Strays 5: Wild
by Te
August 2000

Disclaimers: If they were mine, they'd probably rebel.

Spoilers: None, really.

Summary: Xander hits the road.

Ratings Note: NC-17.

Author's Note: Can't leave these guys alone, don't want to. Starts
a week or two after Strays 4: Feeling I've Been.

Acknowledgments: To the other parts of my brain, and to Mighty
Mighty Dawn Sharon.


And the past week and a half or so has been almost normal. Or,
rather, the nice normal Xander's growing accustomed to. Anya
stopping over to argue with Giles. All of them watching movies
together. There's an excessively exciting two days when demon's
blood spilled on the fairgrounds cause the Spider ride to get a bit
more Spiderish than strictly necessary.

Though it left a cool metal web behind, that the owners of the
fair, in turn, left behind on their fast exit from Sunnydale.

It's on Xander's way to the site, and working that Saturday
meant he got to see a handful of laughing children unwittingly
giving their parents heart attacks by playing on it.

On his way home after the half-day, they're still there and
he and new-guy-Steve -- who, as it happens, lives a block over
from Xander -- somehow manage to get them all into a game of
pirates, because, as Steve points out, all that web sure does look
like rigging.

But the long and inconclusive twig swordfight with the tall girl
just really made him think of how Oz would be doing this. Whether
he'd be the arrr, matey kind of pirate or the dashing Errol Flynn
pirate or maybe the new and entirely cool Oz kind of pirate,
where mellow music would be played during the boarding, and later
everyone would get a little high and trade crewmates and maybe
have some sex.

Though that isn't necessarily a game of pirates to be played
with local children.

As it turns out, Oz left some things behind. Some summer clothes,
which smell wonderful. The book he had just about finished, and
wanted Xander to read. The guitar.

Which hurts, and makes Xander pretty fucking angry, actually.
The guitar which apparently went to Tibet and back, left behind
with discards that weren't important enough to get included in
whatever small bag Oz took with him. Too much like giving up,
though there's no way around the fact that's exactly what Oz

In and out of town for not even enough time to spill his influence
over Buffy, and Riley. Hell, even Spike hadn't gotten the opportunity
to mock him. Not to even mention Willow and Tara, who spend
a solemn few hours trying to make Xander understand that there's
nothing they can do.

And Xander won't understand. Because that's just bullshit. Friendships
just don't end because of this, not when both friends want to.

Heh. Friends want to, all right.

Friends miss fur, and kisses, and the scarily intense sex that makes
friends cry out loud.

Though friends do have other friends. And Giles stays over sometimes,
and Giles can make him forget.

Seemingly endless patience for dealing with Xander, and for telling
Xander that there's nothing to deal with. One night spent just on the
couch, Xander playing a Gipsy Kings CD Oz left behind on repeat,
while they just relax, read.

He can talk about Oz as much as he wants, and Giles is kind enough
to let Xander keep calling it a friendship.

And it's nice being with Giles, though Xander can't quite get back
to making love to him. Which Giles is also intensely cool about, making
it clear that the offer is an open one.

But in the end it comes down to the Oz-shaped hole in Xander's life
that had no right to be there but was. And Xander makes the decision.

Refuses Leon's offer of a permanent slot with a lot of apologies,
and the story that he needs to track down a family member and it
didn't have to be a lie.


Another old lesson there -- an incomplete pack is a pack on the hunt.

Pays his rent two months in advance and leaves only enough in the
bank to keep the checking account open. Which, OK, definitely hurts
because those savings had been hard, hard earned and money is something
Xander was raised to take more seriously than God.

"Xander, you know... if you need --"

"Don't, Giles. I'm grateful, believe me, but this has to be mine."
"I understand. Please, just remember that I'm here."

And on the night after the last day at the site, the night before Xander
plans to get on the road back to cold country -- Giles had produced one
serious cedar-smelling down-stuffed coat out of his closet -- Giles
comes over, and they order Chinese.

