Sleep Of Apples
by glossolalia

Nothing stays still. It's hours later now, the sun already starting to fizz and sputter just below the horizon, when Angel reaches for Oz. Hours have passed, and daylight hums in his sinuses, down the back of his throat, and his body screams for sleep and security. His body is meat, strung out and more canny than wise, and Angel has been keeping human hours since he returned to LA.

But now he', not in LA but somewhere, nowhere, anonymous highway rest stop. Across from a kid he spoke probably fewer than fifty words to before tonight, and his palms still stink of Buffy's skin and her dark empty gaze still burns in his own eyes, and this is more than disconcerting.

"Got a van, some blankets -" Oz said a while ago when Angel observed that the sun'd be up soon. Oz was looking out the diner window, the fluorescent lights picking out the planes in his profile, every hollow mysterious and dark. Looked like he was addressing the parking lot, cluttered with Peterbilts and cabs and eighteen wheelers.

Oz never completed the offer, but Angel nodded, accepting it, and Oz rose from the cracked, sticky table, dropping two dollar bills and a handful of change next to the saucer of his half-drunk coffee. Angel followed him out.

"Mi van es su -" Oz said in the parking lot, wrenching open the side door and standing aside so Angel could climb in.

Nothing stays still and Oz never finishes a sentence. Everything he's said tonight has been stunted, malformed and hoarse. There are lines around his eyes, cobweb-fine, that he's too young to have. He was always thin - Angel might never have spoken to Oz when they were both back in Sunnydale, but he watched, more closely, with better recall, than Rupert or Wesley could ever have dreamed of doing, and he saw, knew, observed - but never like this, never this thin. Angel remembers Oz, like the rest of them, perfectly. Oz was smallboned, sober, calm; his hair color changed faster than his facial expressions. Now, his skin is too warm and it's wrapped too tightly around his bones, his face stretched taut with more than hunger.

Angel remembers everything. He'd like to be able to forget - forget tonight's visit to Buffy, forget a summer spent mourning a girl he'd never have again, forget Doyle and Whistler and the rest of them - but he cannot. Memory's more a curse than the soul. He remembers another Oz, remembers snarling at his fellow best, challenge glinting in both pairs of eyes, language below words. The girl bleeding out between them, the scent of her - young, frightened, virginal, probably the closest he'd ever get to a nun in this modern secular fallen world - swimming around them. Heady currents of blood and terror (hers), of hunger and demand (theirs), knitting the three of them together.

"Come back," Angel says now and he's tired and sick of waiting, sick of mourning, then celebrating, sick of nothing staying still. Sick of children aging - dying - before their time.

Oz's mouth tightens and his eyes, always-already sleepy-lidded, drop.

"Back with me, I mean," Angel adds, frustration clenching at his throat, his fists. "LA."

"Yeah," Oz says and looks directly at Angel. No light back here, but they can see each other perfectly. Green-brown-sea-storm eyes. Lined. "Not gonna happen."

"You -"

"Thanks, though," Oz says. "Appreciate it."

"You look like hell. You -"

"Need a bath and some soup?" Oz folds one arm behind his head and stretches, slowly, carefully. "Some R&R, TLC, that kind of thing?"

His voice, flattened like a newspaper in a downpour, whipped into the gutter, bored and distant is just - horribly, perfectly - like Buffy's. Several hours ago, Angel was there, back in that goddamn house that smelled like Spike, and she was wrapped in an ugly blanket, telling him in that voice that she was fine. Just fine, just very tired.

She has an excuse, at least. Resurrection will change a person, and he shouldn't know that quite as well as he does. But Oz. Oz is just a kid he used to know, who floated past his table in a shitty truckstop diner looking like a ghost of himself, his hair longer and spun into strange, thin little braids, clacking with beads, beautiful in that haunted, doomed way of too many people Angel has known. William, Dru, every fucking nun he ever ate except for that obese Mother Superior Darla dared him to kill, Lawson, Doyle. Thin and haunted and big-eyed. Buffy. Always Buffy.

He wants to slap Oz now, grab those narrow frangible shoulders in his hands and shake the life back into him.

"I'm not her," Oz says, rolling his neck and shoulders, and when Angel glances over, startled, Oz actually smiles at him. Not a natural smile, but full of effort and determination: a skull's smile, lipless and grotesque. "Not nearly as pretty, for one thing."

Anger tastes just like sunlight, citrus and inviting and deadly, and Angel swallows hard. "Oz -"

The boy's still smiling, and when Angel blinks, repeats his name, Oz's head drops. His hands, grasped in his lap, open, palms-up. Paper flowers, pink and white. He has beads, dark wood ones, wrapped around one wrist and looped over the middle finger. "Sorry."

This is when Angel reaches for him.

Three months in a monastery, one back in LA, an evening in Sunnydale. Nothing stays still, not bodies, certainly not souls, but this boy does. Oz does not move save to raise his head.

Bodies are meat, meat in motion, but eyes are light and rosaries and the burnt edges of prayer.

