Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: You Can't Always Get What You Want
Author: Dinah Belle
Rating: R
Spoilers: AU Season 7
Summary: You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just mind find you get what you need.
Disclaimer: So not mine. The past two seasons wouldn't have sucked if they were. And any hints of Rolling Stones lyrics aren't mine either.
Author's Note: So, let's say this takes place in the present time. What would be considered around Season 7. But it's got a Season 4 feel and it goes more with that canon, though I decided to pick and choose aspects from subsequent seasons that I liked. Tara's death and Dawn's existence aren't in there. Buffy is her cute pre-Spuffy-actin' self, though there is some mention of Spuffy in this story. Fear not, I don't get graphic with that. Also, the title comes from the song of the same name by the Rolling Stones, but like other stories in this series, it isn't exactly accurate to say that the entire songs are the inspiration or even have anything visible to do with the story. They just gave me some wicked little ideas. And since Xander and Oz are hotter than Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, I wrote about them instead. Have I explained myself enough? Okay, go forth and read. Enjoy. Hope you like.


He couldn't believe it. Not only was his ex-girlfriend a lesbian, but she was getting married (or commitment ceremonied.) On top of that, she invited him to come. And so he did. Explaining it to his new crowd was easier than he had anticipated.
"So, my ex-girlfriend is getting married."
"I thought she was gay."
"She is."
"Oh. Ok. Drive safely."
Knowing them, they were probably high.
He didn't talk about Sunnydale much. He would get wrapped up in memories and suffocate. But he had told them what he thought they needed to know: he was in a band there. He helped battle evil demons. He was in love once. Need-to-know only, and he thought that was too much. They were good people. Understanding. Trustworthy. It was just . . . one of those things.
When he left Sunnydale, he just drove until he ran out of gas. This put him somewhere in Oregon. The forest. He set up camp there. Turns out, he was "trespassing" on a hippie/Wiccan commune. Not one to ignore signs, he stayed. Liked it there well enough. They understood his quiet. He found he could trust them, at least enough to unload some of his past. Just enough to satiate them, keep them from wondering and asking and speculating. Told them about the Hellmouth and mystical convergence and demons and vampires. He left out the story of the Slayer. That was Buffy's business to tell or not tell, not his. They were beautiful, his new family. They weren't stereotypes, loving everyone and baking hashbrownies and smiling like idiots. They were serious Wiccans, and they made it feel a little more familiar. It still wasn't as good as Sunnydale, but he knew the old adage: you can't go home again. Yet here he was: South on 5, going home again.
He never thought he would. Never thought he could. But at the same time, he had left on less-than-stellar terms and maybe he could get some closure. Or maybe he was a glutton for punishment and this just seemed fitting. He was about to find out. After many hours of driving, many cups of coffee and subsequent potty breaks, he passed the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign. It was weird. All at once, familiar and strange. Even his old house wasn't his- his parents had moved shortly after he had. He had already arranged to stay with Giles. It was weird, but . . . well, no less than staying with any of the other Scoobies. He drove the streets and oddly still knew exactly how to get to Giles'. Giles welcomed him warmly when he arrived. Gave him tea and updates- apparently, Buffy and Riley broke up and Buffy had some weird thing going with Spike that Giles (quite rightly) was not too thrilled with, Joyce had died, and Xander was working in construction and not dating Anya anymore.
Giles sat back and looked at him. It was one of those looks that Giles could give that made you feel uncomfortable, but also like you had to be really honest. "How are you, Oz?" He didn't mean it in a small talk way, Oz knew. No, small and talk and Giles didn't go in the same sentence.
Oz looked down at his tea. He still couldn't shake that "What am I doing here I should go home" feeling that he had ever since he started his trip. "I'm...well, I'm good. I had to, y'know? Come here, I mean. I left in such a jackass fashion. And I wonder all the time. What you guys are doing. What new thing you're fighting. When I got the invitation, I wondered if maybe there was still a place for me here. I figured the invite was a clue. I guess if she went through all that trouble, maybe she wanted me here. This feels like home. I was happy here." Oz sat back, spent from the effort of talking so much. That paragraph was more than he had spoken in the past month. Certainly more than he had spoken about this subject. It left him feeling tired and relieved.
