Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: Mixed Emotions
Author: Dinah Belle
Sequel to: Gimme Shelter
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: AU Season 7
Summary: The secrets out.
Disclaimer: If they were actually mine, they wouldn't have waited 20something years to have gay tendencies.
Author's Note: Thanks to my betas, Kris and Oreocat. Even more thanks to Robert for being my "creative consultant" on some of the steamy boy-on-boy parts. And finally, this one is dedicated to The Posse. They read the rough draft, and blushed accordingly, and it was good.


The best use that Oz could find for a rainy Saturday morning was to lie in bed, listen to said rain, and curl up with Xander. Well, that last bit was a new addition to the Saturday morning ritual. And he felt it was the best part. A month ago, Xander had been a memory. Willow's best friend. Now he was Oz's . . . well, he was Oz's something. Boyfriend, he guessed, and yes, that was a little weird, but when he looked at Xander laying there looking innocent, yet rugged and oh-so-grown-up, the weirdness factor dissipated. It was replaced with a feeling not unlike contentment. Maybe even a dash of happiness. Whatever it was, he enjoyed it and it made him feel better.
 
They had gotten back to Sunnydale in good time after their jaunt to Oregon. The gang hardly had time to miss them, what with vampire killing to be done and demons to behead. No one seemed to notice the subtle changes between them. Furtive glances, unnecessary brushes of hands and the like. That was fine with Oz. On one hand, he wanted them to know. He was really enjoying this new thing with Xander and he wished that he could include everyone else. Or at least tell them so that they'd be more understanding if the two of them had to slip away for a minute. And yet . . . he didn't want them to know. Not that he was ashamed. Shame wasn't really a thing Oz lived with over anything, let alone something so nice. He wasn't really afraid of their reactions, either. They'd seen weirder things. It was more like he enjoyed having a secret. It was a little childish, yes. But it was also exhilarating. He had never been one to have secrets, and having one was amusing. For now, things were pretty much where he wanted them to be.

In his mind, he kept going back to the conversation he and Xander had during the drive back. They had somehow gotten on the subject of sex. Oz didn't know how. It just happened that way. All he kept seeing was the desire tinged with fear in Xander's eyes all through the conversation, Xander stammering, "Well, I mean, I would if you would. But I don't want you to if you don't want to. Don't just do it because I suggested." Oz had just smiled and said, "Don't worry. The power of suggestion has no power over me. I do things because I want to." Wasn't that the truth.

Back in the now, Xander stirred and groaned in his sleep. Absently, Oz reached over and stroked the hair from his forehead, taking in its darkness and smooth texture, the skin tanned from working outside. Sometimes when he looked at Xander, he felt like he could just keep looking. It amazed him how far and how deeply he seemed to have fallen over the past weeks. Xander disrupted Oz's reverie- before it could get too consuming and scary- by waking up.

"Hey. It's raining," Oz told him.

Xander listened for a moment, and then said, "Yeah, it is."

He moved to get out of bed, but Xander grabbed his arm.

"Stay here," he pleaded.

Oz smiled. "But I have to pee."

"Oh. Okay. Will you come back?" Xander whined with a feigned pout.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Oz informed him as he padded off to the bathroom.

When he returned, Xander smirked at him. "Did you wash your hands?"

"No! Mwahaha!" Oz swooped onto the bed and groped Xander's face.

"I should know better than to ask that."

"You should. Anyway, it's not like I was touching any part of my body that you've never touched."

"This is true," Xander said, playfully groping Oz's crotch. They kibbitzed around for a few minutes, groping and laughing.. Xander looked at the clock. "Damn. I have to go in to work today."

"But it's Saturday. And raining," Oz reminded him.

"I know. Office work. Should be done by the afternoon. And when I get back-"

"Grope session?" asked Oz with a suggestive eyebrow wriggle.

"Well, I WAS going to remind you that we've signed up to go patrol tonight with the gang. However, we may be able to squeeze in a little of that beforehand."

"There should be some squeezing, all right!" Oz exclaimed with an unusually high level of enthusiasm and inflection.

