False Hearts
by glossolalia

When he is with Lindsey, Oz doesn't have to think. Or he doesn't let himself; same difference. It's kind of like taking a nap or watching hour after hour of TV, or, honestly, drinking through the middle of the day into the evening. All of which they've done. All of which inject Oz with a satisfied, loagy haze that makes his limbs heavier and his eyelids droopy and his mind, finally, at last, but only ever temporarily, quiet the hell down.

It's the drawl. And the lazy way blue eyes look him over like he's a piece of substandard furniture, a floor model marked down and still found wanting. And the soft pressure of a warm human hand around the back of his neck when they kiss. Deep gasps, full of oxygen needed and claimed, when Oz fucks him. The laugh that's neither very kind nor at all amused when Oz makes fun of his suits, his over-decorated apartment, his stupid shiny car. Laughter like honey poured over salt: Slow, sweet, full of stinging grit.

All of that, and more, quiet his thoughts, never a calm but a false, fuzzy, comfortable narcotic haze. Oz always leaves Lindsey feeling sodden. If not content, than at least thoughtless and warmed.

How do you know the big dark hero? Lindsey asks often, always offhand, as if he doesn't actually care, as if Angel isn't always in the room with them, arms crossed, disgust twisting over his face.

Oz always gives the same answer. Knew him once. Kept in touch.

He gives it now, softly, doesn't even bother looking from his plate. Lindsey's good hand is on his back, fingers tip-tapping a jangly tune down Oz's vertebrae.

"Skinny, scrawny boy," Lindsey mutters. "Eat up." He slaps Oz's back, and it would be kind, fraternal or avuncular or some other male relative full of concern and teasing, if Oz wasn't leaning over eating fried chicken off a Chinette plate, wearing only a pair of Lindsey's briefs. If Lindsey wasn't naked except for his unbuttoned dress shirt, if he wasn't sliding in behind Oz, settling between him and the couch cushions. Sucking on Oz's neck as he runs his nails up and down Oz's thighs.

Or maybe it is. Maybe Lindsey really is a redneck mountain boy piece of white trash who thinks brother or uncles do this, feed their boys and suck the grease off their fingers while rocking hardening dick against the small of their backs.

Oz isn't sure, nor does he really care. He figures Lindsey is as much - more, with the suits, apartment, car - a fake as he is, that neither one of them is going to tell the other anything true, anything that matters. They're lying to each other, fucking hard, molesting each other, and that's the whole point. He can't argue with Lindsey, can't imagine fighting with him over anything; they already hate each other, already disagree on everything. That's why he's here.

Angel in the corner, flexing fists, listening intently.

He might as well be there.

"Where you headed tonight?" Lindsey asks.

Oz shrugs, pulling his pants up, squinting like he's trying to remember. "Not sure. See if a guy I know's got room on his couch."

On the bed, Lindsey stretches, joints popping, cat-in-sunlight except it's getting dark and he's smarter than any cat. Flicker of smug smile, arms folded behind his head, fake hand under the pillow. Out of sight, always hidden, like anyone's going to forget it's there.

"Should talk to our mutual hero," he says thoughtfully. "Seem to recall he offered me a place to crash last spring. Back when I was evaluating my life-choices."

Razors in caramel apples, and they're a long way from Halloween, but Oz is a wolfman and Lindsey's a mean little fucker. Sharpness, always buried in the sweet, and Oz shivers. "That so?"

"Secret batcave," Lindsey says. Scratches his belly as he blinks at Oz. "Something like that. Said I'd be quote-unquote safe there."

"Generous," Oz mumbles. Yanks his shirt over his head and runs both hands through his hair, squeezing his skull like it's about to fly apart. "Nice guy, that Angel."

"Hypocritical little pussy," Lindsey says agreeably. He sits up and Oz kisses him. Hard, lots of tongue, pulling away, leaving Lindsey with a grin twisting his lips. "Call me mid-week, baby."

"See what I can do."

Oz gets out of there fast. Trembles, bounces in the elevator. Hits the gleaming lobby midstride, and by the time he's on the sidewalk, he's nearly running. It's dark now, and Angel's going to be out on a case all night, so he knows he's not rushing home to avoid getting caught. Just rushing from the heat on his face, shame and anger and pressure building against his skull.

Home. That's funny. Apartment, safehouse, batcave. Den. Places he's holed up in all summer, thinking he's healing. Thinking he's being helped. Carpets shredded by angry claws, dusty-rose sprays of old blood on the walls. Under the bed, in the closet: Where monsters wait before they attack.


