothed Harry stared at him, but the desire in those green eyes made him feel better. Still, he shivered. Being the only one naked made him feel even naked-er. Downright nekkid.
"You have too many clothes on," he said. He tried not to whine, and almost succeeded. He reached out to help Harry out of them, but was once again slapped away. Harry shucked off his clothes quickly, and returned to studying Xander. Xander shivered again; he could almost feel Harry's eyes moving over him. He closed his eyes as a long, pale finger trailed down his chest.
"Come to the bed," Harry ordered. Xander willingly obeyed.
Harry watched as Xander lay down on the bed, his muscular body stretched out like an offering. He wanted to touch every single part of it. So he did. Harry crawled up the carpenter's body, caressing the arches of his feet, the muscles of his calves. At the knees, he paused and spread Xander's legs apart so he could lick and nip at the delicate skin behind them. He continued up, tracing patterns on strong thighs. He shifted to his left, sucking at the hollow of Xander's right hip, then moved on to the stomach. Still, he took his time, pressing kisses along the paler stomach and up his ribs. When he got to Xander's neck, Harry sucked hard, placing a lovebite where it would be visible above his shirt collar. Then he lifted his head. Holding himself up with both arms, Harry hovered over the face he loved, kissing along Xander's jaw line. He placed tiny, fluttering kisses across Xander's full lower lip. Putting all his weight on one arm, Harry tugged off Xander's eye patch. Satisfied that the other man was now completely naked, he gently kissed both eyelids.
This was torture. Really fabulous, happy-making torture, but torture nonetheless. Xander forced himself to lie still as Harry made his way up his body. It was hard (no pun intended) not to touch back, but Harry seemed to need to be in charge right now, so Xander let him. The careful way Harry was touching him made him feel special...loved. When Harry reached for the eyepatch, Xander almost protested. He hated the way his face looked without it. But he trusted Harry not to be disgusted by him, so he let himself be exposed, when he felt Harry kissing the ruined flesh of his left eyelid, Xander let out a shuddering breath. Suddenly he had to kiss his boyfriend.
Xander ran his hands along Harry's smooth back - up to the strong shoulders, down to the tight ass. He lifted his chin and claimed Harry's mouth for a kiss. Like the one before it, this one started out slow and gentle, but Xander deepened it, trying to show Harry how much he loved him and wanted him. Harry responded, pressing his hips down against Xander's. The smaller man dropped from his hands to his elbows, still supporting most of his own weight, but now much closer to Xander. The carpenter moaned encouragingly.
Harry had been trying to restrain himself and go slow, but he didn't think he could keep it up with this kind of encouragement. He dragged his mouth away from Xander's. "I want you," he gasped out.
All Xander said was, "Yes," but the way he scrambled to find the lube and condoms spoke of an answering need. Harry took them and sat back on his haunches. He tore open the condom wrapper and set it aside, then slicked the fingers of his right hand. Settling between Xander's thighs, Harry stroked a slippery finger over his opening. Gently, he pressed it inside. He looked up from what he was doing to admire his lover. Xander had his eyes closed and his mouth open, and Harry was amazed at his beauty. He let his eyes trail down Xander's body to the hard cock that lay against his stomach. Leaning forward, he licked delicately at it as his fingers continued thrusting in and out of his arse. Xander gasped, and Harry smiled before grasping the base of the older man's cock with his left hand and beginning to suck it in earnest.
Having Harry Potter give you a blow job while preparing to fuck you is possibly the best feeling in the universe. Xander was only glad more people didn't know this, or there would probably be a line of people waiting their turn. And Xander didn't want to share. He was so caught up in the sensation of Harry's mouth on him that he almost didn't notice when the fingers pressing into him were withdrawn. Then the mouth was gone, and, before he could do more that groan, Xander felt his legs being lifted and Harry's cock gliding into him. He started to pant and babble as he was slowly filled by the man he loved.
"You feel so good...God, you're beautiful...Don't stop...don't stop..." and then moans and gasps that didn't really count as words. Xander let his legs slip down Harry's body to curl around his waist. He felt a warm hand close over his cock and let himself go, lost in the pleasure of the moment. He felt his orgasm rising within him and didn't try to fight it. He thrust up into Harry's fist and came with a low cry. His ass clenched around Harry, and the younger man thrust hard a few more times before shuddering out his own orgasm.
Harry collapsed forward onto Xander. He gently withdrew from the other man's body and threw away the condom, then snuggled back into the carpenter's embrace. He lay there, contentedly running his hand up and down Xander's arm, occasionally pressing kisses against his neck. Xander's hands lay lightly on Harry's shoulder and hip. It was warm and comfortable.
Xander's grip tightened and he cleared his throat. "I was talking to Giles a while ago, and he asked me to go to Africa." Harry's hand stopped its motion on Xander's arm.
"Africa?" he squeaked out. He tried again. "Africa? For how long?"
"Probably two years."
Harry felt like his heart had stopped. "Two years?!" He was starting to feel like a parrot. A parrot whose heart had stopped. An ex-parrot.
"Yeah, that's about how long most of the Slayer-finding contracts are. I would be traveling around trying to locate Slayers, doing the first contact thing."
"What did you say?" Harry wasn't a religious man, but he was silently praying that Xander had said no. That Xander had chosen to stay with his man. That Xander had chosen him.
"I haven't given him an answer yet. I think...I think I'd like to go." Harry shut his eyes tightly as he listened to Xander speak. "Giles told me they don't have any real work for me here, and I *need* to be useful. To fight the good fight, you know? The problem is..." The hand on Harry's shoulder moved up into his hair. "The problem is that I don't want to do the long distance thing - going weeks without seeing you, only having phone calls and letters. So I'm not sure what to do. I want to go to Africa and be Watcher-man, but I want to stay with you."
Harry wanted to tell Xander not to leave him. He almost opened his mouth to pressure the American to stay in London. But he heard the yearning to be useful in Xander's voice and stopped himself. "We could...erm..I could apparate to visit you. And I could make you a big lot of portkeys so you could come here to visit me. You could go, and we could still see each other all the time."
"Would you be willing to do that for two whole years? That's a long time to keep running off to another continent just to see your boyfriend," Xander said, his voice soft.
"You're worth it," Harry said firmly. In his mind, he was already making plans. He could draft Hermione and Ron into helping him make the portkeys. He wondered if he could find a way to attach a campfire to the Floo network. As he pondered this, Harry's hand started stroking Xander's arm again. One thing was sure: he wasn't letting this go. He felt connected to Xander in a way he hadn't thought possibly. There was no way a little thing like distance was going to keep them apart. He repeated, "You're worth it." That's really all there was to say.