Title: Finding the Whole Friend Author: Voracity email addy: to list or email@example.com Rating: PG-13 or so Date: 11-3-99 Archive: if you really want to. Other website: yeah, just as soon as I get it done it'll be somewhere. Disclaimer: not mine, poor student, don't sue, won't get much. Summary: Xander has a secret that Oz has to find out and then they figure out where to go from there. Warnings: nope, not really. Notes: Thanks to my wonderful beta, Mary, as always. She of the many lists takes much time to hold my hand through this stuff. If it's too far out of canon, yell. As I said in my intro, I've not seen too many eps., especially of this and last season, so could use the criticism, as long as it's helpful and not a flame. Feedback? Yes please. Set somewhere in High School, senior year, but before the illicit smoochies. Actually I'm ignoring the fact that someone told me that they happened.
Finding The Whole Friend
The Slayer and her Slayerettes were walking back from the movie they'd just seen, discussing it and how it made them feel.
"I guess it made me feel so not alone," Buffy said, stopping to stake a vampire that she'd chased all over town last night. The short fight ended as it invariably must, with her winning again. "You know," she said, taking up her stream of thought again, "that there are other good guys out there that train, get hurt, fight. I can handle not being the only one for a while."
Willow smiled. "Yeah, it was a good message, but I liked the way they were so integrated into the world around them but not." She stopped to think. "I wonder if I could do that." Oz pulled her close to him again. "Sorry, just trying to figure out how they did it."
"Ask some Buddhists," he suggested.
Xander thought about it, then weighed in with his opinion. "I liked the angst," he said. Everyone stopped and turned to stare at him. "What?"
"No offense, but when did you start listening in English," Willow asked.
"Yeah, you missed that on the test," Buffy seconded. She put her hands on her hips, staring hard into his eyes. "You aren't possessed, right?"
"Whoa," Xander said, backing up, hands up to ward her off. "Just because I know something that I missed on a test doesn't mean I'm possessed." He backed up a little more. "I've been reading some stuff and found that I liked the idea. See," he said, parting his hair, "no little horns, no nasty faces. No nothing other than me in me." He swallowed, hearing his words. "What I meant was...."
"Chill, we get it," Oz said, giving him one last questioning look before they resumed their stroll to their respective homes.
Oz fired up his not often used computer, waiting patiently for it to boot.
"Oz," his mother said, making him groan, "I thought we agreed that you would stay off that machine if we let you stay in Dingoes." She crossed her arms, staring at her son.
He turned to look at her. "I'm chatting and doing some research. I'm not hacking." He turned back around, typing in his password.
"Just don't do anything," she said, closing his door. "We're not coming to get you out this time."
Oz snorted once he was alone. "Yeah, but you didn't last time." He fired up his modem and his specially designed browser. Sometimes it was good to have friends that would do anything. He typed quickly, getting into the member profiles where Xander had his account. He read it, not seeing anything that he hadn't helped set up.
Xander had one fatal flaw right now though. He was hiding online somewhere but he didn't know that Oz could find him or hack his stuff. The mystery that had been created would be solved soon. He ran a number of searches at once, finding him on the address one. He went to the other account listed, reading that profile too.
"Huh," he said, sitting back in his chair, "multiple personalities for our shy young friend." He sat back up, hacking into this other account - Xander never changed his passwords and always used the same one. He entered the trash can, reading over the soon to be deleted letters. It was the fourth one that made him shiver. He read down the piece of fiction, almost smiling as it reached it's passionate conclusion of both men realizing that they belonged together. He closed the letter and the account, then the window, before shutting down the computer so he could store it in it's locked drawer. He grabbed his stuff so he could go do something with his new found knowledge.
Xander looked around, more nervous than usual, as he read his mail. He just knew someone was going to catch him one day. He jumped when someone took the seat beside him, Oz turning the chair around so he could rest against the back. Well the older man had just proven him right. "Oz," he said, groaning slightly and shutting down the browser window. "So," he said, pulling himself back behind his for-the-friends persona and turning to face the older man. "What's up?"