Angel should ask where Oz has been, what he's done, why he's still on the road, but he can't, not now. The time for that was earlier, when Oz slid into his booth and shook his hand and asked, like they'd been separated for a few weeks, What's kicking? And Angel answered him, told him more - monks and demons, death and love, CordyWesGunnFred, and Buffy, always Buffy - than he meant to. Than he thought possible. Oz listened, running one blunt-bitten-nail finger around the rim of his cold coffee, and nodded, and listened, and he was quiet.

Angel knows quiet. Monastery, hell, two decades in alleys. Oz is something else, ghost and potential, listening and, now, looking at him, not moving as Angel cups his face in his hands and pulls him closer.

"Not sorry," Angel says and he's got Oz almost in his lap. Light as anything, just hollow bones and tight skin, slightly sour hair and clacking beads.


He's not sorry. Or, Oz is sorry, but he wasn't lying. He's not her, not what Angel's trying to find. Kneeling here, his face between Angel's hands, looking at Angel looking at him, Oz isn't sorry for what he said. He's not Buffy, dead or alive, and though he's glad she's alive again (but how? why?), he doesn't know what else to say.

Angel's looking him over, scanning and tracking Oz, his eyes black and wet and rapid. He grinds his teeth - Oz can see the hinges of his jaw working - and digs his fingertips into Oz's hair. The sensation flashes and spreads like sheet lightning over Oz's scalp, down his back, envelops him.

He keeps himself motionless. Angel's thumbs dig into Oz's cheeks, mashing skin against teeth, and then memory breaks. Descends like a curtain: Leather-coated Angel, warning Oz away from his kill; Angel seated, turning the ring in his hands, telling him to go. Farewells and warnings.

Other moments, other sheets of time suspended like this one, LCD-bright and hard.

Angel's thumbs probe the corners of Oz's mouth, part his lips. Not farewell, but entrance. Introduction. Oz falls like a ribbon, head back, chest against Angel's. Throat bared.

The van ceiling is a web of metal, wrapped in audio cords and a few strands of unlit Christmas lights, and it tilts, descends, over Oz. Against him, Angel's solid and cool, rock or plaster, unmovable.

"She was gone," he'd said back in the diner, "and now she's back and nothing ever -"

"Stays still?" Oz asked.

Angel nodded.

No, of course not, Oz wanted to say then. Something about rivers, and constant currents, change as the only immanence, but he didn't. Not then, not now, because outright statements are too asphalt-heavy, because they close off and bunker you away from all that change, because they'd be a lie in the face of their own truth. Because Angel peered at him across the table, grieving and confused, desperation locked so far down inside him that he probably didn't even recognize it for what it was. Because Oz hates words.

Oz wraps his arm around Angel's neck, hand in his hair and pushes Angel's face against his throat. Memory is motionless and hard, but living takes time.

"No," Angel says, loud and hard, lips on Oz's jugular. "No, can't -"

Oz slides down, straddling Angel's lap, fingers working small slow circles over Angel's scalp.

"Don't kill me," Oz says softly. Angel is frowning, brows heavy and mouth twisted in an agony of thought. "Not what I'm saying. Just -"

His dick is heavy and aching, his mouth puckered from sour coffee and highway dust, so when Oz kisses Angel, abandoning words, it's almost too much. Been too long - three weeks since that girl in Bellingham, and she didn't kiss like this, didn't taste like broken daffodils and rose-hips and wet peat, didn't squeeze his skull like an underripe melon and moan into his mouth, didn't chew at his tongue like a mealy apple.

"Just what?" Angel mutters, teeth on Oz's ear.

Oz is vibrating, scalp to toes, hunger lighting every dry point along the network of his nerves so they're crackling and popping like driftwood on a bonfire. Dry, catching fast, going up. One kiss and he's half-gone.

"Just, just this -" Oz gets out, kissing Angel's chin, down the side of his neck, his mouth seeking out the pulse point. But it's empty, of course, still, hollow, frustrating, and then Angel palms his ass, hauls Oz down and closer, grinding their crotches together. Everything goes black and silver.

Chrome and shadow.

Terrified, hunger streaming fast through his veins, Oz tries to twist away. Pull away, find a corner, hold himself and fight to recall his mantras, battle back to calm. To safety and color.

"I - no -" He's still twisting and Angel won't let him go, crushing embrace that Oz flails inside, and on one desperate writhe, Angel's teeth graze Oz's arm and blood wells.

Impossible moment, another endless and flat. Oz's nostrils flare and his gut knots and yawns and Angel starts to lick, then suckles, at the scrape and it's too late.

"Ange -" Words to yowl, stuttered and silver. Angel pushes him back, tearing Oz's clothes away half a moment before the pelt, and the blood is singing, calling, on Angel's mouth and the change is ripping through Oz, splitting skin and gnashing fangs and Angel holds him down.

Angel's eyes are wide and bright. "Oz?"

Oz shifts inside the wolf's body, smaller and more scared than it could ever be, and makes the wolf go still. Looks back at Angel.


Yes, Oz wants to say, but his voice and mind are not his own. All he can do is raise the bleeding foreleg, push the blood back against Angel's mouth, and hope that Angel understands.

