'...it's less dangerous': Five Covers The Dingoes Never Played at that LA Gig
by glossolalia

1. There's something happening somewhere, baby, I just know that there is

Oz has had too many chicken fingers, not enough beer; he's lagging behind Doyle, who's some kind of Greater LA-Area Ale-Drinking Champion, and even behind Cordelia, who's swilling the apple martinis as fast as Oz can hand over the cash.

He doesn't care, but he likes to know where he stands. Like it's good to know, also, that Cordelia still has her Furskins stuffed bear in overalls and flannel shirt.

You can learn a lot during drunken games.

"Truth or dare?" Cordelia asks, finishing her latest cocktail and shaking out her hair. "Hmm, Doyle?"

Doyle fingers his collar, looks around, and pours another round. "Dare, I s'pose."

There's that familiar Chase smile, dazzling. Oz would blink if it was turned on him. "Good. Kiss Oz."

Grinning wryly, Doyle leans in and pecks Oz's cheek. If he'd had more to drink, Oz would grab him.

Luckily, there's Cordy here to keep order. She clears her throat and says, "Like you mean it."

Oz twists in his seat and passes his hand over his hair. Doyle fidgets, looks at the ceiling and touches the saint's medal around his neck, then leans in. His mouth is yeasty and smoky, but warm. Oz tilts in, hand on Doyle's shoulder, enjoying it.

When Doyle's mouth opens, Oz responds, and then something passes. Something that's part light, part shock to the system, something that tastes like mercury and kosher wine. Lights, sodium, sliding blue, heat. Fear.

Oz pulls back slowly. His lips are numb. "What was that?"

"I see things," Doyle says, mouth twisting as he looks down. His blush is almost magenta under the neon of various beer signs.

"Skull-splitting, hugely vague things," Cordelia adds. "Distinctly unhelpful things."

Oz barely hears her. Shivers have set in, ghosts of the pelt's weight and fangs' presence. A glare slides over his eyes, down his marrow.

Superimposed over Cordy, Doyle, the beer-pitchers, horrors play out: howls, and blonde girls (two of them, short and tall, skinny and full, known and stranger) get ripped open. Guts, silver and bloody scarlet, unfurl like party favors. Willow's scream, neverending; flesh that snaps deliciously.

"Okay, my turn, then," Doyle says. "Oz, man. Truth or --?"

He's hungry. Scared, and so hungry. Doyle's wrist rolls in Oz's grip. "How vague?"

"Details." Doyle doesn't try to get away. "Fragments, that kind of thing."

"Oz, what --?"

He turns on Cordelia. The growl doesn't fit his human throat.

"Okay, okay. God." Sitting back, she raises her hands. "Someone's a mean drunk."

"Fragments?" Oz squeezes Doyle's wrist. Doyle smells like human fear and something else, something acrid. "But they don't have to happen?"

"Don't get him started, Oz," Cordelia says. "He'll never shut --"

"No," Doyle tells Oz. "More like -- warnings, yeah?"

"Warnings." He releases Doyle and slumps back. His mouth's full of spit and his spine prickles with the first-night moon pain. Claws concealed in fingers, fangs pressing his lips. "Not true."

"Oh, they're true," Doyle says. "God's fecking truth."

He'll stay in LA.


2. Damn, I be working that/Hurting that, ai-yo, playboy, curtains that

Another long day, making the rounds, cadging and pocketing food and clothes from everyone he knows. Registered charities and spontaneous ones like the Safeway's dumpster, the pizzeria's back door.

Gunn makes do, and there is pride in that.

Winter's coming on, which might not mean much to your average Angeleno with central air and a good car, but you try sleeping in warehouses and squats in January. Then try telling Gunn you feel all right.

Alonna tried just that last year and ended up with walking pneumonia -- dusting pneumonia, she called it -- and Gunn couldn't even feel smug. Her coughs rattled him right to the bones, shook the I told you so away.

One more long day, longer night ahead, and he almost groans aloud when he hears the girl scream down the alley.

Almost groans, but he's a little psyched, too.

Gunn's got no patience for this kind of shit. Shrugging off his jacket as he runs, dropping the four shopping bags of canned goods and pasta as he goes, he jumps. Grabbing the fence, he pulls himself up and over. Pauses at the top, gets a sense of where to go, then drops as quietly as he can, biting back his breath. He listens, tuning out his heartbeat, and then she screams again, just down...there.

His best stake, cherrywood, warm from its ride in the small of his back, is in his hand now as he creeps forward. He rolls it a little; it helps him focus.

This is the best part. Just him, fighting alone, hunting his prey. Fighting with the crew is good, exhilarating even, especially when they all come together like one fist, but this -- this is what it's about.

Just him, lone man, edging around the dumpster. He scopes out the scene: Struggling girl, a flash of white-blond hair, black leather on his back, blood on her neck.

