His trouble with the world, Ethan had recently decided, was that
'pretty' is far too subjective a term. And he'd always been one to take
to the more marginal perception of things.
Twenty people's rubble was his glittery playground. Ear-piercing
shrieks of terror were musical to him, and the facial expressions that
usually accompanied them were priceless works of art.
No one had ever called him pretty, though he rather fancied his own
sharp features and smirking eyes. He thought himself to
be...magnetic, in a way.
The evidence was there, certainly. Ripper for one, always determined
to have Ethan be the one to break him in, as though he were a prize to
be won, and hadn't he just loved that little game? The stakes of the
spells and pranks pulled on dares had escalated, with a taunting
intensity and speed that was delightful for the simple expressions of
doubt on Ripper's face fading into reassured confidence in the wake
of Ethan's most meaningful winks.
And so he'd gone along with it all, and in the breathy aftermath of
being the only one of the bunch to be caught and jailed overnight for
crashing some git's party, he gave in, pulling Ripper aside and
teaching him things he could never have dreamed of learning in his
Then Ripper had the nerve to lose his nerve, and hightailed it away
so easily Ethan wondered how he had failed to see it coming. Or
going, as it were. Even in the stream of lovely young scraps of flesh
that followed, he couldn't quite forget that particular blow to his ego.
God. He was oozing his way through his forties far too rapidly for
comfort, with only the realization that he'd practically become an
accidental pedophile along the way to keep him company. He kept
getting older, and he'd hit a rather dreary -- but necessary to what
morality he had left -- obstacle in that the average age of his
conquests had leveled out at around eighteen.
Not that he wanted them younger. That was young enough, and often
He must be getting old. He was becoming one of those people
who watch their neighbors with hawk-eyes and file away every
transgression for lack of anything better to do, and he was doing it to
himself, berating himself for being a pervert even as he calculated all
the possible options for seducing the young man in front of him.
And what a young man. Scrumptious little thing, with a wiry
frame and clear eyes, and a calm smile that tickled Ethan to his very
core with its perfect exuding of wisdom beyond his years.
It was what Ethan wanted, really. Someone whose skin was still as
soft as he could vaguely remember his being, but without all the
nerve-grating...chipperness. Someone with the vibrance of the days
with Ripper, and the cleverly engaging bite Ripper used to have.
Before he got so damn...normal. Well, as normal as you could call
what he did nowadays, but Ethan himself enjoyed a life with
What Ethan would right near kill for, was to be back with Ripper like
it used to be. Long ago, in a land far, far away, and all that crap. A
bloody story book, his dreams had become. He kept waiting for a
dwarf or two to show up.
And if this boy were just a bit shorter...but no. Just another in a
long line of pretty things. Though this time there seemed to
be...something else. Something more than the vague reminiscence of
"the old days" he could catch in that smile. God, that smile...And just
the look, the cool, analyzing look he could give with a glance.
The guitar bit helped, too. If he could just get the kid to sneer; but
that seemed to be asking a bit much. Mockery didn't seem to be a
natural part of this mellow face.
Ethan tipped his head as the boy's fingers stilled on the guitar
strings, which he'd been strumming so quietly Ethan couldn't even
pick up on the sounds. "Hello."
"Hey." A voice just as wry and soft as Ethan had imagine, wavering
just slightly at the end to show his curiosity. "You lookin' for Giles?"
"Giles...Rupert, yes, I suppose. Would he happen to be in at the
moment?" Creeping closer was almost difficult; he felt rather sure
that mauling the kid would not be the best possible course of
"He would happen to be...not. In, that is. Want me to tell him you
"'Kay, then. Nice not meeting you, I guess." Oz adjusted the tuning
of two strings and tried them out, nodding slightly even as he
glanced up and watched, eyebrows raised, while Ethan stepped
carefully closer and leaned against the table, only feet from the chair
Oz was lounging in. "Oka-a-y...need something else, do you? We
The frown wasn't fully voluntary; it tugged Ethan's mouth down
before he actually realized it, but he knew at once it must look
terrible. He always looked like a disappointed child when he frowned
-- rather ungraceful for a man his age, and a sickening reminder
of his age.
"I don't eat donuts."
"Whatever floats your boat. But seriously, is there something you
came for? You may want to come back later...Giles won't be around
for a few hours."
"You know him well? Rupert, I mean?"
"Well...nah, not really. Not him himself, anyway. We're around
him a lot...You got a name?"
"No. Do you?"
"Sure. Oz. No name, huh? How very...Prince, of you. Got a
His arm actually nearly twitched. "Why...yes, of a sort. Nothing you
need to see, though. So you're Oz?"
"That's me." A pause, long and pulsating with hesitancy and doubt.
"Anyone ever tell you you're kinda not normal?"
"Quite a few somebodies, I'm afraid."
The smell of Ripper was not helping his planning along; it was
difficult to think of just how to get the young man to his knees with
the biting scent of lightly fragranced soap and soft-toned cologne
lingering in the air. Strange, how he'd sworn to never be in this
library again, after the last time, and oddly enough for a similar
Smelling Ripper was just depressing. Especially now, when there
wasn't that distracting little we're-in-danger-of-dying tidbit in the
He didn't know why he'd come back -- no good reason, that was for
sure. A bit of masochistic indulgence to while away the time,
perhaps; to be ridiculed for being one and the same as he always
was, not a two-faced hypocrite.
Just a down-and-out liar, which he could live with just fine and well.
Honestly, he could.
But this one, this...Oz. For all his wild dreams of fulfillment and
fantasy-laced endeavors, it certainly fit to have the one who struck
him so acutely be named Oz. He suspected he was still in trouble,
though; he'd never seen a yellow brick in his life, and no way in hell
should he hold out hopes of ever getting a clue.
If he had even a glimmer of a chance of that, he wouldn't be so
entranced by the movement of those delicate lips. "You sound more
than a little proud of that."
"It has its benefits. Normalcy can be...a hindrance, if you don't know
how to play your cards right."
"I got you. Point taken."
"I doubt it."
"Believe what you will. No fur off my back."
Ethan could have sworn Oz's cheeks flushed slightly. "Nothing. A
joke. You wouldn't understand."
"I don't think so." Oz stood up, his chair shoved rapidly backwards.
"I gotta go. Wait for Giles if you want, but like I said, it will be
"Is he out training his Slayer?"
It was satisfying, to see the feet cease to move away with such rapid
deceleration. "You know about --"
"Of course I do. I've known Rupert longer than you've been alive,
"Does it bother you, Oz? To be an accessory?"
"I don't think I get you," Oz said quietly.
"Ah, so few people do." Ethan smirked, pushing off the edge of the
table and grasping Oz's wrist. "Is it a regret you have? To always be
fringe on that infernal destiny of theirs?"
Oz's eyes fell to the floor; he didn't even bother tugging his arm
away. "It's not an issue."
"Right, right. Well, then, off you go. Maybe running an errand or
two. Just like Rupert, to garner all sorts of little helpers."
"You don't know what you're talking about."
"Well, then, go on, boy." Ethan forced himself to release Oz's wrist.
"Maybe we'll run into each other again; we'll see if I'm right after
Oz stepped back, staring hard into Ethan's mocking face and
nodding slightly. "Maybe we will."
Ethan watched him go silently, and scrawled out a note before he
wandered out of the library, as well.
"Ripper: Having fun saving the world? Thinking of you, Ethan."
The streets of Sunnydale had a way of being creepy once the set
began to set; far too deserted and ominous for such a cheerful little
Pretty, Ethan thought to himself. Quite pretty, indeed.