Across The Universe

The firework blazed an emerald trail across the sky then vanished; its brilliant existence ending as it ran out of gunpowder.

"It's too warm for this," Giles noted as he watched the flames of the little bonfire flicker, orange and gold reflecting on his glasses.

"Is it?" Oz asked, not looking up from the delicate task of rolling a joint.

"Most definitely. And we should have baked potatoes, or little sausages."

"Uh-huh. What is 'this', exactly?" A brief glance in Giles' direction, then back to the cigarette papers.

Giles murmured, "Remember, remember, the fifth of November."

"What are we remembering? I think it's a little early for Thanksgiving."

"It isn't Thanksgiving, Oz. Guy Fawkes night. It's an old custom in Britain." The Watcher paused, trying to remember his schoolboy history. "In 1605 a man called Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the King and the Houses of Parliament, but he was caught before he could do so. Someone betrayed him, I think. Ever since, every November fifth, all of the villages and towns in Britain are supposed to celebrate his failure by lighting bonfires and letting off fireworks. I should have an effigy of him on the fire, too."

"So not at all a grim celebration, then," Oz commented, then raised the joint to his lips to lick the paper.

"That it also happens to be the date three years ago that Buffy met her maker is entirely by the by."

Oz said nothing in reply, but nodded once, before lighting the joint. He took some languid draws on it, before passing the smouldering roach to his companion.

The two men sat in silence for a while, looking out over the twinkling lights of Sunnydale, distorted by the heat from the crackling fire. They smoked the cannabis and Giles would occasionally let off a firework and indigo or ruby would flash for a few precious seconds in the night air.

Oz watched Giles in this quiet moment, looked at the lines in the older man's face. There were more than he remembered, and the shadows created by the flames gave them definition and made Giles craggier than he was.

It was strange this return to Sunnydale, five years after he left for a second time. Buffy was dead; Willow away studying in Boston; Xander off to find his fortune in LA; Devon he didn't know where. There was just Giles. Giles and his magic shop the last remaining relic of his past.

Giles himself seemed to be quite lost without the others around him. Joyce, it seems, had moved away after Buffy's death, and the Watcher's Council had no more use for the man. So Giles no longer had any purpose. No longer did he have anything to drive him, apart from the shop.

The truth was, Oz had nothing to drive him either. He took a long draw on the joint, and watched as Giles lit another firework. This was a fountainy one, and it fizzed sapphire for a few seconds, raining blue fire on the sandy ground.

Oz turned to face the older man.

"I never borrowed those records."

"Sorry?" Giles looked at him with a trace of confusion.

"Before I left, the first time, I said that I would either borrow your records or move in. I haven't borrowed them."

Giles' eyes crinkled as he attempted to comprehend what Oz was driving at. "I don't understand."

Oz just smiled. "I haven't borrowed them, so moving in is my only option."

The crinkles remained. "You can't seriously be talking about moving in."

A shrug and a smile served as a reply.

"But why?"

"I need a reason?"

"I need you to have a reason."

There was a pause as the younger man considered his response. The first one that came to mind . . . well, that was probably the best one.

"I don't have anywhere else."

Giles regarded him with a touch of amusement. "That and my record collection."

Oz tilted his head slightly, looking serenely back at the older man. "I'm lonely, Giles. And . . . and I'm tired. I've spent nearly six years travelling, looking for something that I'm not sure exists, something I can't even define. I want to stop"

"The cure. You want a cure for your lycanthropy," Giles said, rubbing a temple.

"No, I found that at the start. But I kept on looking. The cure was a means, Giles, not an end." He offered the roach to the other man.

"A means to what?" Giles asked, accepting the joint from Oz.

Another shrug. "I don't know."

Giles shifted on the log, his gaze back at the fire. "And moving in with me? That would be another means?"

Oz leaned back to fetch Giles' guitar from where it lay behind them. "No, it would be an end in itself. Whether it's the end, I don't know." He ran his fingers down the strings, and notes floated out into the dark.

"Oz, I-I'm terribly used to living on my own. I don't know if I could live with anyone."

The music ceased. "But you're lonely too, right? I'm not asking for a commitment, or to share your bed," a pause, "yet. Just to be able to stop chasing my own tail for a while."

A smile crossed Giles' lips. "Oz, I'm almost twice your age."

"This isn't about age, Giles. You should know me better."

"Yes, perhaps I should."

Oz suddenly picked out a tune, something he had not done in a long time. But it was that sort of night. And to this gentle sound, Giles' voice quavered the words.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup/ They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe/ Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind/ Possessing and caressing me . . .

"I didn't know you sang."

"You should know me better, Oz."

Later, once the songs had finished, and Giles had lit the last firework, polished gold and silver, he took Oz's small hand in his and walked home.

Remember, remember the fifth of November, indeed.