Pairing: Andrew/Oz (eventually)
Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org Please, this is my first fanfic series....
Disclaimer: BTVS belongs to the genius of Joss Whedon and the good people at Mutant Enemy. I’m just borrowing them.
Summary: This is the third in a series of BTVS season seven AU fics.
Spoilers: Up to ‘Potential’ or so... AU but related after that.
It was interesting, was all Andrew could think of to say. Things were moving so quickly around him, and here he was, still the hostage. A new potential was due in town sometime soon, so Xander and Buffy had gone off to meet her at the bus station. And the new guy, the one who’d shown up two days ago, was watching him from across the room.
Oz had shown up, and it was clear he knew the rest of the actual Scoobies – but there was an odd sort of tension that surrounded him. Like he felt almost as uncomfortable here as Andrew did. For some reason, Buffy had decreed that he could have the garage to himself. Oz didn’t have to sleep on the floor with the potentials. And now, they were trying to fit him into the routine of their days. He was so quiet, they probably didn’t notice how tense he seemed. Or maybe he was tense for some other reason, like he was under some sort of curse and this was part of breaking it. Andrew didn’t know, but he wasn’t really comfortable just asking the guy. Hell, he didn’t even know Oz’s full name.
He sighed and turned his attention to the large stack of dishes he was washing. Maybe not the most monumental contribution to the fight against evil, but it was about all he could do. And maybe if he was helpful, then Xander...
He slipped into a familiar daydream, trying to figure out the dialogue which would be involved when Xander finally noticed how hard he worked trying to keep the team together. Just as he reached the part when Xander would touch his shoulder, turn him around and kiss him, he felt a touch on his shoulder.
Andrew yelped in surprise and dropped the casserole dish he’d been cleaning into the sudsy water, which splashed onto him. Blushing and furiously embarrassed, he spun around to tell off whoever had snuck up on him. He found himself facing a pair of light blue eyes which looked at him with mild concern.
“Whoa,” said Oz. “Sorry.” Which kind of took the edge off the whole speech he’d been about to make, apologizing like that.
“What do you want?” Andrew asked, kicking himself when he realized how nasty it sounded. “You snuck up on me,” he added, not sure how much sense he was making.
Oz nodded, slowly. Then he said, as if he’d carefully considered every word, casual though they were, “Want help? I’ll dry if you wash.”
Andrew blinked. People offering to help him weren’t exactly in full force around here. He wanted to ask ‘why’, but no words were coming out. Finally, he nodded, jerkily, and went back to his scrubbing. Oz moved over next to him, still quiet, picked up a dry cloth, and began to towel off the dishes already in the rack.
Oz took a deep breath as he stood next to Andrew. Arousal, fading fear, and nervousness tinged the air; Andrew smelled of ginger and honey beneath all the confused emotion-scents. Oz decided he liked it, just as the guy started to talk. “So, Oz...” he began, “Um- have you known Buffy long? I mean, you obviously know she’s the Slayer, and all, but...”
Oz nodded, keeping his eyes on the plate since that seemed to make Andrew less nervous. “I went to high school with Buffy, Willow, and Xander.” There was a brief pause, then he added, “I left town about the year after.” He didn’t really feel like explaining all the details - especially given his tendency towards brevity, one trait which the wolf had never interfered with.
“Oh,” said Andrew. He didn’t know what to say, since the blank statement gave absolutely nothing away. “I didn’t really know her in high school. Well, I mean, I wouldn’t. She - you guys - were a couple years ahead of me. My brother was in her class, though. Tucker?”
“Devil dogs?” Oz asked, after a moment’s thought.
“Yeah. Attacking the prom. Not exactly evil genius, but hey, he was trying.” A nervous laugh from Andrew, but a light chuckle from Oz. “Anyway, so I didn’t know Buffy in high school. But last year we were her nemeses – nevermind.”
And with that, the guy closed up again. His attention turned back to the dishes, and all the animation left his face. It was disturbing to Oz, especially the way the sorrow crept back in around the edges of his scent. He felt like he ought to do something to lift it, especially when he’d accidentally brought it back. He also made a mental note to ask someone what was going on with this guy. What his relationship was to the rest of the group, other than errand boy and general housekeeper.
The sound of Buffy and Xander coming home interrupted the awkward silence. Oz had been taking advantage of the time to surreptitiously study the younger man. Andrew had a fragility to him, like his world was crumbling around him and he desperately needed something that was real, which made Oz want to cuddle him and tell him it would all be alright. He was stopped, however, by a growing sense that this was a more complex problem than could be solved by a hug and some empty platitudes. Fortunately, he was a patient man.
