Sunnydale Perigees
by glossolalia


Storekeeping is hideously tiresome; Ethan wishes his budget, such as it is, would allow him to hire an assistant to handle the front-of-shop business. Ripper really would have loved being a grocer. This job is all about order and quiet and servility. Ethan loathes it.

Occasionally, however, lurking behind the counter does offer small rewards. He can, for example, watch the lovelies without interruption or censure.

Take this boy, tiny but erect and loose-limbed, fingering the fringe of jet beads on a flapper costume. Flame-haired, slight and flexible, he must be hairless beneath those baggy garments. He could wear that dress, carry it off better than any of the lumpy, bosomy girls who have tried it on so far. He should.

"Fancy a whirl?" Ethan asks, appearing behind him. He expects the boy to jump, looks forward to relishing a spike of startled fear.

Instead the child merely nods, leaning aside so that Ethan can reach out, pluck the dress from the rack, and then following Ethan to the mirror. He stands still, lets Ethan hold the dress against him, smooth it over his chest and down his legs. There is a quiet in the boy that is far from passive. Nor is he absent, despite his stillness and lack of assertion.

Ethan meets his eyes - narrowed a little - in the mirror, finds the boy simply staring back at him. The gaze is full of a rough and simple wisdom, something so uncomplicated and direct, neither duplicitous nor confused that Ethan backs away. The dress slithers down the boy's body. The hanger clatters on the floor.

Balling hands into fists, scoring his palms with his nails, Ethan swallows and tugs on a smirk. "Like what you see?"

The boy simply bends at the waist, retrieving the frock and rehanging it. Turning back to Ethan he shrugs. "Nah. Black washes me out."


(The Dark Age)

Ethan limps out of town, good hand wrapped around the gash on the opposite bicep. He must remind himself to flex the injured arm and wiggle its fingers every three steps. Otherwise, a creeping numbness sets in, a slow toneless tingle that soon enough he cannot stop, will not stop.

Glory, desolation: High, low. Ethan is wholly pledged to Janus, heart and black-taffeta soul, but even he is beginning to tire of this simple-minded insistence on opposites. Dichotomies, binaries, and the like are useful guides. Like lights glimmering below a bomber's path, they trace out where to strafe, what to ignore, where to dive and when to rise. But they are not everything, or even most of everything. More mileposts than targets themselves.

He will start over; he always renews his energy and begins again. He merely wishes that for once, he could be brought low but not quite so low as usual.

Desultorily hitchhiking with only the shredded shirt on his back and several cracked ribs to call his own, he knows a fresh beginning is right around the corner. Complete, he's sure, with a chicken in every pot.

He must laugh, then, when a boxy, rotting van rolls to a rustling stop before him. A slight, pale figure approaches him, and Ethan laughs all the harder when he recognizes the strange boy from his last sojourn in this town.

"Hurt?" he asks, touching Ethan's elbow. His eyes are wide and disarmingly bright in the dark.

Ethan steels himself against a bark of laughter that emerges sounding a great deal more like a moan. The boy nods slightly, as if this confirms a thought he hadn't bothered to speak, and guides him to the van. Helps him into the back and pats Ethan shoulder before helping him sit down.

The boy scrambles forward on his knees and tosses the keys at a larger youth. "Dev? You drive. I'm back here."

Ethan chews the side of his lip before he says, "I'm fine. Just a surface wound." Why, he wonders, should he be so hesitant? Tentative about passing up an opportunity to share such a confined space with such a fascinating creature. "Really, I'm -"

He stops when the boy hauls out a first-aid box large enough to bury an infant in.

"Quite the fetish for medical supplies, eh?"

"Nah," the taller one calls over his shoulder as he turns the key and the van screeches off the shoulder. "He's just got a thing for old English dudes."

"Is that so?" Ethan asks, watching the boy shake his head, smiling to himself, as he pulls off a length of hospital tape. "Can't imagine there are many of us at hand."

The boy bites off the bandage and squints at Ethan. "I make do." He sticks the tape to his cheek and reaches for Ethan's arm. Unwrapping the sodden, makeshift bandage, he asks, "What happened, anyway?"

