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Sun, Nov. 14th, 2004, 08:03 pm
glossing: Sunnydale, 11/01: Tabula Rasa

There are books over him. Towering over him when he opens his eyes, so many books, and he turns on his side, a rug wrinkling underneath him, and sees the legs of a table and the edge of table cloth dangling over him.

It's dark, the floor's hard, and he's very sleepy, so he turns again onto his back, folds an arm under his head, and goes back to sleep. He's having a great dream, full of snow and a spiralled temple and happy monks in orange robes and rope sandals. One of them's Caucasian, and taller than the rest, and he smiles.

Then something crashes and the light brightens and he wakes up again. Voices are yelling, a guy and a girl, and he sits up, folding his legs.

"-- am a girl!" the girl says, which seems kind of obvious. Not that he can see her, the table's in the way.

More yelling and debate, but the books are more interesting -- Hakluyk's Concordance to Demon Dimensions cheek by jowl with Practical Wicca for the Modern Gal, and he reaches up to take one down when a new voice joins the rest. English, masculine, pissed-off.

He slides up onto his knees and peeks over the table. A lot of people here, looking really confused.

This should be interesting.

Mon, Nov. 15th, 2004 01:37 am (UTC)

He knows he's English. And a man. The sort of man who wears a suit. None of the others wears a suit. No, wait, the blond, good-looking, surly one does, and when he speaks, it's clear that he's English as well. Cockney. Very cockney. Too cockney--something sounds wrong about those strangled vowels.

He wants to say something about the accent when the blond one claims to be his son--his own accent, he's sure, is nothing like that--but everyone's talking at once, and before he knows it he's got a fiancee as well, a slim blond girl with an assertive manner. She's lovely, but somehow he thinks she's not his type, and surely the trivial facts of a diamond on her finger and him waking with his head on her shoulder don't necessarily add up to impending marriage?

"IDs!" the red-haired girl exclaims, and there's a flurry of checking and relieved pronouncements of names. Alexander, Willow, Tara. "I'm Rupert Giles," he says, looking at the oxblood-red passport he found in his jacket pocket, ignoring the giggles the name inspires. A London address, an American entry stamp on the last marked page, several American and British stamps before that. If he were marrying this girl (Anya, and it turns out they own the shop together) wouldn't he be a bit more settled?

More confusion, Randy trying to blame him for that awful moniker, yet another blond girl who announces she'll call herself Joan, and the only quiet person in the room is a small, thin boy with spiky ginger hair who's sorting methodically through a wallet. "What's your name?" Rupert isn't sure why he asks, except that it's a relief to talk to someone who's not already talking. The boy looks up, and he's not as young as Rupert thought. Dark beard-shadow on his cheeks, and over that the yellow remnants of a bad bruise. Startling, especially on that calm face. Rupert wonders who hit him, and why.

Mon, Nov. 15th, 2004 01:55 am (UTC)

He grins up at Rupert, who's dressed at least fifteen years older than he seems to be -- his face is handsome, and there are wrinkles around his eyes, but he *seems* younger than his suit -- and pulls out a very worn California driver's license that's a month away from expiring.

"Daniel," he says, handing Rupert the license. "See? Apparently I live in Sunnydale. Says so there. But --" Daniel (he doesn't think he likes "Danny" or "Dan", which make him think of Math Club for some reason) empties his pants pockets on the surface of the table. "I've got a motel room key, key to a rental car, and --"

As he digs in his jacket pocket, the room fills with more chatter, Randy and Willow and Alex and Tara. Anya and Joan are arguing and Umad's standing off to the side, rolling her eyes dramatically. They're all upset, and Daniel's not sure why. This is weird, definitely, but it's kind of cool.

"Someone's got plans tonight," Randy says, swooping in and taking up the bottle of Astroglide personal lubricant Daniel just set on the table. "Economy size, no less!"

Through it all, Rupert's just looking at him, wearing a faint smile as his hands move in his pockets. He looks relaxed, almost happy, and Daniel smiles back.

"Think I'm on the lam," he tells Rupert. His throat hurts a bit and he ducks his head, coughing, as he adds with a grin, "Congrats on the marriage, by the way."

Daniel thinks this is what's called flirting. He likes it.

Mon, Nov. 15th, 2004 02:42 am (UTC)

When Daniel smiles, it's suddenly clear what a handsome boy—young man—he is. Subtle good looks, not like Randy's flash dye job and swooping cheekbones, and more interesting for that subtlety. "Er, thanks," Rupert says, smiling back at him. Green eyes, or possibly blue; it's hard to tell in this light. He could tell if he were closer. "But I think that may all be a misunderstanding." Looking at Daniel, at his square shoulders under jacket and ugly green cardigan and uglier pink t-shirt, at his narrow hips and strong, agile fingers tipped with purple nail varnish, Rupert is increasingly sure that Anya's the wrong type entirely.

"Rupert!" she says loudly, unexpectedly, and her fingers wrap possessively around his arm. "Come and tell Joan that she doesn't get to be the boss."

Joan, standing by the counter with the young girl—Dawn, Rupert thinks she's called—puts her hands on her hips. Small as she is, she looks formidable. "All I said was that we should go to a hospital!"

"But here we are in a magic shop, and I just know that I have a lot of valuable knowledge. Looks at all these potions and things!" Letting Rupert go, Anya starts to scan the shelves. "Dried coelacanth brains, essence of wolfsbane, powdered pyromorphite, 10% solution of bat's blood . . . what doctor could provide all this?"

Although he hates to think he's the kind of person who'd take mercantile advantage of the ignorant, Rupert finds he can't quite believe in magic. "Anya, perhaps Joan has a point. At least, let's rule out medical problems first."

With evident reluctance, Anya puts a jar of something unpleasant-looking back on the shelf. "Fine. But you're still not the boss, Joan."

Everyone but Anya seems to agree that a doctor is a good idea, so soon and with a minimum of wrangling they're headed towards the door. "-red and shaped like a penis," Randy starts speculating, quite unjustifiably, about Rupert's car, to Anya's apparent amusement. Rupert's just about to tell him to button it when someone opens the door and there are monsters outside, and then everyone's screaming and cowering and shoving heavy furniture to try and block the entrance.

Perhaps he was wrong about the magic.

Mon, Nov. 15th, 2004 03:13 am (UTC)

Keeping his eye on Rupert -- whose suit, he's realizing, is nicely-fitted and really pretty handsome -- Daniel crouches behind the redheaded girl with nice breasts and Alexander, the big jock big-brother guy, across from Joan and Dawn and the blonde woman with even nicer breasts, and they're all whispering urgently.

"Monsters are real!" Joan says, clutching at Dawn. "Did we know this?"

"Sure," Daniel says. Next to the bottle of Astroglide in his pocket is another, smaller bottle of holy water. And he doesn't *feel* Catholic, either. There was the dream, and the Buddha sitting serenely next to the cash register makes him feel...good. Warm, wrapped in a big sweater. "Why wouldn't they be?"

Joan just looks at him, then the rest of them, and Daniel shrugs. Sure, it's scary, but panicking doesn't seem to be the way to deal. It's only weird when Alexander and the redhead leave -- that makes him nervous, makes his nose twitch -- and when Rupert scoffs at the monsters and magic again.

Daniel figures it's no skin off his nose whether he's right or not, so he keeps mum. Willow and Alex come back, and then it all gets crazy again, breaking glass and monsters inside. One grabs for Joan and gets Dawn by the hair. Daniel's fists unclench, his fingernails prickling sharply, and he feels a *growl*, sour and gravelly, spill out his mouth. The vampire sneers and shoves her back at him.

Joan shoves the stake through the vampire she just kicked and it explodes into dust.

"Rad," Daniel says, and Rupert smiles tightly at him over Anya's head. Daniel scratches his bruised cheek and shrugs again.

"Hell are you talking --" Alex starts to say, then faints.

When he comes to, everyone's splitting up, Joan and Randy heading outside, the rest to the sewers, Rupert and Anya staying in the shop.

"Aren't you coming?" the pretty woman, Tara, asks and touches his hand.

"Think I'll stick around here," Daniel says. "You guys get help. Maybe, like, I know ancient languages." He glances at the Buddha and somehow -- knowledge and forgetting are weird, he feels like an anthropologist in his own mind -- he knows that that's Sanskrit engraving underneath. "Sanskrit."

Anya sorts through the bookshelves and Rupert leans heavily on the counter.

"Anything I can do?" Daniel asks him. Rupert's tie is askew and Daniel's hand wants to straighten it out.

Mon, Nov. 15th, 2004 03:42 am (UTC)

It seems impossible that this boy could be an expert in ancient languages, but then everything for the last half hour has been impossible. "Well, there are a lot of books. Look for anything about memory spells. And-" Looking around, Rupert notices that the books towards the front of the shop have bright bindings and titles like "Five-Minute Spells," while those on the back shelves, the ones marked Not For Sale. Please Do Not Touch, are bigger, dustier, with names stamped in faded gold lettering on their leather spines. They look serious. They look, somehow, like Joan when she pushed a stake into a vampire's heart and made the creature explode. "Perhaps we ought to start back here." Daniel looks puzzled for a second, then imitates his sweep of the room, gets it, and smiles. "Thanks," Rupert says, reaching for a couple of big folio (folio? how does he know that word?) volumes on a high shelf. He's glad Daniel stayed, ancient languages or not.

Behind him there's the thud of a book being dropped on the table, and Anya says, "I've got it!"

"Wonderful. Good work, Anya." Looking at the book, though, Rupert isn't so sure. Habka yqing btollo, the title reads. Animal spells, in the Davniq demon language.

Demon language?

"Anya, are you quite sure?" he tries to ask as she lets the book open at random. Daniel, looking through the first of a large stack of books, glances up at him for a second.

"I'm using my intuition. I am a magic shop owner, after all." She closes her eyes, stabs a page with her finger, and intones something. Not in Davniq, apparently, as Rupert doesn't understand it. For a second the room's air seems to condense into a heavy syrup, then there's a pop and a rabbit appears on the table. Anya shrieks and buries her face in Rupert's shoulder. "Get it away from me!"

Patting her back, Rupert watches as Daniel scoops the rabbit up. "It's all right, Anya. Daniel has it. And it won't hurt you, it's only a-"

"Don't. Say. That. Word." She shudders, presses more tightly against him for a second, then, to his surprise, turns back towards the book. "I must have done the spell wrong."

Well, she's determined, he's got to grant her that. And at least she didn't conjure up anything worse than a rabbit. Given how the day's been going, that's something to be grateful for.

Mon, Nov. 15th, 2004 04:03 am (UTC)

"Cantamen memoriae," Daniel whispers to himself and the bunny with brown fur and big black eyes, and it is heavy and soft, like a load of laundry, in his arms. He deposits the bunny, which he's already named "Devon" for some reason he doesn't understand, in a packing crate at the back of the shop and slides a book on top of it.

"Hey, I know Latin, I think --" he says as he comes back into the room. Seven more bunnies, and Anya's standing on top of the table, clutching her book to her chest. Rupert leans against the counter, his arm around the Buddha as he pinches the bridge of his nose. "Wow. Bunnies."

Anya shrieks and Daniel looks around, expecting a vampire behind him.

"Don't say that word," Rupert says wearily, slipping his glasses back on. Daniel's about to apologize when Rupert pushes off from the counter and *winks* at him.

