Faulty Wishes
by Scy

With a few steps out his door Connor had found someone who understood his struggle with division. It was understandable that such a discovery would be his key to walking his own personal line. The boy would never be able to connect with someone who hadn't at least been propositioned by some shade of grey. Anyone who would seek to explain away the world's strangeness was an individual who couldn't see him for who he was.

Like his 'family.'

It was as if Connor's 'parents' forgot that he was there if he wasn't around. They were always so 'pleasantly surprised' by the way he turned up to fulfill a role he was tiring of.

Connor played at being human much like any creature in captivity who only pretended to be sated by small treats. As he 'awoke' from his perfectly structured life, certain elements were lost. Patience for 'meaningless routines' was one of those losses.

As a ghost of what fit into a safer life the boy slipped out of the house with increasing regularity.

Most of the time he found Oz grinning like he'd skipped school, church, and every boring family function at the same time.

Convincing Connor that it wasn't right to deceive the people who were taking care of him wasn't just difficult, but impossible. The decision had been made, and Connor wanted to do what he thought was right. Anything outside of what related to his needs either didn't exist, or didn't matter The man who had taught him to think in such absolutes had done a good job.

The boy thought that kindness was something to be ashamed of. In his mind, a monster couldn't be redeemed. He spoke of 'lines' and still looked too innocent with a bloody mouth.

Connor should have been in class, dating, doing all the things that made for fuzzy memories later on. But Oz knew that there was no way that Angel's son could hope to fit in that world. He might be able to try for awhile but since he'd figured out the wrongness of his ordinary life he wanted answers.

And it looked as though nobody had taught Connor how to rein himself in. His rebellion would be unpleasant on a whole new scale.

He didn't want to have to think about controlling a boy who was learning to push the limits of what he could do.

The first time he tossed Connor off him, more to show him that it could be done than anything else, he got an hour of the boy sitting back and staring. Probably working out how to keep that from happening again. Oz didn't mind and kept tuning his guitar.

"I want to find my parents, Oz," Connor said determinedly.

If Oz had been one to listen for ominous musical scores he would have been deafened.

Angel must have made sure that Connor's perfect life was secured against anything but a promising future, but there were always flaws in such plans, no matter how well designed. That was assuming that an evil law firm would keep a bargain without several dozen fail-safes installed just in case their expectations weren't met.

Under other circumstances, Connor would have been just a little bit more sunk into the part he was intended to play, and convincing him to back down might have been easier. Instead Oz found himself sitting on his haunches, wondering when he'd decided to let someone else take control when the consequences were sure to be bad.

He'd never thought of himself as submissive, but not being the one in charge left few other positions open.

Connor bowled over anyone who wasn't willing to knock him down more than a couple times.

Still, he worried that if Connor made him upset enough, there would be more to deal with than bruised pride.

Connor crept around him whenever Oz did his chanting. Beads and powerful words weren't things that worked for the good of anything in Connor's mind. He gave them the wide berth most people would poisonous animals. It was nearly the only time when he wouldn't get close to Oz.

Oz got that Connor had been raised twice over. Student of philosophy and war. Which sounded kind of interesting but which led to Connor breaking off a lecture on schools of thought to stare at his hands and then suggest that they go and hit things.

He hadn't said 'kill' so much as longed for it with every aborted movement.

He wanted to drag a carcass back to Connor and make the boy open it up to find out what was inside. It was still exciting for Connor to think of chasing something down and proving he knew how to wield a sharp edge.

But none of Oz's concerns could be voiced aloud. At least not directly. Connor turned away from advice, dropped his eyes, and sulked while refusing to see the point. He was the kind of willful teenager that made adults start drinking heavily and investing in a ball and chain.

Oz knew what a cage was like and didn't want Connor to have to experience that, but every so often he thought it might do some good.

He wondered how Angel had handled his son, wanted to ask, but worried that saying the magic word would open up all sorts of boxes that didn't have locks.

Since Connor's folks couldn't seem to remember why they had a room full of a teenage boy's belongings, Oz had been thinking about finding them a place to stay. Neither of them could really afford rent but space could be nice.

Connor liked the van though. Considered it more than enough when Oz carefully brought the subject up.

"It's fine, Oz. There's room for us in here." He gave Oz a knowing look. "And your bass has a place too,"

Connor had a not-secret desire to watch Oz do just about anything, pacing around as though he didn't exactly understand 'resting.' But Oz had learned a few ways to get around that. He could bring Connor to rest by his feet with the slowest plucking of melody on his guitar. At fist Connor would roll around, but as notes worked their way into song he would relax.

