Gonzo Sunset
by Hth


Somewhere in the midst of the tearful prayers and the sentimental speeches about life lost in the bloom of youth, positively drowning in a sea of words like "tragedy" and "community in mourning," Giles had lost all sense of — well, anything, really. He was moving through emptiness, untouched by pain or regret, and no matter how professionally he feigned fatherly concern for the well-being of the survivors, it was all a bloody sham. There was nothing inside Rupert Giles that hadn't gone into hibernation days ago.

Until he entered his library, scarcely aware that it was a Saturday morning, and found Oz naked and sleeping on the hard floor of the book cage.

Emotion flicked on inside Giles, a blinding confusion of anger and grief that made his hands shake as he set down his coffee and doughnuts. This was the dreadful, unforgivable thing about death: how it made everything else seem meaningless when it wasn't, the pall of forgetfulness it cast over everyone else's significant, unique, irreplaceable lives.

They had all forgotten the full moon, and left Oz alone in a cage as though he, the living one, were less important than dead Cordelia Chase. It was inevitable, but wretchedly unfair.

The clank of keys against the bars woke Oz, or at least caused him to open his eyes. He still seemed more or less asleep as Giles wrapped him up inside Giles' overcoat, pliable but taking no action of his own. Like a child, sleepy and too fragile to be without anyone to look after him.

They were all like children. Giles waffled from day to day as to whether or not he still believed they were children, but they were certainly very much like children in all too many ways.

It was important to remember that, while his arms were around Oz's warm body and his shallow breathing pushed his chest against Giles'. Even if there was a solid layer of previously unguessed-at muscle lying hidden between Oz's skin and bones, and even if the faint brush of an early-morning erection against Giles' thigh was sending cold little pinpricks up and down his limbs, and even if Oz's pale eyes were on him with a patient steadiness that made him seem a thousand years old — even if —


Giles released him too quickly, and Oz caught his own weight on one hand and one elbow. "Sorry," Giles said automatically, but the shroud of unreality was falling across him again, and he saw things through a sudden haze of dread — Oz's grunt of pain, harsh, like a growl, the crust of blood between his fingers, dark, as though Oz's black nails were melting and dripping down his hand.

Otherworldly eyes, eerie and sensual, looking to Giles for something he dared not contemplate. "'Sokay," he said, while his look said tell me why this happens to me. Giles took a step back. It was so easy to be afraid, to imagine that his own fallibility was a closely guarded secret, and that something dreadful would happen to him — the end of Giles' life as he knew it — when one of them found out. And how could it not be Oz who made the discovery, Oz who pierced him through with those eyes?

He felt foolish when Oz stumbled to his feet. Was he honestly afraid of this small, lank young musician with dark circles under his eyes and a worried frown furrowing his brow as he stared at the broken, leaking blisters on his hands? Surely Giles was more securely entrenched in his own life than to feel at risk from...Oz.

"Let's wash that out, shall we?" Giles forced starchy good cheer into his voice.

"Thanks." His eyes flicked up, and a tendril of a smile played around his lips. "Gotta stop rattling my cage."

There was a drinking fountain in the hall, and by the time Giles came back in from moistening his handkerchief, Oz was pulling up the zipper on his jeans. Giles reached for his hand, even though that brought him close enough to feel the increase and decrease in heat from Oz's body as the act of breathing made his stomach rise and flatten. His fingers closed easily around Oz's narrow wrist.

Just a child. Just a child. However sensually he allowed his eyelids to drift shut over those remarkable eyes, however evocative it was to see the tiny twitches of muscle in his hand cause droplets of water to change their course, dripping down his fingers and pooling in the slight hollow of his palm, however the unfastened top button of his jeans tempted Giles badly to slide one finger down inside that v-shaped part in the fabric —

Bloody hell.

Giles stepped away and removed his glasses, polishing the lenses on his sleeve. Everything was easier when his surroundings were indistinct; blindness focused Giles' attention inward instead of forcing him to be aware of his environment, or the company he was keeping.

"Mind if I keep using this place a couple days a month?" Oz was asking, and Giles' head bobbed up sharply, his eyes automatically trying and failing to focus on the source of the voice.

"Not at all. Why — wouldn't you?"

"Well, it's kinda your zone. And now that I'm not with Willow...." His voice trailed away, and Giles' curiosity overcame his cowardice; he had to put his glasses back on in order to see what sort of expression Oz wore when he spoke about Willow now.

Not that he could really identify it, even after he could see Oz's face. He was not quite impassive, but the slight frown could have been sorrow, or anger, or simple loneliness. "Is that — unavoidable now?"

