Signs And Tokens
by glossolalia

See also: duty; memory; youth.
"I know you're all stupid. I should never have abandoned you." (Grave)

Hazy pearlescent London afternoon, far too slow and numinous to do anything but sit here in half-buttoned jeans and smoke Diedre's hash and listen to Ethan natter and murmur.

"Brilliant stuff, imagine it, Ripper -- a stable, harem, of pretty young things, all looking up to you like a, like a, bloody godhead --"

Ripper shifts deeper into the brokeback sofa, spreading his legs and running fingers through his sweatdamp hair. Ethan orbits the room in a wobbly path, lightfooted and glowing. Aurora glamour cloaks him so that he trails sheets and sparkles of pinks, greens, blues like sherbets.

"Last thing I fucking need," Ripper says, setting down the pipe and tilting his head. Admiring through half-closed eyes the sharp twist to Ethan's lean waist when he turns. "Bunch of brats? You're handful enough."

Ethan spins on his toes, crossing the shabby carpet, darksilk hair in his eyes, sinking into Ripper's lap. Hands clasped loosely around his neck, syrup-slow smile. "But you love my handful, don't you?"

Flicker of wet scarlet tongue as he speaks.

Ripper leans back and pats Ethan's hip, grips the mysterious sinew that gives Ethan such grace. "On occasion."

"Frequent occasions. 'Sides, I'm not that much younger than you."

Glamour is fading, dimming at the edges and folds. Ethan emerges, pale and dewy as that girl on the seashell.

"Millennia younger," Ripper says. "Aeons."

Ethan wriggles, pleased and restless all at once. He leans back. "Still ought to do it. Not so hard, and the regular crowd's becoming all too -- regular. Fresh blood, some changelings and faeries, just the trick."

He regards Ripper through half-lowered lids. Inky lashes.

"One each for you, Ripper. Blond, ginger, dark --" Taps his forehead as he speaks and shakes his head. His hair brightens, reddens, goes dark. "Green eyes, blue, black." Winks and widens his eyes. Colors shine, glow, match his speech. "Variety, darling, and youth. And you -- you -- to guide them."

They stare at each other, daring the other to laugh first. Ethan's smile spreads wide and glitters in the low light of the room. Sharkwolfbabylamb, everything predatory and innocent all at once, and Ripper swallows the familiar rush of admiration and lust at the sight. Grips the boy around his thin waist and digs in his nails.

"Oh, brilliant idea, that," he says lowly. "Hello, sir, I'd like your children. Nothing to fear, just inculcating them into the dark arts. Eh? What's that? Some alchemy, raising of dread demons, you know the routine."

Ethan giggles. "You know what I meant --"

"Yes, sir, of course I'll take care of the pretty young things," Ripper continues, massaging Ethan's sides, thumbs rubbing ovals in the hollows beneath his ribcage. "You can trust me. Sure."

Ethan kisses him, mouth full of laughter, and Ripper tastes sunshine and turned cider, then breaks, face alight, tugging at Ripper's shoulders. Roaring with laughter, melting, cascading and rolling off the couch.

"Silly boy," Ripper breathes over the side of Ethan's neck. "So damn silly."

"And pretty," Ethan gasps.

Ripper buries his face in the hot curve of Ethan's shoulder, inhales sage and hash and toffeesweet sweat, tastes it with the flat of his tongue until Ethan squirms and rolls over, Ripper on top, pinning and sucking his way over expanses of tight pale smooth skin. Forgets himself, the joke, everything, in the dizzying heat and blinding taste of Ethan's presence.


See also: knowledge; research; information
"Oh, good, 'cause Giles wields the mighty force of library books." (Spike, Life Serial)

A trail of breadcrumbs might bring you there. Pebbles, shards of seashells. Something dropped by a child and imbued with beliefs that adults sneer at.

Down three flights of narrow, metal stairs, directly beneath the Reading Room, heading towards the catacombs. There's no reason you'd come here. No sounds would lead you on through decades of dust, into twisting passageways beneath winking, guttering safety lights. The dome sits like an upended teacup, a bell jar, stories above, trapping light, air, thought. Down here everything is still and dust hangs in the gloom undisturbed for years.

Giles reads down here. Deliberately ruins his eyes, just for the quiet and the solitude.

