aimeelicious: (grace2_bycloudsurfing)
[personal profile] aimeelicious
Thanks for all the support and encouragement to continue this story. My contribution to the Yinathon:

Title: Grace
Pairing: Oz/Xander
Overall Rating: naughty to naughtier, I'd say.
Warnings: none, really. Post-Chosen, no planned mention of AtS season 5
Chapters 1-14: here
Gently beta'd by [livejournal.com profile] moosesal, but any and all mistakes are my own. And of course, no profit to be found here either.

A brief review of where we left off: Oz just confronted the person who broke into his house (and disturbed the post-coital glow), turning part-wolf to do it. Xander is worried. Paddy is at school.

Xander found him sitting on the couch, face in his hands, fingers and ears still in wolf form. Right, so he basically had no idea how to handle this, and the tension made him feel a bit shaky.

"Um, Oz? You okay?"

Oz looked up and Xander flinched, not at the strangeness of seeing gold eyes, but the pained expression in them.

"I hit him. I had to. And now I know." The voice was still deep, inhuman, giving Xander the chills. He wasn't sure how much of that was nerves though, and how much was arousal. Now that he wasn't as scared, this powerful version of Oz was kind of hot, but as usual, he had bad timing. Besides, they'd just been together! God, he could be a greedy bastard. Back to the issue at hand.

"Know what?" Xander asked, sidling closer and daring to rest his hand on a slumped shoulder. Oz immediately leaned into the touch and closed his eyes, letting his human features return.

"The brown liquid. It's what Willow sends me...have to take it every day." Oz sighed and tugged him closer, resting his head against Xander's hip. "One missed dose in twenty-four hours and the wolf is out, regardless of the moon cycle."

Xander petted Oz's hair, feeling slightly awkward, but wanting to comfort. "Okay, so...don't you keep extra around or something?"

"Can't, the ingredients don't last. One month supply, always shipped on the first. Not a perfect system. Jeanie next door is ready to take Padraic if FedEx doesn't show. But for someone to take it on purpose..." Oz stopped talking and shuddered. "That's what I know. What they want."

"They want you to be the wolf? Why?"

"I'm more vulnerable," Oz replied wearily. "Don't think then, just operate on instinct."

He was still confused. "But you just went, like, halfway to wolf and you were fine. Okay, kinda scary, but still, thinking and all."

"On the magic, I can do that. Without it, I'm just an animal."

Xander could hear the concern, the anger, and the resignation in Oz's statement and hoisted himself over the back of the sofa.

"We won't let that happen, Oz. I won't," he said, pulling Oz into his arms. "You wanted me to stay, now you get the full range of Xander services, including protection from bad guys."

"Might not be safe," said Oz, voice muffled by Xander's shirt.

"Nothing about staying here is safe for me," Xander said matter-of-factly. "S'okay though. In for a penny, out for a pound, as Giles says." He sat up straighter, pulling away slightly. "In fact, maybe we should call him, for the research thing. The Council is awfully busy, but still, wouldn't hurt to see if he has any ideas about how to deal with your old pack."

Oz untangled himself from Xander and stood, straightening his clothes and looking towards the street. "If you think he can help, Xander."

And yeah, he'd definitely have to talk to Oz about saying his name like that. Or at all, really. Couldn't keep adjusting his pants all the time, especially at socially or emotionally inappropriate moments. Kind of like now.

A moment later, the police rang the bell. After taking statements and a few pictures, the cops hauled the would-be thief out to their waiting squad car, conveniently not asking too many questions about the black eye he was developing, or his mumblings about claws as they led him away.

Oz started cleaning up the broken glass as soon as the two officers left, while Xander looked at the clock and couldn't believe it was only noon. Felt like an entire day had passed by already, what with all the sex, crime and paranormal activity. He could really go for a nap.

"What time are we picking Paddy up from school?" he asked, holding up the garbage lid for Oz to dump in a pile of dust and shards.

"Four o'clock." Oz looked at him inquiringly. "We?"

"Yes, 'we'. Sticking to you like glue until all of this gets figured out. And hey, we should hide that stuff they're looking for. Where do you keep it?"

Oz didn't answer, instead surveying the floor. He seemed satisfied that the glass was all gone, but gestured towards the door. "Have to call somebody to replace that pane," he said.

"What, you don't like my window a la duct tape?" Xander said with mock pride. "Seriously, we can stop at the hardware store and pick up some glass later this afternoon and I'll fix it tonight."

