The Talk

"So what's going to happen when we get back?"

Xander turned to Oz, surprised to hear the older man's insecurity. And fear. Those emotions -- at least from this person -- were new. "I don't know. I thought that you would go back to Will and live happily ever after, leaving me to do whatever it is that I'm going to do."

Now Oz shook his head. "No. I can't do that." He wrapped his arms around Xander's waist, resting his head on Xander's chest. "To you or to me. After everything we've gone through this week, I need you. And I think you need me. At least, I need you to need me."

Oz, in need of reassurance? Twilight Zone time. Gently, Xander pressed his lips to the top of Oz's head. "I do need you. But so does Willow, and I can't handle being the cause of her pain again."

Oz sighed. "That's the problem, isn't it? We both care about her too much to even consider hurting her."

Now Xander sighed. "It sucks to have such a great friend."

Oz studied Xander. "You love her, don't you?"

"Yeah. I do. Not like you do, but I would still rather die than hurt her any more."

"Same here." He pulled Xander closer to him, thinking over the confrontation that would have to occur. "I think I have an idea. It might not be the best idea, but it seems like the only thing we can try if we want to salvage any sort of relationship with her."


The Bronze was loud and crowded as always, but he knew she would be here. He hadn't called ahead to let her know he was back in town. "Oz! You're back! I missed you. It was really lonely around here without you. Xander wasn't even around to distract me." Shyly, she kissed him on the cheek and quietly added, "I love you."

He smiled painfully. "I love you, too." He sat next to her on a couch, draping his arm over her shoulders in what he hoped would be a comforting gesture. "Will, we need to talk."

She was fully aware that those words typically spelled disaster.

He gazed at the floor for a long moment. "I really hoped that we could talk about this somewhere else -- someplace quiet, where we could be alone -- but I have to say it now or else I'll lose my nerve. When I was out of town visiting my aunt, I kind of met someone."

"Oh, my god." The words were merely breathed, but the impact was the same as if she had punched him in the stomach. She was hurt, major nausea- inducing hurt, and he was the cause. And this was just the beginning.

He wasn't quite sure how to continue, but he knew he had to go on. "This doesn't change how I feel about you. I love you. But I'll understand if it changes things for you." When she didn't pull away and run out, he felt a bit more secure. "I had sex with this person." Now she made a strangled sobbing sound but still remained seated beside him. He realized that she was paralyzed with emotion. She was there until he got through his confession whether she liked it or not. "I could say that it was a mistake, or a one-time thing, but it wasn't. I care about this person. A lot. As much as I care about you." He paused, unsure how the next idea was going to go over. "And I don't want us to be a couple anymore." A louder sobbing sound. "I was hoping we could be a trio."

He had to strain in order to hear her voice. "I'm not good enough? Is that the problem?"

"No, no, that's not what I'm saying. I mean you're such a special person that I don't think it's fair for me to keep you all to myself." He gently pulled her hair, stuck in her tears, away from her face before enveloping her in his arms again, rocking her as if she was a small child who had just had a nightmare. "I really do love you. If this isn't okay and want me to break it off with the other person, I'll completely understand. If you never want to speak to me again, I'l understand that, too. It will break my heart, but I'll understand."

She didn't reply. The pounding in her head wouldn't let her speak.


Xander watched from a distance, waiting for the pre-arranged signal. He couldn't hear what was being said, but that was the whole point of the distance and signal.

He saw Oz's worried face, then the start of Willow's tears, then her head dropping, and then Oz gently wrapping his arms around her. She didn't flinch away, but her shoulders began an awful heaving motion that was replicated in Xander's stomach. He was at least half the reason she was having to feel like that. To hell with the signal.

Slowly, he made his way over to the two. He carefully sat down next to her. "Will? Are you okay?"

She didn't turn to him, but her wracking sobs slowed enough for her to respond. "Xander, please don't worry. It has nothing to do with you."

He met Oz's eyes over her head. Oz shook his head. He hadn't gotten that far yet. "Actually, Will, it does." Xander cleared his throat nervously. "I really didn't want you to find out this way, but it was me."

Now she lifted her head from Oz's shoulder. She tried to laugh but succeeded only in hiccuping. "No, Xander, trust me. You didn't do it this time."

"Um, yeah, he did." Her head jerked at Oz's words. "I don't know what else to say. I'm sorry." His voice broke with emotion. "I could try to make things seem better by pointing out that this isn't some random guy or that it took a lot for us -- Xander and me -- to come back here and tell you about it. We could have just decided that things would be better if we ended it and didn't tell anyone or kept things under wraps once we got back here, but I really do care about him. As much as I care about you."

"Me, too, Will. I know this sounds like I'm just copying Oz, but it's true. I don't know what I'll do if you decide to walk away. From him, from me, from us."

Oz rested his head against hers. When she didn't cringe or withdraw, he decided to press his luck. "And we're not asking for you to just accept me being with Xander. He wants to be with you, too. You and me, him and me, and him and you." He attempted a smile. "And all three of us together if we've been good."

She turned her attention to her hands, folded in her lap. At some point during their conversation or confrontation -- she wasn't sure just what to call it -- both males had folded their hands over hers. For some reason, it occurred to her to wonder if the heels of her hands would be marked where her fingernails dug into the flesh. The fingers of the two guys were linked together around her tiny hands, but, more importantly, the fingers squeezed hers, reassuring her that they were both there for her, too.

The clasped hands made her realize that a decision needed to be made right then and there. No thinking it over and trying to sort things out logically. Logic wasn't going to help this time around. She considered her options. She could refuse the request -- insist on keeping Oz to herself -- and watch Xander walk away from their lives completely, probably pushing Oz to resent her for forcing him to walk away from Xander as well as making her resent Oz for forcing her to make the decision. Not to mention the fact that this would cause the loss of her oldest friend. She could tell them that, while she had no problem with the two males being together, she couldn't handle being with Oz any more and lose him again and then figure out how to deal with the heartbreak of seeing them together -- or just knowing they were together -- whenever she talked to Xander. She could go with the third option -- push both of them out of her life.

Or she could give their proposal a try. She would end up with not one but two men who she trusted with her life and who trusted her with theirs. And the fact that Oz didn't just sleep with a random person did make a big difference. She knew Xander, and sex with another man -- especially his best friend's boyfriend -- just wasn't something he would do without a second thought. And after his previous experiences with females, she felt sure that he had gone to great lengths to make sure he wouldn't be hurt again. So something big had to have happened to cause him to trust Oz with his heart and do this thing that was breaking her heart. And now both of them were offering themselves to her to accept or condemn. Or love.

There were worse things that could happen.

"Okay. Let's give it a shot."