Scenes From The Floating World
by Glossolalia

Was this the boy of my dreams?
Or was he real? I cannot tell;
whichever it may be,
he has captured my heart
and led me into confusion.

Giles is happy. He reads and loses himself in the mind's time, where logic goes circular.

Late afternoon in the library, the slanting light full of lazy motes and, Giles has always imagined, the sighs and words of unread authors, his tea cooling at his hand. The children have all gone home, strangely disappointed by the lack of immediate threat.

He hears something in the stacks, both a rustle and a rattle, and has to kick out the tingle from his legs when he rises to investigate.

He meets Oz halfway in, between meteorology on the left and British literature to the right. Oz looks rumpled — hair, clothes — and serene — face, skin — as ever. He toys with a silver hoop in his ear as he gazes up at Giles.

Giles starts to say something, a greeting or expression of confusion, but Oz smiles, silencing him. His sleepy eyes narrow into wet penstrokes of ginger and seagreen and his head tilts back slightly.

He goes up on his toes and, still smiling, kisses Giles gently.

Instinctively, Giles leans into the kiss. Oz's lips are chapped and faintly sweet, then softer inside, and sweeter. The knob of his thin shoulder rolls under Giles' hand. Coming to his senses, departing from the moment, Giles pulls back.

"Oz, I —"

Oz smiles his secret, nearly horizontal smile, and presses his palm against Giles' chest. "Always wanted to do that."

Always: A strange word coming from anyone his age, yet oddly believable when spoken by Oz. Children live so deliberately in the present moment, are so rigorously and eagerly attuned to change and flux, that Giles doubts sometimes they have any sense of time beyond the weekly rhythm of school and not-school. Oz is the most changeable of all, it sometimes seems, under his muted rainbow of hair colors and the ever-shifting collection of jewelry.

Yet beneath that constant fluctuation, Oz is steady. He possesses a quiet and subtlety that Giles realizes only now he has come to depend on.

Looking at him, Giles remembers the feeling of afternoons spent on his back, gazing up at the changing sky. Before one grows up and becomes habituated to time, this is how it is measured: In attention, in the meandering paths of imagination. Clouds scuttled and floated past, but they were always clouds, always pale. Constancy in change.

As Giles stands there, frozen and dreaming, Oz slips out from under his hand. He pats Giles' elbow as he passes, then vanishes.

Since then, there has been work, and three nights of the full moon, and Giles did not know what to do, what to think, let alone what to say in the odd moments he does see Oz. That moment in the stacks hangs suspended in his memory like the fragment of a dream recalled in mid-day. Hazy at the edges but brilliant within, alien and incommensurable with the rest of his thoughts.

It might be a dream. Nonetheless, it's still real.


"It is natural for a samurai to make every effort to excel with pen and sword. Beyond that, what is important to us is not ever to forget, even to our last moment, the spirit of shudo. If we should forget it, it will not be possible for us to maintain the decencies, nor gentleness of speech, nor the refinements of polite behavior."

"I think there's far more than we can eat," Giles tries to say, but Xander interrupts him.

"Still don't get what all this is."

He and Oz barrelled into the flat several minutes ago, carrying two plastic-wrapped trays and juggling several paper containers of food. Xander pokes at one tray suspiciously.

Oz has made himself admirably at home in Giles' kitchen, retrieving several plates and opening the first of the containers. Giles stands in the doorway, just as curious as Xander, but unwilling to let it show.

"Dingoes played Jenna Mori's bat mitzvah," Oz says, opening a steaming carton of rice and spooning it out. "Took my cut in sushi."

Giles wants to ask why a Japanese-American girl had a bat mitzvah, but Xander seems more concerned with what's in front of him.

"Sushi? Like, raw sushi?"

Oz glances at Giles, face loosening for a moment, then nods. "Best kind."

For a while now, Giles has been fairly certain that Oz is flirting with him. It's hard to tell, despite the kiss in the stacks. Everything is obscure with Oz, his remarks cryptic for all their plainness, his body language so pliable as to mean anything. But half-suggestive comments are accompanied by a flicker of dark-green eyes, a twist to corners of his mouth.

"That's it," Xander says when the food has been arrayed on the coffee table and he sniffs his mug of miso soup. "I'm getting all the food from now on."

"Have a California roll," Oz says, nudging the platter toward Xander. "Totally fake, you'll like it."

