The Garage Sound
by Glossolalia

From the stage, Oz can see Giles. He can see everything, actually, every nook and smoky cranny of the Bronze, every face lifted up hoping for Dev's gaze to meet theirs, every lonely face counting bubbles in their drink, every sputtering light hanging from the grid above.

He strums into the downbeat; from the corner of his eye, he can see Devon raising his hand over his head. He knows from experience, from countless practices, that his hand is open, fingers spread wide, counting the beats down to the end of the song. It's a nice visual, good corollary to the shift into minor, dwindling chords. It's also a trick, because when they get to the last two fingers — right...here — Eric slams down on the drums, Devon pumps his fist, and the song careens back full-force.

Oz watches Giles. He's toward the back, tucked under the stairs. Oz allows himself a smile at the sight. Wearing a short-sleeve button-down shirt, marginally more casual than his usual gear. The librarian looks — not out of place, not really, not even like he's slumming. Just separate from the rest, a little squiggly glowing line around him. It's a good separate. He grips a pint of something dark — Guinness? It's the darkest beer Oz knows of — and sips every so often. He looks relaxed, and this makes Oz smile again.

Devon dances over, jostles him with a quick slam of the hip. He grabs Oz around the neck, whirls him into a rough noogie, scrubbing at his hair. Oz concentrates on playing, and when he's released, he looks back over to the stairs.

Giles isn't alone any more. He's turned in profile, backed up against the stairs, and appears deep in conversation with — Jesus.

"The fuck's that?" Devon asks, sweeping his fingers wide, but Oz knows he's pointing exactly where he's been looking. "Holy hottie, Batman."

Oz can't answer, just looks: Tall guy, beautiful sad face, carefully rakish hair. Damn.


Giles has steeled himself to run into Xander or Cordelia, to wince his way politely through some jangling discordant noise, to meet curious stares from students who half-recognize him, but he didn't expect, first, to enjoy the music, nor, second, to meet up with Angel of all people. In his inimitable way, he simply appears next to Giles, a little too close for comfort. Giles turns against the columns of the stairs to make some space.

"Evening," Angel says.

"How are you?"

Angel shrugs. "You? Your summer?"

"Markedly improving." Giles raises his glass slightly. Angel nods, not smiling exactly but his expression does relax a fraction.

They stand together for a long while, and Giles knows there must be a reason Angel is here. The man doesn't seem to enjoy the nightlife for its own charms, to put it mildly. But some stubborn bit of him doesn't feel like making it any easier for Angel by asking him.

"What brings you out?" Angel finally asks.

"A friend." Giles likes the sound of that, likes even more the faint surprise it brings to Angel's face.

Angel takes his elbow. "Can we go somewhere quieter?"

And while the grip on his bare skin and the closeness of the vampire thrill Giles in a way he would prefer not to explore, he finds himself shaking his head. "I'm afraid not. I'd like to stay and hear the rest of the set."

Angel releases his arm. "Right. Look, I'm sorry. I was just wondering — "

"If I'd heard from her?" Giles sips his beer while Angel nods. "No. I take it you haven't, then?"

"She just left so quickly."

"Yes. But she will come back." At Angel's blank, rather desperate expression, Giles feels himself soften. "Of course she'll come back, Angel. You don't really think — ?"

Angel shrugs again and squints at the stage. Daniel bounces there, slowly, looking down at his guitar with something like concern. Giles would like to contemplate the odd position he finds himself in, a Watcher attempting to comfort and reassure a rather stricken, lovelorn vampire, but he is struck instead by the firmness in his own tone, the sense that he actually believes what he is saying. "She's an unusual girl, admittedly. But she will come back."

He believes it now, and realizes he had not, not fully, not until now.

When he looks back over at Angel, the vampire has disappeared.

Daniel, however, still bobs up there. His face is shadowed, but some trick of the light makes it seem that he is peering directly at Giles.


Afterwards, Oz finds Giles at the bar, patting a small napkin across his forehead. At least the big hot guy's nowhere in sight.

"Warm in here." He climbs onto a rickety stool beside Giles

Giles balls the napkin up. "To be expected."

"Glad you guys came," Oz says and leans over the bar to get Marly the bartender's attention. "Can I get a drink?"

"Right," Marly snorts. "Nice try."

"A water, then? Ice?"

He's not usually very thirsty after playing; hungry, sure, but tonight his lips feel crackly dry. That should be a sign to keep his mouth closed, but he's not so good with omens and hints.