From one wild animal to another Oz thought it was an awfully gentle way of showing trust. There was someone else to watch who was real and didn't fit into his safe world.

Since a lot of what Connor wouldn't mind watching wasn't allowed in public, Oz suggested that he come to a gig.

The idea was received with typical adolescent indecisiveness but the answer was never in doubt.

It had taken less time to get to 'yes' than it would have a few days ago and Oz could see innocence hanging around Connor like a coat which could be shaken off when he didn't need it anymore. Connor was learning how to act his age even if he felt years older.

He couldn't think of a non-freaky way to bring up Connor's deliberate separation from the human race. Because that was what he was doing. All the observation of Oz added up to trying to figure out what he was supposed to be.

It wasn't an encouraging sign that he'd chosen an until-recently-in-denial-werewolf to teach him about how to be not-human and deal with the world.

Especially since Oz didn't mind being human, it was when he tried to ignore the wolf that he got into trouble. Parts of him were more like everyone else, and others wanted to get away from the noise long enough to hear the world without gears clacking.

Sometimes a small escape made all the difference, and then he could remember more of the good things about 'civilized people.'

It was worrisome in a way that he hadn't found the chance to bring up that Connor evaluated a crowd. Rather than simply sit back and listen to Oz and whichever band he was helping out, Connor 'kept his eyes open.'

It was like hanging around a secret agent type, if they wore corduroy and liked bologna sandwiches.

Honestly, it got kind of exhausting.

Oz had always been one to use unspoken conversation by default, but Connor's version still needed subtitles. Most of the time that Oz didn't understand what wasn't being said, his nose itched and he wanted to have fur to raise.

It was in those moments that he knew he had to understand where Connor came from. And that just dumping him in front of Angel would be a disaster.

Angel was the embodiment of every doubt and fear Connor ever had, and he wouldn't know how to deal with such a reality. While he understood that he didn't know everything, he still thought that he would be happiest knowing the truth. Telling him that not every revelation led to a blinding divine insight would be difficult without sounding like an adult advocating restraint.

So he waited for a chance, feeling like a traitor and a concerned friend at the same time.

Until Connor cared enough about his pseudo family's plans to go away to bother presenting himself. In other words, they were going out of town and he wanted funds for something.

Connor took the money and mentioned 'scouting possible dens' like he was giving Oz a treat. Sanctuary though it might be, the van wasn't really furnished or outfitted with other rooms which a couple could use when they needed space.

Oz nodded and agreed that whatever was found would be best as a surprise. Then he slipped off to get some answers.


Despite his absence, there were signs that Angel had been at work making Connor's neighborhood safe for children. Demons and vampires moved in other sleepy little suburbs but not Connor's.

How Angel had managed to give Connor a life perfect except for it being untrue was 'need to know.'

He began his search for Angel at the site of the old office. The Hyperion hotel was next, but it smelled empty of more than just residents. Still, beneath all the antiseptic absence there were traces of the building's former inhabitants.

Oz followed the trail like any good little bloodhound. It led him to a glass and metal monument to insincerity inside which moved his quarry. Aware that he was a mongrel hanging around a closed door, he knew that his search was over, but was unsure of what came next.

The infamous firm's lobby was brighter than any place with such connections should have been. Still there were corners where nothing reached in and polished the scariness 'till it shone. Some things had earned their piece of shadow.

Looking down at his clothes Oz was distantly surprised at the state of his seams. With constant wear, his favorite shirt had been thinned down to cross-laid threads. The pants weren't much better, and while on the outer reaches of a city he wouldn't have considered that important, the spaces of the building made him notice air currents and extremely efficient air conditioning.

He was aware that his fitting in would entail a prolonged trip through some of the most exclusive boutiques and a few traumatic minutes under a razor and aftershave. All the unnatural trappings of society would mean nothing to the moon so he didn't bother trying so hard anymore. But there was the matter of getting through the doors of the firm to find out what he needed to know, or get directions on where to go next.

Security regarded him with wide bovine-slow eyes as they chewed gum and rustled magazines ominously.

Don't make us get up and do our jobs, Son. Despite the apparent laziness Oz didn't think that they would hold their positions long if they didn't at least have some training in how to remove lost werewolves.

A blonde woman vampire Harmony hurried up to him in an eerily familiar pink dress and wearing a smile that he could have believed was genuinely friendly if his back wasn't already tight with nervousness.

There was a story behind all the shine and babble of 'new job, great benefits.' Hints of 'whatever it takes, the hard way, and no room for compassion. It was colder the higher one went in the elevator. Soon clouds would cover what lay on the streets below.

