Sprained Ankles And Broken Pride


Oz looked up at the scene in front of him, and the other boy croaking, "We're here to save you." Xander groaned lightly as he turned in his spot on the floor.


After the confusion was replaced with the need to help, Cordelia started kicking the pierced demon that was still holding Buffy propped up, trying to get him off the pointed wooden pole without touching it with her hands. Xander watched as Oz stood up quickly, and walked towards Willow. Giles was already rushing to untie the rope that held her to her stave.

Oz turned his head when he heard Xander stifle another moan. The other boy lifted his hand up to his face, pulling it back to see a small amount of blood on his finger tips. Oz turned to see Willow collapsing in to Giles' arms as she was lifted down off the stake.

Knowing his girlfriend was being taken care of, Oz sighed, and moved back to Xander. He reached his hand out to help the other man up from the floor. Xander looked at him gratefully, and took the hand. Once up, Xander leaned on the table to the left of them.

"You okay?" Oz asked, leaning in to see the damage.

Xander nodded. "Yeah, my nose kinda hurts, but it's not broken. Just bleeding."

Oz pulled some tissues out of his pocket, and handed them to Xander. Xander smiled, holding the tissues to his nose, and uttered a stuffy sounding thanks.

"No problem." Oz turned to see that Buffy was finally down off her stake, and was right next to Willow, who was still leaning against Giles. He used his heightened senses to hear him speak in her ear quietly but worriedly rushed, "Are you okay, dear girl?"

Willow nodded gently. "Could we go back to the library? I think I might have some burns," she said with a slightly fussed tone to her voice. Giles led Willow out the door, and sighed out, "Thanks Giles."

Buffy followed quickly after, calling back, "Oz, you gonna come with, or follow in the van? Willow said she wants you there."

Oz thought mildly, 'When did she say that? Oh, yeah, she didn't.' He ran his fingers through his hair, nodding slightly. He made sure his voice was assertive enough to carry as he called out, "I'll, um, follow in the van." But his brow furrowed as he looked at Xander, faintly wondering why Buffy hadn't asked him to go. He thought tiredly, 'It seems like everyone is trying, for my sake I guess, to keep Willow and Xander as far apart as possible. Eh...that's my job, if I'm up to it.'

Oz turned to Xander, asking softly, "Do you want a ride home, or to the library?"

"Since you're offering, and it's on the way and all, home would be...nice," Xander hissed out the last word as he adjusted his stance, leaning off the table for the first time since he'd stood up.

They left together, and Oz sighed contentedly as the cool night air hit his face. Oz watched Xander somewhat closely, noticing that his right leg had a slight limp to it. "Sprain your ankle?"

"Course not." Xander kept trying to walk straightly. Oz smirked, and placed his arm on Xander's back to steady him, and said in an ironic-Ozly tone, "Don't worry Xander, pride isn't going ta get you anywhere with me."

Oz opened the passenger side door, and gave Xander a small hoist up. He crossed quickly, got in on his side, and started the van, pulling off.

"What do you mean?" Xander asked, shaking plaster dust out of his collar.

Oz turned a corner, and asked simply, "What do you mean, what do I mean?"

"About pride not getting me anywhere with you."

"Oh, I mean exactly what I said. I know that you're trying to get in my good graces Xander, and I know you're sorry." Oz turned to him, and continued blankly, "But the only way I'm gonna accept that is if you say it."

Xander nodded. "Oh."

They sat there for a few minutes in silence, and Xander felt an odd sense of foreboding as they turned on to his street. For some reason he felt this was his only chance, so he swallowed the lump in his throat, and tumultuously uttered, "I am."

Oz let it stay until he stopped in front of Xander's house. He turned to the other man, "You're what?" He looked Xander straight in the eye. No look of persecution, not even the steely gaze Xander had perceived his looks to be. Just calm. It was infuriating, and settling at the same time. "I'm sorry for...for pawing on your girlfriend. For trying to pretend I hadn't, and for stealing a pencil out of your desk two months ago."

"The one with the purple eraser?"

"Girlfriend or pencil?" Xander's eyes went somewhat wide.

Oz just looked at him, shaking his head. He stopped shaking his head. "Accepted."

"Oh, good, 'cause you're pretty scary for a midget."

Oz laughed, "Now you insult me. You're pretty confident now for a Judas."

"Intelligence isn't gonna get you anywhere with me."

"I'm not trying to get in your good graces." Oz frowned, "You need help in to your house?"

"No, I'm good. I'm just going to go inside and play with my Voodoo doll. Oz is sort of an outdated name, I'm gonna have to go through the rituals of changing it."

Oz nodded, smiling widely, "I suggest 'Devon'. You can stick a straight-pin into his ego. Anywhere else...and he might enjoy it too much."

Xander smiled, and opened the door to Oz's van. He jumped down off the seat, and before Oz knew it, he couldn't see Xander in his sights anymore. Oz leaned over the seat to see Xander had collapsed to the ground, "Misjudge your dismount?"

