Coming True
by Glossolalia

Later, they learned to call what had happened the Harvest.

Even after everyone else went on calling it the slaughter. Terminology and accuracy are shores against chaos, Giles says.

The morning after, it took the cops an entire day to clear the bodies out of the Bronze. The funeral homes were overwhelmed, and most funerals didn't start happening for several days.

Oz knew right away, though. Soon as his mom didn't come home after her shift. When she didn't call for hours, he headed down to the warehouse district and slid under the police tape. Almost got to the door before someone caught him.

Hers was one of the last bodies they took out. Since she was one of the bartenders, she was in the back. They found her half-dragged down the back stairs, drained, then tossed against a pile of empty kegs that collapsed and almost covered her.

In a way, all this delay was a good thing.

It bought Oz enough time to pack up his stuff and get out of the apartment. When things settled down, he knew Social Services would show up for him. He wasn't going to let that happen again.

Every morning, the paper printed helpful lists of who got buried when, and where, so that's where Giles found him. Where they met, entirely appropriately. In a graveyard.

His mom never had much money, and the city only shelled out enough for a little plate with her name — she'd laugh so hard if she knew they used both her middle names (Blossom Giselle) — so the grave was tiny. But Oz is small. He could fit fine.

He sat right on top of her grave, one hand pressed against the plate, all day long. Talking to her without moving his lips.

It was well past twilight when the English librarian found him.

Oz sort of recognized the guy from school, but in the gloom, he was totally different. At school, the man ducked around corners, kept to the walls, shuddered at the shouts and bangs of locker doors. Here, he strode right up to Oz, waving his arms like samurai swords, bright, long and lethal against the dark. He was furious about something.

Oz held up one hand but his mouth was dry and he didn't know what to say anyway.

The librarian yelled at him for being out past dark as he waved a thick, stubby stick at Oz. "Stupid boy, go home, this is no place for a child —" The stench of alcohol — Scotch, probably, it smelled like Oz's former "Uncle" Ray — bloomed rotten and thick from his mouth, the folds of his clothes, probably from his pores. It coated his voice, deepening the accent that already set something vibrating delicately in the back of Oz's head, eager to hear more. "Not after dark, of all the places to —"

He finally shut up long enough for Oz to tell him what was up.

"And that's all very well and good and of course I'm sorry for your loss, but the fact remains that you need to go." Hoarse voice, hair awry, the guy looked and sounded like he hadn't slept in days. "Go home, go inside."

Oz hugged his knees to his chest. Couldn't leave his mom yet. Not like he had anywhere to go. "Whatever."

"Fine, don't go home. I really don't care where you go," he said. The guy — he was really tall, and it wasn't just because Oz was sitting on the ground that he thought that, he was, like Ichabod Crane, only a lot more graceful — bent and grabbed Oz's shoulder.

Oz tried to wrench away, curling against himself, covering his face with his other arm. "Hey, asshole —"

The guy yanked him up and Oz's shoulder popped. The tip of his pointy stick jabbed at Oz's chest. It was almost as sharp as the look in the man's eyes. His glasses just magnified all the dark lights there, concentrated laser beams and keen intelligence reading everything on Oz's face.

Oz held his breath. Watched as the guy's mouth twisted, like rope or calligraphy, considering and editing, before he spoke. Oz had never thought someone's mouth could be intelligent before and he shivered. This guy could be crazy, he was probably definitely drunk, but there was something else about him. Fierce and furious, almost trembling. Obviously, he was mad at Oz, which in itself was stupid. Mad at a kid he didn't know from Adam; the hell did he care?

It was like the guy was wondering the same thing. Like he was also mad at himself. Oz could see it, hear it, something reluctant and pained, trying to shut the man down, make him retreat, but not succeeding.

So maybe it was fear, or the damp chill from the grass seeping into his nervous system, or just gratitude at someone noticing him, even in a pretty obnoxious and violent way, but all Oz could think as he looked up was, Holy fuck, he's hot. Eyes on him and strong hands shaking him and voice going hoarse yelling at him: It all added up.

