Xander's ghost has been trailing after him for weeks, now.
“How'd you die?” Oz'd asked once, hands nimbly restringing the band's guitars. The Dingoes had only been reformed for two months, he and Dev sleeping together for half that, but already it was like highschool again. Only without all the murders.
The ghost had merely looked confused for a moment--very Xandery confusion--rubbed his patch--when did that happen?--and turned away.
“I'm not dead,” he'd said. Then continued talking about something called a Mbuna fish, and someone who may or may not be Tucker Wells's younger brother.
None of the other Dingoes can sense Xander.
It's enough that Oz can see him standing in the shadows, or in the audience . . . a cold spot the crowd instinctively shifts away from, little by little.
And after shows, after cds and body parts have been signed, when the instruments are packed away, when the Dingoes are headed for whatever motel then can afford--and Dev nearly makes Oz crash because he can't keep his hands or his mouth to himself--Xander disappