Everybody's Got A Secret, Sonny
by Priya

You find him in Bangor. You stumble into a diner at four-thirty in the morning, your eyes feeling like they are about to burst, and you spot a shock of the greenest hair you've seen in a very long time. And he turns, as if he felt you come in, and you look at him. Stare.

He hasn't aged a day.

"Hey," he says, and the brightly-lit diner turns dark. Tunnel vision, you figure, and you nod a greeting and walk towards him.

He is in a booth, thumb absently passing over the beads of the sandalwood mala wrapped around his left hand. He has a coffee in front of him, and some sad remains of a pie slice sits on a small white plate that's been pushed towards the window. You sit across from him, and a faceless waitress comes by to take your order.

"Um, coffee," you say. "Black, please." Flash of black fingernails, trimmed to the quick, and your eyes come to rest on the beads on his hand again.

"So what brings you to Maine?" he asks, hands looking like they were sculpted from soap, all delicate and pale and slim. "I'm guessing it's not the tantalizing music scene?"

You crack a smile at this. "There's a slayer here," you say, "and I'm trying to find her."

He frowns, worried. "Buffy . . . no. Faith?"

You meet his eyes, confused. Oh, but he's been out of the loop, out of contact — he doesn't know. "They're fine, both of them." You hesitate. "All the slayers, worldwide, have been called."

There was no mention of Sunnydale in the news. Sinkhole in the highway, the reports said, but no missing town. Group denial. He couldn't know.

"So I heard Sunnydale kind of . . . left," he says.


"Yes, there was —" You shrug. He can figure it out.

"Apocalypse, yeah. Uh, heard it around. Demons. You know." He's tapping two black-tipped fingers against the pale blue Formica table, and you find yourself entranced by the piston motion. "Is everyone okay?"

"More or less," you say. "Anya — you remember Anya?" He nods. "She died."

It takes a soft moment for him to parse it. "Damn," he finally utters. "Xander?"

"Coping," you say. "Pretending he's not hurt. He lost an eye." Fingers tapping the table again. You tear your eyes away, look towards the counter as your coffee comes. It's hot, and the steam rises up like ghosts from the grave.

"And, uh." He swallows just when you start looking at him again. Smooth length of white neck, disrupted by the nervous pause in thought. You keep your eyes trained on the center of his forehead. "Willow?"

"Good. She's the one who activated all the slayers, actually." You sip your coffee and let it cool in your mouth for a moment before swallowing. "We were, we were fighting something called the First Evil."

He nods. "Huh. I'm guessing biggest of the bad?"

"You'd think." Off his confused look — and his eyes, you have to stop yourself from looking at his eyes, before you find yourself staring — off his confused look, you add, "It couldn't touch anything. I think Xander started calling it the First Neener Neener sometime after the battle. No, its acolytes were . . . well, they were the issue."

"Gotcha." He waves the waitress over. "Check?" You find yourself staring into your coffee, until you feel his fingers brush against your sleeve. "C'mon, you can tell me the story somewhere less where-anybody-can-overhear," he says. You're about to pull out money for your drink, when you see he's already got the bill covered. With the Council still in shambles, and no steady paycheck coming in, you're not inclined to argue.

You walk out into the humid night, following a small man in shabby thrift-store clothes, suddenly feeling like your legs are too long, shoulders too broad, hands too large and rough. His van's behind the diner. Same van you first saw five years ago, except with a few more dings and scratches here and there.

The ride to his place is short and quiet. The van interior smells of weed and the tree-shaped air-freshener hanging from the mirror, and the vinyl seats stick to your arms where your polo shirt doesn't cover the skin. His fingers are a study in contrasts against the black steering wheel; it's almost as if there's no shadows at all between his knuckles. Hard lines, hard curves, sharp chiaroscuro and no bleeding of dark into light.

"So hey," he says, stepping out of his van and looking for the right key. "I heard about the Council."

"Yes?" you ask.

"On the news. They had this big story," he says. The door unlocks, and you follow him up the narrow staircase. Another door, and his studio apartment is revealed to you: carpetless, with a single rug by the foot of the bed. Table and chair, couch, guitar stand, guitar, poster on the wall. Photographs. "And a number you could call."

"Oh," you say, as lightly as you can. "Did you?"

He shrugs. "Yeah." He's rolling a cigarette beside you on the couch, not too plump, not too thin. "Had to tell 'em something, though."

