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FIC: The Ones Not Kissed

Title: The Ones Not Kissed
Spoilers / Words: BtVS 3.8 "Lover's Walk" - 2000 words
Characters: Oz, Cordelia
Rated: PG

A/N: I was really itching to write something today, and what got written was this: the rest of a fic that I've had sitting around for a good year and a half, waiting for me to pick it up again.

I started it meaning to be shippy, just as an exercise, and failed miserably. My gen inclination continues apace.

~~~~~

The first thing he sees in the hospital room is the vase overflowing with sunflowers and daisies and gladiolas. Xander’s, he figures, judging by the unopened card still turned towards the door. Their fragrance clashes with the room’s antiseptic smell, giving the whole place a suggestion of cheap, fake-floral perfume.

He’s not even quite sure why he’s here. It just seemed like the thing to do, visiting the girl who fell through a floor while she was running away from where her boyfriend was kissing your girlfriend.

She’s lying on the hospital bed with her back turned toward him, and for a moment he thinks she’s asleep and he can leave, duty done, without ever having to see her face. But she must have heard him, his footsteps or his breath, because she rolls over just far enough to see who it is.

“Hey,” he says.

She’s pale, her eyes shadowed and reddened both. Her hair, never one gleaming strand out of place when she showed up for dates with Devon, is dull and stringy.

“What are you doing here?”

“Just checking up,” he says. “Heard there were demons on the kitchen staff.” At her eyebrow, skeptically raised, he adds, “Looks like the food hasn’t gotten to you yet, though.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I, uh, kind of don’t know what to say here. ‘Sorry my girlfriend made out with your boyfriend’?”

She snorts, and then starts to cough. “Ow! Ow.”

“Bummer about that rebar,” he says.

“Oh, it was loads of fun. Trust me.” A pause, and then, “You didn’t bring a latte by any chance, did you?”

“Sorry.”

She huffs a sigh that lacks the strength of disdain of a usual patented Cordelia sigh. “Figures.”

“So, they letting you out soon?”

She rolls her eyes. “Oh, you know, once they’ve taken this test and that test and made sure those stitches hold. You know what this one guy said? He looked at the big freaking hole in my stomach and he said, ‘We’ll get that closed up and you’ll be good as new. Just like magic.’ And I wanted to say, Buddy, I know something about magic, and at no point does it involve prodding me with those sharp pokey things.”

She isn’t really looking at him, her gaze fixed somewhere between his arm and the flowers. Her eyes are glistening. “And if there were a Prince Charming – which, in Sunnydale? He’d probably turn into a frog demon – then he’s not going to love me forever or take me to the movies or keep his lips to his own damn self!”

Abruptly she rolls back over, giving a gasp as she does. He winces at the sound. He waits to see if she’ll turn back and expect him to be there, if she’ll ask why he hasn’t left yet, if he can think of anything else that needs to be said. If there is, it doesn’t come to him. When he picks up the salty scent of tears, he turns to go.

“Wait.”

He pauses.

“Could you... could you dump those flowers? Some idiot delivered them to the wrong person.”

“Sure. Will do.” He grips the vase with the card addressed to her, holding the vase against him to keep from tipping all the blooms out. “Take care.”

She doesn’t answer.


~*~*~


The next time, he stops by the Espresso Pump first. When he gets to her room she’s sitting up, a textbook splayed open on her lap and papers littering the thin hospital blankets. She looks up. “You again.” Then her eyes fall on the paper cup, and her whole expression opens. “If that is a latte, then you are on Cordelia Chase’s List of Acceptable People.” Her tone and her eyebrows indicate the gravity of this honor potentially his.

He hands it to her. “I’ve never really been a list kind of guy.”

She wraps her hands around it. “Mister, right now you are the list.” A sip. “Oh my god, real coffee.” Another sip, and then the brow creases. “Not that you haven’t just justified your entire existence, but why are you here, again?”

He shrugs. “I got my appendix out a few years ago.”

“And now you feel nostalgic for lame-o hospital décor?”

