Boxing Day
by glossolalia

The snow's almost gone and it's starting to warm up, but Oz slides and puffs his way toward the mansion, determined to enjoy the trappings of a real winter until they're totally gone. On the back path, winding through the trees, the snow clings, gray and wet, to the dirt and he can kind of see his breath, so the illusion persists.

Feels good to be out and about and moving; he spent all of Christmas Eve with Willow, just talking, carefully not touching her, determined not to give her the wrong idea; her eyes were on him, he knew she was watching and waiting for some infinitesimal signal that said he'd reconsidered, changed his mind, and it was like his whole body kind of cramped up under the scrutiny. Tightened in on itself and it's been an entire day but he's still working out the kinks. Running errands, taking the long way around, hoofing it rather than driving: He figures healthy outdoor activity can't hurt, all that fresh air and such.

He bundled up, because that's what you do in the snow, so he's sweating against the tight wrap of his scarf and down the back of his neck by the time he reaches the door.

He knocks for a really long time. Too long.

Long enough that he is starting to reconsider. Not regret, because it was a good walk and he's starting to feel looser and better, and regret's a waste of time and energy anyway, but definitely reconsider. He should probably head back.

When the door opens and Angel's just there, frowning down at him, Oz realizes he should have reconsidered faster. The guy's just huge and sleep-ruffled, confused and not a little pissy-looking.

Then again, Angel's usually kind of pissy, unless he's evil, when he looks way too gleeful for anyone's good.

"Evening," Oz says, carefully not taking a step backward. "Merry happy holidays."

Angel's barefoot, his toes curling a little against the stones of the floor.


"Yeah," Oz says and looks back up. "Brought you something."

Angel opens the door all the way and steps aside. "Come in."

The room's dark, licked here and there with dark gold and red tongues of firelight. Smells like the woods outside and smoke, like a cave or a den, something way earlier than civilization. Oz unbuttons his jacket and flaps the lapels against his face. Coming in from damp chill to something so close and warm has started up the sweat on his face again.

Angel leans against a pillar, watching him.

"Wasn't sure what you'd like better," Oz says, unlatching his bag and rooting around. He's already delivered Buffy and Xander's presents, Devon got his this morning, so there's only Giles left to do after Angel. "So, take both."

He holds them out, wrapped in newspaper - he went with Arts & Entertainment to wrap Angel's - and Angel pushes off from the pillar, takes them slowly, looking back and forth between the goodies and Oz.

"Christmas was yesterday."

"Know that," Oz says. "Boxing Day, though. You're Irish, you know what it is. Giles told me about it."

Angel nods and hefts the bottle, then the book. "True."

"Christmas is for family," Oz says. "Day after's for visiting friends."

"Sit down," Angel says, and he's still rough-edged and weird, but from what Oz has heard, he didn't have that many social skills to begin with, and Hell probably took care of those damn quick.

"Thanks." He peels off his jacket and unwraps his scarf and finally, almost, he can breathe again. Angel takes one corner of the couch, presents in his lap, and Oz takes the other. The fire's heat is stronger here, right in front of it, and he can smell all the seasons the wood survived, all the rain and the bright sunshine, in the smoke and flames.

They stare at the fire for a while and Oz has to give it to Angel - the man knows his comfortable, solitary silences.

He's starting to think of his aunt's cat Dixie who can hypnotize herself in front of a fire for hours when Angel finally says something.

"We're friends, then?" Quieter than before, definitely less rough.

Oz twists until he's leaning against the arm of the couch and nods. "Definitely not-enemies, which is friends in my book."

Weird quirk of Angel's mouth at that, nowhere near a smile, but Oz smiles back anyway. "Going to open those?"

"Oh -" Angel looks down at the presents and Oz is pretty sure there were Christmas presents two hundred years ago, yet the guy's looking at them like he doesn't know what to do with them. "Yeah, yeah. Sorry."

His hands are huge but his fingers move incredibly gracefully, and Oz is suddenly a little embarrassed by his crapass wrapping methods. Buffy thought it was cute, Xander said he should have thought of that, and he expects Giles will find it somehow colonially charming, but hands like Angel's deserve fine, glossy paper, red and silver, clinging like fabric.

"Whoa," Angel says, hefting the bottle of whiskey to the light. "Oz, this is -"

"Usually very spendy?" Oz says. "It's supposed to be good, though."

Angel nods, turning the bottle in the light. "Good's one word for it, yeah."

