Banging Into Floats
by Glossolalia

Oz won't listen to himself. He knows that the party hadn't been that bad. Kind of small, maybe too many seniors who made the kids nervous, and there was the fight in the bathroom, but nothing out of the ordinary. The party wasn't to blame. All the same, he tells himself that the party sucked, and that's why Giles has disappeared.

Oz knows he can blame the sucky party all he wants, and it's not going to be true. He's been trying for a week now, and it just won't take. No amount of superglue and duct tape is going to let him stick the party with the blame. The party was fine.

He is such an asshole. Stayed out of sight and across rooms and holed up in the pantry, leaving Giles to wander around like some poor lost dog begging for scraps. Not that it makes any sense that Giles came in the first place. It didn't seem like he'd come when Oz invited him. Except for the whole politeness thing. Man probably thanks the sun for coming up in the morning.

Jesus, he's hungover these days. Cranky, too.


Daniel appears to operate within his own slip of space, more porous and flexible than others'. So when he was close, Giles never felt crowded or irritated, simply somehow enlarged. And Daniel likes to be close. Giles doesn't know if it's his age, although none of Buffy's friends, especially not Buffy, ever stray, let alone linger, so close to him. At seventeen, Giles himself was constantly jittery, a moment away from kicking in a wall. He could barely stand his own skin. It could be Daniel's height, an effect of being smaller, such that he likes sharing space: It gives him a leg up, as it were.

Whatever the reason, he does know that this is simply how Daniel is, that he likes to be close. He liked to lean against Giles, sprawl on Devon's lap, give backrubs to the girls, braid hair.

That closeness, that affection, could have been his, almost was his, to enjoy, but for his own obstinacy and blindness.

And yet Giles suspects in darker moods that no one should be quite such a fount of physical affection, so freely given. That it must be a mark of some failing or flaw to exist so porously, with so few boundaries. He can't help but think that Daniel's affection loses something for being so casually offered. Much like the sprinklers that have been in the news lately: In the interests of water conservation, the state outlawed those whirling spigots that hurl water across most of the sidewalk and up the hedges. Clearly, he had been spending a little too much time with Daniel, if he is still thinking in these surreal similes. Affection that soaks bystanders.

That doesn't mean that he doesn't miss it.

While Eric Blair would be less than impressed with the sequence of negatives in that particular phrase, Giles finds it far easier to state it that way, rather than plainly. Positively. To admit that he does miss Daniel is to admit his own failure, yet again, to act in anything resembling a decisive manner. He cannot help but feel relegated to the sidelines once more, stuffed with regret. Starting to choke on it.


Every summer Oz forgets how wonky time gets, all stretchy and empty. A week lasts much, much longer when you don't have anything to do. He's been sleeping a lot, then staying up late, waiting for something, anything, to happen. All that happens is this deepening sense of certainty that he really is an asshole.

He's been playing a hell of a lot of Megaman, too, regressing to this happy little place where he's twelve again and the SNES is his whole world. He plays til the pad of his thumb feels raw and blistered and his hands are curved into freaky claws. No more Zelda, though, not after that nightmare where Giles morphed into Ganon, complete with the tower looming behind him and the blue bat face.

In Giles's absence, he's reduced all feeling to something rote, this boring, shuffled-through routine: the kind of thing he hates, action and thought boiled down to the simplest catchphrases. Studying for tests is like this, like he's barely here, just enough to string along until the bell rings. Playing the same game every day from the first level through is like this, his fingers better at it than his head.

He stops by school every afternoon. Sometimes he bums a smoke from Dave the janitor and they talk cars and the Clippers. At 6:30 every night, he calls Giles and leaves a message. The message. Hey. Hope you're okay. Call me? It's Oz. Daniel. Every night, the beeps on the machine last the same amount of time, so he knows Giles is checking messages. Or someone is, housesitter, whatever. Giles is checking them, just not calling back.

Maybe Oz is going single-white-female here, maybe he's turning into some kind of bored, shuffly, fairly inept stalker. But the routine of it is all he has, and definitely all he can handle. Going all Buffalo Bill with the night-vision goggles, staking out Giles's apartment? Not his style. He just doesn't have the energy.