“Less the curtains and more my Aunt Maureen.”

“Oh?” Skepticism.

“She came most days. Kept me company. I might have had an out-of-body experience otherwise – I was pretty bored.”

“Oh. Right. Well, as you can see, I am not in any way bored by the pile o’ homework that came to me, seeing as I couldn’t go to it.”

“I see that.” He’s not sure whether those papers are notes, essay drafts, or sanskrit translation –not that he can really talk. He catches a name that looks familiar. “Government with Kutner? I took that class.”

“Yeah?”

“I could quiz you.”

She makes a face. “Now that sounds boring.” A beat. “Okay, fine. I have a stupid make-up test as soon as I get back. Ask me about those government house guys who write laws and take bribes.”

It takes him a moment to untangle that. Then, “The House of Representatives. Right. Although you realize some state representatives are women.”

“Whatever. Now, quiz.”

For a while he does, although he finds himself explaining as much as he quizzes. It’s a good thing he was still going to Kutner’s classes this time last year.

Without warning, Cordelia reaches over and snaps the book shut.

“I guess we’re done with government,” Oz says.

“Is Xander miserable?”

He blinks. He stares at your locker every time he walks by, he could say. Or, He stirs his ketchup with his fries but doesn’t eat them. Or, He tried to apologize to me and the wolf wanted to tear his throat out, so I walked out before he finished. But all Oz says is, “He’s not the happiest clown in the car.”

“Good. Because he should be miserable.”

But it takes two, Oz didn’t say.

“I wasted a year on him. A whole year. Harmony and everyone told me what a loser he was, and did I believe them? No, because I was standing up for myself. I was proving that nobody messes with Cordelia Chase. And boy, I showed them.”

He gives her a careful look, but he doesn’t think she’s going to cry again. He starts thinking about edging towards the door. He’d really rather not hear about Xander’s many faults just now.

“But you know the worst part? I liked him. I liked loser Xander Harris. I put a picture of him in my locker, , and I said it was because I looked good in it – which was true, I did – but that wasn’t the point. I lied to him because I didn’t want to admit how cute I thought he looked in that goofy hat, and Cordelia Chase isn’t afraid of telling the truth to anybody. I was going to go bowling with you guys. Do you know what that could have done to my image? I was going to do that. Because he wanted to.”

She slaps her hand over her eyes, and he suspects he was wrong about the crying. “I mean, how stupid am I?”

He tells her what he told himself that first dawn after he’d seen Willow with someone else. “People are worth taking a chance on. It’s not stupidity. It’s wisdom.”

She heaves a couple of breaths, and then she peers through his fingers at him. “You think?”

“What’s the point of life, otherwise?”

“Gucci.”

He waits while she breathes, and finally she drops her hand. “I’m done talking. You talk.”

Now he does want to use that door. “Not really a talking kind of guy, either.”

The eyebrow lifts. “You don’t say. Look, the rest of us are all miserable and I’m pretty sure you are, too, but who’d know? So, talk. Share the misery.” She tilts her chin, and he has no doubts whatever about why Willow calls her Queen C.

It’s a little strange, because at this point anybody who cares already knows this about him: how much words mean, so that it’s worth saying nothing if he can’t say it right; and how little they mean, when actions say it all so much clearer.

Willow’s actions were pretty damn clear.

He leans back against the footrail, just thinking, but Cordelia must seen an intent that he doesn’t feel, because she waits with un-Cordelia-like patience.

Finally, he begins, “I must care more about her than she does about me, because I would never do this.” He stops, but apparently Cordelia’s serious about this sharing thing; she doesn’t bust in and take the conversation over again like he half-hoped she would. She just watches, eyes big and brown and make-up free.

“Then I think, she’s different from me. Maybe she doesn’t see the kissing thing the way I do. And then I think, maybe she should. If she doesn’t, then that’s no good either.”

“I’m pretty sure Little Miss Boyfriend Stealer knows what kisses are for,” says Cordelia.

