Three Little Words

He was dimly aware of sounds echoing. Voices, maybe, or maybe not. Then, behind the echoing, and a bit to the side, there was pain. Pain there, but also in his joints and his sinuses and his chest all at once. His head hurt in a dull, throbbing way. He wasn't sure if the pain was what was causing the echoing, or if things were echoing anyway.

Instinct, mostly, prompted him to shake his head, so that the different sensations would push the pain away for a bit. Instead it brought bile to the back of his throat. Swallowing it back down Oz tried to open his eyes, but screwed them up again as the dazzling light of the afternoon sun bounced off his retinas. Cursing under his breath, and clutching his head, Oz hauled himself into a sitting position and tried to make sense of the echoing sounds. It seemed to fade -- the echoing, not the pain -- and although his eyes stayed resolutely shut, he could discern arguing between two definitely familiar voices.

Squinting in the light, Oz carefully opened his eyes again. He lifted a hand to shade his face and looked up to see Willow and Xander in the midst of a full-blown battle. Verbally speaking.

". . .and do you have any idea how unlucky it is to see me the day before the wedding? I mean, Goddess knows, it's as well I'm not in the dress or then. . ."

Judging from what they were arguing about he'd been out for a good few minutes, or possibly Willow's priorities were just all wrong.

"Uh. . . guys?" he said, in a pained voice.

"Oz!" Willow whirled around from her venting at Xander, and rushed towards her former boyfriend. "Are you OK?"

"Fine... I think." The werewolf pulled himself up onto the bench he'd cracked his head off moments before and looked at Xander. The other man was standing a little way off, fists still clenched at his sides in rage. He looked back murderously at Oz.

Willow, now looming over Oz (insofar as Willow could loom), started off again at her fiancˇ, "Xander, look at him. He's probably concussed. And -- and damaged in a horrible and possibly fatal way."

"Will, I'm OK. Really." He took his hands from his head and it was only when the odour of his own blood registered on his lupine senses that he realised he was actually bleeding. He looked at his hands and the sticky, congealed liquid on the palms and between the fingers.

"No, you're not. You should go to a hospital. And -- and get an X-ray. Or a CAT scan. Or something."

"He's fine," snapped Xander from behind Willow, giving Oz another angry glare.

"Xander, shut up," Willow snarled, prompting a raised eyebrow from Oz.

"Will, really. . ." the smaller man said in reassuring tones.

"You be quiet too. We're taking you to the hospital and," she paused to check her watch, and squeaked when she saw the position of Mickey Mouse's hands. "Oh, no. I told Mom I'd be back home now. . . but I can't just leave you, Oz. But. . . uh. . . we're sorting out some catering and. . ." Willow floundered for a moment, then turned to her fiancˇ. "Xander, you'll have to take him."

"Me?!" Xander's voice had risen an octave.

"Yes, you!"

"No way!"

"Doesn't Xander have stuff to organise also?" Oz asked.

Willow regarded Oz with a faintly amused look. "You think we let him near any preparations? He hasn't changed that much."


"So, no, he doesn't. And," she turned at this to Xander and gave him a hard stare, "I'm not hearing any arguments."

Xander opened his mouth, then shut it again, glaring at his fiancˇe.

"Oz, I'm really sorry, I should take you. But, I've got to go be organise girl. Will you be OK?"

He nodded, and Willow gave him a nervous smile.

"Will!" growled Xander from behind the witch.

"I told you, no arguments. I'm not going to deal with your testosterone overload right now. Take Oz to the hospital. And don't hit him again." Sighing, she gave Xander a quick peck on the cheek, then turned to give another concerned glance in Oz's direction. "Phone me, let me know you're OK. And come to the wedding. And the reception. Please?"

Oz nodded again to Willow's grin, and, satisfied, she hurried off towards the park gates. The two men watched her go in silence.

When she disappeared from sight Xander turned to Oz, fire in his eyes, and barked, "Have you come back to ruin this? Tell her?"

"Xander. . ." Oz sighed in exasperation. "I'm not here to. . ."

"Then why turn up in Sunnydale the day before I'm due to marry Willow? You really going to tell me it's to watch your ex-girlfriend and your ex. . ." Xander fumbled or a second, ". . .uh, ex-me to do the holy matrimony bit? You'll be waiting when the church guy asks you to 'speak now or forever hold your peace' and then tell them all you slept with me!"

"They do that in Jewish weddings?" Oz asked.

Xander reflected for a moment. "I'm actually not sure. But that's not the point! Answer the question!"

Avoiding Xander's gaze, Oz said quietly, "I haven't come back here for some big scene, Xand. Just. . ."

"Just what?!" Xander was standing right next to the bench now, looking down at Oz.

"I don't know. To finish things."

