No Such Boy

An Angel: the Series story by glossolalia

Good health enjoys being in my body
And on Sunday mental stability swills vodka in my head.
All virtues of Stoicism sugarplum in my hands!
I would live forever if somebody else didn't need the space.
  - from Berths by Edward Locke


SUMMARY: "Recall the sophism attributed to Chrysippus: 'Whether you lie or whether you speak the truth, in either case you lie'."
SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers through episode 5x08 of AtS.
DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, Sandollar, and David Greenwalt Productions, 20th Century Fox, and others. I borrow only for my own hubristic pleasure.
NOTES: For Mosca's Free Verse Challenge. Summary from St. Jerome's letter LXIX to Oceanus. Thoughts on Connor and his names are indebted to Ros and FTwat. Thanks to Lar and Kita for reassuring readthroughs.


Lindsey had a longer, better run in LA than he ever expected.

When Angel ran him out of town, it might even have been a favor. He figured it was going to happen sooner or later, whether or not he wanted it to.

Highways at night, darkness lying heavy as a wool scarf over the road, pierced only by the twin cones of light from his truck. Only occasionally an answering pair from the opposite direction.

First, he hid.

Uppermost on the list of priorities: Take care of himself, and he shielded himself as best he could. Call it laying low, regrouping, intermission, Lindsey studied, hid, and cloaked. Last thing he needed was to get out only to end up flayed and fed to the Partners' pool boy.

Cloaking was easy. Easier than one might expect.

Lindsey's been hiding his whole life. Same instinct, different costume.

There are forces in this world and in the others that impinge on this one that Lindsey imagines to be like candlelight, shining through pinpricks in veils. Lights cast like cobwebs. The cloak's going to obscure him from those lights.

At least that's the idea.

A few shamans, couple Santeria spooks, one old-style European mage, and a priestess of uncertain allegiance all contributed to the cloak. Piecemeal, over months, tangling their traditions' deepest beliefs in with the others. Staining his skin with ink, cinders, metal and blood. Murmurs and curses.

Lindsey wears it around his neck, a circlet of ink and power so thin that it might be a wrinkle in his skin. The other glyphs support that circlet, channel more power and passion towards its braided form.

He strokes them at night, feels them hiss and throb, caught between his body and his skin. Same as the soft, loose shirts of the urban troubadour, lost in the spotlight. The hot-eyed cowboy in flannel shitkickers just another veil, same as the suits and weekly manicure, same as the big-eyed little waif yearning and dreaming of a better life.

This time he just took the veil deeper, all the way in now, beneath his skin. Part of him now.

Nothing is permanent, nor perfect. He doesn't believe he's entirely safe, but he is somewhat shielded.

His body is a temple, alive with primal fire. Twin flames, actually, his own and the last sparks of Brad's. Doubled and exponential. He cares for the temple as assiduously as any vestal virgin, tending, stoking, sweetening the fire. Health blossoms within him, beneath the envelope of skin, redgold fire and sweet blue smoke.

He keeps studying, always studies. Gathers knowledge to himself like sparks, like warmth against the night. Fire and light: It all starts there, the world, everything, just like his own end started when Angel torched Darla. Light reveals itself *and* what it shines on.

It all starts there, and that's where it will end.

The year was nearly out when the cloak was complete. He was in Bahia then, shaking off the last of malaria, relearning and retraining his muscles to move. He'd shrunk into himself, the skin tightening around bone, and when he caught sight of himself in puddles and windshields, he was harsh and jagged.

Outside finally matched inside, and Lindsey nodded at his image. Approved, and knew it was time to move back on up north.

Senior Partners might find him, but he doubted, at this point, that they much cared. *Lindsey* cared, but he could admit that he didn't matter one way or the other any longer.

This didn't have to mean he is insignificant. Doesn't have to feel shitty about it.


Sunday morning, the second day of the stupid pisspoor-idea of a visit back to the shitty one-story house that his momma calls home.

'Flu season never stole a McDonald babe, let alone two, nor did the bank take back the family manse. Steinbeck's novels contributed such details; Lindsey always did his homework and his photographic memory made itself known early.

Jawgrinding poverty, sharecropping the arid Oklahoma dirt, lost siblings: All preferable, always were, to the cheap plasterboard and formaldehyde-stink of hastily thrown-up suburban ranch houses, so close together only weevils and mosquitoes could pass, on the empty outskirts of Lawton.

"Lindsey, honey, you're gonna want to be changing soon," his momma says, setting down another pyrex dish, this one bursting with cheese-coated hash.

"What for?"

He knows what for. Church, to file in and show off her bigcity success of a baby boy, to mouth mealy pieties and snicker at the other ladies' dresses and hats.

"Go 'n change for church," his stepdad says. Hank's beard is coming in; Lindsey had forgotten just how hairy the motherfucker could get. Delay the morning shave by a couple hours, and he starts springing black and silver bristles like a hedgehog.

Lindsey pushes the oleo-soaked scrambled eggs once more around his plate. "Ain't going," he says. Quietly, to his mother, as if he gets to address only those he'd like to, only those he chooses to.

Hank coughs, wet and deep. "Change. Least you can fucking do -"

Lindsey straightens up, tugs off the pajama shirt - yellow, laundered near the point of transparency - and rolls his shoulders. Just an undershirt on now, and the brands and glyphs shimmer like oil spills on his skin. He knows because he's rehearsed this moment. Practiced, envisioned, scried. Longed for.

