Title: Cures and Friendships
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pairings: Derek/Philip, Willow/Oz/Xander, Nick/Buffy
Fandom: P:TL/BTVS xover
Status: new; complete
Archive: Sure, if you really want to.
Archive author: Voracity
Archive email address: email@example.com Or above
Other website: (being worked on)
Disclaimers: Not mine (sigh). I gain nothing but pleasure from writing. No copyright infringment intended. Yes, writing is therapy for me.
Summary: part 12: It's cured and Willow enlightens the guys to what they really want.
Warnings: M/M (not that this should have to be a warning), some heavy angst
Cures and Friendships by Voracity
Oz looked up as Xander set a plate down beside him. "Paper?"
"Mostly done my explanation parts," he said, sitting down in the chair in front of the television. "Why? Having probs with your part?"
"No, I don't remember much after I change." He turned in his seat. "We could get online and surf. Chat even."
The younger man shook his head. "No thanks, Oz, you do it." He looked up. "Stupid game show's on."
The older man brought his supper over, watching the people run through a supermarket. "Ah, lame, just what I needed to clear my mind." He looked over at him. "We should escape for our month anniversary."
Xander took a bite nodding. "You want to be brought back tranqed?" He grinned. "Derek said he'd send down a cake."
Oz shook his head. "I want to leave the house, not the island."
"I don't see why we couldn't take a walk." He looked around the transformed room. "I didn't do too bad in here. Maybe I should major in design."
The older man nodded. "Could work. I think I'll do the shrink stuff though." He scraped his plate, putting it aside. "Don't know if I want to do the whole doctor thing though."
"Comes in handy."
"Dead bodies," he reminded him. "Have to do lots of stuff not related to helping." He turned to look at his housemate. "Do Willow and I bother you?"
"Nope, those nights I sleep with headphones on." His arm got hit, prompting him to turn off the game show and turn to face the older man. "Oz, I've never minded you two that much. You're good to her, much better than I could have been." He smiled, sadly. "Not that it didn't take me a while to realize that but I'm okay with it now." He put down his plate, stacking them together. "I don't mind, I just can't listen." He stood up. "Want ice cream again?"
The older man shook his head. "No, thanks." He looked at his watch, seeing the date. "I've got to turn snarly again tomorrow, we might want to make precautions tonight."
"Tranq rifle's in my room, as are the chains and cuffs." He bent over, pushing a strand of hair away from the pinkened ear. "Maybe you shouldn't try to pierce yourself again."
"Had to do something."
"Hey, I made Willow tell Precious to go get me a kit to do tats and stuff. Want me to practice on you? Got some non-perm ink too." He grinned, pulling up his pants leg to show his new one off. "Not too bad at it. The guy that did mine was teaching me."
Oz bent over to look at it. "Nice for a beginner." He sat back, looking up. "We'll see." He grabbed the phone as it rang. "Yeah?" He shook his head and hung up, walking out of the room.
"Oz?" Xander called, wincing at the slammed door. "Must have been Devon," he muttered. He carried the plates into the kitchen, dropping them into the sink before heading upstairs. He tapped lightly on Oz's door, walking in at the sound of thrown stuff. "Devon?" he guessed.
"Yes," Oz said calmly, picking up a glass and throwing it against the wall. He spun, hitting the one beside him, denting it with a growl. "The new guy's working out great but he needs some of my sheet music."
Xander walked over, pulling the hurting man against his chest, leaning his chin on a tense shoulder. "He's only a temp. We'll be done with this soon and you can go back to Dingoes."
Oz shook his head, turning in the firm arms. "How can you be so sure? It's been a *month*!" He shook him off, stepping away to start pacing. "I hate this, I hate this house, this alien, all of this."
"Hey," Xander said, stopping him. "You're not alone here. I'm hating it just as much as you." He growled slightly at the disbelieving look. "Do you think I like being cooped up here? Having to restrain all of my natural instincts?" He walked out, going to his room and slamming the door.
Oz took a deep breath, calming down again. He walked down the short hall, knocking on the younger man's door. "Xan? Can I come in?" He heard a crash so opened the door.
"What?" He spun to look at the intruder into his space. "Go away!" He tossed something at him.
Oz caught the statue, putting it down on the floor. "I forgot how hard this is for you too and I'm sorry." He walked in slowly, carefully approaching him. "Don't be pissed at me, please."
Xander did something scary, he broke down, sitting in the middle of his room. "I can't take this anymore." He looked up as his friend walked over. "Kill me, just end it and burn them."
