Disclaimers: Not mine (sigh) and a bunch of people own them, who I'm not sure exactly. I gain nothing but pleasure from writing. No copyright infringement intended. Yes, writing is therapy for me.
Summary: Oz has to help Xander with a problem while he's roadtripping.
New Connections by Voracity
Willow looked up as Oz walked into her room. "Are we going to talk tonight?" He nodded, sitting on her desk chair. She handed over her diary, watching as he read her thoughts. "I didn't mean to screw us up like that. I never meant to do that."
Oz rubbed his arm against the postcard in his jacket pocket, not giving it to her. He handed the diary back after reading all of the entry. "That's still not a good enough reason," he said. He put his feet up, getting comfortable. "I'm not even sure there is a good enough reason to do something so harmful."
She nodded, closing the book and playing with the textured fabric on the front. "I won't do anything like that again," she promised quietly. "Never." She moved closer to where he was sitting. "What will it take for us to work this out?"
"How about some respect for our feelings?" he said. He recrossed his feet in the other direction. "You could have killed him or you with it. You could have driven Xander insane with it." He shuddered. "I don't even want to know what this did to his head. He was already having some trouble dealing with the balancing spell we did." He raised an eyebrow. "You heard from him?"
She nodded, pulling the postcard off the bedside table and handing it over. "Came today."
Oz read the simple, "I forgive you for it, but I'm still pissed," message then handed it back. "How long was he supposed to be gone?"
"A few months. Until his money ran out." She looked over her shoulder as someone walked in. "Giles?" She scrunched up her face. "What are you doing here?"
He tossed some herbs on her head. "By the power of Lethe and the dark arts, forget what you have done. Forget the spell that you cast that hurt them and return to yourself." He closed the book, looking at Oz. "I have enough for you also," he said. "I've done the rest of the people involved, except the police."
The younger man shook his head, nodding at the postcard. "I'm hurt but not that hurt." He looked at his girlfriend's sleeping form. "I'm supposed to act normal, right?"
"Yes, if I've done it right, she'll have no memory of any of those two days. Her mind will fill them in with the normal activities she would have done. Same as the few since the spell." He put the small card back down where it had been. "Where is he?"
"Upstate New York." He pulled out his own, showing it off but not letting him have it. "We've been talking, well he's been talking, and he's working it out." He tipped his head, watching her snore. "She's getting sick."
Giles shook his head and started to back out. "Just remember, for her it didn't happen." He looked into the light eyes. "I can do one for you also, but only for the next two days." He closed the door.
"Thanks," he told the wood, "but I have to deal with it." He reached over to pat her foot. "Will, you nap, I'll be in the living room." He stood up, walking out and closing the door quietly.
Oz looked up from his book as he door opened. He grinned, slightly, at the man standing there. "Only been three weeks," he said.
Xander walked in and sat down beside him, not looking at him. "I have to say something then I'm leaving for a few more weeks at least." He took a deep breath. "I liked it," he elbowed his friend. "Don't. I don't want to know, okay. I liked it and I'm not going to push but I needed to let you know." He stood up, heading quickly for the door.
Oz frowned. "Freeze." He walked over to the stiff body, moving to stand in front of it. "You can't drop a bomb like that and leave again. I should have the right to respond."
Xander shook his head. "I know you don't like me like that and I accept the fact. I just couldn't put it on a postcard." He walked around the older man, leaving the room.
Oz pulled on his shirt and a pair of shoes, hurrying after him. "Wait," he yelled. He got into the car beside him. "We still need to talk."
"It was an abnormal event. I know I don't have a chance of it being repeated. I understand that you're hers and I'll live with it." He turned to look at his friend for the first time. "I can't do that to her, Oz, and I won't even try because I know I can't win." He started the car. "I'm going on to do this coast. I'll be home in a few weeks."
Oz got out, watching as the car left, carrying the younger man with it to ease his pain. "You don't know that," he said. "Nothing's certain yet." He turned, walking back inside. He picked up the phone on his way, dialing Giles. He deserved to know too.
Xander looked in his wallet, sighing. "Okay, so a few weeks has turned into three days," he said. He frowned at his newly repaired car. "You were fixed before we left the house," he told it. "Why do this now?"
