Taking Logan's Run
There was a tell-tale burning in his chest, his legs were aching and dark spots were beginning to flash before his eyes.
Grimly, he kept his dark eyes fixed to the forest floor, trying desperately not to look behind him. He barely had a half hour start on the Pack and he suspected that it wouldn't be much longer before they caught up to him.
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
Of all the idiotic things Xander Harris had ever done, surely this must rank right up there with casting that love spell.
"Buffy died," he gasped in a sarcastic tone of voice, talking to himself as he navigated the knarled tree roots and other detritus littering his path. "So you decide to come all the way out to Canada because Willow THINKS that Oz might be here and YOU think that he should know about Buffy. I must be mad."
Lost in his angry discourse, he skidded to a halt when he sees the enormous red brown wolf in front of him. It is bigger by far than the wolves who have been pursuing him since dusk, with powerfully developed hindquarters and wicked looking fangs. Xander stood, his heart racing, his breathing staccato
and his life flashing before his eyes.
Like Pratchett's Rincewind, this has happened so many times, he has been known to snooze through the boring parts.
Just as he was reliving Willow's infamous eighth birthday party -the one with the pony - the wolf sprang.
It knocked him to the floor, pinning him down with one massive paw and proceeded to sniff him. Xander shivered as he felt the blunt muzzle of the huge lupine rub against his neck, his armpit, his groin.
"Hey," he protested, "I thought wolves went for the jugular. That's the one in the neck," he informed the wolf who pressed harder on his chest to keep him still. Feeling his breathing becoming difficult, Xander lay still, casting prayers up into the night sky, wanting to keep Willow and Dawn safe, praying that they never learn that this is how he died, torn to pieces by a rabid wolf.
The wolf pressed against his neck again, paying particular attention to a recent scar and licked the sweat from his skin. Xander jumped, and came eye to eye with the massive wolf. There was something in the curious green eyes and then the wolf licked Xander's face, from chin to hairline.
He choked and almost laughed, but then the wolf tensed and turned its head away.
Turning the same way, Xander felt fear grip him in its icy claws as he saw the Pack appearing noiselessly all around them. There were more than two dozen wolves ranged around the man and the wolf, snarling and whining.
But they did not come closer, and Xander wondered about that until his wolf raised its silver muzzle and howled to the silver moon.
The sound sent shivers cascading up and down Xander's spine.
The wolf howled again and again, an as the last echoes of the howl died away in the dark nooks and crannies of the forest, so to did the last of the hunting wolf pack. Gone to seek easier prey.
The wolf carefully took hold of Xander's belt and tugged.
"Right, so you want me to get up?" Xander asked, eyeing the wolf dubiously.
It performed a pantomime nod and pushed its muzzle against his legs.
"And you want me to go this way... Oz." He said, because he had to know.
The wolf - Oz - bared his fangs in a way which was obviously supposed to be a smile, but instead became a horrifying grimace.
"Right." Xander said. "I hope you really are Oz or I've just become the first walking take-away."
Oz led him stumbling through the woods for at least another half mile, until they reached a rocky outcropping.
"You want me to climb up there? In the middle of the night?" Xander asked incredulously.
Oz tried out a woof, but it came out more of an evil snarl.
Shrugging, Xander began to climb a little way to the recessed cave opening he could just see.
Inside smelt very strongly of wolf and something reminiscent of raw meat. The wolf nudged Xander over towards a pile of soft furs and he collapsed thankfully.
Hot and furry, the wolf curled up along his back and he fell asleep almost immediately, worn out by his long journey, frantic race through the woods and frightening encounter with the wolves.
Clear and fresh morning sunlight was beginning to slide through the cave mouth when Xander woke up, very sore and stiff and longing for something to drink. He stretched, becoming instantly aware of the naked body pressed against his side.
He sat up.
Oz, human again, was still fast asleep, curled unselfconsciously on the dark furs like a child. Except that there was something far from child-like about him. His skin, always pale, seemed to glow with health and his red hair was shockingly vivid, longer than Xander had ever seen it and spilling against his white shoulders and the black furs.
Small, but perfectly in proportion and Xander watched as Oz moved slightly in his dreams, silky hair falling away from the nape of a perfect neck.
He was seized with a completely irrational desire to kiss Oz there.
To kiss Oz, and to smooth his hand over that nocturnal skin, feeling the subtle strength of the muscles, learning the curve of his spine and the shape of his hip bones, the surprising elegance of long toed feet.
Well, he'd obviously taken a brief vacation from reality, Xander reflected, but couldn't quite bring himself to care. Not when Oz's deceptively delicate body was laid out like a sacrifice under his appreciative eyes.
He really wished he hadn't just thought 'sacrifice'.
He sighed, and returned his eyes to Oz's face to find bright green eyes watching him back. And somehow, that made Xander hotter than anything else in his entire short life. That Oz had watched him looking at him, had watched and said nothing.
He knew there was hunger in his eyes.
They stared at each other, and Oz didn't think it was possible for Xander's eyes to get darker and hotter, but they did and for the first time in two years, he was fully conscious of his nakedness. He reached out and touched Xander's torn and bloodied shirt. Reached out, and this was the wolf inside him, clamouring for warm human blood and tender flesh, reached out and
pulled Xander, hard, down to him.