At least Daniel thinks he did. Something happened, but it's over now, Rupert standing by the table and looking up at Anya, pleading with her to come down. Daniel scoops up two more rabbits, white ones this time, and sings a snatch of an old pop song under his breath to them while he hunts the third.

It's sneakier than the others and seems to anticipate each move he's about to make.

Rupert looks at him when Daniel slips past him, still singing, and he looks about to join in when the air crackles and snaps apart, the ceiling lifting and vanishing to reveal a purple, starry sky.

"Whoa," Daniel says, looking upward, forgetting the bunnies, edging closer to Rupert. "Pretty."

Mon, Nov. 22nd, 2004 12:52 am (UTC)

"Er, yes, I suppose," Rupert says, while somewhere in his brain gears grind, a few million switches click to new positions, and he finally realizes that he's never, in all those days and nights he can't remember, seen the sky that color. It's wrong, and the stars shouldn't be arranged in those clumps that mean, ominously, nothing. And the thunder that tolls out like an enormous bell shouldn't rumble so deeply in their bones and under their feet, or have that metallic edge.

On the table, Anya pushes back her wind-whipped hair and turns to a new page. "Get down from there this instant!" Rupert shouts, crossing the room (mercifully, it is still a room, they've still got walls and a floor) at a run and snatching the book out of her hands. A page rips, making him wince, and Anya crumples it and throws it at him.

"Give that back!" She starts to climb down, notices a couple of rabbits scurrying around with Daniel in pursuit, and retreats back to the center of the table.

"Anya, has it occurred to you that this is the wrong book?"

"How do you know? We haven't tried everything in it yet!" Overbalancing after lunging for the book, Anya catches herself on Rupert's shoulders and clings, somehow resentfully, then draws away with a frown. "Are you always this ungrateful? I don't know how I stand it."

Daniel, holding a rabbit in one arm and dragging a box out of a storage cupboard with the other, looks over with what Rupert is sure is amusement, although there's nothing that could actually be called an expression on his face. Gentle amusement, not mocking, and Rupert knows he can't be an ungrateful person, because he's grateful for this. "Anya, our relationship is hardly the most important concern right now. And in any case I'm not sure we have one." He reaches up to help her off the table. "Come down, the rabbits are-"

Frowning, Anya steps away from his hand. "Are you saying you don't want to marry me?"

"Well . . . yes." This is all absurd, mortifying, and purple sky is turning redder by the moment, but Anya sounds so hurt that Rupert can't help explaining. "Please don't take it personally. I . . . I don't think I'm all that interested in, in marriage. Or . . . women." He can feel Daniel watching him, but he can't look.

"You're gay? And you didn't tell me?" Everything in Anya's posture shows fury, and perhaps it's the bruise-colored shadows this unnatural light casts on her face, or the way the wind distorts her voice, but Rupert suddenly finds her a little terrifying. "Men! You're all liars and pigs. Somebody should – should just take vengeance on you all, that's what I say." She clambers down from the table, ignoring Rupert's attempt to help her, somehow not looking laughable even when she has to take off her shoes.


"I'm going down into the tunnels. I want out of this horrible place, and I want my memory back, and I want to find out that I was never, ever thinking of marrying you." Clutching her high heels, not even flinching when she has to pass the last uncaught bunny, Anya disappears through the basement door.

Mon, Nov. 22nd, 2004 01:33 am (UTC)

Daniel realizes that during their argument he has pulled back behind the counter, a black bunny squirming in his arms. Like if he makes himself *small*, he'll be safe, something like that. He's been squinting at Rupert's back, trying to make him turn around, but until Anya leaves, he has no such luck.

Then Rupert *does* turn, leaning heavily on the table and rubbing the back of his neck, and he looks exhausted and sad and strangely alone. And Daniel doesn't know what to say.

He stows the black bunny in the second crate and scans the shelves for a book he *knows* he saw earlier.

There it is. Veneficus aeris, the lettering on the spine of the small leather volume reads. And again in tiny black gothic letters on the frontispiece, beneath a woodcut of an old man with wind-whipped white beard gesticulating at the heavens.

"This might help," Daniel says, and he's looking kind of at Rupert, kind of at the roiling stormclouds, lemony and steely, over Rupert's shoulder. "Weather spells and things. Probably won't make more bunnies, anyway."

Rupert takes the book the way other people -- Daniel doesn't know *how* he knows this, but he knows -- would accept jewelry. Carefully, almost tenderly.

A splotchy red-and-white bunny leaps over Daniel's foot and he sets off to chase it down. When the last of the bunnies, a big brown lop-ear he wants to call "Xander", is safely crated, Daniel turns back to Rupert.

The air in the room has quieted, gone a little cooler, and the ceiling shimmers in and out of sight. Rupert straightens his shoulders and speaks the incantation in a deeper, steadier voice. Daniel holds his breath and after two heartbeats, the ceiling snaps back into reality.

"Nice job," Daniel says, exhaling slowly. Rupert ducks his head, smiling, then meets his eyes. "And congratulations."

Rupert starts to speak, but then he closes his mouth and just looks puzzled.

"On coming out, I mean. Significant occasion." Rupert stares a little more, and then his smile starts to spread, matching Daniel's own. "Should, like, shake your hand. Kiss you?"

Mon, Nov. 22nd, 2004 02:12 am (UTC)

Something—time or air or just Rupert' gut—jerks and pauses like film caught in a spool. He can still hear Daniel's voice, soft as old flannel around the sibiliants of kiss, the sound as persistent in his ears as the rush of his blood. And he also doubts he ever heard it at all. The room's light falls cinematically bright, the tables and books look weightless as styrofoam props, and if he blinks this illusion will fade and he'll be back in his own life, which can't possibly be the sort of life where boys offer to kiss him.

Rupert takes a deep breath and looks back at Daniel's face. Such a pretty mouth he has, wide smile and a sweet-natured curve to his lower lip. "K-kiss me?" It's a question, full of high-pitched, stammering disbelief, because kissing Daniel is somewhat less likely even than vampires and spells that move magic shops into other dimensions.

It was a question, and he's not sure if Daniel ignores it or answer it by stepping closer. Rupert doesn't move, can't—control of his body has gone to join memory and common sense and the rest of reality—but he doesn't have to. Daniel lays a cool palm on his neck, pulls him down, and Daniel's lips are cool too at first, soft. Warmer as they open, and he tastes salt-sweet as melon, concentrated sun and musk, and Rupert's hands clench in Daniel's stiff hair, hold him still to be kissed, and he's glad this is the first kiss he remembers.

Mon, Nov. 22nd, 2004 02:40 am (UTC)

The heels of Rupert's hands rest lightly, warm and soft, on either side of Daniel's neck, while his fingers dig at Daniel's scalp like he's a rock-climber, and he kisses -- God, he kisses like he's starting fires, like he's still speaking the weather spell. Maybe he is, because Daniel curls his hand into Rupert's neck and pushes forward, like he *has* to.

Like it's not quite up to him, not as Rupert bumps into the table and pulls Daniel closer, opening his legs, bringing them around Daniel's. This has to be part of the weirdness, part of this world where magic's real and bunnies crackle out of thin air and a handsome Englishman tastes like orange juice and pie spices.

Daniel hasn't been surprised all day, not like the others, but right now he is. His body's doing things he didn't know it could do -- hand stroking down Rupert's back, mouth opening until his jaw cracks, tongue teasing Rupert's lower lip until he pants a little, right knee nudging forward and his hips setting up a little rocking motion -- and his skin sizzles like it's being born anew with every touch.

His chest constricts and he has to break the kiss and stare up at Rupert as they both lick their lips.

"Whoa," Daniel says. "You're really good at this."

His hands won't stop touching, roving, looking for something.

Mon, Nov. 22nd, 2004 03:19 am (UTC)

Rupert's lips burn and the inside of his mouth feels sticky, thirsty, and when he swallows he can taste Daniel. He flattens his tongue against the roof of his mouth, trying to bring the taste up stronger. "Am I?" His ankles are hooked around the backs of Daniel's knees, and if he pushed and leaned back he could bring Daniel down on top of him. A little experimental pressure draws him in closer, so close that Rupert can feel his erection, but still not close enough. "I think we both are." So close that he's almost talking into Daniel's mouth, and something like gravity pulls him forward until they're kissing again.

There's a back and forth of tongues, Daniel licking the insides of his cheeks and himself straining for the deep recesses of Daniel's mouth, but it doesn't feel like taking turns. More like refined instinct, like dancing, nature given grace. They're good at this, but beyond that and better, this is good.

This is getting better by the moment, heat welling under his skin and flaring wherever Daniel's hands touch, rhythms growing more complicated as their hips grind and twist together. Rupert still has one hand cradling Daniel's head, but the other slides with blind greed along the planes of his body, finding wide flat shoulders, shallow vault of ribs, long flexing muscles of his back, the knob and hollow of one small hip, and everywhere Daniel pushes into his touch. Daniel's hands are moving too, fingers digging into Rupert's shoulder, fluttering down his spine, a thumb slipping tormentingly up the inside of his thigh, and through a mouth thick with spit and need Rupert says, "Shouldn't be doing this. The others – memories – " but then his lips close around Daniel's earlobe. Daniel moans and he sucks harder, ignoring the clicks of earrings against his teeth, and his hand on Daniel's back pushes up under layers of cloth to a patch of fine-downed skin, so smooth and hot that Rupert's mouth feels hollow with the need to kiss it.

Mon, Nov. 22nd, 2004 03:46 am (UTC)

Memories, Daniel thinks blearily, are silly. He doesn't know why he needs memories, not now, not any more. He seems to be doing just fine without them. Compared to this, where everything's sharp and new, like spring, where the texture of Rupert's pants is soft on his palm and the hint of his hard-on like a stone under moss, where his mouth buzzes and tingles as he moves it over the hollow of Rupert's cheek and his ear boils and sings between Rupert's lips, memories are horrible. They're thick and musty, sour as rotten wine, clogged with dust and dead flies.

*This* is better, learning the width of Rupert's thigh, the flare of muscle along his waist when Daniel grasps it and sucks on his throat where the skin is hot, crepey, soft. The sounds Rupert makes, all sighs and worn-edged grunts, are new, too, a language Daniel hardly knows. Not like English or, surprisingly, Latin, but deeper and more complicated.

"Others, yeah," he says, when his mouth reaches the collar of Rupert's shirt. "There's a room in the back. Like a personal gym."

Daniel is overheated, trapped in too many layers of clothes, and he braces himself with one hand on Rupert's waist and pulls off his jacket and sweater. Just a t-shirt now and pants. Much better. Rupert smiles as Daniel starts loosening his shirt, but he gets tangled in buttons, then the tie. He settles for skating his palm over the subtle twists of muscle in Rupert's chest, thinking about making a comment about how the gym gets put to good use, as he works one button open at a time.

From the bottom, and Daniel ducks down, bending at the waist and the knees, and Rupert's hand is still in his hair, cradling his skull like it's as precious as the book, and he parts the shirt-tails and runs his knuckles down the length of Rupert's erection. Heat in there, buried beneath cotton, and his lips go cold and dry with need.

He doesn't want memories, swaddling-cloths for mummies, slowing him down. He wants *this*. Him.