He smelled demons, humans closer to rot than they should have been, and death. Antiseptics and air freshener did nothing but a poor job of covering up what was going on just out of sight.

Oz could feel his back tighten with the suspicion that hung heavy in the air and seemed to be a part of the building. That it had spread to Angel and his people was disheartening.

Walking toward Angel's office was like wading through funerary bouquets and incense.

Oz knew he had to reek of second thoughts, and it was likely that Angel had been expecting him to show up. He would have liked to conduct this conversation by phone, but the chances of Angel staying put after such a call weren't worth measuring.

So he convinced himself that going through those doors was the only way to get anything he wanted and followed Harmony inside. The changes from another, less formal Angel: Investigations headquarters were immediately apparent.

Being in charge gave Angel more perks than Oz could or wanted to imagine, and the office he was shown into illustrated that in spades. All the space felt like preparation for the unmistakable lines drawn between Angel's territory and anyplace else.

Angel was seated in a chair that had been designed for authority. It being comfortable was a matter of necessity. Wolfram and Hart seemed to be all about putting an attractive coat on something less palatable.

"Harmony, you can go now," the vampire said, still facing a wall of windows.

His 'secretary' glanced at Oz, squeezed his shoulder and bounced out, shutting the door behind her.

Angel in anything related to 'business formal' was intriguingly unfamiliar. He wore it comfortably, playing at one game while announcing 'control' with his very presence. There was no doubt Angel could rule in pajamas and slippers, but Oz found the clothing to be an interesting change worth investigating.

The new position could have put ease in Angel's bearing but it hadn't. He wore a suit and Oz saw more than a wardrobe change. Angel moved like projecting concerned efficiency was a bulkhead against actual emotion. Going through life without doing more than the necessities of inhaling and exhaling was no way to be, and Angel didn't even have to breathe.

Pleasantries were far off as he tried to speak without fumbling. Words had always been something he gave out slow and studied as if they had graduated from thought with honors. Now he felt sense clash with what he wanted to say, and the only language his lips could shape was that of the wolf.

"I found Connor," he got out before speech faded like a memory of humanity.

Even that had been unnecessary. There was no doubt that Angel smelled his child on Oz. Of late the boy allowed only the barest spaces for breathing. Making an effort to hide his meetings with Connor would have only been taken the wrong way so he hadn't bothered. Someone else might have tried to explain 'why' he'd been unable to stay away from Connor once he realized just who the boy was. Oz knew that explanations wouldn't do any good.

He'd been known for holding back his emotions in all but the most stressful of situations. Being aware that he wasn't the only one liable to lose control in a bloody way helped keep things in perspective. Usually, speaking the same language led to a greater degree of understanding. But Oz wasn't sure he wanted to know what Angel would do in return for Oz's revelation.

Oz had thought of Angel in terms of danger before, but being faced with it without a rocket launcher or a barrier and knowing that there was a soul pulling the demon back with a grip that slipped was a new thing.

For a second Angel's face moved like a wave and a demon rolled its head, before sinking back. There was quicksand, not carpet under his feet and he that he was going down was a slow certainty.

It dawned on him, slow as sunrise, that he was talking to Connor's father and this was nothing like getting Angel's permission.

He'd sought Angel out not knowing exactly what he wanted. At more of a loss than he could afford, he felt exposed walking on two legs.

The vampire hadn't said anything and waiting was worse than consequences. Angel's silence gave Oz new insight into the gripes people had about words being more than flowery embellishments on body language. Angel raised silence out of the grave and cooled the world.

The wolf's hackles had gone up when the demon slid out, and even though it wasn't visible, Oz smelled sulfur and cemeteries. There hadn't been such an awareness of it before he spoke, and Oz thought it had to do with there being something they both wanted. The question was 'why', and what were they willing to do to get it.

No need to pretend that this wasn't two predators sizing one another up. He didn't let himself wonder if Willow had ever felt like so much meat.


A half-empty glass sat on the desk near a pale hand and Angel had to know that Oz smelled the blood poured like wine or bribery and heard his stomach growl. Letting the sound go unmentioned was either courtesy or unconcern for rituals of the living. The others might want to continue pretending that Angel was harmless, like them, but Oz knew an odd puzzle piece when he saw one. Even vampires in suits drank warm blood.

It was very clear just how much Angel chose not to say. Whether in the name of comfort, or so that he didn't have to deal with mortal denial and excuses. Angel was good at presenting a face that was, for all intents and purposes 'safe.'

