Instruments Of Tin

My hands are numb.

You're dying.

My heart feels weird. Like it's beating against my ribs, trying to get out. To fly.


My breathing is...not. Not. Not not not not not. Just not.

Without oxygen, the brain will die. You'll die.

I've won.

You stupid little shit.

I've won.

Never win. Not you. You've lost.


They'll save you.


They love you.



No. Never again.

Breathe. Listen. Feel. They're here. For you. For love. I win.

I won't let you.

Too late. Just way, way too late. I'll take them all.

Won't let you.

You're dead.

I'll live.

Too late. I win.



I can feel the I.V. drip attached to my arm. I can hear the low murmur of voices, quickly hushed, near my bed. Familiar voices. I open my eyes and try to focus. "Willow?"

"Oz, you're awake!"

I wince as her voice cuts through the fogginess still in my head. I blink as she moves into view. Too bright. She hurts my eyes. I turn my head.

"We were worried."

I'm sure. "Where..."

"The hospital, Oz. You tried to--" She cuts herself off.

"Die." I whisper it.

Willow nods.

"Well." It's all I can think of to say. "Why...huh. Weird."

She looks back over her shoulder and her eyes narrow. Then she smiles, sweetly, as if the eyes weren't shrieking extreme...distaste.

Devon moves into my line of sight, kneeling by the bed. He ignores her. "Oz, man, you..." He trails off. Looks at me. "You're okay now."

I nod. Yes. Okay now. I try to smile for him. "Dude, you look like hell."

"You'll make it up to me." He's smiling, almost.


A real smile then. He touches my hair. "You'll be okay." He believes it. Weird.

"I will." A promise. For him. 'Cause he deserves one. He needs one.

"Good. Dude, your nurse is scary. Watch out for her, 'kay? She'll kick your ass if you don't do what she says."

I laugh, wince, because it hurts. "Tired."

Devon nods again and stands up. Willow moves back into view. "Oz, do you want us to stay?"

"No. G'way."

She looks hurt for a second. Then Xander's taking her hand and leading her away. I watch them go. Buffy touches my cheek. "She--we all were worried about you."


Buffy blinks at me. "Um...okay."

"Let him rest," says Giles then, calm and assured. There's something I have to tell him. Only I can't remember. Anything.

It's dark now, sucking me down. Don't want to go. Too tired not to. Have to tell


Giles something. Have to.


I close my eyes.


--In the pale light of the moon, I play the game of you.--

What is my name?


Liar. My name


Oz. I'm Oz.

No. You have no name. You rejected your name.

I am Oz. I choose to be. Me.

You are dead. You have no name.

My name is Oz.

You are--

I am. Me. Ever and always. Oz.

I am...


Yes. They love us. Both of us.

They love you. Who they think I am. Not me.

I am you. They love me. They love us.

I don't want them to.

You can't choose. You're an idiot to think you had a choice, ever.

I do have a choice.


Yes. My choice. My life. My name.

Names are not important.

They are.

You'll lose.

I won't. I have to win.

Fool. You've already lost.



No. I won't lose. I can't.

You stupid little shit.


It's morning. I can feel the warmth of the sun against my face. It...hurts. I mumble an obscenity and turn my face, burying it in the pillow. Too bright.

Devon touches my back and I struggle not to respond. He's worried. He hovers, protectively, and watches me. I don't like it; he watches me, always, like I'm something strange and new and monstrous.

His hand moves lower, pauses in the small of my back, then strokes its way back up. He touches my neck, my hair, and I can feel the wanting in him. The wanting and the fear and I laugh to myself to hear it. He doesn't know. None of them know.

They will.

Yes, they will. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Don't hurt him. Any of them.

I turn onto my side and look up at Devon. I smile. He smiles back and lowers his head to mine, mouth moving with skill

don't hurt him

Never. But I will take my pleasure, as you took yours.

over mine. I kiss him back, reaching up to tangle my fingers in the mess of his hair. I tug, not gently, and he gasps.

"Oz man, you're--"

I cover his mouth with my hand and shake my head. "Quiet, Dev. Lie back and enjoy it."



I push him over, onto his back, until I can straddle his legs. I smile again. This...this is mine. I lean over, mouth fastened to his neck, licking the pulse. He groans, and his hips move, hard, under me.

Oh yes. This is mine.


I do not hear you. Devon makes enough noise to drown out an army of ghosts, and you, love, are somewhat less than an army.

