"When Something Stands For Nothing"
by Maya Tawi
This one's for the silence
And the questions that it brings
And the smell of time, and the reverence
And the possibilities
-The Headstones, "When Something Stands For Nothing"
The knocking jolted him awake.
Doyle cracked one eye open, glanced at the TV and wondered with mild curiosity how it had got turned to the Spice Channel, then settled on the obvious answer and closed his eye again.
Another knock reminded him why he'd woken up in the first place, and Doyle forced himself to sit up this time. He ran a quick hand over his hair, making it stand up and salute at interesting angles, and blinked, trying to re-orient himself.
Obviously he'd fallen asleep on the couch; didn't even make it to the bedroom. Dozed off while indulging in some truly high-class entertainment. Doyle fumbled for the remote and hit the mute button, scratching at the back of his head. Well, it'd been a long day.
There was a drool stain on the cushion. Charming, that.
Sighing softly, he swung his legs off the couch, stood, and stumbled towards the door, blinking in the blue half-light from the television. Then he hesitated, struck suddenly by a belated but very persuasive sense of paranoia. He rubbed his eyes to clear them and squinted through the peephole.
Blinked, then squinted again.
Then swung the door open and stood, staring, at the figure in the hallway.
Oz raised one hand slightly. "Hey."
"Uh," Doyle said. "Hi." He continued to stare.
Oz tilted his head questioningly.
"Oh." A sudden flash of comprehension, and he stepped back, gesturing for the younger man to come in. "Eh, sorry. I was just sacked out on the couch there. Think I'm still there in spirit."
"Sorry." The kid wandered in, taking in his surroundings. "Colorful place, man. Love the curtains. Very retro."
Doyle was fairly sure there was some response to be made to that. Unfortunately, nothing was coming to mind, so he just waited for round two.
"So." Oz turned finally; he'd changed since that afternoon, into corduroy pants and a T-shirt emblazoned with a cartoon pig's head and the logo "Piggly Wiggly". The purple-lensed sunglasses from earlier were no longer in evidence. "I wouldn't have come by so late, man, but we're on our way back tonight." He paused. "This morning."
A sudden pang of disappointment surprised Doyle, along with his inability to pinpoint the source of that feeling. "You know," he remarked, "it's fascinating, but I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've heard you string five words together."
The kid's expression didn't change, but something in his eyes, at least, looked somewhat amused. "I get that a lot."
"Color me surprised." He leaned against the closed door in what he hoped was a casual way. "So would it just be incredibly nosy of me to ask what brings you here at...." He cast about furtively for a clock; his eyes settled on the VCR, set, for once, at the correct time. "Three in the disgustingly a.m.?"
"Actually, I had the impression you'd just be getting to bed around now." Oz was showing an inordinate amount of interest in the walls.
Not a completely inaccurate guess under usual circumstances, but Doyle, interested as he was in the prospect of having this little blond spiky-haired guy in his apartment, was beginning to lose patience. Not to mention consciousness. "Long day, kid. What's up?"
Finally, Oz turned. "Well, it's just something that's been bugging me since last night. I mean, I was just wondering-- you're not human, are you?"
At that, Doyle's face fell. He crossed the room, climbed over the back of the couch and slumped back down into the cushions, not even bothering to hide his annoyance. "What's with you strong silent types, then?" he grumbled. "'Cause you an' Angel, you're all so damn rude about it--"
"No, hey, it's cool with me," Oz said. His expression seemed oddly speculative. "I've kind of got the same deal going, myself."
"Well, yeah. Sure." Doyle eyed him curiously, not entirely placated. "How'd you figure?"
"Werewolf." He held up his little finger, seemingly more out of habit than anything else; the scar must have been long faded by now. "Cousin bit me. Watch out who you tickle."
"Right," Doyle sighed, resting his head on the back of the couch. "Good advice for life, that. My father was a demon, my mother wasn't, and I'm simply Irish, thanks."
"Hey," said Oz. "It could be worse. You could be a tiny demon. With a pot of gold."
"Then you'd never hear the end of it."
"I certainly wouldn't," Doyle said slowly.
"Make a good living posing for cereal boxes, though."
"That's not funny."
"Probably not," Oz agreed. And then he seemed quite content to say nothing at all.
Doyle sighed again and glanced up at the younger man. "So, hey, what's this? Are we bonding, like?"
"I'm definitely sensing signs of bondage here, yeah."
