Gone Garbo
by Glossolalia

November, 1998.

After he calls the paramedics, Oz waits around. Not long, but a decent amount. Someone has to; Willow's crying and Xander's doing the trembly bottom-lip, why-me?-look he does so well. Even though he's down in the hole with Cordy, he can't seem look at her.

So Oz gets down on his stomach, drops his head through the hole, and talks to her. More than he's ever talked to her in his life. He tells her stupid stories about Devon and the latest girls, about Jordy's first month in third grade, about Snuffy, the dog he brought home the summer he was eleven. God, he even tells her she's beautiful, just to keep her eyes open.

He just wants to be alone.

Finally EMS comes and they hoist her out on a truly scary-looking stretcher, something right out of a mental hospital with straps and braces. Oz calls Willow's mom and asks her to come pick them up.

Aftermaths bring out the best in people. He's learned that much in the last year, and tonight only confirms it. Willow is red-faced, shiny with tears and leaking snot, so beautiful it hurts to look at her almost as much as the spike must have hurt Cordy. Even Xander, hunched and holding himself in something close to a death-grip, is bloodless and dark, almost haunting.

Oz knows he has to get out of here.

He doesn't know where to go, but he knows it has to be somewhere quiet. Not creepy-Sunnydale quiet, but real quiet. Open skies and soft breeze in the trees quiet.

Devon disagrees. He lets Oz in by the side door, puffy-faced from sleep, the gray predawn shimmer in the sky reflected in his eyes. He hugs Oz, as if he knows what's going on, but it feels off and he stinks from sleep and all Oz can do is wait it out, wait until Dev's arms drop and he shuffles back to the couch.

Oz uses his shower and borrows a quarter ounce of weed from the stash; Devon presses a sweater, hairy and sickly green, and a bag of shrooms into his hands. Won't take no for an answer, so Oz tugs the sweater over his damp head and sticks the baggie into his side pocket.

"Getting out," Oz says before Devon can hug him again. "Need some me time."

"Crap idea." Devon's more awake now, and lights another cigarette. He hacks a little, wheezing and grimacing, before his eyes turn back to Oz. "What, you pulling a little Unabomber thing? Retire to the woods and plot our violent downfalls?"

Oz nods and picks at the sweater's hem. "How'd you know?"

"Fuck. Look at me, man."

Oz glances up. Dev's leaning forward, arms braced on his knees, head tilted.

"Go home. Get some sleep before you do anything stupid."

He feels his lips twitch at that, spastically, and has to close his eyes for a second before he gets too dizzy. "Not doing anything stupid."


"Want to be alone, Dev. Jesus." He has no energy for the argument. Droplets of water roll down the back of his neck, and he hasn't felt this cold since the sophomore-year ski trip to Tahoe (snowboarding, wrong turn, snow bank). "That's all."

"Right." Dev leans to the side and grinds out the smoke. "So. Can I come with?"

"No. I said. Alone."

In the mess of last night, or this morning, or whenever the hell things flew apart, Oz figured something out. He doesn't feel the weight of it, though, until Devon stares back at him, about to say something, before his eyes darken and he slumps back down.

The weight of it is light as plaster, and just as crumbly. He doesn't have to do this. Any of this. He got sucked in, willingly, head-first, eyes open and a grin on his face, into this little secret society for saving the world. Even the presence of Giles, with all the fucking weirdness that that entailed, didn't stop him.

But he hasn't been alone since Buffy's birthday last winter. Not really, not the way he thought he'd always be, quiet on the outside with the thoughts and silly questions shifting around in his head like a radio getting tuned.

So Oz drives out to the woods.

Getting light out, silver brightening around the tops of the trees and around the edges of clouds. He parks off to the side of the clearing and sits for a while, arms folded on the steering wheel, watching a flock of starlings wheel and unfurl in the sky.

It is quiet out here. He crunches along one of the paths, hands in his pockets, kicking leaves so he can smell the dampness of the dirt and the dying grass.

He finds Giles in the next clearing, sitting on a log, drinking from a canteen.

Neither of them is very surprised.

"Forgot you were here," Oz says as he hunches down on the nearest rock.

Giles hands him the canteen. "Oh?"

He takes a pull from the canteen and swishes the metallic water around in his mouth. "Buffy said something about you pulling an Iron John, yeah."

Giles smiles faintly at that as he screws the top back on the canteen. "Indeed."

Oz slides off the rock until he's sitting on the ground and pulls out Devon's bag of weed. He sets it down before digging in another pocket for this week's book. Desolation Angels: great title, damn fine book.

Giles chuckles as Oz brings out the papers. "Rather early, isn't it?"

"Or late, really," Oz says. "Kind of the same thing."