"Finish what? My relationship with Willow? Your relationship with Willow? Or," Xander laughed, though there was no humour, "your twisted idea of whatever it is you think we had?"

Oz closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them again, he slowly got to his feet and began to walk away from Xander.

"Oh, great. Walk away from this, Oz. That's real mature."

Oz sighed, then stopped and turned to Xander, who was still at the bench. "What's the point? Would you listen to anything I said? Or have you already made up your mind I'm simply here to make things difficult for you?"

Xander pouted. "I'm not the one in the wrong here, Dogboy."

"I'm not trying to pretend I'm blameless, Xander. Unlike you."

"I wasn't the one dating Willow."

"No, you weren't. And believe me, I regret that what I did hurt Willow. Do you?"

"Of course I do! It was a horrible, horrible mistake, and. . ."

"And what?"

"You're going to use it against me. Make me hurt for rejecting you. Jeez, Oz, I thought your ego wasn't quite that huge."

Oz raised both eyebrows. "Please tell me you're not that self-centred."

"Look, I'm not the one on trial here. You are. You're the one who hurt Willow six years ago." At this, Xander moved towards Oz again.

"Trial?! I'm guilty, Xander, I know that. I never wanted to hurt Willow. But I did. And I honestly do regret it. But I am not here to rub Willow's nose in it." Oz stood his ground as Xander approached.

"Then why are you here, I ask again." They were face to face now.

"Maybe to tell her. Maybe not. To make sure she really is happy. Even to make sure you are."

Xander turned away slightly. "Well, I am, and so is she. And telling Willow is not going to make her happier."

"But doesn't she have the right to know? I fell in love with you, Xander. And you. . . felt something for me." Oz placed a hand on Xander's shoulder.

"No! And will you stop that!" Xander shrugged the hand off. "We. . . I dunno, played around, for a couple of weeks. It meant nothing, not to me."

Oz's jaw set. "I don't believe that."

"Not my problem."

The two men stared at each other for a moment, then Xander's features relaxed, and he spoke softly for the first time that afternoon.

"Oz, I'm sorry if I led you on. That wasn't fair. But. . ." He looked away. "C'mon, I promised Will I'd take you to the hospital." He made to move, then turned to look at Oz, who still stood watching him. Xander tilted his head. "You coming?"

Oz shrugged, and started to walk.

Neither man spoke for a while, as they left the park for the streets of Sunnydale. It was now late afternoon, and although the sun was still high, the shadows were longer, and the air cooler. As they walked, Xander would open his mouth from time to time, but would shut it again, whatever he was going to say dying in his throat. Against expectation, it was Oz who finally broke the silence.

"What you did, what you said, it hurt, Xander."

Xander said nothing in response, then whispered, "When?"

"In the motel six years ago. And now."

"I was only telling the truth. You have to be cruel to be kind."

"Bullshit, Xander. Don't give me empty clichˇs."

Xander sounded a little hurt. "What did you want me to say? Lie? Tell you that I loved you?"

Oz simply looked at the taller man, a raised eyebrow his answer to the question.

"Oz, I. . . if this were different, if. . . I dunno. But I do know you couldn't have loved me -- not really -- we only did what we did for a few weeks."

Oz was silent for a moment.

"It was enough."

"It wasn't for me, Oz."


"I. . . I always liked you, Oz. You were good to Willow. . . until me. I didn't -- I don't mean to be horrible to you, but I'm scared."

"I know."

"You do?"

"Xander, I was in Angel's bathroom when you paid him a visit this morning. I heard what you said."

"What the hell were you doing there?"

"Angel put me up for the night. He had the space."

"Oz. . . there was only one bed." Xander said, then laughed, "please tell me you're not attempting to sleep with all the Scoobs! Should I warn Buffy?"

Oz said nothing.

"Yeah, you and Angel, ha ha."

Still silence.

"Oz?" Xander stopped walking and grabbed Oz's arm, spinning the smaller man around to face him. "Tell me I'm the only male Scoobie you've seduced."

"I didn't seduce him."

Xander released his grip. "Oh, well, that's OK then." There was a pause. Oz was sure he could hear the cogs turning. "Wait. Did he seduce you?"

"Not exactly."

"Then what, exactly?"

"Seduction occurred. But it was a mutual thing."

"You slept with Angel?!" Xander shouted, causing some passers-by to stare.

Oz shrugged.

"What? Why? Where did that come from?"

Oz wished he knew himself. "I dunno."

"Bu... but, Angel. Buffy. Angel and Buffy."

"Xander. Cordelia. Xander and Cordelia. Xander and Oz."

"That's besides the point. I mean, I know Spike used to call Angel a big poof, but I thought he was just being insulting."

"I'm sure that was his objective as well."

There was a pause. Xander appeared to be working up to something.

"Was he any good?"

Oh. "Xander. . ."

"Was he better than me?"