Giles pops in Jimi Hendrix and it's a nice, nice night, though the attempt
to teach Xander how to use chopsticks went extremely badly, making
Giles laugh so hard he almost chokes.

Which is also very funny.

Especially when the Chinese mustard makes Giles' eyes tear.

And as Voodoo child starts up, Giles tells Xander a story about his first
trip to London without his father, and meeting an extremely annoying
young man in a bar who wound up introducing him to Ethan Rayne.

And Giles' eyes are faraway, and Xander learns that Ethan was beautiful,
which, despite everything, makes Xander blush. Maybe because Xander has
the funny feeling that he's going to see Ethan again someday and maybe
have to stare until he sees the beauty.

Because Xander also learns that Giles has been in love with Ethan for
almost a quarter of a century.

In love long before Xander was born, which is whoa, and also so fucking
sad. Because Xander also learns that Giles had to run, and figures out on
his own that Ethan has never forgiven him for it.

And maybe Xander, in his place, wouldn't forgive either, because Gileses
have a way of making themselves way too necessary to survival and
Xander can't decide whether or not to say it, and gets all caught up
imagining what it must have been like. If they'd kissed anything like
the way Xander and Oz kiss.

And all he can see is Giles leaning down to a pissed off and confused-in-
the-pit-of-dread Ethan and kissing him hard, and clumsy, and too full of
acid feeling to be anything like eloquent.

In the end, it's maybe all over his face, because Giles smiles ruefully,
and reaches out to run two fingers over his cheek.

"Are you ever... will you..." Flushing hard, because what if the thought
brings pain, what if the answer is no?

And Giles leans back in his chair. "Fuck, I wish I had a fag."

"That's politically incorrect on so many levels."

"That's the problem with you Americans, you know."

"I figured."

And silence, while Giles looks everywhere but at Xander until he does.

"I really have no idea, Xander, but... perhaps just remember that you're
a terrible influence."

And Xander nods, and they each nurse one last beer before saying

Xander spends most of the night tossing and turning, eager to get on
the road, dozing/dreaming/fantasizing himself on an empty street, knee
deep in snow and turning, turning.

Dawn finds him on the road already, McDonald's coffee in one hand and
the wheel in the other. Remembering belatedly that he'd forgotten to
call Anya for last minute good-byes but now that he's on the road...
He doesn't want to stop for anything.

Like something snapping. Find Oz. Find Oz and hold him close and...
Something. *Something*, dammit, because Oz...

"I'm yours."

What he'd said and what Xander is holding on to. Playing the few mix
tapes left behind over and over until they're all too hot, and then just
listening to the wind. Top down even though it's not hot out, feeling
his cheeks redden and his hair go wild.

Night finds him on Gold Avenue, where the snow has melted and then
refrozen into ice.

Xander wants cleats, ice skates, something, because even the Goodyear
treads on his brand new boots don't feel up to the task.

Leaning on the bell, as expected, gets him nothing, but Oz had given
him a key the last time, and Xander spends the night in the empty
apartment, on the pillow that he can pretend still has traces of Oz on

And the morning finds him buying tourist maps of the area, and less-
than-tourist maps, and thinking hard, and finally checking the phone
book for magic shops, because if anyone would know about the very
strange stuff...

The first one he walks into isn't real at all, except for maybe a few
things in the case that have that funny eye-slipping quality real
magic-type things have. That don't-look-at-me thing they do that Xander
is usually perfectly willing to listen to.

The kid behind the counter is just way too wasted to talk to.

The next has a promising hole-in-the-wall cachet but the proprietor
immediately threatens Xander with a crossbow when he brings up

Third is abandoned, and smells vaguely burnt. The fourth is a mix of
real and junk, and the woman behind the counter has old, old eyes that
make Xander want to apologize for something and he starts in on
the story about a thesis on werewolf legends. Or tries to, but what
comes out is, "I need to find my friend."