Xander ducked into the kitchen as Buffy started to guide the new potential around the house. “Hi, Xander,” Andrew said, blushing slightly, as he handed the last pot to Oz.
“Oh, hey,” Xander said carelessly. He opened the fridge and rummaged around inside, saying, “do we have anything snackable in here, or did the potentials clean us out?”
“It was scary, almost,” said Andrew, starting to babble in a way Oz found ... both comfortable and appealing. He closed his eyes a moment, admitting to himself that he had a type and Andrew was getting closer and closer to that type the more he saw of the young man, as Andrew continued. “Like that scene in Fellowship of the Rings in the Mines of Moria, where all the orcs come out in waves – except they’re good, the potentials, I mean. So maybe not. But it was a swarm, anyway, like locusts or something–“
Xander sighed and closed the fridge. “So what you’re telling me,” he said, cutting Andrew off, “is that there’s nothing to eat.”
“Well, no,” said Andrew, “but if you wanted, I could bake some cookies...”
Damn, the boy was adorable. Xander must be blind, Oz figured. Or just *really* not interested, and trying to be polite about it. He stepped in just before the pause became awkward, offering, “I’ve got some chips in the garage.” The other two looked at him, and he shrugged. “Also beer and a Playstation.”
“Deal!” said Xander, eagerly. “What games did you bring, Oz, ol’ buddy?” He draped an arm around Oz breezily and started to head to the garage.
Oz looked over his shoulder at Andrew. Again, the boy was doing that thing where he folded in on himself. “Andrew?” Oz asked. “Could you grab a couple cans of pop, too?” Andrew looked up, hope lighting his face, and nodded cheerfully.
“Sure, I can do that.” Suddenly, he was like a bouncing puppy again, all light and eagerness. Oz bit back a comment about how cute he was, just smiled at him a little. Andrew came rushing over to them, carrying a few cans of soda, saying, “I just grabbed one of each kind, since I don’t know which kind you like. I’ve got regular cola for you, though, Xander. I know you like that one best. And there was grape left, too. The potentials drank up all the diet after their last training session, so I hope you didn’t want that,” he continued, glancing at Oz. “There’s still half a case of the lime stuff, though. No-one seems to want that.”
Oz grinned, and said, “Lime’s my favourite.” He glanced at Xander, who was trying to push him towards the garage subtly, and said, “a lot of people miss its merits.” Cryptic enough to win him a chuckle from Xander, and suddenly they were at the outside door to the garage. Oz opened the padlock he’d put on first day with a bright, shiny, new key, and led in the first two people to enter his new home.
Since he’d been on the road, Oz had become a master at making himself comfortable. Given the situation, he hadn’t expected his own room – Andrew, he knew, bunked on the floor with the potentials, and while Xander had his own apartment, he ended up on the couch here five days out of seven. However, Buffy had offered the garage to him. Maybe this was a concession to him as a werewolf – like she figured he still needed to chain himself up at the full moon – or maybe Giles had pointed out how close quarters can be rough on a guy with a sensitive nose. Maybe she just wanted him outside of her space until she figured out how the new Oz fit in.
When it came right down to it, it didn’t matter. Oz had a room all to himself, and he’d immediately invested in those things which made him comfortable. First, privacy, courtesy of a Home Depot and a large padlock. The main door, the one for the cars, he’d wedged shut; the door to the house had the boxes which had originally dwelt here piled firmly against it. After that, Oz had gone to the nearest Goodwill and bought himself furniture. He had a decent cushion, at the moment, and there was no point in facing your death cranky and out of sleep. He’d bought a new queen-size futon, too, which was set up against the back wall.
Then, using the basics of furniture and the luxury/comfort items he carried in the van, he’d turned this room into a quiet little retreat. It was roughly organized into two areas: living and sleeping. His bed, in the back, was piled high with comforters (Goodwill comes through again) and pillows. His suitcases, open now, were propped up around it, so that he could easily get to his clothes. Over by the doors, he’d pulled a couch up by a small TV, hooked up his Playstation, and piled both on top of a mini-fridge. An old packing crate (marked from Joyce’s gallery) held snack foods for game-binges. His guitar was propped up against the crate, waiting for him as always. To stop the drafts (which were probably the reason no-one had taken advantage of all this available space), he’d wedged towels under both closed doors, caulked around the windows, and eventually, draped heavy cloth along the walls. It was dark in here, until you lit the overhead lights and all three of the battered lamps, but the warmth was worth it, especially at night. Even so, sometimes Oz changed enough to get the benefit of the warmer coat – and he had just come down from a Canadian winter, and was thus used to far more cold than California usually saw. Of course, he hadn’t been sleeping in garages in Canada, either.