"I don't know. I don't want to avoid it."

Giles waited a moment for an explanation, then realized the futility of that; when had any of them had an explanation of anything from Oz? "Well, of course you're welcome to — stay here. Any time you need, of course. This is the school library, and you are a student." Bugger all — that wasn't at all what he'd wanted to say. It sounded so prim and study-hall, when what Giles really meant was something along the lines of I'll miss you.

Miss him. That was surprising, and not just because he hadn't fully realized that they were losing Oz until just now. He was so quiet that sometimes he was easy to overlook, but now, too late, Giles was beginning to recognize how much he had valued having an undercover ally in Oz. They shared a pragmatism that the others were too passionate to respect much, and Oz's wrong-way-round logic was often the perfect flip side to Giles' literalism.

That utilitarian approach to the problem of Oz soothed Giles a great deal, taking his attention away from the anxious fluttering in his stomach at the irrational idea that if he allowed Oz to walk out of the library, he would be as lost to them all as Cordelia was.

But in fact, far from disappearing, Oz was rifling through the bag of doughnuts Giles had set on the table. "Steal a danish?"

"Help yourself." What did it mean, that Oz wasn't leaving? Why was he still here, standing in the library of Sunnydale High School in nothing but jeans and Giles' coat as though it were the most natural place and state imaginable?

Just a child. Children often did things that meant absolutely nothing — though, to be fair, many people old enough to know better also acted irrationally. Generally they excused themselves by claiming to be "only human," even though thousands of years of philosophy had established to Giles' satisfaction that the root of being human was the ability to transcend one's base, unthinking impulses, the ability to appreciate cause and effect.

Such as, for example, the inevitable effect of a school employee pulling his coat off a student's narrow shoulders and kissing that student's neck until one or both of them couldn't stand up any longer. Being human — no only about it — meant that he could choose not to do so, in light of the effect.

"Can I ask you a question?"

Giles considered agreeing to answer his question only on the condition that Oz would stop licking the icing off his fingers in that unfortunately suggestive manner, but discarded that too as implausible. "Certainly."

"Why weren't you at the funeral?"

The calm, dispassionate inquiry was every bit as bad as being scolded outright. Giles couldn't meet his eyes directly. "I was at her bedside when she passed away. Closure seemed superfluous."

"So it wasn't because she kinda reminded you of Miss Calendar?"

Being a Watcher, and educated about this sort of thing, Giles could immediately rule out telepathy, but that didn't bring him any closer to understanding exactly how Oz could see that deeply into him. It must have been something in his face as he stood over Cordelia's hospital bed, seeing the way her dark hair framed her beautiful, empty face while she lay in a false, stylized sort of sleep — on the bed — waiting for him — waiting forever. He had never noticed Oz observing him. Perhaps he hadn't been observed at all; perhaps Oz could see his heart at a glance, like some artifact behind the glass at the British Museum, without the need to study him in the slightest. "Did she remind you of Miss Calendar?" Giles asked, hoping against hope to divert him without making Oz aware that he had never received a direct answer.

"Sometimes. They were both sort of showy. Proud. Direct. Young."

"Cordelia was considerably younger than Jenny." He regretted using Jenny's given name; it seemed too personal, given that none of the other children even now spoke of her or seemed to think of her as a Jenny. It was always Miss Calendar with them, and Giles liked the comfortable lie that she had been a Miss Calendar for him, too, and not his Jenny.

"I didn't mean years-wise."

It was a simple, almost cliched observation. Young at heart, old before her time — such figures of speech were not unusual, and yet Giles felt the truth of them more clearly when it came from Oz. Maybe it was because of those strangely old eyes.

Maybe it was because he wanted very much to believe that Oz was older spiritually than he was "years-wise." That would ease Giles' conscience considerably.

Just a child. Just a child who could dissect Giles with a glance, and give away all Giles' secrets, the cherished and the trivial, the wounds and the fripperies.

Impossible to keep from shielding his secrets, even as he hoped it would be futile. He was speaking coolly again, like a Watcher or a father. "You shouldn't drink that."

Oz glanced down at the coffee mug in his hand, as if surprised to see it. "My bad. I'll get you some more."

"No, I only meant it isn't good for you."

He shrugged. "Stunt my growth, I know. Where were you when I was ten?"

"You drank coffee at ten?"

"Ludicrous amounts. I was the only three-pot-a-day junior high student I knew. Except for the ones using actual pot."

This might have been the most personal information Giles had ever received directly from Oz. "Didn't your parents mind?"