Nobody wanted to make the distinction blurrier than 'Angel and Angelus.' A difference of two letters and some unpleasant habits, and how easily those could be adopted for undercover work made inquiring minds think twice about prying.

And a good question was- how tiresome did it get to play at being 'tame' all the time? Sooner or later an act had to pack up and clear the stage. Not because the audience disliked what they were seeing, but because it wasn't getting the turnout it once had. The most faithful patrons could recite lines without prompting and didn't always look closely enough to see that something was missing.

Oz wasn't sure what it meant that he was apparently counted as someone who could take the hard questions and random observations that were woven into a conversation like amber thread. Demon testing the waters, stroking an as yet-below-the-skin pelt.

He didn't know exactly what he wanted from Angel, and that uncertainty put him in a shaky space of 'not quite a threat'.

Angel said, soft as a judge "spill it." Everything about the vampire whispered that Oz should keep small-obedient.

All the pertinent questions 'why did you do it,' how, and most importantly, 'what did you do, were left by the wayside for the time being.

Oz found himself remembering things he'd forgotten he'd seen. That Angel's eyes were darkness waiting to be filled for a little while did wonders for memory. Nothing but show your throat and roll over in the absolute control Angel demonstrated. His best chance of getting out, fur intact, was in telling all, not leaving out a single half-buried fantasy getaway. Anything to keep the teeth hidden.

"I sort of tracked him down."

He was fleetingly grateful that it was still daylight. Angel might have impressive senses, but before the sun set he felt just a little less soft. Less like a beast to be released from a pen and then hunted down for sport. In this office they were acting like it wasn't possible. As though he didn't want to let his spine twist and arch without the moon's directives.

When Oz described how Connor moved, his love of music, personal space, belonging, the vampire might have flinched.

Angel's voice was an abrupt intrusion on reminiscence. "Does he like his family?"

"He did, now he knows that they aren't related to him." Oz tried to phrase his next observations carefully. "He knows that he isn't human and thinks about them as something to study."

That definitely got a reaction, Angel looked away from him.

"Is he unhappy?"

"He'd like to know where he came from."

"That wasn't my question, Oz."

"You would know this if you saw him." Pushing like he didn't know exactly how far Angel wouldn't allow this to go.

"Not possible."

Angel didn't have to ask Oz's feelings about Connor, the air was choked with emotion. Where his ended and Angel's began was a muddle of desire and wariness too dense for even the senses of a lycanthrope. The only reason Oz hadn't been tossed out a window was that ever-present guilt that was like an open wound bleeding all the time under Angel's skin.

That injury kept him standing and made Angel look at him as though he was searching for that one piece of information that would tip the scales toward 'what to do.' If he felt like it, Angel could grab Oz and drop him into some pit where troublesome monsters were kept. The building likely had as many passages and chambers as termite infested timber.

His actions had brought them to this standoff. He had found Connor. There was no one left to do the same for Angel. Anyone he hadn't pushed away had their own mission and duty always took precedence.

The last time they saw each other Oz watched Angel smile upwards against the glare of an afternoon's sun. Now the vampire stood still, as if warmth and daylight were unimportant while suits and large desks reminded him of what a solitary position he had to maintain.

While it wasn't a stretch from 'top of the pile' to 'nobody around' he hadn't felt it until he let himself.

He didn't know how to breach the barriers Angel had put up, didn't know if the ensuing fallout would be worth whatever was uncovered. The words were there, bloody shroud of secrets pulled back to expose good intentions and their consequences. Trying to get close to Angel was like standing in the dark and knowing there were hungry things waiting to be fed.

Basic warmth had never been considered as though it were something other than 'part of the deal.' How anyone without a pulse might seek it out. And what it felt like to know cold like a friend.

Shaking off the weakness that he didn't want to call compassion Oz deliberately met Angel's eyes.

"I didn't come here to lecture you." Or tell you how to raise your son.

"Then why did you?"

He saw the flickering of possibilities like sunspots when he blinked. It was possible to ask for almost anything, but nowhere did he smell 'mercy.' Unapologetic control and walking death filled his mouth.

The scent of the undead was like summer baked hills just past sunset and iron shavings with individual variations thereof. Inhaling that under the brightness of afternoon wasn't something easily forgotten. Oz remembered sunlight on pale skin that wouldn't burn.

"I came for answers. To find out who he was, what he is." He wondered at what point had the entire situation started feeling unavoidably epic. Saying 'it's so much more than curiosity' was only trite when he wasn't the one trying get the words out.

