The Last Time
by Meg

When he shows up on the doorstep, it's a surprise. Not so much as a shock, since that tiny voice you always tried to ignore had always told him that Oz would be back, but a surprise nonetheless. He looks well. The tiny voice tells you that he looks entirely fuckable, but you shake it off and tell yourself firmly, he looks thin, he looks pale, he looks... changed.

You hide behind offers of tea and defense in his honor, telling the others not to "bombard the poor chap with questions," when all you want yourself is to grab him and ask him why he left without saying goodbye, were you that unworthy, and then forget it all, forget this boy, this young man with his notions of love and life, that he hurt you and kiss him until you both can't breathe.

Instead he declines, and walks right to Willow without even looking at you, and he smiles that infuriatingly quiet smile that he used to have only for you, and god, he's going to stay at Devon's. What did you do to deserve this? And he's already making excuses to leave, his eyes are flickering quickly past yours and the hurt you both know is there as you clean your glasses so you can hide. And then the door is closing and he's gone again.

He spends all his time with Willow, and you spend all your time staring at the liquor cabinet while Velvet Underground plays so loud you can't think. It helps, but only a little.

He used to tell you his theory about life, and you marveled at how a boy his age could think such thoughts. You call him a boy now because it hurts you less, it makes him seem inferior to the Daniel you didn't mean to fall in love with, but did anyway. So he used to tell you, he loved Willow, he loved you, there were two parts of him sometimes, and well, Devon was another story. He wasn't a slut, by any nature of the word, he just understood love was flexible. He had too much love in him to be confined to a single person.

You used to think you could handle that.

You know now that was stupid of you. You're a selfish, weak old man. You want him all to yourself. You want all that love, you want to feel needed again, you want him naked beneath you. You want Sunday afternoons spent in front of the record player debating the merits of some obscure album that only the two of you would have.

Xander stops by and tells you Oz is registered at the University again. He's staying. Xander also tells you something you didn't need to hear. Oz asked if Willow was seeing anyone. He's not staying with you at any rate. You've lost again.

You suppose he's changed, maybe that's what was different when he showed up on your doorstep. He had lost some of his love, his love for you. He traded his spare emotions for a chance at control. You don't want to dwell on the fact you loved him most when he almost lost control, when he would make you bleed, when you would feel the ache the next day and know he had claimed you in the night. You don't want to dwell on that because it makes you feel old, like you were trying to recapture your youth.

It's time to accept that you're old. It's time.

And after the mess with the Initiative, when he's been captured and you've been pacing a new hole in the rug, after you plan and scheme and he's free but bruised and cut, and smaller if that's even possible, that's when he shows up on your doorstep again, offering himself. Delivery. Damaged goods.

This time you're not expecting it at all. That tiny voice has been on vacation in the scotch.

"I came to say goodbye."

This is more than you got the last time at least, last time you got a curt report from Buffy over the phone that he had left, that he had left Willow. You're not sure which hurts more.

"Have a safe journey." You can't be expected to say anything more. What does he want? A strangled declaration of love, for you to get on your knees and beg him to stay? You're too wise for that. You know it will never work.

"Yeah. Look—"

"You don't need to explain yourself to me, Daniel." He flinches slightly, but you can barely tell in his oversized clothing. He is smaller.

"I don't regret what I did with you. I regret that I left last time without saying goodbye. Without... doing this." He paused, and you watch him. While he collects himself, you can see him trying to pick up what's left of himself, of the person he used to call Daniel. You've all changed, but Oz most of all. There's less of the idealist there, he's older. He's seen life. You almost feel guilt for that, though you know you can't stop time. You can't stop Oz from having to grow up.

"Shit happens." He shrugs. You quirk a smile, and you sense his relief. "So does change. I guess I'll see you around?"

"Indeed. You will write, if you get a chance?"

"No promises. But I'll try."

He's closer now that you realized. You reach out a hand, the last time you might ever be able to touch him, and then suddenly he's even closer and then he's kissing you. And god, you can't complain. It's the last time. It's all you have left of him.

So when you find yourselves upstairs, and you've got him half-naked already, you take care to kiss every one of the bruises the soldiers gave him. He's being painted in shades of yellows and browns by the afternoon sun slipping in through the shades, and he looks utterly natural against the practical white sheets. He looks as if he's been there forever. He can't quite meet your eyes when you're inside him though. He stares off past your left ear, he breathes in sharp when you kiss him against his collarbone, his hands melt into your back.

It's not the perfection that you remember, but he's moved into the sublime as you've remained in the ordinary. So you meet halfway in the setting sun, with closed eyes and rough kisses.

You try not to notice how he's changed. He probably does the same for you. There's no middle ground here. Change has taken you both prisoner. So you do the best you can do, trace memorized lines across his body, stare at a prominent hip bone and call him Daniel.

It's just sex this time.

He gets up to leave not long after you've finished. You don't mind too much, there comes a time when rationality kicks back in and you can remember the concept of what needs to be done, as opposed to what you want to be done. This is one of those things you both need to do. You dress. You help him pull his sweatshirt over his head, and walk him downstairs.

You don't mind the silence between the two of you. It's not uncomfortable. When the door shuts, you barely notice. He's gone.


For the last time.