In four days, Giles will no longer be human.
He knows, of course, that this is a double exaggeration. He'll still be human most of the time.
And he hasn't really been human since Oz bit him, twenty-two days ago.
Somehow, though, it's easier to think of the change as something that's going to happen, rather than something that already has.
Once a day, or sometimes more, Giles tells himself he's lucky to be alive. If Willow had been a little slower with the tranquilizer gun, he'd be meat and Oz would be a killer.
For a while Oz's apologies were daily too, but now when he comes into the library after classes end he just says hello and settles down to work. He's doing the internet portion of the research while Giles tackles the rest.
Despite the new watcher's tut-tutting about carelessness with occult information, Giles has stopped bothering to reshelve the books on lycanthropy. He stows them behind the counter at night and surrounds himself with high stacks of them when he reads. For convenient cross-checking, of course, but he also likes the walls they make. They remind him of the little study carrel he had as a postgraduate student--a world made of books, bringing focus and a kind of safety. Tranced with a day's reading and writing, he used to emerge every evening to streets and sky and the noise of Oxford and feel chilled and shocked. He was always glad to get back to his rooms, close the curtains, and start reading again.
The problem, though, is that Giles is running out of books. He's already run out, in fact, and re-reading hasn't made any new connections emerge. For the last few days he's been reduced to checking the references for mistranslations or omissions. He's discovered a number of things, including that Delong stole his flawed Latin transcriptions wholesale from Theissen instead of consulting the originals, but he hasn't found any hint of a cure.
Halfway through a sentence he already knows by heart, Giles closes An Inquiry Into the Origins of Lycanthropy. Apparently he sighs as well, since Oz looks up from his typing and says, "Not much, huh?"
"Nothing at all. You?"
"Nope. Just way too many people who think being a werewolf would be cool." Oz clicks the mouse a few more times, a staggered rhythm like a dying heartbeat, then leans back in his chair and stretches.
Seeing him reminds Giles of the ache between his shoulder blades and the sore spots on his elbows from leaning on the table. Wincing, he twists each shoulder forward.
"Nah, that won't help," Oz says. "Has to be a full-body thing. Like a cat." Lurching to his feet, he demonstrates with a loud yawn and a huge, arm-spread backwards bend like an acrobat starting a trick. His t-shirt--forest green, with "YWCA Girls' Adventure Camp" on the front--rides up, showing a ribbon of pale belly and the flat knot of his navel.
Giles looks away. "I don't think my spine could tolerate that." Randomly, he reaches for another book, but doesn't take it from the top of its pile. Instead, he strokes its leather cover tenderly, deliberately. There've been times, this last week, when he's wanted to crumple paper in his fists, tear endboards and stitching, take a match to all these useless words.
Oz plops down into the chair opposite and looks at Giles between the two walls of books. Just the two, always, so they can talk about their progress as they work. Lately, as there's so little progress, their conversations tend to wander off into other things. A few nights ago they started swapping stories about disastrous gigs and didn't leave the library until after midnight. "We're not gonna find anything, are we?"
"No." It sounds terribly final, and so it must be false. There's always a solution. Watchers' training insists on that. "That doesn't mean there's no cure, of course. So many things are never written down."
"So it's full moons in the book cage for us."
"For the foreseeable future." Late in the evenings, when the school is quiet and they've done all the research they can bear, they've been reinforcing the bars and the lock. Oz, it turns out, is a dab hand at welding. At first Giles found that funny.
"Don't." Giles straightens a stack of books, aligning the corners, then, in case he seems angry, looks up at Oz. "This is not your fault. It's just bad luck."
Slumped over the table, Oz seems profoundly weary, and even his dismissive snort sounds half-hearted. "Bad luck goes with the territory, I guess. Literally."
Bad luck multiplies, too, and metastasizes in new and painful places. Oz lost his girlfriend, Giles lost his job. "It's not the end of the world."
The cliché echoes in Giles' ears, hollow and pathetic as the clank of a penny in a beggar's tin. But to his surprise, Oz smiles. "'Course not. The end of the world has vampires. Spells, maybe some demons. Not two mopey guys in a library. Hey, you hungry?"