He hands you the cigarette, and you wait for him to light it. "What was that?"

"Well, they wouldn't let me know, since I'm not family," he says. You're holding the smoke in, waiting for the inevitable buzz, the inevitable blurring around the edges of your sight. "Told 'em I was a werewolf."

You let your breath out, and put the blunt to your lips again. You raise an eyebrow, and he looks you in the eye. His face is tight, eyes darker than before, and he says, "They still wouldn't tell me."

He leans in as you exhale, pulling the smoke right from your lungs like it's oxygen and he's drowning. The wisps ease out of the sliver of space at the corners of your mouth and his, until he clamps down harder. The cigarette is burning slowly down, and all you can feel are the wet, noisy presses of his tongue into your mouth.

You are aware that you could be any one of the little group from Sunnydale. You are aware that this is not especially for you alone. But you feel those soap-smooth fingers skittering against your age-battered face, pushing into your rough hair, and that delicate, gauzy feeling is telling you not to care.

It's decent weed gone to waste as you drop the cigarette into the ashtray on the arm of the couch. You break the kiss just long enough to start it up again.

Scent of sandalwood as those beads roll against your face, and then he's pulling you to the unkempt bed with those red jersey sheets. One step, two steps, you're being pulled down on top of him.

"I'm glad you're okay," he says. You pretend he doesn't mean you-collective, and rub the palm of your hand against his crotch.

Your tongue doesn't even get inside his mouth, because it's met halfway by his. It's messy, the way his saliva cools the corners of your lips, and the way your tongue scrapes against his front teeth before finally sliding against the hard palate hidden behind. It's messy the way, when his hand unzips your trousers and reaches inside, the way you push against him like a rutting animal.

Your hands slip up under his shirt, tracing over the heated flesh above the waistband of his boxers. In the back of your mind, you're drawing out a diagram detailing just how incestuous this is — he is Willow's, or was, and Willow is one of the children you'll never have. Distance and time should have removed him from the box you put your tiny non-family in, but it still feels wrong the way he mouths your fingers while you suck at the cord of his neck. You suck harder.

When slides out from under you and pushes you to the bed, you slip and your knees bang onto the floor. They hurt, and he's behind you, undoing your belt. "Oz," you breathe, because this is uncomfortable in so many ways. "Oz, the bed."

"Here'll be better," he says. You don't ask how he knows. Trousers pool by your knees, and you shift back; the belt leather bites into the back of your thighs and your keys scratch against your calf, and you shift again, trying for more. Hands on your hips, then lower, then harder. And then that tongue that delivers such subtle, quiet wit, that clever little tongue is on you and in you. You can't help but mouth and bite at the mattress to keep your scream unvoiced.

Your jaw, stiffly open as he replaces tongue with finger. Your breath, hitching and whimpering as the hand with the beads comes around and strokes you. Your fingers, nearly ripping into his sheets as the tip of his finger hooks right against just the perfect spot.

All touch leaves you suddenly, and you drop your head to get an upside-down view of what he's doing. It's almost painful, waiting as he rips the condom package open, rolls the rubber down his dick, gives you a half-smile that looks completely whole-hearted.

He's in you quickly, with that beaded hand on your cock again, and you're too tight. You're too tight, and it hurts, but you push back onto him as if you have no will of your own and no other choice even if you could make it. You can't help the way your eyes are rolling back. You can't help how your fingers try for purchase on the now-bare mattress. You can't help the fact you've forgotten how to breathe.

"God, Giles," he whispers, his breath warm on the back of your neck. You feel the tiny hairs there standing up in response to his words, and you turn your head and go for a dirty kiss. He thrusts into you hard right then, and his hand jerks quickly, slipping almost, and you come suddenly on his fingers and floorboards. He lifts his hand to you, as if for inspection, and you find yourself licking your own cooling jism off those rough little beads.

He gets off on that. His free hand slides down your arm, his fingers coming to rest in the crease of your elbow. They nearly bite into you, look more sinewy than they should. He grunts, pauses, pulls out. Your knees still hurt. You know you're bleeding, at least a little bit. You're not quite sure what to do next.

He's in the bathroom, cleaning up; the pipes knock as water runs through them, and you figure it's time to pull your pants up. So you're sitting on the floor by his bed, doing up your buckle while studiously avoiding the spill on the floor, when he comes out of the bathroom wearing a pair of boxers and a startlingly clean wife-beater. You throw your glasses on the shabby nightstand and he puts his hand on your belt and pulls it off before tugging your shirt over your head.

