Xander looked around him critically, eyeing the corner of the basement
he'd procured as his. It was cleaner than his parents house, and he was
allowed to use the upstairs bathroom, but it was still a basement. Still,
they weren't charging him half the rent he'd paid at home, and the worst
he'd ever seen Devon do when he was drunk was shoot spray cheese up his
nose. Oz was upstairs, comfortably near in a way that no one had ever
really been for him before. There had been more than that first kiss, but
not much. Invariably Oz would have band practice or class, or he would
have to head off to perform whatever menial task he'd managed to get paid
for that week.
The basement in the band's house wasn't much, but it was undeniably his.
There was a place for his limited wardrobe, a blanket that separated his
bed from the rest of the laundry room and the illusion of privacy created
by NOT living below his parents. Anya had sniffed the air and pronounced
it as dank as his last dwelling, but that hadn't stopped her from helping
him christen his new digs.
Well, at least starting to. The slow pound of feet upstairs had jarred
him out of his hormonal fog, and the fight had been fairly spectacular
overall. She'd ended up inferring that he was little more than a
substitute for a real man, and he'd told her she should go find one, after
which she'd thrown a shoe at his head and left to do it. Buffy reported
that Anya was making the frat rounds now, honing in on some friend of
someone she had a crush on. Xander couldn't help feeling a little saddened
by the whole affair, but the less emotional side of him wondered if it was
more for the loss of the sex than the loss of Anya. He really had liked
her, but something about the threat of vengeance if he left his towel on
the floor of the bathroom didn't settle well into his long-term plans.
So he was essentially alone, living in a house with four other guys and
occasionally making out with one of them. Life was odd like that.
"Hey. No brooding allowed unless you're a 200 year old vampire."
Xander grinned as Oz tossed himself sedately down on the bed. It was an
Oz-thing, the ability to make the most outrageous of gestures seem
understated, and one that he'd learned to appreciate. A little time had
brought them a few things; when Xander casually slid his hand closer, Oz
just as casually slipped his into it. He wrinkled his nose, looking at the
other boy and shaking his head.
"I don't have the forehead to brood well. Just doesn't slope enough.
Oz smirked, a gentle twist of his lips that Xander found fascinating.
"I was having a bowl of Cheerios, and I thought to myself "Oz, you need to
kidnap Xander. He's downstairs brooding." So here I am. And now I'm
A natural sense of skepticism made Xander's eyebrows shoot up -- that and
the way Oz's hand was sliding up his leg. His eyes traveled from the hem
of his shorts to the boy sitting across from him and then back, leaving him
to regard the glossy blue fingernails that were softly scritching along his
"Um. Wow. What was in those Cheerios, Oz?" He must have sounded as
off-key as he thought, because the fingernails drifted lower, and he became
more used to the distinctly odd sensation of calloused fingertips massaging
Oz didn't answer, shrugging instead and using the hand linked with
Xander's to pull him to his feet.
"Come on. We're gonna go sneak into a movie, because I'm cheap and you're
broke. And then we're going to mall, and we're going to accessorize you.
I'm thinking handcuffs and fur. After that...well, I have a van that gets
really awful gas mileage. After that we'll probably have to come home, but
that's at least a few hours when you're not down hear listening to Mike's
boxers spin in the dryer."
Xander, larger and therefore able to resist at least slightly, was forced
to tug a little to keep his footing as he stared in a kind of astounded
"Alright. Who are you, and what have you done with Oz? Short, like
you...doesn't talk. As far as I know, only wears fur because he has to.
Ditto with the handcuffs, though I sometimes wonder if he just likes
them. Doesn't...bounce. I don't wander off with pod people y'know!"
Oz didn't even have the grace to look properly amused by it all. He just
kept tugging, and Xander wasn't that much stronger. Eventually he gave
in, heading towards the stairs and climbing them quickly just to keep up.
"I've joined the FBI. Future Brooder Interventionists. That, and I get
hyper when I've had three cups of sugar in one bowl of cereal, and when I'm
nervous, which I am, but which I will deny to keep my cool guy image intact."
Xander sniggered into his free hand, waving at the obliviously cheerful
Mike, who had gotten buzzed the night before and hadn't bothered to sleep
it off. He was about to offer up the suggestion that the toaster should be
unplugged before anyone stuck a fork into it, but he was yanked out the
door before it could get much beyond "um."
"You're laughing at me," Oz said, sounding not at all hurt.
"It was a run-on sentence. Tell me that the irony of that isn't lost on
you, or I'll lose all faith in the world."
Oz smirked over his shoulder, fishing in the pocket of his jeans for his
"So what do you have to be nervous about? I'm really curious, since I'm
going to be accessorized and such...I think you owe me at least that answer."
Xander climbed in, ignoring the squeaking of the seat and the unhappy
wrench of metal when he slammed the door shut behind him. He didn't think
he'd ever seen Oz nervous in the entire time he'd known him, except a few
times with Will. Ah.
"Oh. Wow. Um."
"Poor sentence structure Xan."
"I only passed English because I cheated off Willow. Don't pester me
about grammar, Gruntboy." It was half-hearted, a not so swift recovery as
he scrambled for something in his memory that would help him deal with this
The van fired up while he was thinking, backing out past Devon's Geo and
the trash that hadn't been picked up in three weeks. They were heading
towards the freeway, Xander still silent and Oz flipping through tapes and
radio stations with the skill of a master, and nevermind that half the time
he was driving in the median.
"So is this a date?" Xander surprised himself, face squinching up as he
muttered. "Right...ten minutes of thought, and that's the best ice breaker
I can come up with. Score another for my team!"
"Rah-rah. It could be. Want it to be?"
The rattle of the window rolling down was second only to the roar of the
cars around them and the steady stream of unhappy self-doubt in Xander's
head. He knew it wasn't a trick, but that didn't mean he trusted himself
not to fuck things up the way he always had before. He could be as sure of
Oz as he was that the sun would dust a vampire, but that didn't mean he
would ever get anything right. When in doubt...
"Are you buying me popcorn?"
"That would do something to negate the effectiveness of sneaking into the
theatre, but sure."
"Right. And the handcuffs and fur..."
"Were a joke."
Xander was silent, the radio blaring out of his speaker cutting out
everytime they hit a bump. When you're around me, I'm somebody else. He
didn't recognize the song, but he could sympathize.
His hand crept to the frayed hem of Oz's cutoffs, resting there as he
looked out the window.
"I was thinking maybe something in leather anyway."
Oz blinked, glancing sideways, and Xander grinned at him cheekily before
returning to his humming. Nothing like rocking the boat a little.