Half-past seven, or thereabouts, has become pizza time. For the first week or so, when all five of them were researching, they'd order two extra-large super-supremes, hold the onions (Xander) and the green peppers (Willow). Now they order one large in stranger and stranger combinations--barbecued shrimp, anchovies with jalapeños and double garlic. Even pineapple, once, but Giles found it revolting. "Yes, I'm hungry, but I'm sick to death of tomato sauce and melted cheese. Does the India Palace deliver?"
Oz shakes his head, then reaches into his pocket and displays a ring of keys. "But we can travel at speeds of up to seventy miles an hour. Eighty if you don't mind the engine noise."
Not until they reach parking lot does Giles start to doubt. Pizza in the library is simply research, but going to a restaurant is . . . real. Personal.
Inappropriate. A school librarian can't take a student out to dinner.
As he unlocks the door (passenger side first--he's always polite) Oz says, "I'm glad we're . . . I mean. I don't really like pizza that much." He ducks his head when Giles laughs.
It's a role, librarian and student. Or at least, only a partial truth, a point of view. Giles and Oz are also music fans, and adorers of old Monty Python episodes, and people who don't love pizza.
And werewolves, of course. People who aren't quite human. They're in-between creatures, just as Sunnydale is an in-between place, suburb and hellmouth. Students die here, all the time, and it's explained away. Who's going to notice the two of them having a curry together?
Buckling his seatbelt, Giles asks, "Have you ever tried the Palace's chicken jalfrezi? It's really quite good."
Hiding a werewolf's human clothing, legend says, will trap him in his wolf form. In one medieval story, a werewolf's unfaithful wife rids herself of him that way.
It's not literally true, of course. Nothing prevents the transformation. Even a werewolf's corpse will turn human again once the sun rises.
But Giles wonders what happens if people stop seeing the clothes, the human features. He wonders what will happen if people look at him and can only see a beast.
Oz said it would feel like coming down with the flu. Giles has been hot and shivering all day, aching too deeply for Advil to touch, so he supposes Oz was right. But this restless energy, these twitches that crawl under his skin like a phalanx of poisonous ants--they don't feel like the flu.
At noon the smell of the cafeteria food was unbearable. Metallic and rotten, dead things slopped out of tins and heated. Giles ran to the toilet and threw up, then had to leave the building for an hour.
Now, with the school mostly empty and the odors of cooking long gone, he's so hungry his stomach cramps into a knot. It growls. Perhaps his stomach is the first part of him to change.
"What on earth are you laughing at, Mr. Giles?" Wyndam-Pryce asks. The prat. He's been hanging about since mid-morning, as though he expects Giles to slip away and transform in a children's playground or the Sunnydale Galleria.
"Nothing that you'd understand." Oz didn't mention anything about irritability. But then, Giles' temper may come from having his every move watched all bloody day, not from the approaching sunset and moonrise.
Twenty minutes left. Where the hell is Oz, anyway?
A little later Buffy turns up clutching a liter-sized carton of orange juice. "Here. Um, I thought maybe . . . you'd be . . . thirsty." Some occasions demand a gift, it seems. Grapes for a sickbed, a drink for a twenty-first birthday, and orange juice for a werewolf.
But it tastes good. Straight from the carton, it's the best juice he's ever had, rich and layered as the best Highland single-malt and clean as oysters fresh from the shell.
God, he's hungry. "Thank you, that's very thoughtful." The only problem is there's not enough of it. He finishes the juice in another swallow. "How are you, Buffy?" Since he can't be her watcher anymore, he's been staying away. She needs to get used to Wyndam-Pryce. If that's possible.
Buffy lifts her eyes from the empty carton she's been staring at and smiles. "Oh, you know. I've got a stalker vampire ex-boyfriend and my shoes are rapidly going out of style. The usual."
Giles pats her arm and she doesn't seem bothered. She smiles, in fact. He could hug her for that, if the change weren't so close. The muscle cramps have started, and he's sweating, almost feverish.
"Perhaps you'd better get in the cage, Mr. Giles." Wyndam-Pryce holds the door open for him. Pillock. But he's right. Anyway, Giles needs to sit down.
"Hang on," Oz calls as Wyndam-Pryce is about to lock the door. "Second werewolf reporting." He looks tense, which is not at all reassuring, and there's obvious strain behind his "Hey there" and nod to Giles.
Once they're shut in, Wyndam-Pryce shakes the bars. "I hope you've made this strong enough, Mr. Giles. But as back-up, I've got several tranquilizer guns."