Once Giles realized, however belatedly, that Buffy would come back, it was as if the next several weeks became his own. He could see the calendar in his mind's eye, just as in old films, the pages flipping off until September appeared. Xander had been right after all; he really ought to give the boy more credit. He is not needed until September, does not exist until then. And that had been a relief.

There is nothing wrong with Daniel; he is a child. Nothing wrong with him, nor with his affection. Certainly it is liberally-granted, catholic in its range of objects and effects. The fault, however, lies with Giles, with his choice to believe such affection meant something when it happened to hit him, however glancingly. He confused his own desire for the boy with a few innocent, affectionate touches, converted them into fuel for his own fantasies, conflated an arcing, silver spray with his need to be touched.

Still, the boy had kissed him, or tried to do so.


He's the kid, right? He gets to be impetuous and stupid.

So he gets another shove — maybe a black eye this time! — for his efforts. It's not like he has any dignity left anyway.

And, yeah, stupid. He mentioned stupid already, right?


Giles is resting on the bed, suffering through another bout with lassitude, when he hears the knocking at the door. He fumbles for his glasses on the bedside table, managing to smear the lenses with the heel of his hand as he grabs at them, struggling to sit up. He honestly has no idea who it could be; the sun will not set for hours, yet Angel is the only, er, soul he can think of. Perhaps Willow has returned from camp?

He doesn't know what day it is, which, considering the cinematic calendar in his head, is decidedly pathetic.

Glasses fairly clean and shirt tucked back in, he takes the stairs two at a time. The knocking has not lessened, and has in fact begun to sound almost mechanical in its steady repetitiveness. He remembers a beat too late to check the spyhole, hand scrabbling instead with the heavy latch.

Daniel leans against the trellis, chewing on a thumbnail, looking for all the world as if he has been there for hours. Someone else must have come along and knocked for him, because he looks like he has not moved in a good while.


"Yeah." The boy pulls back, although Giles doesn't think he has moved. He leans a little against the door. "Sorry to bother you. But I just wanted — "

"Are you coming inside?"

Daniel narrows his eyes at that and shrugs. "Okay?"

Giles steps aside as Daniel shuffles past him, stopping just inside the door. He turns, crossing his arms around his waist. The gesture tightens the fabric of his shirt across his chest and waist, setting off the lean musculature of his arms and torso, but also making him look all of five years old. A scolded and abashed toddler. Giles motions weakly at the living room, inviting him to sit. He reminds himself to keep his gaze in motion, but fails as Daniel shrugs again. The hem of his shirt jumps an inch, revealing a thin stripe of parchment-pale skin and the ruffle of elastic on his boxers peeking over the sagging waistband of his pants.

"Giles?" Daniel is almost whispering, his voice hoarse and faint. The toe of one trainer scuffs at the floor, then slips around the other ankle. Daniel sways for a moment, and Giles clenches a fist in his pocket to keep from reaching out and steadying him.

"What is it?" He sounds so strained and impatient in his own ears, and swallows a few times, succeeding only in drying his mouth further.

"I didn't want to bother you, okay?" He pauses, and Giles reminds himself to nod. "That was the first thing. Second thing was I'm sorry. And that sounds really stupid, but I am. Sorry."

"What time is it?" That sounds better, somewhat crisper. Daniel blinks at him as Giles crosses to the kitchen.

"Um, four? Four-thirty?"

"Nearly cocktail hour, then." Giles takes down two highball glasses and carries them back to the dining table. "Will you join me?"

"Yeah." Daniel shuffles over, hands in his pockets, head held downward at what must be an uncomfortable angle. "You heard me, right?"

Giles concentrates on pouring the vermouth without shaking so much that it spills and spoils the table's finish. "I heard you," he says, setting down the decanter, handing Daniel his glass. He raises his own and, without quite knowing why, winks at the boy.

Daniel lifts his glass and sips it tentatively. Grimacing, he sets it back down on a coaster. "Sweet. You heard?" He lets out his breath. "Okay. Right. That's good."

Giles swallows half his drink and clears his throat. "But what are you apologizing for?"

Daniel runs his finger around the rim of his glass, hitches in a breath, and takes another sip. More boldly, this time. His upper lip twitches as he swallows. "For the party. For being an asshole."