He arches, again, and I touch his stomach lightly, soothing him. I sit up again, and kiss him, lightly. There is no need for force in what I want. Devon sighs, quietly, into my mouth and I cannot resist the urge to take just a bit more.

Just a bit. No harm done.

Devon's body relaxes under mine. I know I should stop, but it has been a while and I am so very hungry.


He's so


full of life. He won't miss a few years.

We are not doing this. We are so not fucking doing this.

Devon pushes me away, and looks up at me, confused. I try to smile past the pleasure, and it is pleasure, and I think I fail.

He opens his mouth and, too late, I move to stop him from speaking.


I want to scream, to drown out the sound of his voice, to keep him from calling

Third time's the charm.

you. Damn you. There is a rush of noise - the harsh, distorted wail of music mixed with the cry of your wolf - and I know nothing else.


I am alone when I wake up. I shiver, feeling the coolness of the sheets against my back as I roll over to stare at the ceiling.

This is the first morning in a long while that I've woken up by myself. Devon is usually beside me, body pressed all along mine. But today, I am alone, and that relieves me.

I slide out of bed, checking to make sure that I'm dressed. I glance at my watch, looking for the date. I don't remember. Sometimes. I go to sleep, and when I wake up it is a day, a week, a forever later. The loss of time is scary. I've always known where I am, when I am. Now...I don't know anything at all.

You never did.

Shut up.

Touched a nerve, huh?

Not listening to you.

You should. Really, you should. I know things that

Shut. Up.

would interest you. Like last night. Aren't you at all curious as to what happened last night? Don't you want to know why I'm letting you have control?



Fine. Yes. Tell me.

Close your eyes...

I do. I can't help it. I close my eyes and see, big as life, Devon in bed. His bed, not my own. No. This is not happening.

Keep watching.

There is a girl on top of him, her hands pressed against his chest as she moves slowly and he moans and I know that sound, too well. I open my eyes.

It was just getting good.

I don't answer. I'm on my knees, somehow, and I'm lightheaded.

Breathe, twit.

This is not happening.

Oh, but it is, and it's great. It's just like last time.

Shut up. I don't

Last time, which you don't remember, because you're scared.

want to hear this. Please.





You're angry. Good.

I stand up, shaking, and doing my best to ignore the laughter in the back of my head. I walk, very slowly, very carefully to my door and open it. I shouldn't go to his room. Shouldn't check. Shouldn't believe.

He never promised you anything.

I know. I open the door to his room; it squeaks a little if you're not careful, so I move slowly.

Devon is lying on his stomach, but I barely see him. I stare at the girl next to him instead. She's pretty

They always are.

and I tilt my head, studying the lines and curves of her body. Devon's hand is on her stomach, fingers curled slightly, and she sighs, turning her head a little.

I step back, still quiet, and shut the door. It squeaks and I can't bring myself to care.

I told you so.

No one likes a smug little voice.

I'm so much more than a little voice.

Whatever. I lift one shoulder in a sort of half-shrug and walk -- I'm calm, after all, and there's no real reason to hurry -- into the bathroom.

Look at yourself.

No. I won't. I turn the shower on, letting the water run until it's as hot as I want, need it to be. I'm cold, all of a sudden. The bathroom is pretty small, and it fills with steam quickly. It's harder to breathe when it's like this, and again, I just don't care.

You stupid little shit.

I step into the shower, and for a moment, there is the feeling of absolute heat, and it feels fucking good, and I just want to stay here forever. I wash my hair quickly -- Herbal Essences, the orange kind -- and shave. This is good, I don't have to think to do any of this.

I shut the water off and stand, hands braced against the wall as I try to breathe through the thickness of the air. There is a tightness in my chest and in my throat. I am calm. I am in control.

Like hell.

I am in control. I shove back the shower curtain and grab a towel, drying myself as I climb over the edge of the bathtub.

Look at yourself.

The mirror is all steamed up, and I wipe it with the edge of my towel. I know what I'll see.

Hah. Would I tell you to look at yourself if you knew what you were going to see? No. What fun would that be?

I stare at myself in the mirror, and I want to laugh. "Mirror, mirror on the wall..."

The reflection changes, clouding over, and I shove down the urge to run. I am in control.


I watch; the image is cloudy and it could be a figment of my imagination. There is...there are people. Male. Familiar. No.

Oh, yeah.