Such a pompous little ass. Giles would like to give him a good shaking. And a few kicks. He grips the steel bars and says to Buffy, who's unpacking a mountain of fashion magazines from her backpack, "Thank you for coming. It's good of you to, well, make sure I don't kill anyone."
"Nothing but the full-service treatment for my watcher." Wyndam-Pryce looks offended at that, and Buffy's nose wrinkles as though she's holding back a laugh. Giles' laugh turns into a cough halfway up his throat, one that hitches his chest and doubles him over. It won't be long now.
The cage is small, and it feels suddenly smaller when Oz takes off his shirt. "Clothes get kinda shredded," he explains, starting on his jeans.
"I can't possibly-" If you must, you can. Another watcher truism. "Buffy, turn your back, please."
"Way ahead of you there, Giles."
Giles turns his back to her as well, which seems like only a marginal improvement, but at least he doesn't have to see her not watching him. Or see Wyndam-Pryce, who probably hasn't got the decency to look away. "Tomorrow I'm bringing in some blankets to put over the bars. This is humiliating." A month ago he was a civilized man, respectable, middle-aged, a scholar and Buffy's watcher. Now, he's just a naked beast, a poor forked animal like King Lear on the heath. Naked until his fur grows, anyway.
"Here." Oz takes Giles' clothes and shoves them, piece by piece, through the book slot along with his own. Mercifully, Buffy has disappeared somewhere, perhaps into the stacks. "Now we won't have to sneak home naked tomorrow. Which is a big improvement over last month, for me." Abruptly, with a little shudder, he turns from the bars, towards Giles.
Naked, freed of his shapeless and raucously bright clothes, Oz is a beautiful boy. He's got a little, slim, tidy body, narrow in the hips and broad at the shoulders, smooth-skinned except for coppery pubic hair around his pale pink-
Oz didn't mention this part either, the arousal threading up through the agonizing cramps, bright as the stripes on a dark road, as a river in the moonlight. Growing brighter as he looks at Oz and Oz looks back at him.
He'd like to kiss Oz. Suck on his tongue, lick his skin. Taste him, taste his flesh. Hungry.
So hungry as he falls to his knees, shaking, whining as something breaks inside him and pain spills out.
Many books, even the supposedly scholarly ones, claim that the were in werewolf comes from wer, the Anglo-Saxon word for man. Werewolf, manwolf.
The Oxford English Dictionary calls this etymology "doubtful."
In contrast, a manuscript of ca. 1400 says, "They be cleped werewolfes, for men shulde be ware of them."
No man in the wolf, only something to fear.
Cold under his hip and side, warm all along his front. Flesh to flesh, a body that smells good when he shifts closer, resting his head in the sweet hollow of a shoulder, throwing his leg across -
Oz's hip. Oz tucked in against Giles' chest, naked, clinging in his sleep.
Giles scrambles away, and as he moves he feels the pull of something dried on his thighs. A white scum, flaking off.
Oz, still sleeping, rolls into the space where Giles lay.
"Good, you're awake." Deftly, Wyndam-Pryce manages to open the door and hand Giles his clothes without ever quite focusing on him. Giles remembers that trick of the sliding eyes from the Council investigation into Eyghon; he always felt like a particularly mangled and bloody corpse, something that inspired disgust leavened with pity. "How are you feeling?"
"Oh, nothing in particular. Rather a lot of howling."
Giles catches his gold-watch-clad wrist. "What happened? What did I do?"
With a small, precise tug, Wyndam-Pryce frees his arm. "If you must know, you . . . you and he . . ." Blushing, he smoothes nonexistent wrinkles from his suit. He sat up all night, but he looks impeccable. The perfect English gentleman. Does he ever sweat? Bleed? "From a scholarly point of view, it's quite an important development. This will have a tremendous impact on our understanding of werewolf social structures and mating habits."
"You can't mean you're going to write a report about this." Giles imagines Quentin Travers reading it, lips thin with disgust at yet another of Rupert Giles' filthy excesses. Secretly gleeful, of course, at this proof that he was right about Giles all along.
"Mr. Giles, I must." Quiet, almost regretful voice. Giles thinks of a civilized and decent judge putting on the black cap, sentencing a man to hang. "Do put on your clothes, please."
