Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

A Van-Tastic Trip
By Mantis St. Mantis
For Maggie

Oz had a secret. Well, he had a few secrets, two of which are particularly pertinent to this story, but let's take it one at a time. Secretly, he loved Christmas. Oz, Mr. Cool and Collected. No-Emotion Guy. It wasn't like him. It was so . . . Western philosophy. And everyone knows that Oz wasn't so much into that kind of thing. But Christmas was the exception. He didn't like it for the Santa Claus or the manger or the pretty decorations; he liked it because he was a nice guy. Gift-giving. Cookie-baking. It was cheesy, but Oz figured that he was allowed just a teensy bit of that once every year.

And this year would be extra gooey special for him, not that he'd ever tell anyone so. This year was special because this year had marked his return to Sunnydale. After all those years, he finally figured some things out. How to control the wolf. He had reached a certain peace about Willow. Once he heard that Tara had died, he came back. Knew he had to because Willow was still the most important person in the world to him and he had to be there for her, even if it was just to comfort her. So sometime in the summer, he had gotten the van fixed up and headed home. And he realized that's where he was supposed to be right then. It just felt right. So he had been going on like he had never left. Fighting the big and ugly demon types. Trying to regroup the Dingoes. Gathering ingredients for magical spells. The usual.

He was very excited about being home for the holidays, and everyone was excited to have him back. It was one big passel of excitement. But then the rest of the Scoobies started to notice that Xander was being a little Grinchy. With a tendency to leave the room when conversation turned to Christmas, he made his feelings known. They tried everything: Holiday pins, Dreidel games, promises of shiny gifts in shiny paper. Nothing worked though.

Finally, it was Willow that came up with an idea, as usual . . .

"Oz, he's lonely. Anya's back doing her vengeance thing and he misses her. I think he needs . . . guy time. With another guy. To do guy things," Willow had explained when she cooked up this wacky plot.

"So, your answer is for us to camp in the middle of winter to help Xander get his Christmas spirit? You know that's nuts, right?"

"Well, kinda. But--"

"Okay. Just checkin'."

Then any hint of protest was erased as she pouted at him. He sighed, knowing full well that he was powerless against a womanly pout, especially one from Willow.

"It'd be the best Solstice present you could give me," she added, throwing some wet, gelatinous eyes his way. That was the proverbial lynchpin.

"Fine. We'll camp."

So that was the wholly embarrassing, emasculating chain of events that led to the present scene:

Oz, frozen in his van, partially from the cold and partially from frustration as Xander stormed out into the darkness. Let him go, his inner calm commanded. Let him stew a bit. He'll get cold eventually and come back. So Oz waited. Climbed into the back of the van and put on some extra sock as he contemplated the sheer absurdity of this entire week. At first there was Willow's begging, her cajoling, pouty lips, and dewy eyes. And then there was that whole "best Solstice present" thing. That was like mental Kryptonite. Of course he'd cave with a plea like that. So he took Xander camping. It seemed like a good idea for a millisecond. They would sit around a camp fire, pile on blankets, sleep in the van, and make hot chocolate on the gas-powered hot plate. But then somewhere along the series of roads they were supposed to take, they took a wrong turn and found themselves slightly lost. Parked along the side of the road, they tried to look at the map to decipher where they were, but it didn't really work out so well.

He looked out the window and saw that Xander had abandoned stomping in favor of standing against a tree, looking very forlorn and put upon, heaving a sigh. Oz trundled out of the van, the bulkiness of his clothing nearly tripping him. Cold air, dry and crisp, attacked his face upon his exit. Of course he'd been to colder places, but for some reason his mind was always shocked when California was this cold. He waddled over to where Xander was sulking.

"C'mon. It's not that bad. Come back to the van and warm up. We'll look at the map again," Oz said, trademark calmness in place with no hint of condescension.

"Oz! Look, I know you love Christmas and you love Willow and this little ėretreat' was her idea so you did it, but let's look at things cynically for a bit, okay? I hate Christmas. I hate camping. I'm cold and we're lost in the woods painfully close to a Hellmouth, so I am scared like a little girl. Sorry if I'm a bit snippy right now, but things are just not going my way. Can't we allow me a little space to be pissed off?" Xander finished, flailing his blanket around comically.

Oz wanted to keep a straight face. He figured he had years of practice behind him. But come on-- the thought of Xander wrapped in a blanket looking like a little kid and shrieking in much the same manner was too funny an image to let go. It started out with a smirk. Amusement-- still within the parameters of Oz's usual facial expressions. But amusement gave way to silliness and that just turned into a giggle. The giggle begat the "ha!" and the "ha!" was what brought it all down. He was laughing, good and hard. "You know why I'm laughing, right?" he asked Xander.

Xander tried to maintain a scowl. He knew he was losing his little game here. But he looked down at himself: work boots, three layers of pants, two sweaters and a tattered old blanket that flapped like badly-coordinated wings. Yes, it was funny. And factor in the concept that he was a grown man stomping and throwing a fit like a child and you had a recipe for sheer hilarity. The scowl rearranged itself into a half-smile and soon enough he was laughing along with Oz. They tried to stop, but it was useless. They had the giggles something fierce. Nothing left to do but--

"Let's get in the van and make some hot chocolate on the hot plate," Oz said.

Once they got in the van, Xander felt a little better. It was warm in there, packed with stuff along the sides and the floor. There was even some brightly-colored cloth attached to the ceiling. Very inviting. Xander realized that it could be worse. Much worse.