Attempting to hide his smile, Giles busies himself with a tuna handroll. The snap of the nori and saltsweet flesh of the fish distract him long enough.

Xander leans over to Giles' plate and pokes one chopstick at his salmon-roe roll. "What's that?"

Giles is chewing and can only raise his eyebrows.

"Salmon roe," Oz says for him. "My favorite. Tiny balls, packed with bursts of salty joy."

Oz glances at Giles then. Yes, he's definitely flirting.

Giles swallows the chewy rice hastily, certain he's about to start coughing uncontrollably.

It has been a week since Oz kissed him. Now he has the boys in his flat in something that Xander calls "male bonding time" but which Giles suspects is hardly anything so important. More likely, this is just what happens when the two most useful members of the group, Buffy and Willow, are enjoying a romantic night off.

There shouldn't be anything romantic, he thinks, about Xander and Oz bickering over sushi, yet he finds that he is enjoying himself enormously.

"It's weird and slimy," Xander says. "Giles, back me up here."

They both look at him, Xander pleadingly expectant, Oz vaguely amused.

Giles reaches for a slice of giant clam and rolls it quickly in the soy sauce.

"Sushi is neither weird nor slimy," he says and pops it into his mouth. Brine, delicate flesh, the bite of wasabi. Swallowing, he looks directly at Oz. "Quite luscious, in fact."

Oz's eyebrow lifts and, ducking his head, he smiles. Xander, on the other hand, is outraged.

Flirting like this, softly lobbing remarks at each other, would be impossible without Xander's bluster. Both cover and obstacle, its constant, spluttering rhythm sets the counterpoint to Giles and Oz's smoother, slower exchanges. It also allows Giles to watch Oz; not quite covertly, and without the shame he always thought should attend such an activity, but casually. Affectionately.

On the floor, Oz reclines against the couch, a dish of soy sauce balanced on his belly. Furniture is like any other convention for Oz, shrugged off, unacknowledged.

Yet he is a master with chopsticks, which are more tradition-bound and convention-laden than just about anything Giles can think of. Oz wields them lightly, plucking individual roe eggs and shreds of pickled ginger as confidently as he hefts a thick slice of salmon. Oz is rather pleasantly Japanese in everything he does: Calm, attentive to detail, a careful sense of honor for the smallest things.

Warmth drifts through Giles whenever he has a chance to observe Oz. He is both connoisseur and ardent spectator, absorbed in the subtle shifts of expression, eager for the next comment.


You are just like the moon
on a rainy night;
it might be there
behind the clouds,
but how is anyone to know?

He'd like very much to kiss Oz again.

Attraction is supposed to be overwhelming. Giles remembers that craven, desperate hunger for attention that used to attend his attractions to people. He wonders if he ought to feel guilty, then, for the melismatic calm that descends when he thinks about Oz. Watches him, trades flirtatious comments, brushes his hand almost thoughtlessly over the delicate tendons of Oz's neck.

He doesn't feel at all guilty, nor regretful. Just peaceful, and that is, he's sure, Oz's own doing.

"Earth to Oz," Xander will say and Oz will blink, pull himself back into the conversation with a stretch and shake of the head. Thoughts of Oz, too, are separate from usual reality, messy and chaotic as it is, somehow above its squalor and pettiness. They flicker and linger uncertainly, amass in sudden mobs, then disperse, leaving in their wake only the faint scent of ozone and cut grass.

Clouds that drift and change but always appear. Giles is, however, discomfited by the idea that Oz is at all ethereal. Oz is solid, cool marble slowly warming under your hand, and earthy, fragrant beds of moss. He is of the world, yet he is different from the rest of them, independent of the usual squabbles and skirmishes. Oz manages to embody contradictions, hold them together, refrain from forcing any kind of resolution on them.

Giles admires Oz; he is grateful, in a wordless, formless way, for the peace that Oz brings with him as easily as air and light. He would like to appreciate contradiction, yet Giles needs to know just what to call this, this thing, he and Oz are conducting. There ought to be a word for this. Several synonyms, from both the French and German, that capture this feeling of time's eccentric motion and the heart's erratic attention.

Dance, perhaps, an intricate waltz to music played on hidden instruments. Or, better, courtship, in all its senses of ritualized behavior, kingly flattery, careful playing of roles and attention to honor, duty, and worship. Courtly love, with codes of behavior so complex and subtle that emotion's presence is always surprising to the modern observer. He likes "courtship"; it captures this ineffable interest, expressed in small gestures and quiet remarks, that he and Oz seem to share.

