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Tue, Mar. 15th, 2005, 06:37 pm
glossing: London, 2001: New Year's Eve & The Little Black Suit

This suit is the most expensive thing Oz has ever worn.

No, that's not quite right. It is - or it will be, when he finally gets dressed - but it's more than that. It's the most expensive thing Oz has ever owned. His first and second vans, zebra and blue, combined, didn't cost this much.

He's still gaping at it. Fresh from the shower, towel around his waist, he's sitting right in front of the electric fire Giles dug up when the weather went really cold a couple weeks ago. Waiting for his nails to dry, he's spending time looking at the suit. It's hanging on the back of the wardrobe door, sober and black and expensive.

It is, possibly, looking back at him.

"Should have diamonds in the lapels or something. Velvet and satin," he said when they went to the tailor's the first time. "Go all out, like Little Richard. Or Prince."

He said it under his breath, though, because the tailor's shop reminded him of a library. Not Giles' library, but a strange one, all the half-finished suits and rolls of fabric looming around like shadowy ghosts. But Giles smiled, privately, and just squeezed Oz's shoulder.

This suit is an investment. A good suit is like a van, that's how Oz has been justifying this to himself: it needs to go the distance and never disappoint you. The wool is finer than most silk, light under his weighing palm, and the lines of it, they're like something out of an old New Yorker cartoon, diagonal and elegant. Unwavering.

This suit will carry him through the party tonight, get him where he needs to go, and bring him home, safe and sound. It's not that he's not looking forward to the party; he is, if only because he hasn't seen Olivia since shortly after they got back to London. She warned him then about stealing Rupert back to California, cults and wackiness.

His nails are dry, and they'll match his vest - no, his waistcoat - and his socks. Bright and shiny, little flares of the familiar amidst all this pricey formality.

Oz loves dressing up. Right now, though, he flops back onto the bed and thinks about staying naked.

It'd be a statement, that's for sure.

"Hey, Giles -" he says when Giles bustles into the room, spot-cleaner apparently discovered in its insidious hiding place. "Can I wear a kilt instead? Maybe a festive frock?"

He shouldn't joke; Giles is taking this party much more seriously than Oz has seen him take any social appointment, but he can't help it.

He rolls over on his side, the towel coming loose, and grins at Giles' expression, all shock, partly dismay, and a little suspicion that he's being teased. "Could whip something stunning up from the old living-room curtains."

Wed, Mar. 16th, 2005 12:31 am (UTC)

Giles sets down the spot-cleaner, notes that Oz's suit does not seem to have acquired any blobs of purple nail varnish, notes that Oz's nails exactly match the color of a small bruise on his hip, and only then notes that Oz is naked and rosily fresh-scrubbed and stretched out on the bed. When Giles left the room he was towel-draped and seated, painting his nails with great concentration.

"Curtains?" he repeats blankly, trying to backtrack to what Oz said. A kilt, that was it. A kilt or a frock. "The old threadbare yellow ones? I expect one of Olivia's fashion-designer friends would snap you up." Oz, still naked, smiles when Giles sits at the end of the bed and cups a hand over one bony ankle. It's beautifully warm in the room, warm enough that Oz looks perfectly content lying there. Warm enough that Giles is quite snug in his dressing gown, and when Oz slides the sole of his foot along the velvet, Giles is tempted to take off the gown and kiss a meandering wet trail up Oz's body and skip the party entirely.

Olivia would kill them both, of course. She was patient enough when they turned down her pre-Christmas cocktail party--"new non-drinkers get one pass," she said--but she's been calling every couple of days about New Year's Eve and pointedly mentioning the sparkling water and exotic fruit juices she's laid in.

So Giles contents himself with a kiss to Oz's knee. "Now, if you'd told me you fancied a kilt . . . Kilts are perfectly acceptable as black tie, you see. And they come with all sorts of fripperies, including something that looks like a large furry purse. You'd look charming." Perhaps next year. For this year, the year when Oz is to meet all Giles' old friends and acquaintances, not to mention Paul, Giles is just as pleased that he'll be in good, properly tailored suit. With luck, they can nip the worst (and therefore most gossip-worthy) of other people's assumptions in the bud.

Wed, Mar. 16th, 2005 12:48 am (UTC)

Giles is out of it. Like, drifting along on his own thoughts, dreamy yet tense around the mouth and in his shoulders, completely abstracted. Oz isn't sure if this is Giles' social face around grown-ups, but he suspects it has more to do with the specific party, the specific crowd. The best thing Oz can do - and it's good that it's the best, because it's also the *only* thing he can do - is remind Giles that he's okay. Home and loved and safe.

"Not Scottish, though," Oz says, swinging himself up onto one knee and rubbing Giles' shoulders through the robe. "So I'd kind of be a poseur."

Ducking his head, Giles nods and lets out a long sigh. Oz had hoped the shower would drain away his nervousness, but no such luck. He tilts his head and kisses Giles' chin, then his mouth, lightly, until some of the tension eases out of Giles' neck.

"As it is -" He pulls back a little, sliding off the bed and looking around for the bag of new underwear he bought a few days after Christmas. He finds them unpacked and set in the top drawer of the bureau, on top of his usual white briefs. "I should get dressed."

The new briefs are black - formal, he figured, went all the way to first layer - and small like a girl's, but they fit nicely and look pretty cool. Kind of transgressive without being creepy.

Over his shoulder, as he smoothes out the elastic band, he adds, "Are *you* doing the naked thing? 'cause, no fair."

Wed, Mar. 16th, 2005 01:26 am (UTC)

The thin black cotton pants hug the lovely curve of Oz's backside, and when he turns around, Giles mouth goes a bit dry and he has to swallow. They're cut, somehow, to accentuate the bulge of Oz' cock. In fact they're designed to make other people want to take them off, and it certainly seems to work.

"Beautiful," Giles says. It's strange, both exciting and a little disconcerting, to see Oz wear something that heightens his beauty instead of masking it. He'll decorate himself in small ways--dye his hair, paint his nails, pierce his ears--but usually he hides his body under clothes like empty sacks. "And no, I'm not, er, doing the naked thing. Though I am tempted to wait and watch you dress."

Sadly, though, Oz is already pulling up his trousers. Giles will have to wait out the evening before he'll have another look at him so deliciously almost naked.

It's a good thought, though, a thought to settle him, and the jangle in Giles' stomach is calmer as he puts on his own pants (plain old y-fronts--perhaps he ought to have followed Oz's lead and got something sleek and new) and takes his dinner jacket and trousers out of the dry cleaner's bag. There's no reason to be nervous. This is a chance to see Oz in his smart new suit, that's all.

Wed, Mar. 16th, 2005 01:40 am (UTC)

Underwear he can do. Trousers, too, even if he's scared that every movement is about to wrinkle them irreparably. The shirt, though. That's a whole other thing.

Oz shrugs it on and it is - "God, this is like *silk*," he says, turning, the tails lifting and trailing after him like wings. There's Giles by the bed, pants open on his hips, head slightly cocked.

"There are fiddly little things," Oz says, holding out one shirt-tail. "No buttons and could you -"

Giles' hair is still damp, waving off his face, and he looks suddenly like a grown-up. Even half-dressed. Like someone handsome in a movie, offering you a sip from his flask, leaning in with cupped palm to light your cigarette, and Oz swallows hard.

"Hey. Looking good."

Thu, Mar. 17th, 2005 11:05 pm (UTC)

"Thank you. So are you," Giles adds, doing up his trousers. "I'm glad you let me talk you into all this." It took some doing; Oz wanted, at first, to scour every Oxfam and market stall in the city for a secondhand suit. They came entirely too close to quarrelling before Oz, puzzled by Giles' insistence, gave in.

One of these days, Giles thinks as he finds the shirt studs, he's going to put a thousand pounds into Oz's pocket and tell him not to come home until he's spent it all on himself. That should cure his squeamishness about money.

"Perfect," he says when the last stud is in. The mother-of-pearl surface barely shows against the shirt; there's just a faint shimmer when Oz moves. "Now, there's a tab on the shirt--here, see it?--that fits a button inside the waistband of your trousers. It keeps the shirt in place." Unnecessarily, Giles buttons it for him, so he can tickle Oz's belly and make him laugh, and kiss him afterwards.