Clearing a spot for their handy gas-powered hot plate, Oz prepared some hot chocolate and Xander dug around in his knapsack for his bottle of peppermint schnapps.

"Aha! Let's see how this works for us," he said.

Oz just raised an eyebrow and held out the mugs while Xander doused the cocoa liberally with his stash. They burrowed next to each other on the pile of sleeping bags and other assorted blankets and drank the cocoa. Neither of them spoke, rather just let themselves get lost in their own thoughts. The cocoa was gone in short order and they were soon passing the schnapps back and forth.

"Y'know, I think I can blame all of this on my parents," Xander slurred. His vowels were dragging out excessively and he waved the bottle around so much it was surprising that he didn't hit something. "Yeah, we used to have these horrible get-togethers when I was little and all the adults would get drunk off nog and fight while the kids ran around outside in the cold wearing nothing but underwear and smiles. It was stupid. Fostered my current hatred for all things Christmas."

As he concluded, he scooted closer to Oz. They were almost touching. When Oz reached for the bottle, their fingers intersected and they both felt a little color rising to their cheeks. Both of them quickly looked away and tried to pass it off as a result of the alcohol.

"Blame is over-rated. You either like it or you don't. Deal," Oz responded. He supposed that was supposed to suffice as an explanation.

"Well, why do you like Christmas?" Xander asked. He was sort of starting to feel a little less drunk at the moment, and the realization that he was actually having a conversation with Oz made him feel even better.

"I dunno. I'm just a nice guy, and Christmas is nice. It fits."

"I guess," Xander concluded.

The van was silent for a minute, and he could hear rain dropping gently on the metal roof. It sounded like rice. For a minute, he did feel alright about the whole Christmas thing. Sitting there with Oz and no immediate worries felt like . . . almost like what Christmas should be about to a cynical young guy with no religious affiliations. It felt peaceful. Xander turned his head to look at Oz and realized just how close he was sitting. Noses grazing, they both looked surprised. Yet neither of them moved.

"It sucks that Christmases sucked when you were little," Oz offered, still not moving.

"It does. But I guess I should get over it."

Oz responded by raising his eyebrows as if to say, "You said it, not me."

Xander felt a hand snaking its way up the back of his neck. A small hand. Oz's hand. He froze for a second, then relaxed. The kiss caught him off-guard and he was too surprised to protest. He was even more surprised when he realized that he didn't want to protest, just wanted to let it happen. Oz's lips rested against Xander's, comforting and warm. Simultaneously, their mouths opened and tongues were exchanged. He pulled away, realizing the awkwardness of the situation.

Oz was as close to flustered as Xander had ever seen him. He turned away, mumbling something that sounded like, "What the fuck did I just do?"

"Hey. It's really no big deal. I mean, I didn't exactly throw a fit, did I?" Xander responded, laying a hand on Oz's arm.

"Well . . . no. But I still shouldn't have done that."

"Why did you?"

"I -- sort of have wanted to since I got back. Not intensely or anything, just sort of thought it would be interesting," Oz tried to explain. He thought he sounded a little lame, but that seemed to be okay.

"It was interesting, definitely," Xander determined. "And . . . and it's okay. That you kissed me. I mean, I . . . well, I never realized I wanted to try it until then, but it doesn't seem like a bad idea."

Seemingly emboldened by that, Oz leaned forward again and kissed Xander once more. They both relaxed into the kiss, timidly exploring with their tongues. Oz wrapped his arms around Xander and pulled him down onto the pile of blankets. It was warm there, and far more comforting than either of them thought possible. The kiss got increasingly intimate as the two entangled themselves in one another, running fingers through hair and palms along backs. When they were both out of breath, they stopped. There weren't any awkward throat-clearings or scramblings to sit in opposite corners of the van. It was something that maybe needed to happen. Something so weird and out of the ordinary that it was necessary.

"I feel a little better now," Xander said with a punkish smile.

"Oh, well that's good."

"It's late. Let's just call this our camping trip and find our way home tomorrow," Xander declared.

"Sounds good to me."

They laid down to sleep, and their hands managed to crawl over and meet in the space between them. Both slept well, and neither was surprised to find that during the night, they had huddled together a bit. It was warm, in the temperature sense and in the endearing sense, to see them tentatively wrapped together.

Upon awakening, they didn't exhibit any of the shyness one might expect from such a situation. They didn't quite ignore it, but they didn't make a big deal about it either. That was fine. Maybe in a few days, once they were back in civilization and in a place with a heater, they could talk about it. Take it further. Whatever. But the main thing at the moment was to find how to get back to said civilization.

"We need a compass," stated Oz plainly.

"Do you have a needle?"


"A magnet?"

"I think so."

"A cup? A lid for a film canister?"

"Yeah and yeah. What are you up to?"

"I can make a compass," explained Xander.

After rummaging around to find the ingredients, Xander assembled the compass. First, he rubbed the needle on the magnet. He set it on the lid and put it in the water. It floated around, looking quite dodgy, but finally righted itself and pointed north. It was a start.

"How did you learn that little trick, McGuyver?" Oz asked.

"I saw it on Bill Nye the Science Guy."

"Well. Thank you, Bill."

With Xander's homemade compass, they were able to locate the direction they were facing and the direction they needed to be driving. Little conversation passed between them, and that was fine. After getting lost and getting drunk and getting kissed, Xander felt a little found, a little clearer in his thinking, and a little more relaxed. Maybe he'd never love Christmas, but he sort of liked it this year. And that was a start.