Momma gasps and whimpers like he'd known she would. Hank, though, there's a surprise. No yelling or cursing, just a sick nasal wheeze and the scraping back of his chair.

Lifts his thick-jowled chin. "Some kinda little faggot now, huh, pretty boy?"

Lindsey touches the shield, strokes it a little, tilting his head and regarding the oaf trying his damnedest to hover over him.

Lindsey's been loomed over by much scarier men.

He smiles up at Hank, pretty and toothy, and shrugs. "Gimme a drink, Momma? Some of that vodka I brung."

He scrapes his thumbnail against the shield and closes his eyes. Wouldn't take much to push Hank over the edge. The man's heart is already swollen, its beats irregular, arteries dripping fat like a pig on a spit. Couple seconds to concentrate on one ventricle, and Lindsey could pop it like a balloon.

It'd make Momma sad, though, and she's already lost or buried four husbands.

"No drinking on Sunday," Hank says. Passes his hand over his neck, sick scrape of stubble and bloom of nightsweat assaulting Lindsey's ears and nose. "Fucking fudgepacker."

Lindsey smiles some more, sweet and flirty. Runs fingertips and knuckles down his own chest. Gets the reassuring *hiss-pop* from the cloak. "Learned from the best, Hank."

He ducks out of the ensuing chaos, brings his juice glass full of the good Polish stuff and the bottle itself out to what they call the deck. Couple sagging two-by-fours over a rickety foundation, so low to the ground you can see the worms moving over the dirt beneath.

Lindsey sits on the edge and drinks long and deep.

He drank gin and tonics in LA. Something left over from one of his aunts, he always supposed, quinine as protection against the muggy weather. But this is the good stuff, pure vodka, tastes like sweet burning water. Not like the shit he guzzled in the back of a pick-up doing 80, hurtling toward the county line, girl wrapped around him like there's something that's actually love beyond his hard dick and the soft bouncing sweetness of her tits.

Worlds away from that but just as good. Hot in his belly, blossoming in clear, bright clouds up his spine, and he can almost taste the girl's lipgloss again.

Morning, impossibly clear, and he hates this place. Has to admit the sky is beautiful, though. Huge and shallow, the kind of sky LA deserves, so blue, endless, no depth whatsoever.

Crashes and high, strained whispers from the house.

Scrubby little trees the neighbors planted against the backyard when the complaints they called into the cops about Hank's propensity to shoot off his rifle in the middle of the night did no good.

Like nature, bought by the half-ton at the feed store, is any protection against stupidity.

"Linds. Going now."

He twists around. His mother's in the doorway, pink dress, violet shoes. Little white bow in her thinning bottle-blonde hair. "Look pretty, Momma."

"You change your mind?" She sounds like a hummingbird, always has, small and chipper. Colorful, always twitching.

"Nope. Finish my drink, might go to the movies."

She nods and opens her plastic clutch purse. Darker violet, and it doesn't match her shoes or gloves except through intention.

"Don't need money," he says and she smiles at him. Clicks the purse shut and steps out onto the deck. Lays her gloved hand on the top of his head.

"He don't mean half of what he says," she tells him and Lindsey nods.

"Nah. But I do. All of it."

Her hand caps his skull, molds over his hair. Keeps the hot bright steam of vodka inside, burning the backs of his eyes and the far reaches of his sinuses. And he's grateful for that.

She smells like Jean Nate bath splash and the last remnants of bacon grease and potato skins from the breakfast. She's never going to change.

"You take care, then," his mother says and strokes his hair. "Have fun."

He wasn't supposed to be born. Thirty-six years old, his mother was already divorced twice when she got attacked behind the dumpster at the diner where she waited tables. Raped, left for dead, no one found her for three hours. Long enough for the bastard's seed to ruin her life all the way. When she was nineteen, she wanted children. Couldn't have them, not with either husband, and she'd long given up. Resigned to, even happy with, her life, her situation.

Then Lindsey came along and every time she saw his blue eyes - or so Hank told him, again and again, over and fucking *over* - she saw the fucker's face again. Everyone, both sides of her family, has dark eyes. Comanche and Spanish and Scotch-Irish.

Sometimes, like now, she's good to him.

He finds the money on the clean table, glittery formica wiped down with a dirty rag. Two fives tucked under a cup of orange juice. The house is silent now, smelling like all the chemicals used to build and care for and clean it, overlaid with breakfast's bacon fat and ripe milk.

The linoleum is cracked and sighs as he moves toward the door.

Lindsey goes to the movies with his mother's money. Dream palaces, his grandmother used to call them, saying the word like it came from another language. A better language, like French.

She was more right than she knew.

He slumps in the middle seat in the middle row, swings his legs up onto the seat in front of him, and stares up at the smoky, swirling beam of light travelling from projector to screen. He can't give a damn about whatever bullshit's up there on the screen.

It's the light, hazy and constantly spinning, that he comes for. Never had the patience for water-scrying, let alone fucking crystal balls. Just this: light on dark, silver and black. Objects and events moving in the shade, requesting belief.

Ghosts in there.

Hints of memory, other presents and elsewheres. Sometimes, if he looks hard enough, gets the right angle, there are remnants of what's coming. Hints and glances, sidewise and vague. Time's seams thick and doubling back.

Sharp alcohol clarity in his skull, burning his eyes, and he's lucky today.

He sees Angel - always sees Angel, it's what he comes for - kneeling in the rain. Weeping. Probably lost the fucking soul again.

