Lost In Chinatown
by Glossolalia

In dreams, places he knew and memories he savored could coexist. His carrel at the British Museum overlooked the stage of the Bronze and its door opened onto Buffy's back porch. A logic was at work, uniting disparate times and spaces into a manifold, multiply-invaginated experience, soaked with tears and stained with smoke, but he was damned if he could unravel that logic.

It was only when he awoke to pearly London dawn light, hand closing on the sleep-warmed pillow beside his, that anything made sense.

There was no fate, but stories organized themselves out of sensory experience.

He knew that much.


Memories make for strange narrative content. Of all the things that happened that fall — indeed, that entire year — it was strange that Giles should remember these moments.

As they occurred, they were interstitial. Coming between each successive crisis, they were little more than interludes, restful but forgettable as soon as they were over.

It was only in looking back that the story came together.


When one has been rendered redundant, narcissism becomes somewhat of a sane option.

Giles had not taken such good care of himself since — well, honestly, he had never taken such good care.

He ran every morning. He kept to the side streets and cut through cemeteries and parks; he could not bear the thought of running in public. He saw those runners, men his age scarlet in the face, their jowls jiggling and bellies heaving, and he could not become them.

He ran, he thought, for himself. Just as he fenced three times a week in Santa Barbara, just as he'd started purchasing facial cleansers for men in severe packages that smelled of astringent and mint. Just as he'd shed the suit-jackets and ties and exchanged them for light jumpers and comfortable cords.

He was considering reopening the hole in his ear, though he suspected that might be a step too far, treading into the ridiculous from the comfortable.

He ran in the mornings, in the half-light, sucking in cool air and splashing through heavy dew. Loving the feel of exertion, the stretch and burn down his shins and the bellows-strong working of his chest, he pushed himself harder, farther, heading for the last cemetery within the town limits.

He was far from home, about as far as he could go and stay in Sunnydale, but Giles exalted in the sense that he could run on and on, forever.

The sun nudged over the horizon, drawing out the shadows of trees from what had been uniform dark, stretching out long brassy rays that tipped the cemetery's grass with gold.

Giles slowed to an easy jog, the better to appreciate the morning.

Down the path, nearly swallowed up by the drooping trees, a figure moved. Broad shoulders, though small in stature, and dark ginger hair.

Oz. What would Oz be doing out here alone? So early?

Hands in his pockets, head tipped back to the sun, Oz wandered over the path. He did not turn when Giles caught up with him; in fact, he stopped, dropping down to a squat and plucking a long piece of grass.

"Hey, Giles. Morning," Oz said, and his voice was rough, froggy.

"Oz?" Giles asked. "Are you —?"

His worry was, he was quickly becoming sure, misplaced. Oz was a strange young man; finding him wandering a deserted cemetery just past dawn was not, necessarily, cause for alarm.

Twisting the grass between his fingers, Oz started walking again. "I'm good. You? Good run?"

"Yes, thank you." Now that he wasn't running any more, Giles was suddenly conscious of the sweat running down his back and stinging his eyes. It hurt, slightly, to breathe, but Oz's pace was so easy that he had no trouble keeping up.

"Little bright for vamps," Oz said, snapping the blade of grass in two, then again, and braiding it as he walked. "Figure, then, you're just on a workout kick."

"Something like that, yes."

"Cool. Good to keep busy."

They reached the cemetery's front gate. Turning, Giles wiped his face on the hem of his shirt before saying, "And you? What brings you out so early?"

The light hit Oz full in the face as he swung open the gate, highlighting his sharp cheekbones and the bruised hollows under his eyes. For a moment, he looked ghastly, a ghost of himself. Giles almost shivered.

"Wolf," Oz said simply, holding the gate so Giles could pass through first.

Of course. Giles wanted to apologize, knew he should, but couldn't seem to find the words. Since the library had exploded, Oz had had to make his own arrangements for the full moon; Giles remembered that now.

It was surprisingly easy to forget about Oz.