Ethan sucks his lips against his teeth at the sting of air on the wound. "Met up with a mate. Burned some bridges."

His nurse nods and pats tissues against the scalded skin. "Burned more than that."

He has a gentleness that Ethan should find repulsive. He hates sweetness, loathes light, but this boy offers neither of those. It is simply an economy of touch that Ethan can only admire. He is unspoiled, but the smile he gave at Ethan's moan, the flicker of his eyes when his friend spoke of his taste in men, all these tell Ethan that he is hardly virginal.

"Who are you?" Ethan asks as the boy massages ointment into his flesh.

"Oz. Where you headed?"

Ethan smirks. "Out of town. As far from this hellhole as possible." He cannot keep the bitterness from his voice, but the child - Oz, he thinks, almost too appropriate for one so otherworldly - just glances up, expressionless.

"Salinas okay?"

Delightful. Ethan smiles, rather than smirks, and grasps Oz's shoulder, rotating his own arm out to give him better access. "Enormously grateful," he says. "Salinas is fine."

Oz presses the gauze down and retrieves the bandage fluttering on his cheek. Wraps Ethan up snugly, but does not withdraw.

The van bounces down the highway. Knocks them together, then apart, and as the other one restlessly tunes the radio and sings along in snatches, Ethan joins Oz in his preternatural silence.

"Where are you from?" Oz asks later.


"How far's London from Bath?"

"About one hundred and fifty kilometers," Ethan says. "For you, one hundred miles. Why?"

"Knew someone from there."

"You do get around, don't you?"

Oz smiles at him. Graceful and wry. Ethan would like to trace the motion of that expression with the tip of his tongue. "No. He's back in the hellhole now."

He should have known, of course. Or guessed. Rat's luck that Ripper would have found this creature first. Bile uncoils in Ethan's gut but he schools his face into the mode of kindly gentleman.

"Surely not Rupert Giles?"

Oz ducks his head at the name. Intriguing, that the first sign of discomfort should come at the mention of that name. When he looks back up, Ethan realizes that Oz, too, can swallow reaction and play his part at politeness. "Yeah. Why are you grinning?"

"We would appear to move in similar circles," Ethan says.

Oz shrugs a little and looks at him. When he speaks, his voice is dry. "Giles counts as a circle?"

"For some, yes," Ethan says. "For us."

The van accelerates, knocks their heads together, and Ethan kisses Oz deeply, grabbing hair and skinny shoulder, slithering his tongue inside when the boy gasps.

Is that how he kissed you? he wants to know, but Oz kisses back, fingers grasping Ethan's neck, little groans already burbling up sweetly from his throat. So fast and wet, kissed and straddled, prick hard in huge pants, thrusting against Ethan's thigh. So boy, energetic and enthusiastic and artless that Ethan throws back his head to laugh and Oz bites his chin, grinning.

"Let yourself go," Ethan urges, hand skimming over the boy's waist, down his pants.

"That what you want?" Husky, a little confused. Breath hot on his neck.

Ethan smiles. "I don't want anything, dear boy. Merely a suggestion."

Oz nods, kisses him again and rubs Ethan's crotch roughly through his trousers as Ethan's hand worms down, strokes him hard. Fucking with hand and tongue, breathless, giggly, oh, this is wonderful, he must remember to do this far more regularly. Lips slick over his, teeth scraping and banging. And the boy knows a little more than Ethan just credited him, as he can unzip a fly with just a thumbnail and his small, strong hand is heaven on Ethan's cock, twisting and pulling. In a rocking, flying van, Ethan thinks, handjobs and necking, I've truly found America and I wasn't even looking.

"You're entertaining," he tells Oz. Bites his throat to hear that groan again, faster as he strokes the heavy dick twitching in his hand. "Bring me off and I'll have a surprise for you."