That's all he needs to know. Not a fight back here, not a human squabble, but a vampire. And Gunn's the man for this job.

Gunn squats, then pushes forward. Still ninja-silent as he jumps onto the vamp's back.

Locking his arm around its throat, he yells at the chick to get going. She does the usual deer-in-headlights gape, then turns tail.

The skinny vamp is flailing, cursing him to hell and back in some kind of movie-actor accent, but it's not like Gunn's listening. He's got skill, weight and surprise on his side; he rides out the tantrum. When the vamp slams him backwards into the wall, trying to shake him loose, Gunn heaves one big breath, thanks Jesus, and drives the stake home.

Dust, choking and exploding, as he slides down to the ground. Empty arms. Dust coats his face.

A big guy, all shoulders and coat like the dusted vamp's, rounds the corner. He stops short.

"Got business here, man?" Gunn asks.

"Must be a mistake." He backs up. "Sorry."

"Get going, then," Gunn says. "Nothing to see here."


3. I get such a thrill/When he presses his fingertips upon my lips/And he begs me to please keep still

This is a house of secrets. Dreams.

The walls have eyes. No mirrors, but eyes. They watch and learn. Remember. Suck in sound and light, storing all the secrets.

Two bodies, not-entirely human, equally pale. The smaller one appeared from below and startled the big one.

Words -- sorry, don't be, missed you -- passed as slow as kelp in night seas through the usual silence.

Everything's luxurious here. Laden with memory, absorbing it all.

Leather furniture that creaks beneath them in the first hungry hours of grabbing at each other, tasting and roaming and crashing about. Wide, soft bed. Angel's sheets are black, his quilt a jumble of crimson and indigo satin. His toys are leather and silver, leather that hurts so good, silver that burns. The yowl Oz gives up makes Angel smile.

Angel never smiles. Never, nowhere, but here, alone, in his apartment midway between sewers (unconscious) and office-building (superego), he does. Smile, and grip, and yank sounds from Oz that no one's ever heard without cage bars intervening.

He'd turn Oz inside out if he could. Find his secret, taste it, suck it down. How he can hide in plain sight.

The ring doesn't matter; the ring is smashed and ground away. What matters is what it could do, how it could let him pretend to be normal. Human.

In his dreams, he walks beaches with Buffy, rolls with her, tastes her in the sunlight.

In his other dreams, the kind that come true, he hunches close to another monster, here in the dark, and says, "Stay still."

Oz, eyes wide as shillings, glinting green and moon, nods.

"Good boy," Angel murmurs in those dreams, now. Oz's prick swells more, twitches against a boy-thin belly.

He tasted Buffy before he left; if he hadn't, he would never have gone. Slayer-blood, like sage-smoke and clover-honey, better than any of Spike's purple descriptions. Slayer, but human, too, with all the mysteries there.

Oz tastes worse: human plus rangy dog, corrupt. Oz tastes familiar.

Angel lowers himself atop the bound boy, lapping at the slow trickle of blood down his concave chest. Oz's heart rattles like a cheap toy, clattering through the lungs' whistle.

Angel chews gently; the secret has to be here, in the skin that parts for fur, the bones that break as they elongate, the blood that infects its host.

Beneath him, Oz gasps and twitches. The silver chain in his mouth sends up a blue trail of smoke.

Oz wants, wants to break open and cross over. Dwell over here -- he's so close -- here where it's always dark, where there's nowhere to hide. Where blood flows and hunger's accepted.

In Oz's dreams, which he carries beneath his skin, wrapped round his heart, he is free. Of cages, of girlfriends and Hellmouths. He's found tundra, or savannah, and love doesn't mean anything when set beside the melody of howls and the snugness of the den.

They push together, and dream.

The walls remember.


4. Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather/Whiplash girlchild

This is what she's made. This is her end.

Strung-up like a sow, taunted with her favorites, her history.

"Give it back!" Drusilla whirls around her, whip dancing cobra-fast, lunatic intricate, around her legs.

Darla tastes bile in her mouth. The ring is in a safety-deposit box in El Segundo. Hers, safe. "The ring's gone."

Dru snaps the whip across Darla's stomach. "It's mine."

Darla would double over but for the groaning chains holding her up, the iron bar spreading her knees. A fluorescent-light tube up her quim and barbed-wire garlanding her breasts.

Dru dresses up all her toys.

"It's yours," Xander had told her. Silly, floppy boy wouldn't meet her eyes. Looked everywhere but at her, shifting from foot to foot.

"Is that what I think it is?" Virginia asked. She leaned in, eyes wide, tongue caught between her teeth.

Virginia: Her beautiful, visionary lady, all curves and bright, complex intelligence. Oz is half in love with her; sometimes, Darla thinks -- thought -- she might be as well.

