Opus

~ Written for the Xander/Oz ficathon, for tabaqui. Thank you to kattahj for an excellent betaing.

Oz hunkers down behind the sofa, sitting with his back against the back of it; he's facing the wall with a bookcase on one side, and a stereo on the other. Barricaded in like when he'd been a small boy building
forts and the world had been about toy cars and a plastic piano and imaginary games in the backyard.

He can't remember what sorts of games they played, and can barely even recall the faces of his playmates. Jimmy, the older, slower boy who played with them because his agemates tormented him. Dustin, of whom Oz could only remember a bright green shirt. Two other vague bodies in his memories, running and shouting and leaping out of the treehouse.

He hopes they weren't his best friends, making solemn oaths to stand beside each other forever and ever. Because he's pretty sure they're all gone -- fled with their families if they were lucky. Or otherwise,
if... not.

Oz shakes his head and strums a chord on the guitar. It isn't his. His was destroyed in a vamp attack seven months ago. But Giles lets him use his, and as a result Oz spends most of his time at Giles' place. It's easier than making the long trek home, and besides, he'd rather be sitting here, playing.

The barricade of furniture is a futile attempt on the part of his subconsciousness to feel safe. Vamps can't get in, can't cross the threshold of someone's home. But still, he needs this extra layer. It's been dark outside for half an hour and he imagines he can hear the distant sounds of screams and laughter. He doesn't want to hear them, so he plays.

Usually he's out there with Giles and the others. Tonight he's got a sprained ankle -- forbidden to even drive the van until it's healed. So he's waiting and pretending he wishes he could be out there, instead of being afraid and relieved that he isn't.

He's writing a song, or trying to. He used to be really good at it. Two, three years ago when the Dingoes were trying to find gigs and were telling themselves that it didn't matter if they sucked at playing covers. When they had their own sound -- then they'd rock. Rock higher and faster than man had ever flown, and Oz can remember spending hours in his room, scribbling words on notebook paper and listening to
melodies in his head.

He wrote mostly angry punk songs, back then. Loud, head-banging, protest and rebellion and all the things teenage boys think is cool.

He stopped writing when the attacks escalated. A month ago he started again, and he's been working on the song ever since. This time it's a love song, and he keeps embarrassing himself at the emotion in the words that demand to be written down. But whenever he tries to erase them, he hears them in his head and he puts them back down on the paper.

He can't quite figure out the melody though, and he's getting closer to asking Giles if he'd help. Oz wants this written, wants it finished
and to sing it just once before--

But maybe if he never finishes it, it will be his portrait against mortality.

He writes a few more words, and he hears something click in his skull and drops the pencil to play. The notes don't quite fit, but they're
close enough, and he sings the lines he's written.

He plays them twice, tweaking the chords here and there. Still not perfect, but the words -- mushy as they are -- seem right. He circles them on the page and moves on to try his hand at the chorus again. It's been eluding him so far, because he can't keep from writing words he doesn't want in the song.

Maybe Giles will have a suggestion for that, as well. He fights with it for awhile, then, when he thinks it must be time for Giles to be getting back, he sets the guitar down. He stands up from his cocoon of furniture and heads towards the front window.

On the other side, Xander is standing there watching him.

Xander grins and Oz sees only fangs. Then, in a flash, he's gone and Oz finds that he can't bring himself to move.

Giles opens the front door only a few moments later, and Oz can move. He turns his head and Giles frowns at him.

"How'd it go?" Oz asks, though he doesn't want to know. Giles looks exhausted, but not grey around the edges like he does when somebody is dead.

Giles simply shrugs, and glances at the window with a confused expression on his face. Oz doesn't explain, Giles doesn't ask, and for the next several minutes they ignore one another as Giles tries to relax and Oz tries to pretend Xander wasn't listening in.

He goes to put the guitar away, and he looks at the notebook, still open to the page he's been writing on. He thinks of asking Giles for
help on the chorus.

But Giles never really knew Xander that well, so he probably wouldn't know what Oz was trying to say.

"Still writing?" Giles asks, quietly.

Oz looks over. "Stuck on a few chords." He shrugs. Maybe he really isn't all that great a songwriter. It's possible.

"Let me hear." Giles sits down on the sofa, holding a mug he's poured in the kitchen. Oz doesn't know if it's tea or whiskey tonight, but it
hardly matters.

Oz sits down on the floor and spreads the notebook out in front of him. "It might suck," he warns.

There's a brief smile on Giles' face. It's a real one, and Oz figures -- maybe that's worth singing for. He sings, and even if the song sucks, it's real, and the words say what he hears inside his head, and the music makes him remember that there was a time when people didn't die more often than they fell in love.

I still remember the touch of your lips
the first time you stood still
and I could reach up and taste your skin

I still remember the feel of your hair
moving between my fingers the first time
you stood still and I could touch it

I still remember the sound of your laughter
the first time you let me in
and I brought you down beside me

I still remember
Is there anyone there
who remembers me?