Giles emerged from the Wednesday night Tube crush. Out at Knightsbridge, down the Brompton Road in mute frustration, face turned away from the January wind. Success was the post as head of the New Council, the personal assistant, this house on Montpelier Square, the lovely gray suit, the calfskin attache. Success was not, at the moment, carrying his point in committee over the ceaseless arguments from Evans and Palmers. They’d been locked in intolerable wrestle over this issue for days now. Giles ground his teeth.
The little square was hushed, a backwater with no traffic. Giles could hear his shoes on the pavement. He worked his jaw, trying to relax himself as much as he could; it wouldn’t do to carry this anger through his front door. And he knew he’d been carrying it. He found his latchkey and let himself in. The sound of John Coltrane in the hallway, clicked off. Then bare feet on the floor. Oz met him in the hallway, hung up his coat, looked him over and said merely, “Huh.” He pushed Giles into the sitting room and down into his armchair. A tumbler of whisky and ice appeared in his hand moments later.
Giles let his head slump back in gratitude. Oz nodded and vanished back into the kitchen. From the scent of spice suffusing the ground floor, he was cooking dinner, the sort of thing he’d learned to make while sloping through Africa. He’d run into Xander there, survived some incident that neither Xander nor he would tell Giles the details of, then followed Xander back to London.
“More whisky?” Oz perched himself on the arm of Giles’ chair and peered down at him. His hands smelled of the peppers he’d been chopping.
Giles shook his head and rested a hand on Oz’s knee. “Do we have plans tonight?”
“Naw. Buffy tomorrow, right? So, quiet night tonight.”
“Good,” said Giles. He slid his hand further up Oz’s thigh, lingering in promise. Oz kissed the top of his head and slipped away, back to the kitchen to absorb more of that spice into his skin. Giles absorbed a little more whisky.
Oz wrote reviews for a little music magazine. It paid almost nothing, but it didn’t need to. Not with the Council’s assets as they were. Oz listened and wrote, and perforce Giles listened as well. Curiously and cautiously, and then with pleasure. Oz took him out to clubs to hear the artists he wanted Giles to react to, an eclectic set that ranged from Chicago blues to abrasive modern jazz to chillout electronica. Glitter on his face, paint on his nails, clothing a sidestep off from what his peers were wearing: Oz ought to have been as out of place as Giles was, but he was always exactly at home, whether interviewing an aging American guitar player or coaxing technical data from a weedy Finnish boy with a computer and a pair of turntables. Giles would watch him, over his whisky glass, or his beer bottle, or his cup of amino-acid-supplemented fruit juice, and marvel. He would likely never tire of that lithe mind, those clever hands.
Giles pulled his tie off and undid his top two buttons. The day had ended with another wrangle over Slayer health insurance with two survivors of the old guard. He daily regretted his impulse to allow them to join the New Council. The decision had been pure sentiment, sprung from pity for the two men who’d known no other life. Well, he’d learned his lesson. He had another mouthful of whisky, and deliberately allowed the day’s stress to fall away. Cufflinks off, shirtsleeves rolled. Another slow warming sip.
Oz, seeking rest following four years of wandering, had alighted in his house. Xander had made the decision for both of them. “Giles has the spare rooms and the bucks. Don’t let him bitch about it.” Giles hadn’t, except to make the obligatory complaints required to satisfy Xander that Giles was still Giles. It had been no hardship. Oz had found himself during those years, had pacified the wolf, had understood his place in the universe. Giles found him restful to come home to.
One night Oz had silently taken the book he was reading from his hands and kissed him, and nodded in satisfaction. No words were spoken that night, other than “yes” and “please” and “again”. Giles had once tried to speak with Oz about what he wanted, whether he was happy, but Oz had stopped him with a kiss.
Oz was restful to sleep next to as well. Save for the time they spent in restless struggle together, skin to skin.