"Breakfast?" Oz asked before Giles could sort out his thoughts, pluck an apology from the swell of confusion and observation. "Go Dutch with you."

He hadn't spent much time with Oz, not when the others weren't somewhere close by. Giles tried to think of a single occasion they had shared, but he failed. Oz was not like Willow, Buffy, and Xander; there was something distinct about him. He accompanied the others, often appeared with them, but never alone.

Oz was taking him somewhere, but Giles had no idea where.

Giles found himself at a loss to explain how that might be. They were nearing Main Street now, however, the grass braid knotted around Oz's finger, the light stronger and clearer, and he realized that he didn't have to say anything. He walked companionably beside Oz, silently and comfortably.

The usual conversational topics — school, social life, events on patrol — didn't quite apply to Oz. They suggested themselves to Giles and, just as quickly, he dismissed them. Even as they seated themselves in the hole-in-the-wall cafe, the Red Rose, he was quiet.

"Need grease and sugar," Oz said, setting the grimy menu back down on the table. "You?"

"I —" Giles scanned his own menu. "I don't know. Anything you can suggest?"

"Avoid the fish. Categorically."

Giles wasn't sure whether or not to laugh, if that was even a joke; Oz looked eminently serious, but then his gaze flickered up and his mouth widened into a smile.

"Duly noted. Anything else?"

"Burgers are good. Sausage's even better."

Oz finished off the Lumberjack's Breakfast, four eggs and countless strips of bacon and sausage links, a pile of potatoes glowing with grease, and a short stack of pancakes. Giles could only admire his neat, efficient consumption as he sipped the horrible tea and ate his own small pile of scrambled eggs.

"Good Lord," he said lightly when Oz pushed away his plate, wiped clean of yolk and ketchup. "Do you always eat like that?" Oz was so small, nearly bony, that Giles couldn't imagine him eating more than a spring roll and a cup of miso. "Or —. It's the, the moon, isn't it?"

Oz tilted his head, eyes scanning Giles' face. "Researching?"

"No, no —" Giles said quickly. Guiltily, as well, since he could not help wondering just what lycanthropy did to Oz's metabolism. "No, of course not."

Oz smiled and inclined his head. He did not answer the question, but Giles only realized that later, when they had split the bill and left the cafe. On the next corner, Oz ducked into a small grocery and emerged with a plastic sack in one hand and a small cake in the other. He tore open the plastic wrapper with his teeth and offered Giles a crumbly piece of cake.

It looked like what Americans call pound cake, but the texture was denser to the eye, lighter on the tongue.

"Honey Castella," Oz told him, passing him another piece as they walked past the coffee shop. "My other weakness."

"Delicious." It was; not at all sugary-sweet as most American snacks were, the cake was pale gold and very light. "No Jaffa cake, but delicious."

Oz cocked an eyebrow, chewing his last piece of cake, but said nothing. He had stopped walking, and for a moment, Giles was confused.

"See you later, then," Oz said, touching Giles' elbow, and only then did Giles realize they were standing in front of his building. "Nice to finally talk to you."

That — strange, nearly cryptic, and entirely mundane — was how it began. He ran into Oz, shared food with him, and walked home. To an outside observer, Giles thought later, that morning had all the markers of a date. Food, touch, company.

Perhaps it was.


They next talked at length after Buffy's roommate was revealed to be a demon. Giles had blown out the candles and was cleaning his table from the effects of the unmasking spell when Oz knocked on the door.

Giles was fairly cross that when the spell was complete, Willow had hugged him enthusiastically and then disappeared, off to check on Buffy, leaving him to clean.

"She's not here," he snapped when Oz stepped into the flat.

Oz nodded once. "Good to know. Who's she?"

The rag in his hand was damp and musty; Giles realized he was gripping it, twisting it, and he made himself relax. "Willow. She —"

"Okay." Oz lifted a candle from its holder and squinted at Giles. "You need some help?"

"No," Giles said, then schooled himself. His temper should not be taken out on Oz. "Yes, thank you. How are you with spattered wax?"