In the high collar, with his hair falling soft against his forehead, Oz (even with the purple nail varnish) looks wonderfully old-fashioned and innocent, like a schoolboy dressed up for chapel. "Very nice." He hands Oz a pair of new cuff links, mother-of-pearl bars with a silver chain, that Giles has hidden among his own to save for this moment. "Here. No paper clips for you this time." Another kiss to take the sting out of the memory. "The gold ones are yours, too, the ones you wore that night. But they wouldn't go with your shirt studs."

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005 12:09 am (UTC)

"Yeah? Thanks -" Oz looks up at Giles, closing his eyes when Giles brushes the hair off his forehead, opening them when Giles rests his hands on his shoulders. "Probably need to find more shirts with fancy cuffs, then."

The last time he dressed up like this, Oz was taking Willow to prom. That was a rental, the fabric kind of shiny and definitely worn, and the bow tie clipped on. Now he has the World's Most Expensive Suit and two pairs of cufflinks cradled in his palm. They're tiny and slightly glinting and in the back of his mind, he's trying to figure out how to turn them into earrings.

"You doing better?" he asks as he sits on the foot of the bed and wrestles with the cufflinks. The shirt's cuffs keep flopping out of reach. "Because here's what I'm thinking - look at the parties we've gone to. Arm in a box. Zombies. Mean little fear demon. What could be worse?"

Finally, the link catches and Oz sits back, resting his cheek against his shoulder, watching Giles button up his own shirt. More and more, he looks *glamourous*, and as he tucks in his shirttails, Oz stands up to help him.

"Why do I keep thinking you look like a grown-up? Like it's a surprise or something."

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005 12:41 am (UTC)

Giles stops fiddling with a reluctant shirt stud and turns his attention to the shirttails, where Oz's helpful fingers are getting rather too enjoyable. "Well," he says, nudging Oz's hand away from his flies, "if you've started mentally taking twenty-five years off my age, I can't say I'm going to complain." There, he's dressed at last, and something about it puts him more in the mood for the party. Formal clothes are a kind of uniform, just like the tweed suits he wore as a Watcher--they focus one's mind, ease one into a role.

"Help me with these?" He hands Oz his own cuff links. "It's awkward, doing them one-handed. I read somewhere that cuff links are an inducement to have a lover, so that there's someone to fasten them for you." Of course, that's only true in modern times, since valets got hard to find. It must have been odd, long ago, having servants help one dress and undress. Perhaps familiarity took the edge off, or perhaps all the gentleman and their valets, ladies and their maids were shagging like mad.

He can't quite explain when Oz asks what he's laughing at, so he reaches for their ties instead. "Ready for the mystery of the bow tie?" On the way to the bathroom mirror, he says, "And I'm all right, I think. It's been a long time since I've gone to a party. A grown-up party, I should say, and one far from the hellmouth at that. I worry a bit that I've forgotten how to talk to people about normal things." He worries, too, that Oz will be bored, that he'll look at Giles' friends and finally notice that Giles is far too old for him.

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005 01:28 am (UTC)

Before the mirror, Oz has to grin. Forget the cufflinks and shirt studs and super-top-secret pants button; *this* sight, with him in front of Giles, the tie hanging loose around his neck, is the one where he's revealed to be a complete poseur at all of this.

In the mirror, Giles looks down at him, eyebrows going up inquisitively.

"You'll be fine at the party," Oz says and feels the smile kind of slide off his face. "I'm the one who's, like, undercover."

It's true. He's playing dress-up, and that's usually fun, but he could mess all of this up without even trying.

Frowning, Giles reaches for the ends of the tie.

"Gimme a sec," Oz says, and twists around so he's not talking to the reflection. Seeing his own face as he talks is more than creepy. "I'm going to be cool there, right? Olivia doesn't hate me, and her friends - your friends, I guess - they must be pretty cool."

He bites his lip so he stops himself from adding, Right? Giles is dressing him, touching him; he doesn't have to reassure him, too, even if that's what Oz needs right now.

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005 01:59 am (UTC)

"Oz." Giles cups his face and looks at him, relieved when Oz doesn't look away. He should have noticed Oz picking up his nervousness, misinterpreting it. "This is not a matter of seeing whether my friends approve of you. And I'm sorry that I gave you that impression." He tips his forehead against Oz's and wraps his arms around Oz's waist, feeling him take a deep breath.

If going to this party feels strange to Giles himself, for Oz it must be like taking a walk on Mars. They'll nearly all be older than him. They'll have strange accents, unfamiliar histories, interests Oz isn't likely to share. "What I'm nervous about . . . it's complicated." Giles takes off his glasses and rolls his face against Oz's, so close that their eyelashes brush at every blink. "That you'll find them--and by extension, me--too old and dull. Or that they'll look at how young you are and think . . . well, the sort of things people think about an older man living with a boy half his age. I want-" Closing his eyes, he kisses Oz's cheek. So smooth--he shaved very carefully. He's been trying hard to get everything just right. "I want them to see how marvelous you are."

One more kiss and a rib-crushing squeeze, and then he turns Oz around and goes back to working on his tie. "If you don't have a good time, we won't stay. We'll go to a concert or something, or we'll be the best-dressed people in the cinema."

Other people can think what they like. He and Oz know the truth.

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005 02:16 am (UTC)

"Oh, I'll have a good time," Oz says, watching Giles' hands work like a magician's over his tie. Just hands against black and white, like something out of Mummenschanz, twisting the fabric around and plumping the bow up. "I'm not bad at mixing."

Resting his chin on the top of Oz's head, Giles just sighs, his breath tickling Oz's hair, making it move over his forehead. With his glasses back on, Giles looks more public, like they're shields, just as much as the tuxes and bow ties are costumes. He's still underneath, though, still smells like Giles and holds like Giles, and Oz covers Giles' arms with his own and squeezes back.

"Let me try?"

Giles' eyes widen. He doesn't protest when Oz turns him around to lean against the sink, just waits patiently as Oz reaches for the ends of his tie. Something to do with his hands is more than welcome, and he tests the tie, straightens it, before attempting the knot.

"Quick study," Oz says, knotting it up and making sure it's straight. "And thanks. I *want* to meet your friends. I just --" He doesn't want to embarrass Giles, which is *stupid*. Maybe reasonable, but still stupid. "Whatever they think, though. That's them. I just want to go out with you. And try Olivia's pomegranate juice so maybe she'll shut up about it."

It's not a bad knot, especially for a first try. Oz turns Giles back around and leans his head on his shoulder.

"Check it out. Like William Powell times two. One of us shrunk in the wash."

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005 02:47 am (UTC)

"Nicely done," Giles says, giving the tie a small nudge to get it perfectly straight. "We are indeed the height of old-fashioned glamour. Although you could just as easily have said that one of us is too bloody tall." It is a little strange, though, seeing Oz in smaller versions of his own clothes. Doing up Oz's tie, Giles couldn't help remembering his father teaching him the secrets of a well-made knot. Going to the tailor's, too, brought to mind having his first suits made, when he was twelve and about to go away to school.

He smiles at Oz's reflection in the mirror. At least their faces aren't very alike. Not that that's saved them, in the past, from being mistaken for father and son.

Leaning down, he nips Oz's earlobe, which is tender and tempting with its little row of empty holes. "Don't forget your earrings." Oz took them out before their shower, which he never does. Giles hopes he hasn't somehow got the idea that Giles wants him to be dully respectable.

On the way back to the bedroom he holds Oz's hand. They'll have to be a little restrained, tonight, and Giles wants to stockpile touches now, like eating a big breakfast before a busy day. "You're wearing the purple waistcoat, aren't you? To match your nails?" Oz was strangely hesitant about painting his nails, too; Giles tries to put an apology in his smile. "It's a lovely color," he says, finding the right hanger and offering it to Oz.

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005 03:08 am (UTC)

"Thanks. Yeah, purple -" He found the nail polish in a little shop off Oxford Street, a few hours before he picked out the waistcoat. Giles suggested he get a black one, too, just as back-up. The purple seemed, then, like a beautiful congruence, dark and eggplant-y and very lush. Earlier tonight, though, he wasn't so sure about painting them, not with all the dressing-up and the tension and the weird, forced jocularity between them.

But it's better now. Much better, with Giles' touches lingering and sliding, a pat on the back when Oz slips on the waistcoat, then leans over the dresser to figure out which earrings to put in.

"Waist-coat, right?" he asks, still hunting for the last silver ring. "Not weskit, even if that's what the cleaner guy called it?" Giles makes a soft, affirmative noise, and Oz grins. Dressing up really is an entirely new language, with codes and details and syntax he's learning as he goes along. The semantics of it is still escaping him; all he knows, really, is that they both look good. Upright, formal, and *good*.

