Oz was confused, in a very bad way. He was also getting rather dizzy, trying to
think about too many different things at once.
He was on stage, playing, and Devon was just to his right, tilting the microphone
as he let lyrics fly.
And Willow was in front of him. Not exactly in front of him, but close enough. She
wasn't even looking at him; instead she was staring down into her glass so Oz had
a perfect view of her slumped profile. Buffy, however, was staring straight at
him, and Oz had already given up on deciphering her expression. It was just blank,
almost curious but not quite, and every once in awhile she would look away to talk
to Willow, obviously trying to cheer her up.
Oz knew Willow hadn't had the slightest clue the Dingoes would be playing at the
Bronze that night. He hadn't know himself until they got called in two hours
earlier when the scheduled band backed out for some reason, and Devon insisted
they take the slot for the money.
Devon was angry about Willow being there. As soon as he'd seen her, he'd yanked
Oz aside and started muttering apologies, and though Oz had finally gotten him to
calm down, he knew Devon didn't believe he was okay with it. He wasn't sure he
was okay with it. But it was just bad luck.
Really, really, really bad luck.
So there he found himself, playing and glancing occasionally at Devon, knowing full
well they'd hear him bluster later about the amp that had cut out and the fact
that the drums were slightly off tempo, purely because he was upset at having
gotten Oz into this situation. And then he was staring out at Willow, wishing she
would just fucking look at him so he could figure out what the hell she was
thinking, maybe even how she felt.
Except she wouldn't look at him, and Devon wouldn't look at him, so only Buffy
was looking at him in that aggravating quirky way. And it was even worse that Oz
couldn't figure out who he actually wanted to look at him.
Because the fact was, no matter how much he said he wanted to just forget
about Willow, that wasn't going to happen like magic, and Oz knew it. He wasn't
even sure any more that he wanted to simply forget her. Seeing her again shook
him up more than he could have predicted, so much that when they finally took a
break and the rest of the band headed out into the crowd, he ducked into one of
the Bronze's two tiny dressing rooms.
He was slouched in an armchair when Devon slipped in five minutes later and
leaned against the door. "I'm really sorry, man."
Oz shook his head. "I told you, not a big deal. You were right, we do need the
money for tonight, and it's not your job to run around in front of me and make
sure Willow's not around before I go anywhere. That's a crappy way for me to
Devon raised an eyebrow. "You trying to say you don't want me around?"
Oz smiled, appreciating the attempt to lighten the mood. "I don't know what I'd do
if you weren't around, Dev."
Grinning, Devon left the door and moved in front of Oz, pressing his hands to the
arms of the chair and arcing down to let his body weight fall between Oz's
sprawled legs. On his knees, he took Oz's hands and smiled softly. "Didn't I tell you
I'd be there whenever you need me?"
The honest simplicity in Devon's voice startled Oz. He knew Devon better than
anyone, and even he found it hard to believe when he heard such selfless kindness
coming from him. Devon just wasn't usually like that; he was reserved and
careful, shielding himself from anything and everything, and even Oz didn't know
why he was so wary of opening up. "Why?" Oz asked softly. "Why whenever? Why
Devon shrugged and began kissing the pads of Oz's left hand fingers, which were
slightly callused from near constant contact with guitar strings. "Because you've
always done the same for me. I mean, listen to yourself. You're pissed as hell at
me for getting you into this situation, and you've been insisting all night you're
"Fine, I'm pissed. And directing it at you is easy. But this isn't your fault. And
besides...what about me leaving you for Willow? Why do you still trust me after
Devon frowned and shook his head. "You didn't leave me for Willow. You just made
me share you, and that's only fair. Oz, listen to me. Anything you ever need, I
He was interrupted by a soft rap on the door. "I'll get it," he murmured, catching
Oz's lips in a gentle kiss on his way to his feet. "Don't go anywhere."
Oz watched as Devon pulled the door open, and watched with curiosity when the
singer stiffened. "Yeah?" Devon snapped.
Willow's voice cut hesitantly through the air towards Oz. "Is -- is Oz in here? I
need to talk to him."
"Yeah, well, he doesn't need to talk to you, you obnoxi --"
"Devon!" Oz snapped, his voice dangerous. He had started to stand when he heard
Willow's voice, but now he bolted to his feet. "Don't finish that," he warned.