No one notices his absence; if they do, they assume he is serving his other master. Advantages of a half-time appointment supported by two different powers. The Council and the Museum are intertwined at several levels, not all of which Giles is even cognizant, but there are familiar faces and names that appear in both. The Council's building is leased for ninety-nine years from the Sloane Trust, a canopy for some of the Museum's activities. If Giles cared, which he does not, he could unravel and untangle the multiple alliances and identities between the two organizations. He'd probably discover that Quentin Travers is the Museum's head curator. Power congeals in networks unknown to its flunkies, raises its head only occasionally, and is more an archipelago of unknown extent than a single dome or pentagon.

Instead, he reads. Sheltered and small as a baby mouse in the sub-basement, he crouches over his books and translates texts that no one will ever need. Another of MacNiece's stooping haunted readers, he is alone and forgotten.

If he were Catholic, which he isn't, he might consider this gloom his purgatory, a place to serve out the guilt and perform his penance for what they did to Randall. Every sin has its consequence, and he could, if he believed, atone properly down here.

Instead, he hides. He is not atoning, he is hiding, and because he is a scholar and therefore unimaginative, he has done it in the most literal way possible. He actually went underground. Panizzi stuffed these catacombs with the relics and spoils of Empire, an archive of trash and power. Pamphlets, tomes, goblets, taxidermal nightmares. A huge mirror, framed in nearly a foot of gilt, that reflected only the darkness around corners and the dim shimmer of Giles's torch. Papery whispers, glint of fang and scuttle of vermin. He belongs down here with the rest of the useless castoffs.

Ethan's still out there, orbiting and making mischief.

It could be worse, Giles supposes. He knows that, although he doesn't fully believe it.

Take Lupin, for instance. While Giles deliberately turned his back on Ethan and descended the creaking stairs down here, Lupin was the one betrayed, left behind, alone and shamed.

They meet down here still and have for years. Halfway between the floo network and the museum. Exchange information, condolences, books and tracts. Giles did what he could for the Order before it was disbanded in the aftermath of the defeat and mass murder. He didn't do much, and he never quite understood the fervency and ever-increasing anxiety that hovered around and clung to Lupin that spring and summer, but he fetched books and dug out scrolls.

Giles still wonders if, after he abandoned Ethan, he looked at all like Lupin did that August, far too haggard for his years, distracted and beset with slow, random twitches of the hands and face. Too similar, Giles thinks, to be anything more than friends. Men of the mind, their monkish airs only highlighted by Remus's robes. Both lovers of men who became-already were-always will be criminals. They were both happy once, though it seems inconceivable and foolish now.

Lupin is his only visitor, and his appearance is rare enough to startle.

Giles reads.


See also: magicks; forces; Earth.
"The magicks you channeled are more ferocious and primal than anything you can hope to understand, and you are lucky to be alive, you rank, arrogant amateur!" (Giles, Flooded)

"I, I have those maps," Giles says, handing the bulky roll of satellite images to Remus. His visitor perches on a pile of poorly-bound parliamentary minutes and nods as he accepts the roll.

"Thank you," Remus says hoarsely, holding the roll loosely, not moving to open it. "You didn't have to."

Giles straightens his spine and adjusts his spectacles. Remus looks more worndown than ever. It's difficult to perceive his former quiet beauty amidst the deep furrows on his face and long, silvering hair. Especially in this dark.

"Fiat lux," Giles murmurs and the air lightens fractionally.

Remus blinks at him as if caught by a floodlight rather than a fairly easy, certainly dim, spell. Dark green eyes and pale, strained face.

"For the maps," Giles says. He touches the back of Remus's hand. "My eyesight is already ruined. No need to do that to yours."

"Ah," Remus says. Flick of the wrist and the wand that is a part of his hand like other people's fingers are to theirs. "Lumos."

A golden orb hovers just over Remus's shoulder, shining on the bundle of maps as he unrolls it and bends to study it. A lock of hair slips from behind his ear and Giles schools the urge to stroke it back into place. He turns his eyes to the light Remus conjured. Precise, brilliant, and classical: Both the light itself and Remus's magic.