Thank hell. He went through his stepfather's liquor cabinet again and again trying to figure out what a really old yet fine-looking vampire would drink that wasn't blood, and Oz feels his cheeks heat up. It's not the fire. It's the ridiculous tingle he gets -- used to get -- when Willow smiled at him. Or Giles murmurs "a fine idea, Oz", or Devon kisses him, right between his shoulder blades.

"Glad to hear it," he says.

Angel squints at him. "You're blushing."

"Nah," Oz says. Shifts in the couch, leans over to poke the fire, and only then looks back. "Yeah. A little. Open the other one."

If Angel likes the books, Oz will be batting 1000 on gift-giving. Buffy squeaked and kissed him for the 1977 issue All Star Comics with Power Girl busty and fierce on the cover, Devon was almost a little too enthusiastic over the Jarvis Cocker poster and glow-in-the-dark nipple ring, and Xander, once Oz convinced him he wasn't there to deck him, really got off on the Die Hard trilogy.

"These are -" Angel says, spreading the books in front of him.

"Complimentary," Oz says.

"Or contradictory."

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and The Art of War. "Complimentary," Oz says again. "Classics of the Far East, appropriate for like different occasions."

Angel nods. "Could be wrong, but the Sun Tze's probably more up my alley."

"Prob'ly, yeah. Give Suzuki a try, though. Might be surprised."

The fire crackles and hisses. Sparks jet out and die on the flagstones, bark curls up off the logs and darkens until it flakes away. Oz knows he should probably get going, but Angel's place is the first in all his stops that feels - comfortable. His speed. His kind of Christmas. Buffy's place was bright and mega-decorated, with a hovering aproned mom and lots of candy. Xander's smelled like butane and creosote and rose-flavored carpet cleaner and he wouldn't let Oz in. He suspects Giles's apartment is going to make him sad and want to hold Giles and Giles will back away, and they'll start the new year off with a whole new round of awkwardness.

"Here," Angel says, leaning over the back of the couch, handing him a glass of whiskey.

When he sits, he's closer to Oz, leaning back, legs open, and Oz tries to think of a toast. But Angel just swigs from his glass, shakes his head, and grins.

Holy shit, the man's got a grin on him. Bright and wide and fucking beautiful.

Oz sips and it burns in the best possible way. Tastes like the fire, tastes like he's drinking the flames, and the logs and the smoke. Sweet and earthy.

"Told you," Angel says. "Good."

"No kidding." Oz has another sip, and another, and maybe finally, after the errands and enforced Christmas spirit, he's starting to relax. Definitely blushing again, all the way down his chest, heat radiating from the inside out.

"Thanks. For the presents."

Oz rolls his head, his neck pleasantly, amazingly, loose as a noodle, then nods. "Welcome. My pleasure."

"Don't have anything for you," Angel says. Bites his lip, frowning at the fire, until it apparently occurs to him to have more whiskey. When he drinks, his head tips back and his Adam's apple bobs very white against the dark of the room.

"Not the point. Said it was my pleasure," Oz says. He clinks his glass against the bottle in Angel's hand and Angel glances at him.

Fast, the look full of dark light, a look Oz hasn't seen before. He looks back, he might be holding his breath, and that thing happens to him, where time gasps and holds, stretches out a moment, and Oz just holds still.

"Have a good Christmas?" Angel asks eventually. Almost like he's sounding out the words, not sure what they mean. Oz wonders if he, too, carries around a phrasebook in his head, the kind you get when travelling so you can ask where the bathrooms are in Israel, except all in English, so you know what to say to normal people.

Oz drinks some more before answering. "It was interesting," he says. "You?"

Angel seems to have given up on niceties of glasses and drinks from the bottle. "Interesting covers mine, yeah."

"Went over to Will's -" Oz starts to say.

"Saw Buffy -" Angel says at the same time and barks out a laugh. Shrugging, Oz liberates the bottle from Angel's hand.

"Are we both back together, then?" he asks, and when he drinks, he tastes what has to be Angel on the glass. Barely there, diluted blood and old, browning flowers.

He'd actually like to know the answer to that question. One thing to tell Will he missed her -- that's the truth, that's like finally getting the balls to one day admit the sky's blue -- whole other thing to hear the Barry White and not want to touch her, not be able to, not know how to touch her any more, knowing exactly what she was willing to do.

Angel shakes his head. "Can't."