"Woo! Down boy! But . . . um . . . seriously- only BEFORE hand. Not in the car in Buffy's driveway or sneaking off to the bathroom. As much as I'd love to be able to get all syrupy with you in front of everyone, that isn't the way they should find out," Xander explained in a tone which was distinctly fatherly.

"Dude. Duh. Tell me something I don't know . . ."

"Well, one time in the third grade," Xander started. Oz gave him an affectionate punch on the arm.

"You know what I meant."

"I know. I also know that you know not to get frisky. But sometimes- well, you know how it's been between us lately. Like a raunchy Skinemax movie. We BOTH need reminders."

"Well then, should we start with a cold shower?" Oz asked. He was so good at that sarcasm thing.

"Mm . . . inviting. But that'll just tire me out before my day even starts. I have to save my energy," Xander told him with a lascivious smile.

"Fair enough."

"What are your plans for the day?" Xander asked on his way to the bathroom.

"Coffee with Willow. That pretty much sums it up."

"Well, good luck with those lofty ambitions," Xander called as he started up the shower. "Oh, and there's an extra key under the mat in case you get back before I do. I trust you with it."

A key? He was getting independent key privileges? That was a little too close to serious for comfort. But Oz didn't want to worry too much about that now. Instead, he nestled back into the bed and fell asleep again, lulled by the sounds of the shower and the rain.

***

The phone awoke Oz an hour later. He wasn't sure if he should answer it, so he let the machine do it for him. Willow's voice followed, and she sounded nervous.
"Hi, Xander. Hi, Oz. Um, well, I s'pose this message is mostly for Oz-"

He darted for the phone and picked it up. "Hi," he said quickly.

"Hi, Oz. Were ya sleepin'?"

"No. Well kinda. What's up?"

"Just wonderin' if we're still on for coffee?" she asked.

"Been lookin' forward to it," he told her.

"Ok. So I'll just come by and we'll go."

He agreed and set about getting ready. After accomplishing that, he settled down and was watching some TV when she knocked on the door. He opened it, and as they greeted each other he noticed that her eyes searched the room curiously. Her gaze fell on a spot past his shoulder. He looked and noticed what she was so transfixed by: the extra bedroom was open and didn't look in the least like anyone had been staying there for a few weeks. Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

"Uh . . . shall we go?" he asked and hurried her out the door.

The rain had mostly stopped, and the sun was making a shy debut. They walked along in a semi-uncomfortable silence, occasionally commenting on people they saw along the way. Upon arrival at the Espresso Pump, he knew she was going to ask questions, and he didn't have the slightest clue as to what his answers would be. He didn't mind telling her. It would be uncomfortable, no doubt about that, but he had faith in her. She wouldn't freak out or be too upset. But what would Xander want? They knew that sometime they'd have to tell everyone because the others would find out eventually. He just didn't really know what to say, or even if he should. Oz and Xander weren't even used to the idea of themselves yet, and it was unfair to expect others to be. And unfair for Oz to make the decision alone.
He decided the best course of action was to cut her off at the pass. "So, how's married life?"

"It's good. We're gonna go to the mountains in a couple weeks. Sort of a belated honeymoon. Commune with nature and all that fun stuff."

"Good. That's good. It'll be a blast, I'm sure." And he was out of topics. If she wasn't going to elaborate, there wasn't much he could do.

"Oz, we both know what I saw at Xander's," she said. She sounded so grown-up, so unlike the girl he had left behind. It was sobering. They were all grown-ups now, weren't they?

"Yeah," he replied. He cringed, still unsure of what to tell her.

"I've noticed other stuff, too, y'know. You came back to see me get married, and yay to that. We hung out, fought some demons, it was good times. But that was almost a month ago, and you're still here. Not that I mind, 'cause there's something comforting about knowin' you're here in town. It just makes me wonder if there's something you're not telling me, such as- " she paused, "is there something going on between you and Xander?"

He sat still for a moment, and thought. She knew something was up, and she didn't seem too upset. And she did have every right to be upset, really. She also had every right to know what was going on. He owed her that. It seemed to take an eternity for him to think of an answer. Finally, he spoke.

