by Hth

"Oh, good Lord. You live here?"

"Well, 'live' is a pretty heavy word," Oz said from the depths of his closet. "I keep stuff here."

Giles moved uncertainly through the land mines of t-shirts and pizza boxes; if he could just make it to the window and get some air circulating, it might not smell so...sticky in here. "Well, it's...it's, ah...please tell me those are water stains on the baseboards."

"Yeah. Place leaks a little when it rains."

Light flooded in when Giles raised the blinds; Giles wasn't sure whether it was better or worse, being able to see the room. Covertly, he kicked a brown apple core under the nearest bed; at least Oz was eating fruit. "This window won't open."

"Oh. No. The lock's rusted."

Giles was afraid even to look in the direction of the bathroom. "Do you like — like it here?"

His voice echoed from inside the closet. "Gotta have a place on campus. Devon's gotta have a roommate."

"So...you don't, particularly."

"Well, I mean, it's kind of a dump, Giles." Oz's voice was almost puzzled, as though he couldn't believe Giles hadn't noticed on his own. "What do you want for a hundred and thirty a month?"

With difficulty, Giles resisted the urge to offer him a loan. This was important, after all. A young man should go through a period of independence — earning his own money, writing his own rent checks. Living in a disgusting, festering bachelor apartment with his best friend. The urge to have an apartment in college was completely natural; Giles wouldn't go so far as to say the same thing about the apartment itself, but the less he thought about that, the better.

It was easy to tell which side of the room was Oz's: the one without the posters of damp women in translucent bathing suits. Oz's idea of wall decorations seemed to run more to flyers for old Dingoes concerts and a large Scooby Doo poster, which Giles suspected might be something of a memento of his high school days. Giles sat down on Oz's bed. "This is taking a bit longer than you implied it would."

"Sorry about that. Dev labeled all these videotapes in pencil, so they're kind of hard to make out."

Giles amused himself for a moment by wondering how far away from this building he would have to get before he felt safe getting a glass of tap water. Or just using a dish. Or walking on the carpet in bare feet.

But then something happened, and Giles felt that it was best not to think too hard about it. Rupert Giles was extremely sensitive to smells, and they were everywhere here — damp cardboard, must, sweat, beer — but the scent caught in the sheets underneath him carried associations that were almost as pleasant as dusty paper and leather bindings. His heart was suddenly running ahead of him, pounding lightly and quickly before he quite knew why, except that his palms were tingling and he was tapping his heel twitchily on the floor.

God help him. Checking quickly to make sure that Oz was still absorbed in his search for those cartoon videos, Giles leaned down, putting his nose close to the sheets. The smell of...of Oz. His face was turning red, burning like a radiator. Not the smell of Oz in the library, or Oz watching television, or even of Oz after a concert, damp with mingled sweat and coffee and various flavors of secondary smoke. Oz's sheets smelled like Oz after sex.


Giles sat up quickly, feeling as though he'd been caught doing something wrong. There was nothing wrong, was there, with enjoying the scent of someone with whom one had an intimate relationship? Although there was something faintly disgusting about enjoying the scent of a long-overdue laundry day. "Good. Let's go."

A pang ran from the back of Giles' throat straight down to his testicles as Oz backed out of the closet on his hands and knees, kicking shoes and CD cases out of his way as he went. It was ridiculous; he was much too old to be seeing suggestive messages in something as simple as — as his lover's light, lithe body, bent over as if —

Stop it, Giles. This is neither the time nor the place. They were headed home; they hadn't had dinner yet, and Oz's heart was set on introducing Giles to The Simpsons this evening. There would be time later, and after all, he was a grown man in a steady relationship. He could wait.

"What is that?" Oz was holding something, but it wasn't a videotape. It was apparently a power tool of some kind, its cord trailing along as Oz pulled it out of the closet. "I thought we came looking for your Simpsons collection."

Oz knelt up, looking back at Giles with a crooked smile on his pale, delicate lips. "Change of plans." His smile faded, and he cocked his head, examining Giles. Dammit, Oz had always been able to pry Giles apart with one glance and read his entrails. "You okay?"

