Bring Your Own Lampshade
by glossolalia

(Another) Sunnydale, 199?

Irony? The night they got Xander was quiet. Dead, even.

Giles dismissed them with an attempted smile, a listless wave. Larry stayed behind, leaning over Giles, pretending to really care about planning escape routes.

In the back of the van, they were still laughing, drinking vodka, rolling around, knocking shit loose. Making noise, slobbering, humping like kids.

Oz never heard them. Too busy shimmying out of his pants, clearing space, singing loud, while Xander hopped out to take a leak.

It's one thing to drop in battle. Something else to see your boyfriend dragged away, bloodless, screaming silently.

Oz doesn't talk much anymore.


Sunnydale, 1998

"Oz? What're we doing?"

It's dark in the van, only the glow of a stick of incense cutting through the gloom, but Xander swears he can see Oz's lips twitch. But the haze of - what is it, raspberry smoke, something like that - makes everything smeary and fills his sinus cavities, seeping slowly into his brain, making him more unsure of his thoughts than usual, even.

Still, twitch.


"Yeah, Xander?"

"I'm feeling the need for some answers here. Short, to the point, your kind of answer. Nothing big and Gilesy, just -"

"We're hanging." Shrug of the shoulders, which is redundant, because of course shoulders are really the only part of the body you can shrug, but still. It's such an Ozesque gesture that it deserves lots of description to make up for the guy's lack of actual word-usage.

Maybe it evens out, though, with him and Oz. He overuses, Oz underuses, and averaging would give you a good, usual amount of words.

Gestures, though, that's something Xander needs to explore. He usually overdoes it on the words and the gestures are restricted to shuffling feet and flailing hands. Oz, though, he's like the gesture ninja.

Xander shrugs, then extends his arms in what he hopes is a dramatic and impressive manner. "Oz, Oz, Oz -"

Oz catches his hand and pulls him closer. Intent, close-up Oz face, all wrinkled brows and narrowed eyes. "Yes, Xander?"

Xander goes still. This is probably the closest he's ever gotten to Oz, so close he can smell Oz through the incense, all cut-grass and drying autumn leaves and what he's pretty sure is not patchouli, and something that's kind of like Giles, like pages of a book. Except with Oz it's a new book, one of Willow's Penguins, not an ancient parchment tome or whatever it is that Giles smells like.

Oz's eyebrows straighten out into their usual calm, slanted lines and Xander's free hand rises, touches them with his index finger. They're thin and silky like the fur on a cat's spine.

Oz just keeps watching him. Won't let go of his hand, either.

"That's all I got, actually." Xander tries to pull away. Drop his finger, settle back safely out of Oz's personal space, but the little guy's surprisingly strong.

Right, wolf. Of course he's strong.

"Sorry?" Xander tries, tapping the smooth skin just over Oz's nose. "Not usually this touchy. Wait. Touchy's like easily irritated, right? So I am touchy, yeah. But literally, I meant -"

"Touchy feely," Oz says. He tips his head a little forward, the patch of skin plumping up under Xander's fingers. "Think that's the phrase you're going for."

"Touchy feely." Xander knows he's just echoing, but it's not like he can actually think of his own thoughts -- let alone words -- when he's stroking Oz like this, incapable of stopping, and leaning so close in to Oz that they might as well be kissing.

"Yep," Oz says and his lips barely move when he speaks. Xander's noticed that before, but here and now, it's astonishing, it's like he's looking at someone new, a stranger.

Oz's lips are dry and flexible, though.


He knows that because he's -

He's kissing Oz.

Xander's palm cups itself over Oz's cheek, thumb working his sharp little jawbone and chin, and Oz is still clutching his other hand, and kissing him back. Slow and soft, lips working against each other, and then Oz squeezes his hand and their teeth part at the same time and Oz's tongue is doing this slow strum against Xander's, and he tastes like Wint-O-Green lifesavers. The ones that send off sparks in the dark.

Someone's going to come any second now. This whole "hanging" thing was a bad idea. A horrible idea. A pisspoor, worthy of the kid who gets left behind by the short bus, idea.

Oz slips his hand around the back of Xander's neck, fingertips through his hair and then circling his scalp and Xander's heartbeat starts to go back to normal at the sequence of touches. So someone comes. What's the big deal? Nothing's going to happen.

