[identity profile] wutangfellowshp.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] remix_redux
Title: Pour Away the Ocean (Stop All the Clocks Remix)
Author: Tara Keezer ([livejournal.com profile] elementalv)
Summary: Oz needs to get out of Sunnydale. Wishverse.
Fandom: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer
Pairing: Giles/Oz
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon & company own the rights to the characters and world of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. I own bupkis.
Original Story: Dismantle the Sun by Kindkit.
Notes: In naming this story, I took my cue from Kindkit and went back to W.H. Auden's Funeral Blues. It's a gorgeous, accessible poem and well worth a read.

And finally, I’m truly in debt to [livejournal.com profile] malnpudl for the final shape of this story, which is why I’m dedicating the remix to her. Thanks again, Mal.

“Oz, my man, you look like shit.”

Oz is already in the driver’s seat of the van when Larry opens the door to get in. He’s muzzy-headed, and his eyes burn from being open for too long, so Larry’s comment, while rude, is probably also true.

“Really? That would explain why I couldn’t get a date for the Winter Brunch.”

Larry turns around in his seat to face Oz; he never buckles up anymore, because it’s faster that way, especially when they’re trying to rescue someone.

“I’m serious. When was the last time you got any real sleep?”

Oz shrugs, which serves as well as any other answer he might give, and pulls away from the curb. “We have enough holy water for tonight?”

“Nah. Gotta stop by the church.” Larry looks at Oz all the way to St. Francis, but Oz doesn’t crack. In the world of staring, Larry is strictly bush league, especially compared to Giles.

When Oz pulls up outside the church, Larry asks, “You coming in?”

“I’m good here.”

And he is. The van is one of the few places Oz can take a catnap and not get sucker-punched by his dreams. Once zany and cartoon bright, they’re now grim and suffocating, filled with an endless rain that threatens to drown Oz where he stands. It doesn’t take a psych course for Oz to figure out what they’re telling him or to realize they’re the reason he doesn’t sleep much anymore.

He leans forward, resting his arms on the steering wheel and his head on his arms, dozing a little as he waits, because he’s barely slept more than two or three hours a night in the last two weeks. Oz needs to leave Sunnydale, there’s no question about it, and since most of his friends left or died months ago, getting out should be fairly straightforward. At this point, the only thing keeping him here is Larry’s stubborn refusal to give up, and Oz blames Larry’s football coach for that. He would have a chat with the man, but Coach Fraser was found on the fifty-yard line a few months ago, his head ripped off and left sitting on his chest. There was a bloody “X” drawn on Fraser’s crotch, because Xander Harris likes to sign his work.

Once Oz talks Larry into leaving, he won’t stay any longer than it will take for him to pack Larry into the van and drive out of town. Not even Giles’ grave will be enough to hold him here — though grave is, perhaps, the wrong word to use. There was no body to inter, just an open door and Cordelia’s amulet in the courtyard to tell the tale.

Holding a memorial in one of the cemeteries had been out of the question. Even if they hadn’t belonged to the vampires, it would have been obscene to suggest that Giles could or should ever be laid to rest in one, even symbolically. If there had been a body, Oz and Larry would have put it in the incinerator, as Giles had wanted. There hadn’t been a body, so Oz went back to the high school, to the lawn outside the library, and he buried the last true remains of Giles: his journals, kept since before he came to Sunnydale.

He considered reading through the journals before burying them, then decided against it. The earlier entries were written by a stranger, and Oz knew well the man who wrote the later entries. Instead, he wrapped them in one of Giles’ tweed jackets and dug deep into the soft, green December sod, burying them just a few feet from the library. After he covered the books with dirt, Oz planted sunflowers instead of replacing the grass, and he soaked the ground with holy water to give them the best start he could under the circumstances.

It was a quiet little ceremony, with no music, no words, no mourners other than Oz — Larry was too busy getting ready for patrol to attend. But Oz needed to do something concrete and physical to say goodbye, to remind himself that Giles died, no matter what it might seem like later on.

Still draped over the van’s steering wheel and drifting closer to actual sleep, Oz can all but feel the wet dirt under his nails and the seeds between his fingers. He watches them grow at Disneyesque speed, feels them split so the pale shoots can push through the earth, break away from the dirt and turn light into food and life. If Giles’ body were under the seedlings, they would take sustenance from him, turn him into stems and leaves and petals, to seeds that fall and grow again. Instead, they’ll have to draw from the meager nourishment of the journals’ leather bindings.

