by Glossolalia

Giles allows himself the luxury of sleeping late the next morning. By the time he finally rises, the sun fills his living room and he has to narrow his eyes against the glare as he fumbles with the coffeemaker. The contraption is recalcitrant enough under his hands; attempting to work the curtain's mechanism would be worse than foolhardy.

He did not dream last night, yet he feels as if he had. Wisps of sensation and perception cling to him like the remnants of dreams, hovering around the edges of his eyes and mind: the lean weight of Daniel against him; tang of marijuana on the back of his tongue; Angel's cool, hard grip on his elbow; scent of the boy, sweaty and smoky and still fresh; the intricate curve of his lips, twisting and slipping as he spoke. Disappointment creeping like sorrow over him, then eroding, washing away: the night moving with tidal certainty, alone and then not alone.

Not dreams, for once, but experience.

When he reaches the bottom of the second coffee, his thoughts are clearer. He is more in control, less prone to wander through his sense memory, and this can only be an improvement. Less fleshy, more cerebral: This is his training coming through.

By turning that tide with a few simple words for a vampire, he had swung momentarily alone and shiftless; when the water rushes out, the sand sucks wetly at the air. But it cools, then, under the moon.

It must the aftereffects of THC that are driving him from the cerebral headlong into that twisty, spit-soaked realm of imagination and fantasy. Likening himself to sand and Daniel to the moon? That is not his training.

More coffee.

This, however, is his training. She will return: He had assured Angel of this, and it is true. When she does, everything will revert to normal. Normal is a Watcher and a Slayer. It is supposed to be an exclusive pair, drawn together and set against the rest of the world. And although Giles has always been put off by the cloying, inherent paternalism of the arrangement, he can appreciate its simplicity. Knowledge and strength, experience and youth.

It is that very simplicity that has fallen apart in Sunnydale. Almost immediately, the simple arithmetic collapsed, became complicated into various non-Euclidean dimensions. First, friends in the know, determined to accompany, assist, and learn. Then a vampire with a soul. All those complications, however, revolved around Buffy. If she cannot be said to have instigated them, nonetheless they referred to, affected, her. And Giles remained as far as possible the traditional Watcher, hide-bound, bookish, and resourceful.

The Manichean simplicity of the traditional arrangement, light versus dark, pair versus world, cannot easily hold, not permanently. He just isn't simple enough to persist like this indefinitely. Giles is very, very good at playing his father; years of creating disappointment and fostering recrimination taught him everything he needs to know about that. He is not, however, his father. Nor is it a simple case of his own reversal and return, of a short, straight path from good to, well, Eyghon, then back to good, back to the fold. It was never that simple, and never can be.

He knows that it is much more complicated than a turn and return. For the children, and Miss Calendar, even for the deliberate, stubborn enigma that Angel is, he can and will remain traditional. That is who and what they need: At least one clear example of the simple version of the world. For all the others know, he has always been a middle-aged, sexless librarian. Crows' feet and nary a pinch of skin between his legs.

For all he pretends, he has lapsed and returned, consigning all hint of transgression to the past.

Daniel disrupts that clean, linear progression. Well before he ever touched the ink on his skin, he swerved gracefully into Giles's path. It took a single swerve, puff of warm, smoky breath, and everything rearranged itself.

He sees now the rearrangement, sees how without her, he has been a fool. In a grotesque parody of mourning, he has been clinging to all the old roles, reenacting all the old familiar patterns out of desperation. Like the worst kind of spurned lover, unable to accept that it is over, he has been faithfully donning his Havisham-tweeds.

It is not over. Paused, perhaps, but she will return. And when she does, he will know who to be. Where simplicity cannot be taken for granted, it can certainly be constructed. This is precisely how he has always handled his past. Consignment and construction, invoking every familiar narrative of fall and redemption to shape his actions.

Daniel's presence is proportional to the time Giles has left: nothing so overwhelming as wizardry and orgies, simply one small boy with a twisty lips and wide, shadowed eyes. His presence is thus all the easier to contain and construct in the space of the summer. And isn't that the thrill of repression? When you wrap up your shame tight and small, it tastes all the better for having been hidden.

She will return.

In the meantime, he has all he needs: a fresh cup of coffee, toasted-cheese sandwich, and an afternoon to think about Daniel.