Oz glared at the other man. Xander tutted. They started to walk again.

"Willow won't tell me who was better either. Between you and me, I mean. Willow hasn't slept with Angel. I don't think. I hope. Stopping now."

Oz saw his chance. "Which, sorta, brings us back to the original conversation. Willow."

"Oz. . ."

"Are you going to tell her?"

The taller man sighed irritably. "I will tell her, sometime. But not now, not with the wedding tomorrow. Promise me you won't."

"You will tell her?"

"Yes, one day."


"Soon. Oz, please. If you do feel. . . stuff for me, let me have my happiness too. Let Willow have her big day."

Oz paused, and closed his eyes again. He sighed, then opened them again.

"OK, OK. Look, the bleeding's stopped. You don't need to take me to the hospital."

"You sure?" Xander asked, one phrase with two questions.

Oz nodded, answering both.

"Oz, uh, look, come to the bachelor party. Bring your date. I promise not to shout at you, or punch you."

"How can I refuse?"

Xander allowed himself a smile. "You and Angel? You're a cheap tramp, Daniel Osbourne."

Oz's mouth twitched.

"That wasn't a smile?"

"About as close as I get."

Xander grinned. "OK, well, I need to head over to the G-man's. He'll be wondering what's happened to me."

Oz nodded, then looked up at the younger man. "Look, Xander, don't tell anyone about me and Angel -- I don't know if he wants people to know or not."

Xander reflected for a second. "My silence in exchange for yours. You've got a deal."

Oz nodded, and then there was an awkward silence, as both men looked at each other, unsure how to end things.

Glancing at his watch, Xander broke the deadlock. He gave a brief smile to Oz, and a valiantly chipper, "Right, then. I'll see you around." A wave then a hurried walk, away towards Giles'. Oz watched him go, and noticed that the daylight was beginning to fade, as most of the streets were darkened by shadows. Shaking his head in mock despair, he turned towards his temporary home.

He was halfway back to the hotel when a red car suddenly cut across the street, narrowly avoiding cars travelling in the other direction, who issued indignant blasts from their horns in response. It screeched to a halt next to him, and the window slid open.

"Oz! Hey!" called Cordelia from the driver's seat.


Cordelia and Oz settled into the booth at the coffee shop, him with a mocha, her with a non-fat latte. He took a moment to study her. He hadn't seen Cordelia since just after the battle with the Mayor. She'd left to find fame and fortune in LA, and that was the last he had seen her before she nearly caused a pile-up ten minutes earlier.

She was still beautiful, but her features were thinner, almost gaunt. Her long black hair still flowed down her back, and her fashion sense appeared to be as acute as ever, a chic blue dress forming today's outfit. Her eyes had softened around the edges, though; she seemed to have lost some of her old bitchiness.

"Have you seen Willow? That girl has sooo let herself slip. And that's not easy when you weren't that high up in the first place."

OK, maybe not.

"Cordelia, are you forgetting that I dated Willow for over a year?"

"Yuh, and then she cheated on you with my boyfriend."

"True, but I still loved her. And thought she was beautiful."

There was a brief, heavily pregnant pause before Cordelia decided to change the subject.

"So how are you?!" she enthused, having already given Oz a bear hug when she met him on the street, then insisting he go with her in the rental car ("I still can't afford my own," she had said ruefully) to drive to the nearest cafˇ. They'd already exchanged pleasantries then, but evidently she felt the need to do so again.

"Still good."

"Still talkative," she said, with a smirk.

"How you get the chance to say anything I'll never know."

She pursed her lips. "Very funny. So, are you back from the wedding? Oh, of course you are; why else would you come back," she paused and gave a disparaging look out of the window, "here?"

"Yeah, the wedding. You also?"

"Yeah. God, seeing them together twists a knife in my gut, and I really don't want them to be happy, but I'm over my bitterness. Honestly. And, hey, who am I to refuse free champagne?"

Oz simply looked at Cordelia in reply.

"And, OK, Angel made me go."

"Angel? You're here with him?"

She laughed at that. "Yes, but, eww, no. I'm here with him, but not with him. Apart from the fact that that would just be, well, eww, he's still all broody about Buffy. No-one has been in his leather pants since. Which is no bad thing, considering."

Oz smiled at that. "Do you and Angel still see each other?" he asked. Angel had mentioned that he now lived in LA last night, but he hadn't said anything about Cordelia.

"Well, duh! We work together. Y'know, Angel Investigations?"

Oz remained expressionless.

"You really are out of the loop, aren't you?"

Cordy proceeded to explain in great length about the detective agency to Oz, about Wesley and Gunn, and all the weirdness of the past six years since she'd left Sunnydale.

At the end, Oz gave Cordelia an admiring look. "Living with a poltergeist. I like that."

"Dennis is cool. Although he's really addicted to Sally Jesse Raphael."

