I don't know who owns the characters but its not me. I'm just borrowing them.

The only pay I get is knowing someone read it and maybe shared my world for a moment. So if you like it I'd love to hear. Especially why and what you liked most. Or if I missed a typo. Or if it just didn't work for you. The plea of everyone who posts here, alas.

Sometimes being different has its costs, and sometimes its advantages. An AU based on the episode where Darren was made, and then unmade, into a warlock. Except this time the fix didn't work.

Being Different

He stood, watching out the window, studying the traffic. Sam had left the car when she went where ever she had gone. He was in the mood to get out for a little while, relax a bit. But it was Friday and the traffic was horrendous and no matter how much he'd enjoy his destination he'd still have to bring back the car.

Of course, he didn't have to use it. It was conveint here that a lot of people walked. There was far less chance of someone discovering he was gone when nobody saw him leave. The windows were all heavily covered and the Stevens family were not known much for speaking to the neighbors. Which was another thing he liked about this place. Not too many did. It was the closest to invisible they could be.

He was tired of moving.

When he'd married Sam he hadn't though of the full picture. In fifty years he'd either be dead or an old man. She'd look perhaps a bit more like her mother, but not much. Hopefully not at all, he thought. No matter that she didn't bother him anymore, even used his *name*, Endora still annoyed him.

But fifty years later, he was just as young as before, by human standards, which he no longer observed. This was her fault. Except for the aging thing, he would have been happy to live out his life as just a human. But between she and Sam's attempts to reverse the change his world had been tumbled and torn and changed beyond what he could have imagined.

There were things about being a warlock he liked. He never had to interrupt what he was doing to go and get things. If he decided to pop out for a moment he could, as long as they didn't see. He could still get in his car and drive to the trail and take his walk if he wanted to, but then, he didn't need to.

He could go anywhere he wanted. He didn't have to worry about finding a "local" hangout.

Sam came and went. The kids were grown and visited fairly often. Endora came because Sam made her. Thinking about it, it wasn't that bad. She couldn't do anything to him now. He could stop her. That last attempt to reverse the change had empowered him instead of taking it away. She had been very scarce for a long time after that.

He decided he wanted trees and birds and beauty. His favorite place was a little grove up in the Rockies. A blink and he was there.

He missed their old home. It had been set back on land. They had lots of privacy there too. For a long time the neighbors just thought they were aging well, or had cosmetic surgery or something. He really didn't care about what they though. But eventually it wasn't going to wash. They had taken a vacation, packed up the car and everything inside as well before they left. Then the house went up for sale. They never came back. It was their rule, his and Sam's, and by extension the kids, that they would not revisit old lives.

That was something he hadn't ever considered. Of course, back in the 60's there weren't so many records and files and databases either. Not that it was insurmountable to recreate themselves, but he missed being himself sometimes. He was stubborn about at least keeping the family name.

Sitting under a tree with a bird singing his song in full voice, he relaxed a little. He had a project to finish which was not going well. He insisted on supporting at least himself. He would have a very long, but insanely boring life otherwise. His neighbors only knew that he did private contract work. He was good at it, better than he'd ever been at advertising. And no Larry's around with their glasses in hand. Once, before he quit and they moved away because life had changed too much to pretend enough, he'd made Larry only think he was drinking booze. It had not been a successful experiment and had cured him of trying to fix the humans around him.

Another bird joined in, the two singing in counterpoint. He leaned back, remembering the beginning. Maybe the thing he hated most about leaving that first house was the spot where the bush had been. He used it to ground himself, as a reminder that he had once *not* been the Darren that he'd become, that Endora avoided with good reason, that Sam had grown a little distant from. He'd kept his job for quite awhile, and after the first confusing part with the wishcraft was over it was so easy. He came and went and drove the car everywhere even if he didn't have to. Sam kept to the house rules most of the time and he pretended not to notice when she didn't. But inside he was different. Then things started to change. He seldom got up from his desk for coffee at work when the door was shut anymore. No need to. But he did his work honesty. Some of them...them, he thought of them as that now... were surprised at his growing self-confidence. Larry didn't see it and he realized that Larry was too deeply lost in the bottle to notice anything out of his perception of his own world.