Darla. God, *Darla*. He catches sight of a single scrap of that delicate, beloved face and then - nothing. Sick blackgreen ash parodying her face, collapsing. Washing away.


Naked, pinkwhite baby squirming in the ash and that fucking monster's *touching* it. Picking it up, loving it, cradling it like that gorilla with the little orange kittens she kept killing by mistake.

Some things just aren't right.

Lindsey knows he has no moral code beyond taking care of himself, but there's always been a couple things he'll bend the rules for.

Some things so basic he feels them deep in his gut, down his spine. Brad's pain, for one. And kids. You just don't touch kids. Hurt them, kill them, fuck them: Doesn't matter. You don't.

Lindsey's not going to hide any more.

He knows what he has to do.


Even with all his power, even with the study and the discipline and the meditation, Lindsey is not strong enough to hope to make sense of the ensuing year. More he sees, the less he thinks he can know.

He keeps watching. Drives through the night, haunts matinees and evening shows alike. Movie theaters, cineplexes to old vaudeville haunts, couple drive-ins, across the country and around the bend, he watches and watches.

He sees a torn throat and a squalling infant ripped from tremoring hands.

Later he sees a feral, beautiful boy kill Angel. Chain the fucker up and sink him to the bottom of the polluted Pacific. And he thinks, then, that maybe this is what he's supposed to do: Just watch. Cheer from the sidelines, lend what support he can. Watch over that child who's nearly grown, awkward when he has to be, viciously graceful when he wants to be.

Knowledge is sensory, after all, and the truth is nothing abstract against which we compare what we see. The truth lies in the impressions themselves, in the belief we grant them, and Lindsey watches *hard*. Believes as deeply as he can.

He half-loves the boy, and not just for what he's done. Not just because he is as graceful and sharp-featured as Darla ever was. Not just because he fights beside Angel, a slimmer, slightly younger shadow, then sinks him deeper than Lindsey ever dreamed.

Lindsey watches and learns and loves everything about him.

So when he sees that English asshole raise Angel like he's some kind of lost treasure, shining and brilliant, Lindsey believes and worries. When the office-slut comes back and fucks who he's come to think as *his* boy, his child, his last slip of Darla in the world long after he thought he'd finished mourning her, he rages.

He is about to leave for Los Angeles, test the full strength of his shields and cloaks, retrieve his boy from the depths to which they're pulling him, inch by insidious, stomach-turning inch, when the lights start clouding over.

Every theater he tries in every town across three counties, the light just gets darker. Cloudier, filling up with grit and ash, obscure, bitter things.

He can barely see the gleam of an eye in the light, let alone what's happening. Blindness is ignorance, and ignorance is, as it always has been for Lindsey, more intolerable than death.

After that, there is nothing.

Nothing but bright light, full of gamboling children and adults with imbecilic smiles on their faces. Linked hands like a charity appeal and fluffy kittens meowing adorably. Singing in high, church-pious registers. More hugs than a corporate trustbuilding retreat or a full season of Oprah. Simplistic, thick-skulled delight and moonlight on dewy petals.

Lindsey stops believing.

He will not assent to what he sees, cannot and will not agree that this is happening.


It takes him months to find his boy.

All the power in the world, all the scrying and searching and shielding, and all he could see for months was a sort of pearlescent sheen to the light. Nothing more.

"There is no boy": He hears this from everyone he consults.

On the outskirts of Santa Cruz, and he's bone-tired from the looping, meandering journey. All over the map, haunts and hideaways, dive bars and penthouses, and he's still getting the runaround.

He skinned a Santeria priest with his teeth and the tight focus of his eyes the last time he heard the answer he couldn't accept. Turned out that poor guy was telling the truth, really didn't think there was any such boy. Truth is what we agree to, and Lindsey still says he's lying.

Last straw is this demon halfbreed with pretty red hair and the wide, innocent eyes of the truly untrustworthy.

She kneels in a tent on the boardwalk, sells fortunes to stoned college kids and bored soccer moms. Sunlight, filtered through scarves and tentfabric, paints her cheeks and shoulders garish colors. Safety-orange and the blue of a child's crayoned sky.

She knows what he is, knew as soon as he pushed through the tentflaps, and she's enjoying this. Big eyes moving over his neck and chest, half-delighted, half-bored.

She shrugs, looking back at him, lips curving upward.

"Sorry, babe," she says. Pouts and fixes her bra strap. "No such kid."

She squeaks when Lindsey grabs her by the throat. Tiny throat, narrow as Darla's, birdwing-beat of her pulse under his hand.

"Impossible birth didn't happen to ripple the fabric of the fucking *universe*?" He shakes her and her head tilts back. Pretty and easy as a whore, her red lips parting. "Kid who grew up in a week and a half, starred in scroll after scroll of prophecies around the world -" *Beautiful kid, too good for this fucking world*.

She's smiling, looking at him, eyes wide and green as crocodile-hide, algae, slick noxious things. Full of lies. Lindsey's on his knees, shaking her, and she's *smiling*.

"No such boy," she says. Licks her lips when he squeezes her throat tight enough to snap tendons. Like he's tickling her. "But I do know someone you might be interested in."

Lindsey eases the pressure. Good to use his hands again, feel life trembling in his palm. "I'm listening."

"Nice kid, up in Berkeley. Might fit the bill."

"Not looking for a type. Looking for someone specific."

Tongueflicker in the corner of her mouth as she tucks her hair behind one ear. He's got her by the throat and she's - *amused*, if anything. Small hand, tipped with coralpink nails reaches over and touches his shield.

Lindsey releases her with a hiss and a gasp. Electrified barbed wire tightens around his neck until he shoves her aside. She falls impossibly away from him, like a dropped doll, arms akimbo, legs bent back at the knees. Her head bounces heavily against the boardwalk wood, basketball low on air.

"Ooops?" she says. Straightens out her limbs until they look human again, touches the scrape his thumbnail left down her neck. Under soft pale skin, peagreen scales shine darkly. Wink and glitter at him. She tugs up her human skin, smoothes it back into place, and shakes out her hair.

Lindsey sits back on his heels. Incomprehension, frustration, desperation all slicing thick and slow through him, roughening his voice, slowing his breath. "Fuck are you?"

"Never mind," she says. Pats her palms down her hair and leans over. Checks her lipstick in the crystal ball before glancing back at him. "Nice kid. Just started Berkeley, really smart. Think you'll like him."


The year he spent watching, Lindsey worked part-time as an eager, striving paralegal in a couple different law firms. One more veil, paid the bills and hoarded information. Supplemented the scrying with unlimited access to Lexis/Nexis. He looks through his printouts again that night in a motel halfway to San Francisco.

He might not be a lawyer anymore; he still loves his files and documents.

He could have sworn he had articles on Lilah's rise within the ranks of Wolfram and Hart, something impenetrably scientific by the longhaired waif who'd joined Angel's gang, a crowd shot from some parade with Gunn leaning against a lamppost, laughing out loud. Not much on the slut, a couple pieces from her hometown paper touting her supposed Hollywood successes - infomercial, lots of auditions.


He tastes magic on the back of his tongue, feels it prickle around his nostrils. His handwriting on the tabs of the folders, articles he's never seen before annotated and highlighted with his favorite blue pen.

Steven Fitzwilliam, seventeen, full ride to Berkeley. Star pitcher for the high school team, perfect 800 on the math SAT. Founder of both the school's rainforest campaign and Gay-Straight Friendship Alliance.

The same picture, department-store backdrop of clouds, stiff in a suit jacket that no longer quite fits, accompanies every scrap.

His boy, normal and beautiful and impossible.

Lindsey blinks and blinks again. Magic like seltzer and cyanide in his mouth, blue, almondsweet, fizzing.

He tosses the bedside lamp, the folders, pitcher of ice against the wall and nothing helps. Everything explodes, shatters, flutters to the floor and he's still sitting there on the bed.

Hands shaking, mouth dry. He scrubs and pulls at his hair, hoping pain will clarify things. All the brands, ink, power and cloaks in the world, and he's safe while the one who actually matters, the innocent, has been erased, reslotted, forgotten. Removed and inserted into something less believable than Cordelia's acting talent.

You just don't *do* that.

You can't pretend things are all right when they're not. If you're going to lie, do it for a good reason: To get help, to obtain love, to cover up what really hurts. You don't lie so things are easier and prettier for you.

Lindsey shuts his eyes against the piece of paper before him. Can't look too long, can't accept that the boy is all right. As long as he withholds his assent, rejects this version, he can still do something about it.


Drives all night, half-drunk and jaw set.

He hits Berkeley by late morning. Rundown arthouse cinema on the outskirts of campus, near People's Park - which is no longer much of a people's paradise unless you're pink-cheeked and clean with a stroller - matinee of a third-run chick flick and mostly empty.

Lindsey takes his usual seat, precisely in the middle, and leans back.

Crosses his legs, lets his eyes unfocus, and what he sees in the projector's light makes him laugh. Might as well laugh at the image of Angel in a black W&H satin team jacket breaking ground for a new medical research facility. Dusk, of course, and a huddle of flunkies holding big black umbrellas over the bastard's head. Can't singe the boss.

He laughs like he's coming, unstoppable, inevitable, shading fast into pain.

Tap on his shoulder. Lindsey would stop laughing, but he can't.

The hand settles on his shoulder and squeezes. His shield prickles and warms at the contact. Round white sprinkles and smudges of chocolate on the bitten nails: Nonpareils. Minute candy garnishing soft sexless skin.

"You okay?" Soft voice, slightly husky. Young.

"Sorry," Lindsey says, wiping his eyes. Laughter like hiccups, torn from his gut and lungs. "Sorry."

"Movie's not that funny, man."

Lindsey checks the screen - bulimic-thin blonde moping around a large, empty warehouse in a flimsy black dress - then twists in his seat. "No -" he starts.

Stops. The hand's still on his shoulder, connected to -


Same oval face and wide, beautiful eyes. Darla's delicacy, slightly obscured by shaggier hair, scruff of an attempted beard. Angel's eyes in blue, hooded and wary. Steven blinks and tries to pull his hand away.

"How do you know my name?" Narrowed eyes, his father's tight-lipped scowl.

Lindsey breathes, thinks of fire and health. Finds an innocent lie. Puts on his best courtroom smirk. "You're in Math 314, aren't you? Across the hall from me, Tuesday afternoons."

Single-shoulder shrug and toss of the hair. Lindsey wants to grab that hand before it slips away. He closes his eyes, finds the seat of patience and trust in fate as something simple and causal, then looks back at the boy. Urges him to believe.

"Yeah," Steven says, nodding. "Think I've seen you."

"Around, yeah," Lindsey says. He can barely breathe.