"He's my son," Angel said, as if that was the only important truth Oz needed to know.

Oz knew otherwise, and needed more than an outline of who Connor was.

Asking a father what was wrong with his child couldn't get anything but a violently defensive reaction. Oz knew that, and he was also aware that he would probably come out the worse for asking. But he had to.

The past was always more powerful than anyone gave memory credit for. Truth might be tucked away with his memories of his first kill or something likewise bloody.

While there was a possibility that the truth would surface on its own timetable, he didn't like the direction things were taking. Down an uncertain path he sensed there were scores of small disasters waiting like rotten boards for a careless step.

"I need to know what he is. Connor needs to know."

Out of everyone, Angel had to know the risks of stumbling around without direction or clue, yet the vampire didn't respond.

"The child of a vampire has to be pretty special."

There were probably a lot of things out there that would like to use him as a magical prop.

"Who's to say that there aren't a bunch of guys out hunting for him right now?"

"Nobody else knows about him, Oz."

"I tracked him down."

Proving a point and bringing such details back to the spotlight seemed disproportionate in importance.

"Yeah, you did." Angel's mouth moved into what was no kind of smile. "That could be taken care of." Not a threat, more like he was running through a mental list of appropriate departments for such things.

If he walked out without a truce, Angel would have him followed, bring Oz and Connor brought in and get someone to fix everything.

The possibility yawned beneath him that nothing had as yet swept him up because Angel knew Connor was beyond any help he could give.

Guessing at motive and coming up with a losing hand made Oz feel as though he was fumbling around without an idea of what was the best tactic for the situation.

Although he'd more or less paid attention to those authority figures who had some amount of control over his life, pleading had never been necessary.

Many not exactly upstanding citizens had probably been in a position much like this one. Dealing with pleas and offers of bribery had to be part of the job for Angel. By now he could listen to the most passionate defense and press a 'too late' button without hesitation.

The unsure words of a young werewolf might be beneath his notice.

"Angel, I can help Connor. He trusts me. Wouldn't it be better to find out this stuff from someone without an agenda?"

Oz had only ever seen Angel hurt physically. Somehow emotional pain was worse, he could smell the suffering but there was no blood to be seen.

"There aren't pictures or records."

"Of his mother?"

A smile by someone's estimation. "She wasn't one to sit for photographers."

The options were a list too short for a real guess. Buffy's being a candidate was even more improbable than the idea of a vampire having a mortal son.

It came down to if he wanted Connor, all that his company would cost, badly enough to give Angel someplace to bite.

"Look, I'm not trying to take your son from you, Angel. I just want to help him."

The wildly romantic and admittedly illogical notion of gathering Connor up like some 'precious bundle' and simply leaving never mind imminent consequences lingered amongst more sensible courses of action.

Such attempts to strike out despite all odds looked good onscreen but inevitably ended with a painful confrontation and fatalities in the end.

Someone like Xander would understand. He'd likely be willing to tell Oz with soft words that rolled forcefully off his tongue, exactly why it was alright to take from a vampire.

'Get some back for the humans and the furry. Show them they can't have everything.'

Xander would probably help him sneak Connor off and tell the stories of heroes whose mistakes were never bloodbaths. But Xander was the easy excuse. To fall back on the bias of someone who'd never liked his rival didn't fit with trying to show that he could be trusted to be a refuge.

He wasn't even sure why it was so important for Connor to be taken care of, specially by a reluctant werewolf. There was a pull to Connor, a feeling that could be uncomfortable but was necessary as well. Kind of like when the wolf pulled through his skin.

Time wasn't going to give him the inspiration to explain how he was going to make Connor understand what being different meant. How he was supposed to keep the boy from striking out just to get a reaction. But he was needed.

"Give me enough to help him. If things go bad, you know where he is. There could be swooping and heroics. He doesn't have to know who you are."

Angel didn't lean further back into his space so much as he pulled it around him. Like he would be wearing a cloak if this was some old horror movie.

As it was, Oz could feel all sorts of easily recognizable clichés that meant he should have maybe packed a stake. Getting to one of the knives glinting on the wall would take more speed than he could muster, and the fact that he was considering the move made him more nervous than being relatively unarmed.

The steps Angel took forward were more like silent blows than footfalls. Angel moved around him in ever-decreasing circles. Evaluating the truth of his words, how much he wanted to help.

Angel tasted the air by Oz's ear. Trembling must have been interpreted as an honest reaction which merited another sampling.

Having a vampire so close elicited a growl only let loose in a fight where nothing mattered but broadcasting competence.