"Whoa." When Giles turns around, tugging on his own black waistcoat, Oz reaches for him. It's more than William Powell and Fred Astaire -- it's that, plus the memory of seeing Giles at prom, glowing at Buffy and avoiding Oz's eyes -- and it's now. Giles is thinner, more relaxed, completely himself and at home in this suit. "Yeah. You're a movie star."

Purple socks pulled on, he steps into his new lace-ups -- Giles drew the line at patent Docs, and now, decked out in purple, Oz is kind of glad he did, even if he could use all the height he can get -- and stands up straight.

"Thanks, by the way. For this --" He smoothes down the suit and cocks his head. "Everything."

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005 03:54 am (UTC)

Giles shakes his head and brushes a speck of black lint from the front of Oz's waistcoat. "Don't thank me. It wasn't a gift, it was just something you needed." Oz has his own checkbook now, a cashpoint card and a credit card, but he still tends to think of the money as Giles' money. When it's spent on him, he's both grateful and uncomfortable. "Now, if we'd put diamonds in the lapels like you wanted, then you could've thanked me."

They're nearly ready to go, but Giles has to style his hair a bit while Oz stands back and grins. Oz has done nothing to his own hair, so it falls in soft strands that make Giles think again of a schoolboy. "Makes a change, huh?" Oz says, taking a bit of affectionate revenge for Giles' usual teasing as Giles fusses, trying to improve somewhat on his everyday hair, with a tube of Oz's gel.

"Yes, well . . ." That's as good as it's likely to get; this new haircut is a little too short. Giles puts the gel away and washes his hands. "You'll notice I didn't take twenty minutes. And my hair can still be touched without cutting your fingers on it." Turning, he gives Oz a thorough kiss, with a bit of hair-tousling for good measure. "I'm old enough to need artifice, you see."

Oz's raised eyebrow is comment enough on that, and Giles follows him back to the bedroom again. His nerves come back a little when he puts on his jacket, but then he looks at Oz, who's trying to look at himself in the small mirror over the dresser, hands fiddling with his lapels and his sleeves. Giles has only seen Oz in a dinner jacket twice before, at the high school's homecoming and prom, and then Oz was with Willow and it rather hurt to look at him. Of course, even if they'd been together then, they couldn't have actually been together, not at a school dance. Tonight's party is bound to be better than that. "My handsome Oz," he says. "It's going to be a wonderful evening. The start of a wonderful year."

Sun, Mar. 20th, 2005 11:21 pm (UTC)

"Ought-two," Oz says, kissing Giles' cheek one more time, "is going to rock. Quote me on that."

After all the fidgety prepping, checking of details and smoothing out of worries, it feels like it takes no time at all to shrug on their coats and clatter down the stairs to mee the cab. Oz's dressing-up ends at the new suit; his outer jacket is a new camel-colored toggle coat, which he really likes for its weight and the depth (and number) of its pockets, but it's nothing as sharp as Giles' dressy overcoat.

"And it looks like this year's gonna be *frigid*, too," he says as he jogs from foot to foot on the sidewalk. Giles is tugging on his gloves, and he looks like someone in a Hitchcock movie now; the streetlights turn the block into Expressionist swathes of white on black and right between one light and the dark stands Giles, straight and tall and broad-shouldered.

But then Giles grins and reaches for Oz's hand, and he's not ambiguously menacing, no Harry Lime or James Mason, just Giles, and he's guiding Oz into the wide back seat of the cab and they're off.

In Sunnydale, New Year's, like the other holidays, was always pretty quiet. People stayed inside and didn't gather in large groups; it was just habit, and Oz can't remember when he learned to act like that. London is different in every way, particularly holiday traffic. They slide downtown, towards the Docklands, but along the way, the sidewalks are crowded with people and even with the windows all the way up, he can hear the revelry.

Olivia's neighborhood, from what Oz has been reading, used to be skeevier than skeevy, deserted and derelict and generally hideous; he's been picturing it as something like the wharves and piers in downtown Sunnydale. Maybe it used to be like that - the buildings are slightly familiar, giant boxy warehouses like the building that houses the Bronze - but everything's clean. Quiet and underlit, but clean.

"You're in for a treat," Olivia had told him when she called yesterday; she'd been under the impression Oz has seen her loft, but when he reminded her he hadn't, she just laughed mysteriously.

It's a treat in a giant box wrapped up with lots and lots of tulle that sparkles: that's all Oz can think about the loft when the elevator groans to a stop and they step out into the space. Sparkling and loud and so many people. He squeezes Giles' hand and grins.

"Party time."

Sun, Mar. 20th, 2005 11:56 pm (UTC)

Olivia's flat, vast and modern, with its spare-lined furniture dotting the space with color, its brushed aluminum and glass block, always makes Giles think of a particularly beautiful airport. The people jostling around the buffet table, as people always do at parties, could be an especially well-dressed crowd queuing at a Heathrow ticket counter.

"Amazing, isn't it?" He touches Oz's shoulder and smiles. "It puts our little flat quite to shame. Wait until you have a proper look at the view, you can see most of London from here."

As they thread through the room looking for Olivia, Giles notices that she's redecorated since he was last here. Which was--dear god--exactly five years ago, for her 1996 New Year's Eve party. The furniture is all different, even sleeker and sterner than it used to be, and several of the paintings are new. Things have changed in his absence; London, too, altered while he was in California. But it keeps surprising him, as though he imagined his old friends and haunts frozen in time, waiting for him to come home.

Olivia, standing near something that could be a lamp or a sculpture and talking animatedly to several people Giles doesn't know, sees them and waves. "Rupert! I was starting to think I needed to ring you again." Her hug and kiss are familiar, at least, and she hugs Oz too.

"We wouldn't miss it," Giles says. "You look beautiful, Olivia." She's wearing a strapless dress in some bronze-like shade that nobody but her could possibly pull off.

"Thank you. You're as gorgeous as ever. And Oz! That waistcoat is smashing, it's the perfect color for you." She seizes an arm apiece and draws them into the group. "This is Neely," she says, smiling at a handsome dreadlocked man who must be her new boyfriend. "Cornelius, really, but he made me promise not to tell." There's a flurry of introductions, with Giles missing half the names as he always does. Olivia disappears halfway through and comes back with two glasses of something red and bubbly. "Pomegranate juice and sparkling water," she explains quietly, handing them to Giles and Oz. "My own delicious invention, and I've been waiting ages for you to try it."

Mon, Mar. 21st, 2005 12:20 am (UTC)

"I'm kind of a bum right now," Oz tells the short woman with hair as dark and shiny as his new patent-leather shoes. Amanda? Ursula? He thinks it's Amanda, and she wants to know what he's doing in London and how he finds it and what he plans to do. She stresses weird words, but she's nice enough, and he smiles over his shoulder in goodbye as Olivia pivots him to face Neely.

"And the cocktail?" she demands, but sweetly, lips about an inch from Oz's ear.

"Great, thanks," he says, though she's already floating away. Neely claps him on the shoulder and, laughing, tells him not to humor Olivia. Which is really, Oz thinks, watching how she moves around people, touching them and complimenting them, changing their groupings without them even noticing, pretty much impossible. Neely asked him a question, he realizes too late, and takes another sip. "Huh? Sorry?"

"You're a guitarist, yeah?" Neely asks again. "Or is it drummer?"

"Neither?" Oz says, but Giles, talking to someone else, clears his throat at that. "Right. Play bass sometimes, and acoustic. You?"

Neely's a vibraphonist, which is just about the coolest thing Oz has ever heard of, and he does it weekends and evenings; the rest of the time, he's a derivatives analyst, which Oz has no reply to. He got recruited by that computer company, and they wanted him and Willow to work on algorithms for derivatives, but he's still not sure what they are.

But it doesn't matter, because a very tall guy who could play Icabod Crane is pounding Neely on the back in greeting, then covering his mouth and saying very loudly, "Is that Rupert?"

Parties have their own music. Not the brassy jazz that's playing on - he cocks his head - a *damn* good sound system, but the music of gossip and clothes and dancing steps as people meet and greet and scowl and snicker. Oz sips his drink again and lets it all wash over him.

Mon, Mar. 21st, 2005 01:13 am (UTC)

Oz is good with people. It's something Giles forgets, knowing him so well. Actually Oz's shyness only emerges on knowing him well; he's shy about what he feels deeply. But he likes new people, likes getting to know them (much more than Giles does, in fact) and he asks them questions out of real interest.