Thu, Nov. 25th, 2004 10:23 pm (UTC)

"We-" Rupert says again, meaning to add should be looking for memory spells. But his throat constricts when Daniel's hand skims again over his cock and the bare skin at his waist, and the rest of the sentence turns to a long, low noise. With fingers that can still feel the textures of Daniel's skin, Rupert unknots his tie, opens his shirt, and he makes another noise, higher, when Daniel presses his face to his chest, tongue swirling through the hair there.

It's all so new. Rupert holds Daniel more tightly and kisses him randomly, hair and cheek and eyelid and jaw, pulse-point and the fold of his elbow and the hard surface of his breastbone, the flat softness of one nipple under a t-shirt that smells of a hundred washings. All of it fresh, unknown, because Rupert can't remember kissing anyone, touching anyone, and everything his lips find is a surprise. And all of it somehow inevitable, each sound Daniel makes exactly right, the taste of him perfectly salty and earthy and sweet like he's been mixed by an expert winemaker. "So beautiful," Rupert mutters into his neck between licks, between sharp inhalations of soap and skin and clean new sweat. "You smell so good."

Rupert knows Daniel, Daniel's body, better than he knows anything. Identities are lost and they were both born an hour ago, but he knows that Daniel's arms have freckles, that he likes nibbling kisses, that he whimpers and thrusts when Rupert cups a palm over his crotch. He knows so much, and there's so much more to know, and he wants to find it all out before he starts to remember, before there's any unanswerable reason why he shouldn't be doing this. "Let's – other room," he says, and gets up from the table, wondering if he can walk without loosening his hold on Daniel.

Thu, Nov. 25th, 2004 11:02 pm (UTC)

Rupert stumbles and Daniel wraps his arm around his waist, guiding him past the crates of rabbits into the back room, not letting go, pausing to slide a finger through Rupert's belt-loops and kiss the side of his chest. There's probably a word for this, in one of the thousand languages he doesn't know, for how he knows how to walk, how to kiss and touch and make Rupert shiver with just his fingernails.

Something below amnesia, apparently. Nesia, maybe? Daniel is about to ask when they reach the door and he twists, nudging it open with his hip, wrapping both arms around Rupert and pulling him inside. Into the dusty, dim room, and the question dies without being spoken because he opens his mouth, grasps Rupert's head in both his hands, and kisses him. He knows there are different emphases to kisses and, what's more, he knows that this is most serious kiss he's ever given.

The door swings shut and they're still stumbling forward, Rupert bent at the waist, Daniel craning up and up. Octopuses and climbing-ivy, so much touch everywhere that bursts and splutters and pushes all the air out of Daniel's lungs and all the thoughts out of his mind. He trips on a thick, soft mat and starts to fall backward, the kiss breaking until he yanks on Rupert's loose shirtsleeves and pulls him down. Dust erupts from the mat and Daniel's on his back, limbs akimbo, reaching for Rupert and laughing.

"How do I know what's funny?" he asks, stuttering, between laughs. Rupert is on his knees, shirt open and pushed off his shoulders, hair massively rucked-up by Daniel's hands, and it's amazing. "How do I know --?"

That I want you?
That you're handsome and taste like a banquet and your hands fit me?
That I need you?

No words, beyond language, so Daniel reaches for Rupert instead, wrapping one end of the tie around his fist and tugging him in, sitting up and meeting him halfway, sliding forward on his ass until his legs are wrapped around Rupert's waist.

"Want you," he says against Rupert's lips. It's a fact, not a question. He's certain and here and *sure*. "So much, want to feel you."

Thu, Nov. 25th, 2004 11:57 pm (UTC)

The strangely rich smell of cement and dust stirs something in Rupert's mind, a feeling that hints of memory, like the shadow of a fish gliding among reeds. And then it's gone, slick as a fish, and Rupert leans down into Daniel's clutching body, rolling his hips and groaning as Daniel responds with an upward jerk. "I know how you know that," he says, moving some more, rubbing his cock against the bulge of Daniel's. Under zipper and cloth there's naked skin, so tender over the hard swell of flesh. Skin that burns like his own for bareness, for unhindered touch, for a hand or a mouth or something, anything, and picturing it, Rupert shivers and noses the neck of Daniel's t-shirt aside, nips hard at this new bit of him. "Know how I know it, too. Want to touch all of you. See you."

Daniel's right to wonder how they know things. The blanks are bizarre, great empty spaces without logic, like a page half-erased by a blind man. Rupert knows what a man's naked body looks like, but he doesn't remember ever seeing one. Didn't remember his own name, but he knows that touching Daniel will feel even better when they're naked. "What's under there?" he says, pulling at Daniel's t-shirt, and Daniel grins, wriggles cooperatively until the shirt comes free and he's bare. Rupert sits back on his knees and looks. "Oh yes. Beautiful." Paler and less freckled where the shirt covered him, and smooth as a boy, with just a few fine hairs around his pink nipples and light tufts under his arms.

Perfect young skin, flushed pink at the throat from arousal, and Rupert is about to close his eyes, take off his glasses and move on to touch and taste when he notices the scar on Daniel's shoulder. That raised weal must have been painful, whatever caused it. Looking closer, Rupert sees more scars, so silver-pale they're almost invisible, dotting Daniel's chest and belly. "Someone hurt you," Rupert says, letting his fingers trace a constellation. "Your face is bruised, too." Carefully, he kisses the yellow-and-green stain and eases his body down onto Daniel's, covering it. Shielding it.

Fri, Nov. 26th, 2004 12:30 am (UTC)

The weight of Rupert's body, weight and texture of skin and bone and muscle, it's almost too much and Daniel has to suck in breath after breath, his eyes squeezed shut, until he calms down enough to speak. All the sensations, the touch and the sound of Rupert's voice, all of it swirls together, familiar but novel, and he can't make sense of anything.

Anything except the literal, bare facts: Weight and the sighs of the mat and the scent along Rupert's hairline that's half-sweet and half-savoury, herbs and kelp.

"Maybe it's better, then," Daniel says, pulling Rupert's shirt up, stroking his palm in wide arcs over his back. Such tight skin, worn-down and softened. "Not remembering, I mean."

He doesn't want to think that there's someone out there who bruised his face and left scars like spiderwebs all over his chest, scars that burn in the wake of Rupert's fingers. He just wants to feel this, the tension and twists of Rupert's back, the taste of him soaking into Daniel's mouth, the jerky, exploratory rhythm of their hips, this hiss-and-drag of friction. Moving hands, roving mouths, muffled squeaks of the mat -- Daniel wants the literal, Rupert and the tightening burn of his skin, more than any memory.

Rupert's bones are thicker, stronger, than Daniel's own, and the hair on his chest scratches up more need through Daniel's, and every time he nips down on Daniel's lip, Daniel wants to shout with the joy of it. His mind spins, bright colors, then black-and-white, and he knows as surely as anything not to bite back, but he can't stop his fingers from curling into pseudo-claws and pulling Rupert down, in, closer.

He wraps one leg around Rupert's waist, locking his foot between Rupert's legs, and thrusts up sharply so Rupert opens his eyes.

"Can we --?" Daniel feels the question shrivel, then grind away, in the back of his throat. He scratches a swift line down Rupert's side and over the swell of his ass, still trapped in his pants. "Want to fuck."

Fri, Nov. 26th, 2004 01:28 am (UTC)

The sound of fuck in that soft boyish voice makes Rupert's spine go hot and tight, and he kisses Daniel hard, sucking at his mouth as though he can taste the word there, bittersweet and slippery. He rolls his hips in a slow arc, tongue thrusting between Daniel's lips in the same rhythms, then pushes sharply and feels Daniel quiver, feels his mouth open in a gasp. "You want to fuck?" he says, one hand looping down Daniel's side, stroking and pinching and scratching a little with his nails. "I want everything. To kiss and lick and stroke and rub. Suck you, taste you." Later, he'll think about who hurt Daniel; now, he can make him feel good, drown that unremembered pain with pleasure.

A shudder rocks Daniel's body, he's gulping in air and his hands dig and knead in the flesh of Rupert's back. He likes to be talked to. "Want to know you." If Daniel is all Rupert knows in the world, he wants to know him completely. He wants expertise, virtuosity. "What you like, how you look naked, what sounds you make when someone runs his tongue along your cock." Daniel really likes being talked to—he's gone whirlwind, tugging Rupert's shirt off, kissing him in hungry staccato, legs and arms all wound around him, rubbing a calf against his arse, pushing up and pulling Rupert down, under him and surrounding him.

Like he's been waiting a hundred years for this fuck, cloistered and starving, and he's driving Rupert's own need to frenzied urgency just when he wanted to be slow. At the moment they're both virgins, every touch is the first, and Rupert wants this to take time. This should open moment by moment, like an epic or a quest, until it's massive, until it's a whole landscape, a history, a world.

The others might come wandering back any minute, but Rupert's fairly sure he doesn't care.

He catches Daniel's hands, which are pushing under the waist of his trousers, and holds them down. Daniel stills, trembling a little, and whines when Rupert licks his nipple. So tiny, this little fold of skin, but it stiffens as Rupert sucks and rolls it between his teeth, and Daniel's whines deepen into rough grunts.

Fri, Nov. 26th, 2004 02:00 am (UTC)

Rupert wants him to wait. Through tornadoes that rock and shiver, impulses for more that keep spinning faster to the sound of Rupert's voice, Daniel understands that much. He's dizzy and exhausted already and in the sudden stillness, he thinks he might boil away.

If he didn't understand before, the crackling grip of Rupert's hold on his wrists would be enough to tell him. Daniel pushes up again, just to see, meeting challenge with challenge, and hears Rupert chuckle just before biting harder. Stilling him again in a sharp, spreading wave of need.

This is fun, this is something he knows how to do without thinking about it, this is what he wants. No memories, of bruises and scars and politeness, just weight and the dare that flows between them with each touch and click of the clock. A dare that doubles, then triples, and Daniel keeps very still as long as he can, until Rupert looks up, checking his face, and Daniel twists his arms, freeing his wrists, and wrenches his hips, and they roll in a cloud of dust until Daniel crouches over Rupert.

He sits back on his heels, hands on Rupert's waist, and cocks his head.

"But that's what I want," he says, lowering his chest, letting the heels of his palms skate lightly over Rupert's chest. Rupert is scarred, too, the webs bright against the cream-and-flush of Rupert's skin. Daniel tastes one scar, then another, and feels Rupert shiver beneath him. When he scrapes teeth through hair, following a scar and finding a flat, dark-rose nipple, Rupert quakes and gasps. Breath that spills out, below words, twisting and grunting, and Daniel looks up. "You taste -- God. So good, pewter and fresh herbs. And you look --"

Rupert looks like sex. That's the best Daniel can do: mussed hair, cheeks flushed darker than brick, eyes that glitter and mouth that works and twists. His chest is broad, his waist tapers into strong thighs, and Daniel pushes against the lump of his hard-on until Rupert's eyes flutter closed.

"Look like sex. Taste like it, too. Salty --" He can't go slow, not as slow as Rupert wants, and kneeling here, he's floating, evaporating, and Daniel releases Rupert's arms, lets them fold around him, hold him and roll him over, and then he's on his back again, staring up. Thinking of the sky Anya made, all yellow and purple, bruise and gunmetal, and it's not half so alien and beautiful as Rupert's face looming over him. Dark shadows, mostly, just gleam of eyes and tongue, and Daniel wraps his legs around Rupert's waist and says, "Anything you want. Just don't stop."