Devon glared at him. "Oz, she --"
"She's none of your business." Oz jerked the door open further and stared at
Willow, who was staring at the floor. "Willow, go back to your table. I'll come talk
to you in a minute, I promise." Without waiting for her reply, he shut the door and
turned on Devon. "You're in so much trouble."
"I don't want to hear it, Dev." Oz rubbed his head wearily. "Look, I know you've
never liked her, and it's probably safe to say you hate her right now. And it's
almost sort of sweet that you're so damn protective of me. But, Devon...Just
don't, okay? Don't. It's between me and Willow."
"Fine, Oz. You go out there and let her go on and on about what she feels and
what she needs and how horrible you are for doing something that wasn't in line
with her plans, and you let her tear you apart again. You've been trying to be so
fucking calm and rational through all this, but you think I don't know you?" Devon
yanked the door open again. "Fuck you, Oz. You need to decide what you want.
Then maybe you could let me in on it so I know what the fuck is going on."
Oz closed his eyes after Devon stormed out, slowly counting his way up to ten
before he wandered out and found Willow gazing into the bottom of her drink
Buffy's eyes widened and she smiled nervously. "Hi, Oz." She grabbed Xander, who
had joined them at some point. "Bye, Oz. Xander, let's go. Now."
Oz took the seat across from Willow that Xander vacated, and waited silently,
staring at her. "I do have to go back on soon, you know," he finally prompted. "You
said you needed to talk?"
Willow looked up at him, fidgeting. "Yeah. I -- We do need to talk, Oz. I don't want
to leave things how they are. I don't want to just let everything go."
"That's not quite what I heard you saying last week."
"Last week I was upset," she mumbled, biting her lip and searching his face for
signs of reaction.
He raised an eyebrow. "Must have been some weekend for you to get over wishing
you'd never met me."
Willow flinched and returned her gaze to her drink. "Oz, I didn't mean that...I was
so hurt. I mean. I mean, I came down the steps and saw you --"
"We've had this conversation, Willow. Remember? You telling me that forgiving
you for something means I should have forgotten how much it hurt? I know I
hurt you. And that's not something I'm going to forgive myself for. I was even all
set to grovel. But you started talking first, and that changed some things."
"But...Hey! I should not have to apologize for being upset that you slept with
another girl. Oz, you --
"I never said that, Willow. All I'm saying is that..." Oz stopped and stared at her,
wondering what he was doing and why it felt like he was on auto pilot. "Willow,
what would have happened if I told you I regretted ever being with you after I
found out about Xander? After I found out it had been going on for months? What
do you think that would have done to you?"
Willow closed her eyes, holding back tears. "But you're stronger than me. And you
never would have done that."
"I'm not all that much stronger, Will. But I love you. I did then and I do now. I
always will." Oz stood up as she looked at him hopefully, her eyes glistening. "But I
don't want to go back. Too many things were said to never be wondering if you
still feel the same way. I hope we can be friends, but that's it. This is it."
"Oz! Why won't you --"
"Willow. Stop." Oz saw Devon on the stage, sitting on an amp and staring at him
intently, and he quickly looked back at Willow. "I hate what I did, and that it hurt
you so badly, and I hate how things have happened with us, but it happened, and
we're not getting over this one. We can't go back to what we had, and I don't
really want to try for something less. I'll see you later, okay?"
Oz heard the crack of ice hitting the floor as Willow knocked over her drink in her
rush to get away from the table, but he didn't look back, instead staring at the
floor and shuffling up to the stage, where the rest of the band was ready to
start. Except for Devon. Devon kept staring at him, his eyes narrowed into a look
that could have meant he was still angry or that he was burning up to know what
had just happened.
Oz figured it was most likely both, and he surprised himself by not really caring.
He grabbed his guitar and returned Devon's cold stare until the singer stood up
and moved to the microphone, and for the rest of the night, Oz floated through
all his motions. Eventually his eyes fell to the back corner, where he saw Buffy
and Xander clumped around Willow on a couch, consoling her, but he just steeled
his jaw and looked away.
As soon as they finished playing for the night, he absorbed himself in winding up
cables and carrying his own equipment out to his van, then he grabbed Devon's
arm and pulled him to the side. "Could you put the rest in Kevin's car? I'm getting
out of here."
Devon hesitated. "No. Come talk to me for a minute," he finally said, trying to
lead Oz in the direction of the dressing room.
"Dev, I really just want to split."
