Title: Things I'm Learning About You
Summary: The first morning after the first night.
Notes: This story is part of It's Like Jazz, a series cowritten by glossing and me. But it's basically a stand-alone. All you need to know is that Giles has recently arrived in Sunnydale (Buffy isn't even there yet). The previous night, he met Oz at the Espresso Pump and they ended up back at Giles' apartment. The story of how they met is here, if you'd like to read it. Title and cut-text of this story are from "Getting to Know You," because . . . it seemed to fit.
Giles can't find the bacon. He's checked behind the milk, in the vegetable crisper, in the little freezer compartment (empty), even in the cupboards in case he did something extraordinarily absent-minded. But there's no bacon.
He remembers shopping for it. He spent a good five minutes comparing brands, ignoring others' reaching arms and irritable "excuse me's" as he tried to find something not too fatty, too watery, too laden with nitrites and artificial smoke flavor. Something that might taste like real English bacon, from a real butcher, which Sunnydale apparently lacks. As it lacks a real bakery, a real pub, a real library. Real streets. Real weather.
Crouching, Giles shoves aside a couple of oranges to take one more look at the bottom of the crisper. No bacon anywhere, after all that fuss. He hates being incompetent. Hates being so befuddled and foreign.
Behind him, as he stares into the crammed but bacon-less refrigerator, a voice says, "Hey." In his preoccupation, Giles must not have heard the shower turn off. He'd wanted to have breakfast underway, the flat filled with good, welcoming smells.
"Hello," he says, twisting to smile up at Oz. Oz's cheeks are a fresh-scrubbed pink, his wet hair--wilting out of its attempted spikes--the blackish purple of ripe grapes. At first he looks stern (nervous, perhaps) and then he smiles back, more widely than Giles would have expected. It feels like a privilege, seeing that smile. A backstage pass, a terribly exclusive invitation.
Getting up, Giles kisses him for the first time in daylight. No, second. They kissed when they woke, just once, with closed mouths because Giles was worried about his breath. Now, Giles having reassured himself by a double dose of mouthwash, it's a long, slow, deepening kiss. Oz, too, tastes of mint.
"Didn't use your toothbrush, promise," Oz says eventually. "Just, you know, finger."
"I wouldn't care." Besides polite, it's very nearly true. Strange, because Giles has grown more and more fastidious, these last years. He wipes restaurant silverware before using it, and he won't let even Olivia drink from his glass. If he brings some man home, he showers and changes the sheets as soon as it's over. "But I'll get you one for next time. That is, if-"
"Yeah." Oz kisses him again and settles against his chest. "Thanks." He smells faintly of rosemary from Giles' own soap, and that, for some reason, is a marvel.
Last night, Giles wondered what his hair would feel like free of gels and sprays. "Mmm," he says, stroking, sliding the fine, damp threads between his fingertips, working in until he's cupping the back of Oz's head. "You're not prickly anymore." He can feel Oz's soft laugh where the heel of one hand rests on his neck.
"You are," Oz says, swiping the backs of his fingers along Giles' unshaven cheek.
"I was too lazy to shave." Too rushed, really, impatient with a shut door between him and Oz.
Oz wraps an arm around his neck and pulls his head down to kiss his cheek. A travelling kiss, exploratory, looping up his jaw to his ear. "I like it."
Everything Giles feels--Oz's mouth, his hair brushing Giles' chin, the leaning weight of his body and the sleek skin under his t-shirt where Giles' hand has found itself, even the dig of the refrigerator door handle against Giles' back--seems to blossom and crescendo into desire. For a miraculous third time in barely more than twelve hours, he's getting hard. His body's vibrant with craving, his skin itchy with it, his pulse loud with it.
Bending a little, he rubs his bristly cheek against Oz's cheek and his neck. Stoops further and tugs the neckband of Oz's t-shirt aside to kiss the curve of his shoulder, the arch of his collarbone. There's a lovebite just above the bone. Beneath his clothes, there must be more. Giles wants to count them and then give each one a twin. Kiss Oz to frenzy, make him sweat on Giles' brand new sheets. Not wash them afterwards.