Fri, Nov. 26th, 2004 02:59 am (UTC)

So many contrasts. Daniel's bruised face and the eager pleasure in his expression, his compliant words and hungry, clutching body, the way he pushed Rupert down and then pulled him on top again. So much complexity, and Rupert wishes he could do everything at once. Hold Daniel still and explore him, test out every response; fuck him hard and fast, satisfy the craving he can feel as Daniel arches and his thighs spread wider; just look until he understands how all Daniel's bones and muscles fit together, how his skin folds and stretches, how the hollow of his throat jumps with every pulse.

"Stopping," he says, cupping Daniel's face in his palms, "is the only thing I don't want."

As he kisses Daniel he shifts back onto his knees, drawing Daniel up with him, and slips his hands between their bodies. "What I do want-" he outlines Daniel's erection with two fingers "-is to get these bloody clothes off of us." Button and zip, quick work even with Daniel pulling at Rupert's own flies so that they get in each other's way, and inside the opening there's such heat, melting-heat even through the heavy gray cotton of his pants. "Christ," Rupert says, palm trembling against hardness, against need, and Daniel is pressed so close against him that he's sure he can feel the slide of Daniel's muscles and the circulation of his blood.

Rupert can't move as Daniel finally gets his buttons undone, as Daniel swears under his breath and shoves a hand inside, under Rupert's pants, hot sticky hand on Rupert's cock. The ache in his balls twists and tightens and then he has to move, has to flatten Daniel to the mat with a thump and strip off his shoes and trousers and everything. Narrow hips with the bones jutting out stark, a patch of red-brown hair, swollen cock dark against his belly, all so beautiful, and when Rupert slicks kisses over Daniel's belly the scent of musk and sex has him groaning low in his throat.

Fri, Nov. 26th, 2004 04:05 am (UTC)

Rupert's mouth vibrates over Daniel's stomach, swooping down one thigh, lifting and moving, bringing up new skin. Everything's new, this is the newest thing of all, warm breath making wet kisses feel cold, then hot, and he only stays still because if he moves, Rupert might stop. But his legs twitch and his fingers curl uselessly against the mat, and slowly, through a haze of want and sensation, Daniel realizes that Rupert's still half-dressed.

He lifts his head, lead-heavy, and sees first the flexing span of Rupert's shoulders, then his eyes, locked on Daniel like if he blinks, Daniel will disappear. Three coughs, several licks at dried-out lips, and when he finally speaks, Daniel *still* sounds hoarse and lost. "Want to see you. Strip -- take your clothes off." His palm aches where it had closed around Rupert's dick, the skin there alien -- hot but so soft, stretched over such tension -- and without thinking, he brings his hand to his mouth, licks his palm good and wet. "Touch you."

Rupert nods, and they seem to have passed from frenzy to something much slower, underwater and dreams. Somehow, Daniel's sitting up, heart pounding out tattoos in his chest, skull, and cock, and Rupert rises onto his knees, sighing through clenched teeth while Daniel skims down his trousers.

Normal -- how's he know it's normal? -- white cotton briefs, bleached and bright, stretched obscenely over his erection. The erection Daniel has only felt, not yet seen, and as he hooks his thumbs into the waistband, tongue caught between his teeth, he feels Rupert's chest swell against his forehead as he takes in a breath he doesn't release. A snag, then ease, and Daniel's mouth opens when Rupert's finally naked. Whorls of light hair on his thighs, dark thatch around a thick cock, red at the tip, smoky purple down the shaft.

"Foreskin," Daniel says under his breath and thinks, absurdly, of Helen Keller at the well, Annie tracing water over her palm, as he touches Rupert and feels him shake, breath spilling out in a whine. "Oh, man." Each time he wiggles at the heartbreakingly-thin membrane, Rupert teeters on his knees and almost whimpers. His hand closes on Daniel's shoulder, pushes him on to his back, and then they're rolling again, and Rupert is heavy, warm, naked around Daniel.

He might as well have been blind, deaf, and mute until now, until touch and kiss and Rupert came, and Daniel's spinning again, drunk on the novelty. He's kissing Rupert's neck, sucking at a tendon, hands kneading Rupert's ass and he realizes he's saying, "Now, now, now --" between each breath and nibble.

Fri, Nov. 26th, 2004 11:19 pm (UTC)

For a second Rupert imagines it's in his own head, that now, that hiss of insistent breath, hardly louder than the rush of air sucked in tight gulps or the whispered squeaking of the mat under their bodies. His body wants now even as his mind holds him back, makes him gnaw Daniel's shoulder, yank Daniel's hips higher and move lightly, their cocks brushing in a slow tease.

But he looks up and it's Daniel speaking, open lips widening around the syllable, and Rupert stares at the dark wet sheen inside Daniel's mouth and shudders. He's hardly started, there are whole stretches of Daniel unknown, untouched. But these inside places, so secret, and watching Daniel's tongue move behind his teeth, Rupert can't help imagining them. Feeling them beforehand, wet heat around his cock or a tight ring of muscle and yielding softness beyond it.

"Now, yes," he says, hand closing over Daniel's hip to still him. "Need to – Daniel. Need to fuck you. Please." Daniel's eyes go dark, pupils spreading so wide that Rupert feels dizzy, and it's an unmistakeable yes even before he nods. "Daniel," Rupert says again, and kisses him with open-mouthed clumsiness, smearing his face and pulling at his hair. Daniel sucks his lips, slurps his tongue into that wet mouth, and it's the biggest marvel of the day that a calm expressionless boy could want like this.

A kiss like this one is halfway to fucking already, and it would be so wonderful just to push inside him. But there are necessities. Rupert pulls a little away, stretching liquid spiderwebs between his lips and Daniel's, and says, "Condom. Have to – and lube." There's a bottle of lube in Daniel's jacket, which is in the other room, and Daniel's face breaks into a grin as wide and embarrassed as Rupert's own when he remembers.

Sat, Nov. 27th, 2004 12:47 am (UTC)

Of course there's lube. He had lube that Randy made fun of in front of everyone. Daniel's still nodding as he gets -- clumsily, in several stages -- to his feet, bracing one hand on Rupert's shoulder. "I'll get it. You, you stay here --"

But Rupert's tottering upwards himself, and the floor past the mat is shockingly cold, making them dance from foot to foot and grab hands as they dash into the store. Lube from his jacket and Daniel juggles it for a moment before he realizes that he really doesn't have any pockets to stow it in, and then he pulls Rupert into the other back room.

An office, full of packing crates he borrowed to pen up bunnies, and he stops short on the threshold, suddenly highly aware of his nakedness. Stops, and crashes back into Rupert, who's laughing, too, and folds an arm over Daniel's chest.

"Just gonna look for half a second," Daniel says, pushing the lube into Rupert's hand and breaking away for the desk under the window. No memories, but he's aware of time like the old hourglass, aware of chances possibly clicking away. He's also naked and trespassing, and for some reason, it's just really funny. He's laughing, glancing up occasionally at the dark silhouette Rupert makes in the doorway, shuffling through accounting statements and crusty bottles of White-Out and pencils, erasers, rubber bands, legal clips, until -- finally. "Voila!"

Daniel waves the small ribbon of condoms at Rupert and then the sight arrests him. Dark, cramped office and Rupert there, outlined with brassy light, naked and tall and waiting for him. Daniel doesn't breathe as his hand drops and he moves around the desk, toward Rupert, across the room, his bones gone balsa-light inside thundering blood and too-tight skin. When he stands in front of Rupert, his head tips back and arms go around Rupert's waist, and he kisses him again for the first time.

All the taste of him, like red wine and fine dining, and the presence of him, holding Daniel, kissing him back, it's all that Daniel knows of the world. It's enough. They stumble back through the store and Daniel doesn't want to open his eyes. He wants to know everything this way, by touching and tasting, even if it means barking his shin and banging his elbow several times over.

The color behind his lids darkens and it's quiet again as Rupert pulls back. Daniel's lips burn as the kiss ends and he opens his eyes, they're back in the gym room, his palms are sliding up the backs of Rupert's thighs, and his hips are rocking, rubbing his cock against Rupert's leg.

"Ready," Daniel says and closes his fingers into bunches of muscle as he smiles at Rupert. "All over again."

Sat, Nov. 27th, 2004 01:36 am (UTC)

Standing like this, both naked, clinging together, about to fuck, Rupert realizes for the first time how small Daniel is. He saw it before, but now he feels it, the narrowness of Daniel's bones and the spareness of the flesh over them, his thin skin that shows blue forks and twinings of veins. Daniel's head doesn't even reach Rupert's chin; his grinding cock pushes against Rupert's thigh. "Christ," Rupert says, cupping his hands over Daniel's buttocks. They fit in his hands, and he digs his fingers into firm muscle and pulls Daniel fractionally closer. "So – want you so much." With cool air and the embarrassment of dashing around naked, Rupert's cock had gone a bit soft, but now he's hard again. Ready to enter this little body, ready to feel what it's like, fucking Daniel.

Across the room there's a leather pommel horse, and Rupert, tonguing a bite mark on Daniel's shoulder, pictures him bent over it. Red-faced, his lovely arse in the air, his cock bobbing and exposed. "Oh, fuck. Going to fuck you. Beautiful boy, going to-" But of course it wouldn't work, Rupert's too much taller.

Doesn't matter, positions are nothing, what matters is that Daniel's shaking, letting out little groans every time Rupert's fingers brush his crack, his fingers are scratching bluntly over Rupert's back and arse, and he's butting his forehead against Rupert's chest like a pleading child. "Kneel down," Rupert says, and Daniel collapses like a dynamited building before struggling up again on all fours. Rupert kneels behind him, over him, arms around Daniel's chest, and kisses between his shoulderblades. "Yes, yes," he whispers, sliding his hands down Daniel's sides as he moves back, licking a trail down his knobby backbone. When Rupert reaches the dip at the base of his spine, soft and hot, Daniel makes a strangled noise and spreads his legs wider. "So perfect." Skin so pale under Rupert's hands, the valley between his cheeks glistening a little with sweat, a tiny puckered hole that's such a delicate pink Rupert can't help thinking of flowers. He drags his tongue down the deepening crevice, holding tight to Daniel's straining hips, tasting concentrated skin and darkness, feeling the muscle loosen as he circles it, and he knows that this is the best thing that's ever happened to him.

Sat, Nov. 27th, 2004 02:09 am (UTC)

It's so much, moist heat and sucking that opens a deep aching channel inside him and wrenches his cock harder. Daniel pushes back against Rupert's mouth and drops his head, forehead scraping the mat, eyes straining to see. Of course he *can't* see anything, just a mass of dark shapes that are his knees and cock and behind them, Rupert. Massive and dark, unseeable.

Not invisible, though. Rupert is there, just fragmented into the other four senses. The grasp of his hands on Daniel's waist, pulling him at the same time they're holding him still, the taste of his mouth smeared around Daniel's lips, picked up again by Daniel's tongue, the smell of him, all laundry and clean sweat and something darker, sharper, that somehow reminds Daniel of lake weeds and snow in fields. The sounds Rupert is making, sweet encouraging grunts and swirling wet tongue, sounds that hit Daniel's ears and travel through his veins.