Oz imagines the roots taking hold of Giles’ words and drawing them up from the paper, bringing them (Giles) back to life under the California sun. He pictures Giles’ odd script working its way up the spring green stems and decorating the deep yellow petals, each flower a mute record of Giles’ life. It’s the nicest daydream Oz has had since Giles died, and it ends abruptly with Larry’s return to the van.

They drive back to the heart of Sunnydale, and from there, they go south and work in a spiral pattern, saving those they can, staking those they can’t. At each stop, Oz remains in the van, ignoring his name when he hears it called out midway through their route. He has his crossbow in hand now, and when Larry jumps out to bring someone in, Oz keeps watch. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen stops they make before Larry admits to being too exhausted to continue.

As he has every night since Giles died, Larry invites Oz to go home with him, and as he has every night since Giles died, Oz shakes his head no. He’s under no illusions about what Larry is really offering, but it’s too soon, no matter how nice it would be to share someone else’s warmth again. Instead, he drives until sunrise, and then he goes back to the apartment he shared with Giles for six months.

He hasn’t been able to bring himself to call it home since Giles’ funeral.

The next afternoon, Oz awakens from his usual nightmare, gasping in the memory of nearly drowning. On sheets that are greasy with old sweat and fresh terror, he lies panting for breath too hard coming. Distorted squares of afternoon sunlight fall on the bed, and for a brief, confused moment, Oz is suddenly convinced he’s actually under water, and that’s why he can’t breathe right, why the light looks so odd. He blinks a few times before he’s able to see the rumpled sheets again.

Oz spends a few minutes more on the necessary effort to remind himself what’s real and what isn’t, and then he begins to shiver in the warm, stale air of the loft. It’s time to get up, time to start thinking about the night’s patrol, and after another minute or two, Oz finally pushes himself from the bed.

Downstairs, he pauses at the couch where he used to stretch out with his head on Giles’ lap. They would talk about music, the next night’s plan of attack or what they might do, once the Master was gone. The conversations were mundane and rambling and boring to anyone who wasn’t Oz or Giles, and Oz never imagined he would miss them so much.

They used to drink while they talked, and sometimes, when the hunting was particularly good, Giles celebrated with Laphroaig instead of his usual Jim Beam; Oz always stuck with Southern Comfort. The Jim Beam and Southern Comfort are long gone — Oz finished the bottles the night before Giles’ funeral — but the Laphroaig with its wood smoke flavor is still in the cabinet. Oz can’t bring himself to drink down his last sense memory of Giles, so he leaves it in place and heads to the bathroom.

Stupid, really, to let the memories take him like this, he thinks as he stands for a long time in the shower, trying to erase the last vestige of dream terror from his skin. He knows better, yet he can’t stop himself from lingering over happier moments. There were more than Oz would have believed possible and fewer than he wanted, and he wonders if that’s true of life in general, if others who have buried their dead feel the same way.

When the water goes cold, he gets out of the shower, thinking of his dream once more, afraid that if he doesn’t leave Sunnydale soon, it won’t take much to let himself slip under and be taken by the flood. The fear lingers as he gets dressed, and, lost in contemplation, it’s not until he opens the door that Oz realizes just how late it is.

The sun is already down, and he wavers in the doorway for a long moment, debating whether or not to go on patrol. He shouldn’t. Not this late in the evening. But the courtyard is clear, and if he stretches a little, he can see the top of the van from where he stands. Larry will be waiting for him, and it’s that thought that propels Oz forward. Ever since Giles died, Larry has been taking bigger risks, and Oz thinks it’s likely that Larry will try to go out alone tonight if he doesn’t show up.

He checks the van quickly, and when it’s clear that no one (Giles) is waiting for him inside, Oz settles into the driver’s seat and starts the engine. There’s an odd little rattle at first, but when the motor sounds normal after running for a few minutes, Oz pulls away and heads over to Larry’s place, hoping to arrive before he gets impatient and decides to play at being the Lone Ranger.

Halfway there, the engine starts running rougher than it did before, and this time, there’s no mistaking that there’s a problem. A very major problem. Oz coaxes the van through an intersection before it dies with a heavy shudder in the middle of the road. Unfortunately for him, the road is lined with houses long abandoned, so there’s no help to be had without a long walk between the dubious safety of a stalled van and the more dubious safety of a front porch as he waits for the occupant to make a phone call. Assuming, that is, that he’s lucky enough to find anyone willing to admit they're home, let alone someone who would call Larry for him.

With help from a stranger off the table, Oz can stay in the van until morning, or he can run three miles, either to the apartment or to Larry’s place. As decisions go, this one sucks, and it’s a few minutes before Oz can admit to himself that his chances of surviving a run to safety are marginally better than his chances of surviving a night in the van. He goes into the back and picks up the crossbow to load it. Spare arrows go into a makeshift quiver, and then he’s as ready as he’s ever going to be.

