The Ringing In My Ears

The jangle of my keys as I pulled them from my pocket tinkled above the sound of the distant waves crashing against the shore on my beach front property. My ears tuned into the sound as the key scraped it's way into the lock, clicking it out of place. Twisting the knob, I pushed open the door and stepped over the threshold into our darkened entryway. With my breath held, I heard only the sound of the door clicking as I pushed it shut behind me. Then I was hit by the quiet.

It's like an old friend now, the quiet. I've grown accostomed to the heavy silence that sometimes fills itself with meaningless sounds that only I can hear. But despite how used to the silence that I may be, it never keeps me from wondering what may lay behind it. In the dark, just the flick of a light switch away, could be anything.

My posture tensed and I took a couple of deep breaths to prepare myself for the inspection of the living room. For over thirteen years now, I've done it every night, never finding anything waiting. It was pretty scary for a while when Devon had that insane groupie stalking him, but that was cleared up years ago. Now nothing is there, but I can never convince myself of it.

I was stealthily on my way to the living room, silently berating myself for my insane paranoia, when suddenly the sound of a loud bellow hit me. Instantly I spun on my foot, recognizing the voice to be Devon's. Fear gripped me as I dashed to the staircase and started taking them two at a time. Halfway there, I realized that I needed to have a weapon ready and I fumbled in my pocket for the stake that I always keep with me.

Gripping the stake tightly, I latched onto the doorknob just as Devon let out another cry, this time more muffled. Flinging the door open, I pulled the stake back, ready to fall back into a combat stance that I havn't used in years. Swiftly, I flicked the light-switch, preparing myself for the worst.

What I found in the room was not was I feared. There was no blood or guts, no chains, no demons. My lover was not tied up and being tortured by some foul creature. No, instead I found him rolling off of a rather limber-looking, petite blond girl.

I gawked exasperatedly as Devon smiled crookedly at me, bare-ass naked, his softening cock condom clad. Sweat glistened all over his body and his eyes were incredibly blood shot. On the nightstand was an open bag of weed and my Graphics bong, plus there was a spilt bottle of tequila on the floor. The one thing that I was grateful for was that the girl was decent enough to close her legs and cover herself with a large pillow.

Devon, however, lay there, completely shameless in his nudity. Why would there be reason for him to be? The only people in the room besides him were his long time companion and a new lover. That didn't stop me from being pissed off. "Hey, Oz," Devon said, looking only a bit chagrined at me finding him in this situation. As I said nothing to him, but stared cooly, he nodded at me. "What's with the stick, man?"

I realized then, that I hadn't lowered my stake when I had found that what waited for me was not a creature of the night.... actually, that's questionable statement....well, at least I'm sure that he's not a demon. Anyway, I lowered my stake, not wanting him to think seeing him in the postion he was in had made me go completely ballistic.

After that, I shot one last angry glance at him before turning to leave the room. His voice stopped me before that though. "Hey, Oz," stopping, I barely glanced over my shoulder at him. "You could join us," Devon offered.

Sometimes, I don't know what gives Devon the balls to say some of the things he does, but I'm quite sure that one of these days it's going to get him killed. And the only people that would mourn him would be me and a million people who don't even know him. Angry at Devon's audacity, as I often am, I turned and swiftly hurled my stake at Devon.

The girl screamed and pulled the pillow further up to cover her face and Devon swiftly ducked. If he hadn't moved as quickly as he did, the stake would have pegged him in the forehead, but it missed it's target, hit the wall behind him and pinged off it to knock the telephone from the nightstand to the floor. Normally, Devon would have been too high and drunk to move that fast, but he was expected it, so that gave him a certain edge.

After missing, I turned and walked quickly out of the room. As I hopped down the staircase, I could hear Devon calling behind me. "Oz! What the fuck?! I can't believe you're mad at me!" Once I got to the bottom of the stairs, I could hear him running after me, stumbling down the stairs as quickly as his drunken legs could take him. "Oz! Would you fucking stop?!"

I ignored him, heading into my library and slamming the door shut behind me. Walking over to my recliner, I propped my hands up on the back and leaned forward, breathing heavily. Tightly, I squeezed my eyes shut. Flashes of Devon's gutted corpse swam behind my lids and I gritted my teeth against the tears that threatened to form.

My eyes fluttered open when I heard Devon enter behind me. I knew he'd follow me in here, cuz you can never do the guy thing with another guy. Why couldn't I have settled down with a nice girl instead? I didn't turn to face him.

"I'm sorry I brought her here, Oz," Devon told me, his voice low and slurred.

"Is it too much for me to ask that you not bring your fucking bitches here, Devon? If I don't see it, it's easier to ignore," I said, my voice slow and controlled while I was trying not to scream at him.

"What you really mean is hear it, ain't that right? Oz," Devon countered. I flinched visibly at the question, my whole body tensing. "What did you think I was being killed or something?" The question made me shake, trembling as my fingers gripped the soft material of the recliner.

