REGRETS

By D. M. Evans

Disclaimer – You know the drill. Joss et al owns all the characters. I'm just play with them for fun not profit.

Spoilers – AtS Season 4 finale.

Rating – Pg-13

Feedback – Yes please, ripewickedplum2@Yahoo.com

Summary – Oz walks into Caritas one night and meets an old friend

Author's Note – This was written for the Buffy/Angel Lyric Wheel challenge #2. Thanks to Farquarson for the lyrics by Brad Paisley. I like the song a lot. Too bad the tone of my story doesn't really match the song. Sorry for going over the page limit.


Oz flexed his aching fingers. He had played his heart out the night before at the 'Blues for Babies' pediatric AIDS charity concert. He had hesitated signing on since it was in Los Angeles and he was trying to minimize all contact with the state of California. Ever since he had returned from Tibet and in relative control of his wolf, he had lived in New York City, working on his music. It had paid off. The Subtle Serpents had been topping the blues charts for a year now.

He was taking a break away from his band tonight. Berkley was too loud and enthusiastic sometimes, though his lead singer did know where Oz had headed. They were all interested in Caritas. How many places could you go, sing karaoke and have a guy in green make-up pretend to read your future? Oz figured it was probably real and while he didn't want to know his future, he decided it was too weird not to look into. He was pleased that there was even a Subtle Serpents' song on the play list. That made him smile. He  wondered if anyone would give Berkley's lyrics a try.

"Oh my God, it really is you!" The woman's voice startled Oz.

He hoped it wasn't a blues groupie, which admittedly didn't happen to him often but there had been that huge concert last night. He looked up into a face a bit older than he would have expected but beautiful nonetheless. Her hair fell like walnut waves to her shoulders. "Cordelia Chase." Oz got to his feet and let her hug him. "Sit down. It's been what? Five years since the last time I've seen you," Oz said, being surprisingly unlaconic for a change.

"I don't like to think about time." Cordy sat and waved over a waitress to place an order. "How have you been, Oz?"

"Been to Tibet." He shrugged. It wasn't much of an answer but Oz was a minimalist. He knew Cordy understood that and with her, it worked since she liked to talk so much.


Cordy's eyes widened some. "Tibet?"

He nodded. "Learned to control the beast."

"Great. Really, I mean that." Her tired eyes lit up at the news. "Are you still playing guitar?"

Oz nodded. "I guess you aren't a blues fan, Cordy. I'm lead guitarist with the Subtle Serpents. We played the big charity concert last night with Susan Tedeschi, BB. King, Indigenous and Santana."

"Wesley wanted to go to that but we ended up in the sewers tracking down a Brida demon." Cordy sighed.

"So I guess that means you're still working for Angel."

She managed a smile. "Who would have thought it? Me still fighting the good fight. But tell me about you. You've become a celebrity."

Oz flashed one of his 'blink and you missed it' smiles. "I wouldn't go that far. Blues guitarists don't usually get superstardom but, I'm having fun."

"I'm glad. Someone from Sunnyhell deserves that, right? As close as I've gotten to celebrity is a couple of commercials and knowing Lorne. He owns Caritas, all five versions of it. Angel's good at accidentally destroying it." Cordy shrugged sheepishly. "But it's cool. Lorne let's me get away with murder. I can throw a major fit when my martini isn't just how I like it and no one bats an eye."

Oz's eyebrows rose. "You drink martinis?"

She flipped her hair back. "Chocolatinis. I wish I had known you were in that concert, Oz. Connor, Angel and Wes could have handled the demon by themselves even if Faith is down in Sunnydale helping Buffy again."

Surprise flickered over his wan face. "Faith? She's out?"

"All legal, too." Cordy turned a bit as the waitress brought her drink. "Wes helped her out. I was dubious at first but then again I was under the control of my demon-goddess unborn daughter."

Oz just stared. "What?"

Cordy dragged a hand through her hair, a nervous gesture rather than her normal primping. "It's a long story."

"I have all night. You already know all about me. Tibet, my music, pretty much sums it all up. I want to know about you." Oz hesitated a moment, trying to find the right words then remembered Cordy defined bluntness. "You look…tired."

Cordelia smiled, touching his hand. "That's one way to put it." She sighed. "I'll start by telling you how things have changed since you brought the Gem of Amara. Doyle died later that year. Wesley, remember him? He joined us. He's so different now, a better warrior but harder. Gunn and Fred joined us but they're gone. Things with them went bad after Angel sold us all to Wolfram and Hart to give his son a better life."


Oz's hand froze in mid-reach for his beer, then snatched it up. He knew he was going to need it. "His what?"

She raised her hands to ward him off. "Just let me tell the story and it'll all make sense."