"Having fun?" He rested his arms and chin on the back of the chair, looking at his friend then reached over to restart the browser. "Don't let me keep you."
"Privacy? Some of this stuff is personal."
Oz's eyes started to shine. "So I noticed." He waited but the younger man didn't move. "Hurry up so we can go do something."
Xander opened the account the older man had helped him set up.
"The other one."
Xander gave him a funny look. "Nope." He sat back, turning slightly to face his friend. "Why?"
"I wanted to watch." He shrugged. "Doesn't matter, I know."
Xander swallowed hard. "Know?" Oz nodded. "Know what?" He tried to look relaxed but his body radiated tension.
"I know what you're reading." At the alarmed/ready to take flight look he nodded at the machine. "I saw."
"Now what?" Xander was upset, hurt, feeling very vulnerable and open right that moment. "What're you going to do with this?"
Oz shook his head. "Not a thing." He saw the anger start to rise in the expressive eyes. "Just knowing the whole of a friend instead of 'happy, funny guy' is enough for me."
The younger man turned back to face the computer. "You won't tell?" Oz shook his head. "Thank you."
"Not a big." He touched the tense shoulder. "Want to talk now or later?"
Xander laughed, a cold and harsh sound aimed at himself. "Oh, how about never." He closed his eyes as his head fell back, limply letting it hang.
Oz would have frowned at the movement. "Xand, I want to know my friends, not their masks." The younger man shook his head, still not raising it. "You can trust me with this. It's not like I don't have secrets of my own."
Xander gave him a funny look, finally resuming an upright position. "I'm sure, but I'm keeping mine. Too many burns man, way too many scars to share." He shut down the computer, getting up. "I'm going home."
"You can use mine if you want," the older man said quietly, "anytime."
"Thanks but not." He walked out of the computer lab, going to close himself off again.
Oz watched him go, planning his next move.
Xander opened the package, wondering who would be sending him something. He pulled out a Junior High yearbook, touching the cover gently. A note fell to the floor. "Find your friends," he read. He sat down on the couch, flipping through it. It was for the year before he and Willow had gotten there so there was only one person to find. He stopped at the class pictures, smiling at the picture of his friend with feathered hair then headed back toward the activities page to find a band picture he could torment the older man with. He came to the 'Scandalous Pictures' section first, stopping to look at a certain person being arrested. "Computer hacking? Oz?" He leaned back, stunned. He remembered the older man telling him they all had secrets. He flipped through more of it, stopping to grin at the band picture then at the Chess Club photo. He set the book down carefully as he reached for the phone. "Oh, he's gonna pay for hacking into my mail." He dialed a semi-familiar number. "Chess Club?"
Oz sat on their usual bench with a sigh. They'd finally gotten the ... critter that had been running around the school. He'd been surprised that Xander still kept so many memories from Halloween but they had come in very handy this time too. He watched the others walk past, heading for the library -of course- to rest. Willow smiled as she walked past but he didn't jump up to follow so he ended up watching her pout all the way inside. Xander, on the other hand, sat down next to him. "Hey, nice trap."
"Thanks." He leaned back slightly. "So now what?" Oz just looked at him. "I know your secrets, you know mine. Sound familiar?"
"No, not all." He paused. "So, now what?"
"Not really interested." He looked around. "Wanna walk?" Oz looked pointedly at the dark surrounding them. "Okay, how about going someplace?"
Buffy tapped them on the shoulders. "Coming inside or getting eaten?"
The two guys looked at each other, understanding flowing between them. "Neither," Oz said.
"We're tired," Xander added. "Later," he said, getting up and starting in the direction of home. He could almost hear Oz following him.
"Weird much?" she muttered, going back inside.
Oz waited until he was sure they were alone. "Ride?" His words stopped the younger man.
"Sure, love one. Much easier than walking." They turned around, going back to the striped van.
Oz drove them slowly to the younger man's house, after all there was no reason to rush this trip. "Parents?" he asked as he pulled up.
"Out." He grabbed the keys from the ignition before getting out. He nodded at his mother, surprised that she was home and awake both, on the way up to his room. He closed and locked the door behind them.