Warm liquid whiskey-flames in his arms instead of muscles and a full-body blush and he knows he's drunk. Has to be, the way his mind's seizing on Angel's words and he's nodding vigorously like a zealot. "Exactly. Totally. Right there. Can't."

Angel looks at him again, smiling. Not the wide, sudden grin, a slow, amused smile, and he's got a flush in his cheeks, too, and Oz realizes he can smell blood. Angel must have fed while he was up getting the glasses.

"Think you can," Angel says.

Blood and the scent of it, the knowledge of it, prickles the inside of Oz's mouth, like the after-effect of sucking a lemon, except he's had nothing but whiskey and he's fluid and very, very warm.

"Strangely enough," Oz says slowly, around the rush of saliva and the quick, fast knot in his gut, "it doesn't take a curse to keep a guy from doing the deed."

Angel nods, but somehow Oz doesn't believe that he's agreeing. Just trying to be polite. And how would he start explaining to Angel, of all people, creatures, whatever, that he just doesn't trust Willow, or himself, that he doesn't know how to talk to her, let alone touch her. Here's a guy who lives his entire existence according to weight of the world stuff, good and evil, perfection and happiness. Somehow high-school betrayals don't exactly rate.

Angel's arm is over the back of the couch and Oz must be drunk, certainly tingly, because it feels like he's playing with Oz's hair. Lightly, absent-mindedly, and fuck him if it doesn't feel great.

"Sorry," Angel says. He doesn't sound sorry, just like he knows that's what you're supposed to say.

"Don't be." Oz leans a little closer, and the scent of blood increases, just fractionally, enough to wet his mouth again and make wherever the wolf lives inside of him turn in his sleep, twist and curl and yawn. Not the first time it's happened, and it's not frightening, not the howling and clawing that started that night in the factory and just got worse in the days, weeks, after. It's disturbing, always disturbing when his illusions about control and the mellow get punched through and shown to be about as strong as balsa wood, but Angel's really petting him now, fingers on his scalp, and Oz isn't about to start questioning why it feels good.

Being touched always feels good. He misses it more than anything.

Angel's staring intently at the fire, bottle cradled in his other hand, stroking Oz's hair like this is normal. Welcome, even.

"Is this, you know. Safe?" Oz asks and the fire's louder than his voice, wood turning to embers could drown him out. When he blinks, Angel's profile glows behind his lids, gold and whiskey-dark.

"No. Well, depends," Angel says, and they're both talking like it's a dream. "Think you love me?"

"No." Which is rude, sure, but true, too, and Angel's even more old-fashioned than Oz ever gave him credit for if sex and love are that closely entwined for him.

"Good," he says and finally looks at Oz again. Eyes totally shadowed, only the bottom half of his nose and wide, curving mouth visible. "So why?"

Only in his increasingly fucked-up life, where he's gone from being afraid of the dark to knowing exactly why he should be afraid of the dark to becoming one of the best reasons, from courting a girl who looked at him like he could solve all her problems when all he wanted to do was hold her and enjoy her sweet, chattering oddness to loving her to seeing her with her first love, knowing in a rush why she'd smelled more and more like tears and creosote over the last several weeks -- only in this life, hellmouth-bound and -gagged, does it make any sense.

"Smell good," Oz says, and he draws right up against Angel. Solid and huge, and Angel's hand follows, curves around his neck. "Like -" Blood, and fires, and death, and dens.

"I'm a monster," Angel mutters, and it's got the ring of something he says so often it's almost lost all meaning, all the sincerity and painful honesty that first made him say it.

"Yeah," Oz says. Like he didn't know, like he isn't one too, like it matters at all. "Got that."

Angel opens his mouth, tries to say something else, but Oz kisses him, because there isn't anything else to say. They could go around the block a million times, comparing monstrosity, arguing relative merits of were-curses versus demon-inhabitation, and it wouldn't change anything. The fire's still dimming a little, and the dark's drawing closer, and Angel's hand is back in his hair, gripping Oz's skull, palming it like a basketball, and Oz is scrambling over his lap, pushing him back into the cushions and kissing every trace of blood and whiskey and sorrow out of his mouth.

His head's swimming, revolving inside, insane carousel of sensation and flavor, the insistent reply of Angel's tongue working against his and Oz groans a little against it, because he does need to breathe, even if the longer he kisses Angel, the less he feels like he wants to. Long before the wolf, he kept track of people's tastes, what they felt like from the inside, the root of their tongues and the arch of their palates. Devon's like pixie sticks and weed; Eric's Wonder bread and cherry Coke; Willow was pears and tangerines; Giles, the couple times he let Oz anywhere near him, dark bitter tea and parchment and twists of lime.