He knew he didn't have to say anything else to Giles. Giles knew that too. He smiled at Oz and said, "Well, it caused quite a stir. There was much fluttering and rambling. I think they'll be happy to see you. Let bygones be bygones. We really have more to worry about than old feuds, I'm afraid."
Good old Giles-honesty. Oz quirked his eyebrow. "More to worry about?"
"Oh, nothing specific right now. Just usual Hellmouth madness. Plus there was a wedding to be planned. That took quite a bit of energy." He grimaced, as though simply remembering the sheer drama that this ceremony had entailed was painful enough.
Oz could imagine the madness that went on in the weeks prior to the ceremony. He glanced at his watch and realized it was quite late. This seemed to jar Giles back to reality as well, and he said what Oz had been waiting to hear for some time: "Let's find a blanket for you. You don't mind the davenport, do you?"
"Giles, I've been known to wake up naked in the forest. The couch should be fine."
"Right, of course," said Giles with the trademark Amused Giles Grin.
After settling in with the blankets, and saying good night, Oz waited for sleep. He hoped Tara was good to Willow. She seemed happy and very committed to the relationship. It was more than most people had. He didn't know how he'd react this time around, but he hoped it would be better than the last time he had met Tara. Finally, sleep came. He made it. He was back in Sunnydale. That was only half the battle...

***

The next day was the Big Day. Oz woke up disoriented, wondering what he was doing in Giles' living room, or in Sunnydale at all for that matter. Oh yeah, Willow getting married. To a girl. Giles walked through just then with the ubiquitous cup of tea.
"Good morning. Sleep well?"
"Yeah, wellness of sleep."
"Good. Well, our presence at Buffy's house is sternly requested by the brides-to-be," Giles informed Oz. And was that a hint of pain over the thought of it?
"Not that I'm not jumping for joy at the prospect, but is there any reason for it?" Oz asked.
"Moral support and oatmeal with fresh fruit, apparently. Willow sounded a little manic on the phone, to say quite the least."
"I can only imagine..." Oz mused as he dragged himself off the couch and into the bathroom. He quickly dressed, wondering if he needed to bother to look nice. Of course, he had his suit to wear to the ceremony later. It looked like the ones from Reservoir Dogs and he got it at a thrift store for $20. He decided that for the morning's festivities (whatever those may be), he would sport the typical jeans and bowling shirt.
"Off to Casa de Slayer?" he asked as he exited the bathroom.
"Yes. Brace yourself."
They arrived there to what looked like an exploded chiffon factory. There were Wiccans and bridesmaids galore, all in flowy-type dresses and multitudes of ribbons. As if her slayer senses could detect male discomfort from 20 yards away, out skipped Buffy. She had gotten Hollywood-thin the past few years, Oz noticed. Too bad; she had always been so precious when she had that cute little butt. Not that he had ever admired Buffy's butt when he was with Willow.
"Giles! Oz!" Well, if nothing else, Buffy seemed happy to welcome him back to Sunnydale. He wasn't doing too bad. Two for two; both of the gang he had so far encountered had received him much more warmly than he would have received himself.
"Yes, it is us." Oz leaned in for a hug, which turned out to be a little more bone-crushing than he had anticipated. "Oof. Glad to see you, too, Buffy."
She smiled manically. "Come in. Eat oatmeal."
"Did I miss something? Is oatmeal some sort of mystical breakfast cereal?" Oz asked as Buffy led them through the living room to the kitchen. He looked around out of the corner of his eye for Willow. No sight of her.
"Nope. We just like it. And it's easy to cook for lots of people who are mostly vegetarians."
"Of course," Giles said.
"So, is Willow around?" Oz asked. He tried to sound nonchalant, but he suspected he failed miserably.
Buffy smiled. "Yeah, she should be upstairs somewhere. Be careful, though. She's a little...well, you know how she gets when she's excited."
"Some things you never forget."
He found out soon enough what Buffy meant. He went upstairs and immediately heard excited Willow patter. Something about "wasn't this dress nice and soft like a bunny but not like a bunny because sometimes bunnies bite and I hope my dress doesn't bite me!" He followed the sound, thankful for his semi-canine hearing because otherwise he may not have heard the frequency and pitch. Finally, he reached the door. He knocked softly.
"Xander, if we've told you once, we've told you a thousand times: there will be no naked women here for you to see!"
"Uh...it's not Xander."
