And I Feel Fine
by glossolalia

The thing Devon just doesn't get about living in Hollywood is how it's like two different places. There's the place everyone knows, big and glittering, red carpets and gossip. Then there's the place itself. There's his drive home which is, honestly, kind of rundown and shitty. Low buildings, tiny travel agents and beer stores and storefronts with jerk chicken and tostadas and deep-fried wonton.

The idea of Hollywood is too big; it wouldn't even fit over the physical place. The idea's not a mask but like a whole different country. Really weird.

Makes it hard to keep believing, sometimes.

Things tonight, though, are really falling into place. He's got a good feeling about tonight. The hot water pipe snapped at the restaurant, so they closed early, and he made it to the clinic in time to pick up Jimbo without having to pay the weekend-night rate. The cash left over bought him a nice fat three ounces from Marissa the on-duty tech, and she passed along her real cell number, too. Not the business number or the public personal one, both of which he already had, but the real one.

To make things even better, Jimbo went right into his crate without much bullshit - just two bites and a scratch - even though the rest of the animals were going batshit crazy. So much yowling and shrieking, barking and throwing themselves against their cages, but Jimbo's a good guy. No matter what anyone else says.

"Aren't you, buddy?" Devon asks, tapping the top of the crate on the passenger seat. Jimbo yowls shortly and chases at Devon's finger with his paw. "Yeah, you are."

Marissa said animals know when something big's going down. They feel earthquakes, big storms, that kind of thing, and that's why all of them at the clinic were freaking out. Jimbo must know it's a good night, since he's so frisky and doesn't even nip very hard when they come to a stoplight and Devon sticks his finger through an airhole.

He's got a clean cat with clean teeth, no work, a baggie of heavenly-stinky weed: It's going to be a good night, he's sure of it.

The radio switches over to the news and Devon punches seek as fast as he can. He'd rather listen to some Tejano sap than the fucking news. He lucks out and gets a live version of "November Rain" instead, and drives along, beating his palms on the wheel in time with Slash's grinding guitar and singing loud enough to drown out Axl. Jimbo even joins in.

That's when the rain starts up, and it's like serendipity. Singing about rain as it's raining, even if it's May, not November - that's just another sign of a good night a-brewing. It just drizzles at first, then, as he makes the right onto Ventura, it quickens into a real downpour. Serious rain, sheets of it, the pavement starting to steam in response.

For a second, he thinks of Travis Bickle, cruising through the steamy New York streets, and he gets a cool, misunderstood-psycho vibe. But the rain's beginning to pound on the tinfoil-thin roof of his Tercel, starting to flood inside the windshield through the hole he tried to patch with rubber cement and roofing plaster.

He has to stop singing, too, so he can bend forward and try to see more than three feet in front. Streetlights and storefront neon are winking and dimming in the rain, and the street's more like a lake, pitted with drops and blanketed in steam, and the plaster is making the windshield look like it's covered in old milk.

Jimbo growls out a question and Devon pats the top of the crate. "S'cool, big guy, don't worry. No lightning."

Big, moving slab like a fucking baby elephant or hippo is right there when Devon looks back up, and he jams on the brake, too late as he hits the thing, hydroplanes - the street whirling like a cheap midway ride - and spins back to the hippo-elephant-whatthefuckever and crunches, sickening sound like metal just folding, into it again.

"Piece of monkey-blowing SHIT!" he yells as the thing tips over onto his crumpled-up hood, seesawing the car upward so that Devon hits the steering wheel and Jimbo's crate slides onto the floor. Jimbo's bitching as Devon fights to open his door.

"Motherfucking Jesusloving --" He gets out, clambering down like he's in an eighteen-wheeler, water splashing up to his knee, rain slamming down on his head.

He has to shade his eyes, but even so, he can't make out what he hit. It's dead, though, that's for sure, black blood swirling like spilled ink all over the hood, and he kicks at a long black horn - fang? tusk? like he knows, he's never going to pay for Animal Planet - that snapped off and lies jammed under one front wheel. It's not breathing and it stinks like fucking dead things passed through an old person's intestine.

Jimbo's yelling, the rain's thundering, Devon's heart is beating a mile a minute, and in all the noise, it takes a minute to get his breath back so he can start yelling again. And in that time, he hears something coming at him. Not a siren, maybe just a car-horn - that'd make sense, the Tercel and the dead beast are half into the northbound lane - and when he thinks that, he's blinded by oncoming lights, highbeams and foglights, the horn dying down as the car runs up onto the sidewalk in front of a bodega/nail-salon, makes a neat U-turn, and pulls up alongside Devon, barely splashing him.

It's a fucking gorgeous, fine-ass car, too. Early, mid-seventies Monte Carlo, before the hippies and the Arabs made sure cars were little and breakable, like the fucking Tercel. It's round as a beautiful woman, strong like an Amazon, shining black with red detailing. Fully pimped-out, and Devon has to close his mouth to keep the rain from getting in.

The passenger door pops open and a pale face looks out at him from the dark inside the car. Ghost of a face, face of a ghost, swimming up through the dark.

"Oz? Holy fuck, Oz."

"Hey, Dev. Hop in."

Going on something like four years, and that's all the fucker has to say? "You runty little goatfucker, Oz. Where the fuck've you been?"