"Kind of an expert," Oz said, unfolding his pocket knife and leaning over the table.

As he chipped away at the wax, Oz told Giles what he and Xander had seen in Buffy's dorm room. Giles was surprised to see that Oz's expressions and body language were very mobile, quite fluid in fact, when he was reenacting other people's doings. He also did a spot-on imitation of Buffy, striking just the right balance between her delicate femininity and righteously focused strength.

Laughing, forgetting his crossness, Giles poured him an ale and invited him to stay for dinner.

Oz's skill at mimicry highlighted his own idiosyncratic calm. It reemerged as they moved to the sofa after finishing off last night's dal and bright rice. Giles put Five Live Yardbirds to play and Oz wriggled back into the corner of the sofa, head tilted against the cushions, listening intently.

Perhaps it was the ale, and the exhilaration of another threat dispatched, and the memory that the last time he'd played this album, he was trying to seduce Joyce, but Giles realized, as he sipped his ale, that he felt...good. Tingling in his hands and down his chest, alert to each shift and sigh from Oz's corner, and wonderfully relaxed.

"Never should've gone solo," Oz said when the side finished. He'd risen immediately to lift the arm and re-sleeve the album. While Giles knew that at this point nothing about Oz, particularly not more evidence of his concern and thoughtfulness, should surprise him, he was surprised.

"Hmm?" Giles shook himself back to alertness. He had, he realized with something very close to sour, quick-swelling shame, been admiring the neat twist to Oz's waist as he reached for the album cover. Oz's hips were slim as — well, as a girl's, as Willow's or Buffy's, though there was very little of the girl in him beyond those hips and his painted nails.

As he sat back down, Oz's nose wrinkled. "Know Clapton's a god. Just hard to take him seriously at this point."

"Hazard of aging," Giles said. "Your foibles are always going to be held against you. Particularly when they're pressed onto vinyl and recorded on video."

"Yeah," Oz said, stretching. "Not just aging, though. 'Tears from Heaven' — I can't get past that."

"It was regrettable."

"Criminal, even."

Giles smiled. Oz might be a surprisingly attractive boy, an inexplicably gentle soul, but he took music very seriously. "The inquest is still convened on what Bowie was up to in the 80s."

Grimacing, Oz rubbed his eyes.

"Anyway," Giles continued, moving back to the turntable, hesitating over what to play next, "I'm far more concerned about the death of vinyl."

"Urban legend," Oz said as Giles set down side A of Quadrophenia. Glancing over his shoulder as 'I am the Sea' began, he caught Oz smiling. A wide, gentle, blissful smile that did not dim so much as shift when Oz realized Giles was looking at him. "Good choice. But the vinyl thing? Total urban legend."

He pronounced 'vinyl' in the American way, a hard 'I' that received the stress.

"Is it?" Giles asked, moving to the kitchen for another bottle of ale. "I'd thought I'd heard — somewhere, can't remember now — that CDs were all the rage."

Oz grinned when Giles rejoined him. "Heard that, huh?"

"Through the grapevine, on the street, yes," Giles said. They were, he realized with a warm rush, teasing each other.

"Lots of stuff still gets a vinyl release," Oz said and clinked his half-empty bottle against Giles' new one. "I'll show you."


Being attracted to Oz was like finding a film star nice to look at. Like appreciating the beauty of the savannah in a nature documentary, or admiring the rich, fluid baritone of Cab Calloway.

That is, it was pleasant, but wholly detached from how Giles went about his days and lived his life.

When the group met — his flat, it seemed, had replaced the library as the site of convention — he barely noticed Oz. If he wasn't sitting next to Willow, touching her hair and smiling to himself, Oz was usually with Xander, wrestling bags of take-away from the deliveryman, or alone in the corner, jostling his knee and not quite listening.

It was only when they were alone that Giles noticed Oz, in the sense of seeing him, hearing his voice, thinking about him past the present moment. It was as if Oz came into focus best in solitude.