If he were Angel, if he were a beast, he'd grab the boy. Wants to, wants to lay his hands on him and pull and fold him up, taste the dampness of his skin, never let him go.

He's not like that. "You going to that thing tonight?"

Keeps it vague, trusts in the freshman's bottomless curiosity for new experiences, constant parties, to bring up something.

Steven runs his hand through his hair, rubs the wispy beard. *Scritch-whisper-scritch* loud in the dark. "Thought I might. The Omega thing?"

Everything hushed, hoarse whispers in the dark, and Lindsey's head is swimming with fire. Steven's face silver in the light from the screen, truer than any vision, bones strong and birdthin beneath bluepale skin. Beautiful.

"That's the one," Lindsey says.

"Aren't you a little - Um. You know." Polite boy, eyes dropping, long graceful fingers toying with his shirt collar.


Steven nods and looks at him again. Small, sweet smile, grateful that Lindsey didn't make him say it.

"Grad student. Perpetual student," Lindsey says. Lies and believes it, and if there's belief, isn't it the same as the truth?


He lied about his childhood. While it went on, he told teachers he was fine, just fell down a lot. Told his momma he dearly-deeply loved her, and Hank, and Jesus. Told his friends that his real dad worked out in the Gulf on one of the rigs and sent him diamonds from sunken galleons. When it was over, he lied some more, told admissions officers about the rickety one-room shack right out of Walker Evans, the loss of two sisters in the cold months, all of it.

His lies were miserable; Steven, though, is a beautiful lie, glowing with hearth-fire and fellowship.

Things need to be set right. Put back in balance.

Lindsey finds him again at the frat party. They haven't changed at all in the ten years since his last one. Blacklights making skin glow alien-bright. Steamy, beer-heavy air, bodies on bodies, bad music blasting. He slices through the sweaty crowd, edges and shimmies, his guitar slung over his back, closing in on Steven.

The boy leans against the mantle, red plastic cup of beer in his hand, eyes scanning the bodies. Bored, maybe; better, certainly. Arrogant slant to his shoulders and amused lift to his brows.

Lindsey moves towards him in an inevitable, painfully slow close-up.

"Hey, man," Steven says, clapping his shoulder. Cheeks bright with alcohol, speech just barely slurred. "Good to see you."

His hand is warm, slick with sweat, his head bobbing like a sunflower on the long stalk of his neck to the music. He's soft, slightly drunk, and smells like shampoo. Got ready for the party like a good boy, probably brushed his teeth three times just in case he hooked up.

Lindsey takes his hand - finally, at last - and leads him toward the stairs.

"What're you doing?" Startled eyes, squeak in his voice, and Lindsey shrugs.

"Going up to the roof," Lindsey says. "Want to show you something."

"Man, I'm not -"

Lindsey nods and climbs the stairs. "S'okay. Neither am I."

If Angel's watching, and Lindsey's pretty sure he is - the bastard loves his guilt, loves rubbing himself in holy water and wallowing in all his wrongs - all he'll see is a slightly older guy putting the moves on the boy who used to be his. The boy he threw away for a penthouse and black satin team jacket.

That's not, of course, the safest of options.

Angel hates anything queer; the few times their brawls shaded into fucking, he'd push Lindsey down, bend him over like a dog, grind his face into asphalt, brickwall, car hood, take him fast and blind from behind. Like he couldn't even admit he was fucking a guy. Had to hide the evidence.

It's a whole pattern with Angel, hiding what he can't deal with. Fucking hypocrite.

Up rickety stairs, narrow and narrower, until Lindsey opens one French window and stands aside. Steven looks him over, hands him his beer, and scrambles through.

Chilly out here, damp and almost quiet. Dark like under the covers, hiding from the bogeyman, all the monsters under the bed and in the closet and downstairs. Close and safe.

The music is less noise any longer than it is vibrations coming up through the shingles. Lindsey sits down too close to Steven - warm narrow thigh against his - and adjusts the strap of his guitar.

"Nice out here, huh?" he says.

Steven nods and a couple locks of hair steal over his cheek. "What're we doing here again?"

"Chilling," Lindsey says. Digs in his pocket for his little pipe and waves it in front of Steven's face. "Wanna pack a bowl?"

Steven's a good boy, Lindsey can see it in his eyes, well-behaved, polite, too smart for his own good. Hungry for what's not good, what's naughty and not quite right. He nods slowly, swallowing once.

His eyes flicker up to Lindsey's and he tries to smile.

"S'cool," Lindsey says, leaning over, unrolling the baggie and plucking out some dry, crumpled leaves. Packs in the weed and lights it carefully. Sucks in deep, then curls his finger at Steven, urging him closer.

Beautiful face, tilting in front of him, Darla coming in for a kiss, Angel coming in for a punch and stream of invective. Hank -. Lindsey pets the crown of Steven's head, cups his palm around it gently as you'd hold a baby. Exhales slowly over the boy's face. Pale gray smoke blurring his features, their lips only half an inch apart.

The heat coming off Steven is headier than any smoke. Lindsey blinks and feels the brush of lips against his own. Dry, shy, then - gone.

He opens his eyes and Steven's lying down on the roof, arms behind his head. Peering at Lindsey, ghost of a smirk on his lips.

"Play me something." Something imperious in his voice, a child demanding another candy, a girl ordering treats at the carnival. Angel telling him to leave town. "C'mon, man. Play."

