by Glossolalia

Buffy is gone. Giles is certain that the Slayer does not usually receive holiday, but equally sure that, usually, the Slayer isn't a girl quite like Buffy. He had briefly contemplated vetting her absence through the council, and almost as quickly reconsidered. He could hear the contemptuous chill in Travers's tone: You allowed her to what, Rupert?

In her absence, he busied himself with interring the Master, and all the research that accompanied the act. But here it is, only the third week of June, and he has nothing but time on his hands.

He had had a hell of a time explaining the library-cum-disaster-area to Snyder, and clean-up necessitated a great deal of time spent there. Giles discovered then the sheer joy of air conditioning. Funny, but he had never realized just quite how wonderful it felt to exit the muggy, constant sun and enter the dim cold of the empty school.

So on his summer holiday, Rupert Giles attempts to be a high-school librarian.


Summertime is Oztime: open, warm, unstructured. Nowhere to be, except rehearsal, and that doesn't really rank high on a scale of obligation. The occasional barbecue or party, and even those are tapering off as July nears. Otherwise, he's free and unscheduled. Time is his bitch, as Devon would say. His own to fritter away, as his grandma would say.


Giles is busy adjusting the stack of books and notes in his arms, and starts — nearly dropping everything — when he hears someone speak.


A small boy leans against the library doors. His hair is vibrant green, a shade of green Giles hasn't seen anywhere except on the backs of rocks on the beach at Bristol. "Want me to get that?" Slight incline of the chin.

"The door, yes, of course. It's locked," Giles says. "The keys are in the side pocket — " Giles raises an elbow and juts his hip. Watches a small pale hand pick at the pocket's flap; feels the slight pressure of fingers against his side.

The boy holds the key ring between them, eyebrows raised. "I meant the books, actually."

"Oh-oh, yes. Of course." Giles smiles tightly. "Well, no harm done. It's the large key — there. With the red spot." Buffy's nail lacquer, dabbed on after her impatience waiting as he fumbled the keys for the tenth, hundredth, time got the better of her.

The boy unlocks the door, pushing it open and standing aside for Giles to enter. Stack deposited safely on the counter, handkerchief rubbed uselessly over his face, Giles turns back. High-school librarian? He can do this. I am a high-school librarian, even just nominally. "May I help you?"

The boy is bent over the author index of the catalog, flipping through the cards rapidly. Without turning, he asks, "Do you have anything by James Baldwin?"

"Most of the novels, yes," Giles says.

Finally the boy turns around. "This doesn't have entries for collections, right? Like, if there were a piece by Baldwin in some collection, it wouldn't show up under his name?"

Giles runs his hand back and forth across the counter. Blinks. The boy just looks at him patiently. "N-no, it wouldn't. You'd need the title of the book, or the editor's name." The gaze steadily on him. "It's not the best system, I admit."

The boy nods and straightens up. He really is quite small, perhaps a little taller than Willow, and lean in a way that Giles has assumed until now doesn't happen in a land of three square meals and Dairy Queens. "I'll just check the stacks."

Giles clears his throat. "We are on term holiday," he says, loathing the officious tone, wondering just how he can mimic Snyder, Travers, and his own father so perfectly in a single phrase. "Perhaps the public library — ?"

The not-quite-a child smiles. Gracefully and brightly, and Giles starts to smile back, but then it's gone and he finds himself gaping stupidly at the grave face before him.

"T-that is," Giles continues, trying to frown, "the school is closed for the summer. Perhaps you were mis-misinformed. As an incoming pupil, you can't be expected to know the, the, rules. And the regulations."

"I'm a senior." He holds up his hand as Giles tries to stammer his apology. "It's okay. But, man, have you seen the public library?"

"No, I haven't."

He shakes his head, smile faint. "Poor old Tony Panizzi'd spin in his grave. It's all videos and CDs and a couple crappy computers someone donated for the tax break. I want a book, I figure I'll come here."

Giles hears his mouth open — small pop of the jaw — and close — whisper of dry lips. Senior? Panizzi? How can a small California child with hair that color and telltale bloodshot eyes possibly know who Panizzi was? The boy lopes up the steps into the stacks, evidently satisfied of his right to be here.

"810s," Giles calls after him. "American literature."

"Got it," the boy answers, out of sight. And: "Thank you."


Oz has never gotten over his childhood habit of overloading himself in libraries and he can't imagine ever wanting to. Who would want to search deliberately and leave with only what you came for? Choosing far more books than he can possibly read in two weeks' time is just what he does in libraries. The calm, content mood of choosing, following little threads of associations of name, word in title, memory, some connections that just pop into his mind without prompting: this mood? He'd like to lose himself in this mood indefinitely.