"Yeah, you could say there's something going on between me and Xander."

"I see," she stated, not seeming too upset about it just yet. "For how long?"

"Since the night we got medieval on the Cosanostri demon," he told her.

"Well, obviously I'm not gonna get all Fatal Attraction over the gay thing- " she started.

"I don't have a rabbit anyway. And, uh, it's not exactly a 'gay thing'. That's kind of an over-statement."

Willow rolled her eyes. "Right, I forgot how squeamish boys get over that word. But moving on . . . I can- and am- going to have to get a bit cross over the fact that you couldn't stay in Sunnydale for me, but you're staying now. For someone else."

"Will, that's not exactly how it is. I'm staying because of everything. I realized that I'm happier here. Demon fighting. Hanging out. Hearing you babble again. One thing I never found in all my travelling and running from was- and it sounds so stupid- a family. A group I belonged with. You were my family more than my parents ever were. That's why I'm staying. And you know you're a part of that," he explained. Or tried to. He was never good at the long speeches thing. Willow still looked a little unconvinced.

"I don't think I've ever heard you talk so much at once. It was a little eerie," she said, her face melting into the smile that he had remembered so well, after all these years.

Oz smiled back. "Another one of my updated features."

She sighed, a long-suffering exhalation. "Regardless, I want both of you to be happy. And if that's what it takes, well, who am I to argue? No one."

So she wasn't happy about it, but she didn't look like she was about to turn him into a toad, either. It was a good start.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" the question was timid, hurt, and unexpected.

"Because *I* wasn't even sure what was going on. There wasn't anything to say. And that isn't exactly the kind of information a guy just volunteers."

"All right. Ya got me there. So, any steamy details I should know about?" she smiled, and this one sure wasn't the innocent little girl smile.

"Not exactly steamy. Maybe a little warmer than room temperature."

"Such as? C'mon, you know you want to tell me all about it."

"This conversation definitely registers in double digits on the bizarre scale."

"You haven't DONE IT have you?" she asked, sounding more than a little shocked.

"Oh god no. Neither of us is ready for that kind of step yet," he told her. Dammit. YET being the key word. This was going too far, but he was powerless to stop it. She did, after all, have every right.

"But you've talked about it." It was a statement, not a question.

"Well, a little," he said, blushing furiously. He could tell Willow was enjoying that most of all.

"And does anyone else know?"

"Doubt it. I didn't say anything."

"Good, 'cause if you told anyone else before you told me, I'd kick your ass."

"I don't doubt it," he said.

"So! We're all patrolling tonight," she reminded him. "Are you gonna be there?"

"But of course. Where else could I get such interesting and enriching conversation?"

"Nowhere, make no mistake about it," she replied. The little girl smile was back and he liked that better than the grown-up, almost predatory one he had seen earlier.

They finished their coffee and parted ways. All in all, Oz felt better after clearing the air. He just hoped Xander would share his enthusiasm.

***

When he returned to the apartment, the door was locked. He looked under the mat for the key, and sure enough- there it was. Unlocking the door, he willed himself not to think about the implications of being able to use the extra key. It was under the mat, after all. The rest of the Scoobies probably knew about it, too. It was no big deal, really it wasn't. He wandered into the kitchen and saw a note taped to the refrigerator.

Oz-
After the research party, you, me, and ice cream toppings. Get ready to get down and dirty.
- X

Oz smiled to himself and put the note in his pocket. So they were at the stage where they could lick ice cream toppings off one another? Weird how things can progress so quickly. That was fine with him, though. He liked it. He felt comfortable with Xander, and he didn't mind the fact that it was well outside the boundaries of reason. It felt good: sleeping in the same bed, the warmth, the kisses that seemed so stolen and different, the wonderful roughness of their groping and touching. It was different and it was nice and he liked it, more than he ever thought he would. How and why didn't matter anymore. All that mattered was the next kiss, the next touch. And, if it came to it, the next level. Oz was shaken from this deep contemplation by the sound of a key in the lock. Xander came in carrying a grocery bag.

"Hey, someone left a really raunchy note on the fridge," he told Xander with a sly smile.