The mechanic smiled, patting his arm. "It's the milage, not the car. You've done a lot in the last month or so and she's not real happy with you." He put down the hood. "Could have been worse."
The young man snorted. "Yeah, it coulda been the engine block." He shook his head, getting in. "Thanks," he yelled as he backed up.
"No problem," he called back, waving, then ... disappeared.
Xander sighed as he pulled up in front of the diner, turning off his engine. He looked at the help wanted sign, the only one in town, and shook his head. "Whatever," he said. "I'm not going home yet." He walked inside, smiling at the lone waitress as she walked past. "Who do I talk to about that position?"
"Me," she said, handing him a notepad and a pen. "Now would be good, consider it a test." She carried the plate she picked up over to a table.
He shook his head, walking over to the group of men reading menus. "Ready?" he asked, pen over the paper.
Xander looked up as his co-worker walked by. "How did I do?" he asked, following her over to a booth and taking the soda she handed him.
"Not bad. You're inexperienced but you did okay." She looked him over. "Why you here?"
"I was passing through and my car blew a seal." He shrugged. "I've still got a few more weeks of vacation left so I needed money."
"So, you want to work a few weeks and get enough money to leave?" He nodded, his mouth full at the moment. "That's fine. Our other waitress is out with her newborn." She pointed at the register. "Dropped him behind there during lunch rush yesterday." She looked him over again. "You got other clothes?"
"A few bags full. Mostly jeans." She nodded. "Do I need to wear a uniform?"
She shook her head. "I doubt you'd look good in a pink skirt honey." She handed over his tips, smiling. "You did really well for a first day." She waved as the cook walked out. "You stayin' at the boarding house?" He nodded. "Nah, you'll stay with me, save some money." She patted his hand. "Go get your stuff while I do the closing rounds."
He jogged out, heading to his car. He pulled away, looking over his shoulder as he pulled out into the street. He was back ten minutes later and she was waiting so he opened the door. "Want a ride?"
She grinned at him. "I'd not offer what you're not willing to give," she said. She closed the door and buckled up. "We're going down Grant Street then left."
Xander looked at the signs then headed down to where he could see one that said Grant. He didn't look over his shoulder as the diner disappeared.
Oz looked up as Buffy walked into his room. "Hey," he said, setting aside his guitar. "What's up?"
She shook her head. "You heard from Xander?" He nodded, handing over the latest postcard, nothing deep on it for him not to not share. "Hmm, he's working?"
"Car broke down." He adjusted his seating, getting more comfortable. "Why?"
"I had a Slayer dream and he's in some sort of trouble." She handed it back. "I want to go help him but I can't leave Sunnydale. There's a major holiday coming."
He nodded. "Lots of people outside at night." He looked around his room. "I could go, maybe take Giles." She shook her head. "Okay, I could go."
She smiled sweetly. "I knew I could count on you." She impulsively hugged him and handed him a paper. "Thanks Oz. I'm sure he'd want to see you anyway." She skipped out, happier now.
He shook his head. "Why am I getting sucked in again?" he asked his instrument. He picked it up to put in his case then grabbed his bag. He'd known he needed to go somewhere for the last few days but now he had a destination. He picked them up to carry out to his van, coming back in once more to grab his wallet and keys.
Xander looked up as a familiar redhead sat down at the counter. "Oz," he said, setting a glass of water in front of his friend. "You here for a reason?"
"Yup," he said, sipping. "Buffy dream." He looked into the worried eyes. "Fourth's a busy time for her. Fireworks and all." Xander nodded. "So, got a break soon?"
"Few hours maybe," he said. He pulled out his notepad. "Want something?"
"Hmm, anything good?"
"Meatloaf." He raised an eyebrow. "Or veggie platter."
"Meatloaf," he said. "Great voice on the guy."
Xander grinned, writing it down and walking away.
It was almost an hour later, after the lunch rush had stopped, that he got to sit down with his friend in a far booth. "So, Buffy dream?" He sipped his soda, the ususal lunch.
Oz pushed over his plate. "Eat. You look like you're gonna fall over." He looked at the now thinner frame. "What's going on here?"
"Car broke and I needed cash to keep going for a while longer." He looked up at his boss. "This is Oz. He's the guy I was writing the postcard to this morning." He grinned as he pulled it out and handed it over. "Savings left and right now."