Giles knew the feeling.

Alone, or with Olivia or Oz, he was most himself. This had little to do, he thought, with the fact that he was unemployed, footloose but not quite fancy-free. No, it was more likely that he had always been this way. Three years of holding a fairly public post — the library was, at least technically, a public place — had been the exception.


"Ever miss the library?" Oz asked.

Giles thought about it. He did miss the books, of course, the quiet, reassuring presence of the stacks, always at hand. He missed that particular angle of light on October afternoons, after school was over for the day, cutting across the floor in wide, cider-bright swathes.

"At times I do," he said, opening his eyes. Oz sat splayed in the corner of the sofa, hand on his belly, rubbing a very slow version of the 'I'm hungry' gesture. "Of course I miss it."

"Miss being a librarian?"

Oz asked a lot of questions; Giles suspected that if he were to write down all of them, it would appear he was being interviewed. Interrogated, even. But Oz's voice was light, casual, slightly interested.

"I never was," Giles admitted, grinning with embarrassment when Oz's brows tilted in surprise and he shifted forward. "That was a cover, you see, to get me into the school."

"Impersonating a librarian?" Oz shook his head. "Cataloging under false pretenses."

"They forged my library science degree —" Giles was embarrassed, but Oz was smiling and wagging his finger teasingly. "Yes, I suppose I was."

"I miss it," Oz said and sat back. He had an entire array of gestures with which he got comfortable — a roll of the shoulders, rub at the back of his neck, and a mysterious, nearly instantaneous loosening of his body. "The library."

"Do you?" Giles poured another cup of tea, holding the pot toward Oz.

"Thanks," Oz said, refilling his own cup and setting the pot down on the floor. "Miss the light. And there was a pretty kickass collection of Maud Hart Lovelace books. The one at the library's pretty cool, but it's not the same."

"You've visited it?"

Oz's brows tightened and the corners of his lips twitched. On anyone else, the expression would have been one of irritation; on Oz, it was just the suggestion of annoyance. "Yeah. Stacks're cool, way in the back. The floors are frosted glass. Weird stuff happens back there."

"I imagine so," Giles said, thinking of the trysts and deals that went on in the carrels and toilets at the Bodleian. "Though it has the advantage of not being built over a hellmouth."

"There is that, yeah."


He was spending a fair amount of time with Oz. This fact would occur to Giles at the strangest times — while shaving, just before sitting down to dinner, halfway to the post office to retrieve a parcel — and, even more strangely, he would find himself smiling. Secretly, to himself, as if he had some small but wonderful secret.

He wondered, of course, what Oz could possibly get out of their meetings, what he had to offer a nineteen year old, but, despite his habits and standard expectations for himself, Giles did not worry overmuch.

Oz was quiet and self-contained, but he was not impossible to read. Nor did he make much secret of what he was looking for — a spot of quiet, a session of vinyl, some good conversation.

Giles wished Oz had started dropping by ages ago, in fact. He could have used a friend like this.


Giles extricated the volume from Xander's grubby hand and touched his shoulder, trying to keep his voice calm. "While I do appreciate your assistance, MacCallum precedes Moriarty in my alphabet —"

"Yeah, well, it's hard to — Oz! Small stoic rockstar, home from the big city. You couldn't have come at a better time —"

Xander slipped from under Giles' hand and hurried to the doorway, clapping Oz's shoulder and dragging him inside.

Reshelving the Moriarty in its proper place, Giles took a deep breath. He did not mind, necessarily, how Xander's employment seemed to be permeable and entirely at the lad's will, but the way everyone seemed to consider his time dispensable. Interrupt-able, if that was a word and not something that could have come from Buffy's mouth.

"Hello, Oz," Giles said, shaking Oz's hand. He was careful to rein in his enthusiasm, keeping his tone light and conversational. Moreover, he was surprised to find he was enthusiastic; Oz had only been gone over a long weekend, and Giles didn't recall missing him. "How was Los Angeles?"

"Yeah, how was LA?" Xander asked. "And Angel?"