"You can't hang around here," the man said. "You cannot —"

"Yeah, sure, but —" Oz tried to say. The man's eyes narrowed just before his head jerked back. Just a fraction, but then his face set, from anger to suspicion.

He yanked Oz closer, twisting his arm behind his back, and bent forward, pressing his ear into Oz's neck. Right against the pulse point, for the space of two heartbeats, and then he pulled back, frowning.


"Yeah, asshole." Oz tried to wriggle away, but the man held him tighter. His hands were huge; looking down at them, Oz couldn't believe their size, the length of his fingers, and he jerked back again. Nothing, no release. His skin burned in their grip. "Let me go —"

"Just get out of here," the guy said and shoved Oz away. Oz fumbled and grabbed the stick out of his hand. Not that he knew what to do with it, but it was something, and then the guy was yelling again, even louder, telling him to run, shoving him hard.

Oz tripped over a gravestone, falling right on his back, knocking his head on another stone. Shaking yellow pain rolled out from his neck, his skull throbbed. When he finally got back on his feet, he didn't believe what he was seeing.

Ragged hole where he'd been sitting. Long blue dress streaked with dirt and grass, long red hair and white arms. Arms opening, hair blowing.

Mommy. His mom. Mom.

Fighting like a cat in heat with the English guy.

"Mom?" He still had the stake in his fist, and she turned, hair whirling in the dark, as Oz stepped forward.

"Danny?" She sounded like cough syrup and backrubs and waffles for breakfast.

Smiling, she reached for him, but the librarian caught one of her arms and tackled her, brought her to her knees. The blue dress spilled like water over the ripped-up grass.

"Danny, I knew you'd be here —"

"It's not your mother," the man said, wrestling, fighting to keep her down. Oz just stood there. Frozen and confused, thoughts moving slower than a glacier.

Mom snarled, twisting, yelping when the librarian kicked her. She stumbled forward, towards Oz, and he took a step back. He didn't know why he did, just that she didn't seem right. Furious in the fight, then smiling hugely when she looked at Oz. Everything was moving so fast, too fast, and she'd always been moody, but this was different.

"Of course it's me," she said, talking to Oz even as she turned and punched the librarian right in the face. "You know it's me."

"Yeah," Oz said. His breath felt thick and poisonous in his mouth. Like mercury or antifreeze. "Uh. What're you doing —"

"Run!" the librarian yelled as he knelt and pushed himself to his feet. "Get out of —"

"Who's your friend, Danny?" his mother asked, voice low and careful and sweet, the tone she used to use when she didn't want anyone to know how drunk she was. He didn't know what she was hiding now. When she smiled, he saw too many teeth.

Oz shifted his weight. Like it was ten years ago, like he was back in the playground and some bigger kid was getting too close. He kept his knees loose, arms at his side, and cocked his head. Looking at two people, at Mom and a bully, and they kept sliding, smearing, together, then pulling apart like chromosomes, amoebae, and his head was pounding. Wouldn't stop pounding.

"He's nobody," Oz said.

The librarian yanked at Mom's skirt, pulling her off-balance and jabbing his elbow into her chest. She crumpled and reeled, but didn't fall. She was grinning at Oz the whole time. Like her lips were more elastic than they used to be, and her eyes were sunken and dark, and Oz switched the stake to his right hand.

"Kinda old for you, isn't he, Danny? Guess this is what you get up to when I'm not around."

Her voice was like static on a phone line, like the shriek when someone on a cell goes through a tunnel, and it slid into Oz's gut and filled his throat with spit.

He always knew she didn't want him.

The librarian was moving behind her, crouching, ready to grab her, but Mom kept talking.

Running her fingers down her throat, across her chest, tilting her head the way he'd seen her do a thousand times at customers across the bar. "Always were a little faggot, Danny."

Blown glass, trembling and hot and dripping, ran through his body, replaced his skeleton, his muscles, drowned his lungs. Pushed him forward. "Mom —"

"Just be sure you get something for sucking that geezer's limp little dick."