"Oh my God!" The door was abruptly flung open by a hyper-drive Willow. "Oz! You came! Here! To see me!"
"Well, actually I missed vampires. Your dealy just happened to be on the same weekend."
"Oh. Really?"
"No. Of course I came to see you." He reached out and hugged her. Ahh...the softness of Willow. It was nice. Like home and cookies but no. Cookies he could have, but not Willow. Not anymore. "You look...wow."
"Thanks. It's the hair."
"No, mostly it's just the everything."
Tara appeared behind Willow. As if by instinct, Willow reached back and grasped her hand. Oz kind of winced and hoped she didn't notice. Willow blushed. Then the phone rang and her attention was drawn to that. Bless her, she was still the same hyper girl he left behind. Tara just smiled shyly and trailed behind her. Oz thought maybe it was time to leave that scene, so he meandered back downstairs. He looked around. Things were just as he remembered, just marginally sadder. Joyce was gone, but Willow and Tara lived there with Buffy. He hadn't officially seen Spike, but he suspected he was skulking around in the dark somewhere. He really wondered about that match made in the Hellmouth. Maybe he could get the scoop from Xander. Not right now, of course. It appeared that he and Giles were the only two males represented at the moment. He was happy to see Buffy still fluttering around, coordinating and planning things. Some might call it controlling, but he wouldn't.
He checked his watch. The ceremony was in three hours. He didn't feel much like mingling. He also didn't feel like sitting in a corner contemplating his existence either. Lucky for him, Giles appeared from around the corner.
"Is everything all right?"
"Yeah. Just feeling a little displaced."
"Ah. Well, we'll probably be headed to the park soon enough. Don't worry- things are usually busy enough around here that there isn't much time for feeling sorry for oneself."
"Was it that obvious?"
Giles smiled slightly. "No, don't worry. I just know what it looks like when a young man is trying to figure out if he's done the right thing."
"That I am."
Giles was called away then by one of the chiffon-clad Wiccans trying to engage him in conversation about mystical texts. Oz stayed where he was, afraid that throwing himself in the mix would lead to unpleasant things like heavy lifting or explaining his relationship to the brides-to-be.
Not for long, though. After a bit, Willow came bouncing down the stairs. "Oz. There you are. No locator spell required."
"Yes. Here is Oz."
"Um, well, I wanted to say hi. In a formal-type fashion because I don't want you to feel unwelcome. Because you are. Er, welcome. Here and I like that you came. Ya got some balls!" That last comment was punctuated by nervous laughter. "I wish I could talk to you more, but I can't think of anything to say. 'Thanks, guy who I loved so much, for coming to my gay wedding' hardly seems appropriate'."
"No, it'll do. You're welcome. Don't worry, I want to be here otherwise I'd be someplace away and wouldn't bother to return your call."
"Okay, good. I feel better. Do you feel better?"
"I am awash with better."
"Good. Well, we're all gonna head to the park soon. I'll meet you there. Maybe afterwards we can dance horribly to bad music at my reception."
"God willing." Oz smiled at her and she smiled back. Just like old times. Only not because she was a lesbian now and he had spent the past three years of his life on a hippie commune in Oregon. But their knack for witty repartee was the same, and it felt nice.
Next thing he knew, it was time to go to the ceremony. He managed to find a bathroom not occupied and changed his clothes, then headed over to the park with Giles.
There was an electricity to the air when they got to the site. Time drew nigh, and it showed on the faces of the friends and families there. The sun shone and the air was warm and the grass was green and Oz realized that he couldn't possibly have wished more for Willow. It was perfect and he was so happy for her. The happy couple appeared at the end of the flower-lined aisle. An audible gasp swept the congregation at the sight of them. Both were wearing matching white dresses that would look plain and simple on anyone else, but looked glamorous and beautiful on Willow and Tara. The ceremony began. It was like any other wedding, but with obvious differences in the newlyweds and the religion. He recognized most of the wedding party. Buffy was the maid of honor; Xander was the best man. It struck him as funny that a lesbian wedding needed a best man, but he supposed exceptions could be made for Xander. It was a lovely ceremony, with incense and blessings and chanting- all the things you would anticipate and demand from a Wiccan wedding. Oz wondered with amusement what the reception would be like. He soon found out that it was like any other wedding reception. There was plenty of alcohol, a DJ playing too much disco, and drunken bridesmaids. One said drunken bridesmaid happened to be Buffy. She was even bubblier than normal and it was mildly frightening.
He floated around the reception aimlessly. The sight of Willow in that dress, daintily holding a glass of wine and mingling with her guests, looking just as happy- if not happier- as she had with him was a little bit painful. He slowly backed away and found his way to the men's room. He had doubts again- just go back to Oregon, leave here, forget it. But he couldn't. All he could see and smell was her and he knew- KNEW- like he had never known anything before that she was no longer "his" and never would be again. The rambling innocent girl he had left behind three years ago was replaced by a self-assured exotic and beautiful woman. Earlier hyperactivity aside, she was hardly the Willow he remembered. He realized that he could indeed be there, stay there, do whatever, but not with her as anything more than a friend. Ever. He had to be okay with that. If he was going to stay- whether it was for three days or three weeks- he had to always remember that. At that moment, he got the real closure he needed. In the past, the closure was resigned. He didn't think he'd have to face her again, so he always thought, "Well, maybe..." but there was no "Well, maybe..." anymore. His anything-other-than-platonic love dissipated then. Not to be replaced with bitterness, but with peace.
Then Xander walked in. Oz hadn't had a chance to talk to Xander yet. It felt sort of awkward.
"Well, this feels sort of awkward," Oz observed.
"It sure does. Have ya ever thought about how awkward the word 'awkward' is? I mean, a W and a K. Why? Right. Rambling."
"Yeah. Well, hi. And you're right. About that awkward thing."
"You're here. Well, I guess you knew that. But- I guess I'm just surprised. Pleasantly, mind you. How are you?" Xander finally reached his point.
Oz smiled. It was comforting to know how little some things changed. Again, it wasn't just a small talk offering. And that was saying something, as Xander really could go on for hours about nothing. "I'm fine. This is oddly enjoyable."
Xander smiled in return. "Good. That's good. Um..should we stand in here and catch up, or go to someplace less...toilet papery?"
"Oh. Yeah." Oz looked around as if he'd forgotten he was in the bathroom. As if he'd forgotten why he was in there in the first place. To think. To calm down. To decide to go home. But really, he was home. It had almost been like old times so far. A little more painful, a little less easy, but basically home.
He and Xander exited the bathroom and headed toward the courtyard where most of the reception was. They both looked around. Who knew Willow and Tara were so popular? It made sense though. They were active in the university's substantial Wiccan community. And, as in high school, Willow was known for her academic prowess.
They found a relatively quiet corner. "So, Giles says you're doing pretty good."
"Yeah, steady construction work. Who knew? A decent career that involves both math and logic. It's nice to prove my teachers wrong. What about you? Find a...werewolf pack...or band...or what?"
"Well, I've been living on a hippie commune." Oz said this as though he couldn't believe it himself because really, he couldn't. "It's nice. We grow most of our own food. Y'know, when you're high, fresh rhubarb pie is really refreshing. And no, no other werewolves. Though they did make a nice little fenced in area in the forest for me."
"Nice. Good. Hippie commune? I take it you mean a literal hippie commune." Xander looked baffled at this prospect.
"Yeah," Oz replied, smiling at Xander's reaction.
An uncomfortable silence almost ensued, then suddenly- "You know, it took some serious balls to come here. I admire you for that. I couldn't have done it," Xander blurted out. He said it with a certain urgency, like he wasn't sure if he should.
"I dunno...I got the invitation, and then she called me--"
"There are phones on hippie communes?!"
"Yes, and running water," Oz replied, nonplused. "She called, and I think she used magic to get the number, because we're definitely not listed. She practically threatened violence."
"That Willow. She can be pretty persuasive with the persuasion when she wants to be," Xander said.
"No doubt."
They got to talking, just like real adults. Pleasant subjects, at first. Xander's good job, his apartment, Willow's successes in college. And, as things often do, the subjects became less pleasant...
"So, what happened with you and Anya?"
"Me being a jackass, pretty much."
"I know how that goes."
"I got tricked in to leaving her at the alter, basically," Xander sighed. "By a demon. It was messy."
"What happened to her?" Oz asked.
"She's a vengeance demon again. Makes for an uneasy night's sleep," Xander said. He even looked a little paranoid at the mere mention of it.