"-how they could possibly have elected that man," someone's saying, and Giles turns back to the people who've been asking him about living in America. "You were there, Rupert, what do you think?" the man continues. He's a journalist of some kind, clever and young.

"Well, I was in California, which I'm told is rather different from the rest of the country. And, to be honest, I don't follow politics that closely." One of the women, who works in public relations for the Labour party, looks shocked at that, and Giles adds, "Of course, it only takes a few seconds of hearing him try to speak to see that they'd be better off with a president picked randomly off the street."

That sets off a general lament about the decline of the English language, and Giles puts in an agreeing word here and there. He'd like to work his way into Oz's conversation with Neely and a tall man that Giles vaguely recognizes as an old friend of Paul's, but he doesn't want to be rude. "I fear that struggle is doomed," he says in response to the older woman's--Susan's--comment about misused apostrophes. "The mistake's become so frequent that most people don't know what's correct anymore."

A couple of minutes later, there's one of those low-tide moments in which several conversations ebb away at once, and Giles finds himself standing next to Oz again. "Having a good time?" He takes Oz's hand and leads him towards the window. "Come and see the view." Cool air and a bit of quiet might not be amiss either, so he slides the glass door open to the balcony. "There's the Tower," he says, pointing. "And St. Paul's, and the Eye. Our flat is somewhere off there, to the left a bit."

Mon, Mar. 21st, 2005 02:21 am (UTC)

They're only five stories up, but Oz feels like they're floating right over the bottom of the city. Like they're leaning over the railing of a zeppelin, if zeppelins had ever taken off the way Oz wishes they had, and the river is black, glittery like mica, and the city itself is *bright* but smaller than he'd expected.

Oz leans over the railing, far enough that he's pretty sure he's making Giles nervous, but he wants to see it all. He tightens his hold on Giles' hand, even draws in more closely, and sighs. His breath blossoms in the cold and it's good to be out of the heat and noise.

"Having a great time," Oz says, moving even closer until he's under Giles' arm. "Did you know that Will's doing work with -- damn. Some library that got robbed of all these maps and he has to dust for prints and all this stuff and work with Scotland Yard?"

Giles blinks, the city gone miniature and twinned on the lenses of his glasses.

"Will's the guy out of Headless Horseman," Oz says, just as the door screeches open behind them. Blast of warm air and a hand closing around his elbow, and Oz stumbles, turning.

"Far too early to hide out alone," Olivia says, rubbing her arms against the cold. "Rupert, you need to come and say hello to Meaghan. She's been asking after you. As for you --" She levels her gaze at Oz. "You do technology things. There's a postgraduate student in cultural studies of science and tech I want you to meet."

Before following Olivia inside, Oz cranes up and kisses Giles' cheek. "See you on the next furlough, handsome."

Sun, Apr. 10th, 2005 10:37 pm (UTC)

Giles catches Oz around the waist before he can slip away and kisses him. Just a peck on the lips, nothing they couldn't have done inside in the light, but better out here, with darkness and the cool air around their bodies.

Olivia is looking ostentatiously away, drumming her nails on the window glass with an impatience that isn't entirely joking. "We'll mingle, I promise," Giles says, hoping that his grip on Oz's sleeve doesn't make him look a liar. "If you promise not to bully us about it."

"Weeeell . . ." she drawls, not quite hiding a smile. Like all strong-willed people, Giles thinks, she enjoys being stood up to on occasion. "Do you solemnly swear not to hide in a corner all night whispering to each other?"

Holding up his right hand, Giles says, "On my rather tarnished honor." Over his shoulder he takes one last glance at the lights, enticing as distant things always are. Then he whispers, "See you soon," to Oz and watches Olivia lead him off to a group of young people hovering near the buffet table. They're not so far from Oz's age; he's bound to find things to talk about with them.

Giles watches through the window as names are exchanged and hands shaken, as Oz starts talking to a plump young man with architectural glasses and a pretty girl who's wearing the same Doc Martens that Oz wanted to buy. He must have told her so, because she grins and lifts a foot, showing off the shoe's red-leather flame.

It would be nice to stay here for a while, watching Oz be happy, but he promised Olivia. Giles steps back inside, shutting the door behind him, and shivers with the chill he didn't feel before. Meaghan will want to talk manuscripts--perhaps the British Library's digitization project--and Giles finds he's looking forward to it. He sets off in search of her.

Sun, Apr. 10th, 2005 11:54 pm (UTC)

Declan has an impenetrable accent, like he's chewing on peat as he talks, but he's pretty interesting -- he's doing something on something that may or may not involve the human factors of online discourse, and even though Oz isn't quite sure what that means, the guy's face lights up when Oz tells him about the BBS he used to run off his Amiga, so that's pretty cool.

His girlfriend Lucia has cool shoes and a killer green dress but beyond that there isn't very much *to* her. She just nods and drinks a lot as Declan gets his arm around Oz's shoulder and breathes peppermint-breath all over his cheek and demands technical details.

Baud rate, number of members, Usenet gateway: It's all coming back to Oz, and he gets time to munch away on some really delicious pistachio and goat cheese crisps while Declan tries to explain his thesis about something-something-gimme a drink, darling-something.

It's been forever and a half since Oz was at a party and this one's pretty cool. After Declan heads off to find the toilet, Oz ends up chatting with a tall spinstery-looking woman who's actually a fashion editor somewhere and delighted to learn that young men still go to tailors.

From the glances he can grab, Giles looks happy, halfway across the room and laughing his head off.

Oz pours Spinster Fashionista another glass of wine and keeps munching.

Mon, Apr. 11th, 2005 12:48 am (UTC)

Meaghan has a lot of rather funny stories about the older librarians' confusion with computers--one old chap pointing the mouse at the screen like a television remote, another asking if he'd lose his e-mail when he turned the computer off--and Giles laughs a little more than he probably should. Oz has been giving him lessons on the computer they bought a few weeks ago, and Giles is beginning to feel rather expert. The sheer quantity of texts he can find online, and the speed of it, more than make up for the lack of paper-smell. He's got over twenty websites bookmarked now, and his very own e-mail account, and he knows what a URL is and what "spam" means.

"I think sometimes they're being stupid to just to obstruct me," Meaghan says. "I think they don't want the manuscripts accessible."

"Probably not," Giles says, raising his glass to his mouth before he remembers there's wine in it. Meaghan gave it to him, and he doesn't know her quite well enough to explain. He sets it down next to a plant. "There's something greed-inspiring about rare things. In the middle ages the Franciscans used to chain books to the shelves in their monastic libraries."

Ten minutes later, they're talking about whether the easier access of digitization compensates for the loss of detail--paper textures are obscured and colors don't always show true on a computer screen. "You ought to come back to the Library, Rupert," Meaghan says. "If you want to, I think I could pull a string here and there."

"God yes," Giles says before he thinks. Even before he resigned from the Watchers, his long stretch of unemployment was making him uneasy. "I'd - I'd have to talk about it with my partner, with Oz, but yes. Tentatively. Yes." Having a routine again, and work to do, work that he loves more than he ever loved being a Watcher. "Thank you." It'll mean spending a lot of time away from Oz. But that's for the best, too. They're bound to quarrel if they're never out of each other's sight.

"Well, one good turn and all that. You hired me first." She smiles, and he remembers her as a student, too scared to unfold a fourteenth-century letter. "So tell me about this Oz. Is he here? Did you meet in America?"

There's nothing quite as nice, Giles thinks, as being asked to talk about one's favorite subject.

Mon, Apr. 11th, 2005 01:28 am (UTC)

Spinstery turns him over to a gaggle of truly sharply-dressed guys and one plump, lightly perspiring woman, and now Oz is their Yankee Pet.

It's not that bad a position, all things considered. Martin, the ringleader, in a bright blue tuxedo shirt and no jacket, is pretty nice, but the other guys remind Oz of the few kids who'd hang around Devon jockeying for lessons in cool and imitating his style and trying to pick up the girls he rejected. Like, they're *nice* and all, but they're trying too hard, and Oz figures this is a party -- it's the *last* time you should be trying too hard.

"And y'all carry guns and shoot colored people on sight, yeah?" the tallest of the bunch -- Henry, Hillis, something -- says, trying for what sounds like a Deep South accent *and* a Bronx one all at the same time.

"Only the women and children," Oz says, gulping down club soda like it's going out of style. "Us men, we carry machetes and-or tomahawks. Something of a native revival."