And the old eyes go mild. "Why don't you come on back here with me,

And back here turns out to be a place with faded tapestries and a
lot of clutter Xander doesn't want to look at matching stools of
the kind that Xander thinks requires some sort of Zen mastery to
be comfortable on.

"What's your name, child?"


"You can call me Mrs. Jones. Now why are you coming here about your
friend, and not to the police?"

"Because he's a werewolf."

And when Mrs. Jones only nods, and gestures for more information,
Xander knows he's in the right place.

In the end she just takes his tourist maps of the state woods and
throws them away.

"Are we going to cast some sort of find-Oz spell? I have fur and
clothes out in the car..."

"Any blood? Semen?"

"Um... no... heh. Guess I just don't think ahead, hunh?"

"Well, I'm sure you'll remember for the next time." And she's so
perfectly serious that Xander makes a note to spend some serious
time not thinking about what Willow and Tara might be doing when
there's no Giles around to tell them to be careful.

Which just makes him decide to not think about Giles and Ethan
doing things like that, either, which is harder because Ethan is
*Ethan* and Xander knows that he just doesn't want to hear that
she can't help him.

And not-thinking just means that he's spending a lot of time just...
perching on the stool feeling like this big, helpless idiot who doesn't
even know enough to demand vials of blood and semen from his boyfriend
before he goes off to run with the wolves. Why? Oh, no reason at
all, says the guy who plans not to follow you.

But what happens is that Mrs. Jones suddenly reaches out and
grabs his hands in her own, small ones. Wrinkled and brown and with all
the give of wood.

Sudden *zing* and she throws her head back and her big, busy earrings
jingle and the tapestries flap a little against the nails holding him to
the wall and Xander *knows* this strange, wordless thing. Something
about pouring out of himself, pulling himself inside out like some
scary peninsula of spirit and stretching. Out and out and out.

And in doing just that he's only marginally aware of the wind, and the
way he's sort of swaying, but what he's mostly aware of is the

Oz and his growl and his hands and his not-freckles and yes. Oz's

Hitting something like a wall not so far away and the wall absorbs
it all and Xander thinks:

"Stay. I'm coming. Please."

And it snaps hard, Xander tumbling off the stool and nearly taking
Mrs. Jones with him.

Call from the front: "Is everything OK back there, Missus?"

"Everything's fine, Gary, I'll be out in a minute."

Her voice is strong, but perfectly normal, and Xander stands. Wonders
at how really disturbing that little fact is. Like it's somehow a
little scary for there to be Hellmouthy things away from the Hellmouth,
but. "I... I think I felt him."

"More probably he felt you... that was about the strength I could
manage. Do you have your answer?"

Answer? "Northeast." Oh.

"Then it's time for you to go, isn't it?"

"Uh... yeah. Um. What do I owe you?"

"Your immortal soul."


Mrs. Jones cackled loudly, jingling her earrings again, many many
teeth showing. "Just kidding. I'll take that bracelet you're wearing.
You gave it to yourself, right?"



His wrist feels weirdly light without the bracelet, which had, in
fact, caught his eye at a flea market a year ago, and which he
hadn't taken off in at least eight months. But being on the road
with direction is just *good*. Afternoon light on the snow, everything
is just sparkling enough that he put on sunglasses, eastward ho-ing
or not.

Finds an alternative station that's only a little polluted with
pop and keeps it there.

Xander wants to hear it start to get full of static, to have to
change the station because he's gone too far. Better sense of
distance than the Rory-music method. Oz had assured him that it
took more than rejecting the Tape Box of Danger to anger the good
music gods.

Which is a relief.

And night falls really, really quickly in that cold way NoCal has.

Makes him think of that first night, and Xander just doesn't want
to sleep another night alone. He's been spoiled, warm bodies are
necessary, but he can feel every muscle in his back.