Angel holds him by the neck, releases the bottle and grasps Oz's waist and Oz just presses closer, one hand on each huge shoulder, rolling like something on a sea ship under his palms, and the kiss is hard and rough and he's not being petted any more. Angel's kissing him back like a man, full of tooth and tongue, biting Oz's lip and licking his teeth and moving him around and Oz just squeezes, won't shift, tilts his head the other way, grabbing at Angel's weird spiky hair until he can tug back his head and slide his mouth down his throat. And Angel lets him, never relaxes his grip, in fact pulls him tighter against his chest until Oz is grinding against him, pulling his hair as he tries not to bite the smooth white skin under his mouth. Angel's mouth on his ear, and weird, so weird, no thunder of breath, just slick heat tracing the curves and lobe before blunt teeth start scraping down Oz's neck.

Vampires and necks. Not the best combination, but whether because he's drunk -- on whiskey and the taste of blood and the weird awesome nervewracking freedom of touching and being touched -- or because he doesn't want to care, not right now, not for a while, or because he's hornier than hell, has been for longer than he cares to figure out, Oz tilts his head further. Better access, whisper of fangs, and the shiver at their touch runs in a skittering silver throb down his spine and into his cock. Angel might be chuckling, and Oz grunts, shoving his hand up under the sweater, scraping nails over Angel's broad chest until he finds a nipple and twists it, sucking hard on Angel's collarbone. Angel gives out a low, short moan, and Oz does it again and again, every time the fangs scrape and when he opens his eyes, he sees brass-lit eyes and ridges like a lion's. Familiar and necessary, that face, and the rest of him, marrow and muscle, eases, liquefies, as his hand drops and slides between them until he's cupping Angel, squeezing in time with the thrust of Angel's tongue, back between his lips, and the fangs are still there.

Sparks spiralling up inside of him, whirling darkness and embers flying, and Oz kisses back, hard enough to knock their foreheads together as he works down the zipper, tries to flip the button open with his thumb, and Angel arches back, eyes half-open, and Oz doesn't know who Angel's seeing there in front of him, maybe nothing but a weight against him and a hand on his dick, gripping and pulling, mouth back on his. Doesn't matter, and this is what Oz couldn't explain to Willow, couldn't even explain to himself but felt all the same, tight and close as a straitjacket. When it does matter, beyond the fact that there's need and desire -- the fact that Angel's pretty much a heartbreakingly beautiful man -- when it matters because you want to be with someone and see them again and love them again, then you can't jump right in. But if you both know it doesn't matter beyond heat and blood and you both want to, then all bets are off. Because it doesn't matter.

Angel's cock is heavy in Oz's hand, hard and ready, but when Oz tries to pull back, slide down, Angel holds him still. Shakes his head.

"What?" Oz is out of breath, chest caving in, ribs replaced by glowing tinder. "What?"

"Can't," Angel says. "Don't - don't do this with me. Not now."

Angel's got him by the hips, thumbs digging right into his pelvic bones, and Oz is trying really hard to breathe normally, but the grip hurts in a good way and his mouth is hanging half-open. "You -" Kissed back. Taste good. Don't love me. Every fucking reason's running through his head, double-speed, too fast for his mouth to form the words. "Thought it -"

"Sssshhh." Angel kisses him again, full on the mouth, human teeth and tongue. Lifts Oz up like he's hauling a not-so-heavy box and lays him across the couch. Runs his hand down Oz's chest, touching the flaking decal of his t-shirt, hovering over his stomach, and Oz sucks in a breath and holds it. Watches the progress of Angel's hand like it's the fire, like it's hypnotic, and strains every muscle to inch upward without actually moving.

Everyone thought he went evil last time because he had sex. Somehow Oz couldn't make that make sense in his head. He'd been alive for a century with the soul, but never managed to have sex? The love thing makes way more sense; it's the whole issue of whether it matters or not. Obviously it mattered with Buffy, just like -- except on a normal, human scale -- it'd matter if Oz slept with Willow.