I felt Devon's hand smooth down the back of my hair just before his arms encircled my waist. I relaxed a bit at his gentle touch and even fell back against him as he pulled me back against his body, into a soft embrace. With his cheek pressed to the back of my head, his breath ruffling my hair, he asked in a quiet whisper. "God, what's doing this to you, baby?" He placed a gentle kiss behind my ear. "What's making you so afraid?"

Despite the safety that I felt in his arms, I pulled away from him and moved quickly behind the recliner. Trying to avoid the same questions for the last thirteen years was beginning to become extremely difficult. But, I can't tell him. It's not that I don't think he'd believe me, I just don't want him to suffer the same fear that I do. I want him to be able live as normal a life as he can. That's why I always have a business trip to make on night's of the full moon.

Falling back into the recliner, I slank down low. Letting out a deep sigh, I wiped my hand down my face. Devon stood silently behind my recliner and I could feel him watching me and picture that concerned look on his face. Ignoring the nagging urge to just spill everything to him, my hand slipped over the side of the arm and gripped the frame of the picture. Pulling it into my lap, I stared down at the faces behind the glass.

I heard Devon step closer, and cast a glance up as he hovered over my back. Leaning down, Devon propped his chin on his hands, his elbows rested on the back of the recliner. "You know, you cheat on me too, Oz," he said casually.

"How do you figure that?" I asked, looking back down at the picture.

"Because you won't let her go," he explained.

I know that it's Willow he meant. He believes that I'm still in love with her, and I let him think that because it's easier than explaining the truth. But, while he stood over me, looking jeaously down at the picture of Willow, my gaze fell to the smiling face of the blond in the middle.

With a sigh, Devon turned and walked over to the door. "I'm gonna go call Brandi a taxi," he explained unnessesarily. The door clicked open and I waited for him to leave, but he stopped for a moment. "Oh, yeah, there's a message for you on the machine." Then he left, shutting the door as he went.

Once he was gone, I let the frame slip from my grasp and fall flat in my lap. Averting my gaze away from it, my eyes focused on the reflection in the large screen TV. Sitting low in a recliner, I saw a young man that felt too old for his true years. As I fell into a daze, looking at myself, the minutes slipped away. I asked myself questions in my head, like, ‘How did I let myself get this way?' ‘Was I going to push Devon away with my constant paranoia?' ‘But how can the world be a safe and lively place without Buffy in it?' ‘Will I ever forget?'

I snapped out of it when I heard the door opening and closing behind me. "Do you want a drink?" Devon asked, holding a glass with amber fluid before my face. Without a word, I took the proferred alcohol from him and knocked it back. I watched from the corner of my eye as Devon moved around the recliner to stand before me.

"Is she gone?" I asked, looking down at the empty glass in my hand.

"Yeah, she's gone," Devon told me as he fell to his knees before me. Leaing forward, he pulled the glass out of my hands and the picture out of my lap. Setting them aside, he scooted closer and adjusted himself before leaning forward and placing his head in my lap, slowly stroking circles on my jean-clad thigh. " know I love you.....right?" he asked me, a quiet hesitancy in his voice.

Devon's always been really reluctant to talk or show his true emotions. That's sort of his disease. If you knew about his past, you would realize why, but I won't go into that. Lifting my hand from the arm of the chair, I rested it on his head, smoothing his curly hair back with my fingers. "Yeah, baby. I know," I said in a whisper of a voice.

He lifted his head from my lap and looked up at me, a large smile spread across his face. I couldn't help but smile also when I saw the wicked gleam in his eyes. "Wanna go skinny-dipping in the pool?" he asked, wriggling his eyebrows suggestively. I laughed, sliding my hand down to cup his cheek.

"Sure," I conceeded.

"Right on," he said, quickly jumping back to his feet. Obviously some of the alcohol must have worn off, which was good since swimming when you're drunk is of the bad. "I'll get the towels."

"You go ahead, babe. I'm just gonna check that message," I told him. He nodded and briskly left the room, reassured with the prospect of naked swimming and a lot of sex.

I smiled after him, wondering what I might have become if it weren't for having him constantly at my side. Deciding that I didn't want to dwell in ‘what-ifs', I reached over to the table and clicked the button that would play my message to me.

Sitting back, I listened through a couple of business calls. I sat up when I heard an unfamiliar voice playing through the recorder. "Mr. Oswalt," the stiff female voice said. "This is Jessica Wasser-Smith. I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but my client, Mr. Rupert Giles asked me to contact you on the event of his death. Unfortunately, that day has come. You can contact me at 555-4769 to discuss the contents of Mr. Giles' will. I'm sorry that you had to find out this way, Mr. Ozwalt. You have deepest sympathies."

I was frozen as I sat there, my hands gripping the arms rests of my chair. My mouth felt suddenly dry. For some reason, I thought I must have heard wrong, so I replayed the message, but everything I'd heard before only rang through my ears even louder. As the message grew to another close, I heard Devon come in. "Oz?" he asked.

A sudden pain gripped my stomach and I thought I might throw up. Groaning I fell forward with my face in my hands. I didn't even notice the tears until, Devon was kneeling before me and my head rested on his shoulder as he held me to him. Opening my eyes, I watched as a small wet trail made it's way down his bare back. Wrapping my arms around him, I squeezed his shouders tightly and closed my eyes.