"The curse of daytime TV, huh. Buffy should do something about that."

Cordelia narrowed her eyes, taking some slight Oz wasn't aware of. "You watch Sally too?" he asked, the possibility that she was a fan too crossing his mind.

"When I have the time!" she breathed indignantly.

"Why, what else have you been doing?"

Cordy looked at him. "What do you mean what else have I been doing? They have TV sets in Canada, don't they?"

"Not in my house"

She snorted. "Even Wesley has a television."

He shrugged. "I couldn't afford one when I first got up there -- I had to sell my van just to pay the deposit on my apartment, and then when I could I figured I didn't need one."

She pouted. "You don't have cable?! I am one of the stars of the acclaimed daytime drama serial 'Heart's Desire'!"

"Macauley barely has electricity, Cordelia, never mind cable television."

She wrinkled her nose in disgust. "God, why'd you move to Amish country?"

"I like churning butter," he deadpanned. Cordelia just glared. "So you're a soap star?"

"'Heart's Desire' is not a soap," she snapped.

Oz just smiled.

Cordelia sighed and her bravado deflated. "Well, I was. It got cancelled last month. Y'think I'd be here otherwise?"

She pulled a packet of Lucky Strikes from her bag, removed a cigarette and lit it with a gold lighter. Taking a long draw, she then pulled it from her lips and looked at Oz.

"So that's my life story. What about you? Why did you go? Where did you go?" she leaned into him, cigarette smoke spiralling upwards, "Did I hear right that you cheated on Willow?"

Quietly, he replied, "Yeah."

Cordy sat back with a grin on her face. "Cool. Y'know, that would have been the only reason I would have taken him back. To cheat on him and humiliate that bastard like he did me."

"I didn't do it to humiliate Willow."

"No, I guess you wouldn't. But it did have that happy side effect. So who was it?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Yes it does! I need to know!"

"Cordelia. . ."

She blew some smoke out. "Oh, Oz, c'mon. Much as I hate to admit it, I do miss all of the gossip."

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"What? I've spent eight years up to my Maybelline mascara in demons, vampires and lawyers. Nothing can shock me."

"Cordy... if I tell you, you have to promise not to say anything." Great, he thought, I'm about to tell someone else.

She placed a manicured hand to her chest and looked sincerely into Oz's eyes. "Oz, I am a soul of discretion." Aren't they always?

Taking a deep breath, he said, "The summer you left for LA. . . Xander and I went on a road trip."


"And. . . we bonded."


"Cordelia, we bonded."

"Well, that's great, I'm glad you got over him stealing Willow. Now, moving onto your little vixen, or whatever it is they call lady wolves. . ."


"Whatever. Although that is appropriate. But anyway, move onto her. Who is she?"


Cordelia opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again. She opened it once more, then thoughtfully took a drag on the cigarette. Finally, then the name hit home and her eyes widened, and she gaped like a goldfish with lipstick. The cigarette was thrust back into her mouth, and she inhaled deeply, the tip glowing red-hot as the oxygen rushed through the tobacco.

Oz waited patiently for her verbal reaction.

Through a cloud of blue smoke she raged, "Xander! What were you thinking?"

"I'm not altogether sure."

"But Xander?! I mean, what strange power does that boy have over us? First me, then Willow, then Faith and now you? He's more of a slut than I ever was."

"Not now."


"Xander and I are not of the now. We are of the then, and Willow is of the now."

After another drag, she growled, "Don't get technical on me. You know what I mean." Cordy's annoyed look changed to one of shocked confusion. "What is it with him, though? He isn't that attractive. We all know he isn't intelligent. He hasn't got money, or power, or any relatives with same. Why do women... and you! fall at his feet?"

"I don't know. . . it's not something I planned, Cor."

"You and me both. You didn't have any maggot demons after you at the time, did you?"

"Not that I remember."

"See? You don't even have that excuse."

"That's why I left Sunnydale. I'd just cheated on Willow with one of her best friends, and well, I loved him."

Cordelia gave him a sympathetic smile, "You too, huh?"

"So I couldn't stay loving both of them, and having to choose one."

Cordelia sighed. "I wish 'Heart's Desire' had had storylines like that. We wouldn't have gotten cancelled."

Oz smiled again, to a triumphant grin from Cordelia. "I got Oz to react. I'm good."

She puffed on her cigarette a last time, then stubbed it out in the ashtray and then looked pensively out of the window. "Hey, I can't believe Willow is going to marry the schmuck. I'd sooo never date a bisexual."

"Cordelia, you did."

She glared at Oz, and snapped "He wasn't then, that was your influence. Or possibly he recognised that, after me, no woman would be good enough."

Cordelia preened at this thought, whilst Oz shook his head and rolled his eyes.

"Anyway, you don't think Willow's at all wigged by this situation?"

