Let Forever Be
by Dolores

A tattoo is a drumbeat. Rythmic tapping. Oz read that once in one of Giles' dog-eared, leather-bound dictionaries. He'd looked up 'taciturn' for the etymology and kept reading until 'teapoy' because he liked adding new words to his vocabulary.

A teapoy is a little three-legged table on which you serve tea. He'd decided he would have to find one to give to Giles, mainly so that he had an excuse to use the word 'teapoy'.

He really would have, one day, if he'd had the chance.

A tattoo is a drumbeat. He tries to think of a drumbeat. Rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat. It's meant to be a distraction, but all it does is conjure images of throbbing sticks on taut skin.

A tattoo is fucking painful.

The needle presses to his chest, and pain moves out from the spot like sparks of lightning, like little fissures opening up along his muscles. He clenches his jaw; the tendons flex and his cheeks ripple. He doesn't want to cry out. It would be pretty much pointless, and it would only serve to increase Xander's enjoyment of this whole exercise. He doesn't want that.

A drop of blood wells up from the needlepoint and slowly trickles down his ribs, viscous and warm. A tongue, cool like a damp cloth on fever, licks it up, following the trail to its origin.

It's the first time Xander has touched him in the hours since he was brought to the Bronze, stripped and strapped to the pool table, and Oz shudders just as much as when the needle pierces his skin.

He risks a glance at Xander. He's in game face, and runs his tongue around one fang, appraising Oz with an expression that may be lust or may be hunger. He circles the table, watching his burly minion work. The minion, a demon with sickly orange skin that reminds Oz of Sunny Delight, seems concerned only with whatever design he is creating on Oz's torso.

He pauses for a moment, lifting the needle, stretching his neck, and perhaps he's finished, because he wanders into the gloom beyond the lights above the pool table.

Xander's pale hand reaches out to ghost along Oz's chest and stomach, one nail dragging across the just inked design, hard enough that Oz winces.

"I had such a crush on you."

Oz knew that.

Back in the days when Sunnydale was normal - or, at least, a lot less fucked up - when Oz was a sophomore and he used to go skateboarding in the park he met a freshman called Xander, and they got to talking. Xander was a bit goofy, but he made Oz smile and they hung out for a while.

And Oz could tell that Xander liked him. Wanted to be more than friends, but was far too afraid to make any sort of move. Oz had been considering making it for him when everything went crazy, and Xander disappeared.

For a few weeks.

"Actually, I still do."

Oz knows that too.

Giles - who knows so much about vampires it makes Oz suspicious and certain that there's something he's hiding - says that sometimes, when someone is turned, some of their quirkier character traits can get twisted. Something harmless becomes something harmful.

Xander the human was obsessive. Not the sort that washed his hands fifty times a day or rearranged cutlery in a drawer, but he kept his CDs in strict alphabetical order, and rigidly segregated his GI Joe action figures by affiliation and gender.

"Wouldn't you like it if I was your sire? I know I'd like it. I've thought about it ever since I was turned."

And so it is that Xander the vampire is obsessive too. In a way.

The pale hand runs along Oz's thigh, and Oz closes his eyes.

Oz is still clenching his jaw, grinding his teeth. He thinks that there's a reason that vampires have yellow eyes. They're like feral cats; they like to toy with their prey. They take energy from your fear.

He mustn't show fear.

"But for weeks you never came out after dark. Never gave me the chance. I just watched you through your bedroom window. I even saw you jerk off once. Dude, that was hot. But as fun as that was, I still couldn't get to you the way I wanted."

Oz thinks back to the special school assembly Principal Flutie called two days after Xander vanished. Everyone thought it was really weird, because the new school librarian, a stuffy old English guy, gave an equally weird lecture on student safety after dark. But there was something about the tone of Mr Giles' voice which made Oz take the advice to heart.

When 20 per cent of the student body disappeared in the space of two weeks, so did everyone else.

"We never got to play properly, did we Oz?"