Hard on to him and hard above him and there was strength here, untapped, unacknowledged, but strength to meet the wolf and tame him. Xander's hands were wild on his body, mapping the slight curves and groups of muscles with urgent need. His mouth, skittering over Oz's face, tasting and this wasn't a
human characteristic, and somewhere in the mate/blood/fight wolfbrain, Oz remembered something about hyena possession. Not human, and cradled between his thighs and settled into a steady rhythm that threatened to unleash the wolf. Oz tore at Xander's shirt, scratching claw like nails down the smooth tanned skin, drawing blood and revelling in Xander's broken gasp and feeling
that moment when Xander abandoned restraint and just...
... He came back to himself slowly, draped over Oz like a boneless blanket and god, that had to be the first he'd come in his jeans since that time at the Bronze when Angel. And we're not thinking about that now, Xander reproved his brain, because we did not have a crush on Angel. Ever.
His head was tucked under Oz's chin and small hands were gently carding through his hair and an odd rumbling noise was coming from Oz's chest which seemed vaguely familiar.
But wolves don't purr, do they?
"We growl, friendly-like," Oz said, sounding amused, and it was only then that he realised he'd spoken aloud. He hoped he hadn't sort of admitted to having had a crush on Angel because it was very embarrassing, even if everyone already knew.
He propped himself up over Oz and looked down at him. Oz looked very pleased with himself, and an oh-so-casual sweep of Xander's hand along Oz's hip revealed that yes, a good time was had by all.
He moved his head slightly, and felt an odd, familiar twinge.
"You bit me," he said calmly.
"Don't worry," Oz said, "I didn't break the skin."
"So I'm not gonna spend three nights a month locked in a cage. Damn, there goes my social life."
"Not my business," said Oz quietly and that was a weird thing to say to someone you'd just had sex with, Xander thought, "But I think that three nights a month is your best case scenario."
"You let him bite you?"
"Let, not really the word for it. He needed human blood and everyone else was either injured or in shock. So it was me. He needed it."
"And the other times?"
Somehow, it did not surprise Xander that Oz knew.
"I needed it," he said honestly. "Everything's changed. Buffy's sister, you remember Dawn, right? Well, she's not real, never was. Some monks made her and gave her to Buffy to protect from this evil God, Glory. But Glory opened a portal, don't ask, and the only way to shut it was for Buffy to jump in. She died. And nothing's the same. Giles, god, he's turned into an old man
overnight. And Willow? She and Tara are off doing witchy things all the time and Anya's so freaked she can't even be around me anymore because she's so afraid of being mortal. And he needed me because he couldn't take care of himself and he wouldn't go to Angel. And I needed someone to take care of."
He sighed, and gently moved off Oz.
"I needed it. I needed to feel here. I needed to feel useful and alive and if I have to let Spike bite me to feel that then I will," he finished dully.
Oz sat up and folded his legs Indian style.
"And if he kills you?"
"Chip in head, remember? He can't. And right now, I don't think he wants to." Xander said, remembering Spike before he left, pleading to go. Not wanting to be left alone.
"And if you want him to?" Oz asked quietly.
There was silence for a long time while Xander tried to work it out in his head.
"If... When I choose, we won't stay. We'll go far, far away from Sunnydale and everyone there and we won't come back." He said with absolute certainty. "And I'll make Willow curse me."
"No perfect happiness?"
"With Spike? Are you crazy? Half an hour without an argument is a successful afternoon."
Oz nodded, then, "Buffy's dead?"
"She saved the world." Xander said quietly.
"A lot." Oz sighed.
"Can't imagine the world without her," Xander said.
"Xander, don't give up just because she's gone." Oz said, surprising them both with his urgent tone, "Don't go to Spike just because you need to feel death to feel alive."
The dark haired man laughed, a hard, forced laugh that sounded like it hurt.
"And what else am I supposed to do? They don't need me. No one needs me. Even when Spike and I... Even then he doesn't see me. Only her. Only Buffy."
"He loved her." It wasn't quite a question.
"They all love her." Xander said despondently. "You know, I don't think anyone is allowed to get beyond a certain age in Sunnydale. Like that seventies film, the one with the old English guy who was in Austin Powers."
"Michael York?" Oz suggested. "Logan's Run?"
Xander grinned, and this time, it looked like he really meant it.
"Yeah. Logan's Run. Where he gets out of the city which kills everyone off when they get above thirty. Except, I think it's when you get out of your teens in Sunnydale."
"I see that." Oz said and there was silence.
Above the whispering trees, the deep blue sky arched, adorned with bright white clouds and the dazzling wings of flocks of birds. Lush green vegetation twinkled with dew under the golden sun and the air was thick with birdsong.
Oz looked at Xander watching a young hawk play on the thermals. Saw the way that the sun slid over his naked chest, and soaked into the faded blue jeans he wore. Noted the contrast between pale stone and deeply tanned bare feet and unruly dark hair against the brilliant sky.
Saw how Xander fitted in to this environment as if he had been born here, fitting the scene around himself.
He curled his own pale fingers around Xander's golden hand and felt warm all over when Xander smiled at him.
"Stay," he said, surprising himself again. "Stay here. With me," he clarified.
Xander looked startled, but didn't say anything.
"Take Logan's run." Oz urged. "Don't be alone and don't be dead. Be alive. Be here with me."
"Take Logan's run?" Xander asked. "Yeah. Maybe."
The sun continued to rise, and Oz was warm and real against him.
Xander Harris closed his eyes and thought about living.