Angel's petting him again, leaning over, working his hand under the hem of Oz's shirt, below his waistband, and it's soothing, or should be, just gentle swipes and circles, but it's not. All the tension's back now, inside of Oz, but hot this time instead of chilly, and it's like his limbs are locked and muscles knotted in place and it hurts to breathe. Time's stuttering down again, slow as the popping of the logs in the fire, and when Angel unzips his fly, Oz hears every tooth of the zipper pulling free, the shushing whisper of fabric tugged over his thighs like insect noise in the summer, and now he can't not move. Not with Angel's hands, nearly as wide as his thighs, gripping them, spreading them, his head dipping, and Oz is arching to meet him like it's a reflex, something instinctual, beyond thought.

Up on his elbows, shaking, hooking one leg over the back of the couch, and Angel's head just hovers there, breathing and licking occasionally, and Oz thrusts into the air, empty and cold, as Angel's fingers dig into his thigh, press him back down, and even the fire's gone quiet. Dark and quiet and the loudest thing in the world is his heartbeat, spread out, hammering throughout his body, so when Angel finally moves down, face dropping, taking Oz into the slick coolness of his mouth, Oz yelps and Angel holds him down, going up onto his knees until he's bent over him like a cat and Oz can't close his eyes.

Wants to close his eyes, descend into the dark until he's only his dick, thrusting against the tongue swirling and capturing him, but Angel's looking at him, dark eyes brilliant beyond Oz's heaving chest, and Oz is twisting, pushing, and there's amusement there in Angel's eyes, brows knitting and relaxing. Shakes and tremors running outward from Angel's lips all the way through Oz like he's a half-frozen puddle, tossed in the wind, and he does close his eyes when Angel pushes two fingers into his mouth and Oz sucks hard, desperately, moans when Angel takes his mouth away.

"Open them." Gravel-coal voice, dark and full of stones, and Oz does. Angel pops his fingers out of Oz's mouth, draws them teasingly over his balls, wet and hot, scissors them downward into the crack of his ass and Oz lifts his head, watches the intent concentration on Angel's face. Wonders all over again what he can possibly be thinking, if there's some combination of magic words he tells himself to keep the soul tethered like an old hot-air balloon.

Forgets to wonder, forgets everything, when Angel's fingers brush against his hole and his lips push back down over Oz's cock. Breathing fast, something like warm wind blowing through him, all his skin just a sac, rippled and tight, drawn into Angel's mouth and around one finger, crooking and corkscrewing, and he can hear himself moan like it's someone else, and he writhes under Angel, caught there, hyperspace flecks of silver zooming past him, around him, blizzards and galaxies, and he bears down, thrusts up, desperate for more, faster, deeper, all those base words the best his animal-brain can come up with. Joining his noise, shivering past it, he hears the harsh whisper of fabric, slap of skin on skin, and tries to sit up, crane higher, and Angel's mouth is almost all the way down, cheek bulging, one elbow jutting out and working as he jerks himself and this is more than touching. This is something else, touching and more. Oz starts to get it now, feel Angel's worry and caution, even if he's too far gone to do anything about it.

One moment, and it's not perfect, but it is intense and hot and Angel's fast sucking every pore, every inch of Oz's skin, into his mouth, huge and tight and bottomless as his fingers work inside, so long and thick that they might as well be nudging Oz's lungs out of the way, and Oz is starting to clench, feels himself tightening past possibility, spine twisting and knotting like a thick length of rope. Silver catherine-wheels over his vision, whirling through him like sawblades, and he rises and flails as he starts to come and Angel grunts, low and needful, and his arm's moving fast enough to blur. Shouting and falling fast, Oz jack-knifes up, flips open, falls in a curved, sweaty heap over Angel's shoulder, shaking like a scrap of plastic dancing over the freeway.

If he lets go, if he loses contact with Angel's broad shoulder, he'll burn away, fade to dust, dissipate on the wind. So he clutches that shoulder, kisses the nape of Angel's neck, reaches between them and wraps his hand around Angel's. Fast, incredibly fast, so fast Angel must be stripping skin from his cock, and Angel shudders and moans, turns his head so when Oz kisses him, sucks Angel's tongue into his mouth as Angel starts to come, Oz tastes himself and blood. He pulls hard and Angel pushes him back down, grunting, come soaking their hands as he falls on top of Oz. Grunting, groaning, eyes closed, and Oz keeps the kiss going, shallower, more tastes of the tongue than anything else as Angel shakes and trembles.

