Silver Rocket

Into it, really into it now: the band screamed out their need for protection from the dark, and Oz couldn't help but agree. It was the only sentiment he shared with the place -- a single step of common ground where the air was laced with salt, heavy sewer fumes, and the memory of chemical ghosts from abandoned smokestacks. That was the air outside, anyway. Inside four exposed brick walls low to the street, inside this slut of a party, semidark all sparkled out with cigarette butts and faceted eyes, there was no air, just wasted breath.

Inside, there was no meeting of the minds, or of anything else, for that matter. It wasn't what he had come for. Strobes pounded like the flash of moon between the moving branches of black trees and through the boughs, through gaping, uneven windows, he saw the picture in razored fragments -- a scrap of star-encrusted sky, the curl of smoke against the pane.

The skyscrapers spiked around the harbor in a menacing ring.

Spectral bodies jerking shamelessly with every blink, driven.

Then, the glittering buildings turning reproachful, mirrored gazes back down on the crowd around him, the far-offs and the fuck-offs, scuttling through hollow industrial nowhere. The harbor itself: invisible and trapped, the false-beating heart of a city he didn't particularly enjoy, but in which he remained for the luxury of a one-night fascination.

Fascination? More and less than that. More than the internal pull, less than the tunnel of relentless obsession. It wasn't merely a question of staying or leaving, dancing or being still; the issue was submission versus surrender. There was a difference, a rift of willpower, and the debate was considerable in a mind that sought its own sort of precision, a head full of only the right words, only the clean lines, all the better for the steady stream of intake. Choices had to be made, excess shards cleared away. This was surrender.

Intake... a bridge, reverb slow in the heat, entreaties for salvation stalled in mid-air, and there was this man. Older, out of place, perfect. Thin, wispy hair curving in tiny scythes around an impassive, solid face. Like Oz, barely moving, caught up in his own thing.

Or caught up in Oz.

No defenses, and to seal it. . . a sudden, sidelong smile. This man smiled from tragic eyes and Oz witnessed it in sharp monochrome glimpses, at once resisting and reveling in the inevitable side-effects of repression. Perfect thought, perfect focus. A head full of clean lines -- tenuous, yet simple.

The club, like every other, had its own questions. Pull in or put out? When Oz closed the distance between them and went in for the. . .

Pull in or put out? Pull in.

. . . And when Oz extended his hand, he was grateful for noise, for music played too loud, working into the cracks in the walls, trying to make them crumble. He has no desire to be on-stage any time soon, no wish to be looking out over others, removed. It didn't matter what the man saw in Oz -- his obvious youth, the tilt of his head, the spikes of hair dyed black as a shadow, the dark-wood chain twisted around his palm...

What mattered was what Oz saw in the man: he would not want to talk. No questions and few expectations, no fretting over moral propriety or Willow's injured feelings or the moonrise. Nothing had been lost on Giles, not a sound or a gesture, but tonight there would be no mention of the slight stiffness of his shoulder, and the faded bruises mapped across his torso would not be cause for concern.

No concern in the grand scheme of things. That was exactly what he had told Giles, right before he went away again, and they had both laughed despite themselves. No complications so long as the evidence was there, nothing he couldn't calmly face down.

Nothing lost, except for the most obvious of statements. That he had come directly to the apartment, that he hadn't expected an ambush, that he had left for Willow and returned for Giles... these facts were missing. And Oz couldn't explain them, not even to the one person who had tried the hardest, understood the most. He had left for Willow... and had stayed away as long as he could. After six months, he had to wonder if Giles knew the truth -- that he had learned nothing halfway around the world that they couldn't have figured out together. Hours of meditation felt exactly the same as Giles' hands over his, stretching for a moment both transient and carefully constructed. . . exactly like E-flat, diminished ninth. He couldn't explain, he could only hope that Giles would someday notice that certain things were felt most strongly in their own absence; talk wasn't cheap.

Oz slowly wrapped his arms around the stranger in front of him, this creature who breathed too quickly, grinned too widely to be Giles, and realized that even the sky was different here. He thought of other impossible places, other planets. . . of three, four, five moons, and what it would feel like. . .

He felt a twitch slipping down his spine. His fingernails lengthened, just a fraction of an inch, the change almost imperceptible.

Everyone needed better protection from the dark. Giles would have to understand.

There were other gigs.