Symphonies and jazz improvs, notes spinning too fast to catch, and timpani that bellows and shudders through Daniel, from Rupert's mouth up his chest and out his own mouth. He's dizzy, but he's on the floor, and sweat is prickling out while his skin glows then chills and glows again.

Daniel twists a little, getting a warning noise from Rupert, and catches a glimpse of Rupert right there, on his knees, shoulders broad and arms strong, holding him close and still and tight. His cock aches, untouched and too hot in the dark, and the groans he's been making twist together into words.

"Want to feel you," he says, and Rupert's eyes close, so he adds, "Inside me, deep as you can. Okay? Just want that, want you."

Almost grimacing, Rupert hauls him back, lifting Daniel's hips, and Daniel's head drops forward again. He drops into the red-tinged darkness behind his lids, where everything's unfurling, spinning apart, flames that dance and split like amoebae, heat like magma and geysers pulling him slack and ready.

Not ready, shocked and grateful, when something nudges against his hole, tracing spirals and pushing more firmly, and Daniel yelps, then sighs.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he says, and maybe his voice is his own, but it sounds high and reedy, "Just like that. You're amazing, so amazing. More, more. Want you, give anything --"

Sat, Nov. 27th, 2004 03:15 am (UTC)

It feels just like Rupert thought it would, and exponentially, shatteringly better. Daniel's hole clenches and loosens spasmodically around his finger, and somehow the feeling washes down Rupert's body, tightens his balls and makes his cock impossibly, painfully hard. "You're so hot inside, Daniel." He draws his finger back until the tip is barely inside, then plunges in again, fast, and Daniel's spine bows and he pushes back, muttering. "More, here, I'll give you more." A second slippery finger, and Daniel makes a noise like need and relief. "Does this feel good?" Rupert asks, although he knows, although Daniel keeps shuddering and panting and spluttering pleas for more, deeper, more. "You like this, like my touching you inside." At every movement of Rupert's hand, every twist and spread of his fingers, ripples travel out along Daniel's skin. Rupert feels the tremor of it under his lips as he kisses Daniel's back, under his free hand that strokes Daniel's belly, dips lower, molds the space around his cock without touching it.

Three fingers now, stretching Daniel wide, and it doesn't seem to hurt him or scare him. Of course he's fucked before, of course his body remembers how to relax and open. It's only his mind that's virginal, that's never felt this. Only his mind, like Rupert's, that's dazed with newness, with the hunger to find out what's next, how much better it can possibly get. Rupert crooks his fingers forward, strokes, and he can hear the surprise in Daniel's quick breathless shout. "Going to – want to feel what it's like inside you,
Daniel," he says, not moving, holding Daniel as he trembles. "Feel you around my cock, so tight and so-" There's a moan from Daniel, half disappointment and half anticipation, as Rupert slides his fingers out.

Quickly Rupert unrolls a condom down his cock, snagging a stray hair and cursing, smears cold lube on himself and more on Daniel, and he's starting to shake too, he's too hot and his skin sparks with impatience. "Give you what you want." Guides the head of his cock against Daniel's hole, pushes gently, and Daniel stretches around him, opens for him, and he watches the tip slide into the narrow hot slick space in Daniel's body and it's so good, so perfect he has to grit his teeth and stop. Gentle, slow, he doesn't want to hurt Daniel and anyway he's afraid he might come too soon, disappoint him. Careful little thrusts forwards, hands gripping Daniel's bony hips too hard, his own grunts and gasps reverberating with Daniel's, and once in a while he can get out words. "Going to – so deep. Inside you. All the way. So good, so good, Daniel, fuck." He leans over Daniel's back as he sinks in, and then he's there, balls brushing Daniel's arse, biting fiercely on the knob of Daniel's shoulderblade, and then he pulls back and thrusts and hears them both shout.

Sat, Nov. 27th, 2004 03:56 am (UTC)

Daniel knows now where words come from. Noise that sparks up from need and sensation, from the deep, blazing joy of Rupert inside him, moving around him, from the swirls of air that freeze and glow with each shake and the dense pressure of Rupert. Words come from all this, from alchemy that mixes spells of sound with the squeaking mat and his fingers scrabbling and Rupert's teeth scraping over his skin. Words shiver below sense, hovering, then crash like cymbals into language.

"God, god. You're -- you're in me, you're here and there and so -- so -- deep. So good, you're --"

Rupert's arm locks around Daniel's waist, holds him here, almost floating -- if heavy, hot things spinning between dimensions can float -- and he's so tall that he can reach Daniel's ear, suck on his earrings and hiss encouragement and endearments straight to Daniel's spine. That spine must be a silver wire, something heated and twisting fast, far past melting, gone into something else. Daniel reaches back, stretches and wrenches, and grabs Rupert's hip, palm sliding and snagging in the sweat. He holds on tight as Rupert thrusts, a rocking, jarring rhythm that snaps and bows like things in flight, things drowning, and Daniel's knees spread as he lowers his hips and pushes up, back, against Rupert.

If he could, he'd break himself apart. Become ass, arms, mouth, and adhere to Rupert, taste him and fuck him back and grasp-pinch-shove him so he could feel what Daniel feels right now.

Right now, a moment that's not ending, that slows when Rupert pulls out, then shudders too fast too see when he thrusts back in, and Daniel tries like hell to match it, to tell Rupert, show him, keep him here and keep it going.

"So big --" he grunts, pushing his cock against the mat, dragging it for friction, rough and fast, "So big and hard and deep, don't stop, please, more --"

Sun, Nov. 28th, 2004 10:34 pm (UTC)

"Won't stop," Rupert says, hips snapping forward again like his whole body's just an extension of his cock, like it exists to push him deeper and harder into Daniel, into this tormenting and perfect sweetness. "Not stopping. Want – want this – to go on – forever." If this could stretch out into eternity, into infinite slowness like an event horizon, then this could be the only thing he ever did, center and definition of his forgotten life. It's all solid and true, the taut expanse of Daniel's skin, the taste of his sweat, the stuttering rhythms of his body and the urgency of Rupert's own as it channels down into blind sensation, into liquidity and movement. What could any memory be, compared to this, but a limp, dusty, unnecessary thing?

Hooking one arm across Daniel's chest, he pulls him up off the mat. "Let me, need to touch you, feel your cock," and Daniel half-sobs as Rupert's hand closes around the shaft. Fine skin, soft as new leaves, and below the skin a rigid swell, hotter than the blood that fills its threading veins. The skin slicks from the traces of lube on Rupert's fingers, Rupert's fist moves in echo of his thrusts, and everything blurs, their bodies blend together. "Yes, fuck, your cock and – I'm inside you," he says, and that's how it seems, as though he's got all the way inside and he's feeling everything through Daniel's skin.

Rupert closes his eyes, makes himself nothing but swirling, sparking heat, formless and everywhere. Opens them again to look at Daniel, twisting and straining, spine arching in long waves, sweat-dark head jerking with every thrust. This is what sex looks like, this is what Daniel looks like, fierce and voracious and utterly open, undefended. Rupert knows Daniel better now than if they'd talked for hours, shared the memories they don't have. They're so close, every action echoing reactions back, and Rupert kneels up a little, puts more force into his fucking, and when Daniel cries out brokenly it sets off a bright looping burn that makes Rupert gasp. "Daniel-" and Daniel looks back over his shoulder, all wet open mouth and unfocused eyes, face distorted and beautiful with pleasure, and Rupert knows that what he wants most in the world is to see Daniel come.

Sun, Nov. 28th, 2004 11:49 pm (UTC)

Now it feels like Rupert's surrounding him, one hand gliding up and down Daniel's chest, molding and kneading it while the other tugs so rapidly on Daniel's cock that he can see his skin, flame-edged and tight, about to pull inside out. Rupert, inside him, outside, hoisting and pushing, and Daniel's back keeps bowing farther backward, his head rolling against Rupert's shoulder, his vision gone smeared and bright.

He's forgotten whatever he knew in the last hour. He's reduced to this tension that's sharp and wet all at the same time, to the jolts and shoves of Rupert's hips that drag up *more* light, more tension, throughout Daniel, and he can't breathe. He hears himself gasping wetly, but there are showers of sparkling light before his eyes, coating and blurring his sight of Rupert's neck and face, and he grabs onto Rupert's wrist to hold himself up.

He doesn't know anything beyond the boundaries of his own skin, just this swamping torrent of heat and the tension that ramps higher with each moment, so how he knows he's going to come, yank inside out and spill everything into Rupert's hand, he doesn't know. He doesn't know how he knows, just that he is, that he's a goner and he can't close his eyes. His spine glows blue-white, pinching in his skin, shooting downward, and his hips snap forward and up, craving and seeking, into Rupert's fist.

Big hands, wide-stretched mouth that's shouting with Daniel, shaking with Daniel, Rupert's here and now, pulling at him and groping with him. All Daniel knows is this, Rupert, and the gush after gush of emotion and sensation flowing together, and Rupert's mouth like whiskeyed apples, sweet and too strong, and when Daniel comes, his body cracks and snaps and it should hurt, this is too much.

Rupert squeezes Daniel against his chest, mouth moving hungrily like it's searching for something over the nape of Daniel's neck, and Daniel shatters back into words. "Coming and coming, harder, need to feel you come, please --" He shoves back against Rupert's hips and swivels his own, fast and jerky, each limb throbbing in a thousand places.

"Rupert, come, inside me --" When Rupert comes, something will be complete and whole, inside and outside brought together, and Daniel could shriek with the need.

Mon, Nov. 29th, 2004 12:36 am (UTC)

Coming, Daniel's coming, cock pulsing and coating Rupert's hand with blood-warm stickiness, hole spasming around Rupert's cock as Daniel's whole body jerks. Jerks, half-convulses, shaking Rupert until his bones feel loose in his skin, until he's pulled thin and fragile around torrenting need. Come, come, Daniel's saying, voice slick and sucking, urging Rupert on as he clutches and thrusts, hipbones bruising more with each slap against Daniel's arse, as his nerves flare from red-hot to white. Can't hold the rhythm anymore, can only shove and shove and shove, can only talon his fingers around Daniel's trembling shoulders, drag his open mouth across Daniel's back. Come, Daniel's saying, and Rupert's body finally breaks, finally floods scalding as he roars and shudders and holds tight to Daniel.

This is it, orgasm, completion, coming, this unbearable shatter into blank ecstasy and then the broken stillness afterwards, heavy and twitching over Daniel's prone body, gasping with raw newborn lungs. Coming is the best word for it, because Rupert has arrived somewhere, found exhaustion and rest.

His body feels different. Denser, warmer, with a solid glow deep in his belly and a delicious humming everywhere else. "That was wonderful," he says, nosing in Daniel's wet hair. "You were wonderful. Are." He'd like to leave his softening cock inside Daniel, surrounded by that soft pressure that's familiar now, but he knows that's a bad idea. Carefully, he pulls out and drops the condom on the floor, then, homesick for Daniel's body, rolls him onto his side and holds him. Daniel looks dazed, eyes almost closed, but he murmurs and slips an arm around Rupert's waist. "How are you feeling?" Rupert asks, kissing his damp forehead. "What – what was it like for you?"

Mon, Nov. 29th, 2004 01:11 am (UTC)

Daniel's eyelids are heavier than anything, his arms numb and tingly, and his legs about a thousand miles away. He's glad that Rupert can move a little better, help him move.