Oz sat down on the side of the bed. "Out?"
Xander shrugged. "Supposed to be out." He looked at the older man. "Why try to figure this out?"
Oz laid back some, resting on his arms. "I hate mysteries." Xander gave him a disbelieving look. "What you said after the movie created one so I stomped it out."
"Okay, so you're an 'all mysteries must be solved' guy."
"No, they must all die. I hate them, they leave clutter." He looked around the messy room. "Very unlike the comfortable clutter you have going here."
Xander sat down on the bed, laying back with a sigh. "I didn't know you were coming, otherwise I woulda cleaned."
"Not a big." He sniffed. "Comfortable. Mom's outside."
Xander stood up, hurrying over to the door, throwing it open. "Problems mom?"
"No, just wondering what was going on." She looked directly at Oz. "You know you're supposed to have the door open when you have... friends over."
The younger man groaned as he ran a hand through his hair. "We're talking, all right? Guy stuff, mom, stuff that needs privacy." He made a quick decision, tossing Oz's keys back to him. "We're going."
Oz drove them to a quiet spot in the woods, parking away from the necking couples also searching for privacy. He turned off the van's engine, relaxing slowly. "Better?"
"Yeah, no mothers." He reclined his seat, looking out at the stars through the windshield. "What do you want to know?" he asked without looking.
"Telling me about it might help." He tipped his own seat back, staring at the bright points of light. "I figure this is what's been making you so tense."
"For almost the last month," the younger man said finally. "I started to think about ... things." He paused, gathering his courage. "Guy things."
"So you surfed for info, coming to the lists." He looked at the trees, watching the shadows move. "I was on a few of those. Not those really but a few others."
"Yeah, I figured you weren't into the gay stuff." He laughed quietly for a few seconds. "I'm not even sure I am yet."
"That is a hard topic to think about." He sniffed then rolled down his window. "Coffee patrol." He looked into the mirror, checking to see which cop it was.
Xander turned his head in time to see the body appear at the window. "Nothing here, we're just talking." The officer arched a brow up.
"Guy stuff," Oz said.
"Ah. Did she finally dump you? Maybe for someone that equaled her brightness?"
"Nope, just needed the privacy." He looked at the car just pulling up. "Xand? What type of car does Spike drive?"
"Black Chevy, old." He leaned forward to look. "That one. Want to go talk to them?" The officer started towards the new vehicle but Xander's quick thinking excuse machine went into overdrive. "You don't want to do that Officer," he called, getting the man's attention. "He's very violent." He thought up more as the cop walked back over to them. "He was on steroids until last year when he was forced off them after he beat a freshman pretty badly."
The older guy looked at them skeptically. "I never heard about that."
"The kid didn't press charges so Snyder hushed it up. Looked bad on the team."
The officer nodded, scratching his protruding stomach. "Okay." He went to harass the other cars.
"Nice save," Oz said quietly. "Want to go make him leave or shall I?" He pulled out a small bag from between the seats, opening it to show his Slayerette goodie bag off.
"Ooh, fun," Xander deadpanned as he took out a stake, some holy water, and the lighter fluid. He checked his pocket for his lighter as he got out, walking slowly over to the vampire's car. "Hey," he said, leaning in the window, "I'm feeling a bit pyro tonight, wanna be a bonfire?" He grinned at the growl. "We're the only ones here, no running food for you to play with." He brought the stuff he'd carried over into view. "Your choice: burn fast, burn slow, or dust?" His grin got wider. It wasn't often he got the upper hand on one of them.
Spike's growl got very loud, ending in a, "Can't a guy have a romantic evening without the bloody saviors showing up?" The human shook his head. "Oh, hell, take 'er then and be gone." He opened the back door, letting the tasty morsel they'd picked up for a romantic picnic go. He wasn't in the mood to fight tonight, Dru had promised him great things for being good.
Xander pulled the young girl behind him. "No chains? I'd dump him Dru, he's not taking care of you right." He hurried her over to the cruiser, handing her over to the cop. "They found her in town. Can you make sure she get's home?" He helped the still shaking young girl into the car, giving her quiet advice. "Don't wander around alone at night. They were sane tonight." He left her alone, sure she'd be fine now, and headed back to the van.