After that, everything went stop-motion crappy animation, Harryhausen-style, jerky and uninflected: Librarian grabbing her from behind. Yelling at Oz — Now, the heart, heart, NOW! — and Mom writhing, arms pinned, still laughing. Always laughing. Shrieking and laughing. Oz barrelling forward stakefirst. His breath loud and ragged. Mom licking her lips. Her chest, breasts rising, round and full, the wildness in her eyes, going from blue to brass to gold as her face rippled and shifted. Grabbed at him, clawed his face. Laughing. And then he was hitting her, pounding and flailing and the wood punched through her pretty blue dress — skin — bone, cracking, ripping.

Mom exploded.

Hovering, leering skeleton in black and sickgreen ash, then collapse.

All Oz saw afterward was the librarian's face. Glasses askew, hair standing nearly on end, tips white in the glow of streetlights.

Him, right where Mom had been.

Oz was rushing forward, still rushing, slamming against his skin with the momentum of it. Face full of ash and the guy caught his elbows.

Lights from the street shone off the lenses of his glasses. His eyes went flat and gold, big as doubloons, alien. In a moment, the lenses were transparent again. Vertigo yanked at Oz, back and forth from surface to depth.

Oz dropped the stake and looked at his hands. Tasted ash in his mouth, felt it clogging his nose, his throat, saw it covering his palms.

"What did I —?"

The librarian touched Oz's shoulder, curved his palm around it, squeezed.

Oz looked up, saw something gentle passing over his weary face. Cloudy like a sheet of tissue paper, blurring the sharp features and dulling the intense eyes.

He was blinking and his lips were pressed together, and then he said, "Come along. Let's get you home."


"Danny, is it? Lovely name." Giles riffled through the medicine cabinet and it almost sounded like he was talking to himself. Maybe he was; maybe he'd blown his entire wad of social skills giving the whole demons lost purchase on this reality, mixed their blood with a human and left monsters behind speech.

He definitely wasn't used to having company. He could fight demon-moms in graveyards, graceful and strong, fierce and swift, but alone in his apartment with Oz he was stiff, barely able to make eye contact.

"Daniel," Giles continued. "'God is my judge', in Hebrew. Renowned for his wisdom. The historian of the captivity in Babylon."

More stories, Oz thought. So many stories, everything impossible and old coming true all at once.

"Do you prefer Dan or Danny?"

Oz sat on the edge of the tub, trying to make his fingers remember how to unbutton his shirt. Hard to move lumps of ice.

"No," he said. "It's —" He tore a button off and looked up. "Whatever. Sure."

Giles's knuckles were white like shells where he gripped the rim of the sink. He jumped as the button skittered across the floor.

"Look," Oz said. "What are you doing?"

It was clear the guy didn't want him here, had no idea what to do with him, and Oz just killed his mother and then there were stories, so many stories it was worse than Sunday school, and ash, and he thought he might going crazy.

Thoughts on carousels, glowing red and gold, wheeling off their tracks. Thoughts slamming against him, bouncing off his skin, yanking him forward.

"You're hurt," Giles said. Touched his own cheek, then the back of his neck, like he needed to remind Oz where the pain was.

"So're you." Giles had limped the whole way to his little car, and held himself now at a slight angle, like it hurt to breathe.

Giles nodded. Spoke like Oz was in nursery school and on the verge of a tantrum: Soft, sweet, slow. "So I am."

He crouched down, one hand on the tub, the other on Oz's knee and took a single shallow breath. Oz covered Giles's hand with his own and stroked the tendons and thin, delicate bones there. His shoulder throbbed, remembering Giles's grip, and this was the hand that did it, strong and long-fingered. Almost a musician's hand. A cellist, a violinist.

Giles touched Oz's face, just over the eyebrow, and nodded. Oz saw his own face, pale and transparent, reflected on Giles's glasses, then again in his pupils. Doubled, then doubled again, small and smaller.

Swallowing when Oz squeezed his hand, Giles said, "So let's see about getting bandaged up, shall we?"