"I can't." He sat down beside him, wrapping him up in his strong arms. "This is hard for both of us. I know you need to go out and prowl too, but I forgot." He waited the storm of emotion out. "We're here for each other, that's the important part."
Xander shook his head. "Sometimes it's not enough to know that." He stood up, looking around at the mess he'd just made. "I'm gonna go hide in the tub." He walked into the bathroom, closing the door gently.
Oz picked up the cd laying next to him, putting it back into it's case. "This sucks, but that's not the answer." He started to straighten the room, not wanting him to have to come back to a reminder of this.
Xander looked in the mirror, seeing the spots still. "Why pick us," he asked his reflection. "Why not the smart and coping ones?" He ran some water in the sink, splashing his face before starting the tub. He could hear Oz moving around in his room but didn't want to know what he was doing. He stripped down, climbing into the warm water sinking down as far as he could.
Then he got the idea, getting up and getting the bath salts Buffy had given him. He read the label, smiling, then poured a large amount in, looking at the now very salinated water. He closed his eyes, stepping in, shrieking at the pain.
Oz looked up at the first scream and got up, heading quickly over to the door. He knocked gently. "Xan? You all right?" He tried the knob, frowning at it when he found out it was locked. "Xander! Answer me!" He pounded again, then stepped back, kicking at the lock and knob. By the third one he was in. He looked down at the unconscious body, not seeing an obvious reason. He wrinkled his nose at the flower smell, looking around to see what was causing it.
"Oh, no," he muttered, picking up the bottle of salts from the floor. "He didn't." He bent over, testing the water, gritting his teeth as the alien in his arm moved. "Stupid brat," he muttered letting out the water and turning on the shower. He stopped the drain when he noticed some of the alien starting to run out, turning off the shower for a second so he could get a phone. "Derek?" he asked, once it was answered. "What do I do? Xander just poured himself a high salt bath and got in." He looked down at the younger man. "No, he's living. Not conscious but living." He frowned. "No, I rinsed him off and stopped the tub, the alien started to run down the drain." Long pause. "I don't know, I've not had that sort of class yet." He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, send Marcus if he's there. This is way out of my league." He hung up, sitting down beside the tub. "Yeah, this is was stupid." He shook his head, running his hand through the water. "Were you trying to die and leave me?" he asked quietly. "I'm not that mean."
"No, not you," Xander said quietly. "Wanted them to go, not you." He reached up, patting the unusually long hair. "Want you here." His hand fell back into the water, splashing his friend with some of the salty fluid.
"Was still dumb," he muttered. He looked up as Nick and Marcus walked in. "Bath salts." He stood, getting out of their way. "He screamed and I came in, he was out by then. Rinsed him off but it's still pretty salty."
Marcus nodded, bending down to examine him. "I'd say it's deadly to them." He poked at a long string of the creature floating in the water, frowning at it. "He been upset a lot recently?"
Oz shrugged. "Other than just before the bath, I don't think so." He looked at Nick, who was frowning at him. "We pretty well do separate stuff. He reads and I play, we write in separate rooms. We only eat together." He stepped back some, seeing the temper building. "We help each other, he tried to calm me down earlier when Devon called then threw a fit in his room."
"Looked okay when we walked through," Marcus said, distracted by his patient.
"I cleaned it for him so he wouldn't stress more," Oz said, walking out. He came back in with a robe and a clean towel. "Here, his."
Nick took them, putting them down beside him. "Is it dying in him?"
"Very much so, thankfully. I'm not sure how he's going to be affected by this though." He looked over his shoulder at the older infected man. "Did you touch the water?"
"My hand." He showed it, frowning down at it. "That's gross looking."
Marcus pulled him over, looking at the peeling and darkening skin. "But it's dying." He looked up. "I believe he found a way to cure it." He nodded at Nick to lift him out. "Just not sure if the cure is worth the price."
Oz got out of their way, going to turn back the bed so they could put him in it. He waited until Marcus walked out, pulling him aside. "He screamed. Like it was burning him screamed." The doctor nodded. "The alien started to run out when I turned on the shower afterwards, really pale, almost white. Is this the answer?"
"Maybe." He walked over to the bed. "If it is, you're next." He looked his patient over one last time then looked at Oz. "Come here, I need to see your hand." He sat on the side of the bed, holding it up to the light. "Hmm, lets go run some water over it, see what happens." He pulled him into the bathroom, turning on the sink. He held his hand under the body temperatured water, watching as the gross looking skin peeled off. He adjusted it colder, then hotter, seeing the creature starting to ooze out as soon as it got chilly. "Well, I do believe he was right." He looked up at Nick, who had followed them. "This is it."