He moves in contented calm around the flat, tending to all the household things he has let slip lately. Straightens the books, dusts the trinkets, folds the laundry.


Oz wakes up happy and horny. Pretty hard to distinguish one from the other, actually, so not really "and", more like a dash. Or a run-on word: happyhorny. He just sort of drifts up from sleep, feeling his body coalesce and thicken back into reality, dick and tongue a little thicker than the rest of him. Edging up on one elbow to survey the room. Devon sleeps next to him, on his stomach; looks like he was dropped out of a plane without a parachute, and this is where he landed. Lissa sits on the windowseat, paging through an old MRnR, licking the ink off her fingers, not that it'll help. She lifts her head and observes, obviously amused, as he struggles to climb off the bed without waking Dev, to find the floor without landing on Eric, wrapped up tight in the sleeping bag. Sleeping on his back like Dracula.

He joins her on the low seat, curling his legs back behind him and leaning his head on her shoulder. Her hair tickles his nose: damp, and it smells like raspberries.

"Already showered?" Whispered and croaky. God, he sounds like he has emphysema or something.

She grins. "I've been up forever, little man." She's whispering, too, but it sounds better than his. Low and sweet.


Lissa leans back against him. "Cause I went to bed at a relatively civilized hour. Unlike some people."

"Oh." He raises his head. He wants to kiss her; she smells good, and she's pretty.

She pokes him in the elbows with a very sharp elbow. "You stink, Oz."

"I do?" He sniffs one pit. "Yeah, I do. Sorry."

Bracing her hand on his thigh, and that just jacks up the whole happy-horny thing, Lissa leans over and retrieves another magazine from the floor. National Geographic: it's got a whole history of woolly mammoths. "It's okay," she says. "Just — morning breath."

"Got it." Oz rests his chin on her shoulder, watching her turn the pages. It's annoying to watch tv when someone else has the remote, but watching someone else read is incredibly calming.

"You gonna do something about that?" Lissa asks, running her thumb down the fold-out map of Borneo.

"Huh?" What can he do about Borneo? He's not even sure where Borneo is; he used to think it was imaginary and sunken, like Atlantis. But if it's in the Geographic, it's probably real. Should ask Giles about that.

"Chubby little Oz, Jr. there." Lissa turns to the crappy watercolor painting of mammoths shuffling across the tundra.

"Yeah," Oz says. "Probably should, huh?"

"I'm no doctor, but it would seem like a good idea."

Oz unfolds his legs and leans over his knees, pressing his belly against his hard-on. It hurts, like chewing off a hangnail.

"I could go downstairs," Lissa says, closing the magazine. She obviously doesn't like mammoths as much as he does. "If you and Dev want some privacy. Or is the librarian stopping by?" Wicked smile she's got there.

He glances sideways at her and slips his arm around her waist. He sucks at this, knows the expression he's trying to make right now will be way more Groucho Marx waggle than Steve McQueen smirk, but he tries anyway.

Lissa shoves him away with one small hand. Yeah, Groucho strikes out again.

"Hit the showers, kiddo." She stands up and rolls her neck. "I'll go get some grub, okay?"

Devon always claims he gets the best ideas in the shower; maybe Oz is doing something wrong, but he tends to zone out in here. And, yeah, he tends to zone out everywhere, so it's not like that's news or anything. He doesn't know who he wants. Is he allowed to want Lissa and Dev and Giles? And also that tall Scottish girl at the coffee place who's so used to him she just pockets his change now? His math seems off; he's pretty sure there are way too many integers here, but it's not like this is a situation where he can show his work for partial credit.

Showered and shivering, he helps Lissa make mac and cheese and realizes, as he stirs in an extra half-packet of cheese powder and she wrinkles her nose, that he doesn't want her, not really. Because all he's thinking about as he stirs the neon glop is how Giles was right here. In his kitchen, only a couple hours ago. Drinking beer and smoking up and not really caring how hard Oz was looking at him.

"You sticking around today?" He hands Lissa her half of the macaroni.

She picks at it, delicately shaking as much sauce off the noodles as she can before tasting it with pursed lips. "Thought I might," she says. "There's that 21 Jump Street marathon on F/X."