At first it seemed like Oz hadn't heard him. He finished his danish, wandered once around the table, paused to read the spine of a book in the reference section, climbed the first flight of stairs and sat down on the broad middle step, and by that time Giles had identified the vaguely dissatisfied look on Oz's face as "thoughtful."

"My parents were gone a lot," he said at last.

Giles took a step forward. He was irresistible, exerting an almost gravitational pull, half-sitting and half-reclining, the mix of his loosely assembled clothing and Giles' ill-fitting coat suggesting — completely untrue, but nonetheless appealing assumptions.

Just a child. And Giles was human enough to resist the irresistible. He stopped, feeling foolish and awkward, with Oz gazing imperturbably down at him and across the distance between them. "On business?"

Oz nodded. With an inward sigh, Giles remembered that conversation with Oz required a certain amount of specificity — and persistence. "What did they do?"

"They're journalists. Gonzo journalists."

"Gonzo journalists?"

"You know, Hunter Thompsony, Kerouacy. Kero-wacky. Huh." He looked a little pleased with himself, or more likely pleased with the world in general in the wake of that association. "They write about travel and the environment and Buddhism and that kind of thing," he explained, as though those were three closely related topics that implied the existence of several others within the same sphere.

Much to Giles' shock — good shock — Oz continued unprompted, and Giles couldn't help but respond to the unlooked-for gift with another two and then three steps closer. "I used to think they were really cool, because I thought they had something to do with Gonzo on the Muppet Show. Like they were Muppet roadies or something. They tried to explain it to me, but really, who knows what gonzo journalism is? I don't even think they do. I just got that it meant cool journalism, not the boring kind in the newspaper. But even that was kinda Muppety, because, you know, all the Muppets were frogs and pigs and dogs and all that, and Gonzo was a Whatever."

"Whatever?" Circling closer to the event horizon, closer to the point at which there could be no more retreat from the pull. Giles' right foot was on the bottom step.

"They always called him a Whatever. Gonzo was a Whatever, and gonzo journalism was whatever it was, and so there was this Platonic ideal of gonzoness. Perfect ambiguity. Complete ... whatever. Whatever you were, whatever you did. Wherever you go, there you are. Gonzo."

"Gonzo." Both feet on the step.

Oz nodded seriously. "You know that feeling you get when you don't know how you feel about something?"

Better than Oz realized. Giles nodded.

"At first it scares you. Then you get gonzo. You become Whatever. It's like satori."


"Yeah. You know, a temporary experience of bliss. Nirvana on training wheels. Only instead of happening because you suddenly understand that life is an illusion, gonzo happens when you suddenly understand that you aren't weird at all. You're whatever, just like everyone is whatever. Then you get good at it, and you don't care anymore that you're the smallest kid in your class, or that you don't have a mom who bakes cookies and a dad who plays basketball, or that you read too much and know the Eightfold Path and nobody picks you for kickball at recess, or that you're bisexual and ten years ago you might have been all Velvet Goldmine cool, but now there's AIDS, lucky you. You just know that we're all really just one big whatever, and anyone who thinks they're different from you, or that you should be different from you, is in for a lot of future pain, because they're as much Gonzo as anybody else." He paused, and now he was gazing up at Giles instead of down, with a sudden smile that was wry and breathtaking. "It's like hearing the humpback whales start singing Die Fledermaus, isn't it?"

Giles sat down beside him, carefully staring directly ahead. "What's that?"

"Hearing me talk."

"Nothing at all like," Giles said, with the certainty of pure truth. "I always knew you were more than capable of talking, while I seriously doubt the physical ability of marine mammals to perform Mozart."

Oz nodded, apparently satisfied. "It wigs some people."

"That is the disadvantage to playing against type."

"Can't change your type. Most of the time, it seems like a waste of energy to play against it. Who's the referee when you play against type? More importantly, which of you is the home team?"

Just a child. Who should be with other children, who couldn't possibly have it in him to be the companion Giles so desperately wanted, the one who would be constant, eternal, and unchangeable. If ever there were three qualities of which all teenagers were innocent.... Giles put his hand on Oz's back, and he felt some of the straightness go out of Oz's spine. "Perhaps you and Willow could try again. Surely both of you are ready for a fresh beginning."

He shot Giles a look that was almost reproachful, but he looked away before Giles could be sure of what he had seen. "I'm not putting her through that."

"Putting her through what? I've seen her blossom since you came into her life. She cares for you — "

"Yeah, I know that." Oz sounded tense, and his tone if not his words was a clear command to cease and desist. He relented a little after that, and continued without rancor. "She already feels guilty enough about Cordelia. I don't want her to feel even more guilty because she left Xander to deal with it on his own to make me feel better. Seriously bad juice."