There were evaluations for school performance, and then there were 'are you worthy of associating with a particularly special person' tests of character. A point was being made about how thorough a parent could be. And a vampire was even more so. It was all about being given the chance to screw up.

Oz couldn't imagine this version of Angel letting anyone inside his space. Not to see how he did or didn't deal with stuff, not for any reason.

The vampire's pallor only highlighted the difference between life and death. Carrying such a chill prevented anyone from getting close enough to see the mask cracking.

If Angel didn't was unwilling to say 'go ahead,' the way he nodded said it all. Suspicion, worry, and the determination to never be very far away were all clear.

No need to promise to keep him updated, it would be seen to.

"See you around," Oz said, as though his pulse wasn't pounding in time with a chorus of almost out and home free.

As Angel watched him leave/escape, purposefully not-moving, he got why the undead were so very unlike the rest of the population. They could choose to tear something open on the spot, or just wait for the right moment to drink them down.

Oz hoped his instincts would keep him from being an obstacle or an entree.


Oz parked the van near the waterfront knowing that being stationary was the signal for 'rendezvous.'

If Connor enjoyed one thing more than pulling further from his 'made to order' life it was finishing a successful chase. He dropped to the ground beside Oz grinning like he'd solved a puzzle.

His clothes had been dirtied to broadcast youthful distaste for rules were normal enough. Plenty of kids tried to layer themselves in the most popular rebellions. But even that wasn't entirely true for Connor. With his hair hanging long down to his collar it was evident that he wasn't trying to fit the image of 'trendy.'

'Connor-the-good-almost-normal-boy' was just something to be put on so that he could get through certain doors. Nobody would move aside for him on the streets, but his father's son would have much less trouble. There were two ways of going through life and Connor was experimenting with those available to him. The confidence was did not bring peace of mind. Despite Connor's efforts to act as though he'd been everywhere twice, Oz couldn't forget how much he hadn't seen.

He could imagine Connor being pleased to shed everything related to responsibility and a boring controlled life. Not only that, but he liked the idea of going up against overwhelming odds. To pound on a wall and bloody his hands was meaningful because the right intention was behind his fists.

"Hey, Oz."

One of the nice things about Connor was the fact that he wasn't one for lengthy explanations. His imagination would add a level of intrigue and detail that reality couldn't aspire to.

"Found what you were looking for?"

"Sort of."

Of course, when aroused, youthful curiosity came with its own problems.

Connor shook his head like he'd caught a smell that was just beyond recognition.

"Is something the matter?" Poking at a locked and ominously rattling box wasn't very bright but he wanted to see exactly how memory twisted back on itself.

Oz found his attention caught by more than the hand that settled-clamped over his wrist.

Connor didn't have many scars but those visible were still more than could be explained by organized sports. Unless there were swords involved. He could see flecks of white on the backs of Connor's hands. Scars like sharp snowfall that were only obvious when one searched them out.

The boy didn't come out and say anything was wrong, exactly. What he did say was enough.

"You smell like a funeral." His tone was puzzled, just a bit more troubled than if Oz had gone to a concert without him.

"I wasn't hunting." Not the way Connor liked to.

Connor grinned. "No, you don't do that, and not well."

"I'm not that bad. Werewolf, you know." Some need to defend his species and tendencies.

"Yeah, but you might as well be against eating meat altogether."

The teasing was almost sweet. One had to let the subject fuzz out and enjoy the feel of familiar jibes.

"Says the kid who left candy wrappers all over the van. Any more and you could have made a nest."

"I was hungry." Connor squinted as if he were looking into intense light. "You've got to remember what that's like."

Mentioning that Oz saw starvation in Connor's handling of food would spoil the mood.

"It wasn't that long ago that I was your age."


That called for a not-so-human rumble and pouncing.

It wasn't surprising that Connor let himself be pinned for less than a breath. Oz might be the older, more experienced one, but he would have to work for dominance. Connor wasn't one to allow anyone to press him down for too long. With each passing hour, more of what he had been fitted with the present and he walked more assuredly.

On top for the time being, Oz rested his head on the boy's chest. The heat coming from Connor's body was a warmth like midday in August and Oz remembered how even as a kid it was hard to know when the sun was going to stop heating and burn. He'd never been the best judge of when it was time to get inside.

Connor moved in to press their mouths together, his tongue a testing swipe of wetness across closed lips. Only in his eyes was there any indication that Connor was unsure of Oz's reaction. He pressed upwards like he had to get a fix, but knew that need could break most people. Luckily Oz was neither human nor easily shattered.