Oz nods and swallows. "Forgot about that."

"You're going to the library, aren't you?"


"Probably definitely." Smiling, almost smirking, Lissa pushes her bowl away. "Take this, I can't deal with it."

"Cool." He gobbles it up, feeling it congeal into this huge, warm lump in the pit of his stomach. "Tell my mom I'll be back for dinner, 'kay?"

"If you still have a stomach, sure."

He walks all the way to school, but the library's closed. Just Dave pushing a broom lazily down the hall. Shit.

He stops by the coffee place, but the Scot's not working. Shit.

When he gets home, Lissa and his mom are drinking iced tea and talking about menstrual cups at the kitchen table. Effectively erasing any good Giles-related-memories associated with it. He retreats upstairs, but there's no sign of Devon beyond the earring he finds in the covers when the hook pokes into his arm. Shit squared.

He dozes off, and when he wakes up again, it's almost dark. Still horny, though.

He wants to talk to Giles. Grasshopper must learn patience, however, so he flops back on the bed and takes up a book. If he's going to deny himself Giles, at least he can do something Giles-y. Other options — basically that Jump Street marathon or old Hanna-Barbera shorts — are so not Giles-y. Giles-esque? Gilesian?

Besides, he's probably seen them all anyway.

Patience is overrated.


The phone rings as Giles stands in front of the open refrigerator. He could do all the house-tending in the world, and he would still forget the groceries. He answers, tucking the phone between neck and shoulder, returning to contemplate the distinct lack of food in his possession.

"Hey." Daniel? It is Daniel, and were he a teenaged girl, he's sure he would squeal. "Thought you'd be at the library."

"It's nearly 8:30 at night."

"Yeah, but still."

"What is it, Daniel?"

"I was all set to leave a message."

"Shall I ring off, then?"


Silence. He cannot fathom how young people spend their waking lives on the phone, although giggles and squeals do seem to fill the time. "How are you?" Giles asks finally.


"Sleep well?"


The telephone is not, perhaps, the best vehicle for communicating with Daniel. If he were here, Giles could see his eyes, conjecture his mood and guess his intent from a lift of the brow or quirk of the lips. He closes his eyes at the thought of those lips, and grips the counter until his fingers ache.

"What are you doing?" Daniel asks. "Right now, I mean."

"I'm making dinner, actually."

"Yeah? What's on?"

"That's the question, isn't it?"

Daniel laughs, and transferred through wires and plastic and whatever computer chips make up telephones these days, the sound is staticky and quite pleasant. "What've you got on hand?"

"Er — . Hmm." Giles scans the cupboards. "Tinned tomatoes. Tuna, and — " He checks the refrigerator again. "One rather limp stalk of celery."

"House is overrun with vegetables. I could bring you some zucchini," Daniel says. The pause before he speaks again, if he will speak again, is a long one. Giles thinks he can hear the boy swallow. He really must be extraordinarily shy. "If that's okay."

Giles leans against the wall, transferring the phone, hot and sticky now with sweat, to the other ear. "Feed the lonely bachelor, is it?"

"Yeah. Good deed for the day. Gimme like half an hour."

"All right." And the connection breaks.

He cannot imagine, and he does try, inviting Daniel into his house. Construction of normalcy is one thing, but that requires a great deal of restraint and dedication. Both are rather difficult to summon when the subject itself is in your home.

In all likelihood, the boy will never arrive. Once distracted, his purpose dropped like a loose thread, he'll find himself tuning his guitar or staring glassy-eyed at cartoons.

Still, it is nice to be thought of.


Oz takes another shower; he was asleep, hence he needs a shower. This time he doesn't zone out. He's pretty hyper. Definitely jittery. This makes dressing difficult, since he's actually putting something on with buttons, and his fingers are all slippy and jumpy. But it's Giles's house, and that calls for some kind of attention and care. Like the last of Dev's good pomade and a pair of fairly clean cords.

His mom might be onto something with her whole cleaning hang-up. His closet is pretty much an extension of his room, so crammed with crap he's surprised he's managed to dress himself lately. And he can't find his tie. Last time he wore it was someone's funeral, and it bothered him like hell, so why does he want to wear it now?

Fuck it.