I don't


want to see this. I watch. A girl, then. The drip of the water from the showerhead is loud. She touches him, and I shudder. I know this image. It hurts.


Devon, 'cause it is, kisses her. I want to laugh again. Porno tongue, not church tongue. I'm on my knees again, breathing deep, and the tile is cold and hard against my hands as I huddle and try very hard not to remember what comes after.

I found you, then. So angry. So very, very hurt and sad, and alone.

No. Please don't tell me I...

You wanted to hurt him. Because he hurt you. Because she hurt you.

Oh God. Please no. I stand up, hands pressed against my eyes. I try to open the door, but I can't. My body is not, entirely, my own. And oh fuck, I don't want this. Don't want to know.

You were so easy. So incredibly easy to touch, to slip inside, to whisper. I touched you, like this

I can feel the touch, non-existent as it is, along my jaw and I shiver.

and you danced with me, and

no more

you came with me. Small room, dark. You came willingly, gave yourself over. Willingly.

This is a nightmare.

Reality often is, don't you think? So very angry, at everyone, and so open to me. Best sex I've had in a while.

Oh fuck.

Some things are true no matter what. It's funny. But you were very, very bad. Betrayed your own bizarre sense of honor and well, I'd've been stupid not to take advantage.

You're not human.

Bright boy.

You're not me.

I will be.


- For the world, which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new, hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain... --

Look. You need to see.

My hands drop to my sides and I look at the mirror. I do need to see. I need to remember.

Yes. Oh yes.

I watch. I watch it all. The sex, and the kiss.

The kiss. Breath of life.


Life for me. Death for you.

Whatever. I tilt my head. I feel distant now, detached from myself.

Oh good.

I watch. I remember. It hurt, afterwards. Sharp and burning along my spine, filling my chest, my lungs until I couldn't breathe.

You didn't scream. Most people do.

It hurt.

Well, aren't you just butch as hell? I enjoyed it.

Not really surprised by that. Why me?

I told you. Loss of honor. Traditional little gateway for me. And you hurt so well.

Oh. I gasp and shudder at the feel of hands on my skin. Hands that aren't there. Oh hell. well...

The pain in my hands brings me back to myself. The mirror is broken, cracked so that I can see myself in a million glittering pieces of silvered glass.

You stupid little shit.

I hit the mirror again. My hands are cut and bleeding. There's a shadow just behind me, not mine, and it's solid and real and absolutely not there when I turn.

Not that easy. Feel, baby. Just feel.

I turn again, and the shadow is there, in the reflection, and I hit the mirror. Glass breaks with an almost musical sound on the tile. Real ceramic tile. It's cold now, and there are bits of glass everywhere.


Again. Blood on the glass. Myself, broken into tiny little pieces. It hurts...I think. I can't


feel my hands anymore, and someone is pounding on the bathroom door, and I fall.

Yes, fall. Give over.

I fall.


I stare at my hands. They're wrapped in white bandages, and I look, rather disturbingly, like those half-assed mummies in movies. I should laugh. This is, after all, my moment of triumph. I've won.

Nothing. Not even the faintest little whisper of sound. I smile. No, I laugh.

I've won.

Devon stares at me for a moment. "Oz man...there's something seriously fucked up about all this. Since the thing, you've been all weird and stuff."

"I've been going through some...changes."


"Yeah." I try not to be annoyed. "Changes."

"Changes that make you..." He trails off, frustrated. "Dude. Almost full moon tonight."

I blink. What? Oh. Right. Well, fuck.

"Giles called while you were asleep. Said he expects you to be there early to run some tests."

"Tests?" I don't remember anything about any tests.

Devon shrugs. "Fucked if I know. Just said you had called before and that tonight was ideal 'cause the skanky whore wasn't going to be there. Only he said it with more words than that. And like, nicer, 'cause he's got this weird thing for her."

"Oh." The response seems to satisfy him, because he returns to eating his cereal. It's been two weeks since the incident in the bathroom, and Devon doesn't suspect anything. He's losing weight though, and he looks tired. I'll have to do something about that. Take less, or just kill him. It doesn't matter.

I spread cream cheese across the nice, toasted surface of my bagel. I smile. Life is good.


"Ah, Oz. You're here." Giles looks up from the book he's reading as I walk into the factory.

"Ready, willing, and able." I spread my arms. "What tests are we going to be doing?"

"Er. Well, you had said you'd been having nightmares recently, so I thought we'd look at those."