The edge of near-panic and determination rising from Connor were better than cologne. Oz dropped his head to the base of Connor's neck and breathed. He waited until Connor felt stable enough that he wouldn't change his mind and buck Oz off before running away to pummel something.

Once sure of himself, Connor proved that whatever else he'd been taught growing up, he knew how to pursue what he wanted.

Whether Connor desired the abnormal or someone who saw his own strangeness seemed unimportant. The determination to get inside and be held there was never absent from his manner.

"I've seen movies. About you know, werewolves and stuff. But I never thought they were all that scary."

Again, that sense of recognition for what was real, even if it happened to be those elements of the world that were completely beyond most people.

"It's not like they can get advice for that," Oz pointed out.

"No, I guess not."

Connor peered at Oz's hands. "Does it hurt having claws?"

"When I change, yeah."

"It breaks the skin?"

"Reshapes it."

"I'd like to see that," Connor said, and licked Oz's fingertips as though he thought he could coax claws out with attention. Oz shivered and admitted that such straightforward strategies were more effective than he would have expected. Connor couldn't imagine having his own demon, and that was part of the reason he hadn't yet 'wolfed out' in front of Connor. Somehow it seemed more intimate than nudity.

For all the small clues that fit together into an idea of Connor's lineage, there was no real way to trace possible recessive or dominant traits.

He didn't know how much a part of the undead Connor truly was. It seemed that he aged normally enough, but Oz didn't know if he would reach a certain age and simply stop. Whatever gave him strength beyond that of an ordinary young man also had to have changed him deeper inside.

Connor claimed he was 'free of the past,' yet he continued to discount the fact that what he had been was ever more apparent.

"C'mon Oz, you don't have to change with the moon, and I want to see."

Over Connor's shoulder the moon squatted in the sky, its ripe look no closer to comforting than the hunger the boy didn't think to conceal. He wanted, and showing others how much was no problem. Much like the wild brunette that had threatened Willow.

'Give before it hurts, or wait, it's all the same' was almost past Connor's lips, and Oz heard the words in another's voice.

The temptation to grind assumptions and foolish bravado into fur until the boy gasped was at the forefront of his mind. It was not his style to be angry at a loved one. A threat called for aggression, but not usually inquiry.

In Connor's case, it was the unrelenting greed to take Oz in all ways. Even if he didn't drink blood, Connor had the instincts of a vampire.

Lupine wisdom advised several ways of handling Connor's pushiness. Almost all called for showing teeth.

Pushing past boyish demands and the experience in his bones, Oz shifted only enough for eyes and fur to change. Bone popped and reformed until he looked like something out of a 'safe for kinds and teen thrill seekers' special.

The changes only prompted Connor to continue familiarizing himself with Oz's different forms. Like a kid at the zoo who saw the bars as something to hang onto but not take notice of as a warning.

Frustration rasped in his throat and Connor frowned.

"I know what I'm doing Oz, I'm not stupid."

"Never said you were."

"No, but you might as well have."

There was no way to tell Connor that he knew and hid the truth for good reasons without sounding condescending. As though he thought that the boy wasn't good enough to be told what was really going on. In some ways it was protection, because Connor was still a kid, even though he was figuring it out and slowly shattering the present with the unfinished picture of what his life had been like before.

Connor shoved Oz off and rolled onto his knees.

"I killed a vampire last night."

The words dropped like boulders on what Oz mentally imagined was a small fluffy bunny. Why happiness was a rabbit he didn't know. It could have had something to do with hunger. He needed to go hunting more often.


Connor bounced in place like he wanted to take off and run until it hurt. Knowing him, he'd probably been endurance trained in just that way.

"It was too easy."

There was no denying that strength didn't frighten him. He was drawn to it, wanted to know it. The idea of something that could pin a werewolf or be enough of a challenge that he would have to work to beat it was interesting.

"You've staked a lot of vampires, right Oz?"

Often a look was more eloquent than a speech.

"Alright, so if you're used to this, then why do they scare you?"

"Most people would be scared by a monster, especially one that wants to drink their blood."

Oz always managed to sound logical when another might have said 'you moron.'

"But you're not. A person. And it's not as though you couldn't one on." He stared.

"Haven't you ever.."

"Fought with a vampire?" Oz finished for him. "No. The closest I ever came was facing off with one."

"What was it like?"

The chunk of boots on pavement. How his eyes slowly took in the creature growling a threat-challenge.

While it was the first time he'd ever seen a vampire with the eyes that a full moon gave him, he recognized danger.

"I knew that the vampire was something to avoid. Even for a werewolf."