"Cordy, she doesn't know."

"About you and Xander?!"


"But. . . but. . . you mean Xander hasn't told her?!"

Cordelia's shouting brought looks from the other patrons of the coffee bar.

"He's not going to before they get married. He says that he doesn't want to ruin things."

"Oh, hello? Like he didn't already do that by fucking you."

"It was six years ago."

"So? Oz, you were seeing Willow at the time. You were bad and he was very bad. He stole each of you from the other."

"We were hardly coerced."

"That's besides the point. It proves he can't be trusted."

"Cordelia, I don't think he has ever been unfaithful in the time he has been dating Will. That was my bad."

"Oz, he cheated on me, let's not lose sight of that."

"I remember."

Ignoring him, she continued, ". . .and here he is assisting you in cheating on her. Do you really think he doesn't have it in him to cheat again?"

"Will trusts him."

"Well I don't. Willow isn't exactly the best judge of character when it comes to boys. She told me about that internet demon."

Oz raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, you don't count, you chose her."

"It was her decision after I became a werewolf."

"Yeah, but you made the first move. And like Willow is going to get a better offer."

"Cordy. . ."

"I know, I know, no insulting Willow," she waved a hand at Oz's face, "whatever. To get back to my point, she only trusts Xander because he has never given her a reason not to. That she knows of. The only worse thing than Xander -- or anyone -- cheating on me would be not knowing about it."

"But he didn't cheat on Willow. I did."

"He was her best friend, supposedly. He might as well have done."

"I came down here wanting to make sure Willow would be happy. She seems -- no, she is. I don't want to make her unhappy again."

"Telling her now means she has the decision to end things now without divorce lawyers. Believe me, you don't want them. Mom had to use them after Daddy had his little encounter with the IRS people. It was not nice."

"He says he will tell her once things are settled. And I believe him."

"That's great, Oz. Once she's married to him, probably pregnant for good measure, Captain Courageous will tell her. Woo-hoo. C'mon! When you buy something from a store they don't add in the small print later, and say 'it's too late, you've bought it now'. Willow needs to have read all of the small print before she buys Xander. I don't want to hurt Xander, but if he isn't man enough to tell Willow you're going to have to."

Oz sat in silence for a moment, to a sigh from Cordelia, who lit another cigarette.

"I don't know if I can. I promised Xander I wouldn't."

"Yeah, and I'm sure you also told Willow you'd be faithful. Look, Oz, I don't really like Willow. I hold grudges, for a long time. I'm like an elephant." She paused. "Forget I said that. What I mean is that I'm not going to pretend I'm friends with Willow -- after all, she was the skanky ho who stole my pathetic boyfriend in the most humiliating episode of my high school career. And, yeah, I know, it's been six years. What can I say? I like to bitch. It's fun. But, she has saved my ass a few times and so I afford her some respect. If I were stupid enough to want to marry Xander I'd want to know exactly what I was doing."

Oz looked at her. "Please tell me you're not going to tell her."

A drag on the cigarette. "Don't make me have to decide."

They regarded each other for a moment, then Cordelia glanced at her silver watch. She grimaced and drained her coffee cup. "Look, I have to go; Mom's expecting me for dinner like twenty minutes ago. I'll see you tomorrow. . . maybe."

She leaned across and air-kissed Oz once, before getting up and heading for the door. "You need a ride anywhere?" she called back.

Oz shook his head. "See you."

She gave a nod, then left. Oz sat back in his seat and rubbed his eyes. So much for solving things. Actually, the conversation with Cordelia had given him more to think about than just Xander and Willow. Her earlier comment about Angel had got him wondering: if Angel had seen no one since Buffy, what the hell had happened the night before? Why had Angel chosen to sleep with him? He wasn't complaining, not at all, just. . . curious. He smiled to himself. Life had been so simple until that invite. Which was another mystery. Too many mysteries for one night, actually. Well, there was a way to solve one of them at least.

Oz got up from his seat, and left the cafˇ for the cool air of dusk.


The woman at the reception desk gave Oz a particularly dirty look as he walked towards the stairs that led up to Angel's hotel room. He wondered why, and it only then occurred to Oz that his hair was still matted with blood at the back. Cordy hadn't noticed, either because she wasn't observant, or she was getting jaded after so many years of fighting evil stuff that a bit of blood wasn't worth mentioning. However, this woman obviously thought he was some crazy junkie out to rob her guests.

"I'm staying in room 23," he said softly.

The woman glared for a moment, then tutted, before looking down at a magazine.

Oz climbed the stairs until he reached the first floor, he went along the corridor until he reached Angel's door, and lightly knocked on it. After the briefest of pauses it opened to reveal a concerned Angel looming in the doorway.

