by Glossolalia

Hanging is welcome.

So Oz has taken to asking Giles whatever questions occur to him. Giles doesn't seem to mind, and as for Oz, he's picking up a whole load of weird info.

It's not a casual process, at least not for Oz. He wants to know, whatever the question is, he wants to hear Giles answer. They're sitting at the big table, lunch (tea? it is kind of late for lunch, since Oz overslept something fierce today) nearly gone.

"What do you do for fun, anyway?"

Giles glances at him; his face is hard to read, but Oz sees a kind of amusement there. Weirded out, he drops his gaze to the table. To Giles's hands, resting lightly there around his tea cup. Long fingers, strong and wide, big enough to cover just about all of Oz's face. Weathered, not into rough callouses, but like cedar, the way it softens and goes silvery after a couple years under the sun and rain.

Weathered, like the muslin curtains in his dad's apartment after the divorce. Cheap and unlined, they bleached in the sun, and his dad never washed them, so they went more and more golden and threadbare.

What would that skin feel like on his? Soft, weathered. Strong.

Giles clears his throat.

"Sorry." Oz scrapes back his chair, making to rise. "Sure I'm not bothering you?"

"Certainly," Giles says. it sounds like the beginning of a question, like a hint passed on a game show, but Oz knows he's probably making all this up. It must be a trick of the accent or something. He'd never make it past the first round of the $100,000 Pyramid if Giles was his partner. That accent makes everything sound smart and obscure and really fucking sexy. He wants to ask questions until his throat closes up.

Oz likes these afternoons. He could do without the arctic air conditioning, and has stowed an old blue plaid shirt in the reference section for when he gets too cold, but otherwise he can't imagine a better summer. Giles gets so absorbed in his old books and files of notes that Oz can look at him for minutes on end and not get caught. His current record is seven minutes and 23 seconds, but if he ever remembers to wear his sunglasses, he's sure to make ten minutes, easy.

Giles does this thing when he's reading, where his eyebrows knit together and his lips flatten and disappear. He'll stay like that for a while, eyes not moving, and then sigh through his nose and extend his fingers, wiggle them briefly, and go back to reading. Other times he'll go so still that it occurs to Oz he's about to do the wrinkle-purse-sigh thing, so he'll peek, only to find Giles staring at the opposite wall, mouth moving, no sound coming out.

Oz doesn't get the research thing. That's okay; he doesn't get Devon's rock-god thing, or Uncle Ken's bonsai thing, either. He just likes being around people who do have a thing. That might be his thing, come to think of it. Accompaniment.


Giles knows, but does not want to admit just yet, that some sort of routine is establishing itself. When he arrives at the library in the late mornings, Daniel is waiting for him more often than not. When he's not, he comes in the afternoon, hair mussed and eyes hooded. Either way, he appears almost every day.

He works at the long main table now, telling himself it is for the light that never manages to reach his office. Daniel sits nearby, reading whatever has caught his eye that day. Sometimes he rises, silent as ever, and looks up a word at the dictionary on its spindly lectern. Satisfied, he returns, sliding back into his chair and taking his book back up.

Giles finds it surprisingly easy to work with the company. His concentration is sharper, and when his mind does wander, he can inquire after Daniel's reading. He has caught up on the purchasing for the next school year and has returned without guilt to the usual open-ended research.

Professional guilt, that is; he usually manages to wrestle off the personal guilt until the dead of night. It can't be right, a man of his age enjoying a teenaged boy's company to this extent. And it certainly isn't right, the tension that has started to spool around his spine, weaving its way through his nervous system. It has not been so long that he can't remember what desire feels like, this low thrum of need threading through his skull, his hands, his groin.


"My Spanish isn't as strong as it once was," Giles says. He's peering pretty intensely at Oz's chest. "But I'm fairly certain that doesn't make much sense. I hold the feminine-gendered-thing?"

Oz glances down at his shirt and back to Giles. His glasses are off, eyes crinkled up, lips working silently.

"I hold — not her, although that would be a pretty phrase for a shirt. I suppose the problem is lack of context, really."

"Yo La Tengo."

"Yes, yes," Giles says absently, frowning a little, like Oz corrected his grammar and he's trying not to show how offended he is.

"Yo La Tengo," Oz says more distinctly.

Giles glances at him, frowning still, and then it's like his eyes focus finally on Oz's smile. When that happens, Giles relaxes. A little.

"It's a band. Guess that's the context."

"Oh," Giles says. "I beg your pardon. It's just, you see, I read something and t-the librarian in me kicks in."