Giles's own magic is eclectic, a bricolage of Gaian witchery, Renaissance alchemy, ancient religions, gods too primal to be included amongst "relions". To raise Eyghon -- to even know of Eyghon -- he had to study both Canaanite idolatry and the spells used to bind paupers' fields. The hybridity of his magic, cross-fertilized and randomly brought together, is what scares him the most. So many voices from so many eras in his mind; the multivocality is less a chorus than a rabble, hubbub, Bedlam.

He longs for the purity of Remus's magic. Schooled and rigorous, it produces exactly what is needed in precise proportion to the need. The wand is only the most obvious sign of this power and precision: Long, flexible, elegant. If he were not a peripheral acquaintance but a member of Remus's community, Giles suspects he might not ever have killed Randall, let alone loved Ethan.

Remus studies the maps for hours. Infrared imagery that converts heat data to swirls of color, scarlet and crimson down to jade, moss (like Remus's eyes, like Ethan's, Giles will always have a weakness for dark green eyes), and icy cerulean. An alchemy of another sort, numbers to colors and patterns.

There is nothing there on the map. It's a joker's trick, really. One can only make out the island -- Azkaban, Remus calls it -- by not looking for it, spotting finally the speck without any warmth. And it can't be seen straight on, only as an absence, a lacuna, a negative space. An aporia, like memory; the more Giles remembers Ethan, the longer Remus studies the darkness to which Black has been confined, the more likely the prospect of forgetting becomes. His mother told him never to look at the sun, for fear he would go blind. Considering brilliance, then, produces permanent darkness.

A sigh, barely audible, and Giles opens his mouth to apologize. He wishes he could do better by Remus, repay him for the visits and the quiet, unstrained company. If he knew how, he would tell Remus what it means to have a friend in this world, particularly one with whom he shares so much.

Remus kisses him so softly that Giles sees it happen -- twice-over, brightly sharp before him and silvery-vague in the mirror behind them -- before his mouth registers the sensation.

He reads and watches; feeling is something more difficult to process.

Then thin, strong fingers grip his shoulders, and Giles kisses back, more hungrily than he could have dreamed, hands sliding up bony arms under threadbare robes, mouth and tongue stretching, needing, taking.

Remus tastes like herbs and steam. Diaphanous, earthy, but not of the earth. Like the fog off morning dew, early enough that a sliver of moon still hangs just over the far horizon.

He kisses, however, like a fierce boy, nearly an animal. Teeth and need, fighting for a finger's breadth of dominance. Giles hears himself groan as they rise, clutching, grasping, doing that shuffle Giles had nearly forgotten, testing each other's flexibility and pliancy.

Giles bends first, far too overwhelmed by the immediacy and gut-swinging sensation of it all to worry about manliness and self-image. And Remus descends on him, narrow, pale face alight with something in the gloom, dark hair falling in stark waves, brushing Giles's cheeks harshly.

The lumos orb fades as they grapple and taste.


File under: PRODIGIUM
See also: friendship.
"Yes, I must admit I, I am intrigued. Werewolves, it''s one of the classics." (Phases)

In all the years of their acquaintance, Remus has never bade him farewell. A handshake, at first, then later a kiss, but always with a murmured Be seeing you that pierced and wracked Giles's chest for all its innocence and affection. But never goodbye. Not until this moment, when he clasps Giles's hand and embraces him tightly, lips dry against Giles's cheek.

"It doesn't have to be --" Giles says, attempting to protest, but he turns into the kiss and grasps Remus against him as Remus shakes his head.

"It's best if I start anew. I'm sorry, Rupert."

"Just because you're teaching one course --" Giles sinks to the ground and Remus follows him. Arms entwined, heads tipped together, and for a moment Giles feels a real protest, a fervent declaration, begin to rise in his throat.

It seeps away when Remus speaks. "Defense against the dark arts."

Academic, remote, and melancholy: Giles knows that tone, it's his own, and that Remus can, after all this time, mimic it well enough to make it his own, should break Giles's heart. Instead, he takes up the opportunity to prolong the conversation, delay the farewell that much longer.

"Monsters," Giles says quietly. "How to protect oneself from them, how to combat them."

"Among other hazards, yes." Remus's breath is gentle against Giles's neck, and Giles feels himself shiver. He knows that Remus can handle himself; for all his quiet and scholasticism, he is a strong man, compact and lean with unexpected, gracefully-twined muscle. That he should have to encounter something dark and ugly, after everything he's already undergone, is not simply unjust, but cruel, nearly sadistic.