"Please don't. There's no need to apologize, especially not to me." Giles finishes off his drink and pours another. "With whom you sleep is entirely your own business."

With a harsh, wet noise, Daniel sucks in his lip against his teeth. A small, fleshy wrinkle forms between his eyebrows. With his head at that angle, Giles cannot see where his eyes are looking. He presses on.

"That is, of course, I'd hope you were, uh, protecting yourself. Being careful. As for your choice of partners, Daniel — "

"Giles?" Daniel sits down on the nearest chair, wrapping his arms around his waist again, bending slightly as if cramping up. "I don't — "

"I don't comprehend why you'd feel the need to apologize, I really don't," Giles says. "To me, of all people."

"Giles? What are you talking about?" Daniel picks up his glass, peering intently as he swishes the liquor around.

"Er, what?" Yes, perhaps he had fumbled, but the situation could not have been more clear. After all, he's been replaying the scene like a scratchy stag film for over a week now.

"What are you talking about? 'Cause I'm trying to apologize and you're — What?" Daniel sloshes the vermouth with a jerk of his hand; it spills over his thumb and he licks it off. It must be a mixture of his tone, genuinely puzzled, and the sight of the tip of his tongue, but Giles feels his balance draining away, grips the back of the sofa, lowering himself into it.

"I don't quite know," Giles admits. "I thought you were — . Good Lord." He understands now; perhaps not fully, but better. Why, indeed, should Daniel apologize for what he witnessed in the kitchen? Sine there is no need for an apology, outside of the crevices of his own jealous heart, what is the boy sorry for? Surely not the kiss; its end was his fault, all his. "Oh, Daniel, I — "

"Tell me," Daniel says.

Giles cannot read his tone; he has no idea if he is angry, or stricken with boredom. He decides for the moment to trust the words themselves. Shaking his head slightly, Giles hears himself speak. "I was — . Surprised. To say the least. Surprised when — when — "

"When what?" Daniel does sound a bit gentler now, and quite puzzled.

Giles knows that he is a fool. "Surprised when I saw you. In the kitchen, with Devon."


"Me and Dev," Oz says. "Okay." This is not what he's expecting to hear. Giles is a cool guy; he can't really be freaking about him fucking around with Devon?

"But you like girls, yes? That Japanese girl, at the concert — "

"Margaret? She's Filipino." He is freaking. Oh, God. He knows now he should have paid a lot more attention to his mom's parenting books and pamphlets. Giles frowns, and his hand twitches upwards. Any minute now, he's going to polish his glasses. Does he really have to say this? "I like girls, Giles. I like guys, I like girls."

"Oh," Giles says. His hand's back in his lap: present threat defused. "T-that's very, ah, open-minded of you."

"You could say that. Some'd say I'm a slut."

Giles apparently doesn't hear that, or chooses not to hear it. Impossible to tell, most of the time. "And if you don't mind my asking — "

"Don't mind," Oz says. Giles smiles at that; barely, but it's something.

After a moment, Giles starts to speak, seems to think better of it, and closes his mouth.

"I had a girlfriend once," Oz says. He needs to take this slow, because he's pretty sure Giles needs to be led by the hand through this one. "And she was great. Really great. But it's sad."

He can see the muscles working along Giles's jaw when he swallows, and watches the bump in his throat go up and down.

"Sometimes I think," Oz says and stops. Giles is looking in the vague direction of his chest, flexing his writing hand. "Girls are like trained to believe in this love thing. It's not their fault, it's not like they're stupid. It's just that there's this ideology? I think that's the right word. Where they're supposed to match up and never stray. And it's a pretty good way to keep them in line, if you think about it." He pauses, hoping Giles is still with him. Little nod, and Oz is reassured. "I don't like it, and it sucks, hardcore."

"So you don't believe in love?" Giles asks softly.

"No, it's not that." Oz sighs. "'Course I do. I just don't think it happens all the time, is all. If I met someone who did, it might be worth giving it a shot, but — "

"You just need to meet the right girl." Giles sounds like he's quoting someone. A not particularly nice someone.

"Or guy. Look, it's not like I'm Cynic Boy, out on a mission to rid the world of love and happiness." Giles chuckles, and Oz feels his throat tighten. "Don't laugh at me."

Giles glances at him. He looks serious again. "I'm sorry."