Oz glances over his shoulder, like he's scared of the bogeyman, then looks back. "Got bigger problems than that. Get in."

Devon points at the totalled Tercel. "Dude, I hit something."

"See that. Nasty."

"Fuck is it? Like, something from the zoo?" Oz always did pretty good in science, he probably knows.

"Got anything in the car you need? Grab it now and get in." Oz sounds like one of those single moms Devon's tried, a couple times, to pick up once at the park during a T-ball game. All organized and on top of everything and scary in charge.

"Yes, ma'am. Jesus." When he opens his door again, it comes off in his hand. Piece of shit. Devon tosses it at the elaphahippo monster and leans inside, wrestling Jimbo's crate free, tossing the blanket that stands in for upholstery in the backseat over the top because Jimbo has a thing about water, then rustles blindly in the glove compartment for his stash. He dumps it all on Oz's passenger seat, which swivels out to the street, then rushes back for his laundry (five bucks a pound, but at least it gets done this way).

"Ready," he says, dropping into the seat, pulling Jimbo's crate into his lap. He grins over at Oz. "That quick enough for -- Fuck."

Oz jams the car into gear, Devon flails for the door to close, and then they're off, spraying water in huge Niagara-arcs over the dead monster and the deader Tercel.

"In a rush?" Devon asks.

Oz grins tightly and shifts into higher gear. "Could say that."

"Thanks for stopping for me."

Dropping his hand off the gearshift, Oz pats Devon's knee, then slides up a little, squeezing his thigh, and -- fuck. Devon never knew til just now how his skin remembers Oz just as well as his brain does. Maybe even better.

Yeah. Definitely a great night.


They were fourteen the first time they kissed. Devon was fourteen and a half, actually, and it was raining that night, too. Spring of eighth grade, up in Devon's attic - which would have been an amazing rec room if his dad had ever gotten around to finishing it off - sitting against the slanted wall, listening to the sounds it made on the roof.

Devon was, if he remembers it right, trying to get Oz to get a fake ID. His own was pretty righteous; Carl down at the liquor store sold it to him for a hundred bucks, and the guy in the picture almost looked like Devon. The name on the card was Francois Mitterand, and Devon was telling Oz how much girls liked older foreign guys.

"Putty in my hand, man, soon as I flash this baby."

"Sure." Oz checked the back - it was blank, but who ever looks at the back of an ID? - and handed it back. "Interesting piece of art there."

Sliding it back into his wallet, Devon paused. Oz's voice sounded flat; flatter than usual, anyway, like something was bothering him. Or like he wanted to say something else. Devon knocked his elbow into Oz's ribs and said, "Humoring me. Or whatever."

Oz poked back, mouth going tight into that freaky secret grin of his. "Never dream of it."

"Fuck you," Devon said, getting his arm around Oz's neck and pulling him down. Oz's hair was longer in junior high, and it tickled like straw under Devon's nose, smelled like creosote and some fruity shampoo Oz's mom used. "It's a good card."

Oz wriggled free - he was little, sure, but fast as well as strong - and poked Devon harder, right on his breastbone. "It's a beautiful card."

"See, doing it again --"

"Doing what?"

It wasn't like Devon had a name for it. "You know. It. Acting all, you know."

Tilting his head, Oz rubbed the side of his neck, and suddenly Devon felt bad. That was new; he hadn't felt bad about something involving Oz since the massive Baby Ruth versus Three Musketeers blowout when they were in fourth grade.

Oz frowned, his eyes narrowing, and then all of a sudden, he leaned in and their noses bumped, then their front teeth. Devon's braces ground into the back of his lip and he started to yelp, but there was Oz's mouth, his goddamn tongue, slippery and wet, and his hand on Devon's shoulder, and they were kissing. Really kissing, like in movies, with cocked heads and open mouths, and it felt amazing. Devon's whole body was lighting up in sequence like a fountain at Disneyland, jets of colored water and fireworks, as he pushed his tongue into Oz's mouth. Felt like an alien planet in there, slick and bumpy and sharp with teeth.

When Oz pulled back, sucking in breath, Devon wiped his mouth dry with the back of his hand and said, "What'd you do that for?"

"Wanted to." Oz touched his lip like he was testing a blister.

"Oh. Okay."

Narrowing his eyes, pulling in his shoulders, Oz asked, "Pissed?"

Devon thought about it -- normally, he liked to think he was the kind of guy who made the first move; normally, he liked to think he kissed girls. Only three so far, but that was still more than any other guy in their homeroom.

Oz didn't move as Devon worked it out: pursuer, girls. Versus, well, Oz. Weird little guy, Devon's best friend, all angles and tense brows. And really soft lips.

"Nah," Devon said finally. "Not pissed." His hand, still planted on Oz's chest, curled its fingers into Oz's shirt and yanked him closer.

"Good --" Oz said before their mouths mashed together again.

And that was the main thing about Oz. The central thing. He made his own moves. Of course Devon preferred it when those moves were toward him, into his bed or against his mouth or whatever, but the moves, they were always Oz's.


Oz drives like a man possessed through the city, cutting across freeways, looping back onto residential streets, and Devon's got no idea where they are, let alone where they're going.