Courtship. Giles lingers on the word, savoring its transition from the actions of a courtier to the activity of potential lovers. It is both delicate and enduring, gossamer from moment to moment but persisting over time.

If this is a courtship, it is surely the most indirect and attenuated one since the debut of the steam locomotive. One kiss, several sessions of quiet flirtation, long moments of silent appreciation. It's also unbearably old-fashioned, he has to admit, yet something in him believes that Oz, with his fondness for words and care for shades of meaning, would like the term.

Everything settles into comfortable contradiction; he is hungry for peace, eager to relax, courtly toward a resolutely modern boy.


"A young man should test an older man for at least five years, and if he is assured of that person's intentions, then he too should request the relationship. If the younger man can devote himself and get into the situation for five or six years then it will not be unsuitable."

Over the phone, Oz sounds smaller. Wispier.

"Broward and Victoria."

Giles stares at his memo pad and switches the phone to his other ear. "In Sunnydale?"

"Nah, Santa Barbara."

When confused, Giles relies on the authority of texts. Even those he has just written. "Six o'clock, you say?"

"Yeah. Dress nice, okay?"

"Oz, what — that is, why — . What's going on?"

There is a long silence and Giles begins to fret. Perhaps he violated their unspoken terms, trampled crassly through the delicate fretwork they've been building so carefully.

"Didn't I say?"

"No." Giles' head feels inflated, empty, both anxious and confused. He checks his notes. "You asked if I'm around tomorrow night. Then you gave me an address in Santa Barbara."

"Shit. Okay, sorry. Nervous here — "

Oz doesn't sound nervous; he sounds just as he always does. Hoarse and slightly distracted, but not nervous. Before Giles can say anything, however, Oz takes a breath that rattles through the receiver. "I'm asking you out."

"You're — " Giles can't continue. His skull is suddenly heavy, overbrimming with lead. He has to close his eyes.

"Asking you out," Oz says again. "On a date."

Thus, Giles finds himself navigating the unfamiliar streets of Santa Barbara.

Oz waits for him on the corner. He's dressed almost absurdly neatly, even traditionally, in a white dress shirt that snugly fits his small frame and seersucker trousers. He's still Oz, though, Giles realizes in a warm rush, noticing first the chopped-off cuffs trailing short threads over Oz's scuffed boots, then the puckers from a wire hanger in his shirt's shoulders.

"Hello." Giles feels terribly foolish. Does anyone actually go on dates any more? He takes a breath and adds, "You look very smart."

Oz smiles and, for once, Giles reads his expression immediately. Oz is relieved, and shy, and happy; the warmth drifting through Giles sharpens and speeds up. "You, too."

The restaurant is small and close, the tulip-yellow walls crowded with black and white posters of Louise Brooks and Mary Pickford as well as woodblock prints of rural Japanese fishing and marketplace scenes. Bebop jazz plays low on the sound system; nearly every table is occupied.

"Could sit at the bar," Oz says, "But then we'd be side by side and — "

Giles' hands feel quite heavy and thick, more blocks of wood than anything. He touches Oz's back. "I'd prefer a table."


As they consult the menu, Oz repeatedly looks down into his lap, his lips moving silently. This could be the form Oz's nervousness takes, or he might be regretting the date, but whenever Oz looks up, he smiles and seems at ease. The conversation drifts from casual topic to topic; Oz betrays no sense of discomfort.

After Giles orders a sashimi sampler and carafe of sake, Oz takes a deep breath, checks his lap, and orders haltingly in both Japanese and English.

"Oz?" Giles asks when the waiter departs.

Oz sips his tea, squinting against the steam. "Hmm?"

"What's in your lap?"

Oz shrugs, his eyes closing momentarily. His face is blank, nearly hieratic, until he opens his eyes, glancing away. "Nothing."

"Are you sure?" Giles feels like an intrusive schoolteacher, but he's genuinely curious.

Sighing, Oz sits forward, elbows on the table's edge, and shows Giles his palms.

Black glyphs there, and tiny lines of English as well. The glyphs are quite large; the ink reaches from the base of his fingers to the insides of his wrists. Black on Oz's cherryblossom skin; the effect is stark, unsettling, but arresting and beautiful all the same.

Giles squints, but he cannot read any of it.

