Boys Of Summer (In Their Ruin)
written by Branwyn
Spoilers: The Wish.
Summary: Challenge response, set in the Wishverse, for Moosesal, who wanted a mention of The Who and the power of scent.
Feedback Author: Branwyn
Author's Website: Anxiety Dreams
Author's LJ: A Study In Scarlet
There is no reason for Oz to be here.
His senior year has come and gone, and Giles knows he graduated because the school's administration has taken to giving out diplomas to any student who happens to survive four years of enrollment. Oz should be in college now. Or touring with the remnants of his band, or possibly just wandering the world, absorbing and synthesizing its chaos into sensible lumps of zen. He should be any of the numerous places in the world that didn't happen to be an open Hellmouth.
Giles believes, somewhat superstitiously, that Oz's birth into this world is one of fortune's most brilliant blunders, and that he has been lucky to enjoy the effects of it for as long as he has. He believes that if he is selfish, if does not send the boy away of his own free will, Oz will be snatched from his grasping fingers, and it will become clear to both of them that Giles never deserved him in the first place.
But he has never gotten farther than murmuring suggestions at completely inopportune moments. Before patrol, for instance. And after sex. And during breakfast.
It does not help his resolve that excuses are so easy to come by. They do genuinely need Oz's van, after all. And as quickly as they lose the newer people—Jonathan, Amy, Michael, Nancy, all inside a month—Giles comes to rely on Oz more than he should. More than he ever meant to.
Oz, for his part, shows no hint of restlessness. Never speaks of moving on. In the day they sleep and prepare. At night they patrol. At dawn, Oz goes home with him. To his house, to his bed.
Giles does not take this for granted. Every time he changes the bed linen, some part of him remains tense until he is again able to draw the scent of Oz into himself from the damp sheets. Every time he does laundry he is mindful of washing away the only tangible evidence he has of Oz's existence. He should save something against the day when Oz goes away forever, but he never does. Every Monday and Thursday he does the laundry, until the warm, powdery scent of detergent reminds him of fear, his constant fear of loss.
Oz likes the sheets fresh from the laundry. He tells Giles that when he was little he used to curl up in the laundry room and sleep, lulled by the hum and the heat of the dryer. Giles smiles, and offers, only half jokingly, to let him do the washing.
Oz leaves one afternoon, an hour before sunset, intending to fetch the week's supply of holy water from St. Pat's. An hour after sunset he has not returned. Giles goes out in the Citroen that night, not patrolling so much as looking for Oz (his body.) He goes home at dawn, but, unable to face the bed, he does not sleep. The second day and night pass in the same way, save that exhaustion creeps over him and he succumbs without noticing, only to be awakened around noon by the ringing phone.
It is Oz, although Giles doesn't reach the phone in time to speak with him. His message says only that he is alive and unharmed. Giles doesn't have the capacity to decide whether or not the message is plausible.
He should be glad that Oz is gone. He should be hoping that Oz will go from wherever he is to the nearest interstate and drive until the Hellmouth is the most distant of memories. He should want what is best for Oz, and he is ashamed that he can't. He can only want what he wants
He wants whiskey in his glass, "Pinball Wizard" on the turntable, and Oz at his side and in his bed, forever and ever amen. And perhaps a healthy supply of handgrenades, but he isn't picky.
Another night passes. Oz does not turn up. Giles leaves the door to his flat unlocked, in case Oz comes back. He spends the night at St. Pat's.
He returns to his flat at dawn, but an hour later he is still awake and staring out the window of his loft. In plenty of time to see Oz coming. Oz, walking through broad daylight toward his door. Giles knows the gesture is intentional, meant to spare him the pain of uncertainty. He rushes down stairs, only to wait, fidgeting, for Oz to knock.
Which he does in due course. Looking paler, thinner, tenser than usual. But alive and no more flammable than usual.
They pass a long moment in silence. Then Oz speaks, just as Giles has started to open his mouth.
"There's something I want to show you. Come with me?"
They go down the street toward his van, Giles noting through the delirium of his relief that inside it still smells like lighter fluid—from the flaming arrows—and marijuana. Oz drives without speaking, and Giles does not interrupt. Does not need to. Realizes, as he relaxes into the gracious silence, that if he ever thought Oz was a luxury, he was wrong.
Oz drives them to the edge of Breaker's Woods, parks, and motions for Giles to get out. "It's inside a little way," he says, gesturing forward, and Giles must ignore the instincts of a lifetime of training to follow Oz into the darkness. He does so willingly.
He smells them before he sees them, the sweetish stench of decaying tissue not native to this world. Then he sees them, a pile of corpses as high as his waist. Demons, of varying shapes and sizes. All mangled, mutilated. The violence is beyond anything Giles has ever seen before. Beyond the capacity of a Slayer.
"That night I didn't come home," Oz is saying, "I was running late. I was still outside after dark. Then I....changed."
"Yes," Giles says, trying to make sense of it. "I can see that. Was it the first time?"
"Yeah. Last week, I—" He shakes his head. "It doesn't matter."
"You killed all these demons while in wolf form?"
"Yeah. Lots of vampires, too, but they dusted when I...." He swallows. "They dusted."
He turns his back on Giles and keeps talking.
"I wanted you to see this because I wanted to show you that I can be useful. I mean, dangerous, yeah, but humans don't go out at night around here, and if I can take down this many demons at once, then maybe...."
"Maybe you could give me a chance. Maybe...you don't have to kill me. Right away."
Giles stares at the back of Oz's head until Oz turns and looks at him. He does not quite believe what he has heard, but he sees it in the face of the boy before him, and though Oz is the werewolf, Giles is suddenly the one who wants to throw back his head and howl.
"Don't be foolish," he whispers, without meaning to. "Don't be an absolute idiot."
Distant parts of Giles' mind are aware that something terrible has happened, that he is seeing the ruin of a life and youth and opportunities and god knew what else. But all he can see is Oz, who will not go away while he is bound to this place by his guilt. Oz, who cannot leave this place as long as he is a danger to people who do not have the sense to fear the darkness.
"It will be all right, Oz," he promises, laying his hand on the boy's shoulder and lowering his nose briefly to the top of his head. "I promise."
Oz nods, leaning back into Giles' shoulder. Giles can feel the boy's taut muscles relaxing slowly under his hand, becoming slack, as a tire leaking air loses rigidity.
"Come home now?"
They turn for the van. Giles leads him there, and Oz allows himself to be led. It is an unequal arrangement, but it suits both of them beyond the point of questions.