He leaves the van quietly and without fuss, hoping the lack of food in the area translates to a general lack of vampires, and he starts walking to Larry’s place. There’s no need to run just yet, especially since he wants to conserve as much of his energy as possible until he needs it. Even so, the first quarter mile goes quickly. Oz doesn’t see or hear anyone, though he thinks he’s being followed. There’s a chance that running will just excite whatever is out there, so Oz keeps his pace steady, hoping he doesn’t provoke a chase until he’s closer to safety.

His name, when it’s finally called out, makes him jump, though not from any real surprise. Adrenaline, fear and shock are the source of the aching tightness in his chest, nothing else. He knows better than to mistake that cramping, breath-catching heat as being suddenly and shockingly alive. He refuses to compare what he’s feeling now to what he felt first time he and Giles ever kissed — a heart-dropping sense of relief and excitement that finally, finally they were come together at last.

The voice is louder now, calling to Oz in an accent Giles used to tease him with, back when he tried to claim he was an original member of Pink Floyd. Oz is caught between one step and the next, and he can’t force himself to run, not even with Giles strolling down the street toward him.

His sing-song voice is so vibrant, so full of life, that for a moment, Oz is caught up in the memory of listening to Giles’ soft tenor, warm and rich and bright as the sun. A voice to soak into the skin, a voice to pull him from the water. When he and Giles tumbled into bed at sunrise, bruised, half-drunk, gritty with dust that smelled of burnt flesh, Giles whispered the secrets of his life into Oz’s skin, talking of Bath or the first time he staked a vampire. Sometimes he spoke of darker times, hinting at a past that wasn’t as squeaky clean as Oz once believed. Other times, he spoke of a destiny missed. In return, Oz told him the bits and pieces of a life lived before he knew vampires and other demons were real, when he still had parents and a friend named Devon.

“Oz, don’t run. Please, I want to talk to you.” Giles takes a step closer. “I’ve been calling for you, but you won’t answer me.”

Oz doesn’t move, except to clench his fist and jaw. “You’re not Giles.”

“But I am. I’ve just been — upgraded, isn’t it? Upgraded. That’s all. Giles two dot zed.”

“Two point oh,” he corrects without thinking.

“That’s right.”

“It’s wrong. Giles is dead.” Oz knows he shouldn’t have spoken. If he hadn’t, maybe he would be running for his life instead of arguing with — “You’re not Giles. You’re a monster.”

Giles is dead. Giles has been dead since the night Oz and Larry fought their way out of the Master’s factory, the night Giles failed to change the world. Giles is dead, and the body in front of Oz isn’t him. It’s no different than an abandoned house that fills with spiders and rats and bats, oh my. Seeing that body, touching it again, talking to it — none of it will bring Oz any closer to Giles, who’s dead, whom Oz will never see again, despite the evidence of his eyes and ears.

“I’m not,” Giles says, “I’m not a monster. I remember things, I remember us. The night you first came home with me. Larry all but shoved you through my door. And when you had nightmares, I used to rub the back of your neck until you fell asleep. Do you remember?”

Most of those nights, Oz was still foggy with terror, but he remembers. Giles spoke softly, told Oz sweet little falsehoods like, It’s all right, and You’re safe, gave him a few swallows of Scotch if the dream was very bad, stroked his neck and back. Giles’ hand always felt so good, so warm and loving, so much like home.

Giles is cold now, and Oz has no doubt his hand speaks only of the grave.

“Yes,” he finally says, stalling for time. “I remember.”

Oz remembers that Giles is cold and dead and that he used to be warm. He remembers that Giles smelled of Ivory soap and mothballs and old leather, and that his mouth tasted sweet, even if he’d had a cigarette. He remembers that he used to sleep with his head on Giles’ chest. Giles puts his hand to that place now, presses it tight against himself as he wears a tragic, yet hopeful expression. The manipulation is too blatant to hold Oz, and he shifts his weight, wanting to run and knowing that he has to choose his moment carefully.

“I miss you so much. It’s not the same without you,” the thing says, and Oz crosses an arm over his chest, although it doesn’t warm him. “Don’t you miss me?”

“Giles. I miss Giles.” Oz misses Giles, because Giles is dead. He isn’t standing five feet away, and he isn’t lonely. Giles doesn’t miss him, because the dead don’t care. Giles is gone, and if there’s a better world, a world like the one Giles could have made if Oz had stayed with him that night to help, then maybe Giles is there now, because he is not standing on an empty street in Sunnydale.

