He drove like he was possessed, not crazily, but compulsively, unable
to stop. He passed cities and towns, crossed rivers, wound through
mountains, and it was nearly a day later, in a national forest in
Colorado, when finally his knees, bladder, and back made one last,
insistent demand that he stop. He pulled over at a rest stop which
was, as far as he could determine, located just west of nowhere, and he
went into the men's room and wet his hair and stared at his bloodshot
eyes echoed under gray bathroom light.
Outside, the Western sun was having one last hurrah before setting,
and the sky was red from horizon to horizon. He took his road atlas
out of the Jag's glove compartment to check the next part of his route.
At some point he would have to sleep, but not now.
"Mind if I have a look at that?" a quiet, gravelly voice asked, and
Lindsey looked up to see himself regarded by a small, pale man with
spiky red hair. Lindsey handed over the atlas and watched as the young
man traced an eastward path with a long, callused index finger.
"Where you headed?" Lindsey asked.
"Long way from here. Been on the road a while?"
"Just under a day."
A glance from the red-haired man. "You look tired."
"Haven't slept in a few days."
The man flipped the atlas closed. "I was about to eat. Join me?"
He was laconic, his eyes intense, but he looked harmless. "Sure,"
"Oz," the man introduced himself.
Neither commented on the strangeness of the other's name.
Oz was driving an enormous brown van, and he opened the back doors to
reveal a spacious and remarkably clean interior. Some musician's
paraphernalia--a guitar, the case to what looked like some kind of
large woodwind instrument--was stored inside, along with Oz's minimal
belongings. Oz climbed inside the van and opened up a backpack,
removing several items from within. "Come in. Have a seat."
A high school friend had had a van like this, only dirtier; it had
kept Robbie and Lindsey warm during their weekend drinking bouts from
driving age until graduation. Then Lindsey had gone to Hastings, and
Robbie--now Bob--had traded the van for a used Bronco after he'd joined
the Navy and moved to Portsmouth.
Dried fruit, thick brown bread, some kind of jarred fruit spread, two
apples, some bananas, tangerines, a tomato, and a large jug of water.
"I-- I don't have any food," Lindsey started, "but I can pay you--"
Oz waved him off. "No need. I offered."
The fruit spread turned out to be tart cherry preserves, clearly
homemade, on bread that crunched with the husks of grains. "Been
living on an organic farm," Oz said. "Got enough food to get me across
two continents." Oz took off his leather jacket and threw it into the
front seat; underneath he was wearing a T-shirt with a worn Jane's
Addiction logo. His faded jeans were several times patched, and his
combat boots were battered. Lindsey started to relax, and he sat back
against the van wall and divided a tangerine into sections. Oz picked
up the tomato and took a bite out of it.
"I've never seen anyone eat a tomato like that," Lindsey observed.
"My favorite way. They're better fresh off the vine, but this is
almost as good." He held it out for Lindsey to taste. "Try it."
Lindsey did. The flesh of the tomato was spicy and succulent. He
wasn't sure he'd ever really tasted one before; usually they were
dismembered in sauces or coated with salad dressing. "Tomatoes are
actually a fruit, right?"
"Right." Oz took a drink of water and offered it to Lindsey. It went
against his Wolfram and Hart training, where nothing was so casually
shared. But who was he kidding? The worst he could catch from this
man--this boy--was a cold; the worst he could have gotten at the firm
was dead. He drank. The water was warm but pure.
"You coming from L.A.?" Oz asked.
"Going back or leaving for good?"
"Leaving for good."
"What made you decide?"
"I made a lot of mistakes in L.A. You coming from there, too?"
"I come from a lot of places. I was in L.A. yesterday. Last week I
went back home to the town where I grew up. Thought I would stay. I
"Didn't miss it as much as you thought?"
"Missed it more. But I made mistakes, too, and they caught up with
The sun had gone down, and the red sky was fading into the dark
sapphire blue of oncoming night. Oz took another item out of his
backpack. He unwrapped it, broke off a chunk, and handed it to
"What is it?" Lindsey asked.
It was dark and on the bitter edge of semisweet, just enough sugar to
make it palatable. "It's from South America," Oz said. "Don't have
much of it left. It's almost pure cacao. You won't find it in this
Oz pulled his jacket from the front seat, folded it over a few times,
and leaned back, resting his head on it. He was not, Lindsey saw, as
small as he looked; compact was perhaps a better term. His T-shirt was
loose, but gravity draped it to reveal a leanly muscled torso; the
man's hands and arms were clearly strong. He was young, Lindsey could
tell, but it was hard to tell how young; he guessed Oz would spend his
life as a person whose age could not be easily determined.
