Payment In Kind

As soon as he opened the door, it hit him. The aroma he knew very well had not been hanging in the air when he had left earlier, leaving Oz behind to wait for the news that all was clear again.

"Oh, hey, you're back." Giles watched with amazement as Oz meandered into the living room, holding a bag of chips, a bottle of water, and a bong. "Don't worry. I didn't raid your stash."

"My stash?"

Oz smirked. "Oh, come on. You know what I'm talking about." He paused at the record player and dropped the needle before sitting down in the middle of the floor. "Anyway, my stuff's better." Giles could only continue to stare in shock as Oz flicked his lighter over the bowl and inhaled deeply. And then Oz held the tube up in offering to Giles. When Giles didn't take him up on the offer, Oz shrugged and placed it on a nearby low table before stretching out on the floor.

"Oz --"

"Shh." Oz bent one leg and propped the other on the bent knee, bobbing his foot in time to the music. "You know, as much as I like this album, I could really do without Nico."

Now Giles sat on the floor crosslegged, contemplating the green plastic between them. "Oz, why are you here?"

"Music." He closed his eyes. They remained in semi-comfortable silence, Oz contemplating the sounds coming out of the speakers, Giles considering the teen and his drugs, until the album ended. "Your pick now."

"No." Oz opened one eye and gazed at Giles as best he could. "I'm going to take a shower now. I'll reserve my pick until after." Giles turned his attention back to the bong. "Are you serious about sharing?"

"Of course." Oz closed his eyes again. "That is, as long as you flip the record before you go."

"I can do that." Task completed, he picked up the bong. "So, where's the hole?"

"Slide carb. Pull out the stem."

He reflected how very long it had been since he had held a bong. Joints just didn't have the same effect. For one thing, smoke not filtered through water was harsher. For another... Well, really that was the key difference. Mellower smoke was easier to underestimate. As he inhaled, he realized that, while he could see the smoke filling the tube and moving into his mouth, he couldn't feel anything. Specifically, no harsh burning sensation in his throat and lungs. He exhaled, observing the cloud of smoke emerging from mouth and nose. So the smoke had made it in his system. Just in case the non-feeling was accurate, he took another deep hit.

Halfway to the bathroom, the hits took effect in a big way. He wondered how much of it was because of the fact that he was back to a bong for the first time in years and how much was due to the quality of Oz's supply. Then he realized that he really didn't care. He briefly contemplated taking a bath rather than a shower (soaking while stoned was incredibly soothing, after all), but then he decided that a shower with the lights off would be like standing outside naked during a rainstorm. Very enticing at that particular moment.

Twenty minutes later, he was bathed and dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt -- perfect lounging clothing. To his utter and complete non-surprise, Oz was still sprawled on his living room floor. Giles smiled and turned his attention to the record player.

"Hey, side two. Good choice." So Oz was still alive. "I never did understand how a barefoot Paul McCartney meant a dead Paul McCartney. Even after someone explained that corpses are usually barefoot intheir caskets, it doesn't make sense." He nodded in time to the music. "Hey, this could be our song."

Giles nodded, reaching for the bong once again. To his surprise, the bowl had a fresh load.



"This is nice. Can we do this again?"

Giles didn't answer for a long moment. Oz finally sat up and turned to him in concern, but that evaporated when Oz realized the reason for Giles' silence. Finally, the older man exhaled slowly while speaking, aiming the smoke away from Oz's face. "Tell you what. Bring this stuff, and you can come over any time you want."

"Payment in kind?"

He hadn't realized how harsh pot smoke was when forced through his nose by snorting laughter. He briefly thanked whatever forces had him not drinking root beer at that moment. "You've been hanging out with too many deadheads."

Oz sat up. "Whoa. Head rush. Cool." Now he turned his attention to Giles. "And just who do you think I get this stuff from?"

"Ah. Point taken." He attempted to think clearly for one moment. "How about... male bonding?"

"Hmm." Oz mulled it over while he took another hit. "Okay."

Silence -- well, the absence of speech, since the sounds of the Abbey Road medley prevented silence -- descended once again. Then, finally, Giles spoke again. "I want some chips. And maybe Jell-o."

Oz grinned. "Cheetos, Doritos, or potato? Cool ranch or nacho cheese? Barbecue, sour cream and onion, or rosemary? And raspberry, peach, or lime?"

Giles stared at him for a long moment. "Oz, I think I love you." Oz's lack of response made him uneasy, causing Giles to wonder if he had overstepped a boundary.

But Oz finally spoke, just as Giles was preparing to apologize. "Quoting the Partridge Family already? So, should I tell you about that box of Nutter Butters?"