by Glossolalia

0. [liner notes]

Oz gets confused easily. Words for time, for example: He'll say "last week" when he meant "last night"; mix up day, month, year.

He forgets to eat, thinking he already did.

Minor details just get tangled in his mind. He always thought the cover of The Beatles was pure white because the original featured butchered, bloody dolls; freaking, the record company hastily slapped something blank over it.

Giles, after several baffled minutes, corrected him. No, that was Yesterday and Today.

Oz prefers his version: Cloudbright purity over roiling pain, ecstatic cruelty, corpses and carcasses.

It makes more sense his way. He's sticking to it.


1. Gee it's good to be back home

Oz holes up in his room.

Devon calls, and Willow. Never had many friends to begin with. For a while they stay away.

Nice trick of the universe that it's only as his stash is down to seeds and stems that Devon finally barges in.

Piney smoke rising in wreathes matches the pink and gray smog in Oz's brain. Then — soon, later, he can't tell — Devon's hands are on him, hot, urgent.

"C'mon —" Husky voice, bloodshot eyes burning through the fog. "Lemme molest you. Old times' sake."

Oz makes him tie him up first. Just in case.


2. you are part of everything/won't you open up your eyes?

Jenny's funeral is beautiful. The day's stark, the sky bright blue, light everywhere heavy as marble. Immovable. Oz's tie strangles him, under his wool jacket, he sweats, and Willow won't let go of his hand.

Giles has gotten a haircut. Too short, and the back of his neck is pale and tender-looking. His head looks smaller, he looks smaller. Pale like the undersides of things, turned rocks, flipped turtles. Birdwings.

Everyone's crying.

Oz doses a tab of windowpane at the cemetery.

Giles keeps his hands in fists at his sides. Sunlight glints off his glasses, hiding his eyes. Blinds Oz.


3. you know the place where nothing is real

That first time, on his knees, when he started changing. Should have just flipped over, shown Giles what he claimed to love. Bitten him. Chewed him open, let flesh be flesh, eaten his full before licking him back awake.

Or later. Giles sleeps on his back, arm thrown over Oz. Could have done it then, a little nip on the wrist, lighter than a mosquito. As long as you draw blood, you're good to go.

Giles would taste like steam, earth, and parchment. Oz would have him inside his body, and they would be together and howl. Sing in harmony.

4. lala how the life goes on
Willow kisses like she's tasting a mealy apple. Scrape of teeth, little careful tongue. More fear and analysis than anything like passion.

Sitting on his lap, she's about as heavy as a sack of laundry, gripping his hand, sliding it firmly, proprietarily, around her waist.

Oz holds tight. She chatters and laughs. He's the cool mellow one so no one notices his silence, the tremor in his hands when he can't sip from the OJ bottle half-diluted with Canadian Club. The eyes rolling back in his head.

If she feels his prick stiffening (friction is natural), Willow never lets on.


5. I love you

Hospital waiting room, stink of tears and antiseptic. Xander sags against the wall, Willow sleeps at home. No sign of Buffy.

Oz stops outside Giles's room and can't move forward. He sees gray skin against the yellow blanket. Bandaged hands white, purple bruises, seep of blood.

Fangs carve Oz's lip, claws scratch his palms, and he twists against it. Pukes all over the linoleum, spatters the walls with it, gold and green and brown.

He takes off at a run, all the way outside, dry heaves in the parking lot, choking under the glare, drowning dry.

He's such a coward.


6. the children asked him if to kill was not a sin

The first apology: In Giles's office, daylight, that spring.

"Could I?" Oz asks without moving. "Maybe we —?"

Giles doesn't look human; his face is modern art, cubist, shellacked. Shingles of texture and color, alien planes of brown, peach, leafgreen, velvet, asphalt.

"No. Not here, not us. No."

Oz hears never. Giles's voice is clear but jagged-sharp, layers of crystal, leafs of mica.

He leaves Oz there — something more important calls, Buffy, overdue fines — and the office shrinks. Size of Oz's skin, straitjacket, coffin. Oz pulls four swallows from Giles's hidden Scotch (bottom drawer, in the back) and goes.


7. I don't know why nobody told you how to unfold your love

Gingerly, slowly, he returns to the hospital room. Minutes, hours, later, but Giles hasn't moved. Yellow blanket glaring beneath white afternoon sun.

Oz talks to him with fear and bile on his tongue, in his nose and throat. Hoarse and sick with it.