"Interesting music," Giles tells him as Oz crunches ice cubes. "But — Who guys? What you guys?" Aware he's making no sense, and still pushing on; Oz can admire that.

Nice icecube. Good icecube melting its super-chilliness down the back of Oz's throat. When it's a little sliver on the tip of his tongue, Oz fakes a cough and swallows. "He your boyfriend?"

Giles blinks, and blinks some more. Oz realizes he must have turned his head to look at him, and that Giles has too, because a second ago they were next to each other, facing forward. But now he's looking at Giles blink. Ergo, something.

"Tall, dark — ?" Oz supplies.

The blinking is getting out of control, until something breaks on Giles's face and he's laughing: a good deep belly laugh, something not to be expected from his previous tight-lipped chuckles.

"Good lord," Giles finally manages to say, and wipes his eyes with another napkin. "Dear, dear lord, no."

Oz smiles and slumps a bit. "Good."

Giles's upper lip twitches at that, but before he can say anything more, Oz feels strong arms wrap around his chest, hauling him back.

"Baby boy!" Devon shouts and presses a kiss on the top of Oz's skull. "I think I'm gonna fly — "

"Dev, this is Giles," Oz says. "Giles, meet Devon."

Giles straightens up and offers his hand. It hovers there, level with Oz's eyes, and finally, Devon slaps it, hard. "Dude," Devon says. "The book guy?"

Giles nods, lips tightening, that awesome laugh long gone, and looks away. "I-it's been interesting, Daniel," he says. He stands up and swipes a napkin across the counter, erasing any trace of his presence. "Thank you."

Oz winces and feels the ache all over his face. He struggles out of Devon's arms, reaching for Giles. Manages to brush his shoulder, imagining himself holding on to some piece of flotsam or something. "Wait a minute, okay?"

Devon grabs Oz by the bicep; his hand hot and damp. "Gotta clear the stage, man."

Giles nods. Oz nods back, and gets dragged away.


And what, precisely, is he doing here in the parking lot? The most accurate term is loitering. But Daniel asked him to wait, and Giles would like to think he's merely being polite. He leans against the wall of the Bronze, head tipped back, listening to tinny music leaking out the door, mixed in with the whispers and shouts of young people. He is occasionally jostled but maintains his balance.

"Hey," Daniel says. He slips in beside Giles; from the corner of his eye, Giles sees him lean against the wall, perfectly mimic his posture. "What're we looking at?"

The sky is dirty-dark, clouded and faintly shimmery with lights. "Not much."

"Got it."

Giles wonders briefly whether he ought to feel unnerved by the silence that always seems to settle between them. He should not feel this unnerved by the quiet. Hadn't he longed for it all term? He is uncertain (as if uncertainty is new to him) whether it is the silence that unnerves him, or the expectation that it will be broken.

He likes to think that American teenagers belong to a different species from other people, possibly even a different genus. Keeping them safely alien and untouchable. They are excitable and wriggly as puppies, with none of a puppy's instinct for training and obedience. Instincts you had in spades, Ripper — at the very least, a distinct taste for the leash: A sneering Ethan in his mind, taking any opportunity to comment.

He is wrong, of course, he knows that, wrong about this particular teenager. This grave child. Who happens tonight to be wearing a leather collar, but that's —

A coincidence.

"Where you headed?" Daniel nudges Giles's hip with his own and Giles considers nudging back, then thinks better of it. "After this?"

There aren't any options, but Giles sifts through them anyway. "Home, I expect."

"Can I get a ride with you? I wasn't thinking. Gave the van keys to Dev. I don't like walking home this late. It's — "

Daniel breaks off and looks up, biting that full lower lip, so utterly guileless that Giles feels something crumple inside of him.

"Of course," he says softly.

He stands there a bit too long, hearing the moments pass with his heartbeat, looking back into those wide eyes, nearly certain that some unspoken agreement is forming between them, until a small, dark shape disengages from the shadows and moves toward them. Giles straightens, his hand moving to the stake in his waistband, as the figure — moon-pale face and planed shadows — comes up behind Daniel, reaching out.

"Hi," the figure says. Fear drops through Giles's feet and vanishes as Daniel turns and bobs his head in greeting.

She is a slight girl, eyelids heavy with red glitter. Giles wonders how she can keep them open. "I liked your show?"

"Yeah," Daniel says. "We pretty much kept in tune tonight."

Smiling, she looks downward.

"You work at the drugstore, right?" Daniel asks.

"Margaret," she whispers. "I met you at Tanya's?" The breeze whips open her short trench-coat and before she tugs it back closed, Giles sees her spindly legs, wrapped in fishnet tights. She is as small as a prepubescent, dressed up like a Halloween whore.

"Giles?" Daniel asks. "Can we give Margaret a ride home?"

The girl steals a look at him from below her lids, and it is clear that this is the first time she noticed anyone else is there. So this is what it's like to be a parent: an unseen, unheard chauffeur. "Of course," Giles says.

At the car, Giles unlocks his door first. Judging from the grip Margaret has on Daniel's arm and slow flash of glitter when she looks up at him, he knows they will take the back. He pushes the driver's seat forward and steps aside.

"Margaret?" he asks, checking the mirror as he backs out. She has one leg over Daniel's and his hand rests on her exposed thigh, fingers drumming slowly. "Margaret? Where do you live?"

The girl frowns and exhales through short lips. He has been around teenagers enough to know she is communicating that unique combination of exasperation and boredom.

"What's your address?" Daniel asks. "Man needs to know."

His eyes meet Giles's in the mirror. Giles would like to think he sees amusement in the boy's gaze. Or at least some variety of consolation. Sympathy. But it is dark, and he is growing more tired by the second, so he concentrates on driving, following the directions mumbled half-coherently behind him.

Giles stops in front of the girl's large house, pushes up the passenger seat, and resists the urge to give them a fare. He fiddles with the radio, searching through stations, so as not to seem to hear the whispered conversation and soft sound of kisses goodbye. He does, however, and catches a glimpse of Daniel kissing her forehead. They are nearly the same size, Daniel in his too-large pants, Margaret bound in corset and skirt: Children playing dress-up. Playing grown-ups.

He is staring out at the street ahead when he hears the knock on the passenger-side window. Daniel waves at him and Giles unlocks the door and shoves the seat back.

"Where to, kemosabe?" Daniel asks, sliding into the seat.

"Where do you live?" Giles keeps his tone low and measured, ignoring the rush of warmth through his chest set off as soon as they were alone.

He expects another drive silent save for murmured directions and the odd radio tuning, yet feels disappointed when this is precisely what happens. Daniel settles on staticky public radio. A choice thrown like a bone to the stuffy old man.

Daniel's house is lit up, the only one on the block that gave any sense of human occupancy. Giles shifts into neutral. Daniel remains in his seat. He is just — looking at him, with such studied nonchalance that Giles's brain freezes. He cannot quite remember how to say goodnight.

"Driveway's around back," Daniel says.

"Eh?" is all Giles can manage.

"Tree's blocking it, but just pull in behind the van." Daniel's eyebrows raise, and Giles thinks it is not nonchalance the boy is studying, since he seems to have that down pat, so much as it is Giles himself. "You are coming in, right?"

Giles swallows dryly. "If you'd like — "

"Around the tree."

"All right."


Having Giles in his house? Bizarre. In a good way. Oz doesn't much like being surprised, himself, since it tends to lead to the panic and the confusion. Sweaty palms, dry mouth: uncomfortable. But surprising other people is amusing, and the guys are surprised.

Even if only Devon shows signs of it, gulping, scraping, backing up in mock-fear, Oz can still tell. Eric fixes his posture and tries to hide the spliff under the table. Lissa ducks into the pantry with half a six-pack hanging off her fingers, and emerges empty-handed, shirt tugged down. He could swear she's reapplied her lipstick, too.

Devon hoists himself up onto the edge of the sink. "Hey, book guy! Welcome. Didn't know you were coming."

Giles gives Devon a tight smile. From where Oz is standing, it looks, in profile, more like a grimace than anything else. Then Giles nods. Oz isn't sure, but "curt" comes to mind. Giles nods curtly. "Hello, Devon."

"Want a drink?"


Devon tosses him a glass, and Giles catches it easily, holding it in one hand and looking back at Dev. Calmly befuddled again, but starting to verge on irritation.

"Fresh from the tap," Devon says. "Come and get it."

Oz watches as Giles edges around the table, between Eric and Lissa, making his careful way to the sink. Devon doesn't move, just swings his feet, banging them against the cabinets, so poor Giles has to reach past him, brushing his arm, to flip up the tap and fill his glass. Devon grins across the room at Oz, looking about as innocent as a tomcat. "So, book guy — "

"He's got a name, Dev."

"Sorry. What's your name again, book guy?"