Pecks tiny babykisses around Angel's lips, pets his hair, and breathes shallowly as Angel lies there, face turned away. Ages and eons as Oz's body starts to fill out again from the familiar orgasmic emptying, as bones thicken and tighten, veins spread like roots, blood starts pumping again. Sketchy and jittery at first, unsure and tentative, gradually the systems gain confidence and return to normal.

And Angel's still lying like flotsam, something beached and dead, on top of Oz. Dead weight, literally. It always matters, Oz has to admit that now, smoothing the pucker of worry from Angel's forehead, kissing away salt-blood-come from Angel's cheek. Always matters, just in different ways. Wouldn't do this if it didn't matter.

"Still with me?" Oz whispers a little later. No way did the curse come true, that much is impossible, but Angel is heavy and shuddery, and even if he still has the soul, something's not right. With him, with Oz.

"Sorry," Angel says. Chokes on the word. "God, I -"

"Sshh. S'okay."

Angel shakes his head but Oz grips his hair, pulls his face up until he can actually see those huge, depthless eyes. Angel's mouth works on air, lips twisting, eyes downcast. "I shouldn't -. You should go."

Oz combs Angel's hair back, soft despite all the spikes and gel, and rubs his thumb in circles over Angel's temple. "Kind of trapped here, man."

"Yeah," Angel says. Still won't look at Oz, tries to pull away, but he can't be giving it much effort, because Oz is able to hold him down.

"Don't be sorry."

And maybe he's suddenly speaking Cantonese, because Angel looks - gapes - at him, face gone slack, eyes moving back and forth like he's trying to read a foreign script.

"Really," Oz says. Kisses the soft curve of one eyebrow, then the other, and smiles. He's - almost himself again. Body settling down, his skin his own again, mind finally quieting into its usual groove. He just wishes he knew what words he could use to give some of this familiar calm to the quietly freaking vampire on top of him. "Needed that. More than I thought. Think you did, too."

Angel nods, slowly, pretty reluctantly. It looks like he's trying to smile, like he's sending instructions to his lips to twitch and curve. "Yeah. But -"

"But nothing," Oz says. Digs his elbows into the cushions and pulls himself up and back. Angel sits up and now they're back where they started, each on his own end of the couch. Oz tugs up his pants over the sticky mess and zips up. Calm like starlight, like a new moon, 28 days from full, inside him, pale and quivering.

Angel sits hunched over, hands working over each other like Lady Macbeth, scrubbing and sliding.

"Angel. It's okay." These are the words that make sense to Oz: Okay, all right, cool, need, care, help. Little words, quiet places. None of them, he realizes, figures at all in Angel's language, mean a damn thing against the grandeur of his landscape.

He glances at Oz, not understanding, but nearly appealing, asking for help. Oz slides closer, untangles one hand from the other and kisses Angel's palm.

"Still don't love you," he says, and Angel finally almost-smiles. Oz nods and runs his index finger over Angel's lifeline, broken in at least four places. "But like you. Won't tell anybody, if that's what -"

Angel shakes his head and Oz sees him swallow three, four, times. "No, but I -"

"You love Buffy," Oz says and Angel nods. It's like talking to Jordy, acknowledging whatever's upsetting him. When his tower of blocks collapses, you don't say we'll rebuild it, because what he wants to hear is that it's okay to be sad. You're sad because it fell over. "Worried about her. But - Still have the soul. Helped me feel better. That's something."


"Yeah," Oz says. "Liked it. Liked you, a lot."

"Wanted you," Angel says. Quiet, like it's shameful, like even Oz shouldn't know such a terrible thing.

Oz rubs his forehead against Angel's shoulder and laces his fingers through Angel's. Squeezes. "Cool."

Angel snorts and Oz shrugs. "It is cool," Oz says. "Wanting something doesn't make it wrong."

"Not in my world," Angel says, weary and resigned and oh so terribly burdened and this time Oz is the one to snort.

"Not arguing with you. Just - it's cool. We're cool. Save the guilt for something important."

He looks up, and Angel's shaking his head again like the old man thwarted by those meddling kids, but he's smiling, too, wide and real, and it makes him look only a couple years older than Oz.

Oz grins, kisses him hard and deep, and Angel kisses him back, wraps his arm around Oz and pulls him close. The fire mutters to itself, decades in the wood burning away, sap sizzling like blood, heat in the dark sometimes all you need, all you can share. Angel's still kissing him. Like, Oz thinks, a not-enemy, comrade, ally, denmate, all of which is just too cool for words.


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