Giles' legs are so cramp-tight he can barely step into his trousers, and deep rows of scratches, a few still bleeding, sting eye-wateringly when the cloth touches them. Not until he's done up the last button of his flies, clothed himself back into humanity, does he remember. "Buffy-"
Did she see it? Trapped by duty, did she have to watch the monsters fucking?
"I sent her home as soon as I realized . . . what was happening." Wyndam-Pryce stows away a notebook, where he's undoubtedly been drafting his report to the Council, and closes his briefcase. "And now I'd better be off myself to get some sleep. In the circumstances, I'll be keeping watch tonight and tomorrow as well." For the first time, he meets Giles' eyes. "I thought that would be easier for everyone."
When Giles was a boy, one of the Council archivists was an old man who'd had half his face clawed off by a demon. The Council gave him rooms at headquarters because he couldn't stand the stares and horror when he went outside. Giles used to look in the mirror and imagine his own face drooping and scored, one eye missing, saliva trickling where his lips couldn't quite close. It was a rehearsal, practice for bearing his own ruin, because anything can happen to watchers.
Wyndam-Pryce is a watcher too, and he knows. "Thank you," Giles says. Mercifully, Wyndam-Pryce says nothing, just leaves with that brisk walk of his, as though he's worried about missing a train.
When he puts on his shirt, Giles discovers that there are scratches on his back, too. Under his nails, he notices rusty half-circles of dried blood that must be Oz's. Werewolves like rough pleasures, it seems. Unless it wasn't pleasure. Unless Oz was defending himself, and Giles was . . .
"Guess we had quite a night," Oz says. He's standing at the door of the cage. The poor boy looks dreadful. Looks mauled. Red weals and black bruises, vivid as paint, graffiti the skin Giles thought was so beautiful, yesterday.
"Yeah, I heard." Limping a little, Oz comes over to the counter, hip brushing Giles' leg when he reaches for his clothes. Giles feels, or remembers, the heat of Oz's body, and the heat sets off a blush that he's sure reaches down to his toes. Buttoned to the neck, tie knotted tightly, he feels more naked than Oz, who's calmly putting on his y-fronts. "You look pretty banged up." One of Oz's hands hovers near Giles' arm for a second, then drops.
"Oz, I'm so sorry. Are you - do you think you're hurt? I don't . . . I don't remember what I did."
"I'm okay." He stretches cautiously, without the exuberance of a few nights ago. Not catlike anymore. Human, and wounded. "When I was eight I broke my collarbone in a tragic tuba-related incident. This isn't so bad."
"Anyhow, what makes you think you did anything to me?" Unbelievably, Oz is smiling. Grinning, even, as he adjusts his shirt and rearranges the tumult of his hair. "I hear I'm one big tough werewolf."
Terribly heavy when he knocked Giles down, terribly fast, and Giles needed more than fifty stitches where his teeth went in. He can remember the feel of them penetrating him. Almost as deep as fucking, it felt. "Yes, you are."
"Oh, shit." Oz runs both hands through his hair again, tiredly, and scrubs them over his face. "Sorry."
"Let's stop apologizing to each other, all right?" There are things that need saying, and they won't get far if every other word is sorry.
"Sounds like a plan." This time Oz does touch him, a light clasp over the cuff of Giles' shirt. Giles can hear both their hearts beating too fast.
Oz's face is paper-pale, stubbly, scratched above one thin eyebrow, and so lovely. Giles wants to touch him as much as in those moments before the change, when he was sinking under the beast's cravings.
It's not that Giles never noticed before. It was the first thing he thought when Willow introduced him: pretty. But that was abstracted, fleshlessly aesthetic, as though Oz were a picture of a boy. Now that he's held Oz naked in his arms, it's never going to be abstract again.
"Oz, would you like me to - to drive you home?" The one small mercy in this nightmare is that it's Saturday, and they can rest.
"Thanks," Oz says, at the exact moment when Giles remembers that of course Oz must have his van here. He's still holding Giles' wrist. "But I - could we go to your place? Talk about stuff? If that's okay."
Giles can smell him. His body. Layer on layer of smells, sweet and sharp and bestial-rank. Familiar smells, good smells, and Giles would like to bury his face in Oz's armpit, his groin, and sniff. "Couldn't we talk here?"
"I'm hungry." Oz pulls his hand away, then, and crosses his arms tightly over his chest. "Not saying you have to feed me. We could stop at McDonald's or something."
