Oz, not surprisingly, had a dizzying array of music at his disposal.
Xander wasn't too shocked to find classical sharing the shelves with
horrible hair metal from the 80s, but the Celtic threw him for a loop, and
he'd never really pictured Oz as the kind of person to buy the soundtrack
to a video game. He was halfway through the CD rack when he pulled a
random disc out and shoved it in the player. Anything but the sound of his
"Y'know, I wish you'd been there when I woke up," he whispered to the empty
room. Finding himself alone in the bed had done nothing for Xander's
admittedly shaky sense of self-esteem, and not being sure just how to
casually saunter out of Oz's room had kept him trapped there for most of
the morning. He didn't know what the rest of his housemates would make of
his sleeping arrangements, if anything, but he really wasn't up for coming
out at this point, even if out was only the hallway and there might not be
Xander had never fluttered before, but he thought it a fitting word for
what he was doing just then. Not pacing, not really sauntering, because
that required more space. No, fluttering, wandering...and growing more
uneasy with each passing moment. If he left the room he could sneak
downstairs, pack his clothing and go...
Right. Go where? Buffy's? That would go over just great now that she was
sharing a dorm room with Willow. Willow, for obvious reasons, was just as
unavailable. Giles would take him in, and no doubt give him tea in that
distracted English way of his, and no doubt figure out what was going on
within minutes. He could go home.
Squinting out the window, he suspiciously checked for rainclouds looming in
the distance. He didn't really see any, but that didn't mean they weren't
there. Shuddering, feeling hopelessly lost inside himself, Xander turned
away from the window and wrapped his arms around his chest. They'd take
him back at home, and his mother would fix him something to eat and berate
him for leaving, slip in her snide little comments about him not being able
to take care of himself. That they seemed at the moment to be true would
make them hurt worse, but he could always fire back a few of his own. He'd
learned his sarcasm from his mother, and that an openhanded slap didn't
hurt your cheek so much as your pride.
He wasn't sure he could make it on his own, if the gnawing truth were to be
known. He knew he was a screw-up, but he'd never thought about what
happened to people like him when they graduated high school. Hell...he
really hadn't thought he was going to graduate at all. There'd been no
point in telling any of his friends that he wasn't going to come back from
his road trip. Oh, he'd promised Willow, made plans with Buffy...but deep
down he'd felt like he would have been doing them a favour if he'd just
stayed gone. Everything was about college, even for Oz, and there he was,
Xander who couldn't get his parents to spring for in-state tuition at what
might as well have been a community college. Xander, who'd only passed
high school because Giles had refused to let him fail. Xander, the
perpetual drag on everyone.
"Xander the Zeppo." His snort was followed by a grimace. Outside it was
still clear, deceptively so as he pushed Oz's bedroom window open and
leaned out to suck in a breath. His eyes caught on the ground below him,
the sidewalk cracks he could see from the second floor, the gravel that
needed to be raked back into place after the cat from next door had used it
as a litter box. It was all too bright, and it took too much to push
himself back and take another shaky gulp of air.
"It's not the height. It's that you're afraid you'll want to jump, right?"
asked Oz's voice from behind him. He whirled around, jumping a foot in the
"Shit! Don't do that!"
Oz grinned at him slowly, leaning in the doorframe. Xander forced himself
to stop moving, almost bracing for whatever was supposed to happen now.
And that was when he realized that at least part of the problem was that he
"I don't know what I'm supposed to do after sex. Faith tried to kill me,
and Anya just wanted to have more. And you left." He winced, not having
meant that to come out, but well aware that it had, and that now he'd left
himself open to all the things he didn't want to hear.
"I'm sorry Xander. I promised Devon a ride to the airport so he could go
see his aunt, and then on the way back the van broke down. I think it
needs to go into the shop again." Xander watched Oz frown, and got the
feeling that it was over more than his state of vehicular repair.
"It's okay. I just wasn't sure if I should leave, or stay, or go back
home. Hell. I wasn't sure if it was a mistake to be here at all." He
couldn't stop the careless words, anymore than he'd ever been able to keep
back a joke at his own expense. It was his inherent Xander-ness. "I woke
up and thought "Hey, I must have been worse than I thought. Oz must have
wanted to cuddle." It's always the cuddling that gets me y'know."
Xander looked up, shaking his head as he fought past a growing sense of
unreality. This was going about as well as it ever did, which was to say
that it was a complete disaster. Something in him didn't want to be the
loser again though, so he continued to speak.
"Look, whatever you're going to tell me... You're still in love with Willow.
That's cool. You can't handle the guy thing. That's fine. You just
realized what a huge mistake this all was. I get it. Just let me be the
one to walk out the door this time, okay? If you ever thought I was a
friend, just let me keep that much for myself."
"I am." And that was it. Xander watched the taciturn redhead, and felt,
not for the first time, like they were speaking an entirely different
"You are what?"
Oz looked at him very carefully, making sure their eyes met when he spoke.
"I am still in love with Willow. She's the first person I've ever loved,
and that means more to me than I want to think about. So, I am. But I
can handle the guy thing, and I have before." He stopped there, and
Xander felt his stomach sink a little lower. Drama. Life was all about
drama. "It wasn't a mistake, and I don't want you to walk away from it.
I'm not good at this part Xander, I don't think anybody is. I'm really
trying not to mess this up, but I need a little time to figure out how that
works. So just accept that I don't regret anything we did, and I don't
want you to leave. Okay?" He seemed to deflate after, crossing his arms
as he maintained a completely neutral expression.
"Um. Big words, understand better. Good." He tried for a shrug, and
wasn't surprised when the door shut behind Oz or when he failed miserably
at looking unsurprised.
"Sometimes I say stuff." There it was, and Xander admitted to himself no
small sense of relief as Oz gave him a familiar half smile to underscore
"And sometimes I'm even more of an idiot than people think. So. Do you
mind if I look around under your bed for my dignity?" He blinked at the
sudden yet careful rush, feeling Oz's arms settle around his waist before
he really registered that he was being hugged quite delicately.
"I think less talking, in this case, is good. Just feel for a minute."
And he did, a little awkward, a little too gangly to really feel like he
was managing it. Sharp hipbones pressed into his stomach, a knee rested
against the side of his leg. Oz's arms stayed put, one hand drifting up
and down his back and the other keeping him tucked in place. It felt good.
Or maybe it just felt -- maybe that was the point Oz was trying to make.
That it didn't have to "be something" to feel good, that maybe the moment
was more important sometimes than the long term. Or maybe he was reading
everything the wrong way, as usual.
"Can I talk now?"
"Sure. But only a little."
Nodding dropped his head a little so that he could sheepishly rest his chin
on Oz's shoulder, but that was all intended.
"I'll work on the clinging-worry thing. I promise. This is good though."
Oz's scent was spiced with Devon's aftershave, he noted with something that
couldn't possibly have been jealousy. He'd have to work a lot harder than
"This is good. Later is later, and this is now, and it's good. So stay."
Xander only had to consider it for a second or two, before he sighed.
"Well, if you insist." Because insistence was good too, and as much as he
didn't want to think about it, insistence was a security he really wanted.
It almost made up for jealousy and lingering doubts about ones' own self