So many times Giles might have fallen. Never returned from patrol, stumbled in a demon-nest, encountered Ethan. So many times Oz knew he'd never see him again.

Never like this.

Blank eyes, staring past him. Empty and shuttered, watching ghosts and nightmares. Tears slicking sunken cheeks.

Oz touches his hand. Shields it, helplessly, too late. Apologizes again.


8. I need a fix 'cause I'm going down

Behind Oz's eyes, it's all white. Noon sky, corona around the sun, distant midnight stars: All white. Electrons streaming, exhaust fumes blooming.

White is dense but weightless, suffocating but invisible.

He cuts into it with weed — jacking off — days spent sleeping — shrooms — booze. It never goes away.

White is hush and noise, pain and numb. It is immobile but it grows, piles up within him.

He carries it everywhere. Arctic exploration wandering off course, gnawing limbs of the dead to stay alive, dying upright on the tundra, drifting off on a chip of iceberg. All white.


9. when you find yourself in the thick of it

Willow needs him, and Oz needs her, needs to be in the group. So cowardly that he can't leave well enough alone, nor he can actually participate.

So he hangs around, holds Willow, touching soft hair, softer hands, trusting there is nothing to fear. He is present only technically, only enough to feel her against him, fasten his eyes first on her, then the space around Giles.

It hurts to look at Giles. Pain like sunspots shoot from Giles's face.

Oz keeps staring.

Loving Willow is easy; it also means he can't stop loving Giles.

He's a monster twice over.


10. I'm so tired I don't know what to do

He's always shaking. He wakes up shaking. Constantly, low on the Richter, needle skittering over the paper. The world is pale, washed-out, illuminated and vibrating from within. Everything he sees jostles him, rubs against his skin, peels him raw, lifts away scraps, quilts them elsewhere.

He isn't the only one stealing sips from Giles's office scotch. It slows the shakes for him. He hopes it does for Giles, too.

Oz knows what he's doing. He's been to the assemblies, watched the PSAs. He knows that he's a weakling, selfish, a menace to polite society.

Better a drunk than a murderer.


11. into the light of the dark black night

In the forest, primal and Arden, liberation would come. They would run like water flows, so fast, breaking their own path through weeds and saplings. Chase the moon's light, panting and barking, claws singing over stone, hunger swirling with joy.

Giles's pelt would be silver, his eyes black and full, his tongue scarlet, dripping with blood and delight. In clearings, in underbrush, anywhere and everywhere, they would tumble and roll together. Fuck howling, come again and again.

Men, deer, coyotes, witches, demons would all fear them.

Wolves do not actually mate for life. Oz will pretend he doesn't know that.


12. life is getting worse

Summer months fall in golden curtains. Summer school, he treats like regular school. Skips, avoids.

Nothing's the same. No Buffy, no Angelus. Giles just a ghost, hunched and hiding in the dark. Willow plans and charts and surveys and they all pitch in. Even together, they're never going to be half as good as Buffy was on an off day.

Sometimes Oz hesitates before staking or firing the crossbow. Gives the vamp another chance, leads with his weaker hand, takes a breath he doesn't need.

He doesn't want to die, but he's not going to pass up the chance, either.


13. I'll be better I'll be better doc as soon as I am able

He is his own zookeeper, trainer, experimental subject.

It has been almost four months. He's come in his hand 134 times without changing, without even feeling his back tighten and prickle in anticipation of the pelt. He can come without thinking about Giles, with only the vaguest memories of large hands on him and rough accent in his ear.

He can come with another (nine times) if he's held down. Doesn't have to be strong, no leash, muzzle, cuffs; the suggestion is enough, a hand on his wrists, belt on his neck. Long as he feels tied, he can let go.


14. don't see you/does it mean you don't love me any more?

He won't look at Oz. Willow and Xander flutter; for a moment that stretches and stretches, Oz stares at Giles. Mouth dry, fingers (claws) clenched, daring and needing Giles to see him.

"Wolf-you, not you-you," she says.

Like they're separate, like there's any difference. Oz knows better. Giles's dropped eyes, odd fingering of the globe, attention deliberately elsewhere: Giles knows, too.

Or suspects.

There could be blood in his throat, flesh in his gut, but he woke this morning forgetful, naked, and clean. He could have run all night.

Willow grabs his hand. Oz tastes death. Giles closes his eyes.