Oz handed him another piece of chocolate and Lindsey lay back, too.
His brain, no longer forced for safety's sake to keep his body
frenetically awake, had started to slow, and he realized how tired he
was. The evening was cooling off, and it seemed like a fine thing to
lie here in this van like he had not since he was a teenager and eat
farm-grown food with this amiable, succinct stranger.
He felt Oz looking at him again. "You think you can clean up your
mistakes in Boston?"
"I think it's too late for that. But I think I might be able to try
"I thought I cleaned up my mistakes, but I got home and they just came
back. Maybe it's a hometown thing; you can't be anything other than
what you were."
"That's why I've never gone back to mine."
Oz shook his head. "Can't do that. I love too many people there."
Did he love anyone in Johnstown, Lindsey wondered? His siblings, but
not enough to go back forever. His father was dead; his mother was
smoking her way there. Boston was almost a hometown; he'd spent good
years there, once he'd learned to forget where he was from. He'd heard
from Hunter that Therica was back East, teaching dance at a girls'
school in Brookline. She should have her own studio, her own company;
she deserved better. He realized after a moment that he'd said it out
"She?" from the stretched-out lump that was Oz.
"The woman who moved to California with me."
"She still there?"
"She left me years ago. Last I heard she was back in Boston."
Silence from the red-haired boy. After a moment, "Boston's big but
not big enough to hide an ex-lover forever."
"Few cities are that big."
A small laugh from Oz. "True that. Even in L.A. you can't hide
I don't know, Lindsey thought. Some people did. Angel seemed to be
trying to. "So you left home. Are you going to try to clean up your
mistakes again?" he asked Oz.
"I don't know. Seems like that route didn't work. Maybe I should
just stay away--settle somewhere else, try to forget."
"What's in Vermont?"
"Commune of people in the northern part of the state. They're all
"How are they like you?"
"They're... strange... like me."
"You're quiet. Solitary. But you seem pretty normal."
In the semidarkness Lindsey could see that Oz's smile was charmingly
crooked. "The strangeness doesn't manifest itself most of the time."
Lindsey was led to wonder what kind of strangeness the boy might be
talking about, but these days who knew; there were communities for more
cultures and subcultures and sub-subcultures than Lindsey could
possibly name. Perhaps the boy would be happy in Vermont with the
people who were like him. Perhaps they all had angular bodies and
beautiful hands. But that did not bear thinking about.
"So you got other friends in Boston besides the ex-lover?"
"She's hardly a friend. But yes. My best friend from college lives
there with his wife, and a buddy of mine from law school is in
"That's not Boston."
"It's not L.A., either."
"The woman I love is at home," Oz said; his voice was so quiet that
Lindsey wondered if he was talking to himself.
After a moment, Lindsey ventured, "Why aren't you there with her?"
"I left the first time, and she moved on. Found someone else. Still
loves me, but found someone else."
"And you didn't want to stay if you couldn't have her?"
"I would have... killed the other person."
Oz didn't seem the type to kill anyone. "She ran around on you while
you were gone?"
Another laugh, harsher this time. "No. I left. Didn't stay in
touch, didn't say where I was going. She grieved. Then she recovered.
The other person is good for her. But there's a side of me that needs
to be away from them both."
The sun had set completely; the part of the sky that was not deep
sunset blue was now black. The air had gotten colder, and Lindsey felt
the chill eating through his sweater. Oz sat up and pulled a blanket
from some cranny of the van. He shook it out to its full size and
offered part to Lindsey.
It was a thick wool, scratchy but comforting, like some of his
father's old camping blankets. Sharing it meant moving slightly closer
to Oz, though by no means close enough to touch. It was a strange,
easy closeness born of convenience and exhaustion.
"Got the blanket up in Manitoba. Traded lunch and a Nepalese beaded
necklace for it."
"I was in Tibet for a while last year. Passed through Katmandu on my
"You been everywhere?"
"How long have you been on the road?"
"Little over a year. I expect I'll stay on it for a couple more."
"You don't think you'll stay in Vermont?"
"Maybe. Maybe for a while. It's just hard to imagine calling
anything home right now."
"I know that feeling."
"Hey," Oz said, turning over. Part of the blanket came with him. "I
almost forgot I had this." He sat up and reached back into the
backpack, but in the darkness Lindsey couldn't see what he took out.
Whatever it was, it rustled. "Peppermint candy," Oz said. "A little
gooey from the heat. Open your mouth."
Some non-rational part of Lindsey's tired brain took over, and he did.