Giles has steaks at home. Beautiful dry-aged porterhouse steaks that he drove to Los Angeles to buy from a real butcher, because Oz warned him he'd be hungry for meat. He bought four, and just the memory of the paper-wrapped bundle on the refrigerator shelf sends saliva flooding into his mouth. "Don't be silly." No overprocessed, overcooked food could taste anything but disgusting. They should have a proper meal and talk in comfort.
In 1873, the Watchers' Council declared, by a vote of seven to five, that werewolves have souls. Before that, watchers had been instructed to treat werewolves like vampires: kill on discovery, whatever their form.
Giles was made to write an essay about that decision once. He was fourteen, in his second year of training. He argued that it was a dangerous mistake.
Oz likes his steaks rare. "Always did," he says as he slices off another bite. "Nothing to do with the werewolf."
"But you can't deny that it makes a difference."
"No. I mean, I get a lot hungrier now, even when it's not the full moon. But it's not like I want to eat this raw, either. Or start chasing rabbits." Swiping bread through the juices on the plate, Oz shrugs. "Rabbit stew might be good, though."
"I'll look into it," Giles says, and then hears himself. "That is . . . I wasn't assuming-"
"It's okay." Before he looks up, Oz carefully lays his fork and knife on the plate next to the denuded bone, dabs his mouth, and folds his napkin. "I kind of. Um. Giles." Looking down now, he traces the edge of the plate with his fingernail, eyes invisible beneath his lashes. "I like you."
"Oz-" It's not intelligence that splits humans from animals. Not even language. It's the ability to say no to desire. The werewolf is pure desire, pure hungering id, and it's got Giles by the hormones and is shaking him to pieces. "We - you're only-"
"Eighteen." He's thought about this, planned that flat rejoinder. Perhaps during the long, awkward silence as the drove here from the school. "And bi since forever. And out to my mom and dad. Anyway, in dog years I'm -" He pauses for a second, staring up at the ceiling, calculating. "A hundred and twenty-six."
"I don't think that counts." Giles skin itches where, earlier, his bare body touched Oz's. He imagines a yearning red rash coming up, marking him with Oz's outline, like shadows burned onto concrete in Hiroshima. Stigmata of absence.
Oz shrugs and wipes his mouth again with the napkin. "We already did it, Giles. We just don't remember."
There are answers to that. Madness, intoxication. This need be nothing more than waking up hungover in a stranger's bed. But that suggests the wrong kind of regret, and Giles can't say it.
Oz's fingers, a few inches from Giles' on the table, flatten and still in an aborted reach. "I want to remember," he says, and stands up with a loud, shaky breath. "I want us to do it like people."
Next to Giles' chair, feet almost touching Giles', he stops. Only people stand on two feet like that. Only people talk and plan, think about what they want. Ask for it. Giles looks at Oz's pinched face, already sagging into embarrassment and sadness, and touches his hands, folds them in his own.
Hormones. Animal urges. But if the lycanthropy sharpened those urges, it didn't make them. "I woke up touching you. Holding you. I remember that much." Giles leans forward a little, closer to Oz's heat and scent. "It felt good."
"Yeah?" A breathless croak, and Oz grins and squeezes Giles' fingers. He guides Giles' hand up to his waist, presses it there, and steps in a little. They're both making such tiny movements, soft and gradual and nervous. Whatever the wolves were like, together, it wasn't this. Oz rests a fingertip on the frame of Giles' glasses and pauses, barely breathing, before taking them off.
Slowly, Giles slides his hands up Oz's sturdy-boned arms, over his shoulders and in, circling and folding until he's cupping Oz's neck and pulling his head down. Eyes open to the pale and liquid green of Oz's eyes, Giles lifts his head a fraction so that they're kissing for the first time.
It must be the first time. They wouldn't have kissed when they were beasts.
Oz's lips are rough, dry, but soft too, and he kisses lightly, as though he's on the verge of changing his mind. Then his mouth opens and his tongue slides over Giles' lower lip and in, slippery, stroking. Filling Giles' mouth, moving against Giles' own tongue, and Giles stretches and murmurs. Oz kisses well, kisses attentively, taking his time as his tongue flicks the roof of Giles' mouth, slides along the inside of his lower lip. He kisses as though kissing is the whole point, as though it's a holiday he's saved up for and he's not going to miss a single thing in the guidebook.