"Lotta smog," Oz said, looking back and forth between them as if in amusement. He carried two plastic sacks, one in each hand. "And, yeah. Angel. Saw Cordy."

"Right! Okay!" Xander clapped his hands, loudly enough that Oz winced slightly. "On that note, I say we should be clearing out."

"Came to see Giles, actually." Oz glanced at Giles, while Giles watched, amused and somewhat horrified, Xander's expression pass from nervous enthusiasm to uncomprehending surprise.

"Right, right," Xander said, recovering quickly, grabbing his jacket, and rushing for the door. "Which is good, because I've got a not-date with a not-demon, and if I'm late, then she might not be a not anymore —"

When they were alone, Giles knew he should offer Oz something. Ale, or tea, perhaps something to eat. He seemed, however, to be stuck in place, indecisive and idly fidgeting with a stray thread on the seam of his trousers.

"Got you something," Oz said finally. He did not break the silence, Giles thought rather ridiculously, so much as he nudged it aside. "Somethings, actually."

"Thank you," Giles said automatically. "Won't you sit down?"

He sounded ridiculous. Everything was ridiculous; passing a hand over his forehead, he thought that he had not felt this anxious and at a loss for words and gestures since he was Oz's age.

"Sure, if you will," Oz said and handed the sacks to Giles. "Eye-level's something I could go for."

"Yes, rather," Giles said and sank into the nearest chair.

"They're not wrapped."

"That's all right." Giles fingered the sacks and only thought to open them when Oz coughed once, softly, into his hand. He drew out a shrink-wrapped LP for a band he'd never heard of — Luna — but the title was familiar. "Gainsbourg's 'Bonnie and Clyde'?"

"Two covers, yeah," Oz said and he was smiling. Giles allotted himself a moment to savor that smile; Oz looked happy. Pleased with himself, and Giles returned the smile. "Told you they still made vinyl."

"I stand corrected. And the other?"

Oz's smile widened. "Take a look."

Giles' voice faltered as he drew two boxes from the bag. "Oh — Oh, my." He looked up at Oz. "Real Jaffa cakes?"

"Hope so, yeah."

He made tea while Oz put the record on to play. As the water ran inside the pot, warming it, Giles could not stop smiling. The music was quite similar to Gainsbourg's original, though the female singer had a much better voice than Bardot's, and it spiralled slowly through the flat, lightening and ramifying as he carried out a platter of the biscuits and tea.

"They're not actually biscuits —" Giles started to say.

"— not according to the tax man," Oz said, shrugging at Giles' surprise. "Talked to the guy at the store. Imports all kinds of stuff. You should give me a list next time."

"Thank you," Giles said when the song had finished and they were munching their way through the cakes. Sticky orange gelatin, the spongy sweetness of the cake, and dark chocolate: His mouth was watering and he grinned at Oz. "Thank you."


Giles could, had he wanted to, have added up the evidence.

Oz brought him presents. Oz dropped by unannounced, usually simply to see what Giles was doing — or, as he put it, 'just to hang'. Oz laughed at his jokes and frequently touched his wrist or arm to emphasize a point. Oz looked at him with an arcane mix of intentness and shyness in his eyes.

Giles could have added all this up and decided that Oz liked him.

He did not, however. He avoided any and all thoughts that concerned the subject of what Oz might think and feel about him.

He was far too busy lecturing himself about developing a schoolboy crush on someone barely past the age of a schoolboy.


He saw Oz in the small crowd spread out over several tables at the Espresso Pump. Giles lifted his hand and waved and Oz did an exaggerated double take, pretending he was surprised to find Giles at the Sunday afternoon open mike.

Giles moved his heavy, battered guitar case from the chair next to him and Oz held his cup of coffee in both hands as he maneuvered through the narrow aisle between the tables.

"Hey," Oz said, setting down his — Giles checked his wince — tall black coffee. "Scouting or playing?"

Giles tapped the case and Oz nodded. "You?"