"Now, so, Giles told me something about Buffy hooking up with Spike. What the hell?" Oz asked.
Xander looked a little pained. "We don't know. I guess he's had a big jonesin' for her for a couple years, and then Riley left, and...she ran to Spike. Why, I don't know. No one knows. Maybe Willow knows, but if they made some pact of secrecy, she's doing a real good job of keeping her end of the bargain. I guess Spike went to Africa and got a soul or something. The lengths ya gotta go to impress a slayer, huh?"
"I guess..." Oz mused.
"Willow's still not a big fan of Spike. I think she had her ceremony outside during the day specifically so he wouldn't be able to come."
"Well, can ya blame her?"
"Hardly. I would put fire and holy water around the door to keep him away."
They spent more than an hour like that. Discussing old times, catching up on what had happened since. It was cathartic. Certainly better than the isolation Oz had been sure he would feel going back. The reception waned, eventually, but they remained in the corner talking. The conversation ebbed and flowed nicely and Oz felt better about things. By the time they parted and Oz headed back to Giles' house, it felt better than it used to because Oz actually felt like he knew Xander now, and that was something he never did learn in high school.

***

The next night they were all congregated at Buffy's house. The old gang: Willow, Tara, Giles, Xander, and Oz. Buffy was out patrolling for some particularly nasty demon. It had some long Latin name that was just as nasty as the mucus that, according to legend, dripped from its orifices. Well, it's nose, eyes, ears, and mouth at least. Nobody asked about other orifices. Oz was pretty sure he wasn't the only one who didn't need to know.
"So, what are we looking for, exactly? Research-wise?" Xander asked.
"Well, apparently the Cosanostri are intent on breeding themselves with vampires. We're not sure how the vampires feel about the matter-" Giles began explaining.
Willow cut in with, "They probably like it. Those vampires are a frisky bunch."
"Yes, well, more than being-er, frisky- they love power. And the Cosanostri are a powerful breed. Magically and physically. Their main powers are manipulation and brain-crushing."
"You know you're gonna have to elaborate on that, right?" Xander demanded.
"Yes. Well, they can crush a victim's cranium using telekinesis. And they have powers to manipulate humans and lesser demons into doing their bidding using their psychic energies," Giles continued.
"Two things: one, you realize that sounds like a weak premise from a crappy sci-fi story, right?" Xander asked.
"Yes, well, I assure you- it's very real. I've seen them before. Nasty, even by Hellmouth standards," Giles informed him.
"Okay, fair enough. Two, if these things work with their minds, how is Buffy going to fight it? What if it crushes her brain or makes her do its bidding before she can get a good shot in?" Xander asked. After all these years, he still got incredibly worried for Buffy. It was kind of cute.
"Well, we're working on finding its weaknesses and spells to abate it."
"I'd forgotten how much fun this is," Oz blurted out. Everyone looked at him and he wilted a little in his seat. "Well, it is."
"Non-sequitur, table for one, party of you," Xander said, a little amazed that Oz spoke an entire sentence on his own about something so odd.
Oz just nodded and did his little smirky-face in return.
Buffy rushed in, then. She seemed flustered and scared. Spike followed closely behind, seeming a little freaked out as well. Oz thought that was pretty ballsy of him. First he was bad, then he was good, and now everyone just accepted it? It hardly seemed to be the Scooby Style, but hey- maybe they had all changed too.
"So, I spotted the Casa Nacho," Buffy told Giles.
"Cosanostri. And what happened?" Giles asked.
"Things were going fine. Until I felt like my head was in a vice and he tried to crush my brain. So I used my supreme slayer sense of sensibility and ran. Fast."
"Fantastic!" Willow exclaimed. Everyone looked at her with looks of why-is-that-exciting. "Oh, no, I mean this spell I just found. It might help. It blocks demonic psychic energies, which is good because that's what we're up against here. The downside is that it needs six participants. So that means we all have to go out there and fight it. Which is dangerous, but hey-that's what we do. We are in the danger biz. So I guess it's not really a downside. But we might miss Charmed. Okay, shutting up now."
"No, no. Very good. Where did you see the demons?" Giles asked Buffy.
"In the woods near a cemetery."
"Wonderful. They're probably mating with the vampires and plotting as we speak."
"Mating? Ew!" Buffy exclaimed. Though Oz didn't know why the idea of mating with vampires seemed to gross her out. She had done it twice now, apparently.
"Rather, feeding off one another. To make the Cosanostri vampires."
"Oh. Well, still ew."
"Well, the spell has pretty simple ingredients. I have them all on hand. We could do it tonight if everyone is up to some hard core demon-fightin' action," Willow offered.
Spike spoke up for the first time, then. "I could go in as bait. You know, tell 'im I'm interested in wotever he's about, maybe find out if he's started yet."
"Sure, that would be fine," Giles said. He didn't seem to be particularly thrilled at Spike's presence nor the fact that he thought it was okay to speak.
Murmurs all around in the affirmative. The demon fight was on.
They all made their way to the cemetery, each carrying their own weird spell component. Oz's magical trinket was a large gourd with gruesome death scenes painted with, what he hoped, was just really viscous reddish-brown paint. He didn't know what the gourd was for, nor would the spell itself tell him- it was all in ancient Aramaic.
After a short walk- because it invariably only took them two minutes to get to any cemetery in town- they found themselves at the cemetery gates. Spike went in to look for the demon while Willow and Tara set up the spell. Watching them work as a team left Oz in awe. They were synchronized; one would go to pick something up and the other would just hand it to her. And they both looked as though being there and doing spells to fight evil was all either could ask for. Oz realized he should have felt jealous and bitter that he had never had such synchronicity with her, but that wasn't his style. He was just happy for her.
Spike came back with news.
"Apparently, they haven't begun their little love-in. The Cosanostri said they wanted to assemble as many vampires as they could so they could do some ritual that will bind the two species. They almost have enough," he told them.
"So let's jam. Willow, Tara? Are we ready?"
"All systems are a go," said Tara.
"Let's do it," added Willow.
The spell started off smoothly. Oz held his little gourd, they all got in a circle, Tara incanted and Willow waved incense and did her witchy magic thing. They were almost done when they heard an unearthly screech. Oz turned to find one of the Cosanostri behind him.
"Uhh..." was all he could say.
Willow and Tara worked frantically to finish the spell while the rest of the gang got up and started fighting. The demon was nearly six feet tall, and slimy, but Buffy had no problem kicking at it and stabbing it in odd places, like the arm and clavicle. It seemed more pissed off at the fact that Spike had tricked them.
"What's a vampire doing fighting with humans?" it sneered in a scary Exorcist-demon voice.
"That's none of your business. And it's not just me. We have a werewolf with us tonight," Spike sneered back.
Now Oz would rather have killed Spike than the demon. Because up until then, Oz had been content to stay on the fringe, unneeded, striking blows only when it was convenient for him.
"I thought I smelled something," the demon scoffed. Were they all so condescending? It went right for Oz then, almost gashing his throat with its claws. In a sudden burst of action, Xander shoved Oz out of the way. All he saw before hitting a tree was a green light flying toward the demon, disabling it enough for Buffy to lop its head off with an axe. Teamwork in action. Then he passed out.

***

When he came to, he was laying on Xander's bed. Xander sat upright on the other side, half asleep, looking worried. Oz groaned and gently poked his shoulder. It was bruised alright, but at least he hadn't been eaten.
Xander snapped awake and rubbed his eyes. "How are you feeling?"
"I think my shoulder is pretty bruised. But I didn't get eaten or anything, so I'd say I'm feelin' alright," Oz assessed.
Xander smiled. "Good. Well...um...do you feel like sleeping? Because I don't."
"Not particularly."
So they sat for a while on the bed, watching some weird Mexican movie about a road trip and a woman with big teeth. The next thing he knew, Xander had grasped his hand. Such a touch was not unwelcome, but it was certainly surprising. Very surprising. He had never known Xander to be that touchy-feely with anyone, let alone a guy. But Oz understood. Sometimes it wasn't about who or what, but why. After their chat the day before, Xander had been a great comfort to Oz. He listened and sympathized and most importantly cracked some famous Xander jokes. As it turns out, you can go home again. He even contemplated extending his trip longer. The events of the evening were processing, and he was glad to have Xander there with him. He squeezed Xander's hand and smiled.
"This is nice. A little odd, but then again so is getting attacked by demons," Oz pointed out.
"Or being a werewolf."