Oz isn't sure he means it. "All I asked is you listen. You don't have to."

Giles reaches for his hand. Oz lets him touch his wrist and run his index finger over his knuckles. "I am sorry. I'm not laughing at you."

Oz exhales. "Thanks. All I mean is, there's love, right? Okay, but it's not as big as everyone pretends it is. Everyone pretends like it's this huge fucking blimp — . Sorry."

Giles stares at him.

"For swearing. Sorry."

"Go on." He taps on the back of Oz's hand, and, geez, that sends a silvery swoosh down his back.

"Okay, blimp? And it blocks out everything else. And I — I — " Great. Now he's stuttering. Way to make a point. Oz opens his hand, turning it over so he's holding Giles's hand. "It blocks off a lot of other good stuff. Stuff that doesn't get to rank. Like friendship, or whatever."

Oz breaks off, sucking at the filling in the back of his mouth, trying to figure out where this is going. Tries to ignore the swoosh rushing faster down his body when Giles squeezes his hand. "Remember Sesame Street?"

Giles shakes his head, but rubs his thumb over Oz's knuckles.

"'Course you don't. Anyway, they go to Hawaii, and Big Bird insists that Snuffleupagus comes with them, even though he's imaginary. This is when he was still imaginary, okay? So he comes on the trip. Has to travel in this huge net underneath the helicopter? I think it was a helicopter. So sex is like the copter, right, and love is this giant imaginary thing that gets dragged along. Or something. It's not meaningless, I mean it — "

Giles works his thumb slowly over Oz's palm, not soft enough to tickle, just gently. Oz checks Giles's face, sees him looking back at him steadily, and he grins, wishing those glasses weren't in the way, but still. This isn't so bad. "I never said I was articulate."

Giles returns the smile. Smiles at him so gently it makes Oz think of crying. Not that he wants to cry just now; just now he's okay and swooshy. More like some time later, he thinks he'll remember that smile, and miss it. And then he might cry. Later.

"I don't love you or anything," Oz finally says. He listens to himself, can't really hear it right. It's like watching cartoons, trying to place where you've heard that voice before, but you always get distracted by the different faces. So distracted it gets impossible to believe that the same guy acts Chief Wiggum as Moe, even though it's true. Maybe because it's true. "But I like you a lot. And it would be cool if. You know. You liked me."


Giles cannot compliment Daniel on his maturity, because that would suggest that he ought to be immature. Oughts, averages, and expectations do not hold for Daniel. Or for anyone, really; he's starting to see that now, and if it took a tiny skatepunk talking about comics, blimps and Big Bird to help him see that, then so be it.

He closes his free hand over their hands, patting, then runs his palm up Daniel's arm into the hollow between chest and armpit. Daniel rises from his seat, pushing forward so he has one knee between Giles's legs, plastering himself over Giles's chest. His mouth is quick and fierce, opening wide, tongue darting over Giles's teeth. Pressed back against the cushions, practically immobilized, Giles kisses back, tilting his head, sucking that full, twisty lower lip between his teeth. He pricks and worries at it with his tongue, bringing his hands to Daniel's waist, pulling him closer.

So this is necking, he thinks, as if he had never been a teenager. He's surprised that the rate of teen pregnancy isn't constantly through the roof, given how good this feels. Daniel kneads the nape of his neck, making small growling noises as his tongue pushes deeper. Giles's hips meet Daniel's, rolling, nearly undulating in counterpoint as he pants heavily through his nose, nipping and suckling at Daniel's mouth.

Daniel twitches backward, holding on to Giles's shoulder, his mouth dark, wet and open. He bounces gently against Giles's leg, rubbing their crotches together. Giles tightens his grip on the boy's slim waist.

"Um — Okay?" Husky and shy.

Giles laughs and Daniel grins so widely his eyes disappear. The laughter burns in Giles's chest because he is so breathless, and Daniel shifts to a slightly less precarious position.

"So we're okay?" Daniel asks.

Giles runs his palms up over the boy's ribs and down his arms, pausing to squeeze his biceps, the long cords of his forearms, and grips his wrists. "Yes," he says, bending forward, holding Daniel steady, kissing that dent below his lip. Just over his chin. "I would say — Yes."


Fuck, this is good.