"Vampires? Do you deal with them?" Giles asks after a moment. Wonders if those particular monsters loom as large, stand so metonymically for evil, for Remus as they do for Giles and the council. His knowledge of Remus's world is patchy at best, facts and observations scattered like the rust-colored flakes of bookrot on the bottom shelves in the stacks. He's seen the magic and is convinced of the threat that Voldemort poses, but lacks much more information than that.

He knows that Remus's world is dichotomous, that there are ordinary people and magical ones; that by simply being here, Remus violates any number of laws and customs. For one so reserved and apparently traditional, Remus is astonishingly comfortable with, sanguine about, his transgressions. As if sliding between worlds is a habit for him; perhaps he picked it up with the animagi who used to be his friends.

"Of course," Remus says. "Any number of demonic and chthonic threats."

"I see."

Giles does not see; all he feels is small and abandoned, and he cannot keep up the pretense of collegial conversation for much longer. "It's those in human form who disgust me the most," he says, voice thick with righteousness and fear. He's never been afraid of vampires; the fear centers on losing Remus, of being left here alone, in this sub-basement, with only his books and the stench of their decay.

Remus rolls his head on Giles's shoulder, fixing his gaze. Deep forest light, filtered through leaves and boughs, reflected off still water and silver rocks. "Is that so?"

He sounds as mild as ever, as if they had taken up the topic of Dee's grasp of Islamic astrology again, and Giles swallows. Anger surges through him, ridiculous and selfish, and he clutches Remus's shoulders as if his nails can dig out calm, soothe him.

"Any of the homunculi," he says. Angrier. "Revolting. Succubi, werewolves, vampires, it doesn't matter."

"Human killers in human form," Remus says, voice thin with disappointment and sadness. "They're far worse than any --"

Eyghon laughed merrily when they beheaded Randall, maniacally, delightedly; Giles's tattoo throbs in time with the remembered sound. Kept laughing until they stuffed kerosene-sodden rags in Randall's slack mouth and lit them.

He shoves at Remus with all his strength, finds him immobile, strong as the ash of his wand.

No wand, no spell, but Giles is slammed against the floor, blinded by a flash of fang and deafened by a growl. Tackled by a -- a wolf, magnificent, black and silver, arctically bright. He freezes, eyes wide open, breath snagged at the base of his throat. Rigid, fear and panic sending steel through his body.

Paws on Giles's shoulder, the wolf snuffles at his neck and face. Licks his lips and Giles tastes Remus, transformed and powerful, thunderstorms and soaked, beaten fields. Feels the wolf's haunches settle heavily against his hips.

Fur, spangled in a light from nowhere, black eyes shining and depthless. Recognition there, Giles is sure of it.

Giles blinks.

A moan and the atmosphere changes. His anger drains away and when Giles opens his eyes, Remus is there, straddling him, collapsed and sweating. His fear vanishes even more rapidly than his anger, and Giles holds him. Kisses his hairline and eyelids, rubs the thin, hard length of his spine, finds himself murmuring and soothing until Remus opens his eyes.

Green, scared.

Giles brushes back the long hair and kisses the tip of Remus's nose.

"I didn't know," he says. "I am sorry --"

"No," Remus says. "Would have changed everything."

Giles wants to protest, assure him that nothing could have endangered the affection (love) he feels for Remus, keep rubbing his back until he changes his mind, until he decides to stay.

But he can't. He's been in this position for too long, his own monstrous transformation into killer buried behind myopic eyes, beneath careful tweed. He's the Council's pet, just like Ethan said he would be, and it's safest all around to remain such.

He helps Remus back into his robes. Gives him his wand and offers him a hand up.

Remus looks back at him, eyes dimmer now, but no less pained, and Giles straightens the hang of the robes.

"You're going, then?"

"I am," Remus says. "It's not an opportunity to ignore, Rupert."

"No, of course not."

Their voices are hushed, as if they're meeting in the midst of a large party with urgent secrets to communicate. Giles's hands are tight fists in the depths of his pockets. He doesn't trust himself to touch Remus again.