She shook her head. "Nice ta meet ya," she said, shaking the older teen's hand. "Xander, you can have the rest of the day off if you want. Tomorrow's your last day and I'll be fine until we close."
He nodded, jumping up. "Thanks, Mary," he said, kissing her cheek. He pulled Oz out, letting him go long enough to let him pay for his lunch, then they headed over to the park.
"That boy's transparent," she said. "I'm sure they'll be happy together." She gathered up the dirty plates to take back to the kitchen.
Xander sat Oz down in the small park. "What did she see?" He read the paper the older man handed to him. "Disappearing?" He looked around. "But nobody's even left recently."
"Not that sort," Oz said. He looked at the buildings. "Have you noticed anything funny? Unusual?" He looked back to see the younger man looking at him with great pain in his eyes. "Hey, we're okay." He touched the dry hand. "We're fine and nothing's changed as far as she knows." He got the confused look. "Giles made her forget. He, I, and you are the only ones that still know."
Xander nodded. "Okay, doesn't explain this though." He wiggled the paper. "I've been here for the last few weeks and nothing unusual, or even close to this, has happened."
"I'll stay with you until you leave. We'll figure it out or we'll go." The younger man nodded. "I'm at the boarding house."
Xander grinned. "I could talk Mary into letting you stay with us," he offered. "There's an extra couch and a small twin." He poked the unresponsive side. "Come on, it'll be fun." He wiggled his eyebrows.
Oz looked around then touched the dry hand again. "Let's go to the van and talk, okay?" The younger man nodded so they walked over to where Oz had parked, getting in and driving to a more secluded spot where half the town couldn't see them. They pulled into a small field, unused by the overgrown grass, and parked behind a small group of trees next to a brook. He turned to look at his friend. "Xander, that could be dangerous."
He shook his head. "No, I won't let it." Oz raised an eyebrow slightly. "Listen," he said, taking a hand then rubbing over the softer flesh. "I've got to get some lotion soon." He shook his head. "I'm not going to let it happen, okay? Nothing will go on between us because I won't let it." He swallowed hard. "I refuse to hurt Willow again."
The older man nodded. "I know, I feel the same way." He shook one of his hands free, rubbing over the stubbly jaw. "But it could."
"It won't," Xander said forcefully. He looked into the light eyes, seeing the pain there. "I'm sorry, Oz, I shouldn't have come back to tell you that." He turned his head to look out the window until his hair was grabbed, pulled until he looked at him again. "Oz?"
"Never doubt that it's mutual," he said. "I do feel it, but I can't let her be hurt." He let go of the hair, patting the worried face. "Never doubt it." //We wouldn't have this if there wasn't something there,// he sent over their bond. //Okay?//
Xander nodded. "Yeah, I know." He leaned his head back, trapping the hand behind his head. "Why do we still have that? It should be gone by now."
"It'll never be gone unless we forget," he whispered, removing his hand to take the other man's. "Yeah, you do need lotion. There's some in the glove box." He almost grinned at the rapid move to find it. "You're a waitress?" he said, turning to a more easy subject.
Xander groaned. "I needed the money, Oz, and I'm a *waiter*." He grinned as he sat back, rubbing his slippery hands. "Hmm, thanks, even smells good." He worked it in then turned to watch the sun go down. "Huh, not time for that yet."
Oz looked at his watch. "Three."
Xander's brow crinkled. "Really not time yet." He looked at Oz. "Okay, so a Buffy dream about disappearing towns after dark. What now?"
"Now," he said, starting the van and backing up, "we head back." He pulled out onto the highway, heading back toward town. "Next road trip, we should go."
"No," Xander said.
"Don't argue, I know some great places to break down in." He wiggled his brows a few times. "That's mostly what those crossed out marks were."
Xander grinned. "Yeah, and this is one of them." He pointed at the former park. "Hey, wasn't that green earlier?" Oz pulled in beside it so he got out to run over to the stone standing in the middle of it, surrounded by nothing. "Um, Oz, go check for my car," he called. "Book's in there."