Okay. The imprecise language of youth. Oz was rumpled and bright-eyed, slender and flexible, his fine bones bundled underneath taut, flat layers of muscle and silky skin. "Okay," Giles repeated. Maybe there was no need to wait until night. Maybe right after dinner —

Lost in his own nonspecific fantasies, Giles didn't realize what Oz was doing until the young man was sitting on top of him. Instinctively, Giles put his hands on Oz's hips. Oz smiled, his eerily wise smile, and leaned close with one hand on Giles' shoulder, brushing his ear with a kiss. Now the blood was heating Giles' groin as well as his flushed cheeks; what was wrong with him today, that the slightest glance or touch was shoving him to the edge of his self-control? Timidly, he ran his hand into the stiffened spikes of Oz's hair — bleached blonde this week. "That's not much in the way of a kiss, love," he murmured.

He should have known better. Oz could kiss like a star going supernova when he felt like it, producing a chain reaction of explosions inside Giles until he was trembling and feeling nothing but Oz's tongue flickering along the inside of his mouth the way Oz's quick fingers flickered along his guitar strings. Giles was unbraided completely, disappearing. He could feel the bed under his back, Oz's lean, strong body on top of him, a river of light and color taking up the space where he used to be.

Oz sat up, leaning off the side of the bed. "Let's go home," Giles suggested after a few false starts and a loud clearing of this throat.

"Don't you want to try this out?"

"We can't do it that at home?"

"Technically, I am at home."

Giles didn't want to hear about that. He pushed lightly on Oz's chest, and was startled by how thin the t-shirt was; he could feel the small, sharp nub of Oz's erect nipple. He opened his mouth to say he knew not what, and was startled into forgetting by a buzzing sound, like an electric razor. "What on earth?"

Oz wrapped an arm around Giles' neck, pulling him back into a sitting position for another slow kiss. Giles had both fists full of Oz's t-shirt, his knuckles digging into Oz's warm back. Clumsily, he pulled up on the t-shirt, his fingers stroking up the hard knobs of Oz's curved spine. He gripped the back of Oz's neck, deepening the kiss, needing the closeness with frightening intensity.

The appliance grew louder; it seemed to be practically right under Giles' ear. When it touched the base of Giles' neck, he moaned into Oz's mouth. It was quivering, vibrating, and untying knots that Giles didn't even know he had in the muscles of his neck and back. He sagged weakly, and only Oz's arm seemed to be holding him up. "What is this?" he managed, turning his head slightly away from the kiss.

"Fun." Oz was a man of few words, but Giles had learned to take those words with deadly seriousness. If Oz was promising him fun, then he was likely to receive as much fun as he could possibly tolerate.

He rolled, and Giles rolled with him before even thinking about it. All he wanted was to remain pressed to Oz's heat and the familiar smell of him, chest to chest, thighs to thighs. He was cradling Oz's head in his hand, feeling zings and pops of lazy pleasure sparking down his spine and his arms. The buzzing noise was fading into the general map of Giles' consciousness, barely noticed anymore.

Oz was making short work of the buttons on Giles' shirt with those quick, dextrous hands. "Wait, wait," Giles gasped as Oz was finishing the job. "Not here, Oz; are you mad?"

"Holding steady at 'eccentric,'" he asserted mildly.

"Your roommate...."

"He has like a hundred hours of classes on Thursday. Don't worry about it."

Calloused fingers were drawing circles on Giles' chest with broad, rhythmic whisks. "This is not the most...sanitary environment."

"Think about that. You put parts of your body up my ass, and you're worried about some pizza crusts on the floor? Sex isn't sanitary, Giles. That's what makes it sex."

"I don't think I care for that philosophy."

He felt the complex, interlacing motions of the muscles in Oz's back as he shrugged. "It's a weird thing, don't you think? People run their hands through somebody's hair while it's on their head, but make them pick it out of a shower drain the next morning and they flip. It's probably cleaner after the shower. You won't let me use the same fork as you, but you'll let me suck on your tongue."

The vibrating instrument was tranquilizing Giles; he knew he should respond, but couldn't quite get a grip on what Oz was saying. His whole body was buzzing along with it, drowsy and tingling and needy. He knew they should go home, shouldn't stay in Oz's disgusting one-room apartment, making love on his pungent sheets.