"God, Oz -" he says later, brass-bright eyes gleaming under the feline brow. The wolf whines, nips at Angel's hand, then flips over. On all fours now, needs to run, feed, chase and howl.

But Angel is bigger, stronger than the wolf, and he flattens it, arm around its torso, hand grazing its thick cock, and this isn't food-hunger.

Blue-lightning pulses through the wolf, burns Oz up, and it pushes back, squirming and dropping its head to its paws. Whines, assumes the position.

Angel's other arm wraps around its neck, hard enough to break the whine to a wheeze, and while food-hunger is thick and determined, this is bright and fast, needy, and there are teeth in the wolf's shoulder, holding it down, as Angel breaches its hole. New blood, moonlit and sharp, a pulse before the pain. Arm in its mouth now, stopping up the howl of protest, and rocking-thrusting-pushing in and in and deeper until hidden water springs out in the wolf's mind, shining and clear as rain, and it rocks back, desperate for more.

Mating, fucking: The words don't mean anything, and scraps of Oz laugh at himself, at the beast, as it shoves back against Angel and gnaws down on Angel's arm. Eating, screwing: Bloodhunger's the same, and ecstasies are moo and pain, throbbing and pulsating, Angel's fist rubbing, twisting, yanking the wolf's cock more tightly, roughly, than VerucaWillowanyone. Light tears through the wolf, breaking wider against pleasure, and it comes in a jolting, howling rush.


On sore knees, wild blood - balsam and rivers and night - clogging his throat and matting the wolf's pelt, Angel fucks and prays. Both, neither, sinning with a fellow beast, screwing it limp, pulling its come out in hot, thick splatters and pushing his cock deeper, tighter, the hole small and bleeding and open. And this could be joy. Is joy, rapid and wrong and everywhere, the boy's rosary broken in Angel's hand, the wolf's scruff in Angel's mouth, and there is nothing else.

Nothing, just this, just animals. No men, only monsters, and the wolf howls hoarsely into silence when Angel pulls out, his thighs and arms trembling with the effort. His spine spins liquidly and he jerks himself off, into the rough pelt, marks and scents and spills out and collapses.

Falls onto, astride, a bony white-skinned boy, whimpering, his body streaked with blood and come. Ribbons of it, pink, white, ivory, on his arms and ass and shoulder.

He did this. Angel did that, chased joy until the boy broke.

"Oz?" he asks through the mustard-gas guilt swamping him fast. "Oh, God -"

Green eyes, bright as leaves, as Oz struggles to shift onto his side. White teeth stained pink, smiling. Smiling in joy, release, as if what Angel just did to him was liberation and confirmation both.

Sickened, dizzy with all the familiar regret-recrimination-sorrow, Angel flinches when Oz touches his cheek, has to school himself immobile when Oz kisses him.

Sick piece of monstrous shit that he is, Angel stirs a little when he tastes his own blood in Oz's mouth, on his soft tongue.

"Oz, Christ -" No words, just apology thicker, headier, than any language.

"Not Christ either," Oz says, touching Angel's hair, kissing his cheek, like an infant with a new toy, learning with mouth and hands. "Just me."

Angel excels at both doubt and delusion, so for a moment hope catches in his chest, sparrow in a line, and beats its wings. "Just this -" he says, echoing the boy, and Oz smiles again. Like the kid he used to be, calm and certain, soaked with unearthly joy. "You -"

He could hold Oz. Gather that birch-strong frame in his arms, cover and protect him, bring home another lost scared child like Fred.

Oz twists away, the pain of the movement tightening his face, and Angel's arms are empty, his chest hollow. Familiar, this inevitable fuck-up, carving him out stupid and sad.

But Oz turns back, a sleeping bag in his arms, and he shakes it out over Angel. Swipes the ruins of his shirt over his cuts, between his legs, then settles back next to Angel. Hot, damp little body pressed close to Angel's own, boysweat and sexstink clinging to his smooth skin, and he tucks his head against Angel's shoulder.

"Rest," Oz says. "Sun's up. Not going anywhere for a while."


Bathed in sweat, chilly for all the exertion, Oz does not sleep. His body goes heavy, the cramps and ache of the change back and forth throbbing dully, contending with the healing cuts and the deep, resonant pain in his ass, but he stays awake.

Time's pouring over him, carrying him away as he lies here, Angel sleeping against him, his old-young face slack and handsome in the dark. Arising-persisting-dissolving, currents that channel and carry and bear impermanence away. Oz has hidden in plain sight for so long, clinging limpet-like to his own meaninglessness, that now, aching and sore and overjoyed, he can only smile. Smile and doze and know that the sun will probably set, that they will part when night falls, that stars will prick out over his head as he hits the road again.

Persisting, however, is just the underbelly of change. Like pain/pleasure, grief/joy, and Oz cradles Angel's head in his arm, urges him to deeper sleep, and enjoys.

Apples fall, their skin splits open, and seeds emerge from rotten flesh. Take hold of mud and sprout again, and Oz kisses Angel's forehead, tells him all that as best he can.


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