Devon's lived in LA for three and a half years, but he's totally lost track of where Oz is heading. Every time he asks, though, Oz doesn't say anything. He just nods and squints harder at the rain.

Everything's gone strange and unrecognizable in the rain. The streets are pretty much deserted and lights are off, too. Devon can't entertain himself with people-watching, because no one's out. It's like he's Noah and Oz is -- maybe Oz is Noah, but Devon's not sure what that would make him. And Jimbo would need a girlfriend, too.

"Wouldn't he have to get un-neutered, then?" Oz asks. "I mean, to make the most of the situation."

Devon jerks forward - he hadn't realized that Oz was even listening - and curls his arm around Jimbo's crate a little more snugly. "He's not neutered. You think I'd cut off his balls?"

"Good point," Oz says, and his eyebrow lifts up. When he used to do that, it meant he was about to say something else, but this time, he doesn't.

"Anyway, what was Mrs. Noah's name?" Devon asks. Jimbo's circling in his crate, so it keeps shifting on his lap, little claws poking out through the airholes in the bottom, and he doesn't want to lose another pair of pants, so he puts the crate on the floor between his feet. Jimbo bitches with the double mrowr, and when Devon clucks his tongue, Oz actually smiles. "What?"

"Nothing," Oz says, eyes on the road. He's leaning forward, foot on the gas, and he looks like a goddamn old lady, all squinty and nervous. "And she didn't have a name."

"Course she had a name," Devon says. "What, was he like, hey, bitch, get in the ark? Don't think so."

Oz just nods.

Up ahead, there's a bus-stop shelter, all lit up like a giant ice cube in the dark rain. A tall guy stands there, looking like a fingerpainting, one long smear of red and green, motionless in a shit-brown pleather coat, a little suitcase sitting next to him.

"Dude, take a look at --" Devon starts to say, but Oz is already slowing to a stop and cranking down the window.

"Hey --" Oz calls across the street. The guy doesn't move. Oz coughs, then raises his voice more. "Hey, Mr. Caritas --"

Devon's still trying to figure out how Oz knows the guy's name when he looks up. Trick of lighting and rain, but his face looks really green for a second. And then another, and another, until Devon decides he is green.

"C'mon!" Oz shouts and he's got that pissed-off soccer-mom voice going again. "Buses aren't running!"

Green Man shakes his head at first, but when Oz tells him to come over, he shrugs like he doesn't have anything better to do, grabs his suitcase, and, pulling the coat over his head, runs toward them. Oz opens the door and swivels out of the way, and the guy shimmies into the backseat. He must be six feet, and lean; handsome, even with the green and - Jesus.

"Horns?" Devon says. Pointy red horns on a wide, wrinkled brow.

"Lorne," the man says, sticking out a green hand and falling forward as Oz simultaneously slams the door and guns the engine. The motion seems to shake him up more than it should - or maybe Devon's just getting used to Oz's crazed driving - because when he got in, Lorne was slumped and soaked, but now he's smiling widely and looking Devon over.

Devon knows that look. Holy hell, does he know that look. "Devon," he says and squeezes Lorne's hand again, thumb brushing over the soft skin inside his wrist, before letting go.

Sitting sideways in the seat, crossing his legs and smoothing down his shirt, Lorne says, "Well, aren't you a tall cool glass of buttermilk in the midst of an apocalypse?"

"Is that good?" Devon asks.

"Like St. Peter sent down Gabriel himself and I'm already in heaven. Very good."

Cocking his head, Devon squints as another turn bangs him against the door. "Christ, Oz, take it easy. You Catholic?"

"Oh, sweetness, how I wish I was. No."

"He's Pylean," Oz says, glancing in the rearview mirror. "Right?"

"Only by unfortunate accident of unwanted birth, my pup."


He can't remember, no matter how hard he's tried, when he first met Oz. It just happened, some time early in elementary school. Probably first grade, because they were all in the same room still - they didn't switch classrooms for math until second grade - and Oz ended up sitting next to Devon because of the alphabet.

Not exactly the alphabet, but Polly Nguyen switched seats with Oz when Devon couldn't keep himself from playing with her hair. She had great hair, perfectly black, and when the sun caught it, it shone blue. Like Superman's, so he couldn't not touch it. Until she switched, anyway, and Osbourne slid in next to MacLeish.

He was little, and quiet, and had that look of a poor kid. Even in first grade, you just knew - there were patches on the knees of his pants, his shirts had pills on them from getting washed a lot, and nothing looked new. Devon decided that Oz was the hero in disguise, not Polly Nguyen, because despite the clothes and the skinniness, Oz also had a wicked bunch of toys, way more than any real poor kid would have - a huge collection of Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky Packs cards, an X-Wing fighter, and a little yellow plastic record player. The portable kind with a handle that you could carry around like a suitcase - Devon liked playing Gordon Gekko for a while there - and a little pile of records.

Oz was just there before Devon even noticed. Secret superhero and fearless ninja-partner, he just appeared and stayed, like he'd always been there.


One thing Devon would like to know, right the hell now, is how Oz knows this guy Lorne. Not because he's jealous, nothing like that, it's just like the two of them have some of kind of private conversation going on and Devon's not a part of it.