Oz nodded. Icy and whirling inside, but when he looked at Giles, he started to feel a little calmer. Dark green eyes, long nose, wide mouth: He could break the features into separate parts, concentrate just on the eyelashes brushing against the rim of his glasses, then recombine them, dive into the creases around Giles's eyes, dip down his cheeks, slide around his mouth.

"Sorry I got in your way," Oz said.

When he frowned, Giles looked older, sterner, scarier, and Oz took a deep breath.

"Nonsense," Giles said. His voice was cat's-tongue quiet, rough. "You acquitted yourself admirably in a hideous situation. I only wish I could have —"

His hand slid out from beneath Oz's as he turned, reaching for the washcloth, and Oz watched it go, floating like a scrap of paper.

Giles touched him gingerly, not gentle so much as jittery, washing out the scratches on his face, daubing antibiotic into them. He clucked his tongue the first time Oz gasped against the sting. When he turned Oz's skull in his palms like a crystal ball to check the swelling on the back of his head, his hands were cool. Not icy, just cool and silvery, sliding cool threads into the rumbling aches, easing the worst of the pain.

Giles's touch grew more confident. Firmer, surer. Oz figured he was doing the same thing Oz was, studying parts, losing the whole, tending to one wound rather than the person inside the skin.

It made more sense that way.


Oz changed there in Giles's bathroom that first night.

He stopped hurting, for one thing. He realized he was probably crazy, for another. He mapped the plains and wadis of Giles's face until the details were burned into his eyes, drawn on his retinas, carved into his lids.

He changed and he became himself. One version, anyway.

He learned how to ease the pain. How to touch without making anything worse. How to touch, period.

He bandaged Giles's ribs and shook out two painkillers from orange pharmacy bottle for him. Swallowed one dry himself. Slipped his shirt off and stood up, following Giles back into the living room.

As Giles poured himself a glass of whiskey, Oz leaned against the bar, hands in his pockets. Giles hadn't buttoned his shirt back up after the taping, and as he turned, the tails spun a little, trailing him. Water on grass, light in the dark.

Swallowing, his adam's apple bobbed, and Oz learned the length of his neck, supple and strong. Birch trees, pale even at midnight.

Oz scratched the tight plasters on his forehead and wondered what Giles's skin felt like. Over his ribs, it had been hot, damp with sweat, but that didn't tell him much. He'd never thought of skin as anything at all, but it was suddenly everything, origin and envelope, torn and healing.

There was so much to learn, worlds on worlds he'd never known, but he wanted and needed to start there, at the skin.

Giles looked Oz up and down, bare skinny chest and pants too large for him cinched with an old red patent-leather belt of his mom's. Then he shook his head a little, like he'd remembered a joke that didn't amuse him the first time, and handed his glass to Oz.

He was so quiet, and his hands could hurt and save, and Oz touched his fingers again, wrapped around the glass, for a beat too long.

The smile faded and Giles just returned his stare.

Like antibiotics and bandages, stakes and painkillers, the whiskey was going to become something natural for them. Consumed like water, something necessary and indispensable. That first night, it burned and flared in Oz's gut, but it also dissolved the last of the ice, loosened his hands, let his eyes roam.

"What about evolution?" he asked, giving the glass back to Giles. "Scratch that. Science. What about science?"

Giles half-sat on a stool, legs extended in front of him, rolling the glass between his hands. "What's that?"

"Science. So, vampires. Demons walking the earth, prophets deciphering dreams. Question is, where's science?"

Giles gave him that sickly, faint smile again. "Right where it always has been, I expect."

The way he was looking at Oz — studious, maybe slightly bored but still intent — was something that had never happened to Oz before. Like he was worth poring over, specimen, bacterium, artifact. Like Giles could get something out of him, knowledge or information. Secrets. He wasn't even sure he liked it, but he knew it was new. Knew he'd give it to Giles.