“Probably,” he concedes. He’s been giving Willow all the benefit of the doubt he can find, because he’s still so angry he can’t hope to be fair to her otherwise. But in this, yeah, he thinks Cordelia is probably right. “So then I think, it’s a Xander thing. A Xander-and-Willow thing. They’ve known each other so long, and she liked him for a lot of that.

“I know I’m not the consolation prize with her, or I wasn’t. We were good together. I mean, we were us. Together.” This concept is much clearer in his head than in his mouth, but Cordelia looks like she knows what he’s talking about.

He finds he can’t look at that clear-eyed gaze. Cordelia’s truths are simple and undisguised, a quality he usually appreciates in her, but they’re merciless truths and he’s not sure he can face them. “But I’m not sure it matters now what we were. Because we aren’t.”

“And they might be,” said Cordelia.

“Well, I don’t think they are,” he said. In fact, it looked to him like they were avoiding each other pretty hard, when they weren’t keeping Buffy handy as chaperone. Which, hey, nice thoughts. Too bad they didn’t think of them sooner.

“Still.”

“Yeah.”

“We’re too good for them,” she declares.

“Not too sure about that,” he says. For one, Cordelia’s seven kinds of cruel when she wants to be, and for another there’s the wolf. It’s always back there, crouched in the hindbrain and sniffing for prey. Someday, he thinks, it’ll find some he won’t be able to save.

“Seriously,” she says. “I rule Sunnydale High, and you’re, like, king of cool.”

“The guitar helps,” he pointed out.

“You know, once I got hold of some conditioner and lipstick, I’d let you take me out.”

The queen’s favor, bestowed upon him. He’s never wanted it, but now, for a split second, he considers. They’re companionable, and he’d never have guessed that. But her hair is brown and she doesn’t babble and whatever she wore to the multi-cultural dance, it had nothing to do with Eskimos, and all these facts, neutral in themselves, are deficits when compared with Willow.

“Not saying I don’t appreciate it," he says, "but I think you’re too tall for me.”

“True,” she says. “And no way am I giving up heels.”

It’s time to go. He’s said all he has to say, everything he knows. The well of words, shallow at best, runneth dry. A last thought occurs to him. “Listen,” he says. “If you get any more flowers, read the card before you send them landfill-ward.”

Sovereign of her domain, she considers him, eyebrow aloft. “Deal,” she says. Token accepted, fair knight. Ride on.


Finis

Comments

( 63 comments — Leave a comment )
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<<[1] [2] >>
deird1
May. 17th, 2010 03:42 am (UTC)
This is great!
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
diamondtook862
May. 17th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)
Very nice! You wrote Oz well = big giant achievement. :)
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I have a harder time writing Oz than just about any other character. I think it's because he's just a bit too cool for me. *g*
selenak
May. 17th, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)
That was wonderful, with perfect voices for Cordelia and Oz.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! And thanks also for the lovely rec. :)
zanthinegirl
May. 17th, 2010 05:49 am (UTC)
There seriously needs to be more Oz fic in the world. I adore Oz and always have, but I wouldn't have though of this situation. Very interesting little exploration of their characters! Who knew I'd like season 3 Cordelia so much?

snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Heh, well, I enjoy Cordelia pretty much all the time, even when she's being nasty. I'm glad to hear I made her likable for you.

And yes to more Ozfic, but writing Oz is hard, yo!
(no subject) - rebcake - May. 18th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC) - Expand
dipenates
May. 17th, 2010 07:53 am (UTC)
This is just lovely. Great voices.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
angearia
May. 17th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC)
Oh, gladness.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed. :)

Also, can I just say I much I love your icon? It rocks my socks off.
(no subject) - angearia - May. 17th, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - May. 17th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
hkath
May. 17th, 2010 10:58 am (UTC)
This is so sweet :)
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed. :)
brunettepet
May. 17th, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed these two commiserating in this sharply written, entertaining piece. I loved Oz sorting his feelings through Cordelia's insistent prodding. His halting, jumbled hurt came through beautifully. You captured Cordelia's brittle curtness, too.