15. no one will be watching us

The second apology: Giles's garden, twilight, midsummer.

Oz holds his fists like stones in his pockets, digging his toes in dead leaves. "So sorry. I want —"

The words will not come. Ever since Xander dragged him from the mansion, Giles has been a permanent, static cloud of ash and rot. Sick fog. Vampires fall apart, finally vanish; Giles is caught, suspendeded, hovering. Broken but persisting.

"Sorry," Oz says.

Serrated edge to Giles's voice. "I don't believe I need your pity."

"Not pity."

Giles stands. "Best be going. Your girlfriend will be missing you."

White static fills Oz's skull, drowning.


16. but it never really mattered

He is her first boyfriend. An honor, a duty, something like an obligation.

"Need you to teach me stuff," she says.

She distrusts her own body even more than she does his. Curled fingers that crab-scuttle over goosebumped skin, pursed lips rimmed in white, stripes of chilly sweat at her hair line.

He is patient. He holds back. He helps her touch herself, shows her what feels good to a girl. Breasts like apples, sour and firm, and when he goes down on her, she tastes like mown grass, pressed into a teaball, threads of tannin unfurling through honeyed water.


17. half of what I say is meaningless/but I say it just to reach you

Conversations with Giles are broken things. Neither of them can survive through to the end of one, so they catch shreds, begin in the middle, worry over shards, before finally escaping again.

"What are you doing? Do you love her?"

Oz touches the back of his own hand. Watches tendons flex. "Love a lot of people."

Giles, sagging; his hand casts a long shadow over his face. "You love her."

"Don't think I'm in love with —" Willow knows that. Oz would like to think so, trust her intelligence, make it true.

"Hardly reassuring." Giles draws tight, backward, away.



18. we're gonna have a good time

Willow rarely touches him in return. He never really taught her how. Not safe, and her hands are too small, soft, hesitant, to be what he wants.

He needs the prison of skin, nerves gone dead and numb for twenty-seven days a month; it's a conservation of energy, dam against entropy, whistling in a hurricane. He'd like to be a single callous, sheathed in dead skin, safe in a shell.

Willow doesn't want to touch him. She wants to be held, cared for, loved and listened to. Touching him would be radical, a revolution and nauseating.

They're safe together. Happy.


19. even hate my rock and roll

There is no intermission when an LP's played; between songs, the needle still runs through the groove, the record's spinning still gives off its hushed rattle.

Digital technology is cleaner. The songs break off from each other, cliffs over abysses of silence, sheared away and impassable. Sharp and no-nonsense, zero instead of one.

Music on vinyl is a single long, careful spiral, whole and complex.

On CD, it is chopped up, separate and simplistic.

Oz only listens to CDs.

He hasn't used his record player since he left Giles. Hush and care belong with Giles. Absence and silence are Oz's.


20. all day long I'm sitting singing songs for everyone

He's not choosy: Giles's Scotch, Canadian Club, Jack D., gin. All the same in the end.

Fuel, bitter and sour, that pushes him through each day. The world is bright and sharp, layer after layer of stained glass in the noon sun, piles of shards glowing and cutting.

The booze pushes him, pliant and uncomplaining, mellow and sweet-natured, until he can finally go home. Every afternoon, that's when he drinks for real: Curls up on his side, towel over his pillow in case he pukes.

Softer like this, better dreams, fewer memories.

Cycle of hurt and heal, ache and medicate.


21. make it easy make it easy

Oz holds Willow like a daughter, like a sister, like the best friend she is. They call what they have dating, they call it love. They bargain with words, change their meanings.

She gets to say "my boyfriend's in the band" and he gets something harder to articulate. He gets her, a friend he can be with outside, in the sun, anywhere. Someone his age, someone with the opposite set of chromosomes, breasts and unwrinkled skin. Someone appropriate.

If they're using each other, that's all right.

Everyone uses everyone else, all the time; no one's getting hurt here.

Except Giles.


22. you made a fool of everyone

He dreams in black and white. There is no border between Oz and the wolf; even talking about them separately is dangerous and stupid. Other people change their clothes, from work to home, weekday to lazy weekend. They're still themselves.

His change is monthly, not daily, not weekly.

It is nothing more than a new suit, another costume. The pain, the need to run and hunger to kill, slide and shine within his skin constantly.

He didn't kill Jeff. He does escape, however, nightly, dreams of dying and feasting, black blood against white moon.

He wakes up hard and naked.