"I'm hardly going to - to China. Tibet." Remus smiles then, sadly, and rubs his chin before looking back Giles. "The Council does have owls. Use them."

"I will," Giles lies.


See also: duty; boredom; endtime; solitude.
"The Council fights evil. The Slayer is the instrument by which we fight. The Council remains, the Slayers change. It's been that way from the beginning." (Travers, Checkpoint)

Giles does not make use of the owls.

Remus leaves and stays away, and he was right; it is best, particularly when Black returns, innocent and nearly broken. It takes several weeks for the news to reach Giles about that, a delay which makes sense, given his extra-peripheral acquaintance with that world. Giles would only have been in the way.

He does not revisit the Museum's basements except when absolutely necessary, but reclaims his old office on the top floor of the Council's building. He works late, visits the ophthalmologist twice a year for a new prescription, and learns Mandarin in his spare time.

He will remain the midlevel functionary he has been since Eyghon, assisting in translation, conveying messages, consulting with other enterprises in the empire of magic. That he no longer believes in very much at all, in either sin and fall or in solid dichotomies of right and wrong, he keeps to himself. He is an agnostic, perhaps, but not foolish. That there is a place for him, meek and resigned to banality, he is grateful for and will never endanger.

Ethan continues to stay away. There are cloud patterns, however, on significant days -- their birthdays, Midsummer Eve, All Souls' Day -- that are too prominent and legible to be anything but greetings. Giles keeps the curtains closed on those days and works in the dark.

He thinks that his life is over. He's already aging; the signs are clear. The loosening and sagging of his body, the pronounced squint even with his newest spectacles, the gray at his temples. He meets up with Olivia and her friends in pubs but loses the ability to chat midway through the first pint. He sells his bicycle and purchases a small color television. He listens to music that was never on the radio when it was first released, and only occasionally plays during oldies' broadcasts; his hands are too stiff from transcription and cataloguing to play his guitar any longer. His stammer increases in volume and duration.

He looks backward, reviews memory with the same careful attention he grants to the texts he catalogues. All he was is back there, is before. What will come, he thinks, are only more cloudy days and new stacks of books. He finds this comforting at the same time that he knows it should sadden him.


see also: surprise; growth; development.
GILES: Then what has caused the disruption? What...what is responsible for letting this happen?
BELJOXA'S EYE: The Slayer. (Showtime)

He leaves for California in a week.

He is not the right man for this job; nor, admittedly, was Merrick. The Council's paternalism, particularly exacerbated in the case of this slayer with an increasingly remote father, is in full force. One of the younger women, all sleek hair, narrow shoes, and Sloane Ranger accents, would be far more suitable, given what he's read about his new charge. He is a scholarly drone, has carefully groomed himself for precisely that role, so to be sent into the field this late in life, a good ten or fifteen years later than both his father and grandmother, must be a mistake. Or will be proven so.

He sells his London flat, a move that his father considers both foolhardy and shortsighted.

Giles doesn't plan to return. Not permanently, ever.

He packs carefully. Books and files, of course, but also the television, his guitar. The LPs. For the sake of thoroughness, that is, to save on storage costs. He doesn't expect to use them, but he's determined to leave nothing behind.

He will bring his small life with him like a snail, a crab. Dwell in a borrowed carapace and do his best. Until she dies. He will tie his life to a girl's and does not, cannot, hope for more than a good few years.

As Lupin said once, it's not an opportunity to ignore -- it is, in fact, an honor unexpected and wholly unsought -- but nor is it one to expect very much from.


File under: Emotion
See also: duty; Pater; friendship; Veneficium; Lupus; youth.
"Then we ate cookie dough and talked about boys." (I Was Made to Love You)

Late night, early morning: It's as difficult to discern the dark in Cleveland as it was in California. So much light pollution, the sky only ever muddies. His ears still ringing from the concert, skin still damp with sweat and excitement, Giles sets to organizing his index cards while Oz putters around the flat like a small white bird, dove or tern, coming down off his high.

Early Dylan in the background, original sleeves, first pressing, the vinyl popping and buzzing beneath that gravel-bourbon voice. He likes Dylan, Oz prefers Waits, but it's his birthday, so Giles gets his way.