Two chocolatinis and three beers later, Oz sat there, a stunned look on his face.

"Wow."

"I know. I still cry sometimes thinking about it." Cordy looked close to tears now. Oz offered her his hand and she squeezed it. "It was like I was imprisoned in my own body. I knew I was hurting everyone but I couldn't help it. I didn't even get to meet my daughter but I got images of everything that happened while I was in a coma. I saw what Jasmine was doing right up until she died. Angel told me later Connor put his fist straight through his own daughter's head. I mean it was needed. She would have destroyed the world. Her world peace wouldn't have been…you know," Cordelia babbled, almost unaware she still had an audience.

"Connor sounds…" Oz trailed off. "Dangerous."

"He…I don't want to make excuses for him but growing up in a hell dimension, it had its effects. He was always sweet to me though. He still is."

Oz saw the protective expression on her face. "Are you and he?"

Cordy shook her head. "Too dangerous. He needed someone who could help control him. He's with Faith now, as much as Faith could be with anyone. She's been good for him, keeping him focused on the demon killing. It hurts Angel that all his sacrifices came to nothing. He sold us out to give his son a better life so Connor could have a normal family, the things he had gotten so lost over not having. The things that drove him, well, nutty."

"So why didn't it work?" Oz winced hearing someone butchering Keith Urban's "Raining on Sunday." "Or should I even ask? Going to the quick fix, using that much magic to rewrite history and everyone's memories, it can't be of the good."

"And it wasn't. Wolfram and Hart made Connor human, took away the demon aspects but what we didn't know, couldn't have guessed, was that wasn't the problem. It wasn't completely Quor-Toth that made Connor mad. It was the human part of him. Without the discipline Holtz gave him, the dedication to killing demons and protecting humans, Connor's aggressions worked out in really bad ways."

Cordy shuddered, seeing something in her mind's eye that Oz could only guess at. She took a deep breath, rallying. "He turned out to be the Greenman Killer. You wouldn't have heard of him since when Wolfram and Hart undid their magic, Connor's normal life with that family was erased like it never was, never should have been. Only those of us working with Angel remember, like a warning. But as the Greenman, Connor stalked parks, strangled girls and took ears as trophies. They said it was his neurochemistry that was bad, that his levels of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, whoa what a word, were way too low."

She shook her head, a distasteful look on her face. Oz suspected she had learned more about the condition that she ever wanted to. That was evident in how she didn't stumble over the difficult chemical name.  "It's a byproduct of serotonin, you know the stuff they want you to take if you can't sleep well. We've had him tested now and that still holds true. But thanks to Holtz's teachings, and our help and guidance, those aggressions only go toward demons. He gets a little nuts with the killing of them but better that than college girls in the park."

"But he's still dangerous," Oz said.

"No more so than a vampire with a soul." Cordy's eyes met Oz's defiantly. "Or a werewolf."

"Point taken."

"We make sure Connor takes his serotonin and Angel's normal battles give him a great outlet. Faith keeps him busy otherwise."


Oz waggled his eyebrows. "I just bet. But that has to be a little dangerous, too, letting a live wire like Faith watch someone like Connor."

"Maybe, but it works. And now Angel and Connor are doing the hard painful work to rebuild bridges and be a family, no more quick fixes. I just wish Fred and Gunn were here to see it."

"Were they…killed?" Oz knew it could be likely.

Cordy looked at her empty martini glass regretfully. "Fred left. You have no idea how hard it was to break the hold Wolfram and Hart had on us. Angel signed us all up without asking. When we were freed, Fred decided it was unforgivable. She's teaching at some Texas college now. Gunn got badly hurt in the final battle with them, wheelchair bound now. Some distant cousins in Chicago asked him to come live with them. We wanted him to stay here but well, I guess it's understandable that he wouldn't want to."

"It sounds like things haven't been any easier here in LA than they were in Sunnydale."

"And I have no one to blame but myself.  I knew what I was getting into. I have my regrets but I know we're doing good, that the world is a better place with us doing this. I just wish…no, it's silly." Cordy looked away.

"What?"

She shot him a sheepish look. "That I could have at least been in a movie or something that would have been remembered."

"We all have regrets," he assured her.

"Like not getting bit by a werewolf?"

"Not handling my relationship with Willow better," Oz replied softly.

"Oh." She gave his hand another squeeze. Oz could see she wanted to hug him again but didn't. "You might want to try talking to her. She could use a friend. Xander said she's withdrawn too much but who can blame her? Tara was murdered and Kennedy died horribly in the battle with the First Evil. Be glad you're out of it."

"I am but…" Oz peeled the label off his Killian's. "Sometimes it feels a little selfish, not helping when I know I could."