Giles tastes like the alcohol and Oz's own grape Hubba-Bubba'd spit, and his tongue is wide and long and so hot that he's melting inside, gone swooshy-melty, and Giles is holding him, kissing him back hard and sloppy.

And the best part of it is, he gets to touch Giles, feel how his skin slips smooth and silvery under his fingertips, how his chest rises with a gasp, filling out, and Oz rising with it, then they deflate together, and he doesn't think he's ever been so hard as he gets when he starts sucking on the hinge of Giles's jaw, and it's hard and flat under his tongue, with tiny barely-there stubble that cuts against his lips and Giles is mouthing at his ear, biting the lobe and whispering his name again and again, breaking it up into these impossible syllables, nyul-d-ann-yil-dannn-ill-yiiiiill-dddd-awww-nyuh-l-daaaaan-yul and no one ever calls him Daniel so it's like for a second he's this whole new person, someone hungry and desperate, a long silver swoosh with an earlobe at one end and then rock-hard cock and aching ass held in Giles's palm.

Ribs aching, wet spot widening on his shorts, his eyes are glazed but stuck open unseeingly as Giles twists him by the waist, sliding him off, propping him up against the cushions, kissing him lightly.

"Better get that," Giles whispers and Oz realizes the phone is ringing. He clutches at Giles's arm but it slides out from under his fingers. Giles smiles down at him and cups his cheek. "I'll be right back."

Oz shifts uncomfortably, using just the butt of his hand to cut down on any accidental extra-stimulation, tries the lefthand-hang, then the right, and checks Giles. He's at the table, pulling a pad of yellow paper toward him, speaking quietly. Now's so not the time to whip it out, but he's dying here. He shifts again, opens the button on his cords, and that's a little better.

"Yes, sir. I understand. Of course." Giles on the phone sounds clipped and professional. He keeps his head down, pencil moving rapidly across the page.

Oz feels his jaw pop when he yawns, and he stands up shakily, holding his pants up with one hand. Thinks about kicking off the Vans, then reconsiders when he hears Giles clear his throat and murmur heatedly. He reaches around Giles for the nearly empty glass and Giles flinches, twisting away.

"I understand perfectly, sir," Giles says.

There's something in his tone that makes Oz go back to the sofa, stat. And stay still.

"I'm sorry," Giles says when he's hung up the phone, tidied his notes and filed them away in the cabinet set into the bookshelves. He bends over the couch and kisses Oz's forehead, trailing the side of his hand down Oz's neck. "My superior can be fairly long-winded."


Giles cups his cheek and straightens up, hand resting there for a second before he turns away. "Can you stay for dinner?"

"Yeah. Practice at eight, though."


Better than he could have ever hoped, and far, far better than he knows he deserves: Giles considers Daniel, curled around him on the sofa, one knee drawn up to his chest, fast asleep.

It's almost seven-thirty, and he nudges the boy awake.

At the door, Daniel hugs him around the waist, pulling him down for another kiss. Giles tightens his hold as Daniel lazily works his tongue over his mouth. "Tomorrow?" he asks as he pulls away.

Daniel nods. "Um, should I call, or is it cool — "

"Come by here," Giles says, salvaging a last remnant of sanity. "It's a bit — "


"Safer?" Oz asks. "I get that."

So this is how it goes, and he's swinging back into a good summer. Four days so far, and he hasn't had to make a call or visit Dave once.

Giles can kiss like nobody's business and then there's the way his hands spread over Oz's stomach so he's kind of pushing but also tugging, like his fingers can slip under his skin with electricity, just rearrange the matter and empty space and make themselves at home.

He's starting to think those fingers, that mouth, could probably make him rob a bank if they wanted him to. He'd settle, though, for getting past first base.

That, plus a good long look at Giles's eyes. But the glasses are always there, and when they're not, his own eyes tend to be closed, and he forgets. He knows it's superficial to expect that you'd know someone based on what they look like. He's not Cordelia Chase or anything; he's not constantly classifying everyone around him according to the labels in their shirts and the shade of their lip gloss. But he can't help thinking there might be something to this whole surface-appearance thing. If it's considered so wrong to judge by appearances, maybe something else is going on. Social morality's a pretty fragile system, after all. Most rules seem designed to keep you away from doing what might make you happy. Or help you learn something.