The sagging of Giles' knees isn't all desire, though. He's hungry, fuzzy-headed, slow-muscled. Distracted. He's not twenty anymore, able to live on sex and cigarettes. And Oz is probably hungry too. "I want very badly to take you back to bed right now," he says in Oz's ear, sucking on the lobe to show he means it. "But I can't vouch for my energy level without breakfast."
The rim of Oz's ear is wet from Giles' tongue; Oz puts his fingertips to it. Not wiping it dry, just feeling it, as though Giles' touch has made his body strange and new. "Yeah. Breakfast is good." With a tiny quirk of a smile, he steps back. There's a bulge at the crotch of his loose jeans, and Giles stares for a moment, something like shivers wriggling down his spine. Oz wants him. This lovely boy, gentle and clever boy, sexy and responsive and delicious boy, wants him.
"What - what would you like? I've got eggs, but I seem to have left the bacon at the supermarket."
Still fingering his earlobe, Oz shrugs. "That's okay. I'm a vegetarian anyway."
"I see," Giles says, stupidly. Something's gone wrong with his words, his brain. Something to do with the way Oz is looking at him. Pleased, interested, shy enough that Giles looks forward to kissing him out of it. "Well, there's, there's cereal as well. I've got, er, cornflakes. And-" He opens the cupboard, shows Oz the cornflakes and several other boxes. "This one's got raisins and almonds, I expect it's good. And there's Shredded Wheat, which I bought because it seems to be the same thing as Weetabix, even though I never much liked Weetabix. And this one's fortified with--let me see--twenty-one vitamins and minerals." Oz looks blank, which--Giles supposes--means he's puzzled. Or amused. "Perhaps I went a bit overboard with the grocery shopping."
Oz takes his hand and squeezes it lightly. "Eggs would be great. Really. And some toast?"
"Right. Eggs it is." It's a bit of a relief. Those American cereals are all a bit too strange, too untrustworthy. But eggs, Giles knows.
"Can I help?" Oz asks, then, when Giles starts to refuse, says, "I cook at home all the time."
Another surprise. What boy of seventeen cooks? Smiling, Giles hands him the electric kettle. "But have you ever made a proper pot of tea?"
Oz ends up taking charge of the toast, and, with Giles talking him through it, the tea, while Giles fries the eggs. Sharing the small kitchen ought to be tricky, but it's not. He and Oz seem to have a coordination, a rhythm. Giles wonders, watching the eggs set, if sex and cookery are connected in some unimaginable way.
As they eat--Giles has to remove three boxes of books from the table first--he asks, "How long have you been a vegetarian?" It seems wrong for Oz. Too smugly ideological, too puritan. Surely a good steak is more his style than tofu.
"Forever, just about. Since I was a little kid." Oz sips his tea, frowns a little, and adds a second spoon of sugar. "It was my mom's idea. Supposed to be the whole family, but after a couple of weeks my dad quit."
Giles isn't sure if he's imagining the slight hardening of Oz's voice, the trace of family quarrels. He said, last night, that his parents were divorced. It's not something Giles can ask about yet. "I can hardly remember a childhood meal without a joint of beef or a ham. Our vegetables generally came out of tins." Generational difference, no doubt. Another subject Giles doesn't want to venture into.
So now he can't think of anything to say that's not foolish. Not small talk, when what he wants with Oz is the opposite. Oz, too, must be stuck. The silence grows slightly anxious, punctuated by a couple of moments when Oz glances up, seems about to speak, but then returns to his plate or looks past Giles's shoulder to the window. He really is shy, and Giles is feeling shy too, shyer than he's been since he was a boy himself.
Until they know each other better, Giles thinks, their best and easiest conversations will happen in bed.