Nick shook his head. "All going out?"
"Of this pustule." He smiled at Oz. "I do believe you both found it. Get really emotional then hop into salty water then rinse." He looked at Nick. "We could use the pool and the adjacent showers."
"What about it going down the drain? It could infect someone else."
"The pool and the shower there empty into a holding tank. We can salinate it afterwards," Nick said, smiling for the first time in days. "Looks like you guys may be almost ready to come home."
Oz hurried into the next room, having heard the younger man waking. "Hey," he said softly, sitting beside him. "Looks like you may have found a cure." He waited but the dark eyes didn't open. "Xander, look at me please." One eye opened. "You found what kills them."
"Hurts," he said, slurring it. "Very much bad."
"I know," he soothed, patting a firm hand. "I know it does. We can fix that later." The younger man shook his head. "No?"
"No, dying hurts." He closed his eyes, rolling onto his side, curling around his friend. "Don't let them take me too?"
"Of course not." He brushed through the long hair, looking up at the two older men. "Your call."
"I want to examine him closer first. That didn't sound too good." He frowned, picking up Oz's hand. "Are you feeling anything other than localized pain?" He shook his head. "Okay, then I'd have to say the alien's in his spinal column now." He squatted down in front of him, opening an eye to look. "I'll go sleep in the spare bedroom and check through the night."
"Take mine, he won't want to be alone." He looked up at Nick. "Tell them?"
"Yeah, Oz, I'll tell ‘em." He patted both of them then left.
Marcus looked up at him. "She's still not infected," he said quietly.
"I know, she told me earlier." He looked down. "He hates to be bothered while he sleeps." He let go of the hand, pulling off his shirt, looking in disgust as some of the alien started to stick to it. "Way grossening."
Xander looked up, grinning slightly. "Did that yesterday," he mumbled. He closed his eyes after moving his head onto the firm thigh it'd been resting against. "Night."
"Yeah, we'll sleep now," Oz said, shifting him around and crawling in behind him. He tossed the throw off the bed, knowing he wouldn't want to replace it. "Put that someplace safe, he's had it for a while," he said, covering them. "I'll watch him."
Marcus spread it out over the desk, stepping back to watch them together. When they both looked asleep, he walked down the short hall, going to what would be his room for the next few days.
Oz looked up from his post beside the sleeping man, nodding at Willow to come in. "Hey," he said quietly. He made room for her to crawl in beside him. "How're you?"
"Okay." She patted down the gauze covered arm. "How's he?" She looked at him. "And you?"
"We're okay. The things seem to want to leave." He kissed her cheek, low so nothing might brush on her. "He sat in a salt bath."
"That's what Derek said when he answered phone at the table." She gave him her brave smile. "How are you really?"
"Frustrated and sticky," he said, moving a hand to pull up on a piece of gauze. "They want to stick to stuff."
She brushed over the covered arm. "Is he really okay?"
"Just a bit under still. It hurts so Marcus put him under." He shrugged. "His was worse than mine and it had a more direct entry and more time to work it's way in." She nodded. "We might get to come home soon."
She smiled. "I'm going to London in a few days." He tipped his head. "William wants me there for a few months, his head researcher's out on maternity leave." She smiled. "Will you guys be okay?"
"Yeah," he said softly. "We'll be fine." He turned her head to look at him. "Us?"
"We're not through," she said, reassuring him, "just taking a break." She leaned over, kissing his uninfected cheek. "Not much different than we are now only more long distance and letter and phones and stuff." He nodded. "I'm not leaving you," she said quietly. "I refuse to."
He made her look at him. "I'm not upset. You have to go, you'll come back, we'll figure this out then or during." She smiled, reassured. "I know you love me still. I have faith in you and us."
"Go find a room," Xander mumbled. "Want more sleep." He removed Oz's arm from his chest. "Go cuddle her." He opened his eyes, smiling at his oldest friend. "Hey Will, cute hair." He slowly succumbed to the drugs again.
She crawled off the bed, pulling Oz with her. They walked up to the library, shutting the door behind them. "What's up with you two? I know you've been sleeping with him."
"Only cuddling next to him." He pulled her into a hug. "I'm not like that, it was a comfort thing. For both of us."
She nodded. "I can see how that was needed." She pulled back. "Are you sure that's all it is? You and he are way close."
"More sure than not." He sat down, pulling her onto his lap. "We're friends, really close friends, but I'm not running my attentions that way." She nodded. "I like guys, but only as friends, okay?" She nodded again. "Not between us anyway, ‘cause we're friends."