Oz's fingers close around his hair and hold him right where he is. He murmurs a little into the kiss; maybe he's trying to soothe Xander, reassure him, and while it's reassuring, it's also kind of getting Xander more excited. The sounds coming up his throat and the strokes of his tongue send out thin, complex, branching tingles and sparks from Oz to Xander, straight to his heart and directly down his spine.

They're white and green, bright and fast-moving.

Oz's fist is still in Xander's hair, and it hurts at the same time that it actually feels really great, and he's tugging, pulling back Xander's head. Xander's mouth drops open and he squeezes his own hand over the hard edge of Oz's jaw as Oz kisses him harder. Definitely deeper. Their chests bump together and Xander catches Oz's tongue between his teeth, sucks hard on it until a moan works its way out Oz's mouth and he swallows that, too.

They're both panting.

Something's going to happen. Xander's body knows this way before his little brain can process it into conscious thought. But his palms are sliding over Oz's skin, learning the juts and planes of it, soaking up its sleek warmth, touching Oz's hair, incredibly soft little tufts, and he feels every pore in his own skin jingling with excitement.

Someone's going to see, Xander's sure of it. Can't care, won't care, feels to good to care.

Unless it's Willow.

Xander tries to pull away. Jerks, actually.

"Gotta go," he gasps and he's running away.


(Anywhere), 1998-2004

Oz dreams of many things.

Goddesses of compassion who crush the skulls of the greedy with bare, joyful feet as they dance. Early-morning light, pearlescent and trembling, seen through the lacy network of Willow's hair over his face. Scent of marifasa steeping, like sludge, death, dandelions. Running through endless aspen forests, golden and alive in moonlight. Fucking Veruca, riding his own cum and coming again while she howled. Xander fucking Harris batting eyelashes long as a country mile and chuckling under him, skin like silk stretched over a radiator, hot and hard. Stab of sharp orange-zest smell and wide green eyes the first time (every time) he fingered Willow. Disinfectant, chlorinated and overwhelming, and scratch of cement walls in every police station he's ever been hustled into. Xander in leather and eyeliner, smirking at him. Welcome back.

He mummifies himself in sleeping bags to minimize the flailing.


Vancouver, 2004

Xander's cornered.

"Not hurting her!" he cries for the zillionth time.

The crowd's getting bigger and Xander's getting more and more nervous with every face that appears, adds incomprehensible shrieks and mutters to the others.

He's waving his hands frantically, turning in circle, praying for a friendly face. He's an inept Bruce Lee, gauging the ferocity of his attackers, totally up a creek as to where to start, let alone how to escape.

Of course, an angry crowd of shoppers, most of them well in the range of AARP perks (if there is the AARP in Canada. Maybe CARP?), laden with grandbabies and portable grocery carts and bulging bags of produce isn't quite the same as deadly ninjas. But he's cornered and they're yelling at him and he's backed up between a bin of lychees and one of peaches and he's so not long for this world.

Xander Harris, pummelled to death at age 23 by lychee and cantaloupe.

At least it's an interesting way to go. Maybe he'll be remembered for that.

He so should have brought Chao-Ahn with him. But - 'No, Xander. You'll be fine. It's just Vancouver. Everyone speaks English, don't be ridiculous' and - 'Please, Xan, just this once, one last time, a parting favor and then you can go, get your life started, whatever -'

Parting favor, indeed.

They're closing in on him. Voices getting louder.

"Not hurting her!" His voice's dying, going raspy and shriller than ever.

"What's the problem here?"

Yay. An English speaker -- no, wait. An Anglophone, according to the nice lady from Shawinigan Xander talked to on the plane. And the crowd's actually parting for him, too. What, they speak his English but not Xander's?

Maybe Giles has been right all these years and Xander really does speak his own brand of English.

"Not hurting her!" he yells as clearly as he can. Enunciating every syllable and spraying spit.

More Chinese. He doesn't even know what kind of Chinese, he's that unprepared. But his savior's Chinese is low and pretty, not scary like the crowd's. Calm, like rain running down a gutter.


"Holy shit. Oz?"

Oz is standing there at the edge of the crowd. Same size as the ancient old lady who's been threatening Xander with a bumpy, twisted gourd. Hands in his pockets, just nodding. Just Oz.

"What're you doing here, Xander?"

Fish mouth, lots of lip smacking, no words audible. Xander keeps trying. Nothing.

Oz, here. Speaking Chinese, mellow and totally unsurprised to find Xander after -- quick mental count of the fingers, Xander counts years according to enemies, so, since just before Adam, so four years -- and since it's Oz, the first thing Xander checks out is the hair.