Giles sips his water slowly, glancing at Oz over the rim of the glass. His eyes are dark and narrowed, and Oz is suddenly glad he's never pissed Giles off this much; he couldn't stand that look for very long at all. "Rupert Giles."

"Not here to bust us, are you, Rupert Giles?" Devon asks, and Eric chokes back a laugh. Lissa smacks him on the shoulder for that.

"Certainly not." Glass empty, Giles sets in back in the sink and wipes his hand on his thigh. His voice is about as tight and strained as the muscles in his face, and Oz wants to look away, he really does. But he can't.

Giles starts to move back towards Oz, but then pauses in front of Lissa. "Hello. I'm Giles."

She smiles, the metal of her retainer flashing. "Hey. Lissa." She points at Eric. "That's Eric." Eric twists in his seat, and Giles shakes his hand. At least some of his friends know their manners.

"You were at the show, right?" Lissa asks.

"You're quite the dervish on that tambourine."

Lissa ducks her head. "Lame, I know. Can't get much girlier than tambourine, huh?"

Maybe because he likes to pretend to be nice around Lissa, or just because he's lost interest in annoying Giles, but Devon jumps off the counter, tackling Eric, wrestling him for the spliff. Giles takes Lissa's elbow and maneuvers them gently out of the way. Oz can't make out their conversation any more, so he just leans in the doorway and takes it all in: Eric getting Devon in a headlock; Lissa miming the chord changes Oz is trying to teach her while Giles tilts his head, watching; Devon thumping Eric's chest weakly, refusing to cry uncle; Giles adjusting Lissa's fingers.

Oz is liking this, the loud chaos and quiet tutorial, everyone absorbed in their own thing.

He skirts around Devon, ducking flailing arms and Eric's kicks, and digs into Eric's shirt pocket, liberating the dime bag. The boys are going to be wrestling for a while. They're always hyped up after playing. And it looks like Lissa's not letting Giles go any time soon; she'd never say so, but anyone could teach her better than Oz can. He elbows chips bags and magazines off the counter, clearing a good space, and starts rolling a joint. It gives him something to focus on, something for his hands to do, because he's scared of that whole idle hands curse. Without something to do, he might just start ogling Giles again, and he's not up to handling Devon's comments about that just yet. Or ever.

He taps the roach three times against his palm and twists off the top as he looks back up. Lissa's gone, probably to pee, because the girl's got a bladder the size of a chestnut, and Eric and Dev are arguing over the countdown to their imminent thumb war. Giles leans against the pantry door, arms crossed loosely, looking at Oz, and Oz can tell somehow that he's been standing there like that for a while now. Looking at him.

He gives Giles a smile, feeling suddenly really overwhelmingly shy, and shows him the joint. Look what I made, Mom! He asks Giles something; he hopes it's clear from his eyes, because his voice isn't working just now. He thinks Giles nods, getting it. Maybe not, but he chooses to believe he did, and pushes off toward the back door, hoping Giles follows him into the garage.


Daniel sits on the edge of the work bench in the glare of a bare bulb when Giles finds him, his nose wrinkling at the dampness of the garage. Motor oil, and wood shavings, and something else, light and spicy. Daniel. The boy is looking down at his lap, flicking a disposable lighter on and off. As Giles threads his way toward him, stepping around amps and instrument cases and a large hulking machine that might be a miter saw, Daniel looks up. "Hey."

"Evening," Giles says, like a fool. He stops at the arm of a threadbare couch, squeezed in between a tower of packing boxes and the workbench and strokes the upholstery, looking for something to steady him. He wishes he were intelligent enough to work out how he made his way here, to this garage, beside this boy, but the riddle has no solution. Daniel's face is stark under the light, half-glowing, half-shadowed. Untouchable. "Your friends — "

"Devon's an asshole. I'm sorry." Daniel flicks the lighter again, holding his palm over the flame.

"Lissa seems like a sweet girl."

"Yeah. She's great." He purses his lips and looks away, and Giles wants very much to take his hand, or stroke his hair. Some innocent gesture to soothe him, ease away the tension tightening his face into a cheap mask and drawing his shoulders in towards his neck. "You know, I'm not — "

Giles steps forward as Daniel pauses, watches his hand reach out tentatively for the boy's leg, then drop back, empty and ridiculous. "What?"

"I don't know," Daniel says. "Forget it. I'm going to smoke this." He leans over, cupping one hand around the joint, protecting it from a phantom breeze, and inhales slowly. The paper crackles, then goes silent as he removes it from his lips, holding it between two fingers. He tips his head back, his eyes closing, and stretches out both hands to grasp his knees. The entire sequence looks less pleasurable than almost medicinal. Necessary, but not quite enjoyable.