"Apocalypse?" he asks, repeating what Lorne had said, but no one answers.

Just swish-swish of wipers that don't make any difference, Jimbo muttering to himself, and the pounding of rain louder than thunder. They're on the freeway now, heading east, the rest of the traffic smearing into lanes of white and red lights.

Oz checks the rearview mirror and says, "What's going on? Any idea?"

Lorne keeps his head turned to the window, horn tapping the glass, and when he finally speaks, he sounds exhausted. "Plenty of ideas. Most of them are centered around cranberry juice, triple sec, and vodka. As for what's out there? Definitely not intoxicating and certainly far from refreshing."

Rubbing his chin, Oz shifts his weight in the seat. "Figure we've got a couple, maybe three hours' head start."

"Maybe," Lorne says, tugging the lapels of his jacket across his chest.


What he and Oz had, Devon didn't have a name for, and that was cool. It was just - just them, best friends, and if they made out, slept over at each other's house and ended up fooling around, that was just part of it the whole overall thing, like being in the band, like Oz doing his math homework for him, like Devon trying to get Oz to wear better clothes.

He didn't think it about too much either way, but it seemed to bother other people. Sometimes, anyway.

Once the band was in Bakersfield for a gig and they only had enough for one motel room. Two beds, and Devon was going to share with Oz, Tim took the other, and Derek the new drummer kind of sneered and dropped his shit on the couch.

"Dude, take the bed," Oz said.

Tim shoved his bag over and said, "Yeah."

"Sorry," Derek said, fumbling in his pocket for his cigarettes. "Not a fag."

Thing was, he looked right at Devon when he said it.

"Fuck's that supposed to mean?" Devon asked, taking a step; Oz grabbed his arm, but Devon barely felt it.

"What I said. Not a fag." Derek crossed his legs, looking like he'd just beaten out a whole Bonham-level solo. Oz snorted and Derek looked up. "What? Is he going to speak?"

"Shut the fuck up, Harrison," Devon said, massaging his arm from the burn of Oz's grip. He felt it now, that was for sure.

"Interesting connection there," Oz said, sitting on the corner of the bed, tracing the cabbage-rose pattern on the quilt. He spoke softly, like he was talking to himself. "Would it be the bed that makes you a fag? Or the other way around?"

Derek tossed his cigarette at Devon and heaved himself up, muttering something about seeing them at the show, and stormed out like a bitchy diva. Tim was just laughing but Devon felt weird. Kind of unsettled.

"Not a fag," he said, not sure who he was telling, or why, but needing to say it out loud.

"Nah," Oz said, glancing up. "Just you."


It kept bothering him all night, though. It got under his skin, made him stumble over lyrics, threw off his dancing, fucked with his head.

After the show, Derek was talking to a tall black girl with a short 'fro and huge smile - she was cute as hell and way out of that pissant's league - and the tension under Devon's skin pulled and knotted again. No way did a jackass like Derek Harrison deserve such a girl, and no way was Devon MacLeish a fag, whatever that meant.

All it took was a sideways-slide up to the girl, several grins tossed her way, a friendly hand on her waist when he leaned in to make a point, and she agreed to come back to the room with him. They left Derek, gone red in the face, at the bar, looking desperately around for another honey, and Devon couldn't stop laughing. Her name was Aggie, and she had a great laugh, and she kissed like it was going out of style, long nails in his hair, the pressure of her lips zooming straight down to his cock.

In the room, stumbling in, they found Oz sitting on the bed, hair wet from the shower, just wearing his stupid Little House flannel pajama pants, reading some thick paperback book.

Aggie got excited by the book - she was in college - and things got even better, because she liked Oz and she liked Devon, and Devon stretched out on his side, running his hand up and down her leg while she chattered to Oz about something, bigotry and masculinity, from the book, and Devon just felt comfortable. Head on Oz's sharp little knee, hand on Aggie's thigh, and she grinned, looking at them.

That'd show...someone. Derek, anyone. Devon got the best of everything, that was just how the world spun. He got Aggie, strong and curvey, tits like something from fucking heaven, better even than Cordy's, and he got Oz, looking at him from underneath his long, long lashes, smiling secretively. He got it all, taste of Aggie's lime Chapstick on Oz's soft, familiar lips, swell of Aggie's breast and stretch of her belly under one hand, jut of Oz's hipbone and heat of his prick in the other.

He wasn't a fag. Oz was right, he was just himself.

Plus, he sucked cock way better than most gay guys.


"Devon was our lead singer," Oz tells Lorne.

"I can see that," Lorne says, big red eyes ticking over Devon's face. The guy really knows how to look, evaluate and enjoy and appreciate, all at the same time. "Let's hear something."

Devon can't help laughing. "Who're you, Simon Cowell?"

The smile Lorne gives him is tight and fake-patient. "Honey, that bitter little man ain't got nothing on me."

"Okay." Devon stretches out his neck. Lorne's a real flamer, like old-school; Devon likes that. Queens not only always tip the best, they're just plain cooler to hang around with than most other people. He coughs into his hand, takes a breath, and tries to choose a song. When he concentrates like this, though, he tends to, like, blank out. Right now's no different.