"Hmm?" he asks, because he can hear Rupert's voice, hoarse and slightly wet around the edges, but it takes him another couple clutching, faltering heartbeats before he understands. He opens his eyes and sees Rupert peering at him. "Oh. Ohhh." Daniel smiles, his cheeks stretching and aching, and then nods. "I'm really good. You're kind of..."

Sucking the inside of his cheek, wriggling another half-inch closer -- he sticks to the mat and his skin peels away with a gulp -- Daniel rubs his head on Rupert's forearm and tries to search for the words. He's overbrimming with feelings, both thick and rapid, physical and not, but the words are stuck somewhere down in the middle of it all. Like honey, or sap, sticky-thick and sweet feelings that trap language. But then Rupert draws his knuckles down Daniel's arm, lightly as a whisper, tickling and breezy, and Daniel shivers hard.

Shivers bring back his mind a little, shake some sense back into him, and he creakily stretches his neck so he can kiss the sweat off Rupert's jaw and chin. "You're really beautiful," Daniel says, closing his eyes again, hearing Rupert's voice, all the kind and amazing things he said (beautiful boy, taste so good), wanting to echo them back, press the truth of them into Rupert's skin. "Felt so good, so, like, whole and right and kind of...beautiful. Yeah."

When Rupert smiles, one eye gets narrower than the other, and Daniel squints, smiling back at him, tracing the radiating spray of creases around one eye. "Stunning? All those words about beauty." He bumps his chest, all skinny and bare, against Rupert's broader, nicer one, and kisses his throat as he nudges his knee between Rupert's sticky, oven-warm thighs. "I don't think I'm that good at describing things. But you really rocked."

He could lie here for the rest of the world, drawing closer, wrinkling his nose against the dust in the mat, feeling every muscle and cell inside him unspool and throb warmly as the sweat down his back prickles cold until Rupert touches him there.

Mon, Nov. 29th, 2004 02:14 am (UTC)

"Whole," Rupert says. "That's it exactly." Touching Daniel, moving inside him, he was more than himself. And he still is, swirling his tongue over Daniel's salty skin (Daniel tastes sexier than before, wilder, and also more indescribably himself) and doodling circles and curves on Daniel's back. They breathe in at the same time, chests pressing together, and Rupert thinks of twins in the womb, their bodies accommodating one another without effort. Everywhere they touch—and there's a lot of it, legs scissored together and arms looped under necks and around waists—Rupert can almost feel the permeability, the exchange of chemicals and low organic electricity. "I think you've described it just right."

He feels still, at ease, but actually they're both moving. Little shifts bring them closer, and their fingers trail slowly over one another. Rupert thinks of seaweed faintly swaying in invisible currents, and wonders, for a moment, where the image comes from. Has he seen the oceanic depths, or is he just remembering television? "You . . . besides beautiful, you're passionate. I think – I know – that I'm awfully lucky to have . . ." Daniel looks up at him, smiles, and Rupert touches his face with the backs of his fingers. Such sharp features, unconventional; it's something about Daniel himself that makes them beautiful. But his eyes are unquestionably lovely, the irises water-blue rings that mute into silvery green, long eyelashes and faint crinkles in the corners that will be laugh lines when he's older.

After a minute Daniel starts to look away, but when Rupert shakes his head Daniel returns his gaze, flushing a little. With his soft, thin skin, a redhead's skin that's almost translucent, his feelings must show in his face more than he likes. "I keep wanting to ask you questions," Rupert says. "About your life. And then I remember that you don't know." What he knows about Daniel, deep and true as it feels, is only a silhouette or a misty watercolor, lacking all the detail. And, too, Rupert would like to know why Daniel wanted him instead of Randy or Alex, both good-looking, both younger. But why, he suspects, may be a question that no memories can answer anyway.

Gently, Rupert strokes the wide bruised patch on Daniel's cheek. "When you remember . . . if you need help, I'll do whatever I can." Daniel closes his eyes and leans in against Rupert's neck.

Mon, Nov. 29th, 2004 02:53 am (UTC)

The bruise is definitely worrisome; Daniel wonders if any of the others have traces of their lives on them. Beyond driver's licenses and necklaces, that is, *really* on them. Rupert has a strange tattoo on one bicep that Daniel still hasn't got a good look at, but it's probably as meaningless as the one Daniel himself sports on *his* arm. The bruise is like the scars, like the ones Rupert has as well, traces of violence that will fade eventually but are still visible now. Like they contain entire unspeakable histories, chains and relationships he doesn't know now, maybe never did. All that history, absent and unremembered, but still present right there on his skin. Their skin.

"When I remember," Daniel starts to say as he opens his eyes, then bites his lip when he finds Rupert still looking at him, regarding and seeing him and tries to pull his thoughts into words he can say. "Thinking about scars. Yours, mine. And the bruise. When I remember, will I also remember this part? Like, it won't go away?"

Rupert shifts slightly onto his back, pulling Daniel with him, and Daniel really likes this thoughtful quality Rupert has. He takes his time, works things out, but when he speaks, it sounds right and just and sincere.

"I mean," Daniel adds, interrupting Rupert's thoughts and feeling helpless about that, "I mean, like, there are all these clues around, but I want to remember this, too." He watches Rupert's jaw work silently, his throat stretch as he swallows, and pulls himself up higher so he can watch Rupert's lashes as he blinks. "Need to remember this."

The scars and bruise, Daniel thinks, are like sex, how there wasn't a boundary -- or much of one, anyway -- between him and Rupert. Well before penetration, there were kisses and stroking, and neither of them was separate. The past is all over their bodies, just like they were all over each other. Still are all over each other, and there's nothing clear, no total amnesia or complete memory.

"I'm going to," he says. "Remember you."

Mon, Nov. 29th, 2004 04:11 am (UTC)

The mat is cold under Rupert's back and presses uncomfortably into places he's just realizing are sore. "I hope so," he says, and circles Daniel's legs with his own, locking Daniel against him as if that will ward off forgetting. "I wouldn't want to forget you. Not for anything." If the price of his memories is the loss of this, he's not sure he'd willingly pay. Right now he's got a treasure in hand, pure heavy gold, and he'd be a fool to exchange it for something unknown, for a lucky dip that'll probably come up worthless plastic trinkets and ten pence worth of candies.

He kisses Daniel again, both hands deep in his sticky hair, and he realizes that memory, any kind of memory, is the enemy. In the few minutes since they last kissed he's already half-forgotten how it feels, the taste of Daniel's mouth and the squiggles and darts of sensation that kissing him raises in Rupert's skin. Keeping the memory is well and good, but the best thing would be keeping Daniel.

Rupert's skin comes away from the mat with a sucking sound when he rolls onto his side again, and the dust smell comes up as strong as ever. They were far gone, both of them, not to have noticed all this discomfort and bareness. What would it be like, fucking Daniel in a warm, comfortable bed? Afterwards they could pull the covers up and talk, or just sleep.

Daniel, who must feel the cold more sharply than Rupert, is shivering a little. "We should get dressed," Rupert says. "I don't want to, but . . . anyway, the others might come back at any moment. And it would be a little embarrassing if they caught us bare-arsed."

All his clothes are in disarray, trousers inside-out and a button missing from his crumpled shirt, and putting them on seems much more laborious than taking them off. As he dresses, Rupert watches Daniel, who blushes and watches him too. "Well, you've something to remember me by," Rupert says, touching one of the love bites that are blooming all over Daniel's neck and torso. There are bruises coming up on Rupert's arms and chest too, fingermarks probably. He doesn't remember pain, only the desperate, exciting way Daniel pulled at him.

Daniel swipes the mat with his t-shirt, Rupert pockets the condom (he can't put it in the trash here where someone might find it), and the room looks as though nothing happened. It's over. Daniel looks at him silently, perhaps as reluctant to leave as Rupert is. But there's nothing to say. Rupert takes his hand and they go back into the shop.

Everything's still quiet, although a couple of the bunnies have got loose and are huddled under the table. "Must find a way to undo that spell." Rupert picks up his suit jacket, trying to decide how to mention the motel room key Daniel said he had, and whether they might both go back there tonight. As he shakes the jacket out, an envelope with the British Airways logo tumbles from an inside pocket.

"Daniel. Look at this." There are two tickets from Los Angeles to London, leaving--Rupert checks his watch for the date and time--tomorrow morning at eight. Two tickets, one for Rupert Giles, one for Daniel Osbourne. Rupert's hands are shaking and he can't quite catch his breath as he shows them to Daniel.

Mon, Nov. 29th, 2004 04:33 am (UTC)

The tickets tremble and Daniel has to squint and lean in close, because it's all a blur. The printing on the tickets is small and stark, and they're shaped like gravestones, and for a moment he feels colder than ever. Despite the cardigan he zipped up to his chin, despite the reassuring warmth of Rupert's body against his, he shivers and has been shivering since they left the gym.

But he's shaking into warmth now, plucking the ticket with his name on it, and holding it up to his face. He's blushing, looking up at Rupert, watching that smile spread like light across Rupert's face until his eyes disappear and he leans down, brushing his smile against Daniel's forehead. The ticket crumples over Daniel's hand as they push together, and he feels warm.

Bruised, and sore, and very stinky, but warm.

"I'm going to London with you?" Daniel slides his arm around Rupert's waist and leans against him. "I'm going to London with you." Language is doing that funny, slippery thing again, skating from question to fact and back again. "Why am I --. We're --"

Rupert's nodding, still smiling, and he looks amazing, loosened tie and easy joy, his hand coming around Daniel's shoulder and squeezing him.

"I'm --" Daniel leans in, warmth suffusing him, tingling and cradling him. "We're -- We're already. So happy."

Mon, Dec. 6th, 2004 01:27 am (UTC)

Rupert's seen Daniel smile a few times, now, but not like this. This is a complete smile, vivid in his mouth and the set of his head and his eyebrows that curve like baroque punctuation marks for happiness. This is the platonic essence of a smile. Rupert's own smile widens as he looks, and he's a lucky man if he gets to see that smile--inspire it--every day.

Carefully, he tucks the envelope into the deepest of his jacket pockets and then touches Daniel's face, needing to feel that delight in his own skin. "I suppose we are. That must be why . . . I don't remember you, but ever since I kissed you, I . . . You feel right." He kisses Daniel again, hugs him tight, and Rupert's laughing for no reason, foolish and amazed. "Now I do want my memories back."

There's a whole history, wondrous as Mayan codices or Sumerian epics, rich as buried Pompeii, waiting to be known again.

Daniel looks up, still smiling, and Rupert strokes his cheek again, fingers delicate over the bruise. Perhaps not all that history is beautiful; perhaps they've forgotten atrocities. "I hope that I – I wasn't –" Rupert doesn't think he's the kind of man to do that, but it's not as if he knows.

Mon, Dec. 6th, 2004 01:57 am (UTC)

Rupert's hand is warm, gentle, the touch like aloe, and Daniel leans his head into it. He blinks once, and when his eyes open, he's looking up at Giles and he is Oz and the forgetfulness is washing away in great lacy swathes like the bubbles left behind by waves on the beach.

"You didn't," Oz says quietly, and Giles' face creases into his part-migraine, part-hard thinking expression. "It's me, Giles."