Giles's face is taut and clean, almost shiny, in the morning light. Oz realizes all over again — since it's something he thinks about every day, several times over — that he hasn't had a chance to look at Giles the way he'd like to. Not so much chance, though, as reason. Or right. He hasn't had the right to look at Giles and meet his eyes for a while now. He's pretty sure, on the other hand, that Giles looks at him, when he can, when he needs to. But Oz hasn't.

Seeing him now, Oz doesn't know if he's allowed to look. He probably lost that right a long time ago.

"So how's it going?" he asks, sparking up, then handing the joint over. Giles's fingers are still long, elegant and strong, and Oz really is a sad case, thinking that someone's fingers would change. "Your inner caveman, I mean. Find him yet?"

Giles tilts his head, listening to the screech of a very pissed-off bird back in the woods, but nodding at Oz at the same time. Sun glints off the corner of his glasses. He exhales slowly as he rubs his palm up and down his thigh. "Haven't seen him, actually. Expect he's around here somewhere."

"Maybe he's back home. At Stonehenge or something." Oz hands the joint back over, cutting his eyes away from the fondness and, jesus, pure sweetness of Giles's smile. Giles's fingers brush Oz's wrist and linger, resting there, cool and dry, before moving away.

"That would be just my luck, wouldn't it?" Giles asks quietly.

Oz pulls his knees up to his chest and rests his head on his arms. From this angle, Giles looks big — not looming, but solid, face bright, the rest of him still shadowed by the trees. Like he belongs here. Solid, but flexible. Oz closes his eyes; he can't even work up a good description of fucking Giles.

He knows that Giles wants to know what he's doing here. He saw the alarm flash over his face as Oz approached, saw Giles pull himself up out of his slouch, stiffening in anticipation of this week's apocalyptic news.

He wonders if any of the others have seen Giles's slouch. The way his spine bends like a branch, and he loops his arms around one knee. The relaxation in his face, not really smiling, but peaceful and intent. Maybe Buffy has, but Oz doubts it. He's not even sure if poor Ms. Calendar ever had a chance to see it. He hopes she did.

Giles is relaxing again. Oz can't exactly see it so much as feel it. The way you feel the air relaxing after a good hard storm, clouds loosening and slipping apart. He's not about to tell Giles what's going on; this week, at least, the apocalypse doesn't need Giles. They did just fine fucking it up all on their own.

When the roach is hot and burning Oz's fingers, he buries it in the dirt beside him and reaches out to touch Giles's hand.

Giles glances at him, slightly startled, almost as if he forgot Oz was even here.

"Hungry?" Oz asks as he rubs Giles's knuckles — broken, reset, always going to be crooked and ache before it rains now — with his thumb. Giles's face is downturned, watching Oz's hand.

He nods slowly and Oz pushes up to his feet. He holds out his hand to help Giles up. Giles rises stiffly, in tortuous stages, gripping Oz almost painfully. When he's finally standing, he stumbles and looks away, apologizing.

"One night sleeping on the ground, and I'm ready for my pension. I am sorry." He massages his side and tries to move away.

Oz holds Giles's elbow and steers him down the path, back towards the van. "Don't worry about it," he says. "Just take it slow."

Giles leans against him, maybe more than he absolutely needs to, and Oz squeezes his arm. This close, he can smell the detergent in Giles's shirt; only Giles would wear a freshly-laundered shirt to sleep in while camping.

At the van, Oz throws open the back doors and feels a stab of gratitude towards Eric that there's no equipment to rearrange. He helps Giles up and positions him right at the edge so his legs dangle, and slides behind him.

"Where's it hurt?" he asks, resting his hands on Giles's shoulders.

"Really, Oz. I'm fine."

"Bullshit. Where's it hurt?" Oz runs his fingers down over Giles's shoulder-blades. "Here?" Giles shakes his head and Oz probes outward, carefully, until he hits a knot just under the ribcage and Giles gasps. "Here. Okay."

Oz shifts back until he's got a better angle, and sets to stroking out the knot, smoothing the blood back into the twisted muscle. Giles leans forward, protests gradually dying away as Oz works. His breathing slows and Oz concentrates on timing the strokes to the faint pulse he can feel beneath Giles's skin. The muscle is as hard and flat as a seaworn rock, and he winces every time he presses too hard and hears Giles swallow. Oz knows he will never complain; he will try and outlast anything. The thin flannel of Giles's shirt keeps getting caught under Oz's fingers, friction heating up the skin, but when he tries to slip his hand under the fabric, Giles jerks and gasps.

"Sorry. Just — " Oz says, pulling back as Giles turns around. "Friction." He holds up his palm like it's evidence.

Giles nods and adjusts his glasses. His voice is soft, a little hoarse, when he speaks. "This isn't a good idea."