Lindsey sets down the pipe after another toke. Grins a little when Steven picks it and the lighter up as Lindsey swings his guitar around into his lap.

He picks out some Who - "Pinball Wizard", then "My Generation" - before Steven sits up again, jostling him shoulder to shoulder. Lindsey's hand scrapes over the strings and the jangle hurts his ears, makes him nauseous.

"Don't stop," Steven says, jumping to his feet like they're on the ground. Not this sharply-tilting roof cluttered with loose, rough shingles. "Keep going."

Lindsey plays a medley while Steven steps - surefooted, light as ballet - to the seam of the roof. Very top of the house, and he walks the seam, balancing on the sharp angle, easy and rapid.

"God," Steven says, arms rising like a hawk, beating the air. "Feel like I'm flying."

Lindsey swallows a hot bubble of air and fear. "Should get down, boy. Might slip -"

Steven shakes his head. "Keep playing. I'm okay. God, I'm *great*. You lace the pot with anything?"


Steven, silhouetted against the dark, a thin, twisting column of light, full of grace and ease. He looks down at Lindsey, hair in his eyes, head cocked. Beatific, somewhat interrogatory.

"I -" Lindsey starts, answering the silent question.

But Steven jumps, fast and liquid as a cat, and lands in a crouch by Lindsey. Just as close as before, hugging his knees.

At the contact Lindsey's brands and shields melt a little against, new asphalt, black and shiny, in the high noon sun.

Steven grins. "Scare you?"


"I *did*. C'mon, admit it."

Lindsey runs through the chords you learn at your third guitar lesson. Three, four times, before he replies. "Got some good balance there."

Steven extends his arms, turns his hands back and forth against the dark. He would be waving, but the motion is too slow, and what is the wave? Greeting, goodbye. His splayed fingers are pale and stark as bones.

" - between 'em?" he asks.

"What?" Lindsey says. Stops playing.

Steven looks at him. Eyes bright, face glowing dull and complex as the surface of a pearl. "If you're dead inside, you can live forever. Think there's any difference between them? Life and death?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I do."

"Like what?" He sounds like a good student, patient and curious.

A chain, thick and bolted, of stock answers runs through Lindsey's head. Love, breath, kin, loyalty, heart, love, love, love -.

"Heat," he says. Darla trembling with her ancient fever, sick desperate heat rolling off her. Angel gripping him by the throat, his skin like something vegetable - grass or moss - or mineral - window pane, formica - but never animal. "Heat."

Steven nods, very slowly, eyes moving back and forth over Lindsey's face. Like he's reading something there. Judging, evaluating, it. Finally he smiles and Lindsey feels himself flush for a moment.

"You sing?" Steven asks, tapping the guitar.

Lindsey takes a sip of Steven's warm beer and resettles his fingers. Nods and strums out. "We'll be fighting in the streets," he sings, "with our children at our feet -"

Steven nods along, as if he knows the song. Lindsey supposes he does; he has old hippies for (fake) parents. This song and the Dead were probably his lullabies. He sings through three verses, going into minor keys for the chorus, and looks out over the steep roofs, strings of lights and dark blue clouds on the horizon.

Steven slips his arm around Lindsey's waist, slides closer until the guitar's touching his collarbone. He tips his head against Lindsey's shoulder and his eyes close.

Long instrumental interlude that Lindsey's fingers ache to finish and he gets to the last words, sings hoarse and soft, *same as the old boss*, and Steven lets out a sigh from deep within.

His breath is beer, weed, and Scope. Pure, good boy.

His arm tightens on Lindsey's waist and Lindsey lifts his own arm, slips it around narrow, strong shoulders. Holds him there, thinks of falconry, hoods and returns.

Not what he expected, certainly not what he came for.

"You okay with this?" Lindsey asks against Steven's hair. Shampoo and sweat.

Steven tips back his head and strokes the curve of the guitar with two fingers. Then Lindsey's chest, buttons and fabric.

"Better be," he says. Smiles and rubs his cheek against Lindsey's shoulder. "Could always blame the beer in the morning."

Lindsey laughs. Not the half-terrified glee at seeing Angel running the firm, not the cruel delight in setting Hank off yet again. Just laughter, and it feels as good as breathing.

"You're a weird kid."

Steven nods, as if he's heard that a million times before. Says gravely, "You have no idea."


A real graduate student will be wandering the streets tonight, amnesiac, no key, no idea who he is or where he came from.

Lindsey has his room, high-ceilinged, packed with books, French and German, broken spines and yellowed pages. A futon on the floor covered with a garnet and black Indian tapestry. Little shards of mirrors sewn into the designs.

Steven sits in the center of the futon, legs folded, picking at one of the mirrors while Lindsey pulls off his shirt.

He should not be so nervous. He's here, within reach of Steven, more beautiful, more graceful and *himself* than Lindsey could have dreamed. Yet the breath is thick in his chest, his hands are distant and cold, and he shivers.

"Lot of tats there," Steven says. Tilts his head like a puppy, studying him as Lindsey moves closer. Shuffles on his knees over fleamarket kilim rug and plants his fists on the edge of the futon.

Starts to breathe more easily when Steven touches him again, traces the top of one brand on his bicep. Desire is irrational, an instinct shared with dogs and other animals. But the world is an animal, burning and needing, and Lindsey -.

Lindsey needs.

"Yeah, a couple," he says.

Steven smiles. Reaches out and traces the large glyph that covers the center of Lindsey's chest. His finger is warm as bathwater, his touch as gentle as a cat's.