All that comes to him is "Jeremy", which he hasn't even heard for about as long as he hasn't seen Oz, but he gets through one verse and the chorus when he catches Lorne grinning, looking at Oz's eyes in the mirror.

They nod at each other, like they're coming to an agreement, and that's just bizarre. Also rude.

"First, huh?" Lorne asks.

"Yeah," Oz says at the same time Devon asks, "What? First band? Yeah."

"That, too," Lorne says and there's that little smile between him and Oz again.

"Yeah," Devon says, turning back around to face the road - same old, same old, black night and heavy rain and pavement - and checking on Jimbo. "Yeah, okay."

He agrees so they'll stop talking over his head.

He'd forgotten how that can happen around Oz. One on one, they're great, always were, but it's different with company. People either get Devon or Oz, but not both of them.

Looks like the green queen's an Oz man, whatever his looks at Devon are saying.

That's fine; Devon's an Oz man, too, and he was here first.


He tried to tell the little girl that when she came knocking. Her nose was flamingo-pink, her eyes even pinker, and he gave up the tough-love crap when she started crying again.

"Just want to s-see," she said and, sighing, he took up her upstairs to Oz's old room.

He stood in the doorway as she wandered around the empty room, sniffling, and sat on the edge of the mattress, and he felt pretty sick.

He'd had this stomach bug for months now, ever since Oz took off, and it was only getting worse He couldn't keep anything down that wasn't white and soft, so all he was eating was Cream of Wheat, mashed potatoes, and pastina. He wasn't sleeping too well, either, but she didn't care. Even when he rubbed his stomach and yawned, then groaned, she didn't even look his way.

She hated him, Devon knew that; Oz had said, long time back, that it was because they'd known each other for so long, she found it intimidating or something. Devon didn't get that; he'd had girlfriends and most of them didn't care that Oz was his best friend.

Of course, none of them - except maybe Cordy - were smart like Oz's girl. She had this way of looking at Devon, when she bothered to look at him, and wrinkling up her nose, like he had dogshit on his shoe and wasn't worth her attention.

He'd taken a page from Harmony Kendall's playbook and told Oz that it was him or the chick. "Serious here, man. Make a choice, because this ain't working."

It was summer after senior year, and Oz didn't even go to any of the graduation parties. Oz didn't even graduate. They were on the roof of Oz's dad's house, scratchy wool blanket over the rough roof tiles, hot night air sticking to their skin. Oz rolled over onto his side, propping his head on his elbow, just looking at Devon.

"Serious. Really."

"Know you are," Oz said. "Still a bullshit choice."

His face went hot, like a grease fire, just spreading and heating up. "Not bullshit, Osbourne."

"Total - utter - complete -" Oz was sliding his hand down Devon's chest, tapping his fingers at each word, making the grease fire spark and change into something better, down his body, up his legs, "- amazing - bullshit."

"It's not," Devon got out, because it wasn't, it was the truth, but Oz was pushing against him, half on top of him now, bare skin on bare skin, sweat catching in his sideburns. "Not bullshit."

Oz braced himself up on one arm, looking down at Devon, and streetlights caught the edges of his spiky hair and his face was pale and far away like a moon. "Still your friend, Dev."

"I know."

"That's never going to change."

"I know -" Devon wanted to push Oz away. Or pull him down. Do something - shove or kiss - to make him shut the fuck up.

Lowering himself, hand on Devon's cheek, Oz kissed his forehead like Devon was some kind of bratty kid who didn't want to go to bed yet. "Believe me."

Locking his arm around Oz's waist, holding him there tight and wriggling, Devon bit the side of Oz's neck before whispering, "Fuck off, Oz."


He was here first, and Oz knew it, too; he had to know it, that was why he still hung out with Devon, still touched him like that and kissed him like this. Even pissed-off, he still got that red staining blush up the center of his chest when Devon sucked him off, still opened his mouth and twisted his head around when Devon got two fingers inside him and held still until Oz asked for it. And it went the other way, too - it was more than just back and forth, it was like this loop, so that he could be kissing Oz and all of a sudden, Devon would feel the shape of Oz's dick in his mouth, the specific weight and taste of it, and he'd want it more than anything he'd ever wanted. Or the rough-gentle touch of Oz's palm as it wrapped around Devon's cock and tugged, just right, never too light or too fast, the way Oz's tongue pushed into his mouth in exact rhythm as he jerked, and Devon didn't want to feel like that with anyone else.

He couldn't, and that was just the way it was. Like singing - he'd been auditioning other guitarists since Oz ran away, but it just didn't work right. Some of them were better than Oz - maybe most of them - but it felt weird and wrong.

He'd like to have told the crying girl all this, but she just peered blearily at him when he said, "Look, Willa -"


"Whatever. Look, this -"

She was sitting on the edge of Oz's bed, hands gripping at it, face blotchy with tears and mascara, and all he wanted to say was, "I was here first", but then she said, "Could I have some privacy, please?"


She shook her head, wrinkled her nose, and said, "Leave me alone, okay? Just --"

"Yeah," Devon said, getting it, his stomach clenching and dropping into another knot. "Sure."

He left her, swallowing bile that tasted like onions and rancid butter, and she could pretend whatever she wanted. He was still here first, and with Oz gone, that meant he got left first, too.