When he crawls onto the bed, you follow without word and take his guitar with.

"I think I know the girl you're talking about," he says, rolling a second joint. If you were your younger self, you would've gone to the couch and smoked the bit that was left of the first one before starting on a second. Wasteful, but you're too busy looking at the way his slim fingers are moving to care that much. "Last night, I was playing at a club down the street, and she was eyeing me. Think she knew about me."

You're strumming, tuning, frowning at the guitar as he presses the cigarette to your lips. "You know where she is?" Inhale.

"Mm. I can find her." His shoulder is against yours, warm and soft and damp against your own cool skin. You're picking out some nameless, meaningless tune while he keeps you a just little bit high. "Back in high school, I thought you had the nicest eyes. I think the girl lives about two or three blocks away from the club, with her folks."

He pulls a bag of baby carrots out of the mini-fridge hidden on the other side of the bed, and you say, "You'll help me find her?"

"Sure," he says; his teeth tear through the carrot with a loud crack. You strum, and he raises the cigarette to your lips. The lack of sobriety makes you think about completely different black fingernails and a completely different guitar on a completely different bed. You figure the one true similarity is that this'll all be over in a few hours.

The carrots back in the fridge, Oz doses on his side, his hand on your thigh right below the curve of the guitar, his face right above your elbow. It's a humid pre-dawn existence, and you're sticky from earlier anyway, so the guitar pastes to your bare stomach. You feel comfortably filthy here.

He wakes up when the blunt is half burned away, dejected on the top of the mini-fridge. "Hey," he says with a yawn. "I know what you're thinking about."

"What's that?"

He stares up at you with glazed eyes and says, "Okay, I don't know. But I know what I wanna tell you." He sits up and pulls the guitar from your hand. "You just hit a chord I've been trying to get for years."

You stare back. Years of working with the dark arts and occult, and this is the first time you've ever been in the Twilight Zone. "That's what you wanted to say?"

"No," he says. He reaches over and puts the guitar back on its stand, and looks at you, his face so close to yours that he's blurring. "I wanted to say, you've still got the nicest eyes."

This isn't the way it's supposed to go. Your tongue feels thick. "Where's this club where you saw her?"

He leans back, and it's the rising sun what finally gives you pause. Because in the light of the early morning, you see this for what it really is. His pale skin is less delicately beautiful, and more the mark of self-imposed imprisonment. The apartment, shambled in what you had thought was carefree youth, is really a sign of frustration.

In vino veritas, clarity from chemicals. A flash of memory, that hand on your arm minutes ago, shadows changing and fingers elongating. It hadn't been an illusion. Nobody is ever here to care whether the place is clean, because the wolf in him doesn't let him care enough about anyone to let them in. The wolf comes out if he does. "My god, " you whisper.

He shifts away and grabs a slip of paper from the top of the mini-fridge. He hands it to you. An address, not far from here. "I followed her the other night. That's where she lives."

You look at the paper as if it's going to say something to you any moment now. "It's gotten more difficult to control?"

He stops sliding out of bed. "It's always been difficult."

"Then why do you keep it locked away?"

"It's complicated," he says. Licks his lip, and you think you catch a glimpse of extended canines. "But . . . less complicated, this way. Just gotta not care."

Ripper, your mind whispers. You remember this. Repression. Depression. Aggression. "Oz —"

"What're you gonna do when you see her?" He comes back beside you, but you see the tension. You flow with the change of topic.

"Talk to her, of course," you answer softly. "And her parents. They deserve to —" This is not the Oz you knew. "Talk to me, please."

"I'm thinking of learning to play the drums," he says. "Maybe bongos, in particular."

The next plea dies on your lips, and instead you reply, "Bongos are interesting."

"Hey, you know, Richard Feynman," he says. "Nobel laureate, bongo player."

You're getting hungry. You drape an arm around him and ask, "Baby carrots?"


"No," you say. Things are getting muddled now; there was something else in those cigarettes, you're sure. "No, I mean to —"

"When I heard about the Council, and I couldn't find out if you were okay, it came out."

It, you think. It. What. You pull him towards you. He's warm for you.

"It wasn't even a full moon," he's saying.

You were on the verge of a breakthrough somewhere back there, before your brain got muddled. You try for it again. "The wolf?"

He nods against your chest. "I don't remember what I did."