Halfway down the hall, shirt stripped off, pants undone, headed to the shower to scrub most of Lindsey's stink -- cologne, high threadcount sheets, cum and bourbon -- from his pores.

"Smell like a Greek cathouse." Quiet, but it carries all the way from the living room.

Oz turns, shirt in hand, and retraces his steps. "Good," he says. "Feel like a whore."

Angel's sitting in his big chair. No lights on, he's got the night-vision. A sense of smell to make the wolf weep with envy.

Nostrils flaring still, Angel nods. Eyes dark, lips so tight they're almost invisible. "Tends to happen when you fuck around with garbage."

Oz smiles. Pressure in his head is like a bowling ball, so heavy and round there's no room for the brain he hasn't used in months. He's been so naive, he has to smile. He'd thought -- until just now -- that fighting with Angel would be like fucking him. Full of snarls, circling paces, bites and running blood. Muscle torn under angry growls.

It's not. It's quiet and strained and fucking terrifying.

"Or," Oz says, dropping his shirt, leaning against the bookcase. "When you fuck to get something else besides your rocks off." Like an apartment, safehouse, protection. Home.

"Told you to stay away from him," Angel's tone is low, measured, cauterized by the demon's venom.

"Yeah," Oz says. Straightens his back, stares at Angel with what he hopes is a flat, steady, steely gaze. "I don't listen very well."

"He's dangerous, Oz --"

Oz touches his throat, right over his shoulder. His elbow. Thigh. All of them scarred, knotty and white, irregular skin too smooth to ever feel right again. Skin stripped off, flesh chewed. "Danger's all around. All over."

"What are you doing with him?"

Angel rises-crosses-looms. Huge and fast and Oz looks up at him, muscles tensing in what's now a familiar, rippling rhythm. He can't ever win, but he can do some damage before he goes down.

"Same thing as here, really." Oz shrugs, uncrossing his arms and squinting thoughtfully. Concentrates on the pressure against his skull, the low, mean tones Lindsey uses on him, mimics them now to Angel. "Except he's got a pulse. Miss that, sometimes. Miss getting warmer instead of cooling off."

"You're not stupid."

"Nah. Pretty far from stupid."

"He's the enemy." Angel pronounces the word like it's a concrete thing. Like it means something. "Any idea what his people'd do to get their hands on you?"

"See," Oz says. "That sounds a little too Sunnydale to me. Enemy, friend, lover. Not so black and white as that."

Angel plants his hands on either side of Oz's head. It looks for a second like he's going to kiss him -- his expression softens, lips part, eyes gleam moistly. "They'll make the Initiative look like kids playing army."

Oz swallows and wraps an arm around his ribs. Long-healed, but they're creaking now. He lets anger and hurt and disappointment refill his bloodstream, pulse through him rapid and sharp. "Know what I'm doing. Not yours to order around."

If he just keeps ignoring Angel, if he just sticks to the words and pictures his stepdad there standing over him, he'll get through this. Maybe not in one piece, but he's used to that.

"Never said you were."

Words. Listen to the words, don't hear the tone, don't look at him, don't think that Angel sounds sad and vacant, don't accept that this isn't a fight. It takes two people to fight, same as the fucking tango, and this is all pretend, this is all made-up, this is the kind of shit he pulls with Lindsey.

Angel's too good for this. Only, see, he's not. The demon's always there, remember yellow eyes and fangs that eat you. Think about that.

"Didn't have to," Oz says. Wonders what Dru or Spike felt like when they misbehaved, expecting teeth and punishment in blood, but getting only -- this.

"They find out what you are," Angel says. Stresses it in a way that has nothing to do with respect for the monster and everything about punching Oz where it'll bruise the fastest. "Not sure I can help."

"They won't." False courage cutting through the quaver in his voice.

Angel shakes his head. Stupid kid, thoughtless kid, just won't listen: That's what Oz lets himself see, lets spike his anger a little more sharply. "Can't be sure."

"I'll make sure." Oz looks over Angel's shoulder. Couch, the upholstery ripped, leaking stuffing that's black and stiff, shrunken, with blood. His blood, Angel's blood. Both of them, bleeding and howling. "Can always kill him."

He doesn't have to say anything else. He wins the argument, apparently, and can't say anything else anyway, because he's retching, sliding down the wall, shaking and holding in his guts, tasting Lindsey's blood on his tongue, snake-spitting through his belly.

Angel's gone. No witticism, no anger, not even a fucking flap of the coattails. Just gone.

Oz prides himself on vanishing when the going gets tough. Angel, though, puts him to shame. Probably always will, and knowing that just makes victory more hollow than his head suddenly feels.


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