"Immortality, right?" he asks and Lindsey stiffens. Pulls back, but Steven's palm is flat against his chest, holding him there. Burning.

"Yes?" Lindsey tries to breathe against the weight of Steven's palm. Dark blue eyes, nightsky, glimmers of gold, fixed on him. Candlelight, pinpricks, lights without source. Lindsey cannot lie. "Sort of. More protection from harm."

"I want to live forever," Steven says gently. "Like the dead do."

Lindsey can't breathe. Shoved back into the same dull, pearly confusion of the past several months. Can't make sense, can't understand how the boy - good boy, nice parents, high scores and a real genius on the mound - could possibly read the charms and glyphs.

Impossible: Coincidence, fate.

Lindsey gapes, gasps, finds himself nodding. Of course Steven wants to live forever. Steven *should* live forever. It's the most natural thing in the world and virtue consists of living with nature, not resisting it.

"You're going to help me." Imperious, and obedience is unavoidable.

Lindsey drags in a ragged breath, thin and not nearly enough, when Steven's hand moves off his chest, sliding down his arm until his fingers wrap around Lindsey's wrist.

"You know my dad."

Lindsey can't see Steven's face. Just the hollow of his throat, blue vein there pale as a robin's egg, throbbing with heat and life. Shadowed and strong.

Steven squeezes Lindsey's wrist until bone and tendon grind. Brad's hand claws at the mirrors and fabric.

"Angel." It should be a question, but Lindsey hears his own voice, flat and confident as Steven's.

Steven nods and he looks shy again. But he can't be shy, can't be the boy everyone - *Lindsey* - thinks he is, can't be -. "Tell me about him. All of it."


Lindsey is a songbird in a cage, but the cage is pretty and Steven takes good care of him. He sings for Steven - words, music, stories - and the shield holds. The circlet a collar now, Steven's touch a leash, his voice beloved. Asking, demanding, taking in Lindsey's answers with a slow smile and graceful reassurance.

"Just help me out," Steven says, several times a day, like Lindsey's a slow child who needs constant reminders, "and no one'll ever find you."

Memory, like time itself, partakes of past and present for Lindsey. The present moment - driving Steven down the coast, skirting Los Angeles, building a bonfire on the beach with him - straddles past and future, takes in a little of each. It never stands on its own.

He still thinks of the boy as Steven, though he'll get slapped if he says the name out loud.

*Connor* just doesn't sit well in his mouth. Too Irish, maybe, too much of Angel in the name's dense weight and swallowed syllables.

Memories of his previous quest, laughable and trivial now - as if he could have rescued Steven; from what? Towards what goal? - cling to him, then, as they approach the girl's tent in Santa Cruz. Shards and scraps of memories that reflect and anticipate what already happened, what's going to happen.

Steven follows a step behind, hair blowing in the breeze. Lindsey looks once, twice, then parts the tent's flaps and ducks inside.

"Hey, babe," she says without glancing up from the cheap tarot cards. Her hair is still red, and Lindsey reminds himself it's only been a week since he last saw her. "Found your boy, I see."

"Yeah," Lindsey says and rubs the circlet on his neck. Fire, it's all going to return to fire; he has to keep trusting that. "Came by to say thanks."

She looks up, but at Steven, ignoring Lindsey completely. "You're even prettier than they said you were."

"Thanks," Steven says. Moves closer and glances over his shoulder at Lindsey. "You were right. She's perfect."

The girl smiles and tries to look abashed. Even manages to bring up a blush as she runs her hands over the silly gypsy skirt she's got herself up in. So busy playing demure, she barely has time to blanch when Steven grabs her by the neck, lifts her off the floor.

Lindsey couldn't hurt her. Squeezed as hard as he could, and nothing happened.

Steven, though, grins beautifully and snaps her neck as he says, "She'll do just fine."

He reclines on her pillows while Lindsey kneels beside the body, stripping off the human skin. It comes off more easily than an apple peel under his fingers, soft and almost transparent. Like Egyptian cotton, fine cashmere, textures he never felt until he'd been in LA for several years.

Jade-green scales are closely packed over her serpentine body and they snag on his fingers, sharper than daggers, so the skin is spotted and smudged with blood when he's finished.

Lindsey shakes out the skin and holds it up. Steven strips off his boy's costume - striped t-shirt, worn Levi's - and takes the diaphanous skin. Waits expectantly while Lindsey gets to his feet and murmurs the adhesion charm.

Steven wraps himself in the skin, tugs the red hair over his skull, and when he turns once, he is - . She. Smaller, just as delicately formed, entirely girlish.

Lindsey passes his palm down Steven's spine, closes the skin's seam, and kisses her forehead. "What are we going to call you?"

She kicks the snake-demon with one pretty foot, pink polish on the toes, and looks up at him. Still the same beautiful smile. Kisses his bleeding fingertips, licks them clean and healed until Lindsey trembles. She closes her eyes for a moment.

"Eve seems right, don't you think?"


After his shower, Steven lies across their bed, arms spread, naked and rosy0damp. Lindsey crawls over him, nose to skin like a pig searching for truffles, bloodhound tracking crime, trailing evidence.

Sometimes he thinks he can see ash trapped in Steven's skin, just under the surface, traces of Darla. Angel. Sometimes, when Steven kisses him, wraps his legs around Lindsey's waist and lets Lindsey fuck him, his eyes aren't innocent and blue any longer. Sometimes Lindsey sees hellfire there, bright and terrifying and mesmerizing.