I look at him very seriously. "Do you have a degree?"

The look he gives me is odd. Not entirely friendly, and I can't think of why that would be. "Several."

"Right." I run fingers through my hair; it's kind of fun to play with. Lots of things are fun to play with now. "So, what tests?"

Giles doesn't smile. Quite.

There is a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. There is a burning behind my eyes. And low, very low, in the back of my throat, I can feel a growl rise.

"Are you all right?" he asks.

I back away from him, arms going around my stomach protectively. It hurts. It feels like there are ants crawling just underneath my skin. What the hell is this?

Giles nods suddenly, as if in understanding. "You'll want to get undressed."

I fall to my knees, still clutching my stomach. Something alien pushes up behind my eyes, against my skin and I gasp for air.

I'm helpless now and Giles is stripping away my clothes. There is no lust in the act, no peeking of any sort. It is coldly, calmly, methodical. Efficient. I don't resist as he pulls me to my feet and helps me over to the cage. I look up at him. "It hurts," I whisper. This is unexpected.

His expression softens. "You've mentioned that before."

I will not cry out. I will not cry out. Another flash of pain, cold and flowing. The bandages on my hands rip, and I look down at them in horror. Unexpected. Not good.

The door to the cage shuts with a hollow clang. Giles does not move away from the cage, though, and I look at him.

He's almost smiling now. Something cold, and angry. I don't understand.

I yell. I can't help it; there are muscles where there were none before, and I feel as if my bones are breaking all at once and shaping themselves into something different. It hurts. The pounding in my head, the burning behind my eyes grows sharper and everything changes. Some colors bleed away, and others take on more prominence, and everything seems so much clearer. Black and white.

A full smile. He's enjoying this, the bastard. I lunge at the cage door, the growl trickling from my throat. Giles steps back quickly.

He crouches, and there is something deadly in his eyes. "You've lost," he says, very quietly.

Life hates me.


--Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so a simple phrase like "maybe we should just be friends" or "how very perceptive" turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart.--

I'm still in the cage when I wake up. I hurt, ache, everywhere and I wonder how he stands this all the time.

I have to.

You're back.

Yes. Never left, really.

Giles is standing outside the cage, looking tired. Still angry. I glare at him. "You know."


Well. Aren't you two just wonderfully alike? "How?"

Devon steps out from behind Giles. There are smudges of darkness under his eyes, and I realize for the first time just how much I've taken from him. Damn. Not quite as...dim as I thought.

I told him.

Ugh. You would. You stupid little shit.

No...I don't think that I am. This has to end. I'm tired.

Then go to sleep.

For good?

Why not? It's not like you've done anything. Been cheated on, been cursed, lost your honor, and your way. Why should you get to live and I don't?

Um. How about because I don't kill people?

Whatever. I look at Giles. "Whatever's he's told you is a--"

Devon's eyes narrow. "Bitch. I'm not lying."

"I wasn't going to say that. You're tired, Devon, and stressed." I try to sound concerned. "You're delusional, or something."

"Like hell."

I tilt my head and look at him, trying to seem sad. "I'm the same person I've always been."


God, I love him sometimes.

I glare at Devon. "Of course--"

He interrupts me. "No. You're not the same person. I know Oz."

I flinch.


He won't say it again. You won't get control back. I will not lose.

Neither will I.

You'll die first.

Maybe. Doesn't matter. Things fall apart.

Yes, I know the rest. The centre cannot hold. Blah. What does this have to do with anything at all right now?

Mere anarchy is loose upon the world. Nothing. Helps me remember, though. I can't let you loose.

I stand, shakily. I feel as if my legs should be a different shape or something, and suddenly, I realize that my vision hasn't changed back. I'm still seeing things like I did last night. I rub my eyes. Nothing. Shit.

The wolf.

What have you done?

Bound you. The wolf is more powerful than either of us. Part of the wild magicks and all.

I pound my fist -- healed, I notice -- against the door of the cage and it rattles loudly. "Let me out."

Giles shakes his head. "No."

"What are you doing?"

An exorcism.

What? I can't be exorcised. I'm not a demon.

The Church thinks you are. Devon thinks you are, mostly. So, an exorcism.

You stupid little shit. It won't work.

If it doesn't, it doesn't. Can't hurt.

It does hurt, actually. A lot. Giles is speaking, quietly. He is not speaking English. I feel a tug in the back of my mind. Shit.