There was the bright tang of peppermint and then the low salt of Oz's
fingers, which Lindsey might or might not have intentionally licked in
taking the peppermint. It was sharper than anything he'd ever tasted,
nothing more than a bit of sugar and essence of peppermint and
something to hold the confection together.
Lindsey swallowed and looked up. Oz was still leaning close, watching
him. And then Oz was leaning closer, and his mouth tasted like
peppermint and chocolate.
The last man Lindsey had kissed was someone he'd met at the gym, a
broad-shouldered man, clean-shaven, his black hair cut sleekly. They
had kissed for perhaps a minute before the man had pinned Lindsey's
hands above his head, nudged his legs apart, and fucked him in a way
he never argued with. Kissing Oz was what Lindsey should have done at
age twenty, instead of jerking Therica around; he should have found a
boy his age, someone in his political theory class, or a dark-eyed
medical student from Brandeis, or maybe a closeted Catholic boy from
BC. They should have done this on a back sofa in a teahouse in
Hastings Square, or maybe sitting on the floor of a friend's apartment
late at night, or even at a fraternity party, against a wall, too drunk
and too horny to care who saw.
Oz's hair was soft underneath Lindsey's fingers, and Oz's hand was
warm as it rested lightly on the side of Lindsey's face. Lindsey
couldn't remember what that last anonymous man had tasted like, but the
skin of Oz's neck was spicy, and kisses to it made him moan. Oz pushed
them over gently, and Lindsey did what he always did, which was to move
onto his back to let the other person do what he wanted.
But Oz stopped. "You do that like it's some kind of habit."
"It's like... a beta surrendering to an alpha."
It was bizarrely phrased, but it was not, Lindsey thought, an
inaccurate way to put it.
In the dark, Oz was looking intently down at him. "You're older,
"Older and stronger, at least. Seems like you ought to be on top."
"I like it this way."
Oz rolled down to Lindsey's side. "No, I don't think you do. I think
it's just a habit." He hooked a leg over Lindsey's hip and suddenly
Lindsey was looking down at him. He felt Oz's body move underneath him
and it was like being with a woman but it wasn't, because the body
under his was strong and hard and male and absolutely what he wanted
"Close the doors," Oz whispered, and Lindsey did. Three days ago, he
would have thought that Oz meant to take him and sacrifice him to some
demon god, but tonight Lindsey was pretty sure that Oz had other,
simpler things in mind.
Lindsey had changed into jeans at his apartment, but he was still
wearing his blue oxford lawyer's shirt. Oz was working at the buttons,
and when he had them undone he pushed the garment off Lindsey's
shoulders. The Jane's Addiction shirt came off quickly, and Lindsey
bent down to lick the hard nubs of Oz's nipples--and was surprised when
his mouth touched metal. "How long have you had those?"
"Few months. Got them in London."
"Are they OK to be touched?"
Lindsey pulled at the steel circle with his tongue, and Oz arched up
against him, whimpering. Lindsey cupped the younger man's erection
through the soft denim of his jeans, and Oz moaned a quiet, "Please."
"Please what?" seemed like a good response.
Lindsey suspected that, just as he wasn't used to being on top,
neither was Oz used to being on the bottom. "Please... please touch
"I am touching you."
A laugh, nothing like the ironic ones of earlier, burst out of Oz.
"Oh God... what are you, a lawyer?"
Lindsey rubbed softly, and Oz tried again, shuddering. "Please...
please take off my clothes and touch me."
Lindsey kissed Oz's temple. "OK."
The button fly opened easily, and then Oz remembered that he was still
wearing shoes. He sat up for a moment and removed them, and Lindsey
rid himself of his, and then Oz guided Lindsey's hands back to his
hips. So maybe Oz wasn't technically on top, but he was still in
Lindsey found Oz's cock and began to stroke, and Oz's fingers dug into
his back. His jeans came off easily, and then Lindsey's, and suddenly
they were naked and wrapped around each other and writhing in the cool
air. Lindsey kissed his way down Oz's chest, licked the crease of his
hip, and gently bit the inside of Oz's thigh, listening to the other
man's breathing become ragged. And then Lindsey took Oz's cock in his
mouth, and Oz howled.
Even for the most submissive of men, Lindsey had to think, there was
an incredible power trip in this act, holding someone completely
helpless with nothing more than well-timed suction and motion. He
wrapped his hand around the base of the shaft and tongued the head,
listening as Oz descended into wordless pleas. Hands that had stroked
his hair began to tug and pull and Oz moaned "ohgodohgodohgod" and then
there was his come, salty and tasting slightly of lemon.