Giles nods, frowning, but doesn't move away. If anything, he tilts slightly into Oz, his hand slipping into Oz's hair, fingers curling for balance. Oz guides him to the nearest chair and pulls himself up onto the table next to Giles, arm around his shoulders. His legs and ass ache a little in protest, but that's nothing compared to the memories suffusing him. Names, and love, and contact shadowed with history: He doesn't want to forget how *good* and right this feels.

"And we're going home in --" He nudges aside Giles' cuff to check his watch. "In about eight hours." Slumping a little, Oz rests his cheek on top of Giles' head and sighs when Giles' arm slips around his waist.

"Love you," Oz says, smiling again. "Rupert."

Mon, Dec. 6th, 2004 02:43 am (UTC)

Oz. Daniel is Oz.

His Oz.

Giles rubs his face against Oz's chest and sighs when Oz kisses his head again. He and Oz are always touching, but seldom like this, with Oz higher. Strangeness and not, familiarity turned inside out. "Do you know how odd that sounds?" he asks, spreading his fingers over the flexed muscles of Oz's waist. "Hearing you call me Rupert?"

He can remember everything, but he also remembers not remembering. Remembers touching Daniel for the first time, feeling everything for the first time. Losing his virginity with Daniel, everything so unexpected, new-made. Just a few minutes ago, and almost five years ago, and thirty years ago, too, when he first touched another boy's cock. Time has collapsed down to a moment, leaving all Giles' memories on a single plane. He feels like double-exposed film, disparate images overlapping, eerie and uncomfortably beautiful.

"I love you," he says, and reaches up to urge Oz onto his lap. Two familiar things, and he feels better for the words, for Oz's weight on him and Oz's breath warming his neck. "Daniel. Oz."

Past the confusion, Giles is starting to think. Memory spells. There are hundreds of them. But he knows the right books, now, and he can leave the references with Willow. Can't research it himself, because they're going home. They've got to pack, drive to Los Angeles, return the car and get to the airport by six . . .

It's the kind of thinking he can do without real engagement. Most of him is holding Oz, smelling him, remembering him. But that part must be thinking too, because something comes clear from the blurred mental collage that's starting to make Giles' head ache. "You chose me," he says. Whispers into Oz's ear; this can only be whispered. "Oz. You didn't remember me, but you chose me anyway." Out of everyone, Oz wanted him.

His Oz. Always his.

Mon, Dec. 6th, 2004 03:15 am (UTC)

Giles sounds amazed, his voice hoarse and quavery, and his arm keeps tightening around Oz. Inhaling slowly through his nose, Oz turns and kisses Giles' stubbly cheek, right over a sticky swipe of lube. It is pretty amazing, he supposes, to go toward the person you want the most. Spike went with Buffy, and Xander and Willow woke up next to each other, a new-old memory that makes Oz's chest ache for half a second, pointlessly.

"Want you," Oz whispers back, lips moving over stubble and skin. "Always. Keep telling you that." He smiles, but Giles doesn't; Giles squeezes him more tightly and his breath pools warmly against Oz's neck. It's not a joke, not anything to josh about, and Oz kisses Giles' temple in apology. "Always. Senile or at full-power, Giles. Promise."

Memory, he's learning now, grows and thickens like yarn getting spun; he remembers, now, that Spike and Buffy left to deal with vampires, that the others are probably still wandering the sewers, that he left Giles more than once. But all the facts, however strong and sinewy they're becoming, still don't feel entirely real. Not nearly as real as this, feeling Giles' heart beat against his side, smelling the sweaty exhaustion coming off Giles' skin, thinking about home. London, eight thousand miles, and this time tomorrow, they'll be there. Unconscious, probably, but there.

Most of Sunnydale and its events have always felt like that, though: strong, factual, but not nearly as absorbing as the other stuff, as the half-moon scar on the side of Giles' nose that's usually obscured by his glasses, as the whisk-whisk of his cotton against Oz's corduroy, as anything that's this quiet. Hellmouths are drama queens, Oz thinks, massaging the top of Giles' neck and humming the weird cowboy-campfire song he found himself singing to Giles several days ago. They're drama queens and spoiled brats demanding all the attention, now, and Oz tends to turn his back on people (towns) like that.

He can't wait to leave this place.

"I'll be right here," he says as the banging in the cellar gets louder, heralding the rest's return. "When you tell them, I mean. I'll be, like, human flak jacket."

Tue, Dec. 7th, 2004 12:34 am (UTC)

Giles doesn't ordinarily procrastinate, but in the weeks they've been here, he never found the right time to tell everyone that he and Oz weren't staying. Easier, always, to wait for another day when the others weren't so busy or so relaxed, when they were happier or when a rare bit of happiness wouldn't be disrupted. Now it's the last possible moment, and he's tempted to just wait a little longer and ring them from London. To hell with half-measures--he might as well run away for real.

Of course, Oz wouldn't let him run away even if he truly wanted to. Oz has sworn off disappearances without warning.

"Thank you," Giles says as Oz slides off his lap. "But I don't want you to be the flak jacket. The one who takes all the blame." It's not Oz who has duties here. Not Oz whom Buffy is counting on. "I want you here, of course," he adds, because Oz has stopped, frowning a little, halfway through straightening his clothes. "Just not as a human shield."

Oz, absently tugging the hem of his cardigan, looks about to say something, but then the basement door opens and Tara appears, hugging her sweater close around her. "Is everyone all-" Giles says before he sees her expression. "What happened?" Her face is wet, her eyes blank, and she walks out the front door without a pause.

It must be - Willow must be - but Willow's at the top of the stairs looking around, and when she doesn't see Tara in the shop she lets out a hoarse sound and runs for the door.


"The spell," Xander says. His face is bleeding and Anya and Dawn are holding on to his arms. "Willow did it. And Tara-"

"Willow's been controlling Tara's memory," Anya says.

"Ahn, we don't-"

"Yes we do, Xander! It's not like we could help hearing about it when they were fighting at our brand-new dining table!" She pushes Xander into a chair and sits down herself, barely flinching when Oz ducks under the table and emerges with the two escaped rabbits in his arms. In remarkable detail, considering she wasn't meant to be listening, Anya tells about Willow and Tara's row and the promise Willow made to avoid magic. "Giles, you've got to do something about Willow. She was bossy enough before she turned into Stalin-with-spells."

"Unfortunately, I can't think of anyone whose advice she's less likely to heed," Giles says. "In any case . . . Dawn, you should hear this too." Dawn, holding a rabbit while Oz tries to open the box without freeing the others, pets its ears and doesn't answer. Poor girl, she must feel as though her world is shattered yet again. Tara's been almost a mother to her.

Anya mutters something that Giles at first takes to be a complaint, but then the rabbits vanish with a cartoonish pop. "Bunny-banishing spell," she explains. "Clears the hoppy little monsters for half a mile. I'm thinking of marketing it to gardeners. Or possibly an agri-business conglomerate. Large-scale thinking means large profits, after all."

Scowling at Anya, Dawn comes back to the table, followed by Oz. "Well," Giles manages before all the planning he's done for this moment goes out of his head. None of his tactful, rehearsed words remain. Oz lays a hand over his, which doesn't bring anything back but lets Giles decide he'd better just get on with it. "We're leaving. Oz and I. We're going back home."

"I get the shop back!" Anya exclaims at the same moment that Xander says, "Leaving? Giles, you can't." After a quick look between the two, Anya shrugs and Xander continues, "We - Buffy needs you. And Oz, man, you can't go. You're the only guy I know. Who'm I gonna eat junk food and talk about manly things with, huh?" He laughs, nervously, and Giles stifles an answering laugh of his own. Buffy's been furious ever since Giles told her, early this afternoon, and Willow's just done a spell that could have got them all killed, and Giles can't decide which is funnier--the fact that Xander doesn't consider him a "guy," or the thought of Oz talking cars and football

Tue, Dec. 7th, 2004 01:42 am (UTC)

Oz rubs his chin as he checks Giles out of the corner of his eye. "It's a good point," he tells Xander, "but, I mean. You've always got Spike, right?"

Xander raises his hand to flip him off, but stops when Oz leans toward Dawn. Her arms are still folded across her chest, around the bunny who's not there, her chin pointing up to the ceiling. She's pretending nothing's happening, or that nothing bothers her, something like that. Oz slides back and squeezes Giles' hand.

"I don't know what you're so upset about," Anya's saying to Xander. "You have me, and that should be enough. I can drink many a man under the table, and that's got to count for something."

"No, but see, what I meant was --" Xander starts.

Willow's doing magic on her *friends*: Oz's brain is stuck there, needle running and rasping through the same groove. Not just her friends, not just, you know, resurrecting the dead, but going into Tara's head and rearranging it like Lawrence on Changing Rooms.

"Why'd Willow do that?" Oz asks suddenly, and Giles' hand tightens into a fist beneath Oz's palm. Oz turns in his seat and shrugs. "It's just -- why would you *do* that?"

"Makes everything easier," Dawn says. Finally, in a tone so flat and cold that Oz's throat dries and swells. Dawn's not a kid, but she shouldn't *that* world-weary. No one should. "Keeps everything, like, under control."

"Oz, I don't think --" Giles starts to say and Oz realizes he's rubbing Giles' arm, the way he does to loosen up writing muscles, and he stops. Looks down at his hand, chipped nail polish and pale bony fingers on Giles' nice blazer, and makes himself stop.

"Right, not the point," Oz says. He's not sure what the point is; the Hellmouth sets whatever internal compass he has whirling drunkenly. He's about to apologize, say something else, when the bell over the door rings and everyone's head turns automatically. Buffy's leaning against the door, rubbing her side and smiling tightly, almost nauseously.

"Joan? What was I thinking? Anyway. Back," she says. "Glad I caught you, Giles."

"Giles is leaving!" Xander says, half-standing up. He sits down when Giles rises, his arm slipping away from Oz's hand. "And he's taking Oz with him!"

"Really, Xander, it's not like that," Anya tells him, and Oz turns back, like Giles needs his privacy with Buffy. He kind of always did.

"Giles is kidnapping me?"

"Might as well be," Xander says, slumping down, shrugging off Anya's anxious hand. "Don't get me wrong, it's cool you came back, even if it was with the big guy, but --"

"You have to admit, you have a habit of showing up and disappearing," Anya says. "It's hard for some people. Like Xander."

Oz can't help himself; he checks over his shoulder, just once, just to make sure that Giles and Buffy are okay, before turning back.


Tue, Dec. 7th, 2004 02:28 am (UTC)

Giles tries to smile reassuringly at Oz, who shouldn't have to defend himself to Anya, of all people. She and Xander mean well, probably. That's the hardest thing. Giles isn't just choosing Oz over his duties; he's choosing Oz over Buffy, over Dawn, over Xander. Over all of them, and all their awkward, tentative affection. He's rejecting them, leaving them behind. And so is Oz.

When Giles turns back to Buffy, he feels, with sudden vividness, all the traces of sex on his body and his clothes. What happened with Oz seems, for a second, grotesque. Fucking in the back room, on Buffy's workout mats.

Perhaps in Sunnydale they're inevitably grotesque. They don't fit here, not together. "Buffy-"

"You're really leaving? Still?" As she speaks, she folds an arm carefully over her ribs. She must have been in a fight, a bad one.

Giles nods. There's a smear of dried blood at the corner of her mouth. He should get her a glass of water, a chair, a first-aid kit.