I catch the scent of sulfur

For purification. Or something. I'm fuzzy on the details.

and I shudder. I say Giles' name but he doesn't look up at me. I say his name again, and again, and on the third try he looks up. "I'll kill him," I say, calmly.

That's okay.

They don't know that. People are stupid. I never stop looking at Giles. "I'll kill him here and now. Painfully. He'll scream, and I swear that you will hear that sound every time you go to sleep." I reach out, carefully, tracing the pathways of his mind. I pull, gently, so gently, on one and I hear a name, see a woman on a bed. Giles' voice falters

Oh, that's low.

and I smile. "I can give her back to you. Alive and well."

Really, really low.

Giles closes his eyes and I pull again. He sees her, smiling brightly up at him, and he falls silent for a minute. Less than a minute really, but it's enough. "Alive and well and whole. She loves you, you know. She hasn't moved on. I can give her back."

You lie.

Of course. But it worked. He's not getting all chant-y, is he?


I win.

Like hell. If you can give her back, fine, give her back and kill me. I don't care. This just...finish this. I'm tired. I want my life back. I want to have nice, happy, non life-sucking sex. I want you dead.

My, aren't we

Shut up. Just shut up. Do you not get it? I did a bad. I realize this. I'm not fucking stupid, okay? I betrayed Devon. I deserve some sort of punishment. But not some Evil Dead type "I've come for your immortal soul" thing. I'm down with drama. Really, I am. But fuck you. I like my soul. I think I'm keeping it.

Feisty lad, aren't you?

Whatever. Leave. Or kill me. Those are pretty much the only two options.

You can't make me do anything. I turn my attention back to what's happening outside the cage. Giles has resumed chanting, and I can feel...something. I fling myself at the cage door, once, and again. The metal bends. I ignore the pain from the impacts, and I hit the door again.

Giles stands, still chanting. I don't know what the words are, or the language. I don't care. There is a web, or something, of power around me and it's tightening. I don't like it. I throw myself at the cage door again. There's blood on the floor. I ignore it.

Devon is standing, too. "Oz..."


I snarl at him.

He looks worried, and steps forward before Giles grabs his arm, holding him still. "Please, man. Stop it. You're hurting yourself."

Hit the door again. The metal groans. The web tightens. I reach out, and I can feel a moment of panic and surprise, and I pull.

Devon falls.

Oh, fuck.

He looks up at me. He's afraid. Good.

No. I will not let

I pull again and he yells.

you do this.

Giles looks down at Devon, curled up at his feet. He looks back at the cage and his eyes narrow. I hit the cage door again.

There is something alien rising up behind my eyes and for a few seconds, I see double. Then my mouth is moving against my will -- "My name, Giles. Say my name." -- and I scream this time, loudly, blocking the words. The door is about to give and--


I fall.


Everything here is sharp, harshly defined, devoid of color. This may be my mind, but it's not my control. Not today. Not tomorrow, or the day after. The wolf has gotten stronger over the years, but this...this sight is new. I think I might have been really stupid.

Not that that would be anything new.

I sit up, not-rubbing at my eyes. I'm not used to this place. Not used to having it be so...real. Or gray. I don't like gray, really. It seems so...lifeless, I think. Boring. Eh, whatever. It doesn't matter, really. I stand, carefully, and walk over to the other...I kinda hesitate to use the word "person". The other...oh, hell. Person.

She's beautiful. I guess that'd be a good thing for her. Like claws, and really sharp, pointy teeth. Her weapons. Sex. Beauty. Demonic, life-sucking powers.


I crouch, touch her face lightly. "Wake up."

Her fist shoots toward my face and I have time to say, "Oh darn," before I'm back on the ground, looking up at a dead gray sky and wondering just what the hell I was thinking. After a moment, lying there and staring, I come to the conclusion that I wasn't thinking, really. I was reacting. Very, very stupid. Deadly stupid.

She moves into view, standing over me, a foot on either side of my stomach. The she moves, folding downward gracefully, until her knees are on my shoulders, pinning me down. She puts a hand on my throat, not pressing down or anything, but letting me know that she could.

I think -- then say -- a few impolite things and she squeezes. I shut up. Devon is a bad, bad influence.

I reach up and grab her wrists. She could break free pretty easily. But she doesn't. She just gets this look on her face, like she's got something planned that I won't like. And I won't. Like it. At all. But hey, there's not a whole lot that I have liked recently.