You remember, though, you remember what he did those few years ago. Growing boys go through changes, and you remember him lying naked on the floor of the book cage three nights out of a month after he finished going through some of those changes.

You are not a good man. You never have been, even though you've tried and mostly succeeded in making people believe you are. You never have been, even though you've tried to make yourself believe you are. You remember what he did to you, what he made you think. You remember making sure to get yourself off before work those mornings, after the first day of the first month when you'd gone to open the cage and left with an ache that stayed with you for longer than you'd wanted.

The buzz is starting to get too cumbersome. "Oz —" Everything is time-delayed. You shift, and try to be a Watcher when you've still got cum on your dick and a dull throb in your ass. "Is it — was it the hellmouth? Was, was it affecting your ability to —"

"No, I just —" He runs a hand through his hair, stands up. "Do we have to talk? It's six in the morning."

You reach over, pull him back to the bed. Snake your hand under the ribbed cotton shirt, calloused fingers scraping over rice-paper skin — so thin, you think, does he even eat, you wonder, but so warm — pillow his head by your armpit. His hair is greasy, and it prickles against your nose as you fall asleep.

Later, you open your eyes. The sun is still up, so it's either only been a few hours, or it's been an entire day. The chemical haziness has left now, replaced by that peculiar confusion of waking up.

"Oz," you whisper. He's still sleeping, and you suddenly wonder why you want to wake him. He's sleeping like he's never had this kind of rest before, and he looks older suddenly. You're forced to change your opinion of him: he's aged a hundred years since you'd last seen him. And what had been simple black and white the night before is now revealed to be as hazy an illusion as anything else in this world.

So you're about to creep out of bed, about to leave and forget about all of this, when you feel his fingers brushing against the skin of your forearm.

"Okay, now I really know what you're thinking," he mumbles, still half asleep.

"What's that?"

"You're thinking," he says, "that you're going to stay here for the day, and find that slayer tomorrow."

You almost smile at the confidence in his voice. "Actually, that's not at all what I'm thinking."

"But it's what you're gonna do anyway." He pulls you back down again, pulls the sheets over you. "I've been awake for a couple minutes. Got some thinking done. Giles, I know what you see here. I'm not stupid."

You try to assure him of this, even though he doesn't seem to need the assurance. "You never were."

He half-smiles at you. "You never were either. But I figured something out." He takes a breath and sits up. "You're as fucked up as me."

You blink, push the sheets off a little, and sit up next to him. "I'm not — Oz, I'm sorry. If I've misled you —"

"No, you — you've misled yourself." He's staring at you now, with those deep eyes that seem to change color on a whim. "You came out here, you saw me, and I figure the moment you did, you started looking for something that doesn't exist."

"And what's that, exactly?"

"I dunno." He slides back down to curl up by your side. The sun's coming in through the window, and it's hitting you directly in the face, blinding you, so you slide down with him. "I'm not stupid, but I'm not psychic either."

You take a look at him as he closes his eyes. You imagine him twisted into himself like a mobiius strip, beginning and ending and top and bottom all confused into one being.

He opens one eye to peer at you. "She'll wait. Whole world full of slayers, bad guys are gonna take a break for a little bit."

"Your life —" You can't even get words out. Your throat has closed up almost completely, and you swallow dryly and loudly. "Your life is —"

"It sucks." He flashes a quick grin. "I know. But sometimes it's okay. That's most people's lives. And hey, I'm bettin' your life hasn't been all kittens and marshmallows lately, so."

He pulls closer to you; outside, cars are on the street, people are on the sidewalks, and somebody has turned up their bass to the highest setting. Layers of action and reaction, melding into each other. "Will you let me help you?"

He pauses. You wait for him to answer and wonder what you'll do if he says yes. Finally, though, he presses a kiss to your shoulder and mumbles, "If you let me help you."

You nod. Turn onto your side, facing him. The sheets bunch around your hip and thigh, putting almost uncomfortable pressure on your flesh, while he wraps his arm around you. The sun is still there, in a spot that's causing sharp contrasts on his body. He's made up of light and dark and nothing in between.

You are not a good man. You've lived in the gray areas for as long as you can remember, so long that the ends of the moral spectrum seem to mesh together. The blood of the not-so-innocent stains your hands, and the faces of your victims flash through your mind at the most abrupt moments. Tomorrow, you'll live in the gray again, picking and choosing and changing your morals to fit the situation.

Today, you close your eyes and rest.