Doyle looked up sharply, waiting for him to catch the slip, to backtrack. It didn't happen; Oz just continued to stare down at him, face unmoving, eyes fixedly inscrutable. The TV's blue glow flickered oddly over his features.
The half-demon swallowed, his mouth suddenly, strangely dry.
"So that's all you wanted, then?" he managed to say. "Make sure your nose wasn't lyin' to ya?"
"And wondering what kind of relationship you have with Cordelia."
Doyle grimaced, and some of the tension between them started to dissipate. Some, but not all. "Oh, I moon, she insults. It's quite rewarding for the both of us." His expression turned guarded, and a tiny bit hopeful. "Why?"
"Just wondering," Oz said. "She doesn't know about the whole demon thing, right?"
"And he's a psychic too." He eyed the smaller man warily. "You're not gonna, you know, warn me off or anything, are ya?"
The corner of Oz's mouth quirked slightly. "What, off Cordelia? She can definitely look after herself."
"Yeah, see, that was my thinking."
"I'd tell her, though." His eyes grew serious again. "In case anything happens. You don't want to be on Cordy's bad side when she's pissed."
"No kidding." Doyle mock-shuddered at the thought. Well, partly mock.
Oz just looked at him.
Doyle grinned. "Which isn't to say I wouldn't enjoy pressing my luck."
Quiet descended, that heavy kind of three a.m. quiet that always seems to be holding something back. Doyle was acutely aware of the other man standing over him, looming over his sitting form-- well, as much as anyone of Oz's small stature could effectively loom. It made the back of his neck prickle, but he made no move to get up....
Doyle cleared his throat.
"So, just to keep a running tally, then," he said, and he was pretty sure his voice sounded normal. "You came to see if I'm really a supernatural critter and to give me advice on my nonexistent relationship with Her Royal Highness of the Silver Screen, she wishes, and... am I missing anything?"
"Nah, I think that's a pretty good recap there. Emphasized the high points, skipped the lower ones...."
Doyle hunched over and rubbed his temples, viciously. "You'll excuse me if this isn't actually making any sense. I'm sure it's completely my fault."
Oz eased silently onto the arm of the couch, watching him with interest.
Doyle sighed. "You really don't say much at all, yeah?"
"I get that a lot too."
"Hey, no one said there'd be points for originality."
Neither of them made a move to leave the couch. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, Doyle didn't mind. It was....
It was comfortable, somehow. Still a loaded silence, but loaded, as it were, with enough metaphorical Scotch to give the moment a pleasant, almost dreamlike glow. That the only light came from the television, and that said television currently featured an image of two women giving each other tongue baths, only added to the surreal effect.
A thought occured to Doyle, and he pinched himself, hard. Then, very calmly, he said, "Ow."
"Just wondering if I'm still awake."
"Oh, hey, yeah, it's late, isn't it?" Oz abruptly stood.
"Well, it hasn't gotten any earlier, no, although that actually depends on how you look at it." Doyle eyed him curiously. "Please don't tell me that thought's just occured to you."
"Not really." Oz hesitated, running a hand through his gravity-defiant hair. "Look, I gotta go. The guys are waiting outside in the van."
Another pause, and then the werewolf looked him straight in the eye. "Did Angel mention I have a girlfriend?"
Yeah, right, Doyle thought, he never even mentioned you. "Oh, yeah. You know oul' Angel," he said aloud. "Bundle of chatter, that one. Can't get the fellow to shut up."
Oz acknowledged this with a slight inclination of his head.
After a few moments Doyle sighed. "Jesus, man, if you're gonna go then go, already."
Oz nodded, and the demon, feeling obscurely guilty, quickly added, "If you're in town, you know, stop by an' all. We could go an' have drinks or something."
"Right. Next time." The faintest ghost of a smile crossed the younger man's face, and Doyle had a sudden recollection of just what he'd said the night before while going and having drinks. Or at least what Cordelia'd said he'd said.
Fuck it. All the tension flying around in here, some drunken babblings were the least of his problems.
Oz was heading for the door. Doyle leaned his head back again, closing his eyes gratefully. The day had definitely been way too long.
Oz's soft voice caught his attention again. "Doyle."
"Yeah." He didn't open his eyes.
"Bamm-Bamm was okay. But I always liked the dinosaur best."
He heard the door latch shut. A slow smile spread across his face.
"Yeah," Doyle said aloud, again, into the empty, silent apartment. "Next time."
No need to push it. After all. No relationship lasts forever.
Save the environment-- review a fic. And hey, if you can rationalize that, you're a better (wo)man than I.