“I am Giles.” The voice catches, drops into a minor key, and Jesus, maybe this thing believes what it’s saying. “Oz, I love you.” There’s a sniff, a ragged and unnecessary breath, a hint of tears welling up.

It’s another mistake the monster has made, because Giles doesn’t — didn’t — cry. Ever.

There’s no reason for Oz wait to hear what else the monster has to say. He lifts his crossbow and pulls the trigger, and the thing with Giles’ face should be dust, since it’s only five feet from Oz. But the arrow is still notched, because the crossbow, like the van, is experiencing severe mechanical difficulties.

The thing grins quickly, a flash of Giles, nothing more, and Oz understands at last that he won’t see sunrise again.

He throws the crossbow at the monster and runs in the opposite direction. It’s a wild hope that keeps him putting one foot in front of the other, and it’s a hope that dies almost as soon as Oz recognizes it. Giles’ hand, inhuman, cold and far too strong, grips his neck and jerks him backward against a solid, dead chest. Oz thrashes wildly, and Giles wraps an arm around him to quell his attempt to escape.

“I wouldn’t hurt you,” Giles says. Oz smells decaying blood on his breath and gags a little. “I couldn’t. I love you, and I want to be with you forever.”

“No.” Stupid to waste breath on a word, but Oz can’t help himself. He can’t, he finds, simply slip under and let the flood carry him away without having a final say in the matter. If this thing, this monster with Giles’ face and Giles’ voice wants Oz, he’ll have to fight for him.

“Yes.” Giles doesn’t pause after that. He bites down on Oz’s neck, his sharp, ragged teeth tearing into Oz’s skin roughly enough to elicit a cry of pain, and Giles starts draining him with no further ado. Oz squirms and wiggles, struggling right up until blood loss weakens him to a lazy twitch every so often.

Now is the time for him to slip under, to let death carry him away, he thinks hazily. Now is the time to let himself die and stay dead. All he has to do is keep from drinking Giles’ blood, and then he’ll finally get away from Sunnydale for good. It’s the best plan he can come up with in the moment, and it seems like it will work right up until Giles lowers Oz to the ground. Then Giles slices his wrist open and holds the wound directly over Oz’s mouth.

His awareness fading fast, Oz catches the scent of Giles’ blood for the first time, and the surprise is that it doesn’t smell metallic. Instead, it smells antifreeze sweet, and Oz can’t stop himself from lapping at the first drop to hit his lips.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-22 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kindkit.livejournal.com
Oh wow. Oh wow. You've done a really amazing job here. It's so fascinating (and so painful) for me to read this, to see what it would have been like if Oz had survived and Giles had "died." Unlike Giles, Oz tries so hard to keep on living, which I think is exactly right for his character.

Oz imagines the roots taking hold of Giles’ words and drawing them up from the paper, bringing them (Giles) back to life under the California sun. He pictures Giles’ odd script working its way up the spring green stems and decorating the deep yellow petals, each flower a mute record of Giles’ life.


it smells antifreeze sweet

I love this metaphor enormously. The sweetness that is also poison.

Thank you so much for a wonderful, wonderful Remix!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-29 04:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elementalv.livejournal.com
You picked out two of my favorite bits of writing from the remix -- and I can't tell you how glad I am that you liked what I did with Dismantle the Sun. Thank you so much for letting me play with your words!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-29 04:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kindkit.livejournal.com
Hi there! Just wanted to say again, now that I know who you are, how much I enjoyed this.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-29 05:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elementalv.livejournal.com
Thanks. And thanks also for doing the beta of the Tripartite remix. I've already told Trekker I think her story served the basic premise better than mine did, but it bears repeating.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-23 02:56 am (UTC)
zulu: Karen Gillam from Dr. Who, wearing a saucy top hat (buffy - hallelujah)
From: [personal profile] zulu
Very nicely done, especially Oz's ritual to say goodbye. I like it lots.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-29 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elementalv.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-23 01:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] soundingsea.livejournal.com
I love Wishverse fic, and this is no exception. It's quiet and wistful and hurts so good. Lovely.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-29 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elementalv.livejournal.com
Thank you. Given the quality of the original story, it would have been difficult for me to fail, I think.

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-24 01:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blonde-cecile.livejournal.com
Oh, this is fantastic. Wishverse + Giles/Oz = AWESOME. I really enjoyed it! Great job!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-29 04:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elementalv.livejournal.com
Thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-26 01:57 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Had to write to tell you how well this story worked with the remix.
I loved Dismantle the Sun, and this is so deliciosly angsty. Great G/O wishverse. Enjoyed Vehnu

(no subject)

Date: 2007-04-29 04:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elementalv.livejournal.com
I'm glad it didn't disappoint. Thank you!


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