"Picnicking?" Oz asked as he took back the stuff, putting it away as the younger man got inside. "It's nice to know that they do the romantic stuff too."
They watched the cars pull away, leaving them alone. "Female, junior high." He leaned back again.
"Stupidity. Of the sort that only guys our age can come up with." He turned his head. "You all right?"
Oz waited until his friend was done shaking. "Yeah, I was just wondering how many of you were in there."
"Three. Family, friends, and me." He shrugged. "Why? Wondering which one you're seeing?" Oz nodded. "Somewhere between the last two. Can't let the real me out on the world yet."
Oz thought about it then nodded. "Understandable. The real me doesn't come out much either." Xander gave him a questioning look. "How many times have you seen the real me, or think you have?"
"Every time you play," the younger man said quietly. He went back to his stargazing. "I don't think anyone else realizes though."
"Huh. I didn't know anyone noticed. Devon doesn't even know." Xander turned his head enough that he could see the grin. "When else?"
"Don't know. We don't hang much outside of work." He turned fully, pulling the older man's head around to face him. "Don't hack my stuff again." He gave his fiercest look.
Oz swallowed, mostly for show. "Would you have told me?" Xander shook his head. "No other option then." The younger man leaned closer. "What're you doing?"
"Not working." He pulled the younger man's head over, kissing the pale cheek. "It's good to have someone that knows you," he said quietly.
"Me? No. I experimented some but it didn't feel right." He looked back out the window, going back to the timeless stars. "All I'm offering is a real friend, someone that knows you."
Xander leaned back into his own seat, relaxing again. "I guess that'd be nice." He closed his eyes. "It's gonna be a while before...."
"Chat?" Oz suggested, knowing what he was going to say.
"Talk without talking. Hmm, might work if I forget you're you."
"Would be harder any other way." He turned his head. "Do you?"
"Chat? No. I have an Instant Messenger account."
"Same thing, more private." He reached back between the seats, pulling out his notebook. "Write it for me. I'll get on Monday after school."
"Yeah, be nice. Weekends are kinda hard for me to get access."
"Offer stands to use mine." He shrugged, taking back the notebook. "You're on the Greed God's IM?"
"Was there when I started the computer one day." He grinned. "Are there others?"
"The Corporate God's have one. ICQ, a few other good chat programs. None of them are really secure."
"AOL?" The older man nodded. "Will has an account through there."
"Don't need one to get the Instant Messenger." He almost grinned. "We should be working on getting you a machine of your own."
"Nope, get broken."
"Not if you're careful."
"Not by me." He looked around, making sure they were alone. He needed to really talk but he didn't want to have to worry who would overhear. "How am I gonna tell the parents?"
"Nice card after you've left the house?" Xander snorted, liking the joke. "Okay, touchy-feely discussion?"
"Not in my family."
"Bring home somebody." The younger man looked at him hard. "From the way your mother was looking at me earlier, I don't think this will be an issue for long." He cleared his throat. "She thinks you already did."
The younger man turned very pale and said in a very soft, small voice, "She's been going through my bag again." He groaned as he ran a hand over his tired face. "I keep a story that I like in there to read when I feel down." He covered his face, shaking his head. "I'm dead."
"No, you're a Xander." He took the hand in his. "You could crash at any of our houses if you needed to."
"Bury me in something nice," he asked plaintively, begging openly. "Just make sure I look cute, okay?"
Oz nodded. "I'll be beside you if you want. How about your favorite t-shirt and a pair of jeans?" He pulled the younger man over, hugging him tightly. "You'll be okay."
"How could you?!?" his mother screamed. "What did we do wrong?" She looked at Oz. "Is it you? Did you do this to him?" To the guys, her expression was one of ready to throw up/scream/cry, a very interesting combination.
Xander shook his head. "No, Mom, he's here as moral support for me. This is me, not something you did, not something I decided. This is me." He stood up. "I'm going over to Willow's since you're looking at me like that." He jogged up the stairs, grabbing his 'escape' bag. He looked around, grabbing anything that really meant anything to him and piling it into another bag and his backpack. He turned to see Oz standing in his doorway, worry shining from his light eyes. "Just a strategic retreat," he assured the older man. "Could you drive me?"