Oz won't be understood in a night and a morning. Giles knows already that he's full of complications, a text with sudden recursive twists, with parallels and variants, with interlinear commentary and long footnotes. With ciphers and invisible ink. Fortunately, Giles has always loved the slow, finicking pleasures of research.
And there's a body to be learned, too. Giles' mouth tastes of egg and buttered toast; he's forgotten the taste of Oz, and he'll need to revise, pore over him line by line, study until he's letter-perfect.
He smiles at Oz and pours himself another cup of tea. The heat of it on his lips makes him think of kissing.
So much to learn. And--oh dear--something he surely ought to know by now. "Oz," he asks, "What's your name? Your real name, I mean."
Oz's eyebrows twitch. Perhaps, like Giles, he'd forgotten that they never bothered, last night, with any number of ordinary things. "Daniel," he says. "Osbourne."
Oz is from Osbourne. Like the singer. Giles should have guessed. "Daniel," he says slowly, feeling it on his tongue. It's a good name, and it fits Oz somehow, but Oz said it as though it were a stranger's. "Does anyone call you that?"
"Nope. Not really. Teachers, sometimes. My mom says Danny."
"Oz, then," Giles says, thinking Daniel again. It could have been a secret name between them. But teachers use it, and that's the wrong association entirely.
Oz nods, then frowns. "Should I call you Rupert?"
He's never once said it before now. Chose, for some reason, Giles instead. Some people on the Council--Travers for one--use Giles' bare surname, as if he doesn't merit the respect of Mr. or the familiarity of his Christian name. But friends have always called him Rupert.
Here he is, though, in a new country, a new life. A new . . . something . . . with Oz. Why shouldn't he be renamed? And Oz says it softly, fondly. "Call me whatever you like."
Oz looks at him for a few seconds, intently, and says, "Giles." And it's decided.
Giles reaches across the little table to touch Oz's cheek, then takes his hand. They're done eating--they've been done for some minutes--but there's no hurry to get up, to move beyond this moment to something else. Even though "something else" will, Giles hopes, be bed.
"Can I - can I, um, hang around today? For a while?" Looking away, Oz adds, "If you're not busy."
"I was hoping you would." Was he expecting to be bundled out the door with some excuse? Lots of work today, appointments I can't miss, sorry. But then, Giles usually does just that. With other people. Oz is different.
"Cool." Oz is holding his wrist, running his thumb along the pale stripe where Giles' watch usually rests. After a minute, he turns Giles' hand palm up to explore the creases and the veins of his wrist. With touch, he seems more confident than with words, surer of a welcome. "I could show you around Sunnydale like we talked about. Except . . . no. We can't now, can we?"
"No." Giles lifts Oz's hand and kisses his fingers. "We can't." They barely know each other, and already they've got a secret to hide together.
Oz shifts a little, as though he's settling into this new realization. "Doesn't matter. Sunnydale's kind of . . ." He takes a deep breath. "Giles. Be careful, okay? At night and stuff. This place can get kind of - kind of weird. Scary."
After that, Giles can't keep ignoring what he hasn't told Oz. He'd hoped to wait, hoped for a little more time, a little more trust. Hoped, he realizes, to explain this in bed, where belief comes easier. But this is the perfect opening for the next vast secret he's got to burden Oz with.
This could ruin everything.
Holding Oz's hand tighter, Giles says, "I know."
Oz's searching fingers still, and he looks up into Giles' face. He's frowning, confusion showing in the faint crease between his brows, the falling line of his mouth. "You know?"
Giles has only had this conversation once before, years ago, with Paul. Poor Paul, skeptic and rationalist, sure his lover had suddenly gone mad. Vampires, Slayers, Watchers, what nonsense.
It should go better with Oz, who grew up here on the hellmouth. Who knows this place is strange and full of hidden horrors.
Oz is ready--probably--for this knowledge. In any case, he's got a right to know. "Oz," Giles says, and wraps Oz's hand in both his own. "There's something I need to tell you."