Waking up alone in blue moonlight, Oz feels a real pang. Just like that, the sound of something snapping in his heart.

It's not like any promises were made. Any expectations had. Really not. But he's liked the feeling of waking up next to a warm body these last few... weeks. Almost a month. Long enough to fall into a habit, maybe. And not just any warm body, but specifically Ethan's. Hot and hard and dry, like a fevered knot. Like a lizard that has soaked up a lot of sun. Not pretty images but pretty is pretty unimportant at this point.

All illusions of the world. Phantoms of beauty. But Ethan just is. Like a rock or a tree or the hot sand. And no, that's not really fair. He is himself. And human -- mostly. And he hurts. Oz smoothes the flat cool sheet beside him. The absence of Ethan is palpable. Cool flatness. Empty moonlit room. Bright too.

His new best friend, the moon.

It wasn't particularly that he missed seeing the full moon with human eyes. It hadn't been that long. It wasn't that he'd ever actually thought about it much, either before or after. And after the after, when he'd seen his first full moon in two years over Lhasa -- it hadn't so much been the seeing of the moon itself as his fantasy of taking Willow for a walk under it. She wouldn't notice at first and then -- he'd imagined over and over again the moment of awed recognition. Not the words she'd say but the wonder in her voice when she said them.

As far as Oz can recall, he's never heard Ethan sound wondering and awed about anything. Only quiet and ironic. Occasionally dark and bitterly humorous. His mouth twisting a bit like someone eating a blood orange and liking the ache it gave him.

"You're not interested in the moon," he'd said once. Apropos of nothing, glass of Sangria in his hand. He tended to drink a fair bit in the evenings. His personality changing very little although late into the wee hours his accent would slip a bit. His balance would go. This was earlier. Postprandial porch sit. Or, well, they'd been there more or less all day too.

"Only... professionally," Oz had answered. But he'd looked up automatically, at the great silver cratered roundness of it, bellying down out of the darkness. Still found it moved him not at all. He'd shrugged, held out his glass. Said, as Ethan poured:

"Men walked up there. Kinda messes with the mystic."

"Ah," said Ethan. "A purist." Oz had thought about that, finding it an uncomfortable thing to wear.

"I think it's just shame," said Oz. "We fuck up so much."

"But we mean well," Ethan said. Oz could see the curl of sardonic smile. Oz took back his wine-heavy glass and drank. Sweet wine filled his mouth. Orange slices bumped his teeth. He was suddenly dryly, obliquely horny. He'd put down the glass, walked over to where Ethan sat on the stairs. Bent down and and pressed an awkward kiss on Ethan's mouth.

Ethan leaned back to accommodate him. Leaned back more as Oz leaned in, knee between Ethan's long, hard legs on the stairs. Crawling over Ethan's torso until Ethan lay flat on his back on the sandy porch. Oz kissed and kissed. Ethan drank what he offered, his body giving back desert heat and Oz could feel the cold silver of the moonlight on the back of his neck. Cold knife of his desire. He was whimpering, scrabbling suddenly at Ethan's clothing, needing flesh. Just that little bit -- taut skin, tendon and bone. Wine and bitter orange oil. The smell and taste of man and the sun and the gamey salt of dried seawater.

Had taken Ethan fast and hard, right there on the steps. Spit and a little gritty sunblock for lube and it had been so much deeper than before. He'd felt lost and desperate and his orgasm had sprung from somewhere bottomless -- his scream, more extremity than anything else. He hadn't even realized until he'd been breathing for a while on Ethan's chest that Ethan had come too.

That Ethan had been stroking his back with his large, elegant hands. That where his hands were Oz couldn't feel the moon.

Ethan had drunk his tears. And not said any words beyond comfort sounds: There, there... Don't fuss... And let him lie there until stiffening joints made them both groan and shift too much.

Had never asked for explanation or the apology that wanted to leap from Oz's mouth. Gave him time to work the thoughts over the way he needed to. And still accepted nothing as said.

And now Oz finds himself wanting to cry a little at the emptiness of the room and the coldness of the moon. Oh, he'll be fine, just -- there was so much inside Ethan that he wanted a chance to run his hands over. Think about. And, aw hell... who is he kidding? It's nothing so fancy as that. It's visceral. He wants to howl his loss. Instead he rolls over onto Ethan's side of the bed and pulls the sheet and pillows over his head. He's too tired now to cry. In the morning....

But in the morning he wakes to blaze and heat. Still mummified in his winding sheets and the room is so hot but when he tries to roll over he is blocked. Scrabbles a little, frees his head. Ethan is lying there, fully dressed in slightly wrinkled linen shirt and slacks.. On his back. He smiles his secret smile at Oz.

"Slugabed," he says.

"Vagabond," says Oz. A moment of apprehension because that was almost asking and that's just on the edge of the pale. But Ethan only laughs, kisses Oz's ear.

"I brought you a prezzie," Ethan says. Oz untangles some more, sits up and Ethan reaches into his pocket, pulls out a little baggie full of coarse, gray dust. Oz stares at the baggie for a long moment. Long, long moment. His heart is suddenly racing. Sweat breaking out cold and tickly all over his body, like the sprouting of bristly hairs. Not hairs though.

"Wh--" he manages, but it's no more than a hiccup of sound. A half a breath. The hand he manages to take it with is shaking. He knows what this is and it's impossible. And he's not sure yet what he needs to do with it but that it's needed is beyond question.

He looks up, expecting to find Ethan waiting for his reaction. But Ethan is simply, as he always is, there. Secret smile still just barely curling his lips. Fast asleep in Oz's bed.