As Daniel exhales, the sweet, heavy smoke swirls briefly between them, and Giles has to look away from the boy's lips, gleaming moistly in the light. He considers Daniel's arm, the depths at which the freckles float, some faded, deeper, obscured by the darker ones closer to the surface. Leather cords and woven wool and small glinting beads wrapped around the wrists: oddments of decoration, their original purpose probably forgotten. They persevere, though, preserved for the constant soft rub on the skin.

And the collar, snug around his pale, thin neck, its metal spikes shining under the light.


It's nice and quiet in the garage, just him and Giles, and Oz is starting to feel better. He offers the joint to Giles, and watches as Giles pinches it between thumb and forefinger, inhaling gingerly. He turns his head to exhale, passing it back.

"Why do they call you Oz?"

"Nickname. Why?" He accepts the joint back and sucks in again. "It has nothing to do with the Emerald City. Present circumstances notwithstanding."

Giles shakes his head, and that was supposed to make him smile, but he's not playing along. "I never really thought of you having a nickname, I suppose."

"People can be surprising."

"Yes." Giles sounds very tired, and Oz needs to distract him. He balances the joint on the edge of the bench and slides off the workbench. Flopping onto the couch, Oz steeples his fingers, trying to decide what to do, peering at Giles like pictures he's seen of Freud. Tell me all your dreams, Mr. Giles.

"It's all right," Giles continues, fingering the pegboard over the workbench. "My calling you Daniel?"

"Huh? Yeah, course it is." Oz shifts over and pats the cushion next to him. Giles sits with a sigh and reaches to retrieve the joint. He inhales much deeper this time, and holds it in his lungs for an ungodly long time. Oz hasn't seen him this tense since the first day in the library. He twists around so he's lying down, head resting against Giles's leg. "Why would I mind?"

"It's not — " Giles stops and looks down at him. Yeah, Oz thinks, I'm lying in your lap, big guy. "Your friends call you Oz."

"And you call me Daniel." Oz honestly doesn't get what the problem is here. He can feel the warm skin under Giles's trousers, radiant against his cheek. If he wasn't stoned, he'd probably be able to resist the urge to rub his head against it like a kitten. But he is, so he can't. "What do your friends call you?"

Giles swallows and shifts so he's sitting up straighter, dislodging Oz.

Oz tries again, because something important's going on, even if he's too dense to get it. Twisting his neck, he squints upward. "It's okay if I call you Giles?"

"Most people do."

So that's not it. Oz tucks his elbow under his side and sits up, leaning against Giles. "What's wrong?"

Giles squeezes his hand into a fist. His knuckles redden, then pale. "I'm embarrassed."

"Oh, okay." Oz rests his cheek against Giles's chest. He waits for a couple seconds, sure that Giles is going to stand up and let him fall, but they both remain still, and the warmth of Giles's skin is even stronger up here. He smells like limes. Not lime flavor, but real limes, freshly sliced. "I thought it was something important."

Giles laughs. Oz can hear it, kind of gurgly, from inside.

"Embarrassment's not important," Oz says. "I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it's not even going to be an extra in the crowd scene."


Much later, well past the arrival of his second wind, as well as its eventual departure, they are back in the kitchen. Giles reaches across the table for the last bottle of beer, realizing too late, just as Daniel takes hold of his bicep, that the tattoo is showing.

His friend traces the mark of Eyghon with one finger and looks up, eyes narrowed. "You've seen a lot of shit." It's not a question, but Giles says yes anyway. Or mouths it; he cannot hear himself just now. Whether supernatural or natural, Daniel's touch drew sparks in its wake, reforming the mark.

"Whoa!" Devon leans over the table, grabbing Giles's wrist. "Awesome tat — wow."

"Leave him alone, Dev."

"Just looking. Jesus."

Giles frees his wrist from Devon's grip and tugs the sleeve down. "I have some books," he says. "At home. There are some rather nice d-designs in them, if you'd like to take a look." He glances at Daniel, who smiles. "Much nicer than this."

Devon nods eagerly, slumped back in his chair, hands wrapped around his beer like a microphone. Daniel looks back and forth between him and Devon, that small half-smile on his lips, though his eyes remain serious. The gaze settles on Giles, and somehow it is nearly as warm and substantial as the feeling of Daniel leaning against him earlier.