Wide, flashing eyes, quick nod, and - Oh, he has learned well, he's a smart, astonishing boy, sliding down fast as rain, inhaling half of Ethan's prick with strong, practiced lips. Fast and delicious, and Ethan threads all his fingers through messy hair, arching up, coming faster than he could have dreamed. Thinking of Ripper as ever, sullen scowl and rapid fists, dissolving into the boy's happy face, bright eyes and groans of appreciation as he shakes his head and - My. He even swallows.

"Just like that," Ethan says after a while. Oz lies on his side next to him, still breathing hard. Ethan kisses him shallowly, licks stray drop of cum off his chin.

Oz butts against him, rubbing his dick like a puppy, eager for pleasure. Ethan chuckles, takes him back in hand, and it's no hardship, not with a low-squealing boy, flopping bonelessly under his touch, grinning wide and watching him back.

They doze then. His body knows to withdraw, untangles limbs, turns on its other side, so when they wake in a glare of lights, the taller boy throwing open the doors and shouting, Ethan is not confused. He blinks and sits up, pulls a sleepy Oz with him.

"Salinas," the friend announces. "Up and at 'em, you fucking pervs."

Oz throws him the finger and rubs his face into Ethan's shoulder. "You're going?"

Tipping up his face, Ethan traces a rune over Oz's forehead, down across one sharp cheekbone, nearly to his jaw. Larger than it needs to be, but he likes the flourish as much as he likes the feel of Oz's cool, damp skin. The form gutters for a moment, green and gold, before winking out. Oz blinks, then peers at Ethan curiously.

"You want something," he says, "just ask."

"Where's the fun in that?"

Ethan smirks and slides away while the boy's mouth is still in the process of opening to respond.


(Band Candy)

Ethan could have completed the majority of the contract and come back to America's Sweetest Little Town merely to accompany delivery of the chocolate and claim his front-row seat at the ritual. But he is weak and craven, two of his most attractive qualities, so he has been here for a little over a week now, attending to details when he can, arguing with the mayor's cronies, gorging himself on pay-per-view pornography in his motel room.

He's been careful enough, denying himself all but the most distant peeks at Ripper, that when a knock comes at his door, Ethan is outraged. Hasn't misbehaved in the least, not yet.

"Really, what is this? Preemptive stri-" he says, flinging open the door. Breaks off, feels the rage sparkle away, replaced by an unbecoming flush, when he sees Oz standing there.

The boy stands against the railing, hands in pockets, his gaze so distant that Ethan pokes himself to ascertain that he is still flesh. Not transparent.

"Hey," Oz says at last. "Can I come in?"

"You may." Ethan stands aside, watching Oz as he passes. Unchanged, at least outwardly, still moving as if a little more liquid than the rest of humanity. Yet he holds himself differently, drawn in a little more closely, his shoulders narrower, neck slightly shorter. "Have I forgotten a date? I didn't think I'd told anyone I was coming."

Oz sits on the edge of the unmade bed. His eyes flick over to Ethan, then rest there. "Sniffed you out," he says, and amusement twists his voice faintly, tugs at his lips. Ethan knows that feeling; it's not entirely pleasant.

Ethan reclaims his seat, center of the bed, leaning against the headboard, and tugs the sheet carelessly over his lap. Speaks lowly enough that the boy has to turn to hear. "Missed me? Or is there something you want?"

Oz braces one arm behind him and slides up to the bed until he is next to Ethan. "Can't be both?"

"Of course it can," Ethan says. Turning just enough, three-quarter profile, smiling at the enormously brave and troublingly frank child. "It just so rarely is."

"Special occasion, then." Tension still glimmers in the tilt to his shoulders and starkness of his jaw. Ethan reaches over, fingers tapping the air, then knob of the nearer shoulder, and Oz looks at him, full-on. Shows no other sign that he has been touched.

"That's wonderful. How sweet."

Neither of them is smiling.

"I know you're a mage," Oz says. "Just - is there anything on me?"

Ethan draws his finger down the boy's neck, into the hollow of his throat. Oz is still, and shivers only when Ethan brings his fingertip to his mouth, sucking it in slowly. He tastes the tang of boy-skin, smoke, damp mown grass, and, twining through it all, strands of moonlight soaked in blood.