So he likes Giles's eyes. He'd kill to get a good look at them, a good long look. And he's prepared to judge Giles pretty favorably. He just doesn't see what's so wrong about liking the whole surface of Giles. Especially those eyes.


Quick, insistent rapping on his door, verging on midnight, and Giles wasn't expecting Daniel until the next afternoon. Family dinner, apparently, and then band rehearsal, although he suspects "rehearsal" is code for something a bit more intimate.

Giles opens the door and finds Daniel bouncing in place, hands buried in his pockets, blinking slowly as a lizard up at him, wearing a strange, thin smile.

"Come in," Giles says after a moment during which Daniel just bounces on his heels.

Daniel shrugs off his overshirt and hangs it with exaggerated care on the coat rack. The bouncing makes Giles slightly dizzy. "Could I have some water?"

"Of course."

When Giles hands him the glass, Daniel gulps half of it. His cheeks are darkly flushed, and beads of sweat snake along his hairline.

Giles retrieves his own drink from the table and sits on the couch, closing his eyes as he sips it. Trying to keep his tone light, he looks at Daniel. "Are you feeling all right?"

Daniel looks up from the book on the table. "Pretty good," he says. He perches on the arm of the couch, his dangling leg twitching into a near-blur. "Kind of speedy, actually, but — . Yeah, good."

"You're not sober, are you?"

Daniel laughs, twisting at the waist and collapsing into Giles's lap. Gasping, he rights himself until he straddles Giles. "No."

Giles tries to breathe regularly, ignore the lapful of warm, giggling boy, and regain the ground of responsibility. He can do this. "What did you take? Do you know? Did someone make you?"

Daniel shrugs and squirms closer, steadying himself with a grip on Giles's shoulder. "Acid. Yes. No."

"What? You've been outside how long? Do you have any idea how dangerous — ?" Visions of a tripping boy, torn limb from limb, giggling, whilst god knows how many vampires join the feast — and —

"'Sokay," Daniel says, and somehow Giles has become the one being soothed.

"B-but — " The demons would probably rape him, repeatedly, before draining him, long before killing him outright.

"Sssh," Daniel says, rubbing his thumb over Giles's cheek, rasping the late-night stubble. "I dosed at home. Usually takes half an hour to kick all the way in. Walked over here, perfectly safe. Kept to major thorough — thoroughfares. And now — " He lifts off Giles's glasses and places them gently on the side table. Holding Giles's chin in the palm of one hand, he leans in and whispers the last. "Now, it's kicking in."

Daniel tilts his head and peers at Giles. His pupils are tiny, breath ragged. Giles can't feel any trace of the anxiety roiling through him a moment ago. Rather, he feels rooted to this spot, flushed and still.

"I really like your eyes," Daniel says.

"You'll have to stay here tonight," Giles says at the same time. "I'm not letting you outside again."

Daniel grins crookedly; Giles has never seen him this expressive. "I know. Because it's safe here." His arm slips around Giles's neck and he leans ever closer in.

Before he can close the gap fully, Giles lifts him off, hands under his arms. His feet dangle uselessly for a moment before his legs unfold. "Daniel, no."

"Came to see you. I want — "

"Not like this," Giles says. He hopes that's firmness he hears in his voice. "You're in no condition to make decisions."

Daniel wobbles a bit, his mouth working before he manages to speak. "But we already decided."


He plucks at the pocket on his tee shirt — plain black, no printing, Giles notices, so dark against Daniel's pale skin that it must be new — and chews his bottom lip. "I brought you a tab," he says, working one finger into every millimeter of the pocket. "It's in here somewhere."

Giles touches Daniel's wrist, stilling his hand. "I don't want any."

"Really?" He sounds hurt, almost confused. "Really?"

"Yes," Giles says. "That is, yes, really. No, thank you."

"See, I thought we could — " Daniel bounces hesitantly on his heels, as if experimenting with a rhythm. Having rejected it, he scratches the back of his head and exhales slowly. "Sorry. Got distracted. I mean, I don't want you to have to take care of me."

"I'm going to, regardless."

Daniel's eyes close and for a flash, Giles sees his mother, offering an exaggerated prayer for patience to carry her through a young boy's misdeeds. "No, I mean I didn't come here for that. For babysitting."