“Whoa,” said Xander, looking around the room. “I was in here just two days ago, and it was a normal garage then. Did you pick up some sort of redecorating magic on your travels?” And there it was, the bitter edge Oz was expecting to hear from someone, when Xander mentioned his ‘travels’.
He ignored it, of course. No sense in dwelling upon the past; he’d done what he’d done and couldn’t change that. Wouldn’t even if he could. So he just shrugged, a noncommittal gesture that had served him well over the years. Xander nodded, as though that shrug answered all his questions; either he was pretending to understand, or he’d gotten very insightful over the past three years. Oz was willing to bet on the latter, especially when Xander dropped the subject entirely.
Xander went directly to the TV, opening the Playstation to see which game was inside of it, nudging the other titles with his foot so he could see the entire selection – admittedly, there were only four games, but he made the effort anyway. Andrew looked around himself eagerly, but went over to the fridge and put the drinks inside of it neatly. Meanwhile, Oz moved gracefully over to the couch and set himself down on the left hand side. He resumed what was rapidly becoming his favourite activity – watching Andrew.
While Xander chose Grand Theft Auto and began happily destroying cars, Andrew shut the fridge and looked around him. He said, “Um, did you get all this stuff here? Or did you bring some of it with you? I guess you didn’t bring it all with you, unless you have something like a portable hole in the van. You don’t, do you? ‘Cause that would be neat.”
Oz chuckled lightly, and said, “Nah. The furniture I picked up here. The knick-knacks came with me.” Andrew nodded, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet, eyes still darting around. Oz added, “poke around if you like.” That was all Andrew needed, darting off to rummage around.
Xander rolled his eyes and said, quietly enough that Andrew probably didn’t hear him, “Not your wisest decision, O zen-like one. He’s the sort who’d turn off the universe just to see what the switch did.” Oz smiled slightly, half shrugging his shoulders. He wouldn’t be embarrassed by anything Andrew might find, and he didn’t really value the stuff (even those things he’d carried with him this whole time) to an extent where he’d be upset at their loss. And what was more important, it made Andrew happy. He was humming under his breath – Oz couldn’t identify the mangled tune – and poking through the books Oz had piled near the TV. Xander said, more loudly, “Since you’re up, Andrew, could you pass me a drink?”
Andrew smiled brightly at Xander and said, “Of course I could, Xander.” He passed a cola to Xander, and a lime crush to Oz. Then he resumed his wandering path of the room, stopping by the door and looking at the (still a bit damp) sigil painted there. He didn’t touch it, but peered at it closely, then turned to Oz and said, “Is this Ute’kna? It looks sort of like the rune for protection in their written language, but there’s a few odd curly-things along the edges, which I don’t recognize.”
“I’m not sure.” Oz grinned slightly. “It could be; it’s meant for protection of a sort.” It was designed for him by a friend of his, a guy he’d met in B.C. The guy had, admittedly, been a part-demon – after his brush with the Initative, Oz had decided that maybe the "demons = bad" perspective was as blind as theirs, and had made an effort to get to know some. It had been enlightening. About half of the demons he’d met had actually had no desire to hurt humans, no plan to take over the world... they’d just wanted to get by in their lives the way everyone else did. Greth’nek, who had come up with this rune, hadn’t exactly been forthcoming on his heritage, but Oz had never pressed. And the rune Greth’nek had taught him seemed to work. It hid a location from predators, ensuring a safe place to rest. It might not work against everything, and it had to be repainted every month without fail, but the benefits were well worth it. It had the added effect of masking scent-trails leading to it, knowledge which made Oz more comfortable. Andrew looked like he was about to ask another question about the rune, but before he did, Oz asked him, “So do you know a lot about demon languages?”
Andrew nodded eagerly, saying, “I speak twelve, and I can read more. I used to summon demons, you see, and it’s really important to be able to talk to them after they arrive. Otherwise they’re likely to turn on you. Of course, I don’t summon demons any more, now that I’m on a quest for redemption, but it’s not like you can just turn off knowledge, you know? So I can still read them, but I wouldn’t use that knowledge for evil any more.” Several times during this speech, Andrew glanced at Xander; to all outside appearances, Xander was completely absorbed in the happy mayhem of his video game.