"You're an animal," Ethan says delightedly. "Full of bloodlust."

Oz nods. "Yeah. But anything else?"

"That's sufficient, I'd think."

"Thought I was cursed -"

Oz tries to explain. He uses words, names, that Ethan does not recognize, but the meaning is perfectly clear.

There's too much to make sense of. Too many glances between Will and Xander, too many words unspoken and conversations halted when he appears. Too many nights spent hurling himself at the bars of a cage. Somehow, in less than a year of all this, he has accepted the idea that magic can be responsible for everything. He doesn't like that any more than he likes the wolf inside him or what Angelus did to Jenny. Or how, since the wolf, Giles struggles to meet his eyes.

"Ripper never did like animagi," Ethan says slowly. "Let alone wer-curses. Found them crude."

Oz nods.

Ethan knows he ought to comfort him, then laughs at the very idea. "He's a bigot and hypocrite, my dear," he says. "Best you learn that early. Now, tell me about Angelus. He sounds delicious."

Oz shifts over, strokes the length of Ethan's index finger. "You're disgusting," he observes. "You really get off on this."

"Of course."

Oz shakes his head as he runs his knuckles over the bones on the back of Ethan's hand.

"You all people - I'm sorry, of all creatures, should understand that," Ethan says.

Eyes slit, touch a little rougher, Oz says, "Don't know what you're talking about."

Oh, fine. Silly stubborn children, pretending they can ignore what they don't like by covering their ears and singing loud. Ethan grabs Oz's wrist, flips him onto his back and straddles him. Holds his wrist above his head, presses his shoulder down with the other hand.

"Don't you? Don't you dream about running, little boy? Running and hunting until you're slick with blood and full to bursting? Crawling home to your den and fucking 'til you howl?"

Still and white as fine, fine marble, Oz regards him with darkening eyes. Ethan chuckles, images spiraling and swirling faster than he can speak.

"Only disgusting if someone catches you," he says. "And even then, it's fun. Dirty and slippery and you ought to be ashamed of yourself. But you're not, are you?"

He bends close, traces the path of his old charm over the boy's hot cheek with tongue and teeth.

"Get off me," Oz mutters. "Get the fuck -"

Ethan licks over Oz's open mouth. His words don't taste half as bitter as they sound. Salty and thick, blood and cum and sweat. He longs for the senses the curse must give the child; he himself must be a shimmering column of heat and need, sharply smelling of age, rot, brandy.

"Let it go," Ethan murmurs, drawing back, squeezing Oz's wrist until it creaks. "Nothing good brews beneath a stopper."

Turning his head slowly, emphatically, 'no', Oz bites his lip. The petal-pink flesh blanches under the pressure.

"Such a fine, strong animal," Ethan says, pushing his hand under the sleeve of Oz's shirt, too far until the fabric has to rip a little, palming his chest, scratching with nails until the heartbeat thrashes hummingbird-fast against his skin. "Magnificent."

His prick is hard as stone, as is the boy's, and Ethan grinds against him, dreaming of the wolf, silvered fur and gnashing teeth, on top of him, fucking him like a bitch as he bleeds and the animal howls.

Oz writhes once, face a blur of white skin and black eyes, and shoves Ethan away.

He knows how to fall, go limp as a ribbon, half-shield his eyes and laugh at the other's frustration and needless anger. He does this, and more.

"Perhaps another time?" he calls after footsteps that are louder than they need to be and the ringing of a slammed door.

There is nothing to teach him, and he is impossible to coax. For these reasons, as well as the sheer pale beauty of the boy, Ethan is drawn to him. Fascinated by the challenge. Everything, he knows, resolves out into the impossible, incompatible, incommensurable. Such is the very heart of what passes for his belief and convictions. Yet the boy is already there, has already reached that point and continues living. Which can't be, yet is.

But Oz refuses to see that, doesn't want to admit and acknowledge that. He is so determined to master what he can't control that he persists in believing there is something wrong with him, that where he is, who he is, is wrong - corrupted - reparable.

Ethan chuckles a little and eats some chocolate. Licks his fingers when it melts in his hot hand.