Oz touches Giles's side, right over the knot, and looks down at the sand glittering in the carpet on the van's floor. His fingers won't move; they just want to rest there, and it's not like he has anything to say. "Just trying to help."

Giles shifts into the curve of Oz's palm as he reaches over and tips up Oz's chin. His fingers are as cool and dry as they ever were.

It's an invitation of some sort, or an acknowledgement, something like that, and Oz lets the sensation work its way under his skin. Hoping that it's like erosion, slow and steady, wearing him away. Giles's thumb sweeps over the morning stubble and fits itself into the hollow below Oz's lip.

They both know they've been here before. These woods, this van.

Oz removes Giles's glasses and sets them aside. He watches lights shift over and within the green-soaked shadows of his eyes. The longer he watches, the closer he draws, until Giles's hand slips down his arm and covers Oz's own. His eyes slide from smoky to luminous and back again, seasonal, unpredictable. The brush of lips is less the start of a kiss than a progression of the look, and Oz hears himself sigh when Giles's mouth opens.

Neither of them is going to say anything about the last time they were here. Too quiet to disturb what's going to end soon enough anyway.

Oz feels something coming off of Giles, slipping through him, enfolding him, the way a filthy grocery bag inflates with wind and travels far along the currents and shoals of air. It can't last.

He won't say anything because he is here, just now, and that's enough.

Giles won't say anything because, Oz knows in a way he could never verbalize, he has learned that anything he says will be heard as a reproach, a protest, a rejection. Oz has seen it happen more times than he can count, seen his face shut down, all feeling flood out of him, when someone cracks a joke at his expense, needles him about tweed and age and accent. Oz himself has laughed and then stopped short, choking on it.

They each came here to be alone, for however short a time, and talking would ruin that. Neither needs to be reminded just now of everything pressing in on them, everything that's more important, and stronger, and clearer.

Giles pulls him closer until Oz is draped over him, kissing him, stroking his hair, the skin of his palm remembering all over again the slight coarseness of Giles's hair, the springy feel of it over the heat of his scalp. Giles holds him, kissing deeply and insistently, pouring something out through his tongue and the grip of his fingers around Oz's waist.

When Giles groans again, his eyelids fluttering open and closed, Oz goes still until his eyes open fully.

Giles peers myopically at Oz, tongue running back and forth from one corner of his mouth to the other.

Oz cups Giles's cheek, thumb smoothing away the frown threatening to pucker between his brows, and leans back, pulling Devon's sweater and his stinky shirt over his head. Giles runs his hand up Oz's chest and Oz shivers at the lightness, the concern, everything in that touch.

He doesn't trust himself to give anything like that back.

He stays still. Giles touches him the way he peers at his old and baffling books: Never entirely sure he understands adequately, but confident and patient enough to keep trying until it takes.

Feeling returns to Oz painfully, in jagged waves of sharp tingles that pierce and tug at him. His throat starts to close up as if he's about to cry or vomit. Giles just pulls him all the closer, impossibly so, almost rocking him as Oz kisses harder, sucking almost desperately at Giles's tongue. He feels Giles's hand move up and down his chest, swiftly and firmly, before it slips around and nails scratch lightly up Oz's spine.

Oz grips Giles's head, fingers digging deep into hair and hooking over his jawbone, answering a long, throbbing moan with one of his own when his palm slips over Giles's stomach, then downward, and he feels Giles's hand push under the waistband of his pants.

He slides his tongue, aching, almost raw, along Giles's lips and down over his jawbone, pushing against the fingers making short, hasty circles around one ass cheek, curling his own palm around Giles's cock, rubbing the soft khaki and the zipper's rough metal up and down and around.

Sporadic, anxious birdsong sweeps in and out of Oz's hearing, jittery and high-pitched, an odd counterpoint to the longer, drawn-out sounds of their breathing and sighs and the slow rasp of corduroys on khaki. Giles is rising up onto his knees, bringing Oz down with him, sliding him up the shaggy carpet. Oz wriggles, trying to help, scared to let go and get dropped.

Giles kneels there between Oz's splayed legs, studying him, hands on Oz's knees, for a long time. Oz returns his gaze, making as much eye contact as he can, as if it's a saving account and he has all this interest accrued and he owes Giles.

And he does, in a way, he thinks as he fumbles open his fly, not daring to look down, sinking into the gaze.

He reaches for Giles, just managing to brush his fingertips over his knee while his other hand fumbles for the first-aid kit. He grazes the metal box and rolls a little to grab it fully and bring it to his chest.

"I hardly think I need that," Giles says. He's hoarse, not stammering, but his words are halting and thick.

Oz smiles slightly as he flips open the top. "Funny." He hopes Devon and Eric have left him something to work with; yeah, couple Trojans and a nearly full lube. "You're a funny, funny man."