"My hero," Oz said, breaking into a smile that quickly faded as Xander tentatively tried again.

"So, about the stuff..."

"Better you don't know. Safer," he reiterated. "Hungry?" Oz began pulling sandwich-makings out of the fridge.

Xander was quick to argue as he started slicing tomatoes. "But if there's an emergency, somebody other than you should know where to find it," he countered.

Oz frowned. "I'm trying to keep you as uninvolved as possible," he said, piling turkey and provolone on some rye bread.

"Um, a little late for that," said Xander. "Willow wanted me to get back into life, and well, I'm just following directions. This is a big mystery, filled with danger and attraction," he intoned, waving the knife around. "Perfect for my re-introduction into our crazy world."

He glanced over and found Oz grinning at him. Full-on grinning, and it was glorious. "What? What'd I say?" he demanded, but Oz just shook his head and kept on smiling. Xander set the knife down and pressed him up against the counter, pushing their hips together and leaning in to lick that sweet spot under Oz's ear. "You think I'm funny?" he murmured affectionately, jumping a bit when Oz's tongue flicked against his collarbone.

"Not funny," said Oz, "just alive." Their kiss was warm and reassuring, and over far too soon as far as Xander was concerned.

"Food," Oz said firmly, backing up and shoving a plate under Xander's nose. "Food, then strategy."

Xander thought that sounded like a good plan, and they ate in companionable silence. It was clear Oz was only comfortable revealing things in his own way and in his own time. So, that was alright, for now. If things heated up though, Xander was going to make him talk more. There were still too many questions. Hell, they hadn't even talked about this Alonso fellow the break-in guy mentioned yet.

*********

Of course, Xander hadn't known that by strategy, Oz meant a game. He claimed it would help him clear his mind, think better on what they should do next. Xander wasn't sure how chess and clear thinking were related because it sure didn't work that way for him, but he had to admit, that ability to concentrate was looking pretty good--Oz was winning by a mile.

He stared down at the board, supposedly contemplating his next move and wondering if he'd ever get to take that nap. This was fun, but Xander had never been very good at chess, despite Spike's attempts to teach him. That snarky voice echoed in his head even now. 'Stupid move there, Harris. See here, now I can shift my knight right over and take your queen. Try again.' Hard to believe they'd bonded over a game, but hey, at least they were friends by the time Spike went out. Out like a light.

Oz's hand gently touched his face. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Just thinking about Spike," Xander answered truthfully. "We um, used to play chess sometimes. When Spike was bored, or...whatever."

"You got along then, before the end?"

The end. His throat constricted. It had definitely been an end, of a lot of things "Yeah, we hung out. Weren't too many guys around besides us. Giles and Robin didn't want anything to do with Spike, and Andrew didn't really count." Xander shook his head to dispel the morose thoughts. "Sorry, don't mean to be dragging you down memory lane."

Oz just looked at him, then got up and headed towards the bedroom, gesturing for him to follow.

"What about the game?" he asked, perplexed by yet another abrupt change of pace.

"Get back to it later," came Oz's voice from under the nightstand. Xander peered over him, trying not to look at his ass. "Down here, there's a switch. See it?"

He knelt next to Oz and squinted. Sure enough, there was a tiny square embedded in the floor, only visible when the rug was pulled up. "Okay, I see it," Xander said.

"Push it back, and then go into the bathroom," continued Oz. So Xander pushed it, and waited.

"You won't hear or see anything here. Come on."

They got up and went into the bathroom, where Oz showed him how a panel had slid open behind the shampoo caddy in the shower stall.

"It's like some kind of James Bond gadget," said Xander, impressed. Even if a person could find the switch, they'd never know where the opening was that it triggered.

"Someone I used to work with installed it for me," Oz explained. "Security type."

Xander stared at the innocuous little bottle. "So, that's it?"

Oz nodded, then dropped the shower caddy back in place, covering the niche. "Doesn't look like much," he agreed, returning to the bedroom and leaning over to change the switch.

"Thank you," Xander said.

"For what?" asked Oz, standing up.

"Trusting me. Knowing it's okay to show me...that," he said, pointing at the floor and wondering if he was about to repeat himself. "I want to help, Oz. I really do care."

"If you could care about a vampire, then I have to believe you can care for me," said Oz, looking a little pained at the admission, and all the words it took to make it.

Xander just smiled, and let it go, along with his hopes for a nap. "Might as well go pick up that glass before we get Paddy," he said, swatting Oz on the butt as he walked towards to the door. "Come on, it's getting late."
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