(A New Man Rising)

The square-jawed fascists didn't know what to do with him.

Ethan knows he's been here for months. Cannot be more sure than that.

Their confusion and indecision over his - he hesitates to think of it as fate - over his case is clear. This failure of imagination, lack of insight, Ethan can appreciate. Even transforms it into a compliment while preserving the irony of it. Not for him the showcases of freaks and geeks through which visiting dignitaries - military, industrial, venture capital - are ushered. He is just a skinny, sunken-cheeked old man whom they fear. So they ignore him.

The flattery derived from incomprehension is not enough, however, to sustain him. He cannot stand being bored.

He tries to amuse himself - sets fires with snaps of his fingers, swells the tongues of his guards until they cluck like deranged chickens, conjures pornographic wraiths for his marathon wanking sessions. He is regressing, he knows this, back to cheap frauds and parlor tricks.

He lives in a closet. He has a scratched plate of chrome, bolted to the wall, that serves as a mirror. Another plate of chrome, concave in the middle, for a basin. A narrow cot to sleep, a heavy pot over which to squat. There is hardly any light and the constantly shifting, occasionally whining, trickle of water in the walls.

Frequently the guards indulge him and play cards. Their shifts rotate often, but each one is always the same. Good boys, stout of heart, small of mind, whose secrets he can pry out as easily as he peels grime from beneath his fingernails.

Power unchallenged is no kind of power at all. Unimpeded, never met, it disperses. Spreads out too thin, reveals its transparency.

He wakes to the sound of a howl cutting through his ears, flaring through the center of his chest, and laughs. Laughs and laughs, like a loon, maniacal and delighted.

An old charm he'd nearly forgotten squirms past his vision, teases up the hair on his arms. The boy who became a wolf. Close, too, and in terrific pain.

Ethan settles back, arms folded behind his head, and listens. Enjoys the spectacle.

Closing his eyes, he feels the boy's pain wash and surge, dipping into dimness, sweeping into a blinding glare. Beneath all of that, he descries dark, sad blood, clotted and dying. He knows then that the boy is dying, losing hold, not accepting the wolf so much as rolling over belly-up for a mauling.

Beyond destruction, there is balance. Sinuous, unstable, mockable, patterns and resolutions arise from moment to moment, ant trails through sand. He would never dream nor deign to know what's best for himself, let alone anyone else, but this cowardice, the terror of a strong and wise child at the hands of torturers, is revolting.

Ethan sighs, rubs his forehead as Ripper would do at his foolishness, and murmurs a string of syllables. Enough to make him choke, enough to make him question his sanity.

He would appear to have found a new vice: virtue. He'll need to do something about that.


(Know me from a hole in the ground?)

This is America. Of course there are tourists at the crater. Declared a freak meteor hit, the crater is roped off and patrolled by Marines dressed in Park Service uniforms. People keep coming - curiosity seekers, UFO nuts, former residents, squabbling families who'd rather be in front of the television - and there is a small array of food and merchandise vendors to serve them. Nothing much - hot dogs, a few t-shirts, and pieces of rock supposedly burned by space gases.

The crowd is composed of disparate souls, resolving into faces. Ethan views humanity like a chemist, as elements to tinker with and combine. These faces are molecules; they can be stripped apart or smashed together into an infinite variety of combinations.

Oz is there, of course, visiting, paying his respects with stones, a handful of mustard seeds, and a plastic tulip.

How, why, whence he comes do not concern Ethan. They appear to each other, then vanish, and he likes the strangeness of that.

"They say no one was killed," Ethan says behind him.

Oz, down on one knee, glances over his shoulder. Unstartled and still. "Hi." He brushes off his palms. "Yeah, heard that. Doesn't mean it's not full of death."

Ethan nods and smiles. "It's a lie, you know."

Oz extends his hand and Ethan pulls him up to his feet. "Figured." Oz looks around, face intent although his eyes never settle. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

Ethan looks into the crater and takes a step closer. "So much destruction." He turns back and faces Oz. "Why? Aren't you?"