"That too. Yeah, in comparison holding hands with my ex-girlfriend's best friend is pleasant and makes sense."
There was a pause, and a slightly uncomfortable silence. "Well, I guess some thanks are in order," Oz said after a while.
"Are there?"
"Yeah, you pushed me out of the evil clutches of a demon," Oz said.
"Well, you're welcome. And it's not like I'd have just let the thing crush your brain or whatever it was about to do."
Though the room was mostly dark, Oz could see a slight blush come to Xander's face. Fair enough. Things had changed drastically and rapidly. Just yesterday he had no idea what he would find here; he didn't know if he'd be welcome like he used to. They had gone from being barely friends to sitting here and being decidedly chummy. Oz could sense that Xander was about to pull his hand away, and he realized that he didn't want that to happen. So for some reason, the logical progression seemed to be to lean over and kiss Xander. It was not a sexual act; it was an act of comfort. No tongue was involved. Just the touching of lips, firm and soft all at once. He knew it wasn't the straightest thing to do, but caring about that was last on his list. He pulled away and looked at Xander. To Oz's surprise, Xander was smiling.
"What?" he asked. And he couldn't help but smile back.
"Just the irony of it."
"There is that. Look, Xander, I want to explain--"
Xander interrupted with a finger to Oz's lips. "I never thought I would say this to you, but- shh...don't talk."
It was surprising for two reasons. Number one: Xander telling Oz to not talk. Number two: Xander wasn't upset or grossed-out. So he just took Xander's advice and let himself just be there. Never the mundane one, Xander surprised Oz once again by gently pushing him down on the bed and laying down next to him. It was nice to feel a warm body against him. They lay like that until the adrenaline rush of the evening's events gave way to sleep.
Oz awoke to sun streaming through Xander's window and blinding him. It took him a minute to remember. Demon. Fighting. Xander pushing him into a tree. And then waking up in Xander's bed with Xander in it. It should have felt weird, but it kinda didn't. He wasn't sure, but he thought it felt kinda nice.
He shifted, sat up, and looked over at Xander. He hadn't been particularly fond of Xander in high school. Didn't dislike him, but didn't like him a whole lot either. Well, there was that unfortunate incident where he made out with Willow. But that seemed pretty moot right now. Oz hated Xander after that for about two weeks. Most of the time though, Oz just pitied Xander. After all, Xander was the guy who tried so hard to be liked, but still got flak, was still a "loser." Well, thank whoever that high school was over and those labels meant something different now. Now...well "now" meaning "the past couple days," Xander had proved himself to be a good friend. A good listener. Understanding. That's what Oz needed right now.
Xander's eyes fluttered open. Confusion, then memory, flashed across his face. "Oh. Yeah," he said out loud.
Oz smiled. "Yeah. I wondered, too."
"We didn't do anything that I may have conveniently forgotten, did we?" Xander asked, mortified.
"Well, I can still sit okay, so I'm guessing it stayed pretty chaste."
"Reassuring."
"This has been the weirdest trip of my life," Oz mused.
"Yeah, I'd imagine so."
"Oh, wait. No, there was this one time I ended up in Mexico and bought a shitload of mescaline."
"Yeah, that sounds like it'd be the deuce of weird trips," Xander said, amused by the fact that Oz had the weirdest experiences of anyone ever.
"But this rates pretty high. You know, that really was fun last night. The researching and fighting and stuff," Oz said.
"Now, see, that's weird," Xander pointed out.
"Well, it's better than sitting around every night of your life smoking pot and discussing Marxism. Which is fun, don't get me wrong. But, you know, fighting evil is just cooler."
"True. A lot of people are Marxist potheads, but not everyone can fight demons or have powerful lesbian witches for friends."
"Or ex-girlfriends."
"Touche. How's the shoulder?"
"Sore. It'll be fine."
"Good. Shall we forage for food?" Xander asked.
"Let's."
They rummaged around in the kitchen for cereal and milk that wasn't curdled. They were in luck, as Xander had both on hand. They spent the morning talking, catching up. Neither mentioned the kiss or the hand-holding. They didn't exactly know if they could.

