Not Unlike Blushing In A Pleasant Face
by Glossolalia

"Gujarat," Oz says as he settles onto the floor, bending his legs as he moves down. The fruit on the cutting board in one hand never wavers. The knife in his other hand catches the light, shines for a moment, blinding Giles. "Took the train from Mumbai to Gandhi Nagar."

Giles holds his index finger between the closely-packed albums, loathe to lose his place. "On your way to Tibet, you mean?"

"Way back."

"But Bombay is south of —"

"Yep. Looped around a lot." Oz nods and slices off the top of the pomegranate with the efficiency of a butcher dejointing a carcass. Violence, domesticated and shorn of cruelty, is no longer violent but elegant. Clean and controlled and it makes Giles think of early-morning sex, waking Oz from a nightmare, rolling over onto his back with a confused boy on top of him, snuffling his neck, clawing his shoulders, still half-wolf in his mind.

Giles glances down at the box of albums. He never should have let Dawn help him pack, but surely it couldn't have been that difficult to lift them from the shelves and place them in the boxes in order? Somehow, however, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts have been shoved in between two Mingus albums. Steppenwolf jumbled up with Joplin, Bartok and Berlioz in some kind of unholy alliance. He shudders to find out what other havoc has been wreaked.

"Hmm? India?"

Oz slices the fruit in half and spins it. Giles thinks of butchery again as the juice, redder than any blood, drips from the knife. "Went to see the lions at Gir, too. But — Gujarat. In general. They pour pomegranate seeds on top of the curries."

He holds up one quarter of the fruit to the late afternoon light, turns it, lets it sparkle jewel-bright. Juice slips and sighs down his thumb, over his wrist. Oz licks it up quickly, pink tongue flickering out three-four-five times.

Giles shivers once, the motion reminding him to say something. "Asiatic lions, yes?"

Oz sucks half the piece into his mouth, smiling around it, and nods slowly. The shiver creeps over Giles' neck and shoulders again, slow and insistent. The strange little twist to the corner of Oz's mouth would be nearly feral on anyone else. On Oz, it's familiar, all over again.

They talk around things. They both excel at it; they always have and now, given lapses of years and global travel, they do it automatically. Easily, comfortably. Without intention or malice; indeed, with quite a bit of affection.

"Want some help with that?" Oz points at the boxes, then shuffles over on his knees.

"Unless you acquired ESP along with the lycanthropy, I despair of making any kind of sense from Dawn's methods." Giles stares at Oz's fingers, stained red, the cuticles torn, nails chewed to the quick. He glances up. "At any rate, you're all — sticky."

"That I am." Oz touches one red finger to Giles' cheek, rasping over the stubble. "A little 9 1/2 weeks, but it's hard to resist."

"9 1/2 —?" Giles turns his face, kisses one knuckle. Hint of sweet, then sharp sour, soaked into Oz's smoky skin. Hears the creak of cardboard and scrape of corduroy on carpet pile as Oz shifts, leans in.

"Stupid movie," Oz breathes. "Food kink."

"Ahh." Giles goes up on his knees, sliding the box out of the way, forgetting the albums for the time being. "I thought we were still in Gujarat."

Oz traces the dip and curve of Giles' upper lip, sends bright scarlet stings over his face, down his back, weaving through his chest and gut. The touch so patient, deliberate, and Giles' instinct is to swallow the little whimper its delicacy calls up. He moans, ignoring any instinct that might stop this, and tugs Oz closer, up against him.

Oz is tighter, even thinner, than he used to be. Nearly invisible sprays of wrinkles around his eyes, acquired decades too early; his skin almost glossy to the touch, almost slick, from malnutrition, sleeping in the elements, changing over. Giles holds him around the waist, slides his hand below his waistband, licking juice and the odd seed from Oz's chin and neck.

"What happened to your shirt?" he murmurs. Feels a smile against his neck, tiny shake of the shoulders.

"Pomegranate. Stains like a motherfucker."

Giles inhales shampoo and faint salt at Oz's hairline, smiling back. Kisses the hollow of Oz's temple, warmer there, smoothed out, nearly hidden by soft spikes of hair. "All around, a marvelous fruit."

Oz's fingers pluck at the collar of Giles' shirt, slip inside and trace sticky runes over his pulse. "You ever going to unpack the music?"

"Someday," Giles says. "Keep becoming distracted."

Fingers skid over his neck into Giles' hair, pulling his head back until he's staring up at a crimson-streaked smile. "Caught on to my devious plan, huh?"

Giles sighs miserably and attempts a frown. "We're not combining our collections. The duplication alone —"

When Oz kisses him, hard and wide, there are secrets and the tang of fruit on his tongue and Giles feels himself sinking beneath the weight, drinking deeply, smiling as he clutches at the bony hip, watching the flush prickle and spread over Oz's cheeks.

If violence cleansed of cruelty is elegance, then tenderness, too, dwells in the snap of teeth and scrape of nails down pale skin.