Xander looked at Oz, tried desperately to keep a straight face, and did his best to feign surprise. "Huh, that's weird."

"And what have you got there?" Oz inquired, gesturing toward the grocery bag.

"Ooh, nothing," Xander said. But Oz could see the whipped cream canister and chocolate sauce. They smiled at each other, almost shyly, but not quite. Oz suppressed the urge to just pounce on Xander and get a head start. Instead, he launched into the conversation that he wasn't particularly excited about.

"So, I saw Willow today," he started.

"Yeah. How is she?" Xander asked.

"She's good. Good. She's going to go to the mountains with Tara in a couple weeks. Honeymoon, of sorts." Oz was fidgeting.

"That's good," he said absently as he continued unloading groceries. He noticed Oz's fidgeting. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, per se," Oz stalled. "Just . . . she figured out that something is going on. Between us."

Xander's face drained of color. "You mean?"

"Yeah, I mean."

"What did you tell her? How'd she find out?" he seemed to be panicking.

"She saw the extra bedroom and its less-than-lived-in state. And she asked. She already figured it out. So I just told her-"

"Is she going to tell anyone?" Xander cut in.

"I doubt it. That would be really unnecessary. Xander, dude, it's okay. Think of all the horrible ways she could have found out. But she didn't. She found out from me in controlled circumstances. She's not mad," he said, trying to be reassuring. He put his hand on Xander's back and felt him relax a little under it.

Xander calmed down and said, "Well, I guess we should go over to Buffy's soon."

"Yeah, we should. It's cool, Xander," Oz reminded him.

Xander calmed on the drive to Buffy's. Oz kept an eye- and a hand- on him the whole way there.

They arrived and were greeted by a typically manic Buffy: hyper and ready to work. She didn't seem to have been tipped off by what Oz had told Willow. Speaking of whom . . . she was sitting in the corner with Tara looking quite nervous. Oz waved, and she waved back, but it looked half-hearted. He and Xander sat next to Tara and Willow, Oz occasionally sending worried glances over there. She didn't catch his eye. Before he contemplated this for too long, stakes were being handed out and everyone was suiting up, preparing to go hunt vampires.

"Can I use the crossbow?" Oz asked, voice tinged with anticipation.

"Sure. Well, provided you can go without accidentally shooting one of us," Buffy said, hesitant to hand over the crossbow so readily.

"Have some faith."

"I'll pass on that, but I trust you," she smirked and passed him the crossbow.

"Five points for the clever play on words!" exclaimed Xander.

"Are we quite ready, then?" Giles piped up. It was hard to take him so seriously, scone-dry British demeanor notwithstanding, when he looked like the leader of a very bizarre field trip.

They made their way to the cemetery- once again- en masse. Oz hoped that the lack of trouble along the way indicated that maybe it was a slow vamp night. Maybe they could get done early. Once he got to the cemetery, though, he knew this would not be the case. He had, of course, seen vampires before. But there were a lot of vampires in the cemetery tonight. That was fine, he guessed. After all, all it takes is a few lucky punches, a well-placed stake to the chest, and there you have it- dust. Dead vampire. Or deader, as the case may be. Better than demons involving incantations and magic and big-ass weapons. In comparison to how bad it COULD be, it should have been easy. But rules like that don't apply in Sunnydale. On this particular night, vampires seemed to be coming out of the proverbial wood work. The ones who had already risen were standing around, chatting nonchalantly. They weren't paying attention to the gang of people who'd just wandered in like a big delivery of human pizza. Oz hoped this meant they could slip in, stake as many as possible, slip out and he would still have time to go home and. . .well, do whatever with Xander.

"Is there some kind of convention? Shouldn't I have at least been notified?" Buffy demanded. So much for stealth. It was like in movies when tourists walk into a local Western bar and the music stops and all the heads turn toward the strangers. Crickets chirping, and the like.

"Now that you mention it, yeah there is. And why are you put-out for not getting invited?" sneered one particularly rough-looking vamp.

"'Cause I'm the Slayer, buddy," Buffy sneered right back at him.