Black like plums, and spiky as ever.

"They say you're trying to kidnap a girl?"

"Not hurting her," Xander says and this time it's quiet and desperate and even he can hear the whine running through it.

Oz waits, eyebrow cocked and Xander can read his face perfectly. So this is what you've fallen to, huh? Accosting underage girls?

"She's a Slayer. Or might be, or kind of already is. Just wanted to tell her. Bring her back --"

"So you are trying to kidnap her," Oz says. Mild as ever, like he's pointing out that Xander's laces are untied.

"No, see --"

"Chill, Xan. They've had a lot of abductions here. Tong shit, repayment of immigration debts. They're really sensitive. Obviously."

"Not trying --"

"Tell me later."

Oz turns and bows to the crowd. Explains something, quickly and quietly. There's still angry muttering popping up, but Oz just keeps going, his voice like melting snow. Xander knows snow now, after the winter in Wisconsin, and Oz's voice is just like that. Clear and sweet, almost like relief.

Xander slumps against the bin, running a hand through his hair.

"There," Oz says. He touches Xander's shoulder, hands him a slip of paper. "Her cousin's number and email. He speaks English."

Oz's clear green eyes and pale face are like a postcard from real life, some place Xander only dimly remembers but feels homesick for all the time, all the same. A place where you don't travel around gathering -- yeah, all right, abducting -- curiously strong girls. Where there are families who'd worry. Imagine that.


"Slayer, huh?" Oz scratches his jaw and it's weird. With pale fingers strumming through his hair, knee jiggling fast, he seems a little nervous as he perches on the bin of lychees. "So Buffy's --"

"Buffy's fine," Xander says. "So's Faith."

Pencil-thin eyebrows do their rise-slant-quirk thing. With a sudden, tingling ache, Xander's fingers and the tip of his tongue remember the exact texture and taste of Oz's eyebrows. And his mouth.

He shifts and slides his hands into his pockets.

"So. Chinese, huh?"

Oz nods and looks over at Xander. "Picked some up in Tibet."

"Sounded like more than some."

Oz nods again and looks away.

He's nervous and shy, and Xander doesn't know why, but it's like this is kind of a ghost of Oz. Same size, but smaller all the same, like Oz has been boiled down. Reduced, somehow. He wishes there were some way to just - Xander doesn't know. Slip out of time, he supposes. Erase distance and difference and just hang out with Oz.

Except they haven't done for way longer than four years.

"I hug now," Xander says and takes a step forward.

Oz's lips twist into something kind of resembling a smile. "Not so manly, huh?"

"Lose an eye, you reevaluate your life choices, you know?"

Oz's answer, if there even was one, is muffled by the hug. Xander wraps his arms around Oz and holds him tight. Bones and t-shirt, spiky hair: That's all that's here and the realization of that fact twists his gut terribly.

"Oz, Oz, Oz," he murmurs into hair that smells like smoke and sea salt. Wonders what happened to the fresh cut-grass smell he always thought Oz would have, like he had chlorophyll in his veins instead of blood.

"Yeah, Xander?" Oz tips back against Xander's arm.

He looks - small. Xander's not so great with adjectives, so all he's coming up with is small, pale, bony, and that's just not doing justice to Oz.

Xander smiles and lets out the sigh he's been holding through his nose. "All I've got, actually."

"'Kay," Oz says. He twists, somehow, threading his fingers through Xander's like they do this all the time, and stepping out from under the fruit store's canopy. "C'mon. I'll take you home."


Oz rents a room slightly larger than the back of his first van from the Zhangs. Up four flights of fire-stairs tacked onto the side of the brick building, over the groundfloor Dumpling Palace and three floors of seamstresses, DVD importers, high-stakes mah jongg parlors, and computer repair outfits.

He never makes the rent, and tutors Tony, Gordon, and Monica in English, math, chem to make up for it.

With his smell and hearing, he's also the best nightwatchman they've ever had.

Xander won't sit still. He started out perched on the edge of the folded futon. Circled the room several times over. Peered at the wine case of books, then looked over Oz's shoulder as he made them tea. Now he's finished fiddling with the computer and he's rattling through Oz's collection of cassettes.

It's like the time that sparrow flew in through the window. It got so scared it fumbled and banged around the room for hours.

Oz named the bird Hugh.

"Here -" Oz hands him a mug, the handle broken off, and leans against Xander. Big and solid, warm as ever. "Drink up."