"You sound like him," she whispered, moving to kneel in front of him. "I love him too, you can admit it." She smiled hopefully. "You'll think about it while I'm gone?" He nodded. "Okay, we'll work this out." She brushed through his hair as she stood. "I bet you'll be glad to get off the island again."
He nodded, hint of a grin coming out. "Oh, yeah, muchly." He pulled her into a hug, holding her tightly. "I love you, mine."
She stepped back. "Never doubted it." She kissed a clear spot on his forehead, stepping back. "But I'm not going to make you chose, I'm not that immature." She walked out, heading out of the house.
Oz walked over to the window, watching her leave him again. "No, but I can't do that to any of you." He turned once she was out of sight, walking back downstairs. He heard the pained grunts so headed in that direction. "Time to change them again?" he asked but stopped in the doorway. Derek was lifting up an edge of a bandage, looking down in disgust at the pustule underneath. "Yeah, it's pretty gross," he said, walking in.
The Precept turned to face him. "Willow find you?" He nodded. "I tried to dissuade him but William was adamant that it be her that come." He looked very sorry then back down at Xander. "How's he doing?"
"It's leaking out, not as fast anymore." He sat on the foot of the bed. "Marcus thinks it may be trying to live again, grow and heal."
The older man shook his head. "Not goot." He sat down in the chair he'd brought in. "He told me his plan today, he wants you both to jump into a highly salinated pool." Oz nodded. "I know he's broached this subject with you, but I want to hear your thoughts on it."
"Worked for him, was very painful." He shrugged. "You'd have to ask him at a non-drugged moment."
Derek nodded. "I know." He looked around the room. "You both seem very comfortable here."
"Not really. It's a comfortable prison but no more." He looked over his shoulder as Marcus and Rachel walked in. "What's the plan, Doc?"
He checked Xander then nodded at the guys standing outside. "Both your butts into the pool." He stood back, watching as Oz was sedated by Rachel then he turned to Derek. "I'm hoping this won't have to be repeated. Xander's so highly infected it might kill him a second time."
Derek nodded. "I understand but we can't leave them like this." He got out of the way of the security force carrying both them. "I'm hoping this works too, Marcus, they're like my own family." He followed them out.
Nick and Buffy caught the two unconscious men as they were lowered into the pool, their screams echoing around the enclosed space, making everyone present wince in sympathetic pain. He put the breathers on them, covering their mouth and noses before dunking them under the water for a few seconds. When the young men's skin started to change and bubble up, they let them up, handing them off to the two doctors to be put into the showers.
Marcus rotated them, spraying the water down their other sides. He didn't want to listen to the pained little noises they were making but it was impossible to ignore. When all the pustules were broken and the white aliens had run out, he handed them back off to Nick and Buffy, who took them back to the pool to make sure they were cleaned.
The screams were less each time but by the end, there wasn't any noise at all.
Oz woke up in his room in the castle, looking around. "Huh, must have done it." He tried to move but every single hair on his body hurt at that second. He moved his eyes around, wanting to see if anybody was around. All he could see was a darkened lump beside him. "Xan?" he said quietly. He heard a pained whimper so flipped over all at once to minimize his own. "Xan? You in there?" He lifted up some of the throw, looking under it. "Hey," he said when he met a pair of shining eyes. "Wished I had bit you now?" He almost grinned at the nod. "Go back to sleep, I'll be here." He let the throw fall back down, taking the fuzzy lump into his arms to cuddle it. His werewolf physiology would make him heal faster but if what he was going through was an indication, the younger man must be ready for morphine. He closed his eyes, falling back into a gentle healing sleep.
Xander tossed the throw off his head, looking around. He felt better now, no more pain, but he was still confused. This wasn't either of his rooms, but it looked familiar. He looked down at the person holding onto him, grinning at the sight of Oz half covered in his throw. "Hey," he said softly, hearing a snort that said he was awake. "You okay?"
Oz removed the velvet from his head. "Yeah, I've been okay for a few days. How are you?"
"Fine, or at least better." He rolled onto his side. "I wonder who's idea putting us together was?"
"Willow's," Buffy said from the door. She kicked it closed behind her, carrying their tray over to the bed. "Been a week but it was her idea. Derek gave her major frowns when she suggested it too." She put the wooden tray between them then sat by their feet. "Marcus said to eat."
Xander reached a hand up, taking hers. "You make a really good nurse," he said, grinning. "You eat yet?" She nodded, looking meaningfully at the clock. "Hmm, mid afternoon."
Oz picked up one of the cups of cocoa. "She in London?" Buffy nodded. "Okay, I'll call her later." He took a sip. "Why does this taste different?"