When he emerges from the stacks, the pile of books in his arms is as long as his arms, stretches from palm to his chin, which he's stuck out over the top book to keep balance. He steps carefully toward the counter and tilts the stack to slide it on top. The odd, incredibly English librarian is nowhere to be seen. Oz considers ringing the little bell, but it seems rude. Like saying "garçon" to a waiter or something. He wanders along the counter towards the cage. Sunnydale High has books rare enough to need caging? Again, odd, if not intriguing.

The librarian has his back to him, hunched over a book that looks bigger than most atlases. Oz clears his throat gently; he doesn't want to freak the poor guy out again. But the librarian jumps anyway, whirling around, knocking his glasses to the floor with the back of his hand.

"Sorry," Oz says.

"Quite all right, quite — " Glasses retrieved, the librarian swipes them on his tie and hooks the stems over his ears. "I thought you'd gone."

"Just have to check the books out."

Nodding, the librarian rises. "You can just fill out the cards in the pockets at the back. Er, I suppose I ought to check your ID? Just to confirm — to be sure, of course."

The guy really needs something to calm him down. Sauna? Ludes? Oz tugs on the chain to his wallet, reaching into his back pocket for it. He flips it open and shows the librarian his SHS ID card.

"Right, right," the librarian murmurs, leaning over and squinting. He glances back. His eyes — Christ, his eyes. They're all hazel and blue and faintly glittery. And there are flecks in there the exact color of green tea ice cream. "Everything seems to be in order, Mr. Osbourne. Daniel."

"Who are you?" Oz asks.

The librarian straightens up and Oz sees suddenly how strong he is. Not that he'll ever figure out how he can see that or know that, but sometimes he gets these flashes. It's best just to ride them out, since they tend to be right anyway, and this way there's minimum fuss. So: Strong, not just physically, but like architecture, designed and poured and weathered.

"Giles," he says.

"I'll go fill out the cards then." Oz turns away.

At first he thinks that the strength he's seen is hidden underneath the neat clothes, kind of peeking out but mostly hidden. But as he scrawls his name on each card, Oz knows that's not right. The strength isn't hidden; it's everywhere, elemental, belongs somewhere low in the corner of the periodic table. Rarely used but essential for everything to work right.

By the time he's finished, Oz has a stack of books to read, the flash of green-brown eyes to smile over, and the prospect of strength to ponder. His summer's looking up already.


After the library door closes with the nearly inaudible click he has trained himself to hear, Giles gives in. Slumps at his desk and holds his head in his hands. Funny how easy it is to forget that high school librarians need to deal with, oh, students? Human beings? He's probably the only one on the continent more comfortable confronting vampires than teenagers.

He busies himself with the mangled neo-Latin of a Watcher in Tours, 1689, willing away all thoughts of teenagers and vampires and other disturbing creatures.

It is not until much later, after the evening's fourth whisky has poured him into bed, that such thoughts return. Thoughts such as the fact that he wasn't unnerved by teenagers in general, although they do irritate and fluster him. Thoughts such as the suspicion that at least for the moment he was far more unnerved by the sight of the pale rise of the boy's hipbone, jutting into sight between low-slung pants and the frayed hem of a t-shirt when he reached for his wallet.

The truly unnerving thought he saves for dreams. That's the one about how he'd very much like to run a finger along that hollow of skin, through invisible down and over scattered freckles. Then his mouth.


A long golden-tan finger snakes along the top of the book Oz is holding, then dips down the valley of the spine. It rises and dips, rises and dips. Oz resolutely keeps his eyes on the page. "Quit it, Dev."

Devon's finger speeds up, twisting back and forth as it lowers and pulls back up. Faster and jerkier the longer Oz ignores him. Finally the nail scrapes down the page, scoring the paper, and Oz slams the book shut.

"Fuck, man!" Devon sucks on his finger. "That fucking hurt."

"What were you doing?"

Devon flips him off and crawls toward the front of the van. He digs around in the cooler and extracts a can of beer, rolling it over his finger. "Leave me alone, Dev," he whines. "Fucking reading here, Dev. All you do lately is read."

Oz just looks at him, figuring this mood can go one of many ways.

"Yeah," Devon continues, squaring his shoulders. "You and your fucking books. So I, y'know, fucked your book." He opens the beer and chugs it, finally handing it off to Oz. He's grinning, obviously proud of the stunt and the pun. "Get it? Fucking book."

Oz nods and sips the beer. "It's a library book. Can't molest library books, Dev."

"Good thing I didn't use my dick, then."

Oz lobs the empty can at him, dregs spraying. Devon pouts, and, Jesus, he's pretty when he pouts. Even if he knows that, and that's why he does it.

"Fucking violent today, man." Devon tosses the empty over the back of the passenger seat and slides down onto his back. "Need to relax."

Oz crawls across the van floor until he's over Devon, hands on either side of Dev's head, one leg trapped between his own. "Yeah? Relax, huh?"

Devon turns his head, still pouting. "Yeah. Fucking bookworm." His heart's gone out of whatever spat he was trying to provoke, voice gone a little huskier.