"You should've attacked." Connor's answer to every situation.

"Right, on the night of my first full moon, I attack a vampire over a dead girl. I don't think I even knew what I was confronting, just that it was bad. How would I have defended myself?

"But you could handle one now."

Oh great, visions of them teaming up against the undead were filling Connor's vision. Such fantasies were only another mark on his mental list of what he had gotten into. There hadn't been a master plan to be the keeper of an inhuman teenager . And Connor wouldn't understand or admit why he kept trying to get Oz into the role.

'Be in charge, but only so long as I can challenge you. But not right now.' It didn't work when the 'dominant' didn't always see the need to be on top. Like now, he should spoil Connor's illusions about what they could do together, and he should explain that boredom was even more dangerous than a monster.

He settled on acknowledging that his chances were better now than they had been.

Connor frowned.

"But, what did you know? And how?"

You got something out of the experience, share it.

Recognition. They might walk in different shadows, but both were most suited for 'after-dark.'

"It's not easy to explain, Connor. I mean, vampires are usually just out of the ground, and the only thing to do with them is stake them."

He added, more softly, "Hopefully you don't know who they were before."

"Nobody I know has been vamped. But then, I don't know anybody real besides you."

"Could you become a vampire?"

"I don't know what would happen."

"Demons and werewolves don't mix?"

"Not usually." There were always exceptions.

"So your kind is meant to hunt vampires, too." He seemed to arrive at such a conclusion with the same gusto that one would exhibit upon winning a prize.

As the object of Connor's attention, Oz felt as though his good and bad habits were being tallied for a grand total.

"It's not a Calling, Connor. This isn't some destined path."

"It's what I feel like doing."

"Then that makes it a choice. I've met people who were born to do something, no matter if they wanted to or not. You're different." And not necessarily in a positive way.

Connor bit down on his lip and plainly expected to draw blood. He had the emerging instincts of a vampire, with no one to give him the final word on what conclusion he should leap to.

The boy had father issues and no one to inflict them on. Oz didn't want to assume the role by way of being available.

He wanted to explain without wondering if Connor understood.

"I had a-" Friend? Angel was someone he could have been closer to if either of them had taken the time.

"You had something?" Connor's confusion was almost a given, and it made a headache start to gather.

Oz shut his eyes against the ache.

"Someone, and I didn't have him so much as we knew each other."

Jealousy rose in the air like steam.

"How well?"

"We were dating girls who were best friends. We got to know each other a little that way."

He'd gotten a feel for the way the Slayer and her vampire shut everyone out with exclusive emotion. They had a world just big enough for the two of them, and nothing but a crisis could motivate them to think about separating. Even then it was only long enough to solve the problem.

Of course Angel had lost his soul almost immediately after Oz had the visual of 'true love.' After that, Angel wasn't the subject of anything but pained discussion and defensive planning.

"Where is he now?"


A snarl twisted Connor's mouth.

"He's here. In this city."

"So what if he is? Are you going to hunt him down because we were acquaintances?"


Petulance of not being so very special. "He does deserve it. He's a vampire."

"Look, Connor, you can't fight him."

"Why not?"

"Because he's not going to come after me or you, without good reason."

"He could track us down whenever he wants to? And that's okay?"

"You track me all the time."

"It's not the same."

Of course not. "Why is it different?"

Connor fumbled as he tried to verbalize what was probably only simple in his mind.


Friends was a bit broad, and most other possibilities were too limiting.

Connor settled on what he was sure of. "We know each other. I'm not following you because I'm some kind of werewolf hunter."

No, Connor followed him because certain personality traits evidently were passed down from father to son.

"He hasn't tried to hurt me, Connor." Not that the threat hadn't been present; it had just faded into something less immediate.

"That doesn't mean he won't." Connor leaned forward as though about to impart sudden insight. "It could be a ruse."

"A ruse?"

"You know, keep his distance, act harmless, make you let down your guard and before you knew it, you'd be stuffed and mounted on some trophy wall."

"I've heard that some consider werewolf meat to be a delicacy," Oz mused.

"This isn't funny."

"I'm not laughing."

"But you're not taking it seriously."

"This isn't something that you have to take care of for me."

If they were still 'an item' a ways down the road, then Oz hoped that he had purged Connor of the need to protect Oz from everything.

"Just let it be, Connor, for now. We'll talk about this later."

The boy ducked his head, and the grunt wasn't as good as understanding, but it would have to be enough for the moment.

As they moved in the subtle rhythms of sleep, Oz knew that such small peace wouldn't last.


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