***

Almost a week later, Oz was still in Sunnydale. What had begun as a weekend trip was turning into residency. There was a nice routine he followed. Oz would tag along with the gang, they would patrol and fight, and then he would go back to Xander's house. Nothing happened beyond comforting pats and Law and Order reruns. The scary thing was...Oz sort of wanted something to happen. He liked getting closer to Xander. Not just in a physical way, of course. Here was someone who knew his past, knew that he was a werewolf, and could accept that. There was something special in the shared history, a connection that he couldn't really have with anyone else.
"Xander, what are we doing here?" he asked one night as they sat on the couch holding hands and drinking beer.
"Well, we're watching the one where they find a dead baby in the Hudson-"
"Not the TV show, Xander. I think you know what I mean."
"I do. We're...well, we're holding hands. And this is something that would score high on the weird-o-meter with anyone else. But with you, I kinda like it," Xander explained, as much at a loss of words as Oz was.
"I kinda like it too. I was never able to tell the people where I live about my life here. But I don't have to tell you. You know. It makes me want to stay here for a while. I thought about high school, and it was weird like high school always is, plus the whole we're-sitting-on-a-volcano-of-evil thing, but I had cool friends and a much more interesting life than most people," Oz mused.
"I'm not going to pretend that I don't like having you here. 'Cause I do," Xander furrowed his brow as though it took enormous effort to think wand form what he was going to say. " I like it a lot and the fact that you just actually spoke an entire paragraph to me makes me want to kiss you."
"What's stopping you?" Oz asked with that smirk on his face, somewhere between intense amusement and punkish impudence.
Nothing stopped Xander except uncertainty, so he just did it. Kissed Oz on the lips, slid his tongue in and oh wow that was a new sensation. It was different than kissing a girl. It was a little more uncomfortable, on account of stubble and the sheer cloak-and-dagger-ness of it all. They were both men after all, and Oz didn't forget that, didn't forget that this was the most rebellious thing he had ever done. That made him want a little more, made him move his tongue a little and get more into it. Xander's hand gently stroked the back of Oz's neck, and Oz reached up to let his fingers lay lightly on Xander's face. They separated and smiled at each other.
"Have you ever done that before?" he asked Xander.
"No. You?"
"Yeah. Never sober, but yeah. Funny things happen when you're drunk."
"But that was all you, all here," Xander noted.
"Yep," Oz affirmed.
"I think we've had enough excitement for one evening. It's sleepy time," Xander said.
"Agreed."
Xander started to walk to his bedroom, but Oz was still on the couch, the impact of their actions barely hitting him.
"The idea was that you'd come with me. Well, if you want to. But I hope you want to."
"Oh, yeah. I'm there." Again with the Oz-smirk.
Oz and Xander both entered the bedroom and discarded their street clothes, leaving them both in boxers. Not that they should have any inhibitions at this point. As they settled in, their hands roamed. Oz's fingers found their way to Xander's chest, Xander's lips found their way to Oz's eyelids. They moved cautiously. Oz wondered how things had gone from staying for a few days of agony to laying in Xander's bed like this. In the dim light cast from the streetlamps outside, Oz caught Xander's smile.
"What?" Oz asked.
"It's just weird how not weird this is to me. I've always wanted to, y'know. In high school...I always admired your cool and kinda had a weird little crush on you," Xander explained.
Oz laughed. "Well, I am very crush-worthy." He paused. There was more he wanted to say, but didn't know if it was right to do so.
"You look like you want to say something."
"It's just that...I came here wanting a sense of closure with Willow. I wanted to make sure that there was no opportunity I was missing out on. That's what I wanted. But I don't think that's what I needed. I needed something more. Like, a new something."
"Well, like the Rolling Stones said: 'You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need," Xander offered.
"Good call."
"Do you think this is it? The something you needed?" Xander asked. He was as hopeful of the answer as he was afraid.
"May be. It's good for now. Is that okay with you?"
"I think so."
They kissed again. Xander drifted off to sleep quickly, but Oz was awake. He studied Xander in the moonlight that sifted through the blinds. He lay there contemplating and thinking and enjoying being there with someone else, a warm body, breathing and shifting in sleep. He didn't care that the body was a guy. Didn't care that the guy was his ex-girlfriend's best friend. Because when you've been lonely for three years and finally come home to something familiar, you don't care about that sort of thing. You just care that maybe you can't get what you want, but you can certainly get what you need, and if you need to make out with a guy, then so be it.


Go to Sequel: Gimme Shelter