"Shoulda figured. Snotty, little, sticks her nose where it don't belong. And what is all this?" He gestured toward the group standing behind Buffy. "Entertainment or snacks?"

"As if. Only human murderers get a last meal," she told him. Oz barely had time to be amused at the cavalier exchange before he realized that Buffy had charged and everyone was jumping in to fight.

Oz figured he should do his part, hoping he could maybe find a less bulky vampire to stake. That other guy was pretty tall and he wasn't entirely sure he could have reached the chest at just the right staking angle. He was in luck, such as it was. A young vampire, who might have once been an attractive woman but was now as bumpy and demonic as the rest of them, snarled and charged.

"Oh shit," he muttered as she flew onto him, clawing at his face. He managed to land a decent punch to the side of her head. It stunned her enough to allow Oz to get her with the crossbow. "Not bad," he told himself.

He looked around. Buffy was doing her thing, as usual, fighting two or three vampires at once in various creative ways. Willow and Tara weren't in any imminent danger, and Spike looked like he hadn't had this much fun in a while. Upon further consideration, Oz realized that he probably hadn't. Scanning the graves nearby, he spotted Xander backed up against a mausoleum, held at knife point by a punkish-looking guy. Oz realized two things in a very short amount of time: 1) He had the intense desire to save Xander, and 2) This feeling was so strong, it frightened him. It was an intense desire to PROTECT. He rushed over with no coherent plan.

"So, you must be a really big loser if you have to corner a guy at knife-point, what with all the crazy strength you guys are supposed to have." Great. Snide, sarcastic comments. This was a good plan. ONLY NOT. The vampire turned around, snarling. "Yeah, that's right. I said that to you. And look- now there are two of us to hold at knife-point. Think you can handle it?"

"Oh please. I was just getting started," Mr. Tough-Guy said. He lunged forward, knocking Oz to the ground. Xander came up behind him and pulled him off, but not before he swiped the knife across Oz's pants with amazing force. It cut through the corduroy and his leg. Pain leaked out of the wound along with a dribble of blood. The vampire looked rather surprised and pleased with himself.

"Ow! You ass. That hurt!" Oz yelled. He glanced to the right. Xander had picked up a piece of wood off the ground and hit his attacker over the back of the head. Oz reached for the crossbow. He didn't even bother to load it; just grabbed an arrow, drove it into the chest of his would-be attacker, and dusted his second bloodsucking fiend of the evening. A personal best, if he wasn't mistaken.

"Thanks," Xander said, still slightly shaken.

"Well, thanks to you, too. It was a mutual ass-saving effort."

"How can I ever repay you?" Xander asked, in a comical mock-simper.

"Oh, I'm sure we can come up with some kind of arrangement," Oz told him. He looked down at his leg, bleeding steadily but not like it would need stitches. "That sucks. And I really liked these pants."

"We'll worry about that as soon as we get somewhere else. Looks like the fight's almost over," Xander observed. Oz followed his gaze. Where there had once been at least ten vampires, there was now one, who got staked by Giles in short order.

"Nothing like a spot of the old 'ultra-violence' is there?" Spike asked them all, reveling in the afterglow of a well-fought battle.

Xander rolled his eyes. "Move it along, A Clockwork Bleach."

Limping back to Buffy's house, they were all dishevelled and worn out. Oz was covered in his own blood running from the gash on his leg, Tara practically had to carry Willow, and Giles' glasses were askew. It was a mess. But they won, which was much better than the alternative. Oz was just glad it wasn't some huge evil. Dusting vampires and fighting demons-of-the-week was fine by him. Kept things interesting, but not too involved. He was still tired, though.

Xander leaned in to Oz and whispered, "Looks like our plans for gettin' down and dirty are on hold, doesn't it?"

Oz looked at him, exhausted. "I'd say so. But I'm definitely lookin' forward to it, whenever it happens."

In a strange moment of clarity, Oz realized how strange this scene must look to outsiders: seven grown people, some covered in blood, several with bruises. He hoped the police weren't lurking around anywhere, because everyone in this party looked like a definite purveyor of disorderly conduct. But luckily he saw no one, and they returned to Buffy's house without any run-ins with the law.