Oz nodded gravely, and said, “That’s neat. I’ve wished I was more of a linguist.” There had been a number of fights which he was sure could have been averted, had he only been able to tell the difference between “I want to kill you,” and “Is this the way to the subway?” in a few languages other than English.
Andrew started to say something, but glanced at Xander and didn’t. Oz frowned to himself, but didn’t comment. His urge to take Xander aside and have a long talk with him intensified. And why, he asked himself, does everyone I ever fall for in this town have to be in love with Xander Harris? He grinned, wryly, and added that thought to the growing pile of questions; meanwhile, he watched as Andrew darted around his belongings. The boy seemed fascinated by a chrome Silver Surfer statuette, delighted to find a few Sandman graphic novels, and confused by the set of shackles he’d found. He didn’t mention any of them, though, which Oz felt was a pity.
“Music?” Oz asked both Xander and Andrew. Andrew nodded, rummaging through the knick-knacks arranged on a chest (mostly amulets and charms). Xander agreed easily, so Oz nudged his old boombox with his foot, letting whatever was inside play. The sound of the Dropkick Murphy’s ‘Which Side Are You On?’ came through the speakers, and Oz grinned. He loved this mix CD.
Andrew’s circling path led him back towards the TV area. He suddenly asked, “Why do you have a tranquilizer gun?” and held up the much-abused gun from high school.
“Old memories,” Oz responded, just as Xander said, “safety.” They looked at each other, and the tension seemed to drain from Xander. It was an odd trick; until just then, Oz hadn’t realized just how tense Xander had actually been around him. Another reason for them to talk, Oz supposed. They exchanged another glance, and Xander laughed easily.
“Ok if I tell him, Oz?” Xander asked, and it was a sincere question, a respectful concern. Suddenly Oz realized why so many of his loves had a thing for Xander – the guy was good, in a pure sense of the word, and he’d matured into an insightful man. Oz nodded; he didn’t really care anymore who knew he was a werewolf, and it would also be a way for him to make it clear how much better his control was now – maybe enough to convince Xander not to be tense around him. Because, he realised, he really wanted to be friends with Xander – just friends, and most of his attention was still on the cute boy holding the gun, but it had been a while since he’d had a simple friend.
Xander put the video game on pause while he turned to face Andrew, saying, “Well, when we were in high school, Oz got bit by a werewolf.” Andrew looked at Oz, confused.
Oz added, “My cousin Jordy,” which provoked another laugh from Xander.
“So we weren’t about to turn on Willow’s boyfriend just because he had been bitten.” Xander gave Oz an odd look, one that he couldn’t read. “At any rate, back then Oz used to lock himself up for the full moon, so that there was no chance of hurting someone. And one of us would watch him, in case he got out somehow. Whoever was watching him kept the trank gun with them, which was good. Especially considering the number of times he somehow managed to escape. But no-one was hurt in any of them, so it worked out alright...” Xander trailed off, probably remembering how the end had played out.
Oz nodded, and added, “Until Veruca.” Andrew looked surprised, but this was his part of the story – not Xander’s, Xander hadn’t even been there. “She was a werewolf, too, and ... well, back then I wasn’t really in control of the wolf.” He didn’t go into the details too deeply – if things worked out with Andrew, there would be time enough to tell him about the one person he’d never wanted to hurt and how he’d actually hurt her worst of all. “Anyway, things got pretty rough; she went after Willow. I killed her. That’s when I left town.” That covered most of it.
Xander looked very serious as he turned to Oz and said, “you know, pal, sometime soon we’re going to have to talk about that.” Oz just nodded, calmly, so Xander turned back to Andrew and continued the story, “at any rate, Oz came back a few months later. For a bit.” He’d come back for Willow, of course. The whole messy situation had played through in the only way it could have done. Xander glanced back to Oz again and said, “I didn’t know about Tara then, you know that, right?” Oz nodded again. It was nice to have someone taking the burden of narration from him; he’d missed that.
Andrew asked, suddenly, “did you find a way to break the werewolf curse, then?” He sounded eager. “Like in Van Helsing, how there’s a mystical medication which cures werewolfism?”
Oz chuckled, and said, “Not exactly. I found out that it’s not a curse.” Oh, and that shocked Xander. Andrew just looked more excited; he was clearly about to suggest another theory. Oz grinned, knowing full well that it was a feral grin, and said, “I’ve learned to let the wolf be just another part of me.”