Thinks of Oz's hands and checks into a cheap, cheap motel, counting
on it being too cold for bugs. The diner has closed by the time he
gets there, but vending machines are twenty-four hour sources of
salty and sugary and preservative-y goodness, and Xander does not
go hungry.

Sleep hits surprisingly hard, one of those whallops of exhaustion
that slams into place when the head hits the pillow, and there's just
enough time to think 'I should've done this earlier' before the
black comes down.

Xander dreams of snow, and cold-reddened skin.

Seven a.m. wake up call comes from a surly, yawning man who
hangs up before Xander can thank him.

Check-out, as usual, seems to take just a little too long and
he's back on the road.

Which doesn't take long to become the (road), or a narrow, and
supposedly two lane highway route 81. One truck passes, loaded
down with most of several trees. One four wheel drive passes,
too, much later.

There are still houses, far back away from the road, but they're
few and far between. Xander knows he's veering a little too
far north, and doesn't question how he knows that, just takes
the next eastward-hoing turnoff he can find, planning to switch
off whenever that little tickle hit.

Oz feeling him, or the memory of Oz feeling him, or just his own
instincts. Pack, yes, somehow.

And it's all just good motion, eating the miles like candy, which
Xander happens to have a fairly impressive stock of on the
passenger seat, along with sandwiches for later, though he
has no idea where the next motel is, or rather, hopes the map is
lying about it being *that* far away.

If it comes to that, though, Xander has both of the blankets from
home, and one actual thick one, just purchased.

Which Xander wants for the little fantasy den Oz has in Xander's
mind, cozy and fort-like, protecting from the worst of the

In the end, the map wasn't lying, so Xander pulls on to the emergency
rest area and hopes the fact that he saw no traffic means that
there'll be no cops patrolling for people who aren't actually having
an emergency.

Xander puts another turtleneck over the one he's wearing, inside
out to avoid annoying tag scratches, pulls on sweats and an extra
pair of socks.

Knows full well he's being an idiot, but still only using the new
blanket as a pillow until he realized that he wouldn't be able to drive
if, say, his hands fell off during the night.

Breakfast is a cold grilled cheese sandwich, a pickle, and cold coffee
from his thermos. Bathroom is a very large tree, and the road is long
an empty.

Mix tapes, then the C&W station for as long as he could stand it
and it's almost a disappointment to hit a town.


Xander spends an hour drinking hot coffee and eating hot food at
the local diner, flirting easily with the waitress, because of the
freckles on her arms.

And being warm is like melting right there in the booth, making
him dozy and intensely... something.

Waiting, hearing. Something.

And tentatively tries that inside-out thing and abruptly wonders
if he's just going to come completely unhooked this time because, hey,
turns out it's easier the second time around.



Need you, Oz, need you where are you where --

The wall is bright enough to blind and he can feel himself white
knuckling the table and it all just bleeds away, taking most of his

East. Further away. *Bastard*.

The waitress, Sue, directs him to the motel, and writes her number and
six-thirty p.m. on the bill. Xander grins tiredly and drives dozily to
the motel, sleeps hard for almost exactly four hours in one of those
power-sleep naps that Xander really wants to learn how to do on
command one day.

And then east, and east, and also east some more on another empty
road that makes Xander wish he could somehow learn to read and drive
at the same time.

A polka station saves him from unconsciousness with a healthy jolt of
fear and pain.

At the next town he buys a thermal bag and several good, heavy
trucker thermoses. Lots of equally good and heavy trucker coffee,
because he can see it in his head. Ozwolf moving by night, eating the
miles while Xander sleeps. Running *away* from him and Xander...

See, this isn't high school anymore, and Xander knows, deep down, that
it *isn't* his fault.

He's not some kind of stalker, despite the several hundred miles of,
well, stalking.

He's not chasing, Oz is *running*. Scared and alone and trying to
make himself a sacrifice. Again. And unlike Willow, Xander doesn't
have anything in Sunnydale that he can't leave behind.