"You see, there are manifold systems of belief," Giles said and closed his eyes for much longer than just a blink. Like you do before going onstage. When they opened again, Oz reeled a little, up and down, vertigo again. "And while faith requires one to maintain that only one system is true, we, that is, those of us without faith, learn just how complexly overlaid truths are —"

While he spoke, Oz moved a little closer, tilting his head, and poured Giles more whiskey. Waited for him to pause and sip, then took the glass and swallowed some more. He stood just between Giles's calves now, rolling his lips against each other to enjoy the whiskeyburn, listening.

Giles spoke as if they were already in this together. We, and it was a word, a sound even, that slid right into the center of Oz's brain. Nestled there, making sense out of fear and grief, resolving confusion into something simpler.

When Oz set the glass down on the bar. Giles reached for it automatically; the motion made Oz think of science experiments, electrodes and stimulation. Zap a muscle, make it jump.

His own hand was moving up Giles's arm, hovering, stroking, until he reached the soft, tight skin on his neck. Giles finally stopped talking.

His gaze had changed somehow. It was flat, and sad, but still intent. Giles drained the whiskey before doing anything else; only then did he lean a little against Oz's palm.

"It wasn't her," he said. He'd said that fifty fucking times since they left the cemetery and Oz had ignored it every time. "You must remember that."

His thumb grazed the stubble along the curve of Giles's jawbone. Short enough that the bristles were still slightly soft, and the touch zipped tiny comets of sensation up Oz's arm.

"It was her."

Giles's forehead creased. "No. That was the thing that killed her. Empty of her, full of lies."

"Nah." Oz swept his thumb over the sharp rise of Giles's cheekbone to his eye, where the skin was tight but crisscrossed with wrinkles. "All her, all true."

He was a little faggot, he did think men (Giles) were hot, his mom never did want him. He'd known all of that well before tonight. Tonight was different not because of any of that, but because it didn't matter any more. He was running forward, toward the horizon of his skin, he had the narcotics' warm pink flannel braiding through his veins and the taste of whiskey on his lips, and he could do whatever he wanted.

"Listen to me —" Giles said when Oz shook his head. "Daniel."

"I am. Listening. But it was her."

"That was a vampire. Your mother is, is gone."

"She is now, yeah."

Giles sighed and removed his glasses. Propping his elbow on the bar, he rubbed his forehead hard, like it would help him think. "I don't want to, er, minimize your loss. But I know vampires. Far more than you —"

Oz put on Giles's glasses. Strong prescription; they made everything soft, blurry, but also illuminated from the inside. Glowing. "Yeah, and I know my mom."

"Yes, but —" Giles stopped, holding out his hand.

Oz gave him the glasses. "How do you know so much about this stuff — vampires, demons?"

Giles drank more whiskey. "Let's just say I've received a long and varied education. You're really certain it was your mother?"


"Grief, shock, hunger. All these factors —"


Oz ran his hand through his hair. He wanted to kiss Giles. Like the sky lightening over the horizon, beyond the next rise in the highway, the certainty and the confidence weren't anything like strength, and definitely weren't bright. More like dust dispersing, like fog rolling, like diagrams he'd seen of electrons around an atomic nucleus: Clouds and motion, just disturbance and shifts.

He leaned in, still rushing, tilting forward fast and furious, and was half-surprised that Giles, apparently, couldn't tell that he was rioting inside, zooming faster than light against him.

"Yes." Giles sat in thought, looking over Oz's right shoulder. He squinted as his lips twitched. Like he was working out a problem, doing long division in his head. "Extraordinary, really." His finger circled the rim of the glass endlessly. "And all those vile things she said —?"

Oz pushed him against the bar. Dark eyes, startled and wide. Kissed Giles, working his knee up between Giles's legs, gripped his shoulders.

Giles was strong enough to shove him away. He didn't. He wrapped his arms around Oz's waist, squeezing, pulling him closer, up on his toes, one hand in Oz's hair, the other on the small of his back.

Giles kissed back fiercely. Roughly, so much teeth and tongue that Oz lost his breath, but precisely at the same time, like he knew exactly what he was doing, just what he was making Oz feel with every nip and lick and long, smacking suck. He kissed like he fought, like he spoke, with strength and knowledge and Oz heard the we again, like bells and long trembling notes off cellos.