"Sure. Call her." He waited for the brief wake up call to happen. "You're sure?"
"Yeah, I'll deal with this tomorrow."
Oz knocked on the sliding door, smiling at his girlfriend as she padded out to let them in. Both men followed her to her room, dropping the younger man's things into a corner.
"Running away?" she asked as she sat down in her desk chair.
Xander shook his head. He knew he could tell her, she would understand and still love him. "Retreat. Came out to mom." He shuddered. "She's crying and yelling at the walls right now."
Willow looked confused. "Huh?"
He looked at Oz. "Successful assimilation. She sounds just like you." He grinned as he turned to look at her again. "I'm Bi, as in not quite straight." He hoped she would get it this time, he wasn't up to a huge theoretical discussion tonight.
She started to nod. "Oh, okay," she said after a few minutes. "Since when?"
"I'm still trying to figure that part out." He shrugged, leaning against his accumulated stuff. "I'm hiding."
"You told your mom you were coming here," Oz pointed out.
"Then she'll call to bug her mom," Xander reasoned. He looked at his oldest friend. "You okay with this? I can go shack up at Buffy's if you need time to process."
"No, it's you and therefore okay." She shrugged, hunching down into her nighty. "If you're okay with it so am I." She looked at the pile of pillows and blankets. "Pick your bed spot."
Xander pointed to his usual spot, he'd hidden here many times before. "If it's okay."
Willow stood up, coming over to kiss his cheek. "Whatever you need." She kissed the top of her boyfriend's head on her way back to the desk. "You two talk?"
"Earlier. Made Spike give up his supper too." He pulled her down for a deep kiss. "Can I sleep here too?" She nodded, pulling out the pile of stuff she reserved for only him. "Thanks."
"Not a big." She turned off the overhead light, leaving on the desk lamp. "Night guys," she said after the moving around had stopped.
"Night, Will," Xander said.
Oz just snored lightly.
Willow's mother stopped Xander from leaving for school Monday morning, pushing him back down into his chair at the table. "He'll be late," she told her daughter, kissing her on the cheek before she could leave. She waited until the couple was long gone before taking a seat across from him. "What happened?"
He blushed but managed to spit it out to her, he'd always been able to trust her. "I, um, came out to Mom and she's been throwing a fit." He took the last drink of his milk, waiting for her to say something.
She finally shook her head. "She's just processing. She wants you home for supper tonight." She looked over at Willow's and Oz's pictures, their present for her birthday. "Did you tell them?"
"Oz found out and I told Will the first night when we came over." He patted her hand. "Thanks for hiding me."
"Not a problem." She smiled at him. "I have some books if you want to understand this better."
He shook his head quickly, remembering what she had given him to read when he'd hit puberty. "I've been looking and talking to people online. It's been comforting."
"All right. The offer's there when you're ready." She stood up. "I'd say you could take Willow with you but your mother was specific about it just being you." She ran some water over her dishes. "Will you be okay?" He nodded. "All right, you can go now."
Xander grabbed his books, running out the door.
Xander walked through his door hesitantly, not sure what was waiting for him. He sat on the couch, waiting for his parents to quit arguing and come out of the kitchen.
His father walked into the living room, sitting down in his chair. "We need to talk son." The young man swallowed. "I want your side of the argument."
"Well..." he started
Xander bounced into the library Tuesday night. He grinned at everyone as he took his normal seat. Buffy gave him a dirty look for his happiness when she was stuck researching. "Good evening guys," he said.
Willow looked up at him. "Went okay ?"
"They're not happy, not accepting, ready to call an exorcist, but they didn't throw me out."
"A reasonable start," Oz said.
Xander turned to look at the couple. "Thanks you guys, for all of it."
"Hey, a Sunday spent eating ice cream and talking can be fun," Willow said.
Buffy and Giles looked confused, staring at the three teens like they had lost their minds. "Want privacy?" she asked. Xander shook his head. "Want to share then?"