"Needed caffeine," Oz said. "Thought to myself, Self, you need caffeine. Overpriced, bitter, sat-too-long caffeine. Next thing I knew, I was here."

"I see. Quite a coincidence." Giles meant to say more, but then straightened up when his name was called. Or 'Robert Guiles', which he supposed was close enough. "Excuse me."

"Break a vocal cord." Oz sat back, hooking his arm over the back of the chair and sipping his coffee. "Except don't. That'd suck."

"I'll do my best."

He hadn't expected to know anyone in the audience, let alone a fellow musician. Let alone Oz.

Giles controlled his breathing as he climbed on the stage, reminding himself that he had played before much larger crowds. Then again, it had been nearly twenty years since he had played for anyone, and those crowds had been drunk. They would have listened to Radio One and enjoyed it.

His unemployment-induced narcissism, however, served him well. He looked fitter than he had in years, his lung capacity had nearly doubled, and he was more than ready to warble his way through a brief, three-song set.

It helped, too, that he removed his specs and thus reduced Oz, along with the rest of the audience, to a blur of light and dark.

"Nice," Oz said when Giles joined him back at the table. "Hey, why do you have a suitcase?"

"Oh, well — You see —" Giles said. He paused and pretended to stretch out his fingers, then took a thirsty swig of ice water. "It's rather embarrassing, actually."

"More embarrassing than transforming in a bathtub in a frat house?"

Snorting, Giles shook his head. "Well —"

"More embarrassing than waking up buck naked three times a month in front of your librarian?"

Giles found it extremely difficult to imagine Oz ever feeling a twinge of embarrassment. He was too steady, far too serene and confident, for any such feeling

Listening, however, to him now, Giles chided himself for reckless idealization.

"You're right," he said. "It's not very embarrassing. My flat's being fumigated. It seems that the books from the library brought with them an infestation of wood lice. Possibly worms, but the exterminator still hasn't determined that."

"Oh," Oz said. "Yeah, that's not embarrassing."

"I infested the entire building."

Oz frowned.

"My neighbors snub me in the garden."

Tilting his head, the frown evaporating, Oz said, "You have neighbors?"

"So it seems I'm homeless for the next two to three days," Giles said.

"Wow. Homeless and unemployed." Oz reached for Giles' overnight valise. "Could be worse, though."


"Could be naked." Oz stood up, Giles' bag in his hand, and patted Giles' shoulder. "Anyway. You can crash with me."

Giles had not 'crashed' anywhere, with anyone, since — this calculation was becoming sickeningly familiar — since he was Oz's age. "I'm not destitute," he protested. "I was going to stay at the Motor Lodge, but their check-in hours don't start until five."

Oz checked his wrist, bare of a watch, and shrugged. "So you stay with me. Easy."

There were many more protests to make, but though he knew that, none were coming into Giles' mind. He simply gaped at Oz, then stood up and followed him obediently out to the street.

The air was chilly, the coldest it had been since spring, sharp as an antiseptic against Giles' flushed face. Oz offered him his jacket and, though the garment was at least three sizes too small, seemed faintly surprised when Giles refused it.

Image-scraps of Oz, naked in the book cage, curled around himself like a child, skin pink-white as a wild rose, competed with a growing drone of anxiety and doubt in Giles' mind. He followed Oz, trying out and discarding any number of excuses — I don't want to get in your way, What would Willow say?, Your flatmates will mind — as they made their way toward the student ghetto on the far side of town.

Oz's flatmates were not present to mind; it seemed they had the house to themselves. Giles sat uneasily at the rickety breakfast table while Oz cooked them mammoth bowls of ziti, swimming in a basil-cream sauce.

"Jake, our drummer," he told Giles. "Hospitality major. Has to take cooking this semester."


"Yeah," Oz said and handed the shaker of desiccated Parmesan to Giles. "We eat pretty good. Pretty well, I mean."

Not sure how to refuse it, Giles set it beside his plate and asked, "And how many of you are there?"

