A/N: This is set before Willow and Xander's ~affair. The only thing required for this story (which was written by my sister, not me) is to ship Oz/Willow furiously. There's zero bashing, but it's made clear that Xander isn't right for Willow. Which I'm sure we all can agree on. Yuck.
Disclaimer: Joss is boss. He owns them. But he's an evil boss and my sister loves them much more than he does, so she kidnapped them for their own good. Also, Mutant Enemy, The WB, Fox and Kuzui Entertainment kind of sort of own them. Basically a bunch of men in suits. Who don't know what's best for them.
Oz was confused. He was officially confused out of his fucking mind. He and Willow had been going steady for a few months, and apart from an unexpected werewolf twist, things had been good. Great, even. He adored her geeky shyness, the way she hid herself behind a book, or a computer, or a ridiculously over-sized jumper. He adored her, warts and all, and little by little, she had started to toughen up. Granted, at the core, Willow was a kind and gentle person – that would never change – but over the last few months, a different side of her had started to emerge, a feisty girl who'd bite back with confidence if anything didn't suit her. Oz loved being with her, and he was pretty sure the feeling was mutual. They'd spent a lot of time together, and loved every second of it.
For all of their intimate moments, though, the issue of past boyfriends and girlfriends hadn't really come up. To further set himself apart from most guys he knew, Oz had only had one steady girlfriend before he met Willow, and the question of sleeping together hadn't been voiced until they both, almost telepathically, agreed that the time was right. With Willow, they'd shared quite a few times by now, but he sensed that Willow wasn't too sure what she was doing. Neither was he, to be honest. The first time had been messy and complicated and weird, but also fun, intimate and right. It was more like neither of them really knew what to expect from each other or the occasion. Since then, it had just gotten more and more relaxed, completely carefree. Maybe it was due to his one previous relationship, but he kept expecting Willow to ask him about other girlfriends. She never even hinted at wanting to know, and it kind of made him feel he shouldn't ask himself. He did wonder, though, if anyone else had been able to get so close, chip away at the awkward wall she herself didn't seem to know how to tear down.
So as the months went by, Oz never asked. He did ponder the thought from time to time, but wouldn't really fret over it. He wasn't a dramatic kind of guy, he liked things simple. They were together, they were happy, that was it. Whether there had been anyone else before him or not, it didn't matter.
That's why today, just over lunch, when Willow had left early to go to the library, Oz felt like his world had been turned upside down when Xander suddenly informed him that Willow had had a long running crush on him when they were younger.
The conversation had started off so innocently, really, with Xander jokingly grilling Cordelia about her exes and she, in her usually charming manner, elbowed him in the stomach. Buffy had made a sarcastic remark about Xander having no exes to be grilled about, which had earned her an exaggerated eye roll as well as a snatched soda. Xander, in his usual playful mood, took a gulp, burped and then turned his attention to Oz.
"So have you had the talk? Any big bad secrets left to unravel?"
Oz just laughed, and shook his head. "There's not much to unravel," he answered, slightly uncomfortable with having this discussion with his friends before having it with his girlfriend.
Xander nodded knowingly. "I know, right. A crush is a crush. Will got over that a long time ago."
Oz raised his eyebrows questioningly. "A crush?"
"Sure. That's all it was, you know. We were kids. But I guess I can't blame the girl for wanting a piece of me. I'm irresistible, right, Cor?" Xander laid back, resting his head in her lap.
"As if!" she snorted, leaning forward to kiss him with a mock frown on her face.
Observant as usual, Buffy started to piece things together. "Oz," she said.
Xander looked surprised, and sat back up. With a mask of complete confusion, he opened his mouth. "I thought that's … I thought you knew. You said there was nothing to unravel. I thought …"
"Maybe you should stop thinking," Cordelia replied dryly. Xander barely noticed the insult.
Oz sat back, trying to be reasonable. He shouldn't get carried away over this, and normally, he wouldn't. But he couldn't help but feel like … like certain things started to make sense. A lot of sense, actually. Urging himself not to jump to conclusions, he emptied the plate and stood. Xander hurriedly rose, trying to explain.
"It's fine," Oz interrupted him. "It's no big deal. I'll see you next period." And with that, he left the cafeteria, experiencing nothing but a heavy, sinking feeling in his stomach.