"Not really." He shifted some. "I'm not ready to do that yet."
"It'll come when it's ready," Willow said, touching his fingertips. "And when it's time, I'll have smelling salts." She grinned.
Buffy shook her head, going back to her book. "Whatever."
Giles cleared his throat. "We still have to figure out who brought the creature here." He stared at the younger man until he got the message of 'we'll be talking later'.
Later came around one a.m., everyone having left but the librarian asking Xander to stay and help him put things up. Finally all the books were up and the chairs pushed in again so Giles leaned against the end of the table, looking at the young man who wanted very badly to escape this discussion. "Changing the group's dynamic could be very dangerous for all of you." He knew it wasn't the best opening but the look he got just made him feel bad.
Xander frowned at him, hurt by what the older man had said. "I'm not. I'm becoming me instead of someone else." He shrugged, pulling his pain back in again. "Not throwing us into chaos. Nothing about this should do that."
"It could still hurt... some people, if I'm correct about this problem that you had." He rubbed across his forehead. "You don't know how some people might react."
"Well, I can see you don't like the notion." He started to leave but the quiet words stopped him.
"Actually I don't have a problem with it, but certain young women might." He took off his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "It could throw her concentration off while she's considering how to react."
"Well, either she accepts it and me or she doesn't." He finished walking out. "Up to you both now," he said as he walked through the doorway.
Giles watched the library door close quietly behind the young man, wondering what other changes would be happening now but sure they would be all right if they all inspired him to that level of confidence.
Xander pulled Buffy from the crapeteria line, herding her outside. It had been almost two weeks since he'd told Willow and Oz, and his parents, but now he had to do the hard thing. He'd practiced all night how he was going to tell her, what she might ask, prepared himself for any reaction she might give him.
"Well, it's a nice walk but I needed to eat." She stopped him under a tree near the edge of school grounds. "Whatever it is, spill it."
"Well, I've... I've found some things about myself." He faced away from her, sure it would go easier if he wasn't looking when she got her hurt look. If he could ever get it out past the gonna be sick feeling. He ran a hand over the rough bark of the tree. "I'm ...." He couldn't say it now. Nothing would come out.
She laid a hand on his arm. "Xan, whatever it is, I'm here." He still didn't say anything so she multiple guessed. "Are you sick? Leaving? In love?"
"Funny you should mention that last one," he said, taking the easy opening. He cleared his throat. "It's ... it's who." He punched the tree hard, needing the focus of the pain.
"Me? Willow? Someone else not Cordelia?" She shifted on her feet, impatient when he didn't answer. "Just spit it out," she said, just a little loudly.
Oz walked over, seeing the struggle and impatience going on. "Problems?"
She looked at the older man, calculating her chances of getting an answer from him. "You know so spill." She crossed her arms, waiting.
"Not my secret to tell Buffy. I'm here for support." He leaned against the tree, blocking the next punch of the younger man. "Can't?"
"Yeah, it won't come out," he said quietly. He looked at his friends then around. Buffy, I'm ..." He closed his mouth, the words still unsaid.
"Oh, my God," she said, finally finding a clue, rather loudly still.
"Sssshhhh," Xander said, pulling her closer. "Yeah, I think you have the picture."
"You're gay?" He frowned. "Bi?" He nodded, sighing in relief that it was over. "Well, no wonder you couldn't say." She hugged him too tightly. "If you want to talk or shop or stuff, we'll go do it."
Oz shook his head at the unoriginal thoughts she had just spewed. "He's the same person he was three weeks ago. Not all gays like to shop."
She briefly looked hurt. "Sorry." She stepped back, letting the younger man go. "So are you two....?"
They looked at each other then Xander smiled but both of them shook their heads.
Oz pointed at the bench they usually inhabited. "Other support system is waiting." He waved her that way. "She brought you fruit." He watched her jog away. "You all right?" he asked quietly.
Xander nodded. "Yeah, thanks for the timely coming to my rescue thing." He looked at his friend. "Think you could help me tell Cordy before she lets it slip?"