What to do about his problem? He needed to end this. A few nights ago, at the full moon, Giles had watched Oz perform his centering exercise, a prelude to meditation. Oz reminded himself who he was, that he did not have to be a wolf, that the wolf was an aspect of self and not the whole. Giles thought that this was wisdom. In his armchair, senses softened by whisky but not muddled, Giles reminded himself who he was. He slowly moved through his body, relaxing himself from toes to fingers, and found his quiet center. His balance. There, he asked his most private self what to do, what would best serve the Slayers’ cause. He found that framing the question like that was all he needed. He had authority; he needed to assume it.
Giles had fretted over letting the other Sunnydale friends know they’d become lovers. Mostly he’d fretted for naught. Xander had been no trouble; he and Oz were close, and he might have known before Giles himself what Oz’s intentions were. Giles’ reconciliation with Buffy after the destruction of Sunnydale had been complete. Buffy’d studied his face to make sure he was happy, then kissed him and pronounced herself thrilled that her Watcher was getting regular nookie. She’d then whisked Oz away for an afternoon and evening of consultation, and what they told each other about him Giles had never dared ask.
Willow had been difficult. “I don’t mind. No, really, go right ahead, Giles. I’m over him. Even if I were free now, I wouldn’t want to be with him, ‘cause, hello, gay. Not sure why I was ever with Oz, to be honest with you. Kind of a relief to find out he’s gay too. And you! You should have told us all! You big goof.”
But her face had been tight.
When Giles told Oz what Willow had said, Oz shook his head. “Labels. They’re no good. I love who I love.” He poked Giles’ chest. “Like you do.”
But Willow repeated her story of labels to Giles, and to her friends, and to herself, and went away disgruntled for reasons the labels prevented her from speaking. She was not part of their social life, not the way Xander and Buffy both were. And Giles was beginning to suspect those two of seeing each other more than just socially, which made him smile with secret pleasure.
Giles stood. The other thing he needed to do was make his apologies for the days of jittery avoidance of his lover. The half-melted ice rattled in his glass. He carried it to the kitchen and drank the last of the whisky, watching his lover dance to unheard music as he cooked. Oz checked the rice, then looked at Giles.
“Hard day Watching? Evans still an ass?”
“Mmm. Decided what to do about him, though.” Giles set his empty glass on the countertop.
“I’m going to sack him.”
Oz nodded. “Good.”
“I’m sorry about the last few days.”
Oz squeezed Giles’ arm. He lifted a pot lid. Fragrant steam escaped. Giles’ mouth watered. Oz stirred, then put the lid back down.
“That all set?” Giles said.
“Yeah. Simmer for fifteen minutes.”
“That’s enough time,” said Giles. He took the spoon from Oz’s hand and set it on the counter. Oz’s lips tasted of strawberry. His hands and face were chapped through by the London winter, and he professed himself addicted to lip salve. He went through tubes of the stuff. Giles was addicted to the taste of it on Oz. He busied himself licking his lips clean of it now. Oz pushed into him hard, taking and giving with ferocity that had surprised Giles the first time he’d felt it. Now he knew it to be integral to Oz. From that centered poise, strength.
Giles slid to his knees and fumbled with the loops of Oz’s belt.
“Gonna spoil your dinner,” Oz said.
Giles heard the smile in the voice. He didn’t bother replying.
Salt and spice and sweat and the bitter musk of clean man, over the whisky peat and smoke. The weight on his tongue, the soft-hard flesh sliding over his lips. Giles loved this, loved the taste and the heat and the sounds his lover made, the shallow thrusts stilled with firm hands on hips. He loved using his mouth to please his partners, whether man or woman, and always had, from the moment he’d first learned such things were possible. He loved Oz. He wanted for nothing at this moment. He took Oz deep and groaned around him.
Oz spoke again, a half-intelligible plea to deity. But his glittering painted fingers stroked Giles’ face, and ran through his hair, and Giles knew his message had been heard.