23. tell me tell me tell me the answer

Buffy's return evens things out, restores balance. Giles is no longer such a ghost, Willow settles down a little, Oz doesn't drink quite as much.

She is Giles's first, only, love. His true one. Oz filled in the spaces of Giles's loneliness, but it is Buffy who centers him. She gives him a reason to be here. She is the reason.

There is no word for who and how Giles is with Buffy — father, lover, friend, nothing fits. They belong together, that's clear.

Oz and Angel threw everything off, ripped them apart. They brought the monstrous into the fold.


24. now I can see you, be you

Mornings after the cage, afternoons during breaks in meetings, nights spent over the books, Oz ducks into the office whenever he can.

It's like communion, putting his lips around the bottle and stealing swallows, it's profane and addictive.

This is my body, take of it; this is where Giles's lips have been and will be again, this is what they share now. These are kisses at a distance, conversations that last longer, go farther, than their spoken ones ever can. Trysts and communication, messages left for the other through taste, thumbprints, twitch of tongue.

He's just waiting to get caught.


25. when you talk about destruction

He can't figure how Angel does it. Returns from hell, lives in chains, then courts Buffy all over again. Chaste and proper this time, of course, plenty of exercise and careful cuddles.

He can't figure how Angel trusts himself around her. Does he believe she'll keep him safe? Buffy loves him, hides and protects him, still, after everything he did. What he did to Giles. Bruises, broken hands.

Maybe Angel has given up. Maybe Oz is the foolish one for having left Giles.

Maybe in the end they'll all be destroyed. Maybe it's best to grab what love you can.


26. so won't you please come home

The bar is down by the piers. Side street, small sign, no one to card or look twice. It might as well be out of a movie, a cheap overproduced one where vulgarity rules. Sawdust on the floor, recycled beer in the kegs.

Easy enough to find someone here, older, left behind at a table while his friends dance. With rough hands, big enough to hold Oz down, squeeze his neck; sad face, lonely enough that he'll kiss for awhile afterwards, help Oz back into his pants.

Washroom stalls, backseats of cars: Oz comes, they come. Nothing ever goes wrong.


27. when the pain cuts through/you're going to know and how

Maybe Giles is right. There is something larger than people, something older, sterner, purer. Something beyond you, past the tangled skeins of relationships and emotions.

Because when he crouches next to Cordy and sees Willow kissing Xander, the first, only, true thing Oz knows is this: You get what you deserve. Reap what you sow. Vengeance shall come.

Lies aren't just what you say. Lies are gestures and consequences. He is a lie.

He loves her, he loves Giles. He keeps hurting everyone.

Obviously the universe is telling him something.

She's better off with Xander. Anyone else.

Just like Giles.


28. cry baby cry

"I'm not." Ready. Not ready, willing, or able.

He can't look at Willow. Men in bars, Devon with cuffs, jacking himself off without event, kissing and stroking her, helping her shake, come, and smile: It's not the same, none of it.

This would be different. What she's asking for. Telling him, expecting. She's making it significant, using retro-Cosmo guidelines about how a girl proves her love.

If he gives in, he'll eat her alive. Feast. Crack open her bones, fuck her bloody.

Snow like blindness, like tears, fragments of ignorance and denial, drifts inside him.

Then outside.

Not for him.


29. A man without terrors

Fired, and now Giles is really alone.

Opaque lenses, closed face, bowed shoulders.

For a moment that lasts nearly a week, Oz believes that things could get better. They could talk again like they used to. Trade albums and CDs and books. Go for a drive, get away from it all.

Problem with belief is how pointless it is. Like hope, like eating; you do it because you have to, but disappointment and shit still come in the end.

Wesley arrives, Faith goes nuts, Giles is still alone.

Oz tastes hope, prickling, soursweet as a lychee. He can't help himself.


30. Goodnight Goodnight Everybody/Everybody everywhere/Goodnight.

He will leave. Some day, everything he feels, knows, believes, thinks, will come together. Gather up from its present, persistent dispersion, knit and quilt itself into something impenetrable. Lower over him, smothering.

Only a question of when; he knows it is always already hovering.

There is always feedback, pain at a low, fast buzz inside his ribcage and behind his eyes, drone and drown. There is always the shadow missing its subject, cast around him, cold and bright, Giles's absence.

There will always be his confusion of minor details, his clinging.

Oz jabs the remote at the stereo.

Hits stop.