"Just a bit. Landed on the wrong ankle." Xander grunted, "Since pride isn't something I have to worry about around you..." Xander choked out, his voice wavering, ""

Oz nodded, and got out of the van, crossing over to Xander's side. He helped Xander up for the second time that day, and closed the passenger side door. He almost had to physically force Xander to lean on him as they walked up the cracked sidewalk to Xander's door. He turned the knob. "It's locked."

Xander nodded, "Parents must be gone." He handed Oz the keys, and Oz quickly had it opened. He led Xander through the small area of living room there was before setting him at the couch.

"Take your shoes off," Oz said as he wandered off to Xander's kitchen.

"What are you doing?"

"Making us a four-course meal," Oz called back sarcastically.

Xander heard Oz open and close a few of his cupboards, and the freezer. He heard the clanking of ice.

Oz came out a minute later with a small ice pack. He handed it to Xander, got the ottoman and a cushion, and put them up next to Xander. "Put your foot on the cushion, and hold the ice pack to it."

"Ice is cold," was all Xander could say, slightly pouting.

"Well, if we're still stating the obvious, pain is bad."

"Fine." Xander leaned forward, putting the icepack on his foot.

"Can I phone the library?"

"If it's still in. A phone in working order isn't exactly a priority here. More of a rare luxury." Xander sounded somewhat bitter.

Oz's brow furrowed, and he sat down next to Xander, "Besides having sprained your ankle, are you okay?"

"Well, my pride has crumbled quite a bit."

"Well, just think of pride as cement. If you're covered in it, you're more like a statue, but once it chips you get to see the real piece of art."

"That's kinda insightful in a fortune cookie way." Xander grinned, "But, if I'm the art, then I'm a Picasso."

"Or a Garfunkle."

"I'm gonna pretend I got that." Xander laughed forcefully.

"Xander, it took me a whole summer to really get you." Oz looked him straight in the eye. Xander usually didn't like eye contact when he was talking with someone, usually meant even more scorn, but with Oz it seemed necessary. You really needed to look closely at him to get what he was saying, because it sure as hell wouldn't ring out in his voice. Oz began again, "And I realized something about you."

Xander looked at Oz expectantly, "You...uh, realized I'm a real snappy dresser?"

Oz gave Xander a smile that was his equivalent of laughing, "No, I realized that you may screw up a lot, but you pretty much always learn from it."

Xander sighed out, "I certainly never learn when it comes to woman."

"I wouldn't say that. I mean, between you and Willow, I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about your past with women," Oz began. "She-mantis. Have you tried to hook up with any teachers, or even older woman since then?"

Xander shook his head, and Oz went on, "Buffy. I think you've pretty much learned that Slayers are good for lookin' at, but you're not gonna get any touch."

Xander laughed, "It's possible. Have you even met Faith?"

Oz grinned, giving a small half-nod, "Moving on...Inca Mummy Girl. Have you dated any Incan princesses since then?"

Xander shook his head, "Not that I know. But I am dating a princess..."

"I was just getting Cordelia. Although you didn't officially stop dating her by this time, you knew she wasn't for you, so you moved on to her exact opposite. Just happened to be my girlfriend you moved on to."

Xander looked down at the mention of his indiscretion. He hadn't heard Oz say it directly. "I'm sorry again. See, I told you I never learn anything."

"That's the point though, Xander. You do. You learn what's not right for you, and you learn from your mistakes. That's why I wanted to tell you that...I, uh, I never thought you'd do it again. And I still don't."

"Oh." Was all Xander could say. "I'm glad you have more confidence in me than I have in myself."

Oz placed his hand on Xander's arm slightly and stated simply, "Shouldn't somebody?"

"I don't know, maybe they shouldn't." Xander looked away, and also shrunk away from Oz's touch slightly, but Oz reached out and brushed Xander's hair away from his face.

"You know, I was going for a point inside my head. Maybe I just wanted to make this point more than the point needed to be made. I wanted to...maybe it's time you learned something new from your past failures with women."

Xander flinched, and looked at Oz with a confused look of dread on his face.

Oz, reacting to the flinch he felt under the hand that had lingered by Xander's face, trailed his hand down Xander's cheek, slowly...stroking. He said steadily, "I'd like to think we were pretty good friends over the summer, Xander. I don't give up on friends very easily." His thumb moved slowly over the dip between Xander's mouth and nose. "I know what it's like to be without them. You've had Willow all your life, and might take that for granted."

Xander stayed still, halted from speech or movement from what he considered an intimate touch from Oz. Okay, Oz was playing blind man and he was the Braille...he could deal with that....of course, he felt no urge to do anything but deal. Maybe lean slightly....

Oz stood, his hand still lingering near Xander's lips. He sighed out, and leaned down. Xander tensed, shocked as he felt Oz's lips brush over his softly, for just a second. His whole body trembled slightly, and he breathed out quietly as Oz stepped back, retreating.

Oz's hand rested on the doorknob and shrugged, saying ,"I think it's time for you to know who you are, Xander," Oz paused, "and what you are." He opened the door, giving Xander one last meaningful look.

"Ahhh, uhhh....Ozzz," Xander creaked out as Oz stepped out the door.

"See you tomorrow, man," Oz said, nodded his good-bye, and left. Only, the door stayed open.