"‘Cause it's British. They get good cocoa over there," Xander said, sipping at his. "Cadbury's."
Oz nodded, looking at the muffins on the tray. "Are we clean?" She nodded, grinning. "Let me guess, you helped?"
She got off the bed. "Guys, you are both way well built," she said, still grinning. "I never imagined."
Oz held the tray still as Xander got up to chase her, slight grin coming out. "Yeah, I'd say she was there." He picked up a muffin, tossing it at him. "We should talk."
The younger man sat back down, peeling the wrapper away from his meal. "Yeah, probably." He looked down at himself. "Does she, um, think..." he let it dangle.
Oz nodded. "Pretty muchly." He sat up too, steadying the tray between them. He took a bite of his muffin, humming in appreciation. "They sent out for them," he said in admiration. He turned as he heard someone walking down the hall. "Company."
Xander turned as their Precept walked in. "Hey Boss." He grinned at his brother. "Bro. We're better now."
"Fortunately," Derek said, sitting next to them. "None of us want to put you through that again." He stole a muffin, splitting it with Nick. "How are you feeling?"
"Pretty good, well rested at least," Xander said. He looked at Oz. "We were just talking."
Nick handed him the Jaguar's keys. "Figured as much. Willow's about ready to plan you guys a wedding." He sat down on the bed too, ruffling his brother's hair. "You both need to get off the island, just to have haircuts."
Oz nodded. "Planned on it. This is the most hair I've had in forever." He finished up his muffin. "Any word on where Dev and the crew are?"
"Downstairs," Derek said. "He was most anxious to find out that all the *mushrooms* you'd been growing were gone." He shook his head, hint of a smile showing. "Very original."
"Thanks." Oz stood up. "Xander, catch a ride with you?" The younger man nodded. "Cool, later." He pulled on his bathrobe, heading down to tell his other friend that he was okay.
Nick looked at Xander. "All your stuff's back in your room too. We all thought it would be better to put you together, more calming through all the pain." He played with the edge of the throw. "How close are you?"
Xander smiled, taking the throw from his fingers. "Very close friends but we're not that to each other." He smiled at Derek. "So, how's the house been?"
"Boring without you two," he admitted. "Just a few routine cases, and the like." He looked at Nick. "Philip left town yesterday on assignment for the church, he's back at the Vatican in their library. Alex and Marcus have discovered what they used to have then quickly why they broke up. Nick has almost worn the carpet in the hall out as he paced outside the door." He smiled a little. "Very understandable. You were asleep for almost a week."
Xander nodded. "Buffy said something about that." He brushed the crumbs off his pajama bottoms. "Thanks you guys." He hugged them both. "What do we have to do today?"
"Oh, nothing much," Alex said, walking in. "Marcus wants to examine you both tomorrow. He figured you'd both want some off island time and the last time he didn't see any little silver spots so he said it was okay." She handed him a shirt, watching as he put it on, reading the message with a grin. "Precious and Willow shopped for them, together, for today." She took Oz's former spot. "Any pain?" He shook his head. "We're all glad you're back, but can you try to keep the strangeness down to a minimum for a while? It got intense there for a few weeks."
Xander grinned. "Hey, I didn't call them here." He hugged her too. "But I'll try." He picked up his cocoa, draining it. "I'm guessing we should head over to the mainland."
Alex shook her head. "Give him some time, they were talking." She stood up. "Oh, and all your clothes have been cleaned, all the infected ones have either been sanitized or tossed if we couldn't get them out, your bank account's healthy, and you probably need gas. Nick drove your car last." She walked out before the last man could answer her allegations.
"Na-uh. Derek did. He took Philip to the airport." He grinned. "Tonight, we'll talk." He stood up, giving his brother one last hug before leaving.
Derek read the t-shirt again. "You four have the most annoying habit of livening this house up." He smiled, genuinely please. "Thank you, it needed it." He stood up also, taking the tray. "Go shower and do what you need to so you can go. I know how much you want to escape right now. I won't even expect you for dinner." He started to walk away but turned to look at him again. "Oh, we moved the formal back so you wouldn't miss this one." He smiled at the groan, leaving. "Three days," he called over his shoulder.
Oz looked over Xander's shoulder in the mirror, looking up at the hairdresser. "Give him something fun and easy. He swims a lot."
Xander shuddered. "I think I'll lay off that for a while." His eyes met the light ones in the mirror. "I like your do, but it's not for me." He pointed at the picture in the book. "How about that?"
"Very old you. You need something different to mark the occasion." He stepped out of the hairdressers's way, letting her weigh the hair. "Your first research paper's almost done, only needs editing and we're free again."