As they all entered the house, ready to drop with exhaustion, Buffy stopped them. "Wait! Anyone with blood on their clothing is absolutely forbidden to sit on the furniture. I don't feel like cleaning up any blood tonight. Oz, take off your pants. And Spike, give me your shirt."

"Ooh. Yes, Ma'am," Spike leered as he peeled off his shirt- shiny with blood in several places- and handed it to Buffy.

"Um? No?" was Oz's reply.

"I'm going to wash them for you. Well, provided that you're wearing underwear, of course."

"Well. Since you commanded so nicely. . ." he said, and handed her his pants. Everyone stared at him. "What? I wanna sit down. And I never argue when people offer to do my laundry for me."

Everyone shrugged. Xander blushed and averted his eyes. "What? It's not like you've never seen my nekkid legs before," Oz teased.

"Yeah, that's the point."

Oz just nodded and chuckled. "Do you think you could put some gauze on my leg? Or would that be too obvious?"

"Oh! Yeah. Not funny, by the way," Xander said, as if he had forgotten that Oz's leg was still dripping blood. He retrieved the first-aid kit. Rubbing Neosporin on Oz's leg shouldn't have felt sexual, but both of them managed to blush as he was doing it. Hastily wrapping the gauze around the wound, Xander shot back up and sat back down on the couch- noticeably a little further away than last time. Well that was fine. Oz leaned his head back and began to doze. He was almost in a slightly peaceful catatonic state when he felt a jittery bouncing in front of him. Cracking an eye open, he saw it was Buffy, bouncing and nervous. She clutched a piece of paper in her hand. Even before she said anything, he knew exactly what it was and his heart dropped through his stomach.

"You, um, left this- it fell out of your pocket- I was just washing. I glanced and read and ooh I'm sorry about that but it's okay. And, um, here- you can have it back." The words tumbled out of Buffy's mouth. She tried to hand the note to Oz, but Spike intercepted it.

"Oi! What could possibly have you so a-flutter?" he asked. He quirked an eyebrow and read the note silently. The eyebrow went higher. "Oh, well, isn't that interesting? More power to ya, mate. I recommend those sweet little cherries, m'self. 'Specially if they got stems. Then you can have some fun tyin' knots in 'em with your tongue. Or someone else's," he added, with a pointed glance at Xander.

"Spike, soul or no soul, that was evil," Buffy told him. Arms folded over her chest, she looked like she was ready to kick some ass in Oz's honor.

Xander and Oz both remained silent during the exchange.

"Well how was I s'posed to know it was all personal and whatnot?" Spike asked, attempting to sound repentant, though it was apparent that he was enjoying the whole situation.

Willow looked horrified. Though she hadn't read the note, she probably had a pretty good idea as to what it said. Tara and Giles looked confused, but also hopeful that someone would fill them in at some point.

Xander finally spoke. "Spike, leave before I stake you."

"No! In case you hadn't noticed, this isn't your house. You can't-"

"But I can. Leave before I let Xander stake you," Buffy interrupted.

Spike's smugness dissipated. For once, he seemed to genuinely realize that he should have kept his immature impulses to himself. "Look, I'm sorry-" he began.

"Maybe I'll care tomorrow, but right now, you really need to go," Xander told him. His voice was icy, and for once Oz really believed that Xander would stake Spike this time and it wasn't just witty banter.

Realizing and accepting defeat, Spike slunk out of the house. Guilt played over his face, but the damage had been done. The noise of the door clicking shut almost echoed in the electric silence which had fallen over the room.

"So, that didn't go very well, did it? I could play that out as a joke. But I'm not going to. Guilty as charged and I hate to pull this, but I really don't want to talk about it right now. We're gonna just go. Can I have Oz's pants?"

"Oh. Yeah, but they aren't dry yet," Buffy said, distracted.

"That's okay."

She handed Oz's pants to Xander, still looking a little shocked. Shocked but not pissed off. Which was a good sign. Shocked was to be expected. Well, so was pissed off. But shock was certainly more welcome. They all waved mute good-byes, and Xander made the bold move of grasping Oz's hand as they left. When he asked for the keys to the van, Oz didn't even blink. He actually just handed them over. He still hadn't spoken. Finally, he found something to say.

