Watch and Wonder

Watch and Wonder

Xander can't tell if Oz is doing it on purpose, or not.  He thinks he might be, but then - would Oz really be that petty?  All Xander knows for sure is that it's driving him nuts.  Every day he sees Oz in the halls and Oz just sort of nods.  Every day after school Oz is out in his van.  Sometimes with Devon, sometimes alone.  Smoking a joint, just watching the people.  Watching Xander, maybe.  And Xander wonders, if he's watching him, what's he watching him for.  Xander wonders if he should just avoid Oz altogether.

But that...just seems dumb.  So Xander goes and sits in the van with him, and takes a hit or two although he Doesn't Do Drugs, and just tries to...groove.  Or something.  But Oz usually says about three words, and the quieter Oz is, the more nervous Xander gets until he's babbling non-stop and feeling like a total fool.

Not a new feeling, but it's getting old.  And after the whole zombie incident, and facing Jack down and making him defuse the bomb - he resents feeling like a fool.  Which makes him kind of mad, which makes him even more determined to find out exactly what Oz is up to.  Why he won't talk, and why he won't...hate him.   That's what Xander wonders the most, because it's clear Oz doesn't hate him.  Doesn't resent him or seem to be angry with him.  Might actually like him.  And Xander wonders how the hell that can be, and turns it over and over in his mind, nibbling away at it like a mouse until it's all full of holes and he still doesn't have an answer.

After that horrible, horrible night, when Cordelia had almost died and he and Willow had just been so - stupid, Xander hadn't felt right, talking to Oz.  He wanted to wait until Willow and Oz became WillowandOz again - until they were together and happy.  He knows he'll never be with Cordelia again - her hate seems to have expanded to epic proportions and the shiny prettiness that he's admired for so long is starting to look brittle - icy.  He wonders how that happened, and how he fell out of love so fast.  Because he did, and he has, and it hurts almost as much as being in love did.

The days pass and Willow and Oz making up just seems less and less likely, and then one day he finds Willow in the library and she's with this guy from her computer class and they're giggling over something and Xander knows that that's it.  WillowandOz will never be again.

The rest of that day he's just - in a daze.  Wondering what the hell it means and how it happened and - did Willow really ever love him, or Oz?  And - did he really love Willow?  He had though he did, but he wonders about that now, too, because he doesn't watch Willow, anymore, or Buffy either.  He watches Oz, and wonders...

Xander reels from class to lunch to class to gym to class to the library, and nothing makes a dent.  When school is over and he's stumbling across the parking lot towards home he sees the van and a sort of anger rolls up through his chest and makes him stand up tall - makes him stride purposefully over to the van and wrench the back door open. 

Oz is sitting there like some sort of green-haired Buddha, torn t-shirt with a cartoon dog on it, worn-out jeans that are frayed over the knees and almost white.  Bare feet, and a ring on one toe, and bracelets laddered up his arms.  He looks like he did last night at the Bronze and then Xander sees the tangle of blanket and sleeping bag and the smudged eyeliner and realizes that he probably slept in his van, and that's...weird.

"Xander," Oz says, and his voice is kinda croaky and Xander sees the joint in his fingers - smells it as the greyish haze in the van does a slo-mo tumble out into the cooler air of the parking lot.

"Oz, I - listen, I've been waiting and giving you all kinds of time and space and - and everything, and I wasn't gonna push or anything and I really wasn't gonna - you know - make demands but that's it, Oz!  I mean, that's really it!  I mean - I need some - some kind of closure here!" 

Oz just looks at him, blinking, and then he does this sort of boneless slither to the door and holds the joint out.  Xander just stares at it, totally taken aback, and then he climbs into the van and shuts the door and settles down cross-legged.  He takes a small, cautious hit and holds it and watches Oz, who is watching him.

"Xander?" Oz says again, and Xander hands the joint back and coughs.