That was then.

Now, she's coming apart. Her wrists have gone raw under metal cuffs, tied further with looped rosaries that burn and sizzle, while her toes drag the floor.

Darla twists now in the proverbial breeze.

Blood seeps down her back, down her legs, warm and slow.

It's all she can do to try. To remember through the oozing haze of pain.

Four hundred years old, and this pain, this torture, has telescoped her memory to the status of double-digit hours. A few weeks, during which she allowed herself to hope things might be different.

Pitiful, really. That she should care about a rich genius girl and a little wolfboy enough that the real torture is inside. In the stories she'll never tell Dru, the vignettes that claw at her viscera, anecdotes that shred her throat.

She never had the patience for Dru when she was evil. Tea parties, bedtime stories, none of that. To romp with, play with, sharing men and beds, yes. Not the rest. Not then.

Now, she'd rather die than listen.

"She wanted --" Xander'd said. Stopped, continuing only when Oz edged closer. "She said --. Faith said you should have it."

Faith: Her other dark girl, the first. Best. Killed Angelus for her.

The whip shrieks into her.

"The second. Worse," Dru says, tipping up Darla's chin. Burgundy lips and mad black eyes, delight sparkling like insects. "Much worser."

They both wear the beast's face now; pleasure and agony render identically.

Dru's tongue licks Darla's fangs until blood wells. She sucks, smirking, fingering her nipple, then Darla's mound. "What sharp teeth you have."

Everything Dru does to her, Darla's done. Better, with more finesse.

This is a vaudeville show, parodic and pathetic.

Dru slaps Darla's haunch like she's a pony. "Tell me my story."


Drusilla's face crumples into a pout, the kind only her Daddy could kiss away. Stamping her feet, swishing her whip. "Where's my pretty?"

She'll die here, but she'll win.


5. And so I'm having a wonderful time/But I'd rather be whistling

Devon doesn't know how Oz does it.

Boy just moves through life, slow and easy, people gathering around. Weirdos, redhead geekgirls, way-too-hyper Harrises, old librarians and blonde chicks who kick zombie ass.

So he isn't surprised when Oz appears on the beach with two more weirdos, plus Cordelia.

Sexass weirdos, but still. There's Lucky Charms guy, only a couple inches bigger than Oz, dressed just as pathetically. And Mr. International Male '99 stumbling over the sand through what looks like a major K-hole.

"-- paler'n most people," Oz says when Devon sneaks up behind him.

"Fuck that." Devon grabs Oz around the neck, lifting him off his feet. "Check his shirt. Christ."

He drops Oz and strips off the purple shirt he got for the gig, striding over. "Hey, dude. Take this --" The shirt flaps between as the guy stares at Devon. As usual, Oz is right: he's pale as something in a bio-lab jar. "It's okay. Want you to have it."

Nodding, the guy takes the shirt. Devon wads up the shredded black shirt, tossing it into the garbage. "I know you. Damn. Where've I seen you?"

"Bronze," the guy says, buttoning up the shirt. "You sing. In a manner of speaking."

"Yeah! And you stalk high-schoolers. Devon."


Devon's not stupid; he grasps Angel's hand for as long as he can. Big, cool hand. Could do a hell of a lot with that hand. "Need some rays, dude. Gonna fade away."

Angel looks Devon over, smiling to himself, like Oz does. "Might be onto something there."

"Need tanning help, you come to the Devon." Devon licks his lips, holding Angel's eyes. "You need any kind of help --"

Cordelia bitches, because she still hates him, but he snags a ride in the van, sitting beside Angel, evaluating his options. Kills time in the alley beside the office building smoking with Oz and Doyle.

"A vampire," Doyle's saying. Oz nods.

Devon spits loose tobacco. "Shitting me."

"Nah, Dev. Told you senior year."

"Thought you were kidding."

Angel comes out, and he looks extra-fine in Devon's shirt -- fills it out just right, better than Devon can. Not that he'll say that.

"Hey, man," Devon says. "Keep the shirt. Looks better on you." Jesus. He really does think with his dick. "Assholes here're claiming --"

Oz smacks him. "Vamps're real. Like zombies." He's got that hidden laugh in his voice. "Remember those?"

"Well, dur. 'Course zombies are real." He's talking as his eyes track Angel to the end of the alley, and can you blame him? Hot, hot man. "Was that even an issue?"

Angel yanks a dropcloth, revealing a seriously hot car -- black, convertible, cool -- and Devon whistles loudly.

Glancing over his shoulder, Angel half-smiles. "Want a ride, little boy?"

"Fuck, yeah."

"Angel, man --" Doyle says but Oz grabs his arm.

Catching the keys, Devon vaults into the front seat. Grinning, he guns the engine, then peels out. "Sun in your eyes?"

"Yeah." Angel squints. "Drive."


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