Oz nuzzles the long, salty expanse of Devon's neck. Licks the straining tendon there as he lowers himself. Trusts the shortness of Devon's attention span, and is rewarded with a sloppy kiss on the side of his mouth.

"You don't have to be such a brat."

Devon grins, pushing his hand under Oz's shirt. "But it's so much fun."


Head aching from too much translation of too many spurious pamphlets on demon births and the dangers of witchcraft, Giles turns to the latest catalogue from the book jobber. Might as well play the librarian, since it is proving difficult to be a Watcher without one's Slayer. He studies the glossy pages absently, unable to concentrate.

His tea has gone cold when he sips it.

Willow has gone off to a maths camp, and the Harris boy is apparently employed by some relative for the summer, doing Lord knows what kind of manual labor. When they had completed the ritual, and the Master's skeleton was safely interred, Xander had clapped him on the shoulder with a muddy hand, shook Giles's hand with the other, equally muddy, and bobbed his head. "See you in September, G."

As if he did not exist until school reopened.

And is it really possible that he misses the children?

Miss Calendar left shortly after the interment in a convertible VW beetle for destinations unknown; Angel has melted back into the darkness, and Giles is sure he will not be seen until Buffy returns. Giles ran into Buffy's mother at the grocery store a few days ago. The hoarseness of his own voice when he greeted her surprised him, reminding him that he hasn't spoken to another living soul in weeks.

This sort of expectant solitude is precisely what he has been trained for, and he should be grateful for the quiet and absence of impending crisis. Instead, he is far too alone with far too many thoughts.

He realizes that he has been ticking off titles on the order form without knowing what they are, based simply on the patterns made by the length of the words.

A bang, then a long creak, as the door opens sends Giles to his feet and out of his office. Daniel is backing into the library, the door propped open with one elbow, his arms full of books.

"Here, let me — " Giles says, crossing quickly to relieve the boy. Daniel grunts and pauses as Giles grabs the top four books, revealing the boy's face.

His hair is lavender today, a sort of washed-out violet that sharpens his wide green eyes. "Thanks."

"Not at all," Giles says, leaving the books on the counter. He takes the rest from the boy and gets out the box of circulation cards.


When Oz likes someone, he gets this feeling. It's like chamois, warm and softly napped — slightly fuzzy but not too much — only it's in his chest: hung from his collarbone, the feeling covers his ribcage, tucks him in for the night, and whispers in the breeze from his lungs.

He's feeling pretty damn chamois-y right now.

"You probably think this is silly," he says, hoping Giles will meet his eye. But he just keeps plucking cards out of the box and tucking them into the books' pockets. "All these books about poverty, and pain. Anger and oppression."

Giles looks up, his glasses slipping down. "I don't understand what you mean."

"Just, you know. Silly. Like some suburban honky kid could possibly get them."

Giles licks the corner of his mouth. "Very far from silly," he says. "Anything's possible."

Oz nods and snuggles back into the feeling. "Cool."

Yesterday's paper is on the counter, and he pulls it over, scanning the movie listings. He needs something to distract him, otherwise he's just going to keep gaping at Giles like some retarded toddler.

"You read at an astonishing rate, you know."

"Do I?" Oz glances up from the paper.

Giles waves his hand at the stack. "Yes, I'd say you do."

"Oh," Oz says. "See, I've got a really short attention span. Like, miniscule, like a bee or something. So I have to pack in as much as I can while it lasts."

Giles's lips disappear as he frowns, considering this. He looks serious and concerned, like Oz has just told him some huge, obvious, three-ring-circus lie.

"It's true. Other people can concentrate for way longer. I can't, but I like to make it count."

Giles just shakes his head and goes back to checking the books back in. Oz isn't going to push it; if he gets to hang around long enough, Giles is sure to see his ADD in action sooner or later. He crosses his arms and leans on the counter, watching the precision in Giles's fingers, plucking, tucking, restacking. Measure twice, cut once: Giles seems to apply that equally to words and gestures. He wonders what it would be like to have that kind of confidence, that strength that makes you certain of everything you do and say. If Oz knew the jargon of copywriting, he'd apply that to Giles, too. He makes a mental note to look up that jargon; it might be useful. Because it's as if he's faster and smarter than anyone else, so he has time to edit and correct words, gestures, before performing them. Everyone else has to hand in the rough draft, but not Giles.

Giles is saying something. Damn, and he missed it, wondering how those fingers would move, so strong and precise, over his body. Shivers. "Hmm?"

As he looks up, Giles is looking at him, glasses off, smiling. "I asked if you needed anything else."

"I'm good." The lights aren't on over the circulation counter, so Giles's eyes are darker, green like ocean water. "Oh? Like I should leave? Right."

"I meant the books. I see you found the Black Panther history, and it occurred to me I have some at home you might like."


Giles nods. "I'll bring them tomorrow, then."

"So it's cool if I hang here?" Oz can't believe his luck. There has to be a catch somewhere.

"Hang all you like."