"Whatcha doing?" Oz asks, arm loosely slung around Giles's shoulder, bending to see. He places a steaming cup of tea and plate of his mysterious cookies (cinnamon redhots and chocolate chips) beside the lamp. He tips his head against Giles's temple and finishes chewing his cookie.

"Memoirs," Giles says, slipping his arm around Oz's waist as he sets down his pencil. "They seem to think my past is worth something."

He gives a gentle tug and Oz slides onto his lap, twisting so their cheeks press together. His wide green eyes, dark and shadowed, regard Giles as Oz smiles slowly, lips curving upward like unfurling leaves. Crumbs on his chin. Giles drops his aching head against Oz's narrow shoulder, rubbing the strain from his eyes and inhaling the musky herbal scent of Oz's soap.

"Prefer your present," Oz says, smiling fully now. However many times he does it, and Giles has lost count in the year since their reunion, that smile is always a shock. Sudden and arresting as a lightning bolt, but gentle as rain, parchment, secrets. "Just a personal thing."

"Of course," Giles says. "An idiosyncrasy, really."

"Quirk, yeah." Oz leans away and picks up a card from the nearest stack. Giles reads it over his shoulder.


The children know about his youth, and they know him now, or did, but nothing else. For the young, all is binary. There is youth or age, and nothing in between. He still believes that himself. He's too old to be a Watcher, and always was. Young Wesley, that's who a Watcher ought to be. Upright and fit, able to keep up with his marvelous girl.

Too many years, empty, too much grief.


"You believe that?" Oz asks. His smile is gone, his cheeks slightly hollow as he turns again. Brows drawn over his eyes in whorls like new ferns.

"No," Giles says. "I did, but --"

"In the third person?"

Giles rubs his chin and tries to drop his eyes. He can't, though, not when faced with steady green eyes, pale face set with concern. "It seemed appropriate. At the time, that is."

Oz kisses his forehead, lightly, drily, and combs Giles's hair back. "Know that," he says. "Just worry sometimes."

"Don't," Giles says, and means it. He pulls Oz back against his chest and buries his face in the soft hair. "Not necessary."

Oz nods and taps the cross-references at the top of the card. "Classifying them?"

Giles once catalogued because it calmed him. Reviewing memory, he reduced it down to the essence, emotional sinew and doubt. Reduction, then organization and arrangement, taxidermy on oneself.

"Not any more," he says, taking the card from Oz's hand and tossing it on the table. He pulls and turns the boy until they are truly face to face, his hands cupping pale cheeks, thumbs brushing away the last of the crumbs.

Oz blinks at him, calm and faintly amused; Giles matches the shadow of a smile with one of his own. He used to believe that there were separate selves, like chemical elements, through which one moved. As if life were a medium in a beaker. That Ripper was a separate person than Rupert in the basement, that Ethan and Lupin were utterly different, had nothing in common. That denial was a mark of maturity.

Sunnydale recalibrated, redefined, everything he thought he had known. Holding Oz here, years after he ran away, Giles is caught. Happily so, a bear in honey. Pine sap slipping around him, preserving him as it changes into amber. He is everything he once was, every version, and something more as well. When he last saw Olivia, at her wedding, she teased him about Oz. Said he was vainly attempting to recapture his youth. Oz shook his head, straightened the tie that was killing him, and said, "Nah. Chronology's just a conspiracy. Pharmaceutical companies in league with the cosmetics industry." Olivia's friends found him delightful. No one saw, Giles is sure, the gratitude on his face, the sweet taste of rain and cut grass in his throat, when he looked at Oz.

"You're going philosophical on me," Oz whispers. "Can tell. You're squinting and everything."

"Nah," Giles says. "Senility. It's different."

"Shut up."

"Make me."

Memory looks forward as well as backward, anticipates what is to come. Green eyes, shared secrets, longing: Ethan, Remus, Oz. He's not silly enough to believe that evolution means anything other than change, that it carries with it overtones of improvement or ascension. It's enough to experience change, accept mutation. Filiation, branches crossing and twining between what was and what will be, is what fascinates him now.

The act of remembering, Giles knows now, establishes a responsibility to the future. Commits one to it. The value of cross-referencing, he thinks, is not in the words, but the links made in the act itself.

"Okay," Oz says and kisses him again. Drags his palm down Giles's side and wriggles deliberately. "Coming to bed?"


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