He didn't cheat for quite awhile. But then he could be the fly on the wall at the competitions meeting if it helped. He didn't do it much, but it changed things. It was little inroads like that, things like the house being perfectly clean but Sam not having been there long enough that day to have done it any way but one. He didn't comment and eventually she gave up on the rules he had imposed, too.

So did he. *Then* is when they'd taken a vacation off somewhere nobody could find them. They'd talked. They made love. She showed him some places he could have not gone to before and taught him some things he did not know he could do. He fell back in love with her that day. But not as Darren the human married to a witch. As Darren the equal who could hold his own.

They'd gone home for a time, but it was all a fantasy then. He quit his job, Larry astonished and certain that he had been "stolen" by the competition. He was too deep in the bottle to climb out and Darren didn't even go to his own goodbye party.

They'd moved to a nice house in the suburbs somewhere else, keeping their identities this time. He hadn't known about that part yet. The kids grew up with everyone seeing a different set of parents. Their children had done well. But Sam had insisted they leave after the kids had moved away. And more.

"Look at you, its been twenty years and you look just like you did. She shoved his drivers's licence in his face. "Just like you did on this one," she added, one from when the kids were babies. "You think nobody is going to notice?"

She had barely changed at all. He had studied his face in the mirror for a long time after that. Somehow it had never occurred to him that he'd live a lot longer than he might have before.

Of course, that was not a bad thing. And Endora had given him a long life with Sam instead of being a blip on her radar. He'd smiled.

They had traveled a lot, often with conventional means. He had created his own job to fit his new life, now twice over. But they always had a base which was home.

This one was all right. But he missed the last one with its trees and quiet. He was doing well financially. Maybe they should buy a vacation home, he thought. He was already tired of traveling.

The birds were done with their song. The clouds were building and he thought it might rain. He zapped himself home.

Sam was waiting. She looked impatient. He noticed the time. He was late for their special time when they shared dinner together.

"I just needed some quiet," he said. He could hear the traffic through the window, faint but there. Especially now after the birds.

"Tabitha wants us to see their new place," Sam said, staring out the window.

She had married a human. He wasn't all that comfortable with it, not now, but she could choose whom ever she wanted. "I have to finish this job first," he said. "You wouldn't see much of me if I brought it along."

"She's figuring when your done."

Sam changed into her casual clothes, this time the conventional way. She went in the kitchen and he heard the sounds of cooking. She liked to cook. She never went through the drudgery of cleaning up the conventional way, though.

Dinner was delicious. They sat together, sharing the evening with music and conversation. Mostly they just shared each others company. Suddenly she spoke, softly, looking him in the eyes. "Are you sorry?"

He pulled her close. She snuggled, relaxed in his arms. He thought of all the things that might have been. And all that he would have never known. And all the drawbacks in a society where it was harder and harder to hide. How many "lives" would there be? How many places come to be loved and have to be abandoned? How terrible it would have been to grow old and lose her so soon.

He kissed her. She returned it but went back to snuggling.

The sound of the traffic was barely audible even with the music and he hated the city. So did she. They would be moving away soon he thought. They could go anywhere they wanted, at least for a time. But he couldn't possibly imagine her not being there. He didn't know how long they had, but if she was there it was long enough.

"Not at all."

He smiled, teasing her. The apartment walls vanished around them and they were on a deserted beach, the waves sliding in gently at low tide. It was warm but not too warm and they were dressed in nothing. The birds in the bank of trees opposite the beach were singing a loud calliope of songs.

He wished they could spend forever here. She rose, running towards the water, and splashed him. He caught up with her and they held each other close as the waves dug their feet into the sand.

"Never, as long as we have this," he said.

She knew he didn't mean the beach and the trees and birds. But it too was magical.

She laughed. "I'm sure Mother will be very happy for us."

She ran along the shore until he caught her and they played until they had had enough.

Later, sleeping in their own bed in the city, she whispered in his ear. "Never, as long as we have each other." He was sleeping, but stirred a little as she kissed him. Then she snuggled against him and slipped into their own personal world where no one else could go.