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Carpe Diem

The problem with panicking, Oz thought, was that once you started, it was pretty hard to stop.

Already, he'd startled Dev nearly to death by giving him a hug and telling him to be careful at graduation. Freddy had glowered at him suspiciously when he told him how high-quality the obituaries had been under his editorship. Jonathan had stared at him, positive he was being made fun of, when he'd told him that a short stature didn't have to be a barrier to greatness and urged him to "think Napoleon." Clearly, the general Sunnydale High population, though hardened to attacks by vampires, demons, and giant preying mantises, was not prepared for the possibility of an Oz wiggins. Before long, the whole school would be talking in hushed whispers about how Daniel Osborne had completely blown his cool. But maybe, he thought, remembering Willow smiling up at him in bed, that wasn't always so bad.

He pretended to himself that he was going to the library to calm down by imbibing some of that patented stuffy atmosphere, but, really, he knew that that was a fib. He was going to keep panicking in there, too.

Giles was packing books, looking harried. It was warm in the library, and he had shed his jacket, unbuttoned his collar, and rolled up his sleeves. He didn't even look at Oz as he carefully laid a book in a box. "For heaven's sake," he began sharply, "I thought I told you to--"

"Hi, Giles."

"Oh." He looked up. "It's you."

He glanced down at himself. "Yeah, it does look that way."

"I'm sorry, I thought you were Wesley and Cordelia. I sent them out for donuts half an hour ago. Hopefully, there will be a very long line at the bakery."

"Fighting the Mayor with donuts instead of hummus," Oz said musingly. "I like it. It's got a certain style. Like the 60s protesters sticking flowers into the police's gun barrels."

"All I'm fighting at the moment is my desire not to run the two of them through." Giles went back to a shelf.

"Right. Can I do anything to help? With the packing, I mean, not the serial killing."

"Book cage," Giles muttered distractedly. Oz started over for it, but Giles looked up. "No--wait--only the books on the lowest four shelves. The ones on the top are accursed."

"Right." Oz ducked inside and filled his arms with books, then came back out to put them in a box. He wondered if panicking was generally supposed to involve sex followed by heavy manual labor. He didn't have enough experience with it to know. They worked in silence for a while, until Giles heaved a deep sigh, stopped, and went into his office.

"Glass of water?" he called.

Oz was glad to put down his pile of books. The leather bindings were sticking to the skin of his arm. "Sure."

Giles brought him a glass, then leaned against the table with his own. "It's not often that I loathe the Californian climate," he said, "having grown up in one much more miserable, but today is such a day."

Oz nodded and took a drink. "Are you going to miss this place?"

Giles looked a little surprised at the question. "It's...hard to say, actually. It's more or less been my life for the past three years. I don't think I've got sufficient distance to be able to tell."

"I can see that."

"What about you? With your remarkable gift of perspective, you shouldn't have my problem."

"Giles," Oz said mildly, "that sounded like a compliment."

"I suppose it is one." Giles suddenly became fascinated by the process of cleaning his glasses. "It's seemed to me lately that perhaps I haven't been...properly appreciative of you children's efforts. You all could have left for your own safety, yet you've chosen to stay and fight. I'm--I'm proud of you."

So Giles was panicking, too. Oz looked at his reddening face. Without the glasses, it was broader, more rugged. There's all sorts of things that you're supposed to get to do after high school, and I was really looking forward to doing them, and now we're probably just gonna die... "Has anyone ever told you how incredibly attractive you are?"

"What?" Giles stared at him.

"I said, has anyone ever told you how attractive you are?"

He blinked, and a shadow of pain crossed over his face. "Not since Jenny," he said, apparently without thinking, then focused on Oz again. "But you--you're not--"

Oz stepped forward, took the glasses from Giles's unresisting hand, and put them gently on his face. "Well, you are. Very."

Giles recoiled, flushing even more. "Oz, y-y-you're a student. You can't possibly..."

"Don't worry." Oz gave him his half-smile. "I'm not gonna kiss you or anything. I'm with Willow. I just thought you should know. In case one of us didn't make it. You've got a lot going for you, man. You shouldn't be afraid to work it a little."

Giles coughed and looked away. He took his glasses off, then put them back on. "Ah. Well. So noted."

"Anyway, if you don't need me anymore, I've got some more stuff to take care of."

"No, no, by all means, feel free to go." Oz started to leave, but Giles spoke again almost at once. "Oz?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you all right?"

"Oh, I'm fine. Just panicking." He paused, and at the puzzled look on Giles's face, explained, "Willow told me to."

"I...see." Giles smiled, in a soft and crooked way that made Oz want to break his promise. "Well, in that case, I suppose you'd have to."

"Exactly." He turned back towards the door. "By the way, do you know where Xander is?"

"Thank heavens, no!" was the last thing he heard as he pushed through the doors.

Panicking, Oz decided, could be pretty enjoyable, in the right company, anyway. He just hoped he stopped before he ran into Snyder, or else he might not graduate after all.


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