It's not that he's some crazy jingoistic person, not like Mrs. MacIvor who lived next door to his grandmother in Wyoming and had been flying the same flag over her porch since My Lai, but Oz is kind of taking offense.

Olivia rescues him then; he doesn't know how she does it, but there she is, all copper and laughter, taking his arm and leading him away from the Style Boys and introducing him to a blonde woman with a broken nose who spent three years in Dharamsala.

Time lifts when he's talking to someone who understands (or to Giles, who might not understand, but it doesn't matter) and Sylvia *understands*. When Oz sits down next to her on a twisty chaise lounge upholstered in blue vinyl, he can feel the bite of the mountain air on his cheeks.

Sat, Apr. 30th, 2005 10:47 pm (UTC)

It's strange, being able to tell the truth (or most of it) about Oz, but lying about everything else. In Sunnydale, Giles got used to being around people who know he's a Watcher. In London, no one knows but Olivia, Paul, and a few senior people at the British Library whom Giles hasn't seen in years.

When he left London, he told everyone he'd been offered a job at a university library in California. Unelaborate lies are best, the truth just reshaped with good tailoring into something handsome and likely--a middle-aged Englishman gladly slipping out of his rut. Now all he's got to do is add to it. He tells Meaghan about meeting Oz in a coffee bar, about how they've been together ever since, about how Oz had never been to London and he himself grew tired of California.

"So am I allowed to meet him," Meaghan asks, "or only to hear about him?"

"Let's see if we can track him down." Giles fetches her another glass of wine from the bar, first, and some sort of exotically bitter fizzy water for himself. He's thirsty with talking and nerves, and hoping that Meaghan won't mention the job offer yet, before he's had a chance to talk to Oz privately.

They edge around the room, rather slowly thanks to the growing crowd. A lot of people--a university lecturer in semitic linguistics, a BBC producer who wants to make a mystery drama set in the British Library, a smiling and aggressive banker whom Giles remembers from his old fencing salle-- have to be offered hellos and promises of a chat later.

It's a good fifteen minutes before they find Oz, who's sitting on a sort of avant-garde dentist's chair and listening to a woman talk about the difficulties of Tibetan refugees in India. His intent look is a surer sign of comfort than any smile, and he's relaxed enough to slouch. When Giles touches his shoulder, he tilts his head unselfconsciously against Giles' arm, then, seeing Meaghan, stands up to be introduced.

Sat, Apr. 30th, 2005 11:22 pm (UTC)

Until now, Oz hadn't realized how weird it was, being separated from Giles like this. He's coming back down to earth, introducing Sophie to Giles and his friend, shaking Meaghan's hand, inching a little closer to Giles all the while, just to feel his familiar bulk for a second or three.

Or seven. It's a party, and the crowd's moving like a kaleidoscope, and so Oz is pressed up against Giles just because it's polite to make room for people. Sophie's interrogating Giles about the policies on reclamation of native artifacts at the British Museum and Meaghan is sipping her wine and obviously trying to think of things to ask Oz that don't involve his age.

"And so you'll be off to university soon, I expect?" she manages and Oz nods.

"Maybe yes, maybe no. Not sure. Tried it once --"

That seems to relieve her; he thought he looked older in the Suit of Expensiveness, but maybe he looks like a kid in a wedding party, all dressed up because it's cute.

Sophie's got this *thing* she does, he's already noticed, where she just slides into other people's conversations like they're hot tubs open for the taking. She does it now, taking Meaghan by the arm -- maybe they know each other? -- and talking about the school of life.

Oz slips his arm into Giles and says under his breath, "How's it going for you?"

Sat, Apr. 30th, 2005 11:57 pm (UTC)

"Well enough," Giles says. Oz's arm around him feels like a glass of cold water on one of those burning California days--something between comfort and survival. "Although I think I've already had enough small talk. D'you think we could mingle without-"

"Rupert," says a voice to his left, light and charming and more familiar than he'd have thought, after so long. "You know, I didn't quite believe Olivia when she told me you'd be here."

"Paul. How are you? You look well." His hair's gone entirely grey now, fine and silvery, and the good bones of his face show just a little more clearly than they used to. He looks . . . distinguished, but without the faint insulting implication of having outlasted his looks. "And Martin, hello. It's good to see you both." Martin, still as black-haired and shaggy as ever, nods.

"I thought sure we'd lost you to the pleasures of California," Paul says, smiling, as Giles shakes his hand. "But I see you brought them back with you instead." His smile extends to Oz, appraising and yet warm.

"This is Daniel Osbourne. Oz. My partner." Giles has practiced this introduction, practiced partner, and even Paul's slight look of surprise doesn't throw him. "Oz, my old friends Paul Sadler and Martin Pritchard." More handshakes, plus Sophie and Meaghan introducing themselves, and Giles has time to be glad that Olivia reminded him (warned him) that Paul never misses a New Year's Eve.

Sun, May. 1st, 2005 12:27 am (UTC)

Oz still doesn't have the hang of introductions yet, not when the situation's bigger than one on one. And Paul is...kind of scary, in that intense intellectual kind of way; Xander once described Giles as Mr. Eagle Eyes of the Booksmarts, which never really sounded like *Giles* to Oz, but does kind of capture Paul. But Martin's grasping his hand and smiling widely, so that's cool, and then Paul smiles as well, gaze sliding from Giles down to Oz, and Oz squares his shoulders and shakes his hand in turn.

He's only the dressed-up little kid if he acts like one. So he doesn't, and asks after Martin's art projects and laughs when Paul asks him where he left his tan -- "Couldn't get it through Customs. Figured I wouldn't need it" -- and soon enough the attention disperses, lifting away from Oz and spreading among everyone.

Maybe Paul's not so intimidating; Oz still isn't sure. Next to him, Giles is speaking very carefully, like he's trying to be certain of being understood, and he twitches slightly when Oz slips his arm around his back. But Martin's got one arm hooked over Paul's shoulders as he leans in and whispers stagily, so Oz decides it's okay.

He's being sized up, he knows that, and he's trying like hell to remember the details of what Giles told him about Paul. Smart, warm, publisher. Editor? Maybe not.

It doesn't matter, because Giles is turning to him now, expectantly, and Oz realizes he's supposed to answer something Meaghan just said.

"More than two books in the house growing up, yeah," he says. "Most of them were paperbacks though."

Sun, May. 1st, 2005 01:11 am (UTC)

"Don't sell yourself short," Giles says. To Oz, but really directed at Meaghan and Paul, at everyone who'll see Oz's face, hear his accent, notice the difference in their ages, and assume that Oz is Giles' plaything. "You were reading Donne and Herbert at se- at a considerably younger age than I was." Paul, at least, doesn't miss what Giles almost said; his eyes narrow and he glances at Giles over Oz's head. "Anyway, there's nothing innately wrong with a paperback." That makes even Oz, who's heard him rant about cheap paper and weak spines, look at him, so Giles shuts up. He lays his hand on the small of Oz's back , stroking lines and squiggles with his fingers, like sigils for love and calm.

Meaghan, smiling apologetically, suddenly notices someone across the room that she needs to speak to. "Ring me next week, Rupert," she says before leaving, and he promises he will. Sophie has already disappeared somewhere, so now it's just the four of them. Still, that's an improvement over past years, with Paul and Martin together and Giles on his own.

Martin, bless him, says, "I've always wanted to visit California. All that wild coastline--that's in the north, isn't it, Oz?" And he and Oz are soon absorbed in the real California and how to avoid the tourist traps.

With a glance at Martin, some vague wordless signal, Paul pulls Giles a little aside. "Sorry. I don't know what's happened to my manners. I didn't mean to interrogate the boy." Cocking his head to the side, an artist's trick that he must have picked up from Martin, Paul looks into Giles' face. "You're happy, Rupert. In love, even."


"Hmmm." He smiles his beautiful smile. "I could almost be jealous. But fortunately I'm many years past that, my dear." Giles remembers, as Paul surely does, ancient quarrels. Paul's voice, pain-rough, saying You think you feel, but you don't, not really. "I'm pleased for you."

There's no way to apologize for not having loved someone enough. And Paul, happily settled for - what, thirteen years? - with Martin, is telling the truth when he says he's long past regrets. "Thank you," Giles says. Paul claps his shoulder and turns back to Martin, who's listening to Oz talk about Catalina.

In a pause Giles adds, "Yes, it's lovely, you'd both like it," and takes Oz's hand.