Sharp fingers in his hair, on his back, and a seeking mouth: Giles had broken apart again into details and Oz was breaking even faster, until he was a jumble, pieces crammed together without logic. Just a mouth pounding with blood and sensation, a blazing scalp, aching back, and hard, hard dick. Giles was so warm, tasting like night air and the sour stench of vamp ash, and whiskey.

Oz knew he tasted exactly the same.


That first night, Giles told him about monsters. Giles also took him up to his bed. They were almost the same thing, then, and still are. Both things cracked him open until he was shaken apart and scattered to the winds, shown everything that he'd half-believed but had never seen before.

Giles's bed was soft and warm, while Giles's body, as he lay atop Oz, was hot and strong, and Oz kept cracking, sinking, rushing.

He had been sleeping at the public library or in a washroom at the historical society's museum. Even one night down on the beach (and you survived?, Giles had asked in the car. Bloody miracle, you are). After all that porcelain and sand and wood, Oz's body was composed of shingles — hard, flat, jagged, just shoved under his skin. And cold, so cold and stiff.

Giles rose up on his elbows and Oz reached up, removing his glasses. Without them, Giles looked much more vulnerable. Startled, like he was surprised to see someone in his home, let alone beneath him. But magnetic, too, drawing Oz upward, faster and faster, tractor beams and secret passages.

"S'okay," Oz whispered.

"You see, I —" Giles started, then closed his mouth. Shook his head.

Oz wriggled up a little until he got one leg free and wrapped it behind Giles's knee. Tilting his hips, rocking slowly, he got a short half-strangled groan out of Giles. "It's all right. Better."

Giles did not reply, so Oz drew his hands lightly up and down his upper arms, then up his neck, linking his fingers at the nape of Giles's neck. He kissed Giles again, willed him to kiss back, pulled him down until he was pressed solidly into the mattress and Giles was panting when Oz finally let him go.

"That's —. You —" Giles tried to say, but Oz smiled then.

At the smile, Giles just — went still. Not like he'd been agitated or frantic, nothing like that, but something changed. Settled or hit bottom, held fast, and then he nodded very slowly as if he was accepting something.

Oz rose and tilted and gathered himself around Giles, around the long, rangy heat of him, twining limbs and sinking in nails and teeth. Pressed his face into Giles's neck, against his ear, and whispered. Promised everything he could think of.


Morning came with the sudden, flashing motion of a knife. They edged around each other, quiet and wary. Oz kept catching Giles looking at him, sidewise, sharply, briefly.

Oz was hungry, muzzy from hangover, but light on his feet. Half-helium, rising fast against his skull. Maybe he had lost weight in the days since the slaughter.

He brewed coffee and handed a plate of eggs and toast to Giles across the little bar counter. Left his hand on top of Giles's, stroking his fingers.

"This changes everything, you know," Giles said, ignoring the food and watching Oz's fingers.

Oz smiled and ran his hand up Giles's arm.

"Oh, yes. This, of course. But I meant the demons. If what you say about your mother is true —"

"Then we kill them." Oz sipped his coffee and waited. Already he was learning to wait for Giles to think, to work things out, and then to catch up.

Giles's fork shook in his grip and he looked away. "It's not that simple."

"Never said it was," Oz said and wiped his forehead on the back of his hand. He'd eaten enough for three people and he was still ravenous and empty. "But what else are we going to do?"

Giles smiled to himself, tight and twisted, before glancing up at Oz. Oz just leaned forward and listened. "There's no 'we' here. I tried, tried at the nightclub, and I could not —. You're hardly prepared —"

Oz did not answer. He brought Giles's hand to his face and brushed Giles's fingertips against the bandages. On his forehead, his cheek, then the lump on the back of his head. Light touches, feathery and insubstantial any other time, but when he looked back at Giles, Giles nodded. He got it.

"All right," Giles said.

Oz kept rushing forward, coming closer and closer.