It wasn't until later that afternoon, that Oz found himself face to face with his flustered girlfriend who had cornered him in the lounge. They'd all had separate classes for the rest of the day, so as much as it irked him, he hadn't been able to talk to Willow about any of it. Maybe that was a good thing, he told himself, so he wouldn't say anything to her that he would regret. But it had also given him time to come up with several not very appealing theories begging to be proved right or wrong. So when Willow caught up with him, worried, uneasy, and asking to talk to him in private, he didn't yell, or push her away, or make a scene. He just followed her, quietly, to one of the art rooms and preceeded her inside. Willow closed the door behind them with a slightly louder bang than she had intended, and urgently walked closer to him.
"Oz, I know what Xander told you. You must have misunderstood each other, he would have never blurted it out just like that if he didn't … if he didn't get the wrong idea."
"Maybe I'm the one who's got the wrong idea," he suggested. He spoke soft, clear, controlled. He wasn't angry, he wasn't really that worried, either. He had been forced to ask himself some hard questions, though.
"No, you haven't," she urged. "It's not what you think. It was ages ago, and it was so simple, you know? We were friends, and then I started to feel something more, but it never went anywhere. Nothing happened. And then he got together with Cordelia, and then I just really knew that nothing would ever happen."
Oz cocked his brows at her last sentence. "Will, Xander and Cordelia got together after we did."
Willow shrugged, increasingly frustrated and wound up. "Oz, there's nothing going on with me and Xander. Please don't make a big deal out of this."
He looked her straight in the eyes, as calm as ever, and straightened the strap on his shoulder. "I didn't know it was a big deal," he said, pointedly, and walked past her to the door.
"Oz," she called out, turning around.
"It sounds to me like you have some stuff to work out, Will. Let me know when you're done."
So, Oz was confused. He barely knew what to think, or feel for that matter. On one hand, the months he and Willow had been together, happy, in love, had told him without a doubt that she was just as crazy about him as he was about her. During all those months, never once had he sensed the presence of someone else, not physically, but in spirit, between them when they were alone together. They had connected like clock work, and he would have never imagined he'd ever ask himself where her heart truly belonged. But on the other hand, today he had witnessed his girlfriend, frantic, worried, assuring him nothing was going on with Xander when he hadn't even asked. Accusing him of turning it into an issue when she was the one chasing him down to talk it out, and doing it as excessively as possible. It left a lousy feeling in his mouth. In fact, the whole thing was beginning to smell rebound.
Oz sighed inwartly at this chain of thought. He hated being dramatic, and over-sensitive, but jealousy had begun to rear its ugly head, and he felt like he couldn't help it. They had shared gentle I love you's, and it had felt great, like everything it should be. But looking back, he couldn't help but question if she was thinking of Xander even then. When Willow had confronted him earlier today, she hadn't spoken of Xander like a past crush, that had faded over time and where no romantic feelings still existed. She had acted as if the guy was a mistake, something she had given into in the heat of the moment, and wanted to forget about even though it wasn't that easy. The panic in her eyes, the trembling voice, the notion that Xander could apparently put that expression on her face … It made him feel physically ill.
A sudden tug at the doorbell startled him, and with a resigned sigh, Oz got up out of the couch and made his way over to the front door. Upon opening the door, seeing Willow on the other side didn't surprise him in the least. Her determined appearance quickly made it clear to Oz that slamming the door in her face wouldn't keep her away.
"Can I come in?" she asked, politely enough, but the mere expression on her face, the tone of her voice, made it clear that she wasn't going to take no for an answer. Not feeling up to dwelling into a battle of wills, Oz just nodded and stepped aside.
"I guess you're done figuring things out."
"Yeah, I am."
Without commenting, Oz sat down on the couch, and watched Willow place herself in the armchair right across from it. Thick silence reigned for a few moments, until she looked up and met his gaze. The tension was palpable in the room. It was as if the few feet separating them had turned into a glass wall, where they could see each other fine, but were forbidden to reach across It and touch each other.
"Are you going to ask?" she finally said, apparently finding the silence unbearable.
Oz shifted slightly on the couch, crossing his arms in front of him, looking firmly at her.
"No, I don't think I will. I think it's time for you to tell me the whole truth."