Oz looked at the bench, seeing the temper tantrum named Cordelia Chase brewing. "Too late I'd say." He watched the younger man run over to diffuse it. "Why bother?" he asked the fleeing back quietly. "She'll never understand you." He got to the bench in time to walk his girlfriend to her next class.
"Ah, parents," he said, walking into his house. "This is scary. You're up for the second night in a row when I get home." He was stopped on his way upstairs. "Yeah?"
"Your father." She pointed at the living room.
The young man walked in, sitting down on the couch to watch his father drink his latest can of beer. "You rang?" he asked after twenty minutes.
"Not the time to be funny boy." He sat down the can. "I don't want any of that stuff going on in my house."
Xander shifted. "I've only just figured this out, I'm not ready for the sex part yet." He shivered, realizing what that word meant in relation to this subject for the first time.
"What about your friend the other day?" He sneered slightly. "Your mother said you looked ready to jump him when he was here." He took a small drink. "I don't want that in my house."
"He's been there for me, found out first." He shrugged. "We're both research assistants and he caught me reading my email so figured it out." He leaned back, getting comfortable for what might be a long argument. "He's Willow's boyfriend and she knows too."
"You're announcing this?" Xander shook his head quickly. "Well, at least that's something." He took another small drink. "I don't want you shouting it out around town. It looks bad on me."
Xander nodded. "Only my friends need to know." He looked around, very uncomfortable. "Dad, I'm not a stereotype. I'm the same guy I was two months ago."
"Is that when this started?" He stared at his son. "What trauma pushed you to this?"
Xander grinned. "Not a one. Just a realization that hit me one day while I was reading."
His father choked. "What does that man have you reading for him?" He looked very angry, ready to go do damage to poor Giles for forcing this onto his boy; probably gave him the idea too his face said. "Maybe I should go talk to him."
"Dad." Pause but no answer. "Dad." Still no answer. "Dad!" He resorted to shouting, finally getting the old man's attention. "Not him. I was reading a newspaper," he could cover nicely when he had to, even if he did say so himself, "and I saw a picture that started me thinking. This is not a big and it's not Giles' fault." He stood up. "I'm going upstairs."
"Yeah, fine, go have fun redecorating. I hear that's what you guys like to do." He chugged the rest of his beer. "I'm sure you'll be happier that way."
Xander leaned against his door for a second, reveling in the safety it provided. When he was ready, he locked the door, then picked up his phone, dialing Giles. "G? Fair warning, my father thinks you're the cause of my being me." He heard a grunt so hung up, his duty to warn completed. He pulled out some of the incense Willow had brought over, lighting a few cones as he put it around the room. As he walked past the cd player, he flipped on a soothing cd then laid down to relax. He listened to the quiet noises outside, trying to get to his calm thinking spot.
He rolled onto his side, closing his eyes, thinking about the stereotypes he'd been fed. Should he suddenly want to shop? Be more flamboyant? Feel the urge to decorate? He opened his eyes, looking around his perpetually cluttered room. "Well, it could use something. Maybe a good cleaning," he said quietly, rolling onto his back. "But none of the rest is me. Can I not be me anymore?" He continued to lay there, wondering where he could find that answer.
"Oz, wait," Xander called after the older man, dodging the post-school rush to leave. "Do you have time to talk?" The older man nodded, heading toward his van. Xander waited until they were alone on the sidewalk before bringing up the subject. "I need to figure out why I can't be me while I'm being me."
Oz stopped, turning to face him. "You can, they're idiots." He started walking again, pulling out his keys. "Coming?" He unlocked his door, climbing in.
Xander hopped in, turning to face his friend. "I'm not supposed to...."
Oz cut him off. "If this is part of you, why would it change the rest?" He looked at the stretched out Mighty Mouse t-shirt the younger man was wearing. "Isn't that Willow's?" The younger man nodded. "I wondered where it went."
Xander grinned. "You mean she's stealing your clothes now?" He looked down at it. "I'll wash it tonight and give it to you tomorrow."
"Not a big, I'll steal one of yours." He pulled out of the parking lot. "Keeps my look fresh."
to next part of the trio