"Oz, are you OK? I was getting worried. . . I thought Xander might have killed you." The vampire's tone carried a little humour in amongst the relief. Then Angel noticed the red mark under Oz's eye. "Was that him?" His eyes darted up towards Oz's head and the blood in his hair, eliciting a startled, "Was that him?! Are you OK?"

Oz nodded in reply, before moving past Angel into the hotel room, sitting down wearily on the double bed.

"I'm fine," the werewolf said, as he looked up to see the concerned look on Angel's face. "Xander punched me, I hit my head on a bench, I was knocked out for a bit. No biggie."

"I never much liked Xander. I'm liking him less and less these days," Angel said, his brows knitted, an expression that was a cross between worry and anger.

"He was just worried I was going to tell Willow."

"Are you?" Angel said softly, as he sat next to Oz.

"I told him no. . . but then I met Cordy. And I told her I would."

"You met Cordelia? Oh. Did you mention us?" Angel attempted to keep a neutral tone, but his eyes had widened enough for Oz to know he was worried.

"Don't worry, our secret is safe. I figured that if you want her to know you'd be the one to tell her." Oz said, a smile on his lips as Angel audibly sighed with relief.

"Sorry. I just don't know how she'd react to her employer having a. . . thing with a guy."

"Angel - she's an actress. I somehow doubt that you'd be the first," Oz said with a trace of amusement in his voice.

He received a look from Angel. "Point taken. But still. Anyway, what are you going to do?"

"To be honest I don't know. What do you think I should do?"

"Not my decision, Oz. I'm not going to make it for you."


There was a pause, and both men were content to sit in silence. Then Angel leaned across to Oz to brush the smaller man's cheek with his lips.

Oz didn't respond except to say, "Angel, why?"

The vampire pulled away and regarded Oz with a look of confusion. "Why what?"

"Why did you... what happened last night?"

"When we. . . connected?"

The smaller man nodded.

"You want me to remind you of what happened?"

"No, I don't. I want you to tell me why you did it."

Angel looked even more confused. "Uh, is this a trick question?"

Oz shook his head. "No."

"I liked you. . . I thought you liked me. . ."

The sides of Oz's mouth tugged upwards for a moment, before his face returned to it's normal neutral expression.

"That's not what I meant."

"Then what?"

"Cordelia said that you haven't seen anyone since you and Buffy broke up. What made me different?"

Angel sat back on the bed, focusing on a patch of the wall. "I don't find it easy to be. . . intimate with people, Oz. Like Cordy said, since Buffy, there hasn't been anyone romantic in my life. But I get lonely, still. I think coming back to Sunnydale makes it worse, especially for a wedding." He paused, and grimacing slightly, said, "Worse, I have to see Riley again."

"Who's Riley?"

"Buffy's new man. I don't like him."

"Is this because he is with Buffy, or for other personality flaws?"

"I would say an equal mixture of both."

Oz smiled at that statement, and waited for Angel to continue.

"Anyway, when you told me what you told me about you and Xander, well, to be honest I saw you as someone I liked, but not too much, that seemed to be as lonely as I was. I was being selfish too, I suppose. I still have my. . . urges. I haven't had sex with anyone since. . . her. And that wasn't exactly the best night of my life."

"No." Oz tilted his head in thought. "Which is a valid point. Why didn't you. . . turn when we made love?"

"Because we didn't. Make love. We had sex, which was different." Angel paused as Oz stiffened at that statement. "Oz, don't get me wrong, I really do like you. But I don't love you. If I did, Angelus would be sitting here, not me."

"Another valid point," the smaller man said, although his voice was quieter still.

Angel wrapped an arm around Oz, and pulled him closer to his imposing frame. "We are going to have to be careful. You should mention I've been bad during sex. That helps."

Resting his head on Angel's shoulder Oz promised, "I will."

Using his hand to play with the hair at Oz's neck, Angel asked, "What about you? Why did you choose me?"

Oz smiled. That question was. . . interesting. "I think I fall in love too easily, Angel. The first time I saw Willow, I didn't know a thing about her, and yet. . . I knew she was someone special. Someone I wanted to be with. I usually get the emotions before I get the physical attraction, y'know? Devon, I had a huge crush on him from ninth grade. Not that I ever had a chance in the completely heterosexual Devslut's eyes.

"Xander. Xander was different. I never really thought of him as anything more than Xander, until the road trip. Seeing him as a sexual person was. . . different, and I just got. . . hooked on him, I suppose."

"And me?" Angel breathed the question into Oz's ear, squeezing the smaller man gently.

"You're. . . different. Like, back in High School, yeah, I fantasised about Angel, and kissing and stuff. Then when you. . . when we did the kissing and. . . stuff, it was fantasy fulfilment, I guess. I never was expecting anything more. But then we had morning sex."

"Morning sex?" Angel chuckled and wet-hot breath tickled Oz's ear, making Oz arch into Angel automatically.