"Xander, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left that note in my pocket."

"Oz, no. It isn't your fault. I mean, they were bound to find out eventually, right? So it happened sooner rather than later. I can't expect to keep you to myself forever, can I?" he asked, smiling. Oz managed to smile back, but he still felt bad for leaving the note in his pocket. Of course, no one could have anticipated that Spike would intercept it. Oz was just relieved that they hadn't been in a room full of strangers. That would likely have prompted him to read it aloud in his most obnoxious lilt. So thank god for small favors. They reached the apartment, Oz still deathly silent.

"Oz, are you gonna be okay? You're kinda worrying me," Xander asked when they got inside. There was a tenderness in his voice that Oz had never heard from him before.

Finally finding his voice, Oz cleared his throat. "Yeah, I'll be fine. Just need a minute."

"Look, it's okay. I'm not mad. It was just our friends. Well, and Spike. So they know. No big. They didn't freak out or anything. I'd say were doing pretty good," Xander replied and sat down next to him on the bed. He draped an arm around Oz's shoulder.

As if that action was all Oz needed to break out of his stupor, he turned his head toward Xander and kissed him. But the kiss was unlike any of the ones before it. It was hard and feral, not timid and unsure. Xander winced as teeth bit his lip, but Oz didn't notice. Their earlier exhaustion had been forgotten, replaced by adrenalin after the little debacle at Buffy's house. His tongue snaked around Xander's and then moved to his neck. Oz nipped and licked and as soon as Xander thought about what a mark it would leave, he came to a realization: Oz WAS marking him. Everyone knew what was up now, and the untamed part of Oz, the fundamental part of the creature inside him which had not and could not be controlled, was CLAIMING Xander as its own. Not to be confused with MAKING Xander one of its own, but merely marking him. Showing the world- or, more importantly, their friends- that things were different. Oz continued to work his tongue all over Xander's neck and mouth. Both men were panting and out of breath when Oz broke the kiss.

"That was intense," Xander said, eyes wide and glazed. "Should I go get the ice cream toppings?"

Oz just smiled, shook his head, and took off Xander's shirt. He continued his ministrations along Xander's chest, stopping for a moment to pay some attention to his left nipple. Lovely, hard, and round in his mouth. He sucked and licked and Xander moaned deep in his throat, a strangled noise as if Oz were sucking the breath from his lungs through the tiny protrusion. Oz moved his hips, grinding sensually against Xander. This caused more blood to flow to his already stiff cock, if that were at all possible. Just when he thought he couldn't get any harder, Xander would make a face or a sound of pure pleasure and wanting, and Oz was taken to a new height of hardness. It was a wonder that there was any blood left in his body, such was the magnitude of what he felt in his cock right then. He ached from the intensity of it, but he knew that this ache was part and parcel of the whole situation. It was necessary. To make Xander his, as he seemed to be doing, he couldn't just jump right in and do it. He had to wait, had to make sure that they were both full to bursting before they could climax. He wanted to be INSIDE Xander, longed to take that final step which had not yet been taken.

As if reading Oz's mind, Xander gasped, "Oz, I think we should-"

"I know," Oz managed to rasp out. He shed his clothes and started to take care of the rest of Xander's. He didn't know how to ask permission for what he wanted to do, but Xander volunteered the information.

"I want you inside me."

"Are you sure?" Oz looked directly into Xander's eyes, and as Xander nodded, Oz knew he meant it completely.

Seemingly from thin air, Xander procured a condom and a tube of lube. Oz wasn't entirely sure how to go about doing this, but he had a good enough idea to get him through. Xander rolled a condom over Oz's cock and applied enough lube to cause an oil slick. Oz nudged Xander, hinting that he should roll over onto his stomach. Xander took the hint and did so, securing a pillow under his hips for extra leverage. Oz looked at the form splayed out in front of him. Tall, bronzed in all the right places and pale in others, strong back, ass clenched in anticipation. Oz gasped. This was HIS. It was beautiful, he had to admit it. Beautiful was the word, and if you had told him years ago that one day he'd be thinking of Xander as beautiful, he would have called you crazy. But right here it all made sense. He squeezed lube onto his fingers, shocked for some reason that it was so cold. He worked it around on his hands to warm it up, and tentatively slid one slick finger into Xander. The flesh around Oz's finger contracted, and Xander gasped a little.