And thinking it plain like that... It's a weight off his chest and
Xander can literally breathe deeper. Electric oxygen so damned good
he has to roll his window down and get road thundering gulps of it
that chill his lungs and makes him laugh and whoop, for the sheer
hell of it.

/I'm coming, Oz./

Not knowing if he's sending it our not, not quite wild enough in his
head to give it a try while actually driving and rolling the window up
is just so deliciously temporary.

Because he's coming, and that air is... all his.

Just waiting for him.

Gets out one of his own tapes, circa middle school years, when he
wasn't quite self-conscious enough to mind being all nihilistic and
vicariously angry through the music of guys who just really looked
like they needed a delousing.

Grinding grunge, of the kind even he knows is noise when it's not
being the exactly right thing to cruise along to until he has to
scream along with the crusty boys.

And it's not even close to being a surprise that he's half-hard
and itching beneath the skin. It's the knowledge that, if it doesn't
happen today, per se, it'll happen before he sleeps.

Likes the way that sounds. Before he sleeps. Has that nice poetry
tinge to it, even if it's not quite so *melancholy* as Frost.

Lovely dark deep woods all around him, crunching in on the road like
the world's neediest Ents. Xander can dig that, because, you know,
maybe the forests didn't like it when the men came and ate the deer
and killed the wolves and made the little things disappear.

Maybe they like the idea of someone, say a Xander, choosing to leave
evil-tinged suburbia, which is just more of their paved over little
friends, and diving right back in. To find a friend, to choose *this*

Heart beating in his throat, because Xander *does* know. What he's
choosing. Wondering if it will hurt too bad, if he'll ever go back for
the friends, if not the life.

Knowing he'll write to Anya, and Giles, no matter what. He likes the way
Anya sounds exactly like herself on the page, that she's a Hemingway
fan except for the way she wishes someone had wished him into a
suppurating boil on his own ass, and yeah, Anya quotes are lingering

He can already see the letters, feel the heavyish envelopes in his
hands, and the written on paper.

Anya has a habit of writing hard enough to almost rip the pages,
like the paper is, in fact, someone who just won't *listen*. Xander
wants to know what Giles letters are like, if they'll sound the way
he sounded that last night, when it was just the two of them, and
neither of them had any planned out conversations on hand. Maybe
a rambling page full of Britishness, and talk about love.

Smiling when a turn-off deteriorates rapidly, humped and cracking
road that Xander really, really hopes isn't *really* two lanes,
because someone would  have to pull off the road, and the shoulder is,
at best, vestigial.

The next town is a wide place in the road, and turns out to
be the last town. Turns out that about five miles further along the
road becomes Lefontaine's back forty of untouched timber, and then
The Woods.

Which is how they all say it in the diner, men with full beards and
women in large amounts of flannel with permanently rosy cheeks. All
in capitals, and Xander can believe it, he really can. They look at him
when he says he's trying to find a friend, but no one actually forks
the evil eye at him.

"People around here protect their land, and their people."

Pointed statement from Lefontaine himself, and the diner is silent,
motionless for that moment save for solemn nods. Xander sees his
reflection in the mirror behind the counter. Takes in his wind-wild
hair, his dark stubble, and his own eager, eager eyes. And nods, too.

Xander refills his coffee supply, buys several medium rare burgers
that won't have much chance to go bad where he's going. Lefontaine
offers the use of his shed for Xander's Chevy, and Xander thanks him
heartily, and promises, quietly to never appear after dark.

"Can you promise the same for your... friend?"

"I can."

And he takes Xander on his word, and by evening Xander can look
all around him and see nothing but trees. Warmer than he'd
expected it to be, though not by much. Snow only in the clearings
and Xander walks, slowly and carefully, pack stuffed with blankets
and food.

Pisses on trees now and again, just in case, and only when the
half-moon has risen does he stop in one of the clearings, and waits.
Xander can hear owls, and snow falling from the low-hanging branches
he avoids. The creak of his pack-straps, and the sight of his breath
smoking through the scarf.