This was lovely: They’re companionable, and he’d never have guessed that. But her hair is brown and she doesn’t babble and whatever she wore to the multi-cultural dance, it had nothing to do with Eskimos, and all these facts, neutral in themselves, are deficits when compared with Willow. Nice work.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
Getting Oz to talk took a bit of prodding on my part, too. He's a hard man to convince. *g*

I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
genarti
May. 17th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
Followed a rec from selenak, and I love this -- both voices are spot-on, and the different emotional responses to the hurt, too. Very nice.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :)
curiouswombat
May. 17th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
I really, really enjoyed that - and it is a better ending than if it had turned shippy, I think.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
I agree, shippiness really wasn't in the cards here. Originally I'd thought to write something longer, over a longer span of time, but in the end this seemed complete all by itself.

Thank you for the lovely comment. :)
spiletta42
May. 17th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Excellent characterization, I really enjoyed this. Thanks for the lunchtime reading.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and you are very welcome! I'm quite tickled to provide lunchtime reading. :)
brutti_ma_buoni
May. 17th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, I like very much. The general characterisation and theme are great, but I particularly like how deeply you got into Oz's mind here. Hard to do convincingly, especially in making him talk, but you managed it beautifully.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I find Oz one of the harder characters to write, just because so much of what he's about is buried so deeply beneath the surface. So, I'm thrilled to hear I got it right. :)
elisi
May. 17th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
Wonderful fic! Especially impressed that you managed to get inside Oz's head and then got him to talk. *applauds*
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it! And thanks very much for the rec. :)
slaymesoftly
May. 17th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
Awww - Love it. A good look at two really important "minor" characters.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
rose_griffes
May. 17th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
This is fantastic. Both characters are so well-drawn, and I like Oz's internal thoughts.
snickfic
May. 17th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm particularly pleased that Oz's mental processes rang true; I find him fairly challenging to write just because so much of him is under the surface.

Glad you enjoyed. :)
louise39
May. 18th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC)
“But I’m not sure it matters now what we were. Because we aren’t.”

Cordelia and Oz being absolutely clear-thinking. Wow!!

Wonderful look at this time and them.
snickfic
May. 18th, 2010 02:12 am (UTC)
I see Oz and Cordelia as being two sides of the same coin, like that logic puzzle in Alice in Wonderland - Cordelia says everything she means and Oz means everything he says. There's a fundamental honesty to both of them that I enjoyed getting at here.

Thank you for the kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed. :)
rebcake
May. 18th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC)
You've captured their differing paths to dealing with the situation well, and shown believable ways that they can help each other, all expectations to the contrary. Oz, of course, comes off as fair-minded and diplomatic, even when his impulses aren't. However, my favorite line might be:

“He’s not the happiest clown in the car.”

Especially coming right after wanting to rip his throat out. It does make me wonder how healthy all that even-temperedness is for Oz. Cordelia might actually be better off giving vent to her spleen as she does...hmmmmmm. Must contemplate.

Great job! I bow to your command of Oz!
snickfic
May. 19th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
You've captured their differing paths to dealing with the situation well, and shown believable ways that they can help each other, all expectations to the contrary

As I told someone else above, Oz and Cordelia each have a fundamental honesty about them, although they express it quite differently. Cordelia says everything she means, and Oz means everything he says, on those rare occasions he says anything. That contrast was actually what got me started on this fic in the first place.

Yanno, I seem to get about one line per Ozfic that really sounds like Oz to me, and that line is it. Glad you liked it. :)

I think that a lot of Oz's even-temperedness comes from a natural inner... peace? Calm? Balance? Anyway, he rarely comes across as repressing anything. He really is that laid back.

However, I think self-control is also a major facet of his character. It's the biggest reason the wolf freaks him out so much. So in situations where calm isn't his natural response, like here, he puts a lot of effort into thinking and acting deliberately, by choice.

Due to our previous discussions of Oz, I was curious to hear your thoughts. So, extra-special thanks for the lovely comment!