"It'll only take a minute. Please?"
Oz bit his lip and reluctantly followed, then stood with his arms folded as Devon
kept gazing at him. "What?" he finally snapped.
That got him. Devon looked away, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "I'm sorry,
okay?" he muttered. "You're right; I had no right to butt in."
"Gee, Dev, you sound so sincere I'm almost inclined to believe you." Oz shrugged
and leaned against the wall. "You should work on the inflection a little, then you
might convince me."
"Dammit, Oz!" Devon kicked a folding chair, which skidded halfway across the
room before the rubber feet caught and it toppled over. "I don't like her, okay?
You know that. I don't like her and I can't stand that she makes you hurt this bad.
I'm not like you. I don't think about every word before I speak. I also tend to get
into deep shit more often, which now that I think of it, is probably related. I
shouldn't have insulted her, but I am sorry and I wish you would just fucking
accept my apology."
Oz closed his eyes and slid to the floor, wishing he could just think things through
as easily as he used to be able to. "Devon," he whispered. "Devon...I don't know
what to do anymore."
"Oh, fuck." Devon fell to his knees in front of Oz, resting his arms on the smaller
boy's knees and trying to catch his eyes. "Oz, I...I'm sorry. I really am. Please
don't -- Oh, fuck."
Oz shook his head slowly and wondered why everything had to get so screwed up.
"I'm not going to cry, Dev. Don't worry," he murmured lightly. "I'm not going to
cry. I -- I told Willow it's over. Too bad I don't know if that's what I want."
"Why'd you do it, then?"
"Um...you know me. I don't like to do things unless I'm sure. But there are some
things that you have to make the call on whether you're ready or not. This
couldn't be dragged out."
"So why did you make the call you did?"
Oz reached out and ruffled hi fingers through Devon's hair. "I don't know. I opened
my mouth and the words came out. Sort of an odd experience, as far as my
Devon grinned. "You, just rambling? I can't imagine."
"No imagination required. It's pretty much what I do lately."
Devon moved to sit against the wall and played with Oz's hand. "If you're gonna let
her go, man...you've got to really let her go. She's the only one who wins if you're
always wallowing about what went wrong."
"I know." Oz abruptly felt like laying down, so he did, adjusting Devon's legs to
cross and form a pillow so he could stretch out on his back with a perfect view of
the singer's strong chin. "So you'll always be here for me, huh?"
Laughing, Devon curled in to rest tiny kisses along the bridge of Oz's nose.
Oz curled one arm up around Devon's neck, holding him down. "That's nice to
know," he said quietly, then tilted his head back to find Devon's mouth. His tongue
pressed up, parting soft lips and scraping between teeth before he met Devon's
tongue and sighed, incredibly relaxed by the easiness of it all.
In all the time he'd been with Willow, Oz had nearly forgotten how nice it was to
just curl up with Devon and let everything else go for awhile. Willow would most
likely feel vindicated if she knew how quickly he'd taken back up with Devon, but
he couldn't muster up the energy to care very much. They had been over for
nearly a week; that night just cemented it, and even with the tiny doubts creeping
further and further into his mind with each passing minute, Oz was incredibly
content to stay right in that particular moment for a long time.
The tips of Devon's fingers supporting the back of his head provided a nice
grounding to reality for Oz, holding his mind firmly in its spot right above Devon's
lap even as he let himself get lost in the feel of the lips on his and the hand
sliding across his chest and then the breath in his ear as Devon whispered, "We
can't stay here, you know."
"Why not?" Oz sat up halfway, pressing his nose into Devon's throat and nibbling
at the throb of blood pumping through his neck. "I like it here."
"Mmm, me too." Devon reluctantly drew away and made Oz sit up entirely. "But
the guys are waiting for us, and we'll get kicked out soon anyway. We played later
Oz sighed, climbing to his feet. "I didn't notice."
Devon stopped him at the door, running his fingers lightly over Oz's cheek. "Hey.
Are we -- are we okay?"
"Yeah," Oz replied, taking Devon's hand and kissing the back of it. "But no more
confrontational stuff with Willow, okay? Ignore her like you've always done, and I'll
deal with whatever needs to be dealt with between us."
Devon shrugged. "Fine. She's your deal."
"Thanks." Oz elbowed him lightly in the side, opening the door. "Though you are
pretty cute when you're feeling protective."
"Oh, shut up."