The air -- light gray, almost foggy -- shimmers. Though, shimmer implies that there are colors happening, and there weren't. Just millions of shades of gray. The air shimmers, and her face...changes, I guess. Body too. And then it's Willow looking down at me, and I feel...

I feel. A sad sort of twist in my stomach, warmth, and regret. A lot of regret. And hurt. But not as much as before. I shove that thought away, to look at later if I can. If I remember.

I hope I remember. I think.

She moves down, letting her knees fall to either side of my body. Her hands never leave my neck, and my hands never leave her wrists. She lowers her head, brushing her lips against my cheek, against my ear, whispering. "No...this isn't quite...ah. There we go." Her voice shifts too, growing lower, changing timbre. Devon's voice. The feel of her body changes too, but the weight doesn't. She weighs as much as I do, here. Devon wouldn't.

Devon...that's a mess. Damn. I need to

She kisses me.

work that whole situation out. Is there a situation? I dunno. I guess I should concentrate on

She kisses me again. Slowly, thoroughly. It's great, all lips and tongue and teeth and sucking.

Sucking. Well, she's true to form, at least. He. It. She pulls her hands free, tugs at my t-shirt, then there are hands on bare skin, and her mouth still on mine.

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen. And ew. So not the image I want to have right now.

No more concentrating. I tell myself to just give in. It's hard. I don't...

I don't want this. I don't want to die, and I think that I don't have much of a choice.

There is a pull in the back of my mind; for a moment, I see Devon lying on his stomach, one hand tucked under his chin, the other flung out across the bed, his hair sticking up weirdly and my stomach clenches. Then the image goes, and there's nothing left but the idea of it. Of being happy for just one moment. Of knowing I was happy, and that it's gone.

One by one, they all go. Willow giggling as I tickle her stomach. Devon striking a pose like the drama queen he is. They all go quietly, reluctantly, kicking and screaming, until there's nothing left. Just me.


And even that goes after a moment, a kiss, a pull, a sigh. There's nothing now, and I reach up, wrapping my arms around his neck

I should know him.

and kissing him back. I close my eyes and don't let go.

I'm falling.

Sometimes, when you fall, the ground rushes up and hits you, hard. Most times. But sometimes it doesn't. You fall, and you fall, and you miss the ground.

Sometimes when you fall, you just fall. But sometimes...

I fly.


There is a whisper in the back of my mind. Wake up, it says, sliding through the cracks and gaps of my mind. Wake up, wake up, wake up. Sleep is over. Wake up.

I open my hand, spread my fingers, push against the ground. There is a whisper there, too. Slow steady beats, like the pounding of drums, a heartbeat, the pulse of blood just under the skin.

Wake up, comes the whisper again. Wake up.

The air is bitter cold. It tastes like pine needles and moss, and growing things. It is heavy and I breathe, slowly filling my lungs. I can feel my chest rise, expand with the air. It hurts.

Everything hurts.

Wake up.

I take another breath.

Wake up.

Another breath. A low thud somewhere in my chest.

Wake up.

Breath. Thud.

The ground is cold, I didn't notice that before. It is cold, and hard. Rough against my skin. My fingers curl against the ground. That hurts too. I breathe.

I want to run. Run with my feet barely on the ground, feel the sting of branches and twigs, hear the dry crackle of leaves. I want to fly. Breathe.

It's dark here. I tilt my head back

Wake up.

and stare up at the sky. The moon hangs, nearly full, in the middle of what I see. It glows, silvery pale, and I can hear water crashing against rocks. Quietly, so quietly.

I want to sleep. I close my eyes again, relax against the cold, hard ground.

Dammit, Oz, wake up.


I remember.

I breathe.


My eyes open and I arch up off the floor. I don't know why. It seems like the right thing to do. I breathe, harsh and deep, gasping really, like I've been underwater for too long. My lungs are burning. My chest aches.

I lay back finally, even though the burning hasn't gone away. I blink up at the ceiling. "Ow."


I turn my head, not lifting it off the ground. He's there. He called me back. And hit me on the chest, I think. "You rang?"

"Dude, Oz, are"

I should laugh. I mean really, what kind of question is that? But I don't laugh. I frown, and think about it for a moment. Take stock: two legs, two arms, one maybe broken chest, massive headache...I nod. "Yeah, I think I am. 'Cause ow."