Oz's forehead wrinkled as he seemed to perform a series of complicated equations before answering. "Five, legally. On the lease. Usually more like eight. Sometimes, um. Eleven?"

The house was like any students' quarters: underlit, damp-smelling, cluttered with castoffs from parents' attics and garages, but homey all the same. This was where, Giles thought as he followed Oz up the stairs, children learn to live like adults.

"Oh —" Giles said when Oz opened the door to his room.

He had expected — Giles did not know. Something cleaner, for one thing; Oz was so neat, albeit eternally rumpled, in appearance. Perhaps something barer, more minimalist and Japanese, but it would appear that Oz was almost as much of a packrat as Giles himself.

"Yeah, that's okay with you?" Oz asked, setting down Giles' bag.

"Hmm?" Giles looked up from the bookcase where he had been studying the array of toy cars and lorries. Oz stood by the bed, rubbing his hands up and down his thighs.

The bed, which was the only one in the room.

"Dev's got a futon, I think. I could go look —" Oz said, not quite looking Giles in the eye. He was nervous. His voice was slightly strained, his posture tight, his hands twitching. Relief at the thought that Oz could get nervous flooded through Giles, left him nearly giddy and very warm.

"We'll make do," Giles said and set the little postal lorry back in its place. He sat on the edge of the unmade bed, heaped with tapestries and a boy's standard green sleeping bag and patted the mattress. "If anything, my back could use a few nights on a good hard floor."

Oz sat next to him, the mattress creaking and the nylon on the sleeping bag whispering as he pushed it against the wall.

Neither of them said anything for a long while. Oz kept his head down, his hands in his lap, fingers loosely interlaced. His nail polish today was plum; Giles realized he must have been paying attention, because he recognized the shade. 'Not fake plum, which usually means purple,' Oz had said. 'But like dark blue-black plum.'

He was acutely aware of two things: Oz's proximity and Oz's nervousness. While they should have cancelled themselves out, they in fact seemed to feed on each other, increasing Giles' own anxiety even as he shifted a little closer, brushing his knee against Oz's.

Fool, he tried to tell himself. He's not interested in you. He has a girlfriend. He's just being kind.

Oddly, the remonstrative voice at the back of his mind sounded just like the one that told him to train Buffy harder, to force her to fall in line, to dismiss her friends.

He had never listened to that voice and why should he start now?

He could not make the first move. That was unimaginable, and Giles was attempting to think of all the synonyms for 'unimaginable' when Oz shot out a breath through his nose, turning abruptly and clutching at the back of Giles' shirt.

Leaning in, his eyes huge before Giles' specs, twin marine creatures, alien and shining in an aquarium, then kissing Giles on the mouth.

Giles' hand snaked around Oz's waist, exhilaration buzzing through him nearly as quickly as doubt and worry.

"Sorry —" Oz said, pulling back, but Giles stopped him and held him in place.

"But —" Giles knew he was about to stammer, and he ground his teeth against it. "Willow? What about —?"

"Midterms," Oz said. "Girl likes her books."

"No, I mean — that is —" He realized that Oz was teasing him; it was obvious, in the depth of his slight smile and the angle of his brows.

That he had learned to read Oz, could understand his expressions, that was, perhaps, the best thing about this autumn so far. "Yes, she does, doesn't she?"

"Yeah," Oz said. He pushed his hand through his hair, then rested his forehead in his palm, looking at Giles as others might examine a display in a store window, as Giles himself would study a new translation. Carefully and longingly all at once, both appraising and coveting. "But —. Trust me?"

Giles nodded. "Of course. I —"

"Good," Oz said and leaned in again, his eyes closing, trusting Giles to kiss him back.


It could have ended in myriad ways. Oz might have broken out of his cage the next full moon and met a she-wolf. Giles might have been deported now that he lacked employment. Willow might have stumbled into the room, shrieking when she saw them.

He rolled his face in the pillow and smiled as he opened his eyes.

That was the thing about dreams, their wonder and enthralling power. They never exactly ended.