And sends, only to hear a cry from right behind him.

Oz, shaky on his feet, bundled and furred, eyes black and wide and
so *open*.

Xander crunches through the snow to him and holds his face in gloved
hands and just *looks*. Stands there and looks and knows he's grinning
behind the scarf, wants Oz inside Giles' coat with him, wants
absolutely everything to show in his eyes and will not let Oz shake his
head, or pull away, or anything but *be* there.

"I asked you not to follow me, Xander."

"Oh, you *fucker*," and Xander shakes his way out of the scarf, gasps
at the cold and dives in and kisses. Warmish mouth to cold, and Oz, oh
Oz doesn't move, resist, *anything*, even though the fangs are there.

Even though he's trembling.

Breaks the kiss but just stays there, rests his covered forehead
against Oz's and surprises himself by laughing. "Say no, Oz."

"I can't."

"Say you don't need me."

"I *can't*."

"Then kiss me *back* you running bastard because I need *you.*"

And Xander doesn't wait, just dives back in and Oz is there, right
there, mouth heating beneath his, gloved hands fisted in Giles' coat
and pulling Xander closer and Oz's tongue is rough and a little dry
and Oz is moaning and Xander wants to cry but all he does is drive
Oz back against a tree.

Gasp into his mouth and is only just barely has enough brain function
to not start stripping them both but can't stop. Sucking on Oz's
tongue and finally letting his head go to roam through Oz's hair
and dive in close enough to smell him through the cold. So much himself,
all that electric essential Ozness, the perfection of clean air
through fur and Oz is licking him.

Mouth and forehead and eyes and cheeks and tongue slipping below
the scarf to taste his neck, spit doing its best to freeze and
Xander can't repress a shudder and Oz breaks the kiss immediately.

"You can't be out here, Xander --"

"I won't leave you."

Oz's turn to shudder. "I know. God, I know, and it's... OK. I... come
with me."

Walk in mostly silence, holding hands through the gloves and looking,
really looking at Oz. Moon silvering his hair, graceful through the
underbrush, careful with Xander over deadfalls and it's maybe
two miles, or three, and the woods are everything, everywhere.

And they feel content.

And finally before a massive rock wall, which Xander thinks might
be blue-grey in the light. And there's a crack in it. A very short,
thinnish crack that Oz goes through first, and that Xander needs
to be half-pulled through into a cave that *feels* large, even
if it's too dark to see. Snow falls through a hole high in the ceiling.
They pull Xander's pack through, and then Oz gets a fire going and
Xander can see that it *is* large, and that Oz has been drawing
things on the walls.

Patterns, mostly, in what Xander suddenly knows is blood and ash.

There's a pile of clothes and blankets on the flattened earth by
the fire, and Xander wishes he'd taken Oz's guitar with him out
of the car, though isn't sure how he could've safely gotten it
into the cave.

After a bit, he pulls up a tattered, iron-on Dingoes t-shirt and
waits for Oz to stop poking at the fire and come over. Xander
has prepared any number of pissed-off things to say should Oz give
him anything resembling crap about following him.

In the end, though, Oz just pushes him gently down the rest of
the way, undoes Xander's coat and lays on top of him, head
over Xander's heart. And they stay there, quiet and slowly
warming until Xander has to sit up and take his coat off the rest
of the way. Has to change position enough so he can have more

Soft mouth and hard teeth and Xander scrapes his stubble along
Oz's fur and kisses his ear and lets his hands roam and grasp and
hold and say everything he can think of.

And it's quiet here, the most quiet place Xander thinks he's ever
been, with only the crackling fire and dancing shadows making the
stack of firewood look ominous. The sounds come from them, the wet
sounds and the silken rush of skin finally against skin, fur against
skin and touching the looping light flare of the tattoo and Oz hard
against him, and harder.

Thrusting now and shaking his head and it's like the rhythm was
right there all along, existing somewhere in the space-no space
between their cocks, in the sweat just waiting to be mingled.