The older man jogged up the street, sighing in relief as he saw the vehicle. He opened the back door and took out the obvious bag, hunting through it. "Not here," he muttered, getting in to check under the seats. He had just grabbed it when he started to feel funny, very sleepy. He yawned, bringing it out with him, and the tea since it was all together at the moment, to bring back to the younger man.
He didn't even notice when he fell down in the middle of a street, snoring lightly.
Xander looked around in alarm as the buildings started to disappear. He looked toward where his car would be, frowning when he saw the diner and the buildings that usually blocked it from his sight were gone too. He started to walk that way, then started to run when he saw Oz laying there. He slid down beside him, touching his back and head, trying to find out what was wrong. He looked for a bite mark then shook his head. "No vampires in town," he reminded himself. He picked up the bag, looking down in it. "Yeah, all I need's in here." He tucked it under his shirt and carried Oz back to the van, grunting and groaning under the weight. He'd just gotten him in the back when the first noise in an hour reached him. A buzzing... a roaring. A motorcycle? He walked around the end of the van, watching as it ran down through empty spaces, passing over where buildings used to be. "Huh," he said, very Oz-like at the moment. He looked over to see a faint smile and the open eyes. "Don't even. I started doing that three days after I left." He helped him up, letting him see the guy on the motorcycle, well mostly since he was see through. "Who do you think it is?"
"Not a clue," Oz said, picking up the book. "You look," he handed it over, "and I'll go look at him." He grabbed his head as he stepped onto the pavement.
"Or not," Xander said, helping him back inside. "You're affected, whatever is going on, so you stay. I'll figure this out."
//Be safe,// he sent, yawning. //Not wanting to lose you.//
Xander grinned. "Not me. I'll turn into Deadboy first." He patted the strong shoulder and headed back to the park to look at the stone. It was the only solid thing in town now so it had to mean something. He read over the words inscribed, reciting them to himself to memorize them. "Hey, Oz," he yelled, turning his head slightly. "What's a memorial marker for a cross path?" He heard a grunt behind him so turned to see a very unwelcome sight. He looked up, frowning at the wrong moon phase. "You're not being normal," he chided the werewolf. "I should go lock you up."
The animal sniffed him then the marker, taking the opportunity to pee on it. Xander grimaced, backing away so nothing hit him, but watched his friend deal with it in his own way. His head turned as he heard the motorcycle come closer. "Oz, man, get off it. We've got to get back to the van." He pulled on the inhumanly strong arm, relieved when it started to come with him but frowning when it didn't do more than turn. "Come on," he said, tugging again. He frowned at the growl. "Oh, yeah, you don't understand." He turned back toward the van and took off running as fast as he could.
Oz howled and started after him, seeing him as prey now. Xander just made it inside as he caught him, his claws grabbing the tempting ankle and pulling. The younger man braced himself and pulled him inside, holding his friend still while he changed back. He came to, shaking his head and moaning at the pain of the change. "What happened?" the younger teen asked, his voice going up a little in distress. He looked outside, seeing the moon. "It's not time."
"Don't," pant, pant, "know." He looked into the worried eyes. "Think I'll stay in the van now."
Xander nodded then bopped him on the shoulder. "I'd say." He flipped through his book, idly looking for something about a marker. "We need Giles here."
"He's home," Oz offered.
"No phones in town," Xander said. "And if we leave, we might not be able to get back."
"And the bad point is?"
The younger man turned to look at the elder one. "Why are we sounding like each other?"
//Because of this?// Oz suggested.
"Possibly. And don't *do* that."
"Tough." He almost grinned a little at the dirty look. "Hey, it comes in handy. Do you know you swear mentally when you're working?" He raised an eyebrow. "Really. Or at least you were today."
Xander shook his head. "Kept giving people the wrong food because you were distracting me." He came to the back of the book again and put it aside. "Now what?"
"Not a clue. What did the marker say?"
"Said it was memorial for a cross path."
Oz grunted. "Page thee hundred and something. You've seen it recently, just passed over it." He weathered the dirty look and leaned back to get comfortable as he looked again. "Motorcycle's gone."
"Then maybe the town's coming back. Are you feeling different?"
"So why are you not changing in here?"
"Not from here," Oz suggested. He saw the confused look. "Neither of our cars are from here, don't have things in it from here. Hence, they don't disappear."
"By that standard I should be gone. I've been eating food from here."
