Grapes And Wrath
by Dolores

"We were only ever accessories, Oz. You were Willow's weird but yet oddly cool handbag and I was Xander's very stylish and expensive cufflinks. We made them look good but when they were done with us we were just tossed aside, like when Mom gives her old dresses to Juanita."

Cordelia paused. Oz looked back at her blankly.

"That's our maid by the way."

Oz blinked, then scratched his flank with his right leg.

"And you know what else? That kissing he did with Willow? That she enjoyed soooo much? I taught him that. Last year, he was useless at kissing. All wet and, oh boy, did he use way too much tongue. Like kissing you, really -- that's as a wolf I mean, 'cause I'm sure you're a pretty good kisser when you're human. In fact, I don't ever remember seeing slobber. Not that I was looking. Anyway."

She straightened up in the chair.

"So I teach him how to kiss, I'm the best girlfriend he's ever had but is that enough? No. Does he even get over his old thing for Buffy, never mind this new thing with Willow? No. And Oz, it's always gonna be like that. There's the three -- no! four -- of them and then there's us. And Angel. All in the stupid Scooby Gang. So, I dunno, what? That probably makes you Scrappy Doo and what am I? The Mystery Machine?!"

A moth fluttered into the cage and Oz snarled at it. It fluttered back out.

"And you know, I'm talking to a werewolf who doesn't understand what I say and is more interested in flying insects than me. And, you can't even see in colour so you won't even appreciate this lovely Versace dress. But it's also four in the morning and my stitches hurt, so maybe you'll forgive me if I've gone slightly crazy."

Cordelia got up and walked across to the stacks. She wasn't quite brave enough to go into the gloom towards the back of the library but maybe there would be a book she could read sitting where the light shone on the shelves.

God, was this what it had come to? Cordelia Chase reading books? Without being forced to because she had an assignment? Even then, it was usually only the Cliff Notes she bothered to pick up.

But she needed to keep herself occupied. She wasn't going to fall asleep. That's the sort of thing Xander would do -- has done -- and she was going to prove to him that, if nothing else, she could wolfsit better than him.

Of course, if it wasn't for Xander and his roving lips she wouldn't even have to try.

She'd only been out of hospital for a week but she'd been drafted in for this because Giles couldn't do three nights in a row, and Oz said he'd rather Xander and Willow didn't do it. Buffy needed her sleep because of there were always more vampires to kill. They'd managed to persuade Angel to do one night but he was "busy" the other nights, whatever that meant. So, short of Mrs Summers, that left her.

And Oz owed her big time, except that she didn’t mind so much because he was one of the few people who was neither the object of her considerable anger or making her the object of their scorn.

She would win Harmony and the other girls around eventually, they were still sheep and they'd fall into line once they'd exhausted their supply of poor insults. She'd probably have to make someone's life a misery for a while so they'd get used to laughing with her and not at her again, but there was Jonathan and Tucker Wells' kid brother and all the other geeks for that, and it wasn't like their feelings mattered.

And, okay, she knew that wasn't true. But she didn't know what else she could do.

Except, she could maybe hang with Oz for a while. Sure, that probably meant hanging with Devon too and she'd rather avoid ex-boyfriends just now, but of them all he was probably the least offensive. Stupid and vain and inconsiderate, sure -- but at least with Devon you knew what you got. He had no secrets.

And Oz and Devon were cool. Right now, she needed some of their reflected cachet.

Besides, Oz was nice. It would be good to be reminded that all men were not beasts. Although Oz was a special case there.

He'd visited her in the hospital, twice. He'd brought grapes and fashion magazines the first time, and listened to her attentively when she read out articles on the new wave of Bulgarian designers and the best way to use pink depending on your skin tone.

"You shouldn't wear light pink," she'd told him. "You're too pale, it'd wash you out. Raspberry, maybe."

"I've got this Möbius scarf, it's kinda dark pink," he'd said, thoughtfully.

"Oooh, bring it in!"


And he had, the next day. It was maybe too fuchsia for him, but it was nice and she figured if she knew any guy in the world who could wear a pink scarf and make it look good, it was Oz.

In the cage, Oz growled and snarled at something, maybe it was the moth again. She gave up looking for a book and wandered back to the grill to take a look. He was prowling about but he seemed subdued. It was odd, that he didn't seem too bothered by her presence.

That was Oz though. He'd never seemed too bothered by her presence. Which in many ways was kinda frustrating because she was used to getting a reaction from guys. Not always the one she wanted -- like with Angel, for example -- but she always got something. But Oz had just treated her like he would one of the guys in his band or somebody else he was friendly with.

Not like someone he found powerfully attractive.

Which hadn't bothered her before, because she'd never particularly wanted or needed him to find her powerfully attractive before.

But, and this was weird: suddenly she did.

What was that all about?

He was much too short to date, for one thing -- she liked to look up -- and though he was hardly the ugliest guy in school she'd always gone for beefy jock types -- after all, even Xander looked good in Speedos.

But they'd all been bastards to her in one way or another, and that was one thing you could never call Oz. Willow didn't know how lucky she'd been. Maybe she needed a change. Maybe she needed a nice guy, like...

It was only when he started changing that she realised how light it had got. And wow, was the change gross. Not envying Oz there. And now Oz was really, really naked, and this was the first guy she'd ever seen completely naked. This was interesting, to say the least.

She didn't have much to compare him with, but maybe there were some real benefits to dating Oz after all. Willow really didn't know how lucky she was.

He looked up at her. "Hey Cordelia."

She wasn't looking at his face, and he must have realised that. She jumped back, turning away, feeling the flush rise up her face. "Hey, Oz. Uh, sorry. About that. Curiosity got the better of me there."

"It's cool, I've got used to it. Nudity, that is, not so much girls staring at me."

There was rustling, then she heard the cage door open and she turned, slowly, just in case he remained undressed. But thankfully -- or not -- he stood there in his jeans, though still bare-chested.

"Thanks. For the wolf-sitting."

"So not a problem. I had lots and lots of fun."


"Not really."

"Well, thanks a lot then. I owe you."

This was the sort of chance she normally seized. She pushed out her chest a little. "Yeah, I suppose you do. If you want, you can take me out to the Bronze tonight. Buy me a lot of diet soda and show everyone just how much we're moving on."

He shook his head just a fraction. "I think I'm going to ask Willow out again."

She deflated. "Oh."

"But we could still go to the Bronze. If you wanted."

"I think I'll probably be too tired, you know. Staying up all night'll do that to you."


She turned away from him again, feeling angry because she somehow she'd been made a fool of again, rejected by just about the only boy left.

But then he was next to her, hand on her arm, kissing her lightly on the cheek. She turned her head into it quick, so that they kissed properly, and she held him there for a few seconds, long enough that their mouths opened just a little and she could feel the tip of his tongue run along her bottom lip.

Then he pulled away.

"You're still cool," he said, and he was sincere.

Another time, another place, it could all be so different. But it wasn't.

"Hey, Devon isn't single, is he?"


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