She smiled at the reflections in the mirror. "Students?"
"That too," they said together, cracking up.
Xander tipped his head back, looking up at her. "Do your worst, let him decide."
Oz flipped to the picture he liked, showing her. She nodded, picking up her scissors and taking the first piece off.
Xander sighed in relief.
Xander looked over Oz's tux with a critical eye. "Doesn't fit right." He looked at the man waiting on them. "Really doesn't." He nodded, getting another one. "Did you know that the nice woman that cut our hair thought we were together?" he asked quietly, stepping closer to him to share the mirror.
Oz nodded. "So I noticed." He looked around. "We're acting it today."
Xander grinned. "Nah, you think?" He stepped out of the fitter's way. "So, what this time?"
"Different cut." He handed it over, watching as the older man walked back into the dressing rooms. "You make a cute couple," he told Xander quietly.
"Just friends, we work together," Xander said, fussing with his tie. "Do I have to wear one of these?"
"You could go for the fashionably not look," Oz said, walking back out. "And yeah, we're just friends and co-workers." He looked at Xander. "Right?"
"Very right." He reached behind him, straightening out the older man's tie. "You look good in one of those," he pouted, joking. "Why can't I look like Bond?"
"Because you're not British?" Oz suggested, elbowing him out of the way. "You look fine, you're just primping."
The younger man grinned. "I should get something eclectic and silk." He walked over to the rows of tuxedo's, feeling each one and pulling one down. "How's this?" He showed it off.
Oz looked over his shoulder. "Not you." Xander searched some more, coming up with another one he liked. "Very you," he said, nodding. "Go try it on."
The fitter left, coming back with it in the right size so the younger man went to try it on. He came out, arms held out. "Yup, this is me."
Oz nodded, suppressing the urge to whistle. "Yeah, I'd say." He looked in the mirror. "This isn't me though." He looked at the younger man. "Go find me one? I trust your taste." Xander looked, coming back quickly with two selections. "Hmm, like the one on the right." The younger man handed him the other one. "If you say so," he said, heading back into the dressing room. He came out a few minutes later, holding up the pants legs. "I think it's a little too big." The fitter handed him one in the right size so he went to change, coming back out looking very suave. "Yeah this is a good one." He modeled it, turning around to look in the mirrors. "Very nice choice." He looked at Xander. "Very good taste."
"Hey, of course." He stood beside him. "Think someone will ask us to dance?"
Oz shook his head. "Not with Derek and Nick there." He looked at the fitter. "We'll take these."
He nodded, hurrying away to get a salesman.
Precious yelled as they walked into the store she worked in, hopping the counter to hug both of them. Xander let her go quickly, seeing her girlfriend looking at them evilly. "Hi," he said, grinning. "I was told to come thank you for all the way cool stuff, including our shirts." He looked down at his, wiping at a spot of lunch.
She smiled, hitting his shoulder. "Yeah, but we're just glad you're better." She hugged Oz briefly, more than aware of the stare from behind her. "How you doing?"
He nodded. "Better now." He looked around, then at Xander. "I believe it's my turn to buy this round of t-shirts."
"Nope, mine," Xander said, letting an arm rest around her neck.
"You bought me one right before all that started, before a gig if you remember." He picked up on, looking at the one underneath it. "Ah-ha, found one to send to her in London." He held it up, making Precious grin.
"Yeah, I'm sure she'd like it." She looked up at Xander. "How are you really? The last time I saw you, you were sick looking."
He grinned, hugging her. "Much better. We woke up this morning all better actually." He tickled her lightly, letting her go when he remembered that she wasn't Willow. "Sorry."
Precious' girlfriend came over to them, still frowning. A very tall, very muscular, very butch blonde with a crew cut. "So, you're the infamous Xander, huh?" She looked him over. "I can see why she worried about you, you aren't much."
Oz stepped up behind her. "Actually, Precious and my girlfriend, who happens to look just like yours, were together most of the time. We never got to see her since we were quarantined." He held up one. "Xan? How ‘bout this one?"
"Only if I can wear it at the formal." He looked down. "Derek's being mean. It's a mandatory thing."
She patted his arm, stepping away to ease her girlfriend's mind. "Yeah, the whole city hears about those the next day." She looked at the t-shirt again, nodding. "If you can get away with it, I'd go for it." She wrapped an arm around her girlfriend's waist. "What about you dear?"
The blonde looked at it then him. "I'm just glad it's not me." She shook off the arm, walking toward the back. "I'm going back to work."
Precious pouted for all of two seconds. "Sorry ‘bout that guys, she's a little jealous." She rolled her eyes.