Devon flips through the radio stations. "Need some music, can't take this rain." All he gets is dead air, dead air, high-pitched horrible whine, silence. "Fuck."

The silence is worse than anything. He looks over at Oz, then back at Lorne, who's got his face turned away, his forehead pressed against the window. Back to Oz, his fingers white around the wheel. Too fucking quiet.


"Yeah, Dev?"

Why's it so quiet? What's going on? Where have you been? "Who's the better drummer, Charlie Watts or Keith Moon?"

He could swear that he sees the corner of Oz's mouth twitch and deepen, like he's trying not to smile. "How about Pigpen?"

"Fucking hippie shit --" Devon starts to say when the leather of the backseat crackles and groans as Lorne sits forward.

"Max Roach. Red Allen's a good choice, too."

After downshifting - his hand brushes Devon's knee, just like it used to in the van - Oz rubs his chin. "Changing my answer. Max Roach."

Devon pounds the dash with his hand. "Jazz doesn't count, dude. Sorry, Lorne, but --"

"Counts," Oz says.

"Who put you in charge?" Devon asks, and Oz touches his thigh again, a little more firmly, squeezing.

"Traffic's getting heavier," Lorne says.

He's right - there are more cars now, slowing down, the red lights bunching up and thickening into clumps. Oz leans over the wheel, scanning the road through the rain, then swears under his breath.

"What's --?" Devon starts to ask as Oz pulls over onto the shoulder and unlatches his seatbelt.

"Switch places with me," Oz says.

"You're letting me drive?"

"Yeah," Oz says, and digs in his front pocket, taking out a thick black wallet. He hands it to Devon, then half-stands, bending over the wheel, so they can switch. Devon takes full advantage, grasping Oz's narrow hips as they pass, pressing his face into his rain-damp hair, and then he's in the driver's seat.

"What's the wallet for?"

"Road block up there," Oz says. "Probably want to see your license."

"I've got my -"

"Use that one." Oz's voice goes cold and flat again. "Okay?"

Devon checks the license - it kind of looks like him, more than the Mitterand one ever did, anyway - and notes the name. Wayne Edward Hopkins.

"Just drive," Oz says. He doesn't sound like himself, not anywhere near, and everything feels off, more than it did a minute ago. Lorne tugs a fedora down over his head and Jimbo's yowling, as Devon maneuvers off the muddy shoulder and merges into the traffic again.

The Monte Carlo handles well, but he's not used to a standard, let alone something as heavy as this, not after the Tercel. So Devon keeps both hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road, and takes it slow and careful.

"First time you ever let me drive," he says when he can't take the tense quiet any more.

"Play your cards right," Oz says, sounding a little muffled, "and it might not be the last."

Devon'll take the quiet over that - the sound of Oz trying to joke, to sound normal - any day, so he sucks his lip against his teeth and downshifts as they near the roadblock, cop cars and some drenched motorcycle cops.

"License?" The beam of the flashlight through the window blinds Devon and he hands it the card into light.

"Where you headed?"

Devon has no idea. "Barstow?"

"Take it slow tonight. Lotta traffic on the road. Only gonna get heavier."

The card appears in the light, Devon grabs it, remembers to say, "Yes, sir," and then he's waved on.

When he looks over, the passenger seat is empty except for Jimbo's crate. Oz is crouched under the dash, the blanket over him. In the mirror, Devon can't see Lorne, until he speeds up a bit and Lorne just unfolds out of the dark, rising up, at the same time as Oz clambers onto the seat.

"The fuck is going on?" Devon asks.

"Pull over," Oz says. "Let me take over."

Devon pulls over but doesn't move. He tightens his hold on the wheel. "Tell me what's going on, and maybe I will."

"What do you want to know?" Oz sounds patient. Also kind of lonely.

"What's with the fake ID? And the roadblock? And you hiding like some fucking wetback down there?"

"Dude, language."

"Fuck the language. Hell's going on, Oz?"

Lorne laughs, leaning forward, dropping a hand on Devon's shoulder. "I'd say you answered your own question, Goldilocks."

"Yeah?" Oz asks Lorne.

Great, they're going to talk to each other, over him, again. "And I repeat, the hell is going on?" He catches Oz glancing back at Lorne and grabs at Oz's shoulder, wrenches it back until Oz is staring at him, nostrils flaring. White face, red nostrils, redder twisting mouth, and he hasn't seen Oz look like this since he left. The first time. "Tell me."

Oz hunches in his shoulders and closes his eyes, sucking in a dry, rattling breath. "Don't know," he says, opening his eyes, and then he's Oz again. Just Oz. "Something - something's going down."

"Bad juju," Lorne says and maybe Devon ought to be pissed that he's interrupting them, but instead, the sound of that rich voice is actually soothing. "Salted with black karma and a whole caravan load of hubris."

Devon doesn't know what hubris is, but Oz is nodding, his lips gone thin and white, and touching Devon's shoulder gently. "Got some bad feelings. Want to get far away as we can."

"Okay," Devon says slowly, relaxing his hold on Oz. He drops his head as Oz runs his cold palm up the side of his neck, into his hair. "Grew my hair."

"Yeah," Oz says softly, tugging a little, then shaking so Devon's head rolls. "Looks good."


"Let me drive?" Oz asks, just as quietly.