"Oz - it's really - I mean, I know you're mad at me 'cause of the whole Willow and me thing - I mean, I think you are, and I would be mad too, if I were you, I mean, I really stepped over a boundary there and I know that but I didn't do on purpose and me and Willow have known each other for forever -" Xander coughs again, because his throat is dry and he needs a breath and Oz is just looking at him as if he's lost it.  Or as if he's some sort of performing monkey because there's this little smile in the corner of his mouth and it's really getting to Xander, as much as the silence thing is, and the not-hating thing and the watching and the - the everything.  And he's so tired of not getting stuff - and he's so tired of wondering and watching and being watched.  It makes his skin and his brain itchy and he's gonna talk until Oz tells him what he wants to know or -or die, maybe.  He opens his mouth to say something else and Oz tips his head to one side a little - reaches out and picks up a bottle of water and offers it.

 

"Drink, Xan?" he says, and Xander just gapes at him for a minute and then takes the bottle - takes three or four huge drinks and coughs some more, wiping the his mouth on the back of his hand.  Oz just watches, like he's been doing for the past few weeks.  Just watches Xander go through mental questions and answers and come to all sorts of conclusions that, really, Oz can't fathom. 

Or, actually, that he can fathom, but that he doesn't believe or want to give any energy to.  He knows that Willow has moved on - that his coldness to her the first week or so really pushed her away and pretty much ended any reconciliation.  But he's okay with that, really.  Mostly because he doesn't think he's any good for Willow - he made her so nervous and so distracted - but also because, well...

Well, because of Xander.  All that time spent in the library or chasing around Sunnydale and it turned out it was Xander he was watching and Xander he was listening too.  And it was seeing Xander choose Willow - choose someone else yet again, that was what had really hurt him, down there in the factory basement.  Not that Willow and Xander had kissed.  He'd really kind of expected it, what with them being friends from the womb, practically, and in danger, and scared.  He knows what fear can make you do - he knows what he almost did when the wolf first came into his life, so he's pretty forgiving of fear-induced craziness.  And really, he can't blame Xander for choosing someone else when he hasn't made it clear that he is in the running for being chosen. 

But now, he just doesn't know what to do next.  He can't talk around Xander for fear he'll blurt out some awful nonsense and scare him away.  Even though Xander's a SoCal boy, and 'comfortable with that', the one time Xander had blundered in on Devon and some guy groupie making out in the van he'd been pretty upset. 

Although, now that Oz thinks about it, he wonders if maybe Xander was just embarrassed because it turned him on, maybe, and he thought it shouldn't.  Oz wonders about that a lot - wonders if Xander would hate him if he told him he had the prettiest eyes - prettier than Willow's.  Wonders if Xander would flinch away from him if he told him the wolf loved the nights when Xander monster-sat in the library, because Xander smelled so good, and his voice reading a book or singing quietly along to music or just babble, babble, babbling made the wolf feel good - feel safe. 

Oz wonders a lot of things, and in his head he's babbling as much as Xander is, but he can't let any of it out, because...  Well, because he's scared, really.  But Xander's right.  It really is it - it's really gone far enough, and he decides, right then, that he's gonna do something about it. 

He watches Xander absently take another hit - watches the drug take his anxiety down a notch or two and let him take a breath - let him lean back a little and contemplate what he's saying.  Watches Xander run his hands back through his dark, shaggy hair and pick at the seam of his jeans and say something and something and something.  Oz isn't really listening, anymore, he's just watching, and wondering. 

"You're right, Xander," Oz says suddenly, and Xander stops mid-babble and just stares at him.

"I am?  Yeah, I am.  About what, exactly?"  Xander looks more than lost, and Oz lifts the joint out of his fingers and puts it away in the tin - tucks the tin away.  And then he leans up and puts his hands lightly on Xander's knees, and kisses him.

Xander's mouth is warm and tangy from the smoke, sweet from a soda.  It doesn't move at all for a moment and Oz wonders if he's got it all wrong but then it does.  Moves and opens, and there are fingers on his fingers, skipping up his forearms and settling on his biceps, holding without pressure.  It's a nice kiss.  It's slow and thorough and suprisingly learned and after a bit, when Oz leans back - has to catch his breath, has to see - Xander is smiling.

"What'd you do that for?" he asks, his fingers rubbing lightly at Oz's shoulders.

"I just wondered," Oz says, and leans in again.