Oz nodded. "Could see that but she doesn't have to worry about us. Willow'd skin us." He handed over the two shirts he'd found, the one he wanted to get him and the one for the formal. Xander read the other one, smiling in deep satisfaction. "You like?"
"Very." He walked over to the rack, looking for one number in particular. He hunted then made a happy sound, handing it off to Oz. "Very much," he said simply.
Oz read it, entranced at the message. He put it down to look at Xander. "You do?" The younger man nodded. "That's so cool." He folded it over his arm, grinning fully now. He liked getting things that said people loved him for being himself.
Buffy slapped Xander's hand as he fussed with the earpiece again. "Stop it, you're drawing attention to yourself," she said quietly. She adjusted it for him again then walked over to where Nick and Derek were talking to someone semi-important in the city.
Xander smiled as the broadcast came over the speaker. "Um, getting another visitor," he told the man beside him quietly. He turned Oz to make him watch the door, smiling at the indrawn gasp.
Oz's breath caught when he saw his girlfriend walk through the door. He walked through the crowd, making it to her side without realizing he'd moved. "Willow," he said, almost reverently. He took her hand, leading her down into the group. "You look...." He swallowed the words he wanted to say, their existence not being adequate to what he was feeling. He hugged her to him, carefully so as to not smoosh her velvet and satin gown. "Perfect," he whispered.
She smiled at him, taking his arm as they walked through the room to their housemates. "William's wife took me shopping." She looked down at his outfit. "Xander pick it out for you?" He nodded, still not able to do more than grin gently. She leaned closer to his ear. "Speechless love?"
He spun her around, facing him. "I want to dance with you," he said quietly. "Come on." He led her to the dance floor, gathering her into his arms, gently moving with the music, not caring that everyone he knew was watching them right now, peaceful in his existence at that moment.
Nick slung an arm around his brother's neck, watching the couple also. "They are cute together," he said quietly.
Xander wiped at his cheek. "Yeah, they are." He looked up at his brother. "Kinda makes up for all the recent crap, huh?" He walked away, heading out to the balcony.
Derek walked up beside Nick, bringing Buffy with him. "Love can be so confusing," he said softly. Nick nodded, turning to his girlfriend and taking her out onto the floor. He watched his house coming together, really wanting his own mate at that second.
Derek made sure he had a photo taken of the whole house while they were all there before he went up to bed. Alex and Nick left also, giving the foursome time to catch up.
Willow looked at Buffy's dress. "I seem to remember that one," she said, grinning. "Didn't you buy that on our trip with Alex?"
The blonde nodded. "Yeah, she wanted me to wear it tonight, said it'd brighten up the party." She hugged her friend, escaping upstairs. "Night guys," she called down.
Oz watched her go, listening as she disappeared into the living section. He looked down at Willow's dress, wondering why she wasn't wearing some sort of crown. "You're a princess," he told her quietly, making her blush. "You are, all you need is the crown." He pulled her back in for a hug. "You're beautiful," he whispered.
Xander tried to sneak up the stairs, wanting to give them some alone time, but his ear piece fell off part way up. He hurried up the rest of them, not wanting them to know he was still around.
Oz and Willow turned at the sound of something hitting the floor, watching his escape. She looked at him and smiled gently. "Still not figured it out?" He shook his head. "Then I'll just have to take matters into my hands." She dragged him up the stairs, up to their wing of the house. She stopped before her door, smiling at him. "Go lay down on my bed, it's biggest," she said quietly.
"Willow," he started, but she laid a gloved finger over his lips.
"Shh, don't argue, just do." She waited until he'd done that. "Xander," she said softly, knocking on his door.
He opened it, looking down at her, quirking up an eyebrow. "Aren't you supposed to be with him?" He started to lean against the door frame but she pulled him after her into her room, locking the door behind them. "Um, Willow?" He turned to look at her.
She pushed him towards the bed, standing at the foot of it. "I've seen how you two look at each other, how you act with each other. I'm just here to cement this." She laid down beside her boyfriend. "Tell me you haven't thought about this," she asked quietly. He shivered so she turned her attention to her oldest and best friend. "I don't even have to ask you, do I?" She smiled serenely. "See, I'm happy with this arrangement, but only if you two are."
Xander cleared his throat. "What possessed you in London?" he asked her, earning him a slap from Oz to his arm. "You're not this forceful or adamant. Matter of fact, you're not even one to talk about cuddling and stuff."