Oz sank back and surprised Lindsey by pulling him into a kiss, licking
the last traces of semen out of his mouth. They lay still as Oz's
heartbeat slowed. "The backpack should be next to you. Take the
plastic bottle out of it."
Lindsey did. "What is it?"
"Massage oil." A leg snaked around Lindsey's hips, pulling him hip to
hip with Oz. "I want you to fuck me."
"Probably haven't done it before. It's OK. I have."
Oz took the bottle from Lindsey and poured out a bit of something that
smelled like almonds. And then there were marvelously slick hands on
his cock, stroking up and down and around, and Lindsey did not want to
fuck; he wanted to lie there and let the slickness dissolve him into
orgasm. But Oz turned over, pulling a bundle of something under his
hips. "Push in gently," he said. "It'll be more intuitive than you
Any number of men--more than he cared to think about--had done this to
Lindsey, and he had never attempted turnabout. He covered Oz's body
with his own, his chest to Oz's back, and lay there for a moment. Then
he moved up on his knees, found Oz's opening, and started to enter the
other man's body. Oz pushed back up against him. "That's it... oh
God... yeah, like that."
"Does that feel good?"
"Oh yeah. More. Come on. Deeper."
And then he was all the way inside and it was hot and tight and oh
God. He started to move, slowly, and then Oz bucked up against him and
there was no need to go slow. Fast and faster and the moans couldn't
be his own but they were and oh God why hadn't he tried this when he
was twenty? This was it, this was perfect, just two bodies in perfect
time with each other. Oz moved to brace himself on his forearms and
yes that was exactly it, that was right, and Lindsey came with his head
thrown back and a hoarse, delighted cry. And then he collapsed
bonelessly next to Oz. The van smelled like almond and sex.
Oz pulled blankets back around them and wrapped strong arms around
Lindsey. "Thank you," Lindsey murmured, so softly he hoped Oz wouldn't
But Oz did. "Thank you," he answered.
Lindsey's mind wandered--to the first man he'd slept with, the first
time he'd kissed Therica (who, actually, had kissed him--he'd been too
shy to try), to the precise onyx quality of the vampire Angel's eyes.
A gentle kiss on his neck. "You're not awake," Oz observed.
"I'm not asleep."
"You will be soon."
Lindsey tried to remember the last time he'd slept next to another
human being. Since Therica, yes, but not for a while. He was naked
and sticky and in a van that probably dated back to the early Reagan
administration. But that was OK. Oz's hand had settled gently at the
small of Lindsey's back. Lindsey fell into sleep easily, and didn't
wake for fourteen hours.
When he did come to, Oz was awake, picking out a melody on his guitar,
shirtless and barefoot but with jeans on. His skin was pale and
creamy, and in the light of the morning, Lindsey could see the
piercings--ears and nipples--as well as tattoos, intricate lines around
Oz's wrists and ankles. Oz smiled his crooked smile. "Hi."
Lindsey smiled back. He felt no regret. "Good morning."
"If you want to put some clothes on, there's a family making breakfast
not too far away. I told their kids stories this morning and they
talked the parents into feeding us."
"How long have you been up?"
"Couple hours. Sleep well?"
"Better than I have in a long time."
Oz reached for a shirt and started to put it on. Lindsey realized
that it was his, the oxford, now almost unrecognizably wrinkled. He
tossed a bundle of cloth to Lindsey; it was a thermal shirt which was
probably loose-fitting on Oz but which settled with little room to
spare around Lindsey's gym-built muscles.
"Good," Oz said. He watched Lindsey dress with a small, satisfied
smile on his face.
The family had built a grill fire and put a frying pan on top of it.
They made blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, and they handed out
plastic cups of orange juice to everyone seated at their picnic table.
There were two parents, fairly close in age to Lindsey, and three
children, two boys and a girl, the oldest of whom was maybe eight. Oz
told another story--about a girl who had been cursed to live her life
as a nightingale, who could only be human for one day of the year, and
how she tricked the wizard who cursed her into not only revoking the
hex but accidentally placing it on himself as well. When Oz finished
the story, he bowed with a flourish, and both children and parents
After breakfast, the family, whose Taurus had Kentucky license plates,
went on their way--they had plans to visit family in Fort Collins--and
Lindsey and Oz took out the atlas again. They traced the route east:
76 to 80, loop around Chicago. Then 90 for a long, long time: through
the midwest, across New York, and finally into Massachusetts. Oz would
pick up 91 in Springfield, up north to Vermont, and Lindsey would
continue east to Boston.
Oz looked at Lindsey in the bright late morning sun. "So I'll meet
you in Omaha tonight."
And Lindsey knew he would.