Sun, May. 1st, 2005 01:43 am (UTC)

"And, see," Oz says, squeezing Giles' hand and squinting at Martin, "there's a chili dog stand right by the ferry dock and they do a tofu pup with six-bean chili that a family of four could live on for a week. Really amazing."

"And you managed to trick *Rupert* into eating tofu?" Paul asks as Martin launches into an enthusiastic description of the sausages available at a certain cafe in Blackpool.

Giles and Paul are doing this silent eyeing thing, like commentary by Waldorf and Astoria, but all in the eyes, while Martin spreads his hands to show the length of the sausages and Oz makes him repeat the name of the place a couple of times.

"Dunes Christian Coffee Shop," Martin says, nodding, locks of dark hair poking into his eyes before he pushes them away with the back of his hand. "Paul, the political darling, refuses to set foot inside, but he does accept takeaway. If there's any left."

"I'm not certain *Blackpool* is exactly the best introduction to the country past London," Paul says mildly and Giles grins.

"It's got the Doctor Who museum," Oz says. They all look surprised. "I'm there. Also, a go-kart track. And possibly a bungee jump."

"Not to mention the crassest entertainment outside of, well, America," Paul says.

Okay, this is going a lot better. Oz is leaning a little against Giles, sharing a glass of fizzy cider with him, and time's passing much faster than it had been. It's actually kind of fun; Martin is cool and chattery, his voice all growly and face going pink with excitement and possibly champagne, while Paul's not so much offputting as *elegant*.

But Oz has the coolest suit ever and Giles rubbing the inside of his wrist with his thumb, so he's down with the elegance.

Sun, May. 1st, 2005 11:29 pm (UTC)

"Bungee-jumping!" Martin says, pushing his hair out of his eyes and then ignoring it when it promptly falls back. "I went once, in New Zealand. Amazing. It was off this bridge over a gorge, trees all around, and the river, and it felt like I was falling up into all this green." From his grin, Giles suspects that only politeness is stopping Martin from whisking Oz off to Queenstown at once so he can try it. Martin always was a bit of an overgrown boy.

"It was the longest four seconds of my life," Paul says. "I planned your entire funeral." Not looking at all chastised, Martin hooks an arm over his neck and kisses his cheek.

Giles used to find it a little depressing to be around them; he'd always store up something cynical to say to Olivia, later, on the subject of domestic bliss. Now, watching Oz's face and tracing the soft creases of his palm with a forefinger, he decides he's as great a believer in domestic bliss as any Jane Austen character. (A rather modern and saucy version of Jane Austen, it would have to be.) "Don't even dream of it," he says to Oz. "You can have as many go-karts and Doctor Who museums as you like, so long as you promise not to throw yourself off a tower with a rubber band tied round your ankles."

For answer, Oz leans against his shoulder and listens as Paul offers a rapturous description of York, apparently meant as an antidote to Blackpool.

Sun, May. 1st, 2005 11:48 pm (UTC)

For a split second, it occurs to Oz that it's a shame things didn't work out for Giles and Paul; they seem pretty well-suited to each other, and that's not just a common fear of bungee-jumping. That second passes, though, and he straightens up, sliding his hand up to Giles' wrist.

"...medieval cathedral in Europe," Paul is saying and Martin has him by the back of his neck, shaking him lightly. "And the city walls, well -"

"There's also a Ghost Walk," Martin tells Oz. "It's not all dust and masonry and the great and glorious past."

"Stained glass is hardly *boring*," Paul says while Martin scowls.

"Not sure about ghosts, actually," Oz says, liberating the cider from Giles' hand and taking a thirsty sip. "I scare pretty easily when it's not, like, physical danger."

Paul smiles at that, this small, private smile that doesn't seem intended for anyone else; then he meets Oz's eyes and murmurs something about sanity and staying sensible.

Weird, how couples talk to each other through other people. Oz feels almost like an anthropologist at this party, fully aware that he's in a couple, too, but hoping against hope that he doesn't talk like that to Giles.

"You said something about Scotland, though, didn't you?" he asks Giles, happy to turn a little and look right up into his face. "Hillwalking and stuff."

Mon, May. 2nd, 2005 12:36 am (UTC)

"Hillwalking? Yes, of course." During one of the low points of their visit to Sunnydale, they talked, in a vague way, like prisoners daydreaming past the bars, about a trip to Scotland or Ireland. Fresh air, long walks, quiet. But it hasn't actually come up since they've been back. "Well, Britain's a small island. We'll go everywhere, sooner or later." We've got time, he'd say if they were alone, because that always makes Oz smile. But Oz, who by now can surely read in Giles' face everything he doesn't say, smiles anyway.

Couples all have their own version of telepathy; a look passes between Paul and Martin, and Paul says, "Well, we'd better go and say hello to Olivia, if we can find her in this crush." Before they go, there's the usual We must get together sometime, silly to meet once a year like this, and Yes, let's, absolutely, at which Oz starts to say something about dinner, some night, and then falls silent.

Once they've left, Giles sits down on the dentist's chair, feeling as though he's been holding his breath for the past fifteen minutes. Oz slides in next to him, pressed close on the roomy seat, and offers him what's left of the cider. "That was . . . somewhat less awkward than it might have been," Giles says after he drinks. "I think." What on earth do people do who've got whole strings of former lovers and cast-off spouses? It must feel rather like being haunted. "It's strange, how that discomfort never entirely goes away. It's a pity, in a way, that Paul and I were ever lovers; it's stopped us being friends."

Mon, May. 2nd, 2005 01:09 am (UTC)

"Was it awkward?" Oz asks, reaching behind him toward the snacks table and nabbing, blindly, some almond-shaped crackers. He offers the handful to Giles, then nibbles the corner off one himself. Giles starts to smile at him. "I'm not used to this. I can't tell awkward from grown-up party stuff."

Considering how well Giles prepped him on the whole Paul-and-Martin backstory, Oz realizes all too late how nervous he must have been for this encounter. With his uncrackery hand, he rubs Giles' knee briefly, then rests his palm on the fine, soft wool, and sighs.

"We could have them over for dinner, though," he says after a bit. "I like them."

He expected all sorts of things once he came to London - culture shock, and difficulty with accents, and finding his way around a massive, crowded city - but navigating these intricate pathways of emotion and past history never really occurred to him.

"You and Paul would make good friends. Cackling over old stuff and things like that."

He smiles, in case that came out awkwardly, and stops himself just before his fingers trail up the bottom of Giles' thigh.

Mon, May. 2nd, 2005 02:06 am (UTC)

"I'll have you know, I never cackle." Giles pours some of the little biscuits, which he doesn't want, into Oz's hand and watches him eat them.

A dinner party. Deep down, Oz seems to believe that nothing can't be solved with a good meal. But he's not grandmotherly or fussy about it; it's more a kind of bodily optimism, and in practice it always feels natural and wise. "We could give it a try, I suppose. Thirteen years is a damned long time for Paul and me to tiptoe round each other." Their breakup was spectacularly bad, but Giles has been through a worse one since, and anyway, they've both got good reason, now, to be over it.

For a little while he and Oz are quiet, eating biscuits, rubbing knees, and listening to the music, which some merciful soul has switched from brassy pseudo-jazz to Ella Fitzgerald. The party feels rather distant, even though people brush against their backs and nearly trip over their feet. Perhaps Olivia was right to worry about them hiding in a corner--Giles finds himself almost hoping that someone will ask them to make room on the chair so he can have a plausible excuse to take Oz onto his lap.

A new song starts, slow and sweet, and beside him Oz sways to it, just a little. Giles leans in and whispers, "Dance with me."

Once or twice, alone together, they've danced, but never in public. Oz goes still, not answering, and Giles says, "Come on. We won't be the only ones." Near the stereo, a few other couples are clinging through slow-paced circles.

There's a somebody I'm longin' to see, Ella sings. Giles stands up and holds out a hand.

Mon, May. 2nd, 2005 02:17 am (UTC)


It's been a long time - prom, probably - since Oz danced in public, but Giles is standing there like Astaire and Cary Grant and every other dapper gentleman, reaching for Oz, and it's just a step up, a squeeze of his hand, and then Oz is on his feet, Giles' arm around his waist, and they're dancing.

He folds himself up against Giles, cheek against one soft lapel, their fingers interlocking, and maybe it's a good thing he never learned how to dance officially. This way he doesn't know stuff about leading or counting; he just leans and sways and Giles moves them around in this long, drawn-out, *public* (but he can't think about that) cuddle-to-music.