"Which means something more than just night sex. It means you want to continue things. It wasn't just a one-night thing."

The lips were on his temple now, scraping a warm, damp trail.

"And so this isn't just a one-night thing. There's more than just a fantasy. At least I hope so."

Pulling back just a little, Angel whispered, "I'm not promising anything, Oz. I can't."

"You don't need to."

Oz turned his head so he could receive the kiss proper, and his hot lips met the cooler mouth of Angel and the stubble burned both. Angel's hand cupped the base of Oz's skull, the fingers' undulating in the soft, short hairs there, some flakes of dried blood drifting across the bedspread.

Oz's smaller hands snaked up inside Angel's silk shirt to rub across a muscular back and caress a fleshy nipple, eliciting a soft moan which echoed into his own mouth. The shirt was pushed further up Angel's torso and the pink nipples hardened to the cooler air and the gentle touch of Oz. Angel reached up and pulled the shirt off, and it fluttered to the floor.

Having broken the kiss to remove the shirt, Angel dove back in to lay claim to Oz's mouth, then moved downwards to suckle on Oz's larynx, the werewolf raising his head in silent appreciation, eyes closed and mouth open. His brain vaguely registered that his hands weren't doing anything, so he reached around Angel's head to stroke the vampire's hair and rub his back. Angel moved back up Oz's jaw to reconnect with the other man's mouth, and a hand moved in response to clutch the growing bulge in his leather pants.

Leather. Parts of Oz's body decided that it liked that concept a great deal, and Oz swung himself round on top of Angel so that more of him might be rubbing against it. Angel fell back onto the bed and the two men writhed in their passion, kissing and licking and touching. Oz began to move down Angel's trunk, letting his lips rub on Angel's breastbone, and just under his nipples, and lightly licking the navel and letting his tongue run down the fine trail of wisps that lead from it to the bulge. These were the places he seemed to remember Angel liked the most, and the groans from up, beyond him seemed to confirm this.

Nimble fingers undid the buttons of the pants that were on eye level with Oz now, and, oh, commando. The leather peeled from Angel's skin until past the knee, and then it was slack and fell off to the floor. Oz used fingers to run along the ridge of Angel's pelvis as his lips worked back up the taut thighs to the hooded length, trailing just the tip of his tongue to the already moistened top, to the accompaniment of soft gasps from Angel.

Then he felt a hand on his head, but it was pulling him back up to Angel's mouth, so he followed it, and his lips met Angel's again.

And the vampire smiled into the clinch, and said, "Fuck. I only ever carry the one condom. And we used it."

"No fuck, actually. But we can make do. But bad, bad Angel."

The vampire smiled again, and began to unbutton Oz's shirt. He managed the top three before Oz sat back and pulled it off, then lay back down onto the larger man, hissing in pleasure when their skin made contact. Angel reached around to paint the fold of Oz's ear with his tongue, and Oz shuddered in response, nipping lightly at Angel's collarbone with his teeth, very careful not to break the skin. His own cock was tight in his pants, and he moved a hand to try to push them down. Angel got the message, his hands helping to unfasten and discard the denims, flipping the smaller man onto his back in the process. Oz's Bugs Bunny boxers were wet where he had oozed precum, and the werewolf moaned when Angel licked there, salt and warm to the tastebuds.

Then the boxers were pulled, a little awkwardly, from his hips and then he was encased in the coolness of Angel's mouth, and then he wasn't. Then he was, and, wow, and teeth, and then he wasn't. A hand was scratching his stomach and then the mouth was on his, and slightly lubricated with saliva, they rubbed their hot and cold bodies together. There were hands and legs and cocks and nipples and navels and no matter how they tried neither could seem to get enough friction until the hands found the sweaty lengths and there was more spittle needed and then there was much more rubbing needed.

And then, there was just enough and Oz felt the rush of static that meant for a moment his senses were all just there and he had to keep rubbing and judging by Angel's noise and the extra moisture Angel was there too.

They breathed heavily for a while, drawing doodles on each other's skin with wet fingers.

"I'll have to shower again now," noted Angel.

"Yeah, me too," his companion replied.

So they did.


"I hope we're not too late," Angel said, as they approached the Bronze some time later, freshly showered.

"I doubt it." Oz nodded to the doorman as they went in. As ever, a band played on the stage. It wasn't the Dingoes, and Oz was a little relieved. Although he wasn't even sure they still played. He looked about the club until he saw Giles, carrying some drinks towards a far table, around which sat some familiar faces. He nudged Angel and the two moved towards the Watcher.

Giles had just reached the table as they reached him, and the conversation immediately stopped.

"Oz!" Giles gingerly placed the drinks on the table, then, after wiping his hands on his sweater, he extended his left to the werewolf. Oz took it politely.