Xander's fingers skate back up to Oz's stomach and then down the middle, stroking his cock and cupping his balls.

"That was okay. I thought as long as you weren't going out, you couldn't be seeing anyone else. But then you started to fool around with that pretty boy. That singer. Couldn't have that."

Oz eyes fly open and he glares at Xander.

Devon's corpse had been left hanging from the lintel on Oz's porch one morning, throat and tongue ripped out and handsome face mutilated.

Anger curls around Oz's stomach and he almost feels like he could break his bonds and tear Xander's head off with his hands. Devon and he were never serious. They'd fooled around together for years before Xander ever became aware of it.

He'd been an innocent.

But then, so was Xander. Once.

Xander the guilty smiles at him. A rictus grin.

"Now I can smell that old librarian on you."

He squeezes Oz's balls hard, and Oz grunts, writhing slightly.

Oz had figured out early on that Giles knew more than anyone else in the school and when he turned up one day with cuts and bruises and a swollen eye, Oz could tell he was fighting whatever it was out there. He'd volunteered to help out, and refused to take no for an answer, even when Giles employed the word thirty-seven times.

They'd grown close, but they'd barely even kissed before tonight.

Tonight hadn't got them much further, just some groping in the library, before Larry rushed in and they were called off to help rescue some family being burnt out of their homes. They'd been successful, but Oz had been caught.

He realised Giles probably thought he was dead.

"Apparently killing your boyfriends in a gruesome manner doesn't send out the correct signals. You need to understand that until I'm ready for you, you don't get to be with anyone else. I want you to remember that.

"And, just so we're clear, I want him to remember that. I want you to be ruined for him. I want him to think of me every time he sees you. I want him to realise you aren't his. Hence my little tattoo. In case you were wondering."

"Why don't you just turn me?"

It's the first time Oz has spoken and Xander seems pleased.

"What fun you that be? If we killed off all you white hats there'd be no sport. It's all got so dull in Sunnydale. No-one goes out after dark, everyone wears crosses... at least this way I get to have some fun.

"Don't worry; I'll turn you when I get bored. It's not as if you have much protection. An old man and some other kids are hardly Charlie's Angels."

Unbidden, a scene from Return of the Jedi suddenly plays in Oz's mind. He's Luke Skywalker, telling the evil emperor Xander that, "your overconfidence is your weakness," only for Xander to retort, "your faith in your friends is yours."

The corners of his mouth lift and he snorts faintly.

"You're not supposed to find any of this funny."

Xander grips his balls hard and tight. Oz cries out in pain, his eyes stinging with salt even though he screws them tight shut.

A tattoo is permanent. Whatever Xander is having written on his chest, he wants it to be a reminder. A mark of ownership, like branding some cattle.

Still crushing with one fist, Xander suddenly dips his head down and bites Oz's right thigh just where it meets his body.

Oz tenses as sparks of pain fly in all directions. For a moment it seems that Xander has changed his mind, but he drinks for only a few moments before disengaging.

"Just an extra reminder," he says, and walks away, signalling to someone out of Oz's field of vision.

Two new, apparently vampiric, minions appear and one of them delivers a blow to Oz's temple that knocks him out.

When he wakes, it's just before dawn and he's lying on Giles' doorstep, still naked, but the ropes have gone. Pain burns dully at various points: his wrists and ankles, on his chest, at the puncture marks on his thigh and the side of his head.

He's finally able to look down and see what his tattoo says.

In large black letters, four or five inches high, is written "XANDER'S"

For some reason his first thought is that Giles will be pleased that they punctuated it properly. Giles has a tattoo, he remembers. A strange shape Giles told him was a punk symbol he had done in the seventies. Oz doesn't quite believe him.

He doesn't want to see Giles, doesn't want Giles to see him but he's naked and cold and he wants to shower. Needs to try to wash it all away.

He starts to hammer on the door and doesn't stop knocking, rat-a-tat, until Giles answers and he slumps forward across the threshold.

A tattoo is a drumbeat.


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