They both creep closer, leaning and balancing, until Oz is sitting astride Giles' knees. One of Oz's hands clutches a bunch of Giles' hair, knuckles rough as pebbles against Giles' skull, and the other curves over his shoulder, but he's almost motionless now. They're only, sheerly, purely kissing. This is distilled kiss, essence of kiss, this is the rosewater of kisses, the smell of pine at the center of a forest.
Gasping, Giles says, "This is -"
"Nice," Oz finishes. "Yeah." And Oz kisses him again, mouth opening this time, letting Giles taste him.
It's like stepping off a plane in Mumbai or Marrakech, that first lungful of alien air, and Giles willingly forgets everything he knows about kissing. What he wants is artlessness and mess. He sucks on Oz's lips until they swell and heat, spreads the kiss to his chin and cheeks, mouths his way wetly up Oz's rough jaw to his earlobe. Two tiny holes in the flesh there, pain for beauty, and Giles strokes them with the tip of his tongue. Tipping his head back, he looks at Oz's pink, sticky face and kisses the smooth corner of his eyelid. So young, not a hint of a crease. The only marks on him are the ones Giles made. "Would - Oz, would we be doing this if-?"
"Dunno." Oz takes a tighter grip on his hair and slides a little forward, pinning him down. "Don't really care right now." But his face is less certain, narrow-eyed and still, just his eyelashes flickering, little copper flashes like distant birds' wings.
The wolf made me do it. So easy. Giles could foist off every awkward desire that way.
Oz turns his face away and starts to get up. "Don't," Giles says, holding him, hands locked over the bony edges of his hips. "Don't. I . . . I like you. From the start. I'm just-" Too old for all this blurriness, too used to sharp categories and rules without exceptions. "Frightened, I think."
Something indefinable changes in Oz's face, returning mobility and softness. He dips his chin, a small nod. Perhaps that's the secret to Oz's expressions--they're meant for seeing close up. "Yeah. Scary stuff all around." His hand settles on Giles' cheek, leaf-light, the thumb rubbing the dent of Giles' upper lip. He's thinking. Over the last month, Giles has learned the shades of Oz's silences, the difference between thinking and upset, nervous and amused. When he's thinking, Oz's eyes shift to the left, and his eyebrows draw in charmingly. "I'd say silver lining, but that's lame. Kissing you, though. More like a whole silver jacket with really fancy buttons."
It's simple, then, to kiss some more, kiss until Giles can't tell the taste of Oz's mouth from his own, until his heart knocks in his chest, until his hands burn from the soft cotton of Oz's shirt and the stiff spikes of his hair. Kiss until without a word said they're out of the chair and up the stairs. On the bed, and Oz has one knee between Giles' legs and half his weight pressing Giles into the mattress and they're still kissing.
The arch of Oz's ribs shakes earthquake-fast as Giles's hand follows the line of his body, fingertips reaching the hem of Oz's t-shirt and curling under it. Oz kisses him deeper, his erection hard against Giles' hip, and makes a low rumbling noise when Giles works his hand past the cloth to touch Oz's bare body at last. Heat and down and the flex of a muscle, just what Giles' fingers were expecting, and yet it's a shock, a slip and tumble into mystery. Giles' breath sticks in his throat, oil-slow, and he has to peel Oz's t-shirt off and press both palms to him before he can inhale again. "So perfect," he says. Deep, scabbed gouges slice across Oz's back, but between them his skin is smooth, sweet to the touch, and Giles thinks of honey and plums.
Helping Oz undo his shirt buttons, Giles is almost ashamed of his own skin, aged and scarred. But Oz kisses his chest, kisses even the scars, trails his fingertips through the hair. They're exotic to each other, maybe, short and tall, young and middle-aged, pretty and rough. Oz bends his head to lick Giles' nipple and Giles' thoughts stretch to soap bubbles, burst and vanish.
Under Oz's kisses, hot and relentless as a rising sun, Giles wants to spread himself like a landscape, horizon to horizon. At Oz's slightest nudge he moves, lifting his arms so Oz can run cupped palms down them, offering his neck to Oz's winding tongue. Time and again Oz comes to bruises, patches of split skin, toothmarks, and he kisses each one softly, with something like apology. Burning, Giles digs his fingers into the mattress edges while Oz circumnavigates him, or half of him, moving in slow arcs from mouth to navel and back.