Andrew nodded sagely, but Xander looked unconvinced. He mouthed, ‘later?’ at Oz and got a small nod in return. “Anyway,” Oz said, “the gun’s unnecessary now; it’s just a reminder.”
Andrew put the gun down carefully where he’d found it, and nodded. “I see. You keep it to remember your past, then? That’s neat. I ... I don’t have anything like that. I mean, I used to have a lot of stuff at the lair, but when ... when I left town last year, I didn’t have time to take anything with me.”
“Yeah,” said Xander, picking up his controller again, “because you were too busy running away in fear.”
Andrew looked hurt. “That’s not fair,” he pouted – Oz closed his eyes against the pout, because he was afraid the adorableness of it would overwhelm him – “We had to leave. Willow was going to kill us. It was a strategic withdrawl, really, that’s what it was...”
“Hey,” said Oz, quietly, “I didn’t take most of this with me when I left.” Much of it had been acquired on the road, actually. The trank gun, a poster of Jimi Hendrix, and - of course - his guitar were actually the only three things he still had, in their original forms, from his high school days. The poster had been given to him by Devon and hung in the van, so naturally it had come with him. And he’d not planned on taking the gun with him, either. Hell, he’d forgotten all about it until after he’d left the second time. He’d been driving out of town when he saw Xander on the side of the road. He’d pulled over, and the two of them had looked at each other in silence for a moment. Then Xander had nodded and handed him the trank gun. He’d said “take care of yourself, Oz” and walked away. Oz had kept it, of course – and had been surprised at how much it had come to mean.
Andrew, quietly prowling once more, came across the stash of snack food, and paused long enough to pass Xander a bag of Doritos. He got a muffled grunt of thanks in return, but smiled as if it had been high praise. Finally, the guy came over to the much-decorated guitar case. Running a finger over one of the quotations on the outside - in sparkling gold paint - he read aloud, “All that is gold does not glitter/Not all who wander are lost.” He paused and then said, “that’s nice. Where’s it from?”
Oz stared at him in surprise for a moment. Then he said, “It’s from The Lord of the Rings.” Xander twisted around to look at Andrew on hearing that. On the screen, his car ran off of a bridge and filled with water, but he didn’t notice.
Andrew looked puzzled, and said, “which movie? ‘Cause I don’t remember it, and I’ve seen the first one dozens of times now... the second not so much, ‘cause it isn’t out on video yet...”
“The book. Not the movie.” Oz understood, now, why Andrew didn’t get the reference – but he was honestly surprised that Andrew hadn’t read the books. “It’s from a poem about Aragorn.”
“Ooh, Strider.” Andrew looked a little dreamy at the thought, and Oz smiled slightly. “I never read the book. I hear it’s good, of course... I’ve just never had the time.”
Oz nodded sagely, leaning off the couch to grab his copy out from under the coffee table. It was a heavy, hardcover multi-volume edition, and he’d sometimes been tempted to sell it and not have the bother of toting it around. But it was also one of his favourite books, so he’d always made the effort. Now he tossed it to Andrew, who caught it awkwardly. “Borrow mine,” he suggested.
Xander looked from Oz to Andrew, silently, then suddenly laughed. As they both turned to glare at him, he laughed again, louder. Then raised both hands in surrender, and said, “Sorry. It was just... a flash of memory. That’s all.” He paused for a moment, then said, “Didn’t know you still had that old book, Oz.” And Xander grinned, broadly, then informed Andrew, “Oz practically forced me to read the book in high school. As I recall, he claimed I couldn’t really appreciate any fantasy work, book or film, unless I’d read it.” Now his smile was sincere, and Oz found himself surprised at how expressive Xander’s face actually was, as Xander told Andrew, “He was right. You’ll love the book.” Then Xander turned back to the game, saw his dead character, and cursed it heavily.
Oz smiled at Andrew, who smiled back hesitantly. Andrew looked at the book in his hands, and said, “Well, thanks, Oz. I’ll take good care of it.” Oz nodded, as though it had never occurred to him that Andrew might not. Andrew came over to the couch, looking at the space between Xander and Oz, then elected to sit on the ground between the two of them, not on the couch with them. Oz sighed, mentally, but didn’t say anything. He was content to just smile at Andrew’s head as the boy opened the book to the first page and began to read. The CD cycled to the next song, and a comfortable sort of silence settled over them all.