Why Does It Always Rain On Me

Rain dripped down his spine, cold against his already chilled skin and held there by his sopping wet clothing. Winter rain, and even though he lived in Southern California, it seemed just short of freezing. It might have been because he'd been out in it for three hours, but you never knew. Xander huddled under the scant shelter provided by the false porch, shivering as he looked back over his shoulder. He knew he needed to get inside, somewhere, but was this really the place to seek shelter?

Willow hadn't been home, her house as dark as it was outside and both her parent's cars gone. Buffy's was out of the question. He didn't want to answer her questions, which was the same reason he'd left Giles off his list of possible places to stay. So here he was, on the front stoop of a house shared by the members of Dingoes Ate My Baby. As he ran over his possible excuses for being there yet again, the door was yanked open and a much shorter someone with his head turned over his shoulder yelled back into the house.

"I TOLD you it wasn't the pizza guy." The guitarist, currently sporting blue and black tresses, turned back to the person who WAS on his doorstep, his non-expression comforting in it's familiarity.

"I could be one, if you'd let me in out of the rain." Said Xander, licking a drop of water off his upper lip and feebly trying to push his hair back out of his eyes. If he didn't get in here he'd have to go back home...and he'd go find a vamp to cozy up to first.

"Sure." The shorter boy stood aside, waving Xander in with a silent nod of his head, and he had no trouble following it's trajectory. Anything that got him out of the rain and off the street was fine with him, even if he did have to spend a night listening to the stoned musings of Oz's friends.

"Thanks.'s raining." Lame as a two-legged dog, even to his own ears, and Xander wondered when he'd started thinking in his father's expressions. Just as long as he didn't start acting like him. He stood there, aware of his damp state and the puddles he was leaving on the floor, but not quite sure what to do about it. He was about to ask if he could have a towel when Oz, silence himself, spoke.

"Bathroom's upstairs. You can dry off there if you want to. Just don't use the purple towel." He almost smiled at Xander's raised eyebrow, just as Xander almost tipped over at so many words in a row. "It's a Devon thing." After getting all the explanation he was going to, seemingly, Xander nodded and traipsed towards the stairs. He paused at the bottom, a somewhat shy smile of thanks tossed back over his shoulder. "You sure this is okay?"

All he got in answer was a shrug, but it was enough, and he didn't dare look back again, half-afraid that he'd get tossed out on his ass if he asked too much. A towel and a dry spot were all he needed, really, and conversation could be left for some other time, with someone who actually didn't have a reason to hate him. At the moment, that list was pretty slim.

He found the bathroom and the towels, carefully avoiding the purple one as asked. He didn't really know Devon, beyond a half-hearted introduction at the Bronze a long time ago, so he thought it might serve him well not to piss the singer off. Who knew how much power Oz wielded in the house? Shivering again, even in the false heat of the confined bathroom, Xander was forced to realize just how soaked his clothing was. With an unhappy hiss, he pulled his shirt off, ignoring the icy tingle as it separated from his skin.

He'd known the bruises would still be there, so they didn't shock him all that much. Round, about the size of a belt buckle, and with good reason. He could trace the edges with ginger fingers and still feel the faintly crusty ooze in the places where skin had cracked. That was rare though, through a shirt, so mostly it was just a collection of black and purple that mottled his sides and back. He'd learned a long, long time ago not to present his face.

Shrugging, or rather, lifting his shoulders a fraction of an inch because anything else hurt too much, Xander turned away from the mirror and wrapped his shirt in the towel he'd recently rubbed himself less-damp with. Squeezing it took out some of the water, and he'd never really cared about wrinkles anyway. He was about to pull it back on when the door opened behind him and Oz came in, clothing held out before him like an offering. Somehow the charity made it worse, and he stumbled for something to say as the shorter young man's eyebrows lifted and his expression, wonder of wonders, actually changed to something resembling concern.

"Hey...Dev said you could borrow these, since you're not my size. Been playing dodgeball with Buffy?" And to follow it, a total deviation from Xander's expectations of their limited conversation. "Xander, are you okay?"

At a loss for a witty comeback, something that hadn't happened in the years since he'd stopped stuttering, the dark haired young man stood there for awhile before finally shaking his head.

"Well, I'm out now, and that's what counts, right? I'll be a lot better if I don't have to talk about it."

With a wordless nod, Oz handed him the clothing, a simple pair of jeans and t-shirt that he was absurdly grateful for. Whatever Willow might think, Devon had earned a few points in his books just then.

"You can come downstairs when you're done. We're watching The Sound of Music, and we've got pizza coming. You can crash on my floor tonight."

Xander nodded dumbly, thankful for the blessed lack of "if you want" or "if you need to". It made him feel more welcome, and it neatly did away with the need to explain. Maybe there was a certain genius to Oz's economy of words that he hadn't noticed before. They were carefully chosen, and more effective because of it. And none of it mattered all that much, since he was standing there staring like an ass and being rude by not answering.

"Sound of Music? I want to ask why?"

The guitarist smiled, the first actual fully-formed expression of the whole night, and Xander felt himself slip into one of his own trademark goofy grins.

"Well, it's better stoned, or so say Mike and Devon. You'll have to decide for yourself. See you in a few."

He found himself alone as abruptly as he'd had company, and Xander was actually grateful for the chance to wince the dry shirt on by himself. He wasn't sure about the possibility of smoking anything, but pizza sounded good, and he was curious to see what Oz was like with his "normal" friends. Hell, he was curious to see what it was like to spend and evening with other males, sans the alcoholic rages he was used to during such occasions.

He could still hear the rain drumming on the roof when he left the bathroom, but the laughter downstairs was louder and he relished it. He wasn't a part of the group by any means, but he'd been invited in out of the rain, and for now that was good enough.