"Giles," Oz says at the completion of another circle, "I wanna-" His voice is hoarse and shy, and his eyes close for a moment when Giles looks at him.
"So do I." Kissed stupid, Giles had forgotten that Oz is just a boy, as prone as any boy to get stuck between eagerness and uncertainty. "Let's get these clothes off."
In the cage, undressing was shame, was capitulation. But now, when they've wrestled each other free of trousers and pants, skinned off civilization, Giles doesn't feel like a peltless beast. Naked, he lies back, holding Oz on top of him, kissing him with a human mouth, playing soft and clawless hands along human skin.
Not monsters, they have souls, have names. "Oz, yes, Oz, please yes." Oz's mouth calls up words from Giles' throat, calls up glow and hunger from his skin. Blesses his desire, makes it human as Oz slips lower, as Oz kisses his cock, lips spreading and encircling and welcoming.
Only people do this, only people use their mouths for pleasure, only people suck and nibble and wriggle that tongue dear god along the shaft of Giles' cock and Oz is making little singsong noises as he moves, happy murmurs that vibrate and spiral, that tighten through Giles' flesh and down into his melting bones.
Giles' hips flex in the rhythm of Oz's sounds, gently, not thrusting, just encouraging. So good, but he can wait, he can wait, he can cup the back of Oz's head, fingers in his sweaty hair, feel him move but not push Oz's head down. Touch, though, Giles has got to touch, got to have more than that wet maddening mouth. He hauls one leg up over Oz's bowed back, rubbing his heel along Oz's arse and the base of his spine. Skin as fine as the onionskin pages of a bible, skin that could never grow fur, skin that would be sweet to Giles' tongue, and Giles licks his own dry lips and groans.
Kneading Giles' leg, Oz hits a bruise hard, and the ache blossoms as hot and dizzying as the slide of Oz's mouth. Giles reaches and reaches, as though his hips and cock and Oz's beautiful, beautiful, tender implacable fucking mouth are a distant continent, and catches Oz's hand and pulls it up. It slides, guided by Giles' own, over belly and chest, over a nipple that tingles at the friction, along his neck to his mouth. Fingertips like flowerbuds, round and full, but they taste of boy, of sex, and Oz moans around his cock when Giles sucks Oz's thumb into his mouth. Moans and snaps into a faster pace, hungrier, rolling Giles' balls in his free hand.
Giles' mouth fall open, lips and chin spit-slick, to beg, but he can only make noises, muffled and urgent. Noises that Oz echoes, and his hand shifts to the base of Giles' cock, fingers and mouth working in deep strokes as though he's swallowed Giles down. Tighter and tighter, this arching tension, like waiting for moonrise, like the moment before his bones grind and shift, and then it breaks with a yellow flash behind Giles' eyelids and he comes.
Each breath is like hot sand in his lungs, and he's shaking and sorer in every muscle than before, and Giles doesn't think sex has ever felt like this for him. Not a pleasure indulged, not a glass of scotch or a stroll in the park, but a painful climb up Everest. He's gasping at the summit, blue and exhausted and far from safe, watching the prayer flags blow, ecstatic in high thin air.
Oz's weight settles on his chest, making it oddly easier to breathe, and Giles, eyes still closed, strokes the short wet hair above his neck. "Oz," he says. "My god, Oz." Pressed against his belly, Oz's cock feels hard as a length of pipe, and Giles realizes he hasn't really touched it yet, hasn't felt the fragile skin with his fingers, hasn't tasted it. They're only halfway through, and this shuddering satisfaction is only a pause before the rest of what Giles wanted. "I-" Still gasping, he has to stop. "Just - give me - a minute."
"It's okay," Oz says. Giles opens his eyes at last, to see him smiling. "Worth waiting."
Such pretty eyelashes he's got, long and reddish-gold, like saffron threads. Giles runs a fingertip across them, and Oz doesn't pull away, so he does it a few more times, catching his breath. Touches his eyebrows, too, and his wide smooth forehead. "You sound very sure."
"Yeah." Oz strokes Giles' mouth, and murmurs, eyes squeezing shut, when Giles licks his finger. "I like how you kiss. So . . ."
