The sound of knocking woke Oz up. He glanced outside the window; it was
cold and wintry, and the pine trees were dusted with snow, as if someone had
thrown some icing sugar across them. The knock sounded again.
"Just a minute," he called at the door and swung his legs over the side of
the bed, and pulled on a pair of pants that were lying on the floor. Maggie
looked sleepily at him from where she was curled up at the end of the bed
and mewed her distaste at the disturbance.
Oz wondered who would wake him up on a Saturday morning. The mailman, he
supposed, although he wasn't expecting anything bulky. Well, there was one
way to find out.
He padded, barefoot, to his front door, unlocked it, and pulled it open. On
his doorstep a person stood, wrapped up in a thick coat and woollen scarf,
with a red bobble hat and corded pants. They waved a glove-clad hand.
"Hi, Oz," said Xander.
Oz said nothing for a moment. Then, "hey."
"You live in an extremely remote, extremely," a shiver for emphasis, "cold
The quiet gaze remained on Xander, and the younger man rushed to fill the
"It's been nearly six months, y'know that?"
"I do." As if he could forget.
"Yeah, I guess it was memorable."
"So, you'll be wondering why I've turned up on your doorstep."
A raised eyebrow.
"Actually, I was kinda hoping I could say, 'you'll be wondering why I'm
sitting in your living room drinking a cup of coffee.'"
Oz maintained the gaze for just long enough to let Xander know that this
wasn't something he was really willing to do, then stood to one side.
Xander bustled in, pulling off the gloves as he went. Oz closed the door
and, as Xander took off the outer garments he was wearing, Oz turned on the
hob, laying the kettle on top.
Maggie wandered nervously into the sitting room, staring at Xander. Xander
leaned over to stroke the cat and the small feline bolted back into the
"Didn't have you down as a cat person," the dark haired man remarked,
standing straight again. He dumped his coat and scarf on a chair.
"She sorta came with the house."
"So, why are you here? A social call?"
"Well, I guess. I wanted to see you, Oz."
Xander made his way to the battered sofa Oz owned and lowered himself onto
"I. . . wanted to say sorry. For everything that's happened."
"Xander, I do not believe you came all the way here just to say sorry."
The kettle softly began to whistle as the water began to boil. Xander hung
his head and looked at the floor.
"I needed to see you."
"So much that you came all this way up north? I don't believe that either,
There was a nervous pause. "I came. . . I came because I don't have
anywhere else." The kettle's whistle became louder.
"Nowhere else?" Oz took the kettle off the hob and poured the hot water
into mugs, the coffee granules melting into rich black-brown liquid.
"My folks have disowned me because of, well, me and you. Willow won't talk
to me because of the whole wedding nightmare, and Buffy hates me
because she blames me for Riley and Angel dying. Giles never liked me in
the first place. . . you're the only one left."
Oz handed him a mug. "What about Anya?"
"Even she thinks I'm too much of a loser. She got her powers back, anyway.
She's off torturing men again." He slurped some coffee.
"So what do you want from me?"
"Xander, you have that. I told you that before I left."
"Not for what happened at the wedding. For before."
"The road trip?"
Xander nodded. "I. . . treated you really badly. And I'm sorry."
"That was nearly seven years ago, Xander. Water under the bridge."
"It wasn't when you were back in Sunnydale."
"OK, fine. You're forgiven."
"Yes. I can't hold grudges anymore."
Oz nodded, and sat next to the younger man. They talked for some time after
that, sipping coffee. The subjects under discussion were mostly mundane,
but Oz couldn't lose the niggling feeling something was unsaid on Xander's
part. Then, as the conversation rambled onto the merits or lack thereof of
Macauley's weather, Xander suddenly said, "Look, Oz - I. . . need to ask you
The werewolf looked back at Xander and nodded. "OK, what?"
"Do you. . . shit, I can't believe I'm asking this. . . do you still. . .
have feelings for me?"
"What?" Oz looked mildly surprised, which brought home to Xander how
unexpected the question must have been.
"It's just that the last time I spoke to Buffy, after the bitterness and
recrimination which is a feature of all our contact now, she said that
no-one loved me, and nobody ever would because all I did was fuck up. And I
just kept thinking that she was right. Because I couldn't think of anyone
that did. Until I really thought about you, something I hadn't done in a
long time, and then I remembered. Of all the people to say that they loved
me, you're the only one who's never taken it back."
Big, brown eyes stared right into green ones. That was probably the most
sincere thing Oz had ever heard Xander say. But it was too much.
"Xander. . . I don't know. I can't let myself feel anything anymore,
because I lose all the people I love. Mom barely speaks to me, I never
really knew my dad, Devon never could or would return my affection, Willow -
I messed that one up, big time. You rejected me for popularity, and Angel
died because I made the stupid mistake of letting him get too close. Every
time I've fallen in love I get hurt or I end up hurting someone else, or
Xander's eyes had wandered as Oz had talked, to run across the pale upper
body of the man next to him. Without thinking, he reached out and traced a
finger across the silvery-white lines that criss-crossed Oz's body, the
visible scars of Angel's change. Oz flinched at the touch, and Xander
quickly withdrew his hand.
"I couldn't hurt you, Oz," he looked up again, straight back at the other
man, "not again. Please believe me."
"What do you want from me, Xander?"
"I need to know that I still matter to someone, Oz. I want to start things
again. With us. If you'll have me."
"Even if I did, what's going to stop you from leaving again when you find
someone who's more popular?"
That stung Xander a little. "I'm not the same boy that did that to you.
Not at all. I wouldn't do things like that now." A rueful smile. "And
besides, who wants me? Apart from you, I hope."
Oz didn't reply, instead just fixing a steady gaze on Xander. On impulse,
the taller man leaned across to softly brush Oz's lips with his own, then
sat back, eyes wide and fearful. After a long pause, Oz finally spoke.
"The sofa's not great, but it is comfortable."
"You want me to stay?"
"I can't make a decision like this so quickly. Until I do, you can stay
around. If you want."
"I do want. I do." Xander's hand was placed on Oz's bicep. "I really do."
Oz raised the other arm to hold Xander's hand with his own. "I can't make
any promises, Xander. I might say no."
"Well, the yes campaign starts here. If I made pancakes, would that help
swing you in my direction?" Xander waggled his eyebrows, and leapt up,
pulling open cupboards to find the ingredients.
Watching him, Oz allowed himself a small smile. "It's a start."