"I must say, I wasn't expecting to see you. Oh, Angel, you're here too. Can I get you a drink?"

"Uh, that's OK." Angel said.


"A beer, please."

"Of course," and the ex-librarian hurried to the bar.

Oz turned his attention to the other sat around the table. There was Xander, who nodded and smiled, an older man Oz assumed was Xander's father, Wesley, who seemed quite drunk, Jonathan, who looked meekly at Oz, and two others Oz didn't recognise. One was blond and muscular, the other dark and muscular.

They all sat and stared at Oz for a moment, then the blond one said, "I guess you're, uh, Oz?"

Oz nodded.

"I'm Riley. I date Buffy. You know her?"

Oz nodded again. "Yeah. Or I kinda did. Nice to meet you." He looked at Angel, who was in classic brooding face, trying not to glare at Riley.

Giles then returned from the bar, proffering a bottle of beer. Oz took it, murmuring thanks. The Watcher noticed the tension and set about reducing it. "Oh, Oz, you won't have met Mr. Harris, Xander's father. Mr, Harris, Oz. Oz, Mr. Harris. And this is Riley, Buffy's boyfriend, and Graham, Riley's friend. And ours, of course."

There was a stiff nod from Mr. Harris, and a small wave from Graham.

The conversation slowly started up again. Oz could hear Graham ask Riley who he, Oz, was. And Mr. Harris ask Xander. Riley said he thought he used to be Willow's boyfriend, to a 'and he's here?' from Graham. Xander just said he was an old friend. Meanwhile Jonathan sat looking scared as Wesley, swaying, told him about the dangers of witchcraft, for some reason.

"Are you glad we came?" Angel asked in his ear.

Oz cocked an eyebrow, and Angel added, "I'm going to rescue that kid. Talk to Giles."

He turned to face Giles, who was smiling in best awkward librarian fashion.

"So. . . how are you?"

"Good. You?"

"Oh, good."


There was a pause.

"So. . . where have you been all this time? We did quite wonder."


Later. . .

"I'm glad you came, Oz," Xander said, slightly slurring, "Really I am."

Oz nodded, trying not to screw his face up as the alcohol that seeped from every pore of Xander's body attacked his sensitive nose.

"Cuz. . . cuz. . . it wouldn't have been right without you."


"Hey man, you're the best." Xander hugged Oz tightly, then got unsteadily to his feet. "Thanks. I really owe you one." He grinned, pupils wide, "Love ya. . ."

Then he staggered to the bathroom to be sick.

Oz felt a little nauseous too.


Later still. . .

"Man, you have seen your fair share of hostiles." Riley remarked, as Oz confirmed he had been at that Graduation ceremony. They had been talking for a while now. Riley was very eager. Sort of like a labrador, Oz thought. They'd already discussed Oz's lycanthropy, and Riley's mild demon streak, to initial mild discomfort on Riley's part about Oz's monthly cycle, but he made quite an effort to be understanding about it. He was nice enough, Oz supposed.

He wasn't quite blind to Angel's glare, however. The vampire really didn't like the labrador, it seemed. Less and less, now that he and Oz were getting on. Oz didn't want to think Angel might be jealous, but. . .

"So, uh, you dated Willow, then?"


"Oh. You're not bothered she's marrying Xander?"

"Well. . . if she's happy."

"That's cool. I mean, if I thought that anyone else," despite himself, Riley shot a glance at Angel, "was going to marry Buffy I'd be. . . well, I wouldn't be cool."

"I guess I'm different."

"I guess so. Anyway, excuse me, I need to use the bathroom."

Oz nodded, and the blond man got up and walked away. The werewolf looked across to where Angel was being talked at by Wesley, and the vampire smiled back, happier now Riley wasn't talking to Oz. Oz grinned. To himself. It wouldn't do to let Angel see him happy that someone might be jealous about him.

He looked about and saw Giles, sitting on his own, surveying the scene of Xander dancing wildly with a bemused Graham. Oz decided to go and speak to him. Their initial conversation had been somewhat stilted, and eventually abandoned. Oz wanted to try again.

"Giles, I wanted to ask you. . ."


"Do you remember the last time we met?"

The Englishman nodded.

"I don't remember exactly, but I think I may have said. . . stuff that night about Xander."

"You did," Giles confirmed, without any inflection.

"What did I say?"

Giles pushed his glasses up on his nose. "Well, enough that I could deduce something had gone on over that summer. But then Buffy came and told me what she knew, and, so, well, it confirmed my own thoughts."

Oz slowly nodded, staring at Xander, who was waving his arms about rather dangerously. "You don't think my coming back is a bad thing?"

"In itself, no. It depends what you're going to do when you're here."

"I think I know."

"Is it a bad thing?"

Xander falls over, dragging Graham down with him.

"Depends on your viewpoint."