Oz snorted. "When?" He sent the dirty look back. "You've lost at least ten pounds in the last month or so." He waved at the thinner body. "When have you been eating?"
"I just run it off during the day." He made a happy noise as he found the right spot. "Hmm, okay, we're on the, and I quoteth because I know not what it means, "the nexus of two planes or realities. Marked by a stone marker and held secure by a guardian," so that explains the stone and motorcycle guy but not the rest of this."
"At night they must switch over to the other."
"So why dark at three by our watches?"
"Because time must run funny in the other half." Oz shifted, sitting up. "You've got to leave here. I don't think there's anything we can do to help them or if they need it."
"Or want it," Xander suggested.
"Or want it." He listened to the noise from outside. "No motorcycle guy." He looked out the front window. "Daylight."
Oz shook his head, looking at his watch. "Not long past midnight." He stretched and got out of the van.
"Oz, wait!" He started to pull him back inside. "What about..."
"Daylight," he said, waving around. "Come on, let's go get your check and we'll be fine." He watched the smaller back walk away.
"So, Mary, got a sec?" Xander asked as he walked into his reappeared workplace.
She looked panicked as she pulled him to the farthest booth. "I was worried when you didn't come in last night. Where were you?" She looked at Oz as he walked in. "Never mind. You two must have been catching up." She shook her head, leaning closer. "Most people don't come back from that."
Oz nodded. "The whole town disappeared."
"We were sitting, talking, in the van and the sun went down early by our watches so we came back to the find the town becoming clear." He leaned closer. "Do we need to help fix it or are you happy?"
"We don't know why it happened, Xander. One day this guy showed up and died. It started that night we guess but we never noticed until someone left town for the hospital and came back late. We've adjusted."
Xander nodded. "One of our friends in Sunnydale," she winced, having heard something about it probably, "who has fought on the right side, has a very huge library of books that might do something."
She tapped the magic book the younger man held. "Someone else tried and it got worse. We adjusted."
"Okay, we won't meddle." He grabbed her pen and wrote down a number on a napkin. "Here's our friend's number. His name's on there too. Call him and tell him we told you to if you want to go that way." She put it in her pocket, making the younger man grin. "All right, want me to work?"
"No, I'll deal." She smiled and pulled out his check. "Your stuff's in the back. Go be with your friend." She smiled at Oz. "Going with him?"
The older teen shrugged. "Got three weeks before class. Could." He looked at him. "Xander?"
The younger man shrugged. "Not my call. You're the one with the ties."
"Yeah." Pause. "Sure, I can do that." He looked out the window. "We should go."
Xander kissed his bosses' cheek and took his check, walking out. "Thanks Mary!"
Oz grunted, getting up. "Thanks for tending him." He walked out, leaning against the side of the car to wait for him to come back from the bank. He followed him back inside, grabbing a few bags and carrying them to his van.
Xander put his bags into the trunk then looked around for..."Oz?" He spun around, shaking his head as he spotted the washed out t-shirt going around a corner. "I'm not going back yet!" he called. When there wasn't an answer or a reappearance of either the man or his stuff he got into his car, driving over to where the van was parked. "Um, Oz, why is my stuff going into your van?"
The older man turned as he closed the back door. "If we're traveling together, two cars don't work." He patted the side of his van. "Better equipped. Already knows many places."
Xander pulled into a parking space and got out. "I'm not ready to go back yet."
"We'll drop it in LA with Cordy and travel from there."
Xander grinned. "Okay." He started to walk away but the gentle hand on his arm stopped him.
"The idea okay?" Oz watched with worried eyes as the younger man thought.
"Sure. I've figured out most of what I needed to." He patted the hand as he removed it. "You already know most of it though." He leaned against the blue paint, nodding at someone he knew. "Friends?"
The older man nodded. "Always." He shoved on the shoulder. "Let's go, it'll be almost two by the time we get someplace else and I could use a nap."
"Probably should leave this here." Xander took off his watch but Oz stopped him. "Huh?"
"Souvenir." He brought it down to the loose pocket, putting it in there. "Let's go, I need a nap."
The younger man got into his car, following the van out of town. He turned up his cd player as he left the city limits, happy to be traveling again and not alone anymore.
TO BE CONTINUED.