He tosses the lube to Giles and sits up on his knees, running his hands down over his chest. "Can I take off the shirt now, or — ?"

"You may."

Oz can't hope for touch, the kind Giles gives, gentle and serious and passionate; he can't trust that Giles can understand his intent, his feelings, any longer, but he can try. He does try. He slips the shirt over Giles's head without unbuttoning it, undoes his fly slowly enough to get another gasp and sigh from Giles. Giles's mouth is warm, his lips light, ghosting over Oz's hairline as Oz strokes his cock out of his boxers and unrolls the condom.

They kiss again, up on their knees, Oz's arms around Giles's neck, fingers tangling in his hair. Giles squeezes him tightly, teeth closing on Oz's tongue as he runs slick fingers down his ass; Oz bucks, clutching blindly, knees spreading, burning. He tries to pull away, certain that's enough, ready to go, but Giles holds on, scraping teeth as roughly down his tongue as gently as he slicks and teases his ass, until Oz is shuddering uncontrollably, clawing down Giles's back, pleading like a brat, and he can't help it.

So when Giles presses him back again, touches his cock with the side of his hand and nudges open his legs, Oz goes still, embarrassed and confused. He watches Giles, watches his face as he brings his leg back, relaxing at the mixture of serious lust and kindness there. And when Giles starts to enter him, Oz hooks one arm around his neck, craning up, mouth gone dry with gratitude. He's almost sleepy, thick-limbed and hazy.

But when Giles fucks him, Oz falls back, remembering all over again the strength in those hands, gripping at his hips, and he has to fight to keep his eyes open, locked on that fierce face. There's the pain again, concentrated and dense, shifting up and flying apart into shards and bone-deep pulses of pleasure. Giles grabs Oz's hand from its grasp in the carpet and brings it to his dick, and Oz's back is arching, his skull almost bouncing on the floor, he's losing sight of Giles, there's just this furious blur of tight, expanding glory and his raw throat and he must be yelling because he hasn't felt this good ever, and then Giles is coming, he can feel the pulse, the sudden swell, and hear the sharp whistle as he inhales before it spills out into a groan. He's back on the floor and there's another hand, smoother, larger, covering his, and when he comes he doesn't know if he should cry or laugh or what so he just keeps coming and then Giles is on top of him, covering him, clutching his face and kissing it. And he thinks he might have really fucked up this time but there's nothing to compare it to, not really, and he can't seem to bring himself to care as they roll on their sides and the kiss slows down again, still intense but so slow it's hypnotic.

Oz can't account for the past year and he wouldn't know where to start. He doesn't need an excuse, and that's not what's bothering him anyway. There aren't any regrets, nothing he would cut out for the video release. But, if he gets to be greedy for a second, there's a lot he'd add. Or one thing, with lots of qualities: Giles. He'd add Giles.

He's lying on his side, head on Giles's arm, which must be going numb but neither of them seems ready to move just yet. He's lying here, thinking and sated and wondering.

"So what's wrong?" Giles asks. Oz kind of knew he would; doesn't mean he hoped he wouldn't.


"Let me rephrase, then. What happened?"

Oz glances up, not trusting the softness of Giles's tone. But all he sees, this close anyway, is swollen lips and heavy-lidded eyes. "Oh. See, that's different."

"Yes," Giles says. "It is."

Oz puts his head back down. It's a fairly simple question, all things considered. He'd prefer a bigger one, more open-ended, with lots of inherent complexity he could get lost in. He traces the curls on Giles's chest with one finger, swirling them into new patterns.


"Mm?" It doesn't register for a couple seconds that Giles used the other name. Then it does. "Oh. What happened? Will kissed Xander. Other stuff."

"So you're here." It's quiet, that statement, quiet and flat. Bad edge to it, though.

Oz struggles up onto his elbow. "What? No. God, no. Not like that — "

Giles nods. Oz knows he doesn't believe him, any of it.

"I forgot — " He's about to repeat that he forgot Giles was even here, but that's truer than he'd like to admit. He fakes a cough instead. "Um. Missed you? I did. Didn't really know I did, but — "

Giles touches his cheek, and Oz thinks of the priest at his first communion, after he swallowed the cracker and choked down the wine. He runs his finger softly down Oz's throat.

"Sorry," Oz says. "Sorry. Stupid and selfish of me. Didn't mean — "

There's no possible way to reconcile the hot, jittery worry clawing away inside him with the coolness and god-awful tenderness of Giles's touch. The two things are more than opposites, they're impossible, they can't coexist.

"Not stupid," Giles finally says and taps the hollow of Oz's throat. "Very far from stupid. Nor selfish."

Oz sighs. "Did miss you. Do."

Giles kisses the top of his head, pressing his lips there, right in that spot that's open and spongy on baby's skulls. He stays like that, gathering Oz close, for a long time.