"But you are here," Giles says. "And you need to stay." Reasoning with someone on drugs is only slightly less draining than reasoning with a toddler.

"Fuck!" Daniel spits out and Giles actually feels his head jerk back. "Stop being a grownup!"

Some cruel part of Giles understands why Daniel is usually so quiet and nonchalant: When he's expressive, he sounds exactly like any other cranky adolescent. The cruelty, however, is quickly replaced by a blush of comprehension, once he allows himself to listen to the words themselves.

"You're right," Giles says quietly. "I do understand." Daniel will not look at him, and Giles reaches forward, certain Daniel will flinch, but he remains still, allows Giles to take his hand. It feels terribly small and clammy in his own. "I'm sorry. Thank you, and please, stay here?"

"Oh." Daniel sags and Giles squeezes his hand gently. "Mad at me?"

Giles sighs. "No, of course not."


"No, not disappointed." He is not disappointed; perhaps distantly panicking over losing more time, but hardly disappointed.

"It's okay? That I came to see you?"

"You're welcome here any time," Giles says. Marvels for a moment at how deeply engrained politesse is. "You know that."

"Tomorrow?" Apparently reassured, sagginess gone, Daniel bounces over to the bookcases and runs his fingertips over the spines, back and forth, as if strumming something.

"What about tomorrow?"

"When I'm — . After I crash. Tomorrow, we can talk?"

Giles watches the pale stretch of skin on the back of Daniel's neck as he bobs his head, accompanying some invisible tune. "Of course," he says.

He doesn't know if this is a promise, since he can't be certain Daniel will remember anything.

"You'll stay in here," he tells Daniel. "Drink your water. There's a jug in the fridge. Listen to some music, and enjoy yourself." It has been decades since he babysat for an acid trip, but the protocol is fairly straightforward. Common sense, really: Keep him calm, happy, and hydrated. Stay relatively close, but don't hover.

Daniel pulls a large portfolio off the bottom shelf and collapses bonelessly to the rug to look it over. Giles murmurs a simple binding charm, extending just to the walls of the flat, to ensure that Daniel cannot leave until the following morning. Just in case he falls asleep; the chemistry is surely stronger and longer-lasting these days than it had once been.

Meanwhile, he returns to his translation.


Oz wakes up several times the next day, head throbbing. There's a pillow under his cheek, soaked with drool, and a flannel blanket tucked in tight around him. It's quiet every time, and before he manages to sit up, his head will fuzz out again, and then it's later and he wakes up again.

The last time he wakes up, the room has gone all orangey, so he thinks it's probably sunset. He tries to sits up, and makes it this time before getting all breathless and resting his cheek against the cushion. Little dragon swirls are cavorting in front of his eyes, but he gets those sometimes. Not tripping anymore.

"Rejoining the living?" Giles sits on the far side of the couch and Oz nods, the upholstery scraping against his face. "Taking your time, then?"

"Yeah." Croaky. "I'm sorry. Again."

Giles, for once, is the one resting his head in his lap, and this is a weird angle to look at him from. His eyes are huge, and his chin a weird smudge. Nose kind of big. "I thought we covered that."

"We did?"

Giles closes his eyes and Oz pets his forehead. "We did. Don't apologize."

"Cool." There's something nagging at the back of his mind still, and he shifts a little, rolling Giles's head closer. "What time is it, anyway?"

"Nearly nine."

"Shit, my mom — " He knows he should be worried, but his eyes are really dry and his throat's all scratchy, so he says it with as much worry as he can scrounge up.

Giles slips his hand under Oz's shirt, doing that skin-rearrangement thing, and Oz slides down. "I called Devon," Giles says. "He agreed to, quote, cover for the fuckwit, end quote. I hope it will be all right. Berk."

He wishes he'd been able to hear that conversation. Either it was over in two seconds, or it got dragged out to hours and hours. Oz slides a little more, and now his face is practically over Giles's. He can feel the breath on his cheek. "So I can stay over?"

Giles kisses him then, tasting him softly, slowly working deeper, slipping his hand around Oz's waist. Never answers, just kind of pulses around and over him, Oz hanging on to one arm, flooding himself with Giles.