"Figured you'd have more," Xander says. He falls into a crouch easy as Gary Carter's, then sits with a thump. "I mean, knowing you."

"Knowing me."

Xander spreads out the nine tapes, moving and swapping their positions like it's three-card monte. Oz sits next to him, looking over his shoulder and sipping his tisane, extra marifasa cut with ginger. Sees the tapes as if for the first time.

He wonders how many pirate jokes they've subjected Xander to. If he's thinking about that, Oz realizes, he's already back in Sunnydale. Anyone else would wonder what happened to the eye; it takes an insider to gauge the pseudo-gallows humor.

"These, I get -" Xander says, stacking Quadrophenia, Loaded, and Dark Side of the Moon to one side. "And this one, I guess." He waves Tim and adds it to the pile. "Obviously, Kurt and co., get that, too -" Double-length copy of Incesticide and Unplugged in New York. "Confess I'm lost over the other four."

"Candy Apple Gray," Oz says. "Homespun Midwestern punk. The Fantasticks, crazy-good indie musical from the 60s. Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, creepy and pretty. Bird and Miles do Christmas, 1948. You're not going to make me explain that, right?"

Xander sighs and shakes his head. Two locks of hair, curved like parentheses, slip over his forehead into his eye. Oz pushes them back, and Xander turns. His lips rub together, then part.

It's Oz's turn to sigh. "Missed you."


"Yeah," Xander says. He's a coward. Always has been, always will be. He can hug Oz, but tell him something like that, obvious and clear and sincere, oh, god no. That's impossible. It takes Oz to yank that kind of confession out of him.

He wraps his arm around Oz's waist, pulls him closer, brushes the tip of nose against Oz's cheek-jaw-temple. He hears the soft click of the mug being set down and then they're lying back on the floor.

For a second there, he understands, sharp and clear in an instant, how Angel feels. Make fun of the guilt all you want -- Xander certainly has -- but right now, he gets it. He has so much to apologize for, he has no idea where to start.

Bring on the shoulder pads and hair gel.

"There's a bed," Oz murmurs later, curling his fingers into Xander's shirt and pulling. "Back there."

Just like that, like a trilling series of Chinese syllables, Oz's voice and calm cuts apart guilt, delays apologies, slips Xander back into the moment. Well before Caleb, he'd lost that ability; hovered on the edges of things, jaw clenched and stomach sour, never stepped inside.


"Good," Xander says, sitting up, bringing Oz with him. Slides Oz's shirt over his head and rubs his palms over Oz's ribs like he's trying to warm up. Oz kisses his neck, working his own hands under Xander's shirt, fingertips tracing the angle of shoulder blades, dip and curve of spine.

Shuffling on their knees, kissing thoroughly, wrapped tighter than the layers of pastry, they make their way to the futon. Two hands, one each, reach out, fumble and pull, flip it open, crawl to the center.

Oz tastes bitter like ferns and sweet like moss. He kneels over Xander, hands working magic swirls over Xander's shoulders, arms, chest, kissing and rocking until Xander clutches his hips. Like fragments of a smashed plate, Oz's hipbones cut his hands and if there's no blood, Xander still feels it, relishes it.

Pause for breath. They're breathless even if this moment feels endless and slow, time unfurling like honey, steady and shining.

"Not running away," Oz says and taps their foreheads together.

It's a question, a vow, an argument.

"Not running away," Xander says and licks the swell of Oz's lower lip.

It's an answer, a promise, an apology.

Pants take forever to undo, unzip, tug down, and then they're rolling, and Xander's not afraid of crushing Oz this time. Not this time, because he's small-pale-bony and stronger than steel, iron, carbon. Oz pushes Xander's arms over his head, wrists crossed, and holds him there. Eyes shining and when Oz nods, Xander understands. He's hot and cold, patchworked with need and hope. Crazyquilt of flush and chill, and he spreads his legs, hooks one around the back of Oz's thighs.

Maybe for the first time, it feels better inside (heart, mind, soul, whatever and wherever inside is) than on his skin. Xander floats even as he's driven hard into the lumpy futon, holding Oz, kissing him until jaws crack and tongues go numb, then kissing harder, seeking more. Moaning, grunting, and when he tilts his hips and sucks deep, Oz comes with a howl.

Crystal-shattering howl, long and high, worthy of tundras.

They roll onto their sides and it's this amazing, radical confusion of limbs and selves, Ozander, Xandoz, something, and lips are parched with kissing, fat and swollen, and chests are heaving.

"Not this time," they say.


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