There's a white smear at the corner of Oz's mouth, and Giles kisses him there, lapping up his own bittersweet semen. Oz's come will taste different, and the thought's enough to spark a yearning warmth on Giles' tongue. "Shall I kiss you some more, then?" he asks, kissing already between the words. He can feel every kiss ripple down Oz's body, set him moving, set his hips rocking.
"Lots mo-" The word evaporates into a gasp when Giles' hand slides between their bodies. Beautiful cock, yes, hot and solid under silky skin. Wet at the tip, and already Giles can imagine the taste of it and the way it will fill his mouth.
Giles sucks Oz's tongue, promising, gliding the ends of his fingers over head and shaft and down into rough hair as Oz half-kneels, bottom in the air, to make room. Up and down again, fingers domed, thumb gentle along the tender underside. He's got Oz in his hand, his mouth, tumbled naked against his chest, trusting him with everything.
With a groan and a sideways twist, Oz falls, slides down Giles' body to the bed. Legs open, eyes closed, both hands reaching as Giles rolls over and says, "That's it, let me kiss you, Oz."
Those seeking hands settle on Giles' back, clutching his shoulder blades like Giles is a tree he's climbing, up into air and green light. Oz's thighs grip his waist, hard, and then fall back. Not climbing, not thrusting; he's almost frozen, waiting for Giles, patient. Like people, he said, and people don't have to take. People can be given things, can let others care for their pleasure.
Giles kisses him, his mouth and neck and flushed chest (blood under the skin, sex is blood raised in gentleness). Precisely at first--kisses like words, like codes and formulas--then, moving lower, lushly. Dent of his navel, flat yielding belly, and the length of his cock red with all that eager, stiffening blood. One more kiss, two, while Oz holds his breath, and then Giles takes him, takes all that need onto his tongue.
There's a groan from Oz, harsh and broken, that makes Giles hollow his cheeks and work his tongue to coax another one. Soon Oz is grunting and whining in a constant stream, barely rhythmic, and he's tugging random hanks of Giles' hair, legs hiked up and toes digging into Giles' hips. It's a little like the change, all those tremors and noises, a body slipping out of control, but Oz is boy still, not wolf, and not everything that's animal is bad.
One of Oz's hands clenches, searching, crawls to Giles' free hand and catches it, interlacing their fingers with a thrust that's as rough as his hips are still. Giles moves for him, bobbing his head, giving little twists, tongue flattening or wriggling. They're instinct and knowledge both, these movements. Sex isn't bestial; sex is as human as music. Oz's back arches, his cries pitching up and up, and Giles drops his head fast and deep and strokes Oz's balls as he comes. Hot spurts in Giles' mouth, filling him, and he swallows, hazy and fully content. Real pleasure doesn't happen by halves, only by taking and giving.
Oz's body is limp, loosely sprawled, as Giles heaves himself up beside him. Without opening his eyes, Oz rolls in and rests against Giles' chest, hot face and sweaty hair pressed into the crook of Giles' shoulder. Giles rubs the back of his neck as his breathing eases, and every once in a while Oz sighs faintly.
"Sleepy." Oz lifts his head, blinking in the light. "Can I sleep here? Or-"
"Sleep here." Puffy-eyed and sallow with tiredness, Oz looks even younger, and terribly brave, and beautiful. Giles touches his cheek. "Please."
With a fractional smile, Oz lets Giles draw him back down. Reaching around one-handed, Giles manages to find the sheet and work it over them. The room is warm, bright with sun from the open blinds. Optimistic morning light, light that promises solutions to every problem.
In about ten hours they'll both be wolves again. The sickly ache is starting up, and the low buzz like constant static, but it's less than yesterday. Sex helped, or Oz did. Does. Giles kisses his forehead, and lingers there, breathing. Sweat and sex have washed away the last chemical odors from Oz's hair, leaving deep organic richness, like old leaves scuffled underfoot. "You smell good."
"You too," Oz mutters into his neck, and then looks up at him. After a moment, they both laugh.
It comes from the wolf, that sense of smell, that love for the rank and uncivilized. But what Giles feels, this urge to kiss Oz and keep him close while they sleep, that's his own.
Still laughing, Giles stretches across Oz and sets the alarm clock. They've got to be in the cage before sundown. "Let's go to sleep," he says, wrapping his arms around Oz, shifting and adjusting until they're both comfortable. Cheek against Oz's hair, floating in the scent of him, Giles closes his eyes and rests.