Sorrows Like Wild Grass
by Tesla

Oz sits on Xander's couch, quietly strumming his guitar, waiting for Xander to come home. It's a basement apartment, with an outside door and a door at the top of the stairs that Xander can lock.

Mrs. Harris had let him in, ushering him quickly past the dark living room and the flickering television screen, and the bulky shadow of the back of the recliner. Oz somehow knew not to say anything, just smiled at her and quietly closed the door. There's sourness and old violence in the air.

He looks around at the old cabinet television, the glitter ball hanging from the ceiling, the listing but comfortable couch. Only a couple of milk crates with Xander's stuff, a couple of cardboard boxes. Like Xander was ready to leave if he had to.

The strings of his guitar whisper, as he ghosts his fingers over them, quietly, quietly, to keep the peace. Weird to be back in Sunnydale, weirder to be in this family basement, to smell family above him and Xander's boysmell all over.

You think you can forget, grow away from the Hellmouth, but it's in the DNA, even such a marginal Scooby as Oz. The smell of the fight, the smell of fear, the smell of death.

Oz doesn't want that smell on Xander.


Xander comes home early, looking worn out. He looks expectant, so he's seen the van. Not the same van, but it's never really the same van. Scents of pizza and resignation and pleasure.

"Oz," he says, coming inside and closing the door quickly against the unseasonable chill. "What's going on? Are you here to see Will?"

"Nope. Here to see you, actually." He has to lean back to look up at Xander's lean lankiness. "Thought you may want to go on a road trip."

Xander is in the middle of stripping off a food-stained nylon work shirt, but he stops, the shirt hanging from his arms. "Me?"

"Sure." Oz has to look away from Xander's astonished face. "Why not?"

Xander balls up the shirt and shoots it into a plastic laundry basket. "Well, you're totally correct in thinking that I'm the one to bring on the fun, but I don't usually get offers like that. In fact, the opposite."

Oz folds his hands on the guitar neck and looks a question at Xander.

"Anya broke up with me. She met the heir to the biggest funeral business in Sunnydale. And in Sunnydale, that's a lot of money. She thinks," Xander says, carefully, "that I haven't grasped the nature of capitalism."

Oz shakes his head. "So there's that," he says.

"Road trip, huh?" Xander asks, sitting down on the low bed and wrestling off his sneakers. There's a tomato sauce stain that looks like Florida on the left one. "Well, it may cause me to lose my exciting career in pizza baking." The sneaks go under the bed. "Of course, there's a lot of attrition. The unwary pizza delivery guy being the meal, and so forth, and I forgot how you don't talk."

"I talk," Oz says, smiling.

"So," Xander says, sniffing his tee-shirt. "This road trip. Leaving when? Doing what? And, is your radio working, or am I invited to supply the sound?"

"My radio's fine. Tape deck's fine," Oz says. He looks up just as Xander takes off the tee, and suddenly, Xander doesn't look like a lanky kid. He's still got the swimmer's torso, and Oz wonders exactly what his motives are, in turning around on the interstate and driving to this basement.

Xander pulls on one of his Shirt Shack irregular tees. "Hm. Got to patrol. You mind?"

"Naah. I'll be cool here."

Xander gets a stake from under his pillow. Yes, Oz is definitely back in Sunnydale. "Cool. I'll be back soon. We have Riley, and he is kind of frighteningly efficient."

"Think about it," Oz says.

Xander turns, surprised. "I have a job, Oz. A---basement. A life here."

"Yeah," Oz says.

Smell of irritation and oddly, fear, rolling off Xander as he leaves.


Xander is gone so long that Oz falls asleep on the couch, wrapped in a moth-holed afghan. He doesn't hear Xander come in, because he is dreaming wolf dreams. When a nightmare jerks Oz awake, twitching and almost growling, Xander's smell is everywhere.

"Oz. It's okay, you're with me." Warm hands on his arms. Xander is making him get up. "Come on, man, your teeth are chattering. You'll keep me awake."

Oz is shaking from the nightmare, but he's tired, and he's tired of being alone in the cold night. He gets to his feet, under Xander's urging, and climbs into the bed.

The sheets are warm and smell of fabric softener and Xander's soap. Oz shivers again, his muscles aching. "Hey, you must have had a hell of a nightmare," Xander says, his hand warm on Oz's shoulder. "It's okay."

It's okay, Oz thinks. It's okay. "Veruca," he says, rolling over to face Xander.

"What?" Xander asks. He keeps his hand on Oz's shoulder, pulling the blanket up.

"Dreamed about Veruca. Dreamed about mating, dreamed about killing her. I don't remember the wolf when I'm awake, but when I'm asleep..." Oz trailed off.

"I remember everything I did when I had the hyena possession," Xander says, matter-of-factly. "Remember everything from being a soldier, that Hallowe'en. But I'm not responsible for 'em. You aren't responsible for being a werewolf."

"I enjoy it," Oz says. Xander's stroking hand stills. "Not the killing. In my sleep,it feels good to wrestle her down, a she-wolf. I don't remember it actually happening,but I remember in my dreams. It scares me." And he shivers again.

Xander studies him for a moment, his eyes tracking Oz's expression in the dim light. Then, he pulls Oz against his shoulder. "It's okay," he whispers. "It is."

Oz never quite realized that he could say anything at all to Xander, and somehow Xander would not judge him. His thoughts were frozen, though, and he couldn't formulate what he felt. It felt good to slowly stretch out in the warm cocoon of blankets, next to Xander, all awkward knees and elbows colliding until he was lying with his cold hands fisted in Xander's thermal shirt. It felt good to have Xander starting to doze off like this was nothing, that he comforted werewolf guys all the time.

And maybe this is why Oz drove to Sunnydale, and what he was craving all these months.

Xander's fingertips brush Oz's temple. "Sh," he says, although Oz hasn't said anything. "We got involved in something, and you were asleep when I got back. You should have got a blanket." He shifts, and puts a hand on Oz's hip. "I could have stayed here. I'm kind of the extra guy, the one with the quips and the demon magnet." His head moves restlessly on the pillow. "I don't think they'd miss me if I went with you. Maybe after a week. 'Where's the donuts?' Giles would say. 'He's at Pizza Hut this week,' Buffy would say."

"You're better than this," Oz says, steadily, although he is still trembling from the cold. "Working these jobs, one week at a time, living in this basement and feeling bad about yourself." He sits up, out of the warmth of Xander's arm. "Come with me."

"What? Why?" Xander's face confused, looking up at him.

"Need someone to talk to the bookers at clubs, keep up with the money. Drive with me at night. Help me set up the sound. Getting another band together, and need someone who isn't worried about stage time. I'll split, fifty-fifty."

"You want me to be your manager? Pay me?" Now Xander sits up. He turns on the little desk lamp nailed to the support beam. "Did you come back to Sunnydale to ask me that?"

Oz looks down for a moment, thinking hard. What's coming is important, that Xander needs to know where he stands.

"Yeah. Be my manager. Be my friend." Oz looks up steadily. "Be whatever you want. Just come be with me."

Xander's eyes widen. He lies back in the blankets, and after a second, says, "Whatever I want?"


Xander nudges Oz with his knee, and Oz lies back onto his shoulder.

"You came back to Sunnydale for me?" Xander asks, and he's grinning. "Cool."

"Yeah. For you. Gonna come with?" Oz's hands are back on Xander's shirt, and Xander covers both of them with his free hand.

"Yeah, I'm coming with, " Xander says, finally. His face is in Oz's hair,and Oz is still trembling, but not from the cold.

He thinks he smells joy.


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