He grabs enough squash to fill a grocery sack and leaves a note on the kitchen table, and it doesn't matter any more that the Giles-memories are gone from it.

Because he gets to see Giles's kitchen. In his house.

And his house is where?


"Hey, Giles." Daniel sounds strange, almost insistent. This is hardly his usual drawl, and it is cut through with strange rattling sounds. "Um, where do you live?"

"Where are you?" Giles reaches for the decanter of whisky, suddenly needing to steady his hands.

"Van. Driving."

That would explain the screeching rattle. Giles sips his drink and closes his eyes briefly.

"So, address?" Daniel asks, and hadn't Giles replied? He takes another sip.

So it appears that he will be hosting Daniel tonight.

Wonders not ceasing, and such.


Giles is a mess in the kitchen, just incredibly hopeless. He gets in the way, trips over his own feet, and chops weirdly, like he's more used to hacking at things with an axe than slicing zucchini.

"How long have you lived alone, anyway?"

Oz has positioned Giles in the doorway, because this is going to take twice as long if he insists on staying underfoot. And the whole point of pasta puttanesca is how quick it is. Just dump veggies and tuna in the tomatoes and pour over pasta. The Frugal Gourmet talked for almost half a show about that. Also something about prostitutes.

Giles sips his stinky brown drink and wrinkles his brows.

"That long, huh?"

He gets a smile for that, and Oz pauses for a second, cocking his head to get a better view of the grooves the smile draws in Giles's cheeks. The sauce spits at him, landing right on his hand, and he turns back to stirring the tuna into the tomatoes.

No ogling during cooking. He should write The Frugal Gourmet about that rule.


Daniel insists, fairly sternly, on clearing the table and filling the dishwasher after dinner, leaving Giles to circulate uncomfortably around his own living room. The boy is distinctly different this evening: dressed in trousers only a size too big and a button-down shirt just a size too small, as if for his confirmation, despite the dark purple lacquer on his short nails, stern in the kitchen, almost talkative over dinner.

"Done," Daniel says, emerging from the kitchen. "Hey, music."

Giles flips idly through his records, looking over his shoulder at Daniel. He perches on the edge of the couch and rattles the ice cubes in his glass. Slowly, Giles realizes Daniel is trying to get his attention.

"Sorry," he mumbles. "I thought you might enjoy this."

"You're not going to give me that vinyl is superior to digital speech, are you?"

Giles looks down at the record in his hands. "It's a speech?"

"Yeah. Analog is truer to the performance. The sound is richer. Fuller. You know." Daniel sits back, arms loosely crossed. He appears to be studying Giles's face again, and Giles would like to know just how he manages to look simultaneously intent and serene.

"I had no idea I was so predictable."

"Not you. The speech." Daniel drums his fingers on the couch's arm, but his expression has not changed. Giles thinks that he knows him well enough to understand that the gesture is a parody of impatience, and not the real thing at all.

"I fail to see the difference."

Daniel smiles slowly enough to make Giles's throat ache. "Big difference, Giles."

"Oh? Enlighten me, then." Harsher than he had intended, and he shakes his head in apology.

"Snarky much?"

Giles sits on the armchair, leaning forward, towards Daniel. "No. I'm curious."

"Oh. Okay." Daniel leans forward, tilting his head and squinting into the far corner of the room, well behind Giles. "You listen to music when you drive?"

"On occasion."

"All right. So, radio's playing. Or tape. Doesn't matter. Windows down, wind blowing in. Cars passing. Maybe sirens somewhere across town. Little snatches of conversation from pedestrians when you're stopped at a light."

Giles closes his eyes. "Yes."

"Sounds good, huh?" Daniel's voice is soft, nearly coaxing. Giles feels the Scotch at last, tentative warmth slipping around his belly, through his chest. Touching his cheeks.


"Or, okay, get this. Someone else's party. CDs on shuffle. Bug zapper going off, frying 'em dead. Girl laughing. You don't know anyone. Dark and a little smoky. Bonfire, maybe? Stale chips that stick to the roof of your mouth and make that damp squeaky noise when you chew."


"Sounds good?"

"It does."

Daniel touches his wrist and Giles opens his eyes. "Right," Daniel says. "That's all I'm getting at."

"Which is what, precisely?" The boy's gaze is back on him, and Giles knows he should straighten his posture, perhaps cross his legs, as it occurs to him, rather vaguely, that he is flushed and half-hard.

"You listen other times. Not just when you're alone. Brandy in hand, lights dimmed low." Daniel sits back, apparently satisfied that he has made his point.

"Although that's nice," Giles says, and the protest sounds weak, even to him.

"Sure it is. But the speech? Those guys only listen then."

Giles likes the sound of that. He's not one of those guys. It's a start.


Oz isn't drinking tonight. He wants to stay alert, wants to be able to remember everything. Maybe Giles will teach him how to catalogue details, cross-reference according to each of the five senses. That way, when he's old, or drunk, whatever, he'll be able to summon up the memories with a quick flip through the long box of cards.

He'd have to use the cards, because the memories would be about Giles, and it only seems appropriate that he should have to write out each memory by hand on the 3x5 rectangle. He can see himself hunched over that long table in the library, Giles standing above him with a big book in his hands, reading out arcane rules. In his fantasy, Oz understands the rules, and nods quickly. Impatient with himself, somehow embarrassed that Giles needs to remind him, but then Giles will pat his shoulder, once, gently, and he'll understand that it's not lack of trust or anything. Just help. Then Giles will crouch beside him, arm around the back of Oz's chair, and chuckle at whatever memory Oz is currently crafting. Draw him close, ruffle his hair as he kisses Oz's cheek and suggests another memory.

Like this one: that slack, blissed-out look on Giles's face when Oz was babbling about music.

Or this one: the warmth of Giles's skin, warm just like anyone else's, but memorable because it's still flaming away on Oz's fingertips.

Or this: the heady, thick scent of Giles's whisky, the way it lightens and disperses, mixes with the smell of limes, when it's on Giles's breath.

Or: Giles rising to flip the record, the cords of the muscles in his back twisting into his waist, so strong it radiates from him and socks Oz right in the gut.

He's going to kiss Giles.


"Daniel? What — "




Daniel gazes at the floor with knitted brows, his lip almost trembling, shoulders hunched around his ears. Giles knows the feeling, because he is trembling, too. The brush of lips on his own, the clutch of a small hand on his shoulder, then the shove away, far harder than he'd intended: It had all barely lasted a moment, yet the shivers wracking him are worthy of some cataclysm.


Giles shakes his head and Daniel's sigh is harsh, like fabric ripping. "Not that," Daniel says. "Just — Just sit down, okay?"

He is hovering, he knows this, nearly looming, but he can hardly sit back down. Daniel scrubs a fist against one eye and falls back against the couch. His eyes are dark and wet. "Sit, please? I promise not to attack you again."

Giles perches gingerly on the couch, keeping a full cushion-length between them. "I-I don't know quite what to say."

"Don't say anything."

He has to say something, has to seem to have the situation in hand. "There are all sorts of masks and roles we must use," Giles says. The clichés taste bitter on his tongue, but he finds himself incapable of thinking clearly enough to find an original way of expressing it. "That we're expected to play. That we need to play."

"For ages 13 and above." Daniel will not look at him, but at least he is responding.


"Oh. Jigsaw puzzles," he says. "They're sorted by how hard they are, who can handle them. Ages 3 to 103, age 8 and up. And for some reason, the difficulty is only a matter of how many pieces there are. See, the really hard ones? They're usually more than a thousand pieces, and they're always marked ages 13 and above."

It is the longest speech he has ever heard the boy utter. Giles's stomach clenches at the thought that it was spoken here and now, with such an empty tone that Daniel could have been reading the phone book aloud for all the emotion he is showing. Patently unfair that it took a fumbled kiss and rough shove to shake loose the boy's voice. "Puzzles."

"Yeah, I dunno," Daniel says, giving that faint half-shrug he seems to use when convinced of his own foolishness. Giles knows that shrug, too. He uses it often. "Maybe you get a secret solution book at your bar mitzvah or something."

"Age 13?" Giles asks. Puzzled, but they are talking again, which is more than he should have hoped for. Perhaps it is his tone, reedy from the tension closing his throat, or perhaps Daniel feels he has nothing left to lose after Giles's violent rejection, but he shifts closer to Giles. He keeps his hands in his lap, and eyes downcast, but the distance is thinning between them.

"Right. Makes me think that we're all sort of constantly jigged and cut around, the older we get. More pieces, more edges."

Giles tries to picture this, sees little puzzle people traipsing around a child's green landscape, their unjoined edges flapping in the breeze. He smiles at Daniel and believes that he can actually see the relief flashing in the boy's eyes at the kindness. Daniel smiles back at him, hesitantly, then more broadly. His emotions are, Giles thinks, more changeable than the proverbial weather.

"Yeah," Daniel says, smile narrowing, clearly thinking. "Emptier, the more edges there are. But, like, more opportunities, too."

After that smile, it must be safe now to touch him. Kindly, paternally, slip an arm around his shoulders. Daniel collapses against him as quickly as spilled paint: one moment safe and contained, the next soaking him with his boneless body. "You're an unusual boy."

Daniel blinks up at him, cocking his head. "Oh, I'm pretty usual. Believe me."

Crisis not-so-deftly averted, but nonetheless averted, Giles tilts his head back and listens to the music Daniel had chosen. Red Rodney with Bird, because, Daniel says, of redhead solidarity. Giles does not point out that Daniel is only genotypically, not phenomenally, a redhead. He is not interested in arguing, or, indeed, in saying very much at all. The soft pressure of Daniel against his side, barely heavier than a blanket, and the eerily high notes off the trombone reassure him.

When the record finishes, Daniel rises and holds out his hand for Giles to shake. He issues an invitation to a barbecue on Saturday, and then he is gone, head bobbing away into the darkness before Giles can rouse himself and closes the door.

That wasn't so hard. He appears to have improved markedly at constructing the normal.


Thinking with his dick? Oz is never going to learn what a stupid idea that is.

Of course, he's never going to forget the shock and loathing contorting Giles's face when he leaned in for the kiss, either.

Cross-reference shock and loathing with disgust and disappointment. Oh, and humiliation. Can't forget humiliation.

And why the fuck did he invite him to Devon's birthday party, anyway? Suave: Sorry I jumped you, thanks for not punching me, and, hey, come to my party.


Giles finds Daniel in the back yard, behind the squat old barbecue, mulberry-shaded hair barely peeking over the billowing smoke. He holds a pair of tongs and turns them carefully back and forth. As Giles moves closer, he sees that the tongs hold half an eggplant. Its burgundy skin sizzles over the flames and weeps condensation as it cracks opens. Daniel flicks his wrist, and the eggplant's pale flesh darkens in the flames.

"Babaghanoush," Daniel says, lifting the tongs slightly. He is not meeting Giles's eyes, but, of course, he is busy with the roasting.

"Of course."

"Better when you roast it first. There's tofu pups, too."

Giles raises the six-pack in his hand. "Where should I — ?" he asks just as Daniel turns, dropping the now-charred eggplant into a shallow bowl.

"Glad you came," he says quietly. "Oh, beer. Good." He wipes his hands on the seat of his shorts and straightens up. "Follow me."


He's not going to deal with Giles right now. He's going to concentrate on passing out the food, emptying ash trays, and tending to Devon. It's Devon's birthday, it's only right.

Not that Dev needs tending. He's standing on the patio railing, Burger King crown askew on his head, and declaiming song lyrics to an appreciative audience. How is that narcissism can be so hot?

Later, when the party's in gear and he's run out of things to distract himself with, then he'll deal with Giles.

Or not.


He is flattered that Daniel apparently sees little reason not to include him among his other friends, that he is trusted to move among their company. He is flattered and more than a little confused. He supposes he half-expected Daniel to play gracious host, set up conversations for him, circulate expertly, save him from any potential discomfort. The party is smaller than he had imagined; of course, not every teenage American party will be a raucous, debauched mob scene, despite what television and films seem to believe. The party, if something so mellow can be called a party, is not like that at all. In fact, it's much more like the parties of his own youth, whose energy pulsed along slow, twisting paths.


Oz replenishes the ice in the cooler on the patio and dumps abandoned drinks, gritty with dunked cigarette ash, down the sink. He's always refill-cleanup guy at these things, and he enjoys it. This way, he can be present without necessarily participating, and gets first dibs on food: the whole two birds-one stone thing.

He shakes powdery parmesan and oregano over the slices of pita, sprays on his mom's good olive oil, and slides the tray under the broiler. Eric and Lissa are already hovering and he shoos them out of the kitchen, feeling very territorial. When the cheese starts to bubble and brown, he wraps his hand in the hem of his shirt and tugs the tray out onto the counter. He's never gotten the hang of dumping them off the tray into the bowl without losing half, so he settles for the safe method and worries each piece loose with the spatula.

Eric and Lissa descend on him as soon as he's out the door, and he lets them grab their pieces, smirking when they shriek, dropping them like, well, hot potatoes. Hugging the bowl to his chest, he stops in the doorway, considering. The party's going pretty well: There seems to be a good mix of people, someone finally took the Offspring off the stereo and slotted in Syd Barrett, and, hey, the girl next to Devon just took her shirt off, complaining about the heat.

Oz pushes off from the wall, setting himself adrift on the party's current of babble, music, and bodies.

He finds Giles half-sitting on the arm of the patio bench, arms loosely crossed, trying to explain something to a sophomore whose name Oz thinks, but wouldn't swear, is Nonie. Oz leans against Giles's side, trying to catch up on the conversation. That's all, just trying to hear better over the music.

"But it's not like that," Nonie says. "Hippies were everywhere."

Giles glances down at Oz, and this is nice, the way their eyes meet and a smile goes between them before Giles returns his attention to Nonie.

"Of course," he says. "There's no arguing that hippies could be found anywhere in the West at that time. B-but we can't let that obscure the fact that a great deal of fervent activity a-a-and revolutionary results were accomplished outside of the, er, hippie milieu." At some point, his arm has slipped around Oz's back. Nice. He forgot how good this feels, kind of gathered in and held close.

"Like Woodstock?"

"I was thinking more of Prague Spring, the Langlois riots in Paris, or Stonewall, because Woodstock might — "

Nonie shakes her head, blonde hair whipping across her face. "It was way important!"

Oz has also forgotten how much he likes Giles's patience, how he tilts his head just a bit and listens, face impassive. He doesn't agree with her at all, but he's not going to make her feel bad about it.

"Pita chip?" Oz lifts the bowl. "Anyone?"


Giles has not seen Daniel for a good while now, and it is starting to get late. Late in the party, late in the summer. Nearly a week without his presence, and he thinks he may be going mad, or at the very least, lonely.

When the shadows have lengthened nearly across the entire yard and the first fireflies flicker into evidence, the guests start to rise, gathering clothes and partners, moving almost as one inside. The barbecue is doused and the patio doors slide shut and are latched. The children rearrange themselves in the den and kitchen, conversations smoothly continued. They are clearly used to getting out of the dark; at this age, it must be a long-standing habit, so familiar as to be unconscious.

"Washroom?" Giles asks a vaguely familiar female face that emerges from the dark. She shrugs. "Toilet?"

"Around there." She points in the general direction from which Giles has come.

"Thank you," he says, although he's already alone again. He pushes forward, into the kitchen, into the harsh glare of fluorescent light. Everything goes sharp but insubstantial.

As his eyes adjust, and the door cuts off the worst of the booming music, he hears a moan, then that faint, moist slipping sound that can only be lips on skin. Patches of purple and white, scarlet and pale blue resolve themselves into figures.

He sees Daniel on the counter, thin legs wrapped around someone's red-clad waist, ankles locked. Watches the worn trainers flex and push against Devon's — it is Devon, those molded jeans and shiny red shirt can only mean Devon — ass. Sees the taller boy's head slide down Daniel's throat, Daniel's fingers tangling white and bony in the short curls. Watches as Daniel tips back his head against the cabinets, as his eyes, heavy-lidded, nearly closed, open for a moment and then flutter shut as he moans again. Almost keening now as Devon's sharp elbow moves back and forth, hand working Daniel's cock.

Giles watches; backs out the door; turns blindly in the dark noise; escapes out of the house; stumbles across the yard. Into his car. His eyes glued open, breath long gone from his chest, he drives as if in a nightmare, effortlessly but terrified. Only at home does he realize he still bites his lip. Blood has begun to congeal around his teeth, at the back of his throat.