Before Cordy could respond a loud voice boomed, "Oz, man!"


Oz winced as a tall, good-looking young man with shaggy blond hair ran up and slapped him on the shoulders. A more reserved shave-headed African-American man who wore wire-rimmed glasses followed him. "Introduce  us to your lovely company," the blond insisted and Cordy beamed at him.

"Berkley this is Cordelia. Cordy, meet Berkley, our lead singer and Chris, our keyboardist. Violet, our drummer, has sense enough not to hang out with these two losers."

"Nice to meet you," Cordy said.

"Same here. Don't worry, we won't interrupt," Chris said, hauling Berkley away.

"He's cute." Cordy's eyes followed Berkley's lean form. "He could have stayed. We could use a new less depressing subject of conversation."

"Berkley's fun but I wouldn't be much of a friend if I let you go out with him. He's infamous for having marriages that barely last a month."

"Ah. Pity. It's hard to find a guy when you're doing what I do. I barely remember falling in love with Angel but now that I'm in full control of myself again I remembered I think demons are off limits. We couldn't be anything other than friends and it's too complicated to stay with Connor. It felt wrong."

Oz nodded sympathetically. "I have trouble finding someone who wants a real man and not just a lead guitarist."

"I hear you. Oh, look." Cordy waved at two men coming into the crowded club.

Oz immediately recognized Angel, but he wouldn't have expected any changes in an animated corpse. The lithe, androgynous creature beside him was a stranger, however. "Is that Angel's son?"

"That's Connor."

Oz almost made a face but managed to remain his usual stoic self. "I was expecting someone…less elfin."

 "I know. With shoulders like Angel's you'd have thought…well, never mind." Cordy laughed then asked when Angel got closer. "What are you guys doing? Is there trouble?"

Angel shook his head. "Just relaxing." The vampire's dark eyes widened. "Oz! I thought I scented…how are you doing?"

"Good. You?"

"Better than I have been. Oz, meet my son, Connor." Angel clapped a hand on his child's shoulder proudly.

Oz stood, holding out his hand. Connor shook it and both men more or less grunted their greetings at each other.

"Why don't you two sit? Oz and I are done catching up and we're going to talk about the future, like where Oz's music is going. He's a big blues guitarist now," Cordy chirped.

"Really?" Angel glanced over at the laconic werewolf, who nodded.

"Blues?" Connor sat next to Cordy.

"See? He needs an education," she replied.

"I'll do my best," Oz said, fishing for his wallet. He took out a card, handing it to Cordelia. "Call me tomorrow, Cordy. We're looking for a continuing character to be in the videos for our next album. We can handle one of those regrets of yours."


Cordelia's face lit up. "Thanks Oz. I mean that."

"Just no barely existent gold bikinis," Angel growled.

Oz raised an eyebrow.

"Long story," Cordy said.

"Had enough of those for one night," Oz said. "Beside I have to explain the Blues yet."

Oz did his best to sum up the blues in a few words, letting Cordy take over the conversation again, asking about the part in the video, what they were looking for, was he sure Berkley was a dog, did he think the others would go for her being in the video. Oz let the words wash over him, taking a lot of regrets with them.

CELEBRITY

Sung by Brad Paisley

Someday, I'm gonna be famous,
Do I have talent? Well, no.
These days you don't really need it,
Thanks to reality shows.

Can't wait to date a supermodel,
Can't wait to sue my Dad.
Can't wait to wreck a Ferrari,
On my way to rehab.

'Cause when you're a celebrity, it's adios reality.
You can act just like a fool;
People think you're cool just 'cause you're on TV.
I can throw a major fit,
When my Martini isn't just how I like it.
When they say I've gone insane,
I'll blame it on the pain,
And the pressures that go with bein' a celebrity.
Ah ha.

I'll get to cry to Barbara Walters,
When things don't go my way.
An' I'll get community service,
No matter which law I break.

I'll make the supermarket tabloids,
They'll write some awful stuff.
But the more they run my name down,
The more my price goes up.

When you're a celebrity, it's adios reality.
You can act just like a fool;
People think you're cool just 'cause you're on TV.
Now, I can fall in and out of love,
Have marriages that barely last a month.
When they go down the drain,
I'll blame it on the fame,
And say: "It's just so tough bein' a celebrity."

So let's hitch up the wagons and head out west,
To the land of fun in the sun.
We'll be real world hatchling, jackass millionaires.
Hey, hey Hollywood, here we come.

Instrumental break.

When you're a celebrity, it's adios reality.
No matter what you do,
People think you're cool just 'cause you're on TV.
Bein' a celebrity.
Yeah, bein' a celebrity.
Ah ha.

Aw, where's my coffee?