She dipped her head, perhaps to gather the strength, and then looked back up. "Okay", she agreed, and Oz could clearly recognize a slight tremble in her voice.
"Xander and I had been friends for years. Just friends, you know, that was it. There was one summer break in junior high when we didn't hang out that much, cause we were both away. We sent e-mail, mostly, and talked on the phone. And then, that fall, when school started, we met up on the first day, and he was really … really different. It sounds silly, but he'd grown taller, and he dressed differently, and he just felt so much more … real … to me. He'd always been a goof, and he still is, but it was like … you could have a serious conversation with him. He didn't laugh everything off like it was a joke. I guess he'd started maturing, and I fell for it."
She paused, looking for the right words to continue, while not making eye contact with Oz. She wasn't avoiding looking at him, but she didn't go out of her way to meet his gaze, either. He got the impression she was choosing her words very carefully, trying them out in her head before actually uttering them. As much as he respected the careful approach, part of him wanted to ask her straight out what she was actually feeling. But, he conceded, wherever this confession was going to lead, it was clearly something that needed to be said. So he didn't say anything, just kept his eyes on Willow and waited for her to continue.
"I never said anything about it, though. I didn't really understand why I suddenly had those kind of feelings, but I did, and I thought that if I brought it up, it would … it would change things, you know? Between him and me. Part of me thought it would pass, like it would blow over as quickly as it came, but it didn't. I kept feeling that way for a long time."
Oz contemplated this. "So what changed that?"
Willow shook her head, her lips pressed together. "Cordelia."
She took a moment to gather her thoughts, before she looked him straight in the eye. Whatever trepidation Oz had felt before they'd had this talk, whatever doubts he'd had about her being upfront with him, all evaporated as those firm, green eyes settled on him. What he was about to hear would be the truth. Maybe it wouldn't be what he expected, or hoped, or wished for, but it would be true.
"I'd known for a while that he had a crush on her, but I guess I thought of it like I did of my crush on him," she started. "You know, something senseless that would never lead anywhere. And I always thought he wouldn't actually get involved with her, because we were friends, and she wasn't exactly nice to me. But he did, and they started spending a lot of time together, and at first I didn't exactly like it. But when I thought about them together, I always remembered how Xander and I used to hang out … You know, friend stuff. I could never picture us as a couple."
Oz remained quiet. He witnessed her, deep in thought, hands folded in her lap, and felt the sudden urge to reach out and touch them. Run his thumb across her palm, soothe her, help her say whatever was running through her mind. The instinct was cut short when she spoke, a sudden defiance in her voice.
"I was a little jealous about them hanging out, but that's all it was. I guess I'd been scared of Xander and me finding new friends that year, and I didn't want us to lose touch. It was like … as soon as I saw him and Cordelia together, I got it through my head what I really wanted from him. I wanted to stay friends … and we did. But I don't feel anything for him like what I feel for you. I couldn't, because … you saw me. You really saw me, Oz. And I saw you, too."
And right there, that said it all. The cheesy words, words that, had they been uttered by anyone else, would have come across as a line, but that from Willow came across as the most sincere, heartfelt, absolutely genuine declaration of affection anyone had ever given him, solved the riddle. She loved him. And he loved her. All the other stuff was irrelevant, because she was right. He did see her. He saw all of it. And he loved all of it.
Willow, clearly not interpreting his silence positively, kept speaking. She clasped her hands together, trying desperately to keep her composure, as she opened her mouth and snapped him out of his thoughts.
"I was being really over dramatic today. I get why you thought there was something going on. I just thought … I thought you'd jumped to conclusions and were … were really mad at me, so I … I wanted to explain things, but I guess I made it worse," she concluded, shoulders dipping disheartedly.
"Come here", Oz said with a low-key, sincere smirk. He could do nothing but sit there, manage the explosion of affection making him tremble with joy.
Looking into her eyes, confused, wary, hopefully shy eyes, he felt a grin spread across his face. "There's a chair shortage. Didn't you read about it?"
A/N: You know what I've heard? Unless you rate and review, hideous vampires in your closet will come out and bite you at night. Oh, and Willow will get together with Xander. And they'll suck face in the library. Unless you review. Just sayin'.
Hope you liked it!