Giles almost complimented him on his maturity, before he realized how unforgivably patronizing that would sound. He was going to have to break himself of this idea that Oz was just a child. He wasn't. He had clarity, insight, self-control — he had wisdom. He was gonzo — and trust Oz to define the concept of that which was so complete in and of itself that it required no definition. So instead Giles said, "You may well be right."

And with the casual grace of an early morning stretch, this child leaned into him, his warm lips tracing up Giles' chin and finding their match in Giles' lips. Giles could almost feel the click, the moment when his sheer, unreasoning terror gave way to trust, the moment his eyes closed and his mouth opened and his hands found Oz's arms, grazed up them to his shoulders, up his neck, until Oz's pulse fluttered under the heels of Giles' hands and his fingertips were nestled in the slight hollow where warm, organic skin met the plastic texture of Oz's unnatural hair.

He kissed Giles into the place just beyond doubt, and when he lifted his mouth away from Giles', Giles' fingers caught in the short hairs low on the back of Oz's skull, trying to hold him when he didn't even have the power to open his eyes. He felt the glasses being lifted off his face, and he was still Giles-the-Watcher enough to hope that Oz would put them someplace well out of harm's way, until Oz's thin hands slid up underneath his sweater, and then he was not a Watcher at all, nor a librarian nor an occultist and most certainly not an employee of the Sunnydale Public School System, but only a man falling slowly onto his back, hoping to God that this beautiful not-a-child-after-all fell with him.

With some difficulty, Giles opened his eyes to the image of Oz crouched over him, looking at him with the comfortable gaze of a well-fed animal being offered food. Giles opened his mouth, wanting to ask questions and exchange assurances, but Oz silenced him with a quick, wickedly sexy slip of his fingers into Giles' mouth and out again. He tried to catch them, to suck and sneak his tongue between them, but Oz was too quick, and so Giles tried to lure him instead, parting his lips, waiting for Oz to quiet him. Which Oz did, with tongue instead of fingers this time, an almost indifferent lick that lashed across lips and teeth and made Giles draw his legs up, trapping Oz's narrow hips between his knees.

Piece by piece, they began to wrap into each other, winding themselves up into a single strand. Giles pressing one hand to the curve of Oz's skull, Oz's arm circling his shoulders. This time, when Oz kissed him, Giles knew exactly how to kiss back, how Oz liked it: wet, slow, the tips of their tongues nuzzling each other while their bodies moved in lazy circles against each other, relentless lunations, wax and wane, rise and set. Giles moaned as four fingertips brushed a crescent moon around his nipple, and he had the distinct sensation that he had gained the ability to recognize the pattern of Oz's fingerprints, merely from the texture of his touch on Giles' chest.

As he slid the sweater up Giles' body, Oz followed along with lips and teeth, tracing damply up Giles' ribs, easing up to let Giles arch his back, press his shoulders into the ground and his torso up off the floor. Oz dipped back for one more quick, deep kiss before lifting Giles' sweater off of him.

The moment of partial separation only fired Giles' resolve, and the moment it was possible, he pulled Oz back down to him, laced his arms underneath the coat Oz still wore so that he could feel the heat radiating from Oz, the tense rhythm of his breathing. Oz's lips touched his cheek, impossibly tender, and Giles drew his fingers warmly down Oz's spine. He wanted to speak; there was so much to say, things to deny and things to swear to, but Giles had no faith in his ability to discern one from the other. "Oz," he whispered, the sound meaningless but comforting, close to Oz's ear. "My Oz."

He felt the curve of Oz's smile against his cheek, and then his palms pressed flat against Oz's, their fingers tangled together, and that curve, that smile, that mouth snaking softly down his body.

Giles could learn to make music of his own, just out of the way that Oz's lips felt tickling low on his stomach, and the mere fact that Oz was able to unbutton and unzip Giles' trousers with his teeth was more than enough to teach him how to pray. How did this boy learn — where did he —

Didn't matter. Giles didn't really want to know, anyway.

Somewhere along the way, Giles had lost possession of Oz's hands, and now one of those hands was guiding Giles into Oz's mouth, while the other lay weak and lazy against Giles' chest. He brushed the back of that hand with his fingers, a light touch at odds with the way he crushed Oz's spikes of dyed hair in his other hand. Oz's mouth, wet and tight and constantly in motion, did everything with barely perceptible sucks and swallows that any other lover had ever been able to do to him with the most expert and energetic of blowjobs. That was Oz — minimalist to the core.

Oz gave him just enough — not so much sensation that it numbed his awareness, nor so little that it left him starving for more. He kept Giles focused, absorbed, lost and found in the texture of Oz's lips, the slow heat of his flexible tongue that half teased and half indulged. In the moment before his release, Giles was both pressed to the edge of his endurance and — and gonzo, so perfectly centered that he needed no definition, no words, nothing at all but his own existence.

In the moment of his release — more than one moment, perhaps; it felt like an age, time enough for empires to rise and fall in the distant outside world — Giles added to that list: no definition but whatever, no words but you and I, nothing but truth within him and Oz against him, and God help him, but it would be a long time before this faded from Giles' mind, and in the meantime there was Oz, not as a choice or even a presence, but Oz as being, Oz as nature, as immutable as atmosphere and biosphere and the harmony of the spheres....

Giles regressed to his youthful literary aspirations in the throes of sex. The bad poetry would fade from his memory, but the sight of Oz lifting his head from Giles' shaft with strings of saliva and semen like a spider's web connecting them would last quite a long time.

Absently, Oz wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, severing the ties. Too heavily, he collapsed on top of Giles, crushing the breath out of him and catching it as it escaped, drawing it into his own mouth and swallowing it down. Giles could hear him, little noises coming from Oz that were whimper and whisper at the same time, and he closed his arms hard around Oz's body, crushing him against his chest, returning the kisses Oz gave him in exactly equal measure.

They rolled to their sides, and at first Giles couldn't understand why Oz was squirming like he was, almost as though he were trying to escape. Then he realized that it was his jeans and Giles' coat he was trying to push off, not Giles' embrace, and that he could accept, and even abet.

Roughly, Oz forced Giles onto his back again, losing his concentration for only a heartbeat as Giles ran his hand up the back of Oz's thigh. He thrust his hips forward, his erection rubbing against Giles' stomach, and Giles spread his hands across Oz's buttocks to hold him close, where the friction would be most intense. Oz gasped, and the clear evidence of his arousal, the break in his immovable serenity, was the most erotic thing Giles had ever seen. He turned his head, kissing and nipping up the soft, thin skin of Oz's inner arm, loving the painfully impatient way Oz was thrusting against him, the quick, uneven rhythm that did not at all match the quick, uneven rhythm of Oz's breathing. He was rocking, pressing, his head dropping first back and then forward, and then he was coming, with one and then another fierce shudder wracking his body.

His hands stroked down the sides of Oz's face. "Oz," he murmured, just below Oz's closed eye. "Oz, I can't bear to watch anyone else die."

"Me either," he said simply, and that was that.

When Giles awoke, it was early afternoon instead of late morning, and he was alone, bundled tidily but loosely inside his own coat. There was nothing left of Oz in the library, except the empty bag of doughnuts. Giles regretted that, more than he cared to admit, but for the moment there was nothing to be done about it. He had work to do, and afterward he would want time to think.

He left the library at a quarter till five, and the sun was low in the west, but still bright. Oz was on the front steps of the high school, watching it. Full moon tonight, the second night of Oz's curse. Giles paused, standing over him, and Oz glanced up, then returned his attention to the horizon.

"I'll come back," Giles said. "If you want someone to stay with you, that is."

"I get Gonzo sometimes." Giles put his hands in his pockets, waiting for Oz to say more. For once, Giles believed that he would. Oz had something to say, something he felt a genuine need to share, from the same deep place that drove Giles to hide and disguise things. "But I'm not as perfect at it everyone thinks."

Giles nodded. He knew everything there was to know on that topic. Everything.

"I'm not that into the cage. I mean, I get it. I know. Werewolf. But it gets like this, right before sunset, and I just want to bail sometimes. Get out."

There was no point in telling Oz all the reasons that couldn't be allowed, Giles knew. Oz was not looking for answers.



"Strauss wrote Die Fledermaus, not Mozart."

Giles suppressed a slight moment of irritation, or at least kept it out of his voice. "German opera really isn't my forte."

"You can tell by the waltzes. If you're ever in an emergency German opera situation."

"You aren't doing yourself any good sitting here and watching the sun move, Oz. Why don't you let me buy you something to eat?"

"Nah. I like the practice."

"The practice?"

"Yeah. Sooner or later, I'm going to sit here long enough, and I'm going to get gonzo about this. Even this."

Giles reached down and stroked the highly unstrokeable spikes of hair. "I believe that you will."

And he sat down beside Oz, to wait with him for the full moon and nirvana.