"Nah, the librarian wouldn't care." Whoever Giles is would care, but Oz can't see a librarian giving it a second thought.

Giles apparently can't figure out how to respond to that, so he puts his glasses back on. "A band? Pop music. Lots of synthesizers, then?"

Oz shrugs. "No, Giles. A good band. Guitars and bass. Drums. Normal human voices."

"I see." He sounds pretty doubtful.

And with that, Oz resolves to show Giles that there's more than insipid pop (not that there's anything wrong with that) out there.

The next day, Wednesday, he wears a Half Japanese shirt and drops off his back-up copy of Painful.

Thursday: His good Nation of Ulysses long-sleeve and a Jad Fair mix.

Friday: He'd stayed over at Devon's, and has to settle for a Blur shirt and remix of "Parklife". He would have gone home first, but he's running late and doesn't want to miss Giles before the weekend.


The library is far too bright and clean for the thoughts that occupy him. As such, it is the perfect refuge.

At night, in the safety of his own double-bolted home, Giles can indulge himself. Not often, never on consecutive days, but enough to relieve the tension that tugs at and wraps around the base of his spine, pooling and pulling in his brainstem. Momentary relief, split seconds during which his vision clears, his chest lightens, and his thoughts untangle. Seconds succeeded by the increasingly familiar gathering tension, slipping, curling, wrapping itself around him and inside him, stronger now than it had been a moment ago. Always stronger.

He would like to be able to tell himself that nothing is wrong with him. That he is entirely blameless in this situation, an ordinary man in yet another set of extraordinary circumstances. He would like to be able to believe that these circumstances do not touch him, that, rather, they have everything to do with Daniel. He would like to believe that there is something extraordinary about the boy, capable of pulling blameless, ordinary Rupert Giles into an unexpected web.

If he could believe all that, liberation would soon follow. Giles would then be able to exempt himself from responsibility. He would be free of this dreadful certainty that he is nothing more than a dirty old man with designs on an innocent, affectionate, preternaturally kind boy. Thus free, he could enjoy his transformation into, his accession as, Rupert Rupert. Free to revel in his own solipsism and what he is sure is the sweet, herby tang of the boy's skin.

Instead, he suffers through another weekend locked in his house, failing to resist himself and the flashing, pornographic current of his own mind. His palms ache with emptiness, with the absence of all that he longs to touch, and his eyes tear up with need. Glimmers of Daniel, reaching for him, kissing him, pulling up his shirt: nothing so substantial as images, just glints spun off from the current, fading fast under scrutiny.


On Monday, Oz can tell that all this is amusing Giles, but probably starting to piss him off, too. He pushes his glasses up his forehead to read the small print on the back of the K-Records compilation. He squints at it but the muscles around his mouth look tight. When he does look at Oz, his eyes are darker; the glasses are back on like shields. It seems like the most suitable thing for Oz to do is just shrug and move slowly away.

Oz heads for the stacks, seeking a little solitude and that other word that sounds the same. Solace. He can't get a read on Giles, and he'd rather figure that part out first before fucking this up. Whatever this is.

As much as he loves the stacks, the way they smell a little like old paper and a lot like lemon floor polish, how they tower over him so reassuringly, maybe the library is the problem here. It could be making Giles feel way too much like a librarian and not enough like Giles, whoever that is. Oz sits back under one of the windows, holding The Strawberry Statement open against his updrawn knees, not looking at it.

Still, there has to be some way to get at Giles. The temptation to chuck it all in and just pull a Devon-stunt is strong: just sidle up to Giles, invade several layers of personal space, and ask if he'd like to fuck.

Great idea, if he wants to spend the rest of the summer alone in his room.

Giles had probably been right last week: the context is what's important here. He hadn't known Yo La Tengo was a band, so the shirt's meaning got garbled. Meaning happens, but in the wrong context, it's not going to be the meaning you wanted. Oz doesn't think he's arrogant enough to believe that the right context will guarantee better results than the library's currently producing. But it can't hurt. It's not like he knows what the right context is — the library's probably not a great one, but what's the opposite of a library?

Not that he wants the opposite, exactly, not really. Just something a little more neutral.

"Daniel?" Giles calls. No one calls him Daniel, not even his mom, but it sounds good, and it's not like he can imagine Giles taking someone named Oz very seriously at all. "Are you still here?"

"Here." Oz memorizes the number of the page he's on and stands up stiffly, moves out of the stacks.

"I'm making some tea. I thought — . Would you like to join me?" Giles leans against his office doorway, a jug of water in his hand.

"No, thanks," Oz says. "Should probably get going, actually."


Oz can't tell if Giles sounds sad. Probably, definitely, not. Just polite. He shrugs. "Yeah. But, hey, listen — " He digs around in his pocket, finally finding the folded flyer. Bright purple paper, once, now a little more creased and gritty with crumbs than he'd like. "Here. You want to go to this?"

Giles unfolds the paper and smoothes it over his palm. Scans it. "This is a band, yes?" He glances at Oz, smiling, and Oz feels relief in a weird way, since he hadn't known he was stressed. But there's the relief, lifting away the stress the way a good detergent gets at stains. All because of a little, awkward joke.

"Yeah." He smiles back. "No pressure. I mean, we really suck. Hardcore suckage — "

"Your band?" Giles isn't smiling any more. It's not like he suddenly looks unhappy or anything, not exactly, just that he's kind of calmly befuddled. Oz wants to blush, because that's what you do in this kind of situation. 'Calmly befuddled' doesn't just sound kind of cool; it's also a really good look on Giles.

"Yeah." Oz shoves his hands deep in his pockets, wondering just how long he's been silent for. He loses track all the time. "Like I said, no pressure 'cause we really do, uh. Suck." And if he says suck one more time with Giles looking at him like that, blushing is going to be the least of his problems.

"I think it could be interesting," Giles says. "Thank you." He refolds the flyer carefully and slips it into his shirt pocket.

"Welcome." It would be really nice to have a rock to kick around right now. "I've got some shit — . Sorry. Stuff to do before. I'll catch up with you later. Tonight."

Giles nods a couple of times. "Tonight, then."

Oz concentrates very hard on his feet and their threadbare checkerboard Vans as they carry him forward out of the library. That way, he doesn't have the brain space to over-interpret whether Giles had said that last part softly, or gently, or distantly, or whatever. Damn adverbs.


Giles wants to go.

He knows he should not, of course. He is nothing if not fully aware of every reason not to attend.

Ripper would go.


"Here." Devon tosses something round and spiked at Oz. "Put that on, slob."

Oz turns it in his hands. It looks like a belt for a very thin baby. "Why would a baby need a belt? Scratch that. Why do I need a baby's belt?"

Devon is leaning into the little mirror over the sink, so close Oz is surprised he hasn't knocked himself out yet. "It's a present, asshole. Put it on."

"Where? My wrist?"

Devon likes to dress up, and he does, Oz will admit, clean up real nice: tight black pants, tighter blue shirt unbuttoned to about the level of his spleen. Couple of little sparkly hoops in one ear.

"You're such a spaz — " Devon says, wrestling the belt from Oz. He unsnaps it and wraps it around Oz's neck, snapping it back closed with a quick jab of the thumb that makes Oz choke. The collar feels mighty weird. Snug and weird in a good way. "Better," Devon says, stepping back. "Still a slob, but that's like a long-term project."

"I'm not wearing this." Oz runs his finger underneath the collar, feeling the tingles spread around his throat.

"Yeah, you are." Devon smacks him on the ass and returns to the mirror. He adjusts a few short curls on one side of his head, tilts it in the other direction, and nods at himself.

"It looks stupid."

"You look stupid. The collar looks good."

"Granted. I'm still not wearing it."

Devon's doing something kind of medieval to one eyebrow with a pair of tweezers he's produced from god knows where. Oz wants to wince, but it's fascinating at the same time. He moves a little closer. "It's a present. Ow! Fuck!" It sounds like Devon ripped out an entire follicle that time. "It's only polite to say thank you — "

"Thank you. But I'm not — "

" — And wear it."

Oz is never going to Stubborn-Ass MacLeish, whether in a spat, skirmish, or all-out war. And it does feel weird-good. "Okay. Thanks."

"Welcome. Hey — " Devon holds up a can of silver-glitter hairspray. "Would this be over the top?"

"Depends." Oz checks the mirror once, just to see the collar. Yeah, kind of cool. "Are you putting it on your hair or sticking the can down your pants?"

The sad thing is, Devon looks like he's trying to decide.


Who the hell did he think he was?

Later, at home, Giles is never alone.

There are so many versions of himself, half-inhabited, waiting for him to return to them. Priggish schoolboy, anxiety-ridden son, demonic lover, piss-poor Watcher, easily-flustered librarian: Wraiths of various selves, all wearing his face, crowded into a wardrobe and howling to get out.

For now, however, Giles has turned his back on them.

After all, he can hardly wear any of them to a garage band's concert.