On the small of his back, Giles' hand is light as air, as the breath through Ella's mouth, and dancing really isn't anything beyond being close and moving slowly.

Plus, it's a pretty song, kind of longing, full of promise, and Oz mouths the words as he feels Giles' hand moving in circles and the pressure, the embrace of it all, really kind of is like losing gravity.

At the chorus, Oz tips back his head and smiles at Giles.

"Good song." At that, Giles' face creases into a smile and Oz adds, "Better dance."

Sun, May. 8th, 2005 09:25 pm (UTC)

As a small boy, Giles was sent every Saturday morning to the dancing and etiquette lessons that Mrs. Matheson gave in the parish hall. He learned to waltz and foxtrot, to bow at just the right angle when asking a lady to dance, to rest his hand lightly ('never clutch, boys,' Mrs. Matheson said) on the small of his partner's back. Although among the other boys he always claimed to hate it, secretly he thought it was fun. He used to practice with his mum, or, on visits, with his grandmother, who was a marvelous dancer.

And then came the nineteen-sixties, and formal dancing was as unfashionable as Brylcreem and Vera Lynn. Giles has hardly used all those painstakingly-memorized steps, except at family weddings.

This is only dancing in the loosest sense, of course--just a kind of shuffle. But the song's lovely and Oz's hair is mussed where he leaned against Giles' chest, and Giles feels a little like someone in a film. "Wonderful dance," he says, kissing the top of Oz's head when he settles in again.

He can't help thinking of the Sunnydale prom, of how Buffy's eyes shone when Angel came into the room, of how he stood holding her little umbrella, trying not to look at any of the teenage couples showing off their romances. Missing Oz, while Oz was twenty feet away dancing with Willow and whispering in her ear.

That, Giles realizes, is why he wanted to dance tonight. He's writing over that memory. And bragging, too, like those California teenagers. Making sure everyone sees that he's in love.

Love's not tactful. Love's a boaster. Love announces itself with neon and fanfares. Love stands on a soapbox at Hyde Park Corner and shouts Look at me!

The song ends, but another slow one starts, and Giles holds on to Oz. "One more."

Perhaps someday soon he'll teach Oz to waltz.

Sun, May. 8th, 2005 09:52 pm (UTC)

It must be an Ella Fitzgerald mix, and he's heard this one countless times, but everything's different. Only you beneath the moon or under the sun and it's true. Giles is holding back, Oz can feel it, his body graceful under the suit, almost-but-not-quite dancing. Swaying, holding him close, and when Oz opens his eyes, they're near one of Olivia's huge windows and they really are floating over the city.

It's night now, a long bright-lit night, dark as Giles' suit and bright as his eyes when he smiles down at Oz, and then tomorrow it will be day again and a whole new year, and it's all in the rhythm, the beat beat beat of the tom-tom and the drip drip drip of the raindrops. Dancing, staying, living.

The song ends, another one comes on -- "De-Lovely", maybe -- and Oz doesn't quite hear it. He's listening instead to the pulse of Giles' heart and whisper of his lungs, and he squeezes Giles' hand and doesn't stop dancing.

"You're good," he whispers as Giles slows down and edges them back toward the party. "Like, really good."

Giles is happy, smiling widely, eyes little slits of stormy green, and he smells like aftershave and expensive wool, and Oz's head swims a little from everything.

"Can't wait to wake up in oh-two with you."

Sun, May. 8th, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC)

Oz looks a little dazed, heavy-lidded and soft around the mouth, just as he does first thing in the morning. "Oh yes. All three hundred and sixty-five days of it." Waking up slowly has become one of their luxuries. They kiss and stretch and run their hands over each other as though their memories have gone fuzzy in the night. Every morning Giles still feels a spreading joy--domestic as tea and jumpers, sacred as monastic silence--at the weight of Oz's body glued to his and the first flicker of his opening eyes.

This will be their first full year, calendar year, together. As soon as he thinks it, Giles wants to touch wood for luck, but wood is as scarce as chintz in Olivia's flat, and anyway, luck doesn't come into it. Only choice, and they've chosen.

Giles isn't paying much attention to where he goes, only to Oz's hand in his and the memory of Oz's body when they danced, but he finds himself at the buffet table next to Olivia. "Enjoying yourselves?" she asks with a teasing smile that means she saw them dancing.

"It's a lovely party." Oz has loosed himself and started filling a plate; Giles knows he ought to be hungry--they didn't eat dinner--but he's not, really. He picks up a triangle of stuffed pastry and nibbles an edge. "We saw Paul and Martin."

"Yes, I know." She eats a strawberry with a little sigh of contentment, and somehow manages not to smudge her perfect lipstick. "Paul was really glad when I told him you'd be here. He'd never admit it, but I think he used to worry about you."

Although Oz, munching on a prawn, says nothing, Giles knows he's just decided that they're definitely inviting Paul and Martin to dinner.

Sun, May. 8th, 2005 11:12 pm (UTC)

Oz loves watching Olivia and Giles interact; he always compares them to his memory of Buffy telling them about finding Giles in his apartment with a girl!, like it was something seedy and unbecoming.

It's hard to think of them like that, almost as hard as it is to think of Olivia as a girl. They're like siblings, actually, in how they talk to each other, extremely fond and very easily irritated with each other; it's almost like Buffy and Dawn, or Faith and Buffy before Faith got totally crazy. It's the familiarity between them, the thing that lets them say a lot silently, that Oz loves observing.

"Good eats," Oz tells Olivia when she turns her smile on him. He's not sure, but he thinks she might have changed her dress. Or her hair. Usually, he's pretty good with observing details, but Olivia's a case unto herself, all bright-shiny and glamorous and he tends to feel a little dazzled. "Great party, too."

"Thank you," she says, all trace of remembered worry for Giles passing from her face. She squeezes Giles' arm in farewell and floats away, calling after a couple named Umberto and Sajid.

"Hey," Oz says, handing Giles a little mushroom tied up with rosemary and daubed with goat's cheese. "How're you doing, handsome?"

Chewing, Giles just nods and holds up a hand, asking for time. Oz hipchecks him lightly, then stays close in and whispers, "Part of me kind of wants to find the guestroom and have some fun. Except - loft. No rooms. Sucks."

Sun, May. 8th, 2005 11:56 pm (UTC)

At the thought of Olivia's face if she caught them fucking in the guest room like a couple of drunk students at a house party, Giles laughs, nearly chokes, and has to be pounded on the back a few times by a rueful Oz. "I don't-" he coughs again "-don't think I'd care to risk Olivia's wrath in any case. Or, well, not wrath, but a good deal of mockery."

On the other hand, the thought of Oz leaning against an unlocked bedroom door, knuckles white on the doorknob, trying to be silent while Giles sucks his cock . . . There'd be a little cold-water thrill of fear every time someone passed by, and they'd have to hurry, both their hearts pounding, and Giles could press his hand over Oz's mouth to muffle the sound when he came.

Good thing Olivia doesn't have a guest room, on the whole. "Later," he says, putting his arm around Oz and squeezing his hip surreptitiously. "I'll see if I can make it worth the wait." Through the cloth, Oz's body feels unfamiliar, like a remodelled room. Giles is used to old corduroy, or threadbare denim, or sleek warm skin.

There's always the toilet, of course . . . "Right, let's find someone to talk to before I give in to temptation." Giles launches himself across the room, Oz in tow, and slides into a conversation with a couple of women talking about the price of London property. An impeccably unerotic subject.

Mon, May. 9th, 2005 12:27 am (UTC)

Property prices, the general real-estate market, gentrification in the East End and the pushing of the bounds of suburbia halfway to Wales...Oz listens carefully, filing everything away into his "Factoids of England" memories, but he doesn't exactly have anything to contribute.

That doesn't bother him all that much. It's good just to stand close to Giles, watching him out of the corner of his eye, watching the flush that stained his cheeks start to drain away, holding his hand all the while.

"I'm not sure," Oz says when the taller of the two women, clearly trying to include him, asks what he thinks about Robbie Williams' solo career. "I've kind of been out of the loop for a while now."

Travel talk next, and he's on surer feet here, helping them sort out the differences between Uruguay and Paraguay, deferring to Giles when talk turns to travel within Europe, and the time's just flowing by.

He's hot under his suit, though. Like his skin's a patchwork, waiting for touch and exposure, and starting to ache. Every little nudge and brush against Giles helps and hurts at the same time, and the waiting game is sexy. He thinks.

Olivia floats by with a tray loaded with champagne flutes and pauses at their group.