It might have been the sheets that did it. The idea of them was off-putting, but the sheets themselves, the scent of them as Oz rolled Giles over until his nose was buried in the bedclothes, was intoxicating, reminding Giles powerfully of dozens of orgasms that he had smelled on Oz's skin, drank down, washed off Oz's flat belly, or off his own thighs. Belatedly, he realized what it all meant: if the scent of Oz's sweat was mingled in these sheets with the scent of his semen, then Oz must have been masturbating in this bed on the nights — or during the days — that he was not with Giles. He groaned; Oz's gadget was working low on his back now, and the image of these sheets falling lightly over Oz's naked body, Oz twisting and arching in pleasure, the friction of the sheets sensitizing his skin, his hands roaming down his stomach, his soft lips parted slightly in pleasure — what was — what was Giles thinking about a moment ago?

"Do you think of me?" The words were half just a thought, breathed out in dreamy tones as Oz reached around him to work at the buckle of his belt.

"What's that?"

Giles squirmed uncomfortably. "I was — only thinking — I can't recall. Don't — "


For a man who said so little, he was a fiend for communication; Giles knew that Oz would keep after him, gently but intractably, until he explained himself. "I was — when you — touch yourself, do you — think of...." Loathe as he was to dodge any question Oz asked him, his throat was closing up, and he couldn't possibly continue.

Oz's touch soothed him, his hand caressing Giles' torso from stomach to collar. "You kidding me?" The broad, blunt tip of the device ground deeply into the tendons in his shoulders, making Giles' eyes roll back in his head. "Every time."

When he spoke in that voice, tender and rock-solid, there was nothing Giles could do to stop him; even making love in this rat trap was suddenly a small price to pay in order to please Oz.

But it wasn't Giles who was doing the pleasing at the moment. The whole tenor of the experience was rapidly changing. The thing — Giles preferred not to think about what it really was — caressed the backs of his thighs, and Giles had to remind himself to breathe both in and out. "Oz," he said on an exhale.

"Feels good?"

"Feels very — " He broke off, stunned into silence as the wide head of the vibrating hammer worked gently into the muscles of Giles' buttocks. "Very good...."

There was something immensely obscene about all this. The sleazy surroundings, the buzz of the vibrator, Giles spread out across Oz's well-used sheets and grunting softly as he rocked into the warm plastic head of the thing Oz was nudging between his buttocks. This was not Giles. This was not even the new Giles, Giles-under-the-influence-of-Oz, the Giles who spent all morning on Sundays lying in bed petting Oz's hair, letting the dried hair gel crumble and dust off onto his fingers, the Giles who knew how to play three-dimensional Frogger on a Sony Playstation, the Giles who was now a vegetarian, patronizing the butcher's only a few days a month around the full moon. Everyone had commented on how relaxed Giles was now, how much easier with a smile and given to wasting a little bit of time here and there. But this driving, panting, starving lust was...new.

And possibly related to the way his whole body was throbbing in time to the hum of the device. When it touched the sensitive spot behind his testicles, Giles cried out. "Wow. That was good," Oz observed.

As though he hadn't known it would be. As though he hadn't always known exactly where to touch Giles, and how hard, and with what. Oz had iron self-control, the kind of control that Giles could hardly fathom, let alone hope to imitate, even if he was twice the boy's age. This game would last until Oz decided it shouldn't any longer, and heaven help Giles if he couldn't wait that long.

That thought steadied him a little. However the noise and the motion was pouring through him, however the rough feeling of Oz's clothing rubbing against his exposed back was unbearably painful, making him long to cry out for relief, for mercy — he had to last. It wouldn't do to embarrass himself by coming just from Oz's touch, here in this filthy apartment in the middle of the afternoon. Oh, God. Oh, God, Oz had him now, always had, those strong, slender fingers pressing to his chest, those ribs moving up and down his back, he was in Oz's hands, in Oz's bed, with Oz's chin at the back of his neck, Oz's erection nudging at the back of his thigh, he was vibrating all the way through, his body singing a tuneless Dingoes Ate My Baby song with the bass turned all the way up. Oz's song. Oz's home. Oz's hands. Oz's lover. Oz's life. Oz's game.

And the familiar shape and weight of Oz's cock sliding into him, animal awareness juxtaposed with the industrial pleasure of the whirring machine. He thrust back, finding a short, sharp rhythm immediately. If only Oz would, just once in his life, go along with it.

