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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. 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.

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, 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.