"Sparkling cider," she whispers to Oz. "Egremont Russet apples, a heritage variety. Enjoy, darling."

He got a darling from Olivia; Oz is grinning as he hands a flute to Giles.

"Almost there," he says and clinks their glasses.

Tue, May. 10th, 2005 12:21 am (UTC)

From the bar, there's a volley of corks popping--the bartender and a couple of the caterers are filling rank on rank of champagne glasses. Giles checks his watch. Four minutes to midnight.

"Well," he says to Gemma and Eileen, "It's very nice to have met you." They look a little surprised at the conversation's sudden close, but Oz, saying goodbye, squeezes his hand. This New Year means something, and it wouldn't be right to welcome it with half their attention, trying to make small talk to strangers.

There's an expectant thrum in the crowd, and lots of conversations are stuttering into quiet as they thread their way between groups, finally reaching a bit of space by the window. In a way, it's silly--midnight's only an imaginary line, like birthdays and borders. There's no obvious change from one side to the next, no newness to the air or extra vigor to the flow of time. But then, rationality's a limited thing. People live by symbols, by cycles and divisions, omens and meanings, and so the world lives by them too.

Oz is looking at him. "Just thinking about, well, time," Giles saying, smiling, and then they're quiet as they wait.

Standing on a chair in the middle of the room, Olivia starts the countdown. "Ten, nine, eight-"

Giles takes Oz's glass from his hand, and sets it down, along with his own, on a side table.

"-three, two, one. Happy New Year!"

Rattling noisemakers and those awful paper horns, and Oz's arms around his neck and a long, long kiss amid honking and laughter. "I love you," he says into Oz's ear. "Happy New Year."

Tue, May. 10th, 2005 12:43 am (UTC)

"I love you," Oz murmurs against Giles' mouth before kissing him again. Longer, with their lips parting, his hand bunching up the fabric of Giles' jacket before he remembers himself and moves his hand to Giles' neck.

Wonderful, the taste of apples in their mouths on one of the coldest, darkest nights of the year. Like spring and fall all rolled together, and Giles tilting into him, leaning and kissing like they do in the mornings. Reacquaintance and return, and Oz slides his fingers into the bristly short hairs on the nape of Giles' neck.

"Hrmmm," he mutters when they part, and even a little ways apart, Giles is still leaning in, eyes bleary and cheeks going pink. Oz is pretty sure he looks about the same. Regretfully, he slips his palm down the length of Giles' arm, then straightens his lapels and tie. He's rumpled and glamorous, kiss-dazed, and Oz wonders how workable it would be to keep him like this all the time. "Happy happy. Really love you."

It feels important — ceremonial, almost, and ritual — to tell Giles that. Impress it on him as surely as the kiss.

"Like, so much," he adds, palms on Giles' lapels, tugging him back within kissing-distance. Babies' eyes can only focus as far as it is from breast to mommy's face; Oz gets that now, realizes he's most comfortable within kissing-Giles-distance. "And—"

"Darlings!" Olivia is calling, cutting through the chatter and screeching horns. Neely's on her arm, grinning widely. "Happiest of new years to you!"

There's a round of shaking hands and kisses on the cheek, and all Oz can think of that's not about kissing Giles is how glad he is they're not playing "Auld Lang Syne". It's something brighter, jazzier. Holding Giles' hand, he sways a little and runs the tip of his tongue over his lower lip, tasting all over again.

When the conversation starts to slow, Oz moves half a step ahead of Giles.

"Think we might get going soon —" he says, sliding a quick glance at Giles, even though he's pretty sure this is okay. "Such an awesome party. Thank you."

Home, and kissing distance, and skin exposed under good cotton. That's how Oz wants to ring in the new year.

Tue, May. 10th, 2005 01:33 am (UTC)

Giles has no idea what he's been saying for the last couple of minutes. Kissing Oz is like deep-sea diving--if you surface too fast, you'll hurt yourself. He could easily believe, from his muzzy head and the half-pleasurable cramps of longing that are twisting through him, that his blood's gone bubbly and oxygen-deprived. He wants to fall back into Oz and have a good long swim.

Which, luckily, Oz seems to have just arranged. "Leaving so soon?" Olivia says. "And I thought I threw very good parties." Giles would never have dared risk that amused, all-too-knowing look on her face, or the certainty that she'll laugh about him, later, with Paul and probably with Neely as well. If Oz hadn't said something, they wouldn't have got home before dawn. Or later--Olivia's been known to drag the last guests out for a fried breakfast somewhere.

They'll never hear the end of it, of course, but Olivia's smile is fond and forgiving, and she even lends them Neely's mobile phone to ring a taxi. "Have a very good night," she whispers when he kisses her goodbye.

Downstairs, waiting just inside the door for their cab, Giles holds Oz around the waist and does his best to ignore the concierge's eyes on them. They're not quite hugging, after all, even though he can feel the shape of Oz's hipbone and the line of his leg. Somehow Oz's tie has gone askew, one collar point crumpled, and Giles wants to kiss him right there where the white shirt touches his throat. Kiss all the edges where skin gives way to cloth, and then undo a button or two and make new edges, and kiss them . . .

"I think we're a hopeless case," Giles says. "We can barely go out in public." He loops his little finger under the edge of Oz's coat, then the jacket, and strokes his side through the two remaining layers. So many clothes. "I missed you. You were with me the whole time, or nearly, and I missed you." Perhaps he ought to be embarrassed about that, but, seeing the happy set of Oz's lips, the hinted smile in his eyes, he isn't. Not the slightest bit.

Tue, May. 10th, 2005 02:06 am (UTC)

"Different with people around," Oz says quietly, pushing his hip gently against Giles' hand. He started out just with a finger, but now there's his whole palm, cupping and squeezing. The heat spreading across Oz's skin is still patchy. Irregular, almost aching. It's missing, that's what it is. "Missed you, too. So much."

When the cab finally comes, Oz grabs Giles' hand and hurries through the bitter cold, sharp as porcelain and the edges of Olivia's furniture, then collapses in the wide back seat, pulling Giles up against him.

"Cold," he says after giving their address, and he rubs Giles' hand between both of his own, trying to catch his breath. He can't breathe in this cold, not really; it's like sucking on nitrous.

Giles nods, his lips pressed so tightly together that his mouth is white all around. Oz hooks his leg over Giles' knee — to get closer, draw in the heat, stop missing — and rubs his foot up and down Giles' calf in time with his hands.

Streaks of lights over Giles' face and their hands, disco-bright for throbbing half-moments, throbbing in time with Oz's heart, then plunging back into shadows that make them look ghostly. He's almost warmed back up when the cab slows to a stop halfway down their street. Oz would sigh, but they're home, and it's only one more mad dash out in the cold.

Inside the doorway, the glass rattling behind them, Oz hugs Giles full-on, kissing him hard, breathing out the little heat left inside him. He sucks lightly on Giles' upper lip before pulling back with a soft plop.

"Almost home," he whispers, and they climb the stairs together. On the last flight, past any nosy neighbors, Oz pauses and pulls Giles back down for a kiss. "We're going to celebrate for real now, right?"

Hair mussed up, tux showing through his open jacket lapels, Giles bends and kisses him again. Hot, cold, bright, shadowy: He always tastes the same, like home and morning.

Oz takes that as a yes, and he's warm again, suddenly, all over. Thoroughly.

"Awesome. Kind of looking forward to undressing you."

Sun, May. 22nd, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC)

For a second, sex-as-celebration seems odd to Giles, even a little funny. Then, leaning against the wall and pulling Oz to him, he decides it's perfectly apt. Celebration means joy, thankfulness, and he feels that most when he's skin-to-skin with Oz, mind and senses immersed in him, calling up every shudder and shout that means pleasure.

He opens his mouth to Oz's kiss, sinks into it, his back slipping down the plaster and one hand clutching the inner rail for balance. Oz starts shivering again as they kiss, and he gasps when Giles holds him slightly away and looks at him. "Are you?" Since they dressed Oz has worn a public face, still and serene, but now a private one's emerging bit by bit, like spring leaves. Eyes half-closed, lips parted and wet from kissing--above his stern suit and high collar the effect is beautifully debauched. "And I thought you wanted a quick one in Olivia's guest room with all our clothes on." As he speaks, Giles slowly undoes the knot of Oz's tie, shivering himself when Oz tips his head back to let Giles stroke his bare throat.

Then, with a sudden laugh, Oz twists and runs up the rest of the stairs to their door.