Steven caterwauls then, arch of throat, head pistoning into the mattress, and the sounds aren't entirely human. He digs nails into Lindsey's brands and tattoos, scrapes against them, removes a little more of the safety Lindsey spent so long gathering around himself.

"Need you," Steven will tell him in moments like that. "Please, Lindsey, please, help me, please -"

And it's a lie like any of the others, all of the others, but sweeter. It's a lie for Lindsey, and it makes him think of the long-boned boy who held him on the roof, sang wordlessly along, kissed him as shyly as possible. Gives him back that boy, that Steven, and his spine melts faster than butter, golden and hot, and he will do anything.

Under Lindsey's tongue, Steven smells like carpets and cinders, Wolfram & Hart and ashes in the rain. Angel smelled - probably still does - like old lilies and sod, just like Darla.

Lindsey spends a lot of time alone in the apartment. Eve goes to work in her little slips of dresses, hair poured over her shoulders like afternoon light, and she stays away.

Lindsey can't leave the apartment. The charms and runes close in on him sometimes, solidify and loom. Too scared, too needy, back to hiding.

He could watch what she does at work. Easy enough to fill a black bowl from the tap and watch her click-clack down corporate hallways, smile her mona-lisa smirk, taunt Angel.

He'll hear all about it when she returns.

She always does return. She works late, but she comes home.

Usually well after dark, and she strips slowly as she wends her way toward him. Sheds it all in the passage from door to bed. Stockings, silk skirts, camisoles and earrings. Sheath of girlskin. By the time she gets to the bed, she is Steven again. Or looks like him, and it's the same thing for Lindsey.

If it takes Lindsey a moment to find his breath and steady his nerves, Steven rarely says anything about this. Whatever Steven is, he's still a boy in his restless, deeply-sown narcissism; if it doesn't affect him, it might as well not exist.

Lindsey wonders if this is how Angel feels, or felt, before he became Mr. Corporation. Constantly exhausted by the conviction that he *could* help, whether or not he really felt like it. He saw it in Angel's eyes, laughed at it, that weariness that makes you keep acting like a computer, robot, nothing human.


It is Halloween, and Steven returns later than ever. New year for some, fabrics between realities stretched thin, warp and weft of the cosmos visible and shining. The dead passing like shades, half-seen and cold.

Lindsey is uneasy. Lonely. He sleeps on and off, wants the day to be over, wants his boy, wants a measure of warmth and weight in the bed.

Eyes bleary and half-open, he barely sees the Eve skin shed. Just another pale ghost, dress and skin, distant. Just hears sheets moved aside, smells alcohol and perfume and something older as the mattress dips slightly and Steven slides closer.

Smashed flowers and sod, wet with tears. Blood. He smells Angel more than ever and his heart tightens like a fist.

"Hold me?" Steven asks, voice small and hoarse.

Lindsey's chest expands, fills again with health, warmth, love. He pulls Steven against him, chest to chest, and strokes the hair off his face. "Bad day?"

"Just long," Steven says, yawning, and tucks his head against Lindsey's arm. "Really long."

When he was younger, Steven has told him, and he was out of sorts, Holtz would institute another series of impossible training exercises. Scent-trailing, fire-walking, spelunking through the intestines of the largest demons. *He wanted me to die*, Steven said once. It was the middle of the night and he'd been thrashing under the weight of a nightmare. *Loved me, but he wanted me hurt. Like it'd prove I was human.*

Lindsey didn't have anything to say to that then. He still doesn't.

He cups Steven's sharp jaw and rubs his fingers against the boy's hot scalp. Combs out the ever-shaggy hair and swallows when Steven slides his arm over Lindsey's waist, tugs himself even closer.

"You won't go, right?" Steven asks sleepily, eyes half-closed, voice thick and fuzzy.

Lindsey kisses his forehead and rubs the side of Steven's head. "No."

"Doesn't matter." Spoken from beneath veils of dreams, with the certainty of the already-dead, the already-rejected. "They all go."

"Not me," Lindsey says. He holds the boy - Connor, Steven, Connor, Steven, Eve, so many names for barely a blink of time - and keeps holding until sleep comes.

He doesn't know what to believe any longer. What he saw in all those different lights could have been true, might have been lies. So many things and people more powerful in the world than he is - the Senior Partners, Lilah, Angel, even the Englishman. Steven.

Any, all, of them could have shown him what they wanted him to see. His memory's always been good, but it's just a collection of pictures. Like everything else, he had to agree to believe, had to agree to make it true.

He has stories and songs for Steven, information about Angel, knowledge about the firm and its structure. When he's been tapped dry, Steven won't have to pretend to need him any longer. If he survives, if the fire holds off long enough, he'll have to start all over again. He will move aside and let Steven take what he needs.

Everything might as well be a phantasm. His study taught him that, reminded him of what he'd always known, the principle on which he's always acted. His real dad, his mother's love, Angel's interest in saving him, Darla's concern: All false.

Groundless, tricks of light and shade.

Like the boy in his arms, sweetsmelling hair and deep warm sighs against Lindsey's chest.

He keeps shadowboxing, keeps loving the phantastic. He doesn't have much of a choice and this - *this*, Steven shuddering in sleep and clutching at his waist - is the best lie of all.

"Love," he says softly, now, when he couldn't that first night. "Same thing. Heat, love. You."



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