"How can you? We all just lost our memories. Anything could be happening." Slowly, wincing, Buffy leans against the counter. Very quietly, she says, "Giles, how can you just leave me?"

It's the question she didn't ask this afternoon. It's the awful silence that yawned between his attempts at explanation. Every reason enumerated, the truest ones played down, the strained ones expanded until Giles almost made it sound like this was for Buffy's own good. No wonder she didn't believe it. Doesn't.

"Buffy . . ." When Giles lays a hand on her shoulder, she twists away, then hisses and holds her ribs again. "I have to." Without meaning to, he glances back at Oz. Buffy sees, of course.

"Funny how boyfriends weren't important when I had one." Briskly, she straightens up, pain disappearing from her face and posture. She's used to hiding it, of course. "Come on, Dawn," she calls. "Time to go home."

For once, Dawn doesn't argue. She hugs Oz, whispers something in his ear, and follows her sister to the door. Then, to Giles' surprise, she turns around and hugs him tightly. "I'm still mad at you," she says, half-muffled against his chest.

"I know." To Buffy, hand on the doorknob, staring at the boarded window, Giles says, "Willow did the spell. Xander and Anya can explain. But . . . Buffy, keep an eye on her."

Without looking at him, Buffy nods, and then she and Dawn are out the door, gone.

Tue, Dec. 7th, 2004 03:02 am (UTC)

Oz had wanted to say goodbye to Buffy. He *likes* Buffy, even more this time around than he did in high school; he's tried to tell her about hearing about what she did for Dawn up on the tower. When everyone else reeled and bitched about her being in heaven, Oz sat back and thought about Lilin, about ghostly roads and other dimensions where Buffy had probably floated forever and a day, and he smiled. Xander noticed, asked what was so funny, and Oz said something about Xander becoming queen to an underworld king.

He makes more jokes in Sunnydale. It's something Xander always did, and Oz knows why now; it makes things a little easier, a little softer around the edges, at least temporarily.

But there's no joke to make now, not with the bell ringing and Anya and Xander standing up from the table like Oz and Giles are kids dragged home by the truant officer and there's gonna be trouble from the parental units. Oz moves a little closer to Giles and takes his hand.

This is exactly how they came back, but this is goodbye. No Buffy, no Tara, not even Willow.

"Don't forget to write, man," Xander says, taking Oz's hand. All thoughts of disapproving parents vanish, squeezed out by Xander's construction-strong grip, and then he's pulling Oz into a bearhug. "I mean it. Or call. Charge it to Giles, tell him you need to make contact with the homeland."

On top, Xander smells like the sewers, all damp and drips, but underneath, it's pure Xander, like the bathroom after Xander showered, clean and *warm*. "Can do that," Oz says, looking up and thumping Xander's back.

"It shouldn't be too expensive," Anya says, pushing her hand between Oz and Xander and giving Oz a brief, one-armed hug that smells like, well, currency. Well-thumbed bills and jangling coins. "You don't say very much. Xander could even call you. For the manly things."

Oz kisses her temple as Anya pulls away, and Xander's smiling. Really smiling, like he hasn't since the wedding news, and Oz squeezes his elbow one more time. For half a moment, Oz doesn't want to leave. He wants to rent an apartment in Giles' old building and keep house and head out to play pool with Xander and the guys on Friday nights and go to sleep alone most nights while Giles patrols and remember how to wait. It would be better that way, happier for everyone else, and he's being incredibly, mindblowingly selfish to want it any other way.

Oz steps aside so Giles can say his farewells, and he tries to picture the apartment in London. It's faded and spidery in his mind, like a Xerox of a pen-and-ink sketch, an idea of a place that's not exactly real.

Tue, Dec. 7th, 2004 04:02 am (UTC)

Saying goodbye was easier last time, in the airport. Perhaps because there simply wasn't much time, or perhaps because everyone was grieving. Giles left then out of grief and uselessness, not to start a new, happier, safer life somewhere else.

Xander puts his hands in his pockets, rocks back and forth, takes them out again, and says, "Hey, didn't we just do all this a couple months ago? Weird. You and Oz, with the going and the coming back and the going. Guess you are kind of alike after all."

Just like last time, there's an embarrassed handshake that turns into an embarrassed hug and a good deal of forceful back-pounding from Xander. "We'll come back for the wedding," Giles says, his voice wavering from the thumping he's getting.

"With presents?" Anya adds herself to the hug for a second, then pulls Xander back, her arm looped around his waist.

"Of course. Exotic English presents that cannot be had in California." As soon as Giles reaches for him, Oz is there; Giles squeezes his ribs and smiles at Anya. Standing this way, the four of them must be distorted mirrors of each other. Not four people, but two couples, laying unspoken claims, marking unconscious borders. Love changes everything. Love expands and limits, pluralizes individuality. No more autonomous I mixing freely, but us and them.

Once, long ago, there were just four people: Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles. Strange to remember that now. And of course it's not really true, because there was always Oz, hidden. So patient, never asking to be the center.

"Well, goodbye then," Anya says. "Enjoy lots and lots of sex, and don't even think about the shop. Ever."

A round of goodbyes follows, like the clink of glasses at a toast. Giles watches them go, Xander still waving as the door shuts behind him, then turns to press tightly against Oz. This is what he's chosen, Oz and the future they can have together, so long as they don't stay here. This is what he wanted that whole awful year of concealment and anxiety. The chance he ached to have missed after Oz left him.

It feels very definite, now. Very real. Only now, Giles realizes, has he finally, publicly put Oz first. Chosen him. Before, it was only plans and intentions. "Love you," he says, closing his fists around the fabric of Oz's jacket.

When Giles bought the shop, not much more than a year ago, he thought he might stay in Sunnydale forever.

He kisses Oz's forehead, breathes in the familiar scent of his hair, and lets him go. "Oz, I . . . I need a minute to myself. Sorry. It's all-"

This is what Giles wants, what Oz needs, and Giles knows he's foolish to wonder if he's doing the right thing.

Tue, Dec. 7th, 2004 04:21 am (UTC)

He's never said goodbye to Giles. Oz is thinking about that, hands driven deeply into his pants pockets, as he waits by the car. He supposes he could have waited in the shop, but there's something about saying goodbye to places that's best done alone. So he's outside, rocking on his heels, wondering what it means that he hasn't said goodbye to a place himself since he left Sunnydale the first time. The second time, he drove out through the blacked-out town, headlights dimmed, and just wished himself elsewhere; leaving Bariloche, he rushed to sell his stuff and catch the bus.

It's like Xander said: Oz doesn't say goodbye. And he promised Giles that he wouldn't leave again without saying goodbye. Hence, he's staying. It makes a strange, chlorine-bright sort of logic in his mind, actually. No goodbyes, no leaving.

Cold out here, and he thinks he gets a whiff of Spike lurking around back in the alley. Whiff, and a glimpse of the cherry at the end of his cigarette.

"Anyone back there?" Oz calls, and his voice is hoarse, and he realizes he wants to say goodbye again. Small and pathetic, maybe, that it'd be to *Spike*, but he takes his chances when they present themselves.

There's no answer, so Oz pulls his jacket more tightly around himself and turns his back on the lights from the shop. He's facing east now, and if he squints, he can see the cloudy sky and think about the plane.

Mon, Dec. 20th, 2004 12:42 am (UTC)

For a while, as a small boy, Giles dreamed of owning a grocer's shop. Mostly he wanted the unlimited supply of sweets, but he also, he knows now, wanted something that was entirely his own. Setting his own hours and picking his own stock (every kind of cake ever made, and absolutely no sprouts or beets) seemed like perfect independence. No one makes shopkeepers memorize Latin declensions or go to bed early on a summer evening.

Instead, of course, he took the Watchers' oath, which uses the word obey three times. And later, before he came to America for Buffy, he swore to train and guide her until her death or his own.

Perhaps he's never been very good at obedience.

Sitting on the table, rubbing at a sore spot on his shoulder, Giles looks around at the books and herbs and crystals, the ritual candles in eight (unnecessary) scents, the tacky unicorn statuettes that sell remarkably well. He chose all of it, even the unicorns, because in the end one has to stock what other people want.

It seems to epitomize something, that he tried to be a Watcher and a shopkeeper at once, and found that neither was exactly what he'd expected. Time to be something else, then.

Time to go home with Oz and see what happens next.

But Giles finds himself wandering around, running his fingers over the shelves and polishing away the smudges on the brass incense burners. He goes back into the exercise room with a handful of wet paper towels and wipes the mat down again, mentally apologizing to Buffy all the while.

Eventually she'll forgive him for leaving. And when she dies, it won't be his fault, any more than it would have been if he'd stayed.

In the office filing cabinet, behind folders full of daily and monthly accounts, he finds a half-empty bottle of Johnny Walker. He'd forgotten that he put it - hid it - there, a week or two after Buffy dived off the tower.

The bottle's uncapped and Giles' mouth is parched, his blood sour with craving, before he remembers that Oz will smell it on him. And Oz will worry, which isn't something Giles should do to him.

He puts the cap back on, opens the drawer again, and stops. Shuts the drawer, goes back into the main room, and puts the bottle in his briefcase.

No sense wasting a bottle of whiskey, even bad whiskey.

Oz never looks in his briefcase.

Giles is too tired to think, or too tired to have to think. He puts out the lights, double-checks the boards over the window, sets the alarm, locks the doors. Wraps his arms around Oz, who's waited so patiently for him, kisses his forehead, and says, "Let's go."

Mon, Dec. 20th, 2004 01:32 am (UTC)

Big things, important things -- things like departures, farewells, even homecomings -- are never as momentous and weighty when they actually happen as Oz expects that they'll be. As he drives them to the motel for the last time, he thinks explicitly that this is the last time, but nothing stirs inside him. Just a slow, seeping need to get on with this, pack up the last of their things, maybe even nap before getting to the airport with enough time to spare.

Exhaustion mutes the urgency of it all, keeps his eyes solidly on the road, and Oz is measuring forward motion by the tempo of Giles' breathing and thunk-thunk rhythm of dashed lines down the center of the road.

Even their conversation is moving like syrup, phrases and murmurs that slide through the dark of the car.

"Everything go all right?" he asks and Giles murmurs in reply, dropping his hand on Oz's thigh. A while later, Oz remembers to say, "Good."

Sooner -- or later, it's hard to tell -- they're back in the room and Giles steers Oz to the bed. Oz knows he should protest, stay up and help pack, but there's the drive ahead of him and just thinking about that makes him woozy. Lying on top of the blankets, knowing that if he gets underneath he'll never wake up in time, Oz hugs the pillow to his face.

"Wake me up at three?" he asks. He doesn't even know what time it is now, but that's better. If he knows what time it is, he'll waste what he does have worrying that it's not enough. When Giles squeezes his shoulder and drops a kiss on his temple, Oz reaches blindly out and grabs Giles' hand.

"Always choose you," he says thickly and his eyes won't open. Amnesia and exhaustion feel almost the same: heavy and sweet, cloying like potheads' incense. Giles still wanted him, not even knowing him, and Oz keeps that fact right under his lids as he sleeps.

Soon enough he'll have to wake and drive again and they'll drag themselves through paranoid security lines and yet it all feels very far away. Like another country, like they've already lifted away from Sunnydale, and it all happened without him noticing.