They switch places again, Devon stumbling over the parking brake, and Oz roars back onto the highway.

They used to spend hours like this, days and days of driving in the night. Sometimes to gigs, sometimes just to get out of town, Oz driving, one hand on Devon's leg, Devon splayed out in the passenger seat, rolling spliffs and singing loudly and bugging Oz.

"We're lost," Devon would say.

Oz would shake his head. "Know where we're going."

"We're lost. Let me drive."

"No." Oz would bite his lower lip, and Devon knew he was trying to smile.

"Please?" He could whine like the best toddler, and Oz knew it, too. "Please?"


"Make it worth your while."

Oz would cluck his tongue against his teeth, pretend to think it over, and say, finally, "Nope."

Now, they're somewhere dark. Hilly, too, but they haven't been driving nearly long enough to be in the Sierras. The road's twisty, the rain's sheeting down, and Devon thinks of Hollywood again, how they could be anywhere, how places stand in for other places. It's a fairly creepy thought, actually, how Tattooine looks like the bazaar in Temple of Doom.

Lorne's spread out in the backseat, coat over him like a blanket, hat tipped over his eyes. Jimbo's asleep; Devon can hear his bubbly snoring.

"You should get some sleep," Oz says.

"Nah, I'm good," Devon says, and then yawns so hard his jaw cracks.

"Sleep," Oz says, patting Devon's thigh. "It's okay."

"Can't sleep in this seat." Devon stretches, testing it, kicking his legs under the dash. Jimbo wakes with a yowl. "Man, Oz, if we had your van --"

"Yeah, but we don't, Dev."

"Know that, jackass. But if we did, it'd be cool."

"Sure it would."

"If ifs and buts were candy and nuts," Lorne says suddenly. He's awake after all. "We'd all have --"

Devon twists around. "A rockin' party?"

Lorne nods and tucks his chin under the neck of his jacket. "Exactly."

Devon stretches one more time, pulls Jimbo's blanket up over his chest, and gives it a try.


It was best when it was just the two of them. Just chilling, listening to Oz play his guitar, just being. It was like this eternal thing, Oz and music, like it had always been this way. Oz took music seriously, frowned over the guitar and huffed out sighs, but it wasn't anything like their music teacher. He wasn't an asshole with scales and building from the basics and no, Mr. MacLeish, there will be no songs by Prince and all that bullshit.

With Oz, it was like real music, somehow. Just playing, picking out notes from the air, like breathing.

Devon wanted to sing because guitar lessons were stupid and took too long. He did clarinet until the fall of ninth grade, but that was even lamer. No one had ever heard of a famous clarinet player.

"Klezmer, though," Oz said. "Could be something to think about."

"Klez you," Devon said, shaking his head. "Dumbass."

Oz shrugged and tightened one of the little knobs. His hair fell over his forehead and Devon couldn't tell what his expression was.

Singing. You didn't have to take lessons, you just got up there and did it. And Oz would be right there, right beside him, doing his thing, and it would rock.

"Actually, a lot of people take voice lessons," Oz said and stretched out his fingers, then rolled his shoulders.

"Not like guitar," Devon said. "You don't have to."


"Exactly, my friend. Exactly."

Oz grinned up at him, and it was wide and real, and Devon kept on nodding.


The car's stopping. Devon shakes himself awake and sees Oz turned, his door open, halfway out.

"Hey," he says thickly and thumps Oz's shoulder with a clumsy hand.

"Go back to sleep. Got something to do."

He's finally found a comfortable position, legs crossed, lying sideways in the seat, so Devon nods. Oz probably has to piss.

He closes his eyes again and tries to doze. He hears the wet crunch of feet on rocks, the click of the trunk's lid, then weird struggling-and-heaving sounds. The clatter of keys or change, lots of dragging and the squelch of things catching in the mud.

Oz isn't pissing.

Devon stretches and pushes open his door. At first all he can see is black night, cracked asphalt road, and the raggedy outlines of rocks or trees or something. Rain like silver pencil lines falling down, and a little piece moving down the hill, away from the car. Oz. Oz, hunched over, dragging a black thing.

His face is white and wet, just a scrap of paper, when he looks up. "Stay in the car, Dev."

"Screw that --" The rain's like a second skin by now, slicking down his hair as Devon stumbles down the hill.

"Seriously," Oz says, dropping the black thing and stepping in front of it, like he's protecting it. "Go back. Stay in the car."

"Seriously," Devon echoes back and keeps on walking. "Hell are you doing, Osbourne?"

Oz stops and crosses his arms. Devon's eyes are clearing and he's starting to make out what Oz was dragging. Duffel bag? When he's close enough, he kicks it. Solid, not a rock, something big, though.

Oz grabs his wrist. "Devon. Get out of here."

Fucker's strong, too. Only way to get free is to step back. "Whatcha got there, Oz?"

Shaking his head, Oz turns his back on Devon.

Devon's not going to ask twice.

"Corpse," Lorne says from behind them.

Devon turns around, and Lorne is right there, holding his brown coat over his head, beckoning Devon under it.

"Corpse? Corpse? Like dead body corpse? Fuck're you doing with a dead body in your car, Osbourne?"