(Deleted comment)
snickfic
May. 18th, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! This is my first time writing Cordy, so I'm glad to hear I caught her okay. :)
torn_eledhwen
May. 18th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
Here via selenak. That was perfect - you caught Oz especially well, I thought.
snickfic
May. 18th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
(Deleted comment)
snickfic
May. 20th, 2010 01:38 am (UTC)
Thank you! I do adore them both, so I'm thrilled to share the love. :)
(Deleted comment)
snickfic
May. 20th, 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
Yay! I have to think really hard to write Oz, and characterizing him from the inside is pretty much me feeling out things by intuition one at a time. So, I'm thrilled to hear I managed to make sense there.

I'm glad you enjoyed. Thanks for the lovely comment. :)
penny_lane_42
May. 22nd, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
This made me die of awesome overdose. There aren't any words for how much I love these two, and the idea of them having this moment of grace and Cordy being so Cordy and really getting into Oz's head...just makes me grin and want to hug you. I love it.
snickfic
May. 22nd, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
No no no no! Don't be dead! Even if overdose of awesome is probably a good way to go...

I'm thrilled you like it. I know how you adore Cordy and this was my first time writing her at all, ever, so a Lauren Stamp of Approval is a serious honor.

And I'll take all the hugs I can get. :)
(no subject) - penny_lane_42 - May. 22nd, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - May. 22nd, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
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thisficklemob
Jul. 7th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
I like it!

Now that I think of it... Oz's taking Willow back after she cheated is kind of of a piece with consequences in Willow-world generally. I.e., there are some, but they're never permanent. (Yes, Tara dies, but that's different; it's not Tara or anyone else holding Willow to account.) When I think about the list of things Willow's quickly forgiven for -- from farcical results of selfish magic use to premeditated murder and attempted apocalypse -- it kind of makes me wish Oz (or Tara) hadn't taken her back. Made there be some kind of consequence for running roughshod over other people and thinking only of herself.

Hmm.

And I do like this as not-quite-Oz/Cordelia... her line about him being the entire list of Acceptable People was poignant. Especially when you consider that it must include her parents.
snickfic
Jul. 7th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
Honestly, you write the coolest, thinkiest comments ever! *smishes you*

It's true, Willow is rarely called to account for what she does. In particular, I find her post-Grave rehabilitation dissatisfying, although I've never been able to pinpoint why. Yes, she feels bad - but she always feels bad after these incidents. And then we're supposed to feel sorry for her as she worries about meeting her friends ("Same Time, Same Place"), regrets killing Warren ("The Killer in Me"), and worries about doing magic (lots of eps). Because sooner or later, her feeling sorry is clearly no evidence that she won't do something even stupider and more self-centered next time, and yet we the viewers seem expected to sympathize with her.

For this reason, I've always thought Oz was better for her than Tara - Oz wasn't awed by her and wouldn't have let her hare off the way Tara did.

I tend to think Cordelia's comment about him being the entire list was somewhat facetious - after all, he'd just brought her coffee. But OTOH, judging from the life she's leading at the beginning of Ats, it doesn't look like she has much in the way of real relationships.
(no subject) - thisficklemob - Jul. 7th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snickfic - Jul. 8th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
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damnskippytoo
Sep. 7th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
I just found this fic and I'm filled with glee. Cordy in the hospital is rife for possibilities for fic. I think Oz visiting is just perfection and the way you serviced both characters was excellent. I'm really intrigued by a Cordy and Oz friendship now. I don't think romantically there would ever be anything there, but as friends they do seem to complement each other. Now I want to read a whole Cordy and Oz verse!
snickfic
Sep. 7th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that they both have a fundamental respect for truth, although they express it in different ways: Oz only says what he thinks, and Cordy says everything she thinks. I'm intrigued by how the two of them would play off each other. And yes, a whole 'verse of them hashing things out and backing each other up would be lovely.

Thank you for your lovely comment. :)
sceptick
Dec. 21st, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
I know I'm way late to the party, but I still want to comment to tell you how much I enjoyed this. Your writing is really wonderful and your character voices are spot-on. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
snickfic
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:10 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really enjoy Cordelia and Oz both, so I'm tickled to hear my versions worked for someone else. And comments are always appreciated, whenever they happen. :)
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