"Are you still okay with this?"

"Yes. Yes yes yes."

Oz nodded, even though he knew Xander couldn't see him. He worked the finger around, sliding it in and out. Attempting another one, he found that it slid in almost easily. He went with it, sliding the fingers, opening, preparing. This was delicate business. Clueless as he was, he knew that. It was time. Gently, ever so gently, he bowed down and slid his shaft in. It was tight and hot and he never knew that anything could feel like this. With girls, it was silky, wet, sweet. Words like nectar and velvet. This was like raw earthy elements. Clay and roots and coffee beans. So incredible. He pumped, rhythmically, slowly. In. And. Out. The room smelled of the forest after rain, wet and sweet and a good kind of musty. Xander had taken hold of the sheets, grabbing, holding on as if he'd fly away if he didn't. His head turned to the side, and Oz could see that his face was a mixture of pleasure and pain. Seeing that, feeling his tightness, it was all something Oz had always wanted but never known. He leaned down and kissed Xander's back. A slow, wet trail of kisses, a sweet contrast to the pain he surely must feel. Oz worked his hand under Xander and began to stroke him, teasing the head and moving along the shaft, the strokes matching the pumping from behind.

"I'm- gonna- uh," Xander managed to choke as he came.

Oz was still inside him, and he came seconds later. It was stars and stripes and an intense feeling of pleasure that he had no idea was even possible, let alone something that he was being allowed to experience. He fell back and pulled out. Xander's cum coated his hand, but he had neither the will nor the energy to clean himself off. Judging by Xander's stillness, neither did he. That had been . . . frightening. Frightening because it was so new. Frightening because it was so intense and felt so good and did he really need to ever leave the room again? Frightening because for a minute, he thought he wouldn't need to leave again. That they could just stay there, naked, and keep going. Or . . . coming and going as the case may be. He felt, for the first time in years, completely sated. Xander moved out from under him and rolled onto his back, looking up at Oz. The pain which Oz had observed on Xander's face earlier had dissipated, replaced by pleasure. Eyes half-closed, a thin sheen of sweat on his face, and a barely perceptible half-smile. Oz leaned over and kissed him. Tender, this time. Not like earlier, when he had channelled all his shock, frustration, and desire into the kiss. Xander managed the small movement of grabbing the back of Oz's head, pulling him closer, deepening the kiss. Oz felt Xander's tongue far in the back of his mouth. And somehow, Oz mustered the energy to grab a tissue from beside the bed and clean his hand. He removed the condom. He settled back, arm flung over Xander's chest and head nestled to his neck.

"That was-" Xander started to say.

"Shh."

"Okay."

And so they fell asleep liked that. Curled together, and both somehow changed.

***

Oz was violently awakened some time later- still not morning- by the phone ringing. Xander extricated himself from Oz's grasp to answer it.

"'Lo?" he asked, sounding not only groggy, but a little pissed off. At the response of whoever was on the other end- Oz guessed it was probably Willow or Buffy- Xander snapped awake. "What? Are you sure? Is everyone all right?" Pause. "Should Oz and I come and get him? Okay. We'll see you in the morning. Call if it gets worse." He hung up.

Oz looked at him, questioning. "Trouble?"

"Yeah," Xander said. He rubbed his eyes and flopped back down on the bed. "Big trouble. Spike may have . . . killed someone."

"But I thought-"

"We all did. We'll have to figure it out in the morning. Buffy was just a little freaked, so she gave me a heads up. Let's go back to sleep," he murmured.

It didn't make sense. Oz figured that there should be an assemble-the-troops event, but then Xander snuggled closer to him and he forgot all about it. Whatever it was, it could wait.