"Not my car." Hard to hear him over the rain and the squealing mud, but Devon's pretty sure that's what Oz just said.

"Right, yeah, that really helps. You jacked a car with a dead body in it?" Devon nudges Lorne with his shoulder, but Lorne just shakes his head.

Christ, it's like he's the only grown-up here.

"Who's in the bag?" Devon asks, shaking off Lorne's hand. "Oz?"

Oz half-turns, holding himself tightly around the waist, and it feels like half of forever before he opens his mouth to answer.

A huge sizzling sound builds, rising out of the ground, then lightning breaks - if there's such a thing as purple lightning, neon-bright, filling the entire sky.

Everything flashes inside-out, brilliantly X-ray'd - Oz's body, Lorne's grimacing face, the bag.

Darkness falls again and Devon can't be sure that he heard Oz right, not with the lightning, not with the cold shooting down the cores of his bones. It sounded like poacher. Maybe poached. Whatever it was, it didn't make sense.

Frowning, Lorne looks up at the sky. "Let's adjourn this to the car, shall we, kittens?"

Oz nods and hands the keys to Lorne. He looks tiny next to Lorne, like a little twig, and then Lorne puts his arm around Oz. That's nice, they're friends, but Devon's pretty fucking confused and jealousy stabs upward through his throat.

So when he catches up with them, he slides his arm around Oz's waist - twig, really, he's so damn skinny - and pulls Oz close against him.

They stumble up through the mud, and just having Oz against him is helping Devon chill out - sharp little shoulder, bony hip, and all - and they're almost at the car when the sky goes red.

Red, and hot, blowing the rain away in half a second, and Devon grabs at Oz, pulls him down and around, and Lorne, too, so they're all huddled behind the car.

The red sky hangs, brightens, and only then do the booms of thunder come. Louder than real thunder, like thunder happening right between his eyes, again and again and fucking again, noise composed of millions of screams. The sky shines brighter than ever. Red and platinum light all at once, like blood on metal.

"What the hell?" Devon yells.

Silent now, the sky fading back to black, the rain starting up again, but the heat lingers, like he just pulled himself out of a fire.

Oz is breathing hard, tipped against the side of the car, and Lorne's slowly pulling his hands off his head.

Devon's bones hurt. Seriously, it's like he can feel every single one, the little stubby ones in his toes, the long thighbones, the curved ribs, all the plates of his skull.

"Power station," Oz says and looks at Lorne. "Reactor?"

"Among other things," Lorne mutters, reaching up and yanking open the door.

He stands over them, shading them with the coat as Devon, then Oz, climbs into the backseat. And then Lorne joins them, looking over his shoulder, his mouth all twisted up.

"That was the bad juju?" Devon asks, pulling Oz closer. All this fear singing through him, running like barbed wire and holding his bones together; it snaps when Oz collapses against him.

"That was Los Angeles," Lorne says. "Holy hell and weeping seraphim and all."

"Apocalypse," Oz says.

He wants to believe they're shitting him. But his bones grind and hurt and he heard the screaming in the light. "What, like The Day After Tomorrow?" Devon asks. "I've got tickets to that, too. Shit."

"Something like that," Oz says.

"Got wolves in it," Devon says, poking Oz's chest. "Like you, only real."

When Oz smiles, it's like this rare, strange thing. Like those bugs who only come out every seventeen years, only not. Prettier. His teeth are chattering, he looks like death warmed over, but he just smiled. "I'm not real?"

"You know what I mean."

Oz doesn't answer.

No one says anything, and Devon's ears are ringing, his bones creaking, and the fear is back, barbed and strong.

Oz is shivering hard, chin tucked against his chest, wet hair hanging in his eyes. Devon can't think about LA. No way is it just gone, even if that sky did look like hellfire, but he can think about what's in front of him.

He digs in his laundry bag and pushes a heavy red shirt at Oz. Oz just puts it on his lap, like he doesn't know what to do with it, but he doesn't protest when Devon pulls his arms up and strips off his soaked t-shirt. The red shirt swamps Oz, makes him look like a kid on a milk carton, some lost runaway.

"Runaways," Devon says, fingercombing back Oz's hair, meeting Lorne's eyes. "Like that movie. With the rumbles. And weird names."

Raising one eyebrow, Lorne shakes his head.

"Outsiders," Oz mumbles. He's still shivering, but not as hard.

"Stay gold, Ponyboy," Lorne says, accepting another shirt from Devon. After he pulls it on, he slumps a little, arm around Oz, hand on Devon's back. "Stay gold."

With all three of them, it's warming up back here. And Jimbo, when Devon leans forward and pops open his crate. They're all leaning against each other, Jimbo on Devon's lap, catching their breath like they just ran a marathon, sharing the close space, touching everywhere.

Something's burning down there, past the mountains. The horizon is smeared with red, clotted with it, turning the rain from silver to blood.

Oz came back: That's the only thing Devon can think. Like skywriting, or the Goodyear blimp, it fills his head, pushes everything else out. Dead bodies in duffel bags, Los Angeles fucking blowing up, green flamers with soothing voices - those are things he can try and figure out later.

The rain drums down, Jimbo kneads him with his killer claws, Lorne snores a little, and Devon's got Oz back beside him, right where he belongs.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix