Any Time
by Selena Ulrich

"Oz? You awake?"

The light from the landing hit him before the words did. Blinking he sat up in bed, peering at the figure silhouetted in the doorway as he dragged his mind back through sleep's many layers.

"Faith?" he asked stupidly.

"Sorry." The silhouette changed into the all-too-familiar pose of Faith-feeling-uncomfortable. "I couldn't sleep. I thought if you were still awake..." It began to turn. "I should go."

"No. Wait. It's cool." He threw back enough bedclothes to uncover the space next to him. "C'mon."

There was a moment's hesitation. Then the figure moved and Oz felt the reassuring warmth of the dark slayer next to him. He shifted slightly to allow her to get comfortable, then gently wrapped his arm around her. Her only response was to rest her head into the crook of his neck and he was secretly relieved - last time she had placed her hand on his groin so automatically that it didn't feel right, and he had told her as much, and she had taken off for two whole days.

They lay there for a while, not saying anything, he enjoying that earthy, sensuous, vibrant smell that was so amazingly Faith, and she...well, only she could say what was going on in her head right now, and Oz knew better than to push. Eventually though there was a sigh, and a mutter and a general shifting of weight that Oz had come to know as the signal, and he brought his thoughts back from his still point, ready to tacitly run point duty against whatever demons were plaguing Faith tonight.



"Do you miss her?"

For a moment he was lost for words, and the silence between them seemed to stretch on forever. But they had agreed from the start that there would be no lies between them, and that meant he had to say what he was feeling, even if he was reluctant to admit it to himself.

"Every day," he said. "It's like...a part of the world has gone forever. Like the Rockies or France disappearing overnight. Every morning I wake up expecting to still be able to see them, and they're not there."

(He could feel Faith's expression, even if he could not see it, and he wondered if he was a coward for being relieved that he could not see).

"But I'm glad."


Now he could look; puzzled Faith was easier to face than hurt Faith, and what he had to say next was too true to hurt.

"Sometimes things have to change, even if you don't know it at the time. Sometimes you have to lose the mountains to see the beauty that lies beyond it."

There was no reply, and he briefly wondered if he had been too glib, too Zen. Then she spoke.

"I'm sorry I couldn't save her."

Now this was more familiar territory. "You did what you could."

"Did I?" The question was thoughtful. "I meant to. I mean, I knew about the attack. The boss - the Mayor had told me about it in such detail, it was almost like he wanted me to know, like it was some sort of present. And I wish I could say I didn't like it."

Oz didn't respond; the thought that anyone could take joy in hurting still hurt, though he wished it wouldn't. But he knew there was more to the tale, even if his heart screamed that was enough.

"Go on," he said. His signal.

A sigh tickled his ear.

"It was weird," Faith continued. "I dwelt on it because it was so satisfying. Played every little detail back to entertain myself. And suddenly it hit me. It was wrong. No matter how much I hated Willow and her stabler-than-thou attitude." She laughed. "Funny that. After all the stealing and killing I'd done without question in his name, and suddenly I'm coming over all ethical for a girl I don't even like."

"A moment of clarity," said Oz. "That's what it was. You suddenly saw your life as it truly was and realised it needed to change." His smile was sad. "I know what that's like."

Faith snorted. "Guess so, she said. "I mean, that's why I went storming over to B's place; to warn her and get her to round up the Scoobies and get hem to protect her best bud. Only when I got there..."

Her voice trailed off and Oz understood. When he had found them together in the stacks the pain had been so great he had almost deliberately misunderstood. But his wolf-heightened senses had told him the truth; the casually placed hands, her head in Buffy's lap, the mingling of scents.

"It hurt," he said simply.

"Damn straight!" said Faith, her voice thick with emotion. "They already had so much closeness, did they have to rub my fucking nose in it by letting me find them..."

"They betrayed a trust," Oz quickly interrupted, trying not to let Faith dwell.

"Not to me!" Faith wailed. "They didn't owe me anything! Either of them! So why did I walk away?"

Oz didn't answer. There were still some serious Buffy issues Faith wasn't admitting to, even to herself. Part of him feared that one day it would lead to Faith leaving him for something small, blonde and female, but then, part of him feared that one day he would wake with the cage door opened and the taste of Faith's blood in his mouth. Every relationship has its tensions.

"They betrayed a trust," he said again. "And sometimes that's all it takes."

"I guess," Faith murmured. "But I still should have stayed. Faced them there and then, not six weeks later when the Mayor ascended and tried to eat us all."

"Maybe," agreed Oz. "But you still faced them. And on the side of the white hats. I think that counts as a tick in the plus column."

Another silence, but this one was more comfortable.

"Oz?" Faith's tone was more plaintive now. "Did we make them do it?"

"No," Oz's voice was quietly definite. "We weren't responsible. Switching sides was their decision. Whatever happened between us happened away from them. They couldn't have seen it."

"I still feel we could have tried harder."

"We did. It didn't work. And for what it's worth, I still regret that."

"Me too." Springs creaked, and then Faith's face was above his. "But I don't regret us for one minute."

She lowered herself and they kissed, ever so softly, for about a minute.

"You're a good kisser," Faith said once they had parted. I know that's not exactly what you want to hear, but..." She grinned, a little ruefully.

"It's a start," said Oz with a soft smile. "And it's genuine. That's what matters. You're a good kisser too."

"Thanks," said Faith as she lowered her face back to rest against his neck. "Always good to be told I'm not losing my touch."

"Any time," said Oz.

And they passed the rest of the night in companionable silence.


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