Xander reaches down and holds them both and God, just that little
bit more. Hotter and Oz grabbing Xander's shoulders and they're both
fucking his fist now and Xander is watching it.

Just watching them move together, Oz's smooth red cock against
his own and Xander *needs*.

Rolls them over and nuzzling through the ghosty chest fur for Oz's
nipple, so hard between his teeth and Oz's cock. Slick with pre-come,
always so much of it and suddenly Xander *needs* to.

Moves down to jerk him more steadily, coating his hand and pulling
and helpless not to lap some of it away, suckle and Oz is panting,
sharp low notes caught on each gasp and it's just so *good*.

And Oz spreading for him, musky and alive smelling and Xander wants
to hold Oz down and just rub his whole body all over him but settles
for opening him. Not hard to get two fingers in, but then it's
tight and Xander works fast and careful, wishes he'd thought to
bring lube, lubed condoms, something, but oh, Oz stroking himself,
fast, eyes closed and screwing himself down on Xander's fingers
and yes, OK, like that.

Watching Oz's speeding hand and tortured face and spitting cock
and wanting it all, wanting to swallow him down and eat him up and
just hold him close until he *listens* --

"*Xander* --"

Oz coming hitting his own chin and arched and stretched and
beautiful and Xander gathers as much as he can and slicks himself
and drives home in one long stroke that makes them both groan and
whisper incoherencies.

Moving in and in, circle and thrust and it's a fire under his skin
and he gets his arms under Oz's legs and watching himself
disappear slow inside *inside* and he can't. Focuses on Oz's face
instead and gets lost. Slack need and that brand of sex-shock Xander
loves. Can't believe it feels this deep, this hard, this good, this

"Oh, Oz you *feel*. Fuck, so good --"

Driving harder and Oz sobs out a moan and Xander...

Just too good and he can't slow down again, has to let it build until
Xander's nothing but the fuck, motion and pleasure and need.

Until Oz is crying out continuously, words lost in howls and claws
digging furrows, fur damp with sweat, high wonderful scent and
Xander thinks: All mine.

And comes yelling, thrusting helplessly and sweat dripping on Oz
and finally just missing the collapse, braced shakily above the other
man until he can fall just to the side and bury his face in Oz's
neck and hold *on*.

Breathe hard into the quiet until he's just about asleep.

"I can't go back, Xander."

"I think I'm going to strangle you."

"You know I can't and... and you can't live out here."

"Yes I can."

"Xander --"

"I want you to do it, Oz."

Dead silence and Oz is holding him so *hard* and shaking. Xander
can feel it and he kisses the sweat-slick skin of Oz's throat over
and over and nuzzle up to his slightly pointed ear.


"I'm not strong enough for this, Xander, please don't ask --"

"My decision. I changed my mind, Oz, because I'd rather have you
than the rest of my life. Say yes or I swear to god I'll just
bite you myself and see if it works that way."

And Oz pulled out of Xander's grip and huddled on the other side
of the fire, arms around his knees.

"I don't even know how it would work, what would happen to you
being bitten by a werewolf like me, and, fuck. No going back."

Respecting Oz's space. For now. "There never is, not really."

"Jesus, *think*, Xander! What happens when you fall in love with
a human?""I'm in love with you."

Oz up and pacing and scrubbing his hand over his face and "oh, oh

And Xander watches, and he wants to tremble but there's something
inside. Different kind of knot, warm and sad and safe and calm.
"You love me, too."

Oz stops, and slumps a little, and hugs himself and Xander
gets up and helps, slipping his arms under Oz's and burying his
face in Oz's hair and listening to the fire.

And when it comes it's sudden, painful and tearing fire into
the muscle of his chest, Oz twisted around and growling and
lapping at the wound and Xander... doesn't feel any different,
but God, his blood on Oz's mouth is so, so beautiful.


Continue to Tomorrows.