She blushed. "William sat me down before he left, asking me things about you two." Her blush got brighter. "He decided that my shyness was cute, but it was counter-productive." She took their hands, merging all three of theirs. "Also, while I was there, I had a chance to look over some of the most gay positive stuff in the world, got to ask a lot of questions." She leaned down to kiss Oz when he looked like he was about to interrupt, then watched his eyes as she kissed Xander. "See, the way I figure this, we all want each other. None of us are highly experienced at wanting another person but we do so we hide it." She smiled at them. "I'm tired of hiding. I want to be free too."
Xander looked at Oz. "Want to translate? I've known her forever but I didn't get that."
The older man nodded. "Me either." He sat up, pulling Willow into his lap, facing Xander. "Are you saying that you want *both* of us, and that you know that we want each other?" She nodded. "But I'm not dealing in that plane."
She snorted, turning in his lap then moving off. "Kiss him then, prove it to yourself."
Oz licked over his lips. "You're weird tonight. Are you sure you're not possessed?" She nodded, waving at Xander, making him look that way. He shifted some, not moving closer. "Xan, I ..."
He didn't get a chance to finish, the younger man took the initiative given to him by his friend, taking the one kiss he'd been wanting now for a while. Oz ended up inhaling the scent around him as the face moved closer with alarming speed, inhaling the smell he'd come to know so well all those nights they'd slept together for comfort when they were inhabited. At the first touch of those lips to his, he wrapped his fingers into the dark hair, pulling and caressing at the same time.
Xander pulled back, needing to breathe, sitting back down in his spot after removing the hands. "Oz?" he said quietly.
The older man looked back and forth at them. He licked his lips, getting the last of the taste off them. He finally looked her in the eyes. "Okay, point, but I'm a one person sort of guy."
She smiled, shaking her head. "No you're not." She stroked over his cheek with a gloved hand, soothing but thrilling with the gentle touch. "Remember when we were talking about his soldier guy and the hyena?" Oz nodded. "Do you remember how it was put? That he had holes that it filled?" He nodded again. "Well, I've discovered we all have those and that sometimes it takes more than one person to fill them." She looked at Xander. "He fills all of mine but you fill some of his that I can't. I'm just overflowing where you guys meet." She smiled, looking back at the stunned man. "I don't want to make you do something you don't want to do, love, but you need him, same as I do you and he does me." She kissed him gently. "We fit like a puzzle."
Oz shook his head, backing up slightly. "No, I'm not accepting this." He stood up, facing them. "Do you want him?" She wiggled her hand in the air. "Is that a yes or a no?" he asked, frustrated.
"It means that she could do either," Xander explained. He got comfortable. "What she and I have is not what you two have. We're not passionate with each other, well outside of smoochies, but I'm not the mate you are to her." He grinned, tipping his head. "I could just walk away now and go back to what I was but she's the true alpha here." He stood up, brushing his pants down to settle them so he could leave. "I'm going back to my room, you guys need some together time."
Oz stopped him as he walked past. "If this is about us, you should be here."
"It is but you need to talk to her not me." He smiled, taking the hand off his arm. "I'm here when you're ready for me to be." He unlocked the door, walking back to his room.
Willow laid across the width of her bed, looking up at her boyfriend. "I'm sorry if I confused you." He shook his head, laying down next to her. "That wasn't the idea."
He kissed back of her neck, wrapping an arm around her waist. "Why do this now?"
"‘Cause, you needed it." She turned her head to look at him. "You're still ignoring the problem." She removed his hand, standing up. "I need to get out of this."
He sat up, turning her around. "Let me help," he said quietly. He unzipped the back, getting the three buttons too, then turned her back around. "Would you?"
She slipped the very pale pink satin strapless top off, handing it to him and keeping the matching velvet skirt on for now. "What did you need me to do?" she asked, bending over him. "What did you need to clear you head?" She possessed his lips, taking control of the situation.
He reached behind her, undoing the skirt too. "Want you out of this, way too much cloth here," he said against her lips. He pulled back, growling as one of the buttons wouldn't undo for him, spinning her around to get it. "Ah ha," he said triumphantly, getting it undone and turning her back around. He watched as she pulled it over her head, exposing the lingerie she wore underneath. He started to pant by the time she'd gotten it over her head, the white silk outfit doing it for him in a major way and the new weight making him tingle for some reason too. He looked up at her. "For me?"
She tossed the skirt, holding out her arms. "For you." She giggled as he knelt at her feet. "For however long you want it."
He looked up from where he sat. "Forever," he said simply, making her smile brightly.
Xander listened to them, huge smile on his face. He nibbled at a brownie he'd gotten earlier, listening to them reconnect in their coupleness while he read.
TO BE CONTINUED.