He laughs, and pulls me up until I'm sitting. Sitting is good, I like it. My body, however, doesn't, and I start to slump back to the floor. He catches me and props me up against the wall. "Oz man, you okay?"

Again, this should be a silly question. But it's not. "Don't pester me. I think I've had a hard day."

He grins again, a quicksilver flash of happiness, and I can't help but smile back. More people should be happy like that. He sits against the wall next to me, leans his head back and closes his eyes. "Dude, missed you."

If I turn my head, I could kiss him. If I turn my head, I will fall over.

I close my eyes again. I'm tired. I think I'll sleep.


I dream.

I'm standing on a stage all alone; there is one person in the audience and I can't see her face. I rub my hand against my leg. I don't know my lines.

I walk to center stage. The sun is bright and harsh. There is no place to hide. I can feel her eyes on me, and I look back down at where the audience sits. A guy has joined her. And butterflies. And a cow.

I'm alone. I still don't know my lines.

"Uh..." I say brilliantly.

There is a light touch on my shoulder. Then across, down the center of my back. I relax back into it and turn my head.

She smiles. She's beautiful, all pale and delicate. The wind blows her hair around her face. "I worry," she says, quietly. "About you. You need to see."

I turn back to the audience. It hasn't changed. Girl, guy, butterflies, cow. Nothing has changed. But I know my lines. "Now my charms are all o'erthrown, and what strength I have's mine own, which is most faint: now, 'tis true, I must be here confined by you..."

"You need to see." She strokes my hair. "It's not over. Not yet."

I try to say something to her. Something meaningful. I don't. I can't.. "But release me from my bands with the help of your good hands: gentle breath of yours my sails must fill, or else my project fails..."

I am sitting on the floor, quietly, my head resting against her leg. My head feels heavy. She sings, badly, a lullaby.

I don't want to sleep. "Which was to please. Now I want spirits to enforce, art to enchant, and my ending is despair, unless I be relieved by prayer..."

My eyes drift shut. I keep talking, fighting off the urge to float away. "Which pierces so that it assaults mercy itself and frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardon'd be..."

I feel another hand on my back. The cloth is thin, silky, and it slides against my skin. I turn my head, my shoulders, trying to see. It would be so easy just to let go, but I'm curious. I struggle to open my eyes. I hear her whisper, "You have to see."

He touches my face, and I can't feel it. I start to panic before I realize that I'm wearing a mask. He pulls it away, and I look up into familiar brown eyes. He kisses my forehead gently. "You have to see," he says, and then he's gone.

I see. I know.

I am lying on the stage, staring up at the sky. The sun is bright and harsh. There is no place to hide. I close my eyes and whisper, "Let your indulgence set me free."

I wake up.


Devon is pressed up against my back, his arm around my waist and his face buried in my hair. He snores. I move slowly, turning under his arm to face him. He opens his eyes and smiles sleepily. "Hey, baby."

"Hey," I whisper. "Devon."

"Hm?" He moves closer, and I feel his hand slide down lower. He pulls me closer, rocks his hips slightly, and hums happily. "Oh yeah. I've missed you."

"Dork." I can't help but smile back at him. I lean forward, kiss him lightly. He sighs happily, moves again. Oh, this is nice. I slide my hand up to curl around his neck, to pull him closer. I kiss him again, slowly. No rush.

I pull back. "You good?"

"Oh fuck yeah."

"We need to work on your pillow talk."

"Fuck pillow talk. Want you."

I laugh. I fall back onto the bed, arms spread wide, and I laugh. He kisses me then, while I'm all relaxed and happy.

Good God. I'm happy. Devon's weight settles on me, and I arch up into him. This is good. Life is good. Right now.

The kiss is slow, and gentle. I'm surprised. I could almost tell myself that Devon cares. A little. In that way.

No, don't ask for that, I tell myself. Just indulge.

His hands are everywhere again, his tongue sliding across my lower lip. I'm helpless here, with him. Always. No defense. His hands find a sensitive spot, and I swallow a yell. His mouth finds that same spot, and I cry out.

Helpless. Happy.

"Oh yeah. Make that sound again," he whispers against the skin on my stomach.

I do.

I will make any sound he wants, say anything he wants. I moan; his mouth is warm, and wet, and I'm happy and I don't want this to end. I say his name. "Devon..."

"I've got you, baby."

I let go. I don't have to be afraid. Not now. The dream slips across the back of my mind and I ignore it. Just for a moment. Just for right now.

I fly.