But no. No, Oz was as madly, relentlessly unique as ever. The sex was really just like the relationship — Giles with his practical pace, efficient and even and satisfying. Oz with his uneven, off-kilter, silent teasing, first daring Giles to go faster, then pulling him down into torturous lassitude. The way they moved together, the way they broke against each other, the way they pushed each other and held each other close. It was insane, and discordant, and so bloody perfect in its awkward, angular, jarred harmony. It was Oz inside him, and it was Giles on his knees, with Oz's arm around his chest and Oz's electrical gadget sending shockwaves of dark, drowning sex through him, starting at the base of his penis.

It was Giles under the influence of Oz. It was true romance in a ratty studio apartment, a bilingual love affair — Giles to Oz in dusty, forgotten languages that cradled arcane secrets about loss and memory and hope, Oz to Giles in scents and soft cries and the phases of the moon and tides and stars, telling him about things that never changed and came home every time. Giles under the influence of Oz, Oz singing subtly inside Giles, the two of them badly matched and desperate for each other.

He braced his palms against the wall, letting Oz hold him up with an arm around Giles' chest. Giles was doing as much of the thrusting now as Oz was, becoming wilder and more uninhibited now that he had the steady drone of the vibrator to play against. "Wow, Giles," Oz said into his ear, in a voice that was clipped, but not uneven or broken. "You're pretty hot today."

"Am I?" he managed, hoping against hope that Oz wouldn't try to talk to him anymore. Oz inevitably chose the most distracting moments to feel like sharing his thoughts.

His hand slipped over Giles' chest, and Giles wasn't sure if he was testing for a response, or merely being affectionate. "We should get out of the house more often."

"We're never coming back here."

"Okay. Cars. The Bronze. Denny's bathrooms."

"Who on earth is Denny?"

"The restaurant, G. You know. Twenty-four seven. Grand Slam breakfasts."

"Do shut up, love."


The buzzing was filling his head now, and he was buzzing along with it, something already beginning in his groin that he knew could not be interrupted, that would lead presently to an event that would wreck havoc with both his animal and industrial pleasures, breaking the gears, stunning the beast. He began to heave with silent chuckles, knowing how far lost to poetry or even good sense he was. Lost to everything but the slender, heated body that pressed against him from behind, folding him in, holding him and breaking his sanity to the tune of a tuneless electric hiss.

Someday, one day he would outlast Oz, he vowed to himself — but not today. When orgasm took Giles in its teeth and shook him, he let go of the wall, reaching back to grip Oz's thighs, dropping his head backwards so that he and Oz were almost cheek to cheek, each inhaling the air the other exhaled, going to fire and electricity side by side. Oz betrayed his own ruin only briefly, with fingernails that dragged raggedly over Giles' chest, with a soft mouth, undefended and open, that fastened hastily onto Giles' neck, moaning into Giles' flesh as the wet, hot sheath of rubber inside Giles changed shape, filling with Oz's come.

Nothing meant anything to Giles until the noise of the vibrator stopped and he found himself lying on his side, Oz sitting up slowly beside him. He looked over his shoulder, and this time their seedy surroundings — the bed, the apartment, Oz's grey t-shirt plastered to his body as he peeled off the sticky condom — made the whole affair seem almost romantic. At least, Giles was finding romance, embedded in the minute empty spaces that existed, would always exist, between Oz's impoverished, artistic, messy, improper life and Giles' scholarly, seasoned, orderly, responsible life. Between this sordid scene and the utter purity of Giles' intentions toward his young beloved, in that narrow, deep chasm, Giles had found love.

He turned his shoulders, stretching awkwardly back to take a brief, moist kiss from Oz's soft lips. Oz grinned at him for one fleeting moment before getting up to find the portion of his clothing which he was no longer wearing. "Oz, stop. I don't think that's the underwear you put on this morning."

Oz lifted the boxers, stared at them a moment. "It's okay. They're mine."

Giles stifled a noise of disapproval. Perhaps he would simply insist that they both showered before dinner. In fact — "Gather up everything that you recognize. You and I are doing laundry tonight." Before even getting dressed himself, Giles began to strip off the bedclothes.

A little noise escaped Oz, and when Giles glanced at him, the younger man was frowning intently. "What is it, Oz?"

With some effort, he smoothed his expression out, giving Giles a crooked, apologetic little smile. "Nothing. I was just thinking...."


"That it seems too bad to finally wash the sheets, just when they smell like you."

They left the apartment for Chinese takeout and a visit to the laundromat — but not immediately.