It's a lovely, lovely sight, this boy still not a man but closer than ever, who has always resisted everything Ethan considers important. He looks back at Ethan, illegible scrawls and clouds in his eyes, and nods. Barely, but a crack is a crack.

They circle the crater in silence, a stroll so long that it is dusk when they return to Oz's pathetic little shrine. Ethan would like to kick it, much as he'd like to slap the faces of solemn, restless onlookers, no doubt slavering as they imagine firestorms and screaming babies and the shuddering pain of collapsed earth.

Ethan chuckles to himself, amused as ever if a little more tired than ever, at the persistent low-grade hypocrisy of the world.

Oz cuts his eyes over to him as he settles on a nearby rock. Wipes his face of nonexistent sweat and does not stir when Ethan sits next to him. Too close, of course.

"Long trip?" he asks when Oz yawns.

"Could say that, yeah."

Oz has always been calm under touch, difficult to surprise, never melting or acquiescing easily. Ethan strokes the slim thigh, corded with muscle beneath soft denim.

"Heard from Ripper?"

Oz turns finally, looks at him as he slides his hand around the curve of Ethan's knee. His lips twist. "You have to ask?"

Oh, smart boy. Too smart, Ethan knows, for most games and dances.

"Not since your visit to the vet's surgery, I take it?" He knocks his knee against Oz's and smiles cruelly.

Dark eyes, tight brows. Oz shrugs - attempts to shrug, the tension is clear, his calm is a distant, fuzzily-remembered collection of gestures. "You were there. Don't joke about it."

"I was there, yes." Ethan leans in. "Did you sniff me out? Smell my delight?"

Oz shakes his head. Ethan feels him start to pull away and tightens his hold. The boy smiles - rapid-fire, gone in an instant - to himself and draws nearer, slips his hand higher until he's a heartbeat away from cupping Ethan's groin.

"Sorry," Oz says. "Had more important things on my mind."

"Is that so?"


"Yet I remembered you," Ethan says. Too close, mouth hovering over Oz's earlobe. Tongue darting out, touching rings and studs that pierce the flesh. "Who sent you just enough energy to walk? You'd given up, don't you remember? Curled in on yourself like a sniveling infant, mouth suckling air, whimpering for your mummy?"

Oz swallows. Ethan watches the bump in his throat dip and rise.

"Saying I owe you."

So he's still smart; that much is reassuring. "I should think so."

"Owe my friends, maybe."

"Well, you certainly thanked them, didn't you?"

Oz closes his eyes and shakes his head.

Ethan taps his fingers against the seam of Oz's jeans. "Gratitude is welcome, but certainly not required. I'd just like to be appreciated. Is that so much to ask?"

Oz whirls, grabs Ethan by the shoulders and shakes him, as if he's hysterical and needs sense knocked back into him. Ethan laughs. He expects the boy to shake him, rave and shout about everything - nothing - under the sun, about how Ethan doesn't understand, will never understand, refuses to understand. He can hear it already. Spluttery and redfaced, voice high with superiority and pity for the stupid.


Oz's fingers relax, massage Ethan's shoulders lightly, and his breath blooms slow and warm over Ethan's face. "In love with pain," he whispers. "I can show you that."

His eyes go rounder and black as his grasp on Ethan's shoulders sharpens and his face thickens, jaw dropping.

Fangs lengthen.

Ethan licks dry lips, tries to cut eye contact. He can't. Tries to drop his head - he knows all the submissive gestures, everything that Ripper to a wolf would recognize instantly - but Oz won't let him.

The half-wolf sniffs him with twitching nose and open mouth. Knows him, takes in every cowardly sinew, stubborn twist of gut, bilious hope and shining, transparent arrogance.

Ethan shivers.

Snap of jaw, he will be dinner.

Claws scratch down his chest, shred fabric, leave thin, stinging trails of blood. Ethan tips back his head, exposes his throat.

The wolf drops him. He hears his skull ring against rock, vertigo surge through his body as he struggles up onto one elbow.

Sees mercury flashing, threading away through the night. Escaping.

Leaving him.


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