How could he have neglected the condoms? It's not as if he thought Daniel would ever stay over, but this is worse than embarrassing. Given his previous officious lecture, this is humiliating. Daniel had one in his wallet, but the foil was ripped and the exposed latex engrimed with more than one mysterious substance.

"We could — could improvise," Giles says.

Daniel looks over and shrugs off Giles's hand, roaming down his back. "I can't."

"Are you — You're not ill, are you?"

Daniel half-smiles at that. "Nope."

"So what's wrong?" Giles ventures to stroke the soft hollow at the small of Daniel's back. So warm there, and the boy presses back in lieu of a reply. "Daniel?"

He twists around, folding up one leg between them. "I've never — " He shakes his head, and Giles realizes that his hair must have been much longer recently, because it looks as if he's trying to get bangs out of his eyes. Giles pats his back, and Daniel meets his eyes.

"You're experienced, surely?"

"Yeah, you know that. I've never — Huh." He chews on the corner of his mouth. "I've never done anything without a rubber."

"Well, that's good. Commendable, even."



"This isn't health class. Not looking for a gold star."


"My mom gave me a box of Trojans when I was twelve."

"Really? That's, er, rather early, isn't it?"

Daniel gives him that faint smile again. "Not for sex, Giles. For jerking off. Said I'd be doing it anyway, should get used to it with the rubber."

"Oh. I see. So you've never — "


"My." Giles suddenly feels very large, hairy, and awful. Monstrous, ancient in front of someone so young, young enough to — Dear Lord. The boy had grown up always using condoms? In a world so rife with dark bad things that he couldn't touch his own skin. He shouldn't be surprised, but he is. Surprised and rather sick to his stomach.


He raises his hand, asking for a moment.

"It's not you," Daniel says, bitterly. "God. I get to give the 'it's not you' speech. Okay. Here goes — "

"Just — " Giles says. "Wait."

Daniel leans in, presses his forehead against Giles's. "No. It's not you."

"Ah, but it is."


He was sent to the shower and then downstairs. When is he going to stop fucking up?

Oz sits cross-legged in front of the shelves full of records, running his finger down each narrow spine. He'd rather not listen to music right now. Music is for moods — good, bad, angry, sad — and he doesn't feel a mood right now. He needs to give himself time to find one. Then the music will follow.

He sips the orange juice he's poured for himself and feels it slip coldly down to his belly.

He suspects Giles is reconsidering this whole thing. Can't really blame him, although he'd like to.

But it's just not in him — blame, that is. Oz closes his eyes, hoping maybe some kernel of emotion is inside him. It's possible; it could be buried deep enough. Deep enough, it's got to be there. He pictures his body from the inside out, the tube of throat-stomach-intestines, the slow inflation of lungs, the heart's insistent drum. Cage of ribs. It's dark in there, dark tinged with red and the glints of soft, silvery gray.

He probably got the colors from the dissection they made him watch in bio after he'd refused to do it on ethical grounds. He had to sit, hands folded in his lap, for two weeks while Jenny O'Neill sliced and dug and lifted organs away to the scale. Everyone else named their pigs — Wilbur, obviously, and Piglet; Hoo-ey, which led to Dewey and Louie; Trent, from some chick who hated NIN — but Jenny referred to their pig only as 'it'.

Snyder brought him in for another talking-to on the last day of pigs, said he hoped Oz had learned something 'from your little stunt'. Oz kept quiet; Snyder would tell him what he was supposed to have learned anyway. "It's going to happen," Snyder said. "Conscientious objection won't stop it." Oz nodded then. Snyder was almost right: Shit happens, and it's worse to have to watch it happen for credit and do nothing.

"Couldn't find anything?" Giles asks, behind him. "I find that difficult to believe."

"Nope. Just couldn't decide."

"Oh, well." Giles crouches beside him, pulling him in. Okay, so not reconsidering. Oz isn't going to ask why, just lean over and kiss his jaw. Limes again, and that ozone buzz Giles seems to give off whenever he shivers. "Frankly, I'm relieved. I didn't think my collection was that poor."

Oz tips his head against Giles's shoulder. Breathes in the faint, harsh smell of dryer sheets. Giles got dressed in fresh clothes: interesting. "Your call."

That's it. Let the smart guy choose the mood.