"Cheat sheet." Oz folds his fingers down and drops his hands. "Wanted — "

Giles captures Oz's wrists and turns his palms up, Oz's fingers opening like petals. Closer now, Giles identifies a series of kanji and their English translations. Names of fish and other sushi ingredients, all inked onto Oz's soft skin.

"You wanted to get it right."

"Yeah." Oz interlaces his fingers with Giles' own. "Impress you. Or something."

Such strong hands, square and pale, gnawed-down fingernails lacquered in indigo, warm skin against Giles'.

Giles looks up and finds Oz looking back at him.


A certain man well acquainted with the ways of love once said, "In general, courtesans are a pleasure once in bed; with boys, the pleasure begins on the way there."

In the parking lot, Oz pulls him up against the rusty van. "Stupid idea, separate cars."

"Yes," Giles says lightly and smiles. "I don't know what you were thinking."

"Wasn't." Oz moves forward.

Giles leans in. "Ahh."

Their second kiss tastes like green tea and shreds of ginger. Oz holds Giles' shoulder tightly, as if he's afraid Giles will break away again, and pushes his other hand through Giles' hair until it curves around the bottom of his skull. Giles worries at Oz's lower lip with his tongue, the flavors of their dinner evaporating until all he tastes is Oz, nectars and dew and moonlight. Thrum of blood under the slick skin as he sucks Oz's lip between his teeth and it fattens against his tongue.

Breathing heavily, Oz breaks the kiss, rubbing his forehead against Giles' cheek. Giles touches the crown of Oz's head, hot scalp and stiff hair, and presses his mouth there.

"So. Can I drive you home?" Oz's shoulders shake as he laughs.

"I'd like that," Giles says against Oz's neck. He cannot stop kissing, doesn't want to let Oz move an inch away, can't imagine not talking. He wants everything, trusts, somehow, that he can have it. Oz seems to agree; he drives with his right hand wrapped in Giles', sighing every time he needs to shift or hit the blinker. Giles folds himself in the passenger seat, twisting so he can see Oz, watch the lights play over his profile, smile at him when Oz glances over, admire the long dip of his nose and quiet incandescence of his skin. And talk to him, always talk; words flow easily around Oz, echo and come back transformed.

"Courtship?" Oz repeats when Giles works up the courage to share his reflections. His mouth curves and his chin lifts fractionally as he considers it. "I like it."

"As do I."

"Didn't think you noticed, actually. What I was — "

"I noticed," Giles says. He lifts Oz's hand and kisses the palm; warmth, sweat, and a visit to the washroom, have faded and smeared the ink, but he traces the ghosts of the characters with his tongue, watching Oz bite his lip, feeling him shiver.

"Guess so, yeah."

Oz speeds time and stokes the drifting, massing warmth inside Giles' chest. He gets them back to Giles' flat in half the time it took Giles to make the opposite journey, and then they are rising toward the sleeping loft, entwined around each other, mouths sliding from kiss to conversation and back again.

In the dim light, Oz's skin glimmers and Giles' hands skate over narrow shoulders and lightly-muscled arms. He's as pale as rice, but as they kiss, his lips redden like flesh, go hot and sliding over Giles' own skin, and when he clutches at Giles neck and wraps one leg around his waist, his eyes flash dark as kelp.

Stroking Oz's ribs, feeling them heave with breath, admiring the thin, fluted strength of bone beneath silk, Giles whispers, "And this? Always wanted to do this?"

Laughing, Oz grinds against him, flies undone, hair askew, and attempts a scowl. "Teasing me."

"I am," Giles admits and kisses him again. Oz wraps around him, tugs Giles down and in, welcoming him until warm light spreads like honey behind Giles' lids and he forgets to breathe. "Should I apologize?"

"Make it up to me instead — " Oz walks his fingers down Giles' spine, sending shocks skittering and popping across the expanse of Giles' skin, then pushes them under Giles' belt. "Call it even?"

He's smiling, flirting, beautiful in the dark. Giles takes a halting breath and buries his head in the curve of Oz's shoulder. So much warmth and kindness there, desire sliding and enfolding Giles. What Oz is offering him, building with him with each kiss and touch and sweet tease is, he understands suddenly as dawn comes, very real. This is no sojourn, no temporary respite; he could dwell here.

There ought to be questions — Why? Why me? What could you possibly see in me? — but Giles knows them only by their shadows, by their absence.

This is home. Tethered and floating, transient and enduring. Love.