Oz sat cross-legged on his girlfriend's floor, guitar resting on his thigh and hand on its neck, trying to find the right frets to make the noise that was echoing in his head. It wasn't working.
Willow was lying diagonally across her bed, working on physics homework that she'd bought from a college student who was actually enrolled in the course. When she lifted her head, she could both see Oz from the corner of her eye and feel like she was being sneaky about it.
Oz moved his right hand to another position, and pulled his left fingers over the strings experimentally. The sound was sour.
Not it. His shoulders fell, just a little.
Willow looked up and faced him fully. She meant to be subtle, but it came out just quiet. "Have you tried thinking of it like math?"
He looked up her and her orange eyebrows rose. There was a question in it.
"Like…" She chewed on the back on her pencil, and tried to find the words. "You know Why Shouldn't We?"
"Intimately." The Dingoes had played it at their last set. Oz had written that song. Yes, they'd met.
"And the part where the lyrics go, 'Alone at night, and I can see, you're thinking it, why shouldn't we'?"
"And the…the guitar part right then?"
"The chord?" Oz hazarded.
"Yeah. D second suspended."
"Yeah, that," Willow said again, bobbing her head up and down. "Play it."
He did, and it sang. He smiled. "Yes! God, I love you, Will. How'd you do that?"
"Because I'm brilliant," she gloated, and then couldn't not explain. "Math is full of all kinds of patterns, Oz."
He liked the way she said his name, enjoyed how it hummed in her throat and echoed around in her mouth and came out sounding like she would die without him.
And when he thought about that, he wondered if it was altogether aligned to think that her dying was a good thing.
She was talking. "So if you start off in one chord, then the whole song's going to tend to be in different evolutions of it, in the third or fifth chords, or the seventh…"
"How do you know all this?" he asked, lifting his chin in a kind of nod.
She bit the inside of her lips, and made her 'sorry' face. "I've been reading."
"Reading what?" he pressed, because, knowing Willow, it would be something extremely cute and then he would be able to distract her from her not-really homework.
Willow pouted, and reached under her mattress. A book was produced, and she gave it to Oz, shame-faced.
Oz looked at the cover. There was a caricature of a guitar on it. "The Making of a Song?"
"I thought that I could maybe understand. Sorry," Willow said, and then put the end of her pencil back in her mouth.
Oz shook his head. "No, it's okay. I'm not mad or anything. It's just-" His eyebrows drew together, and he concentrated on what he wanted to say, instead of what he wanted to sing. "I don't do patterns. I've read the same music theory you have. But… Will, when you talk, do you think?"
She made a crying face. "That's mean."
He leaned his guitar up against her wall, hopped to his feet, and sat on the end of her bed. His hand fell on her shoulder blade. "I didn't mean it like that. Do you map out what you say beforehand?"
She rolled onto her side to keep looking at him, and admitted, "Not really."
"If you did, it would be formulaic, and not half so beautiful."
She smiled, fleeting and hopeful, wanting-wanting-wanting to believe him. "So that's why you don't use patterns?"
He shrugged, moving his hand along her upper arm, taking in the way her skin slipped under his.
She had an idea and rolled onto her back in her excitement. It nearly brought her over the edge of her bed, but Oz grabbed both her wrists and pulled her back, laughing.
"Be more careful," he chided, touching the head that nearly fell to the floor. "There's important stuff in here."
She was beaming at him, still excited about her idea. "So your music is like my talking? Is that why you're all," she made a neutral face and gave a noncommittal grunt. Her hopeful expression afterwards was as good as a question mark.
He grunted noncommittally. "Could be. Or your talking is like music."
"You're so sweet!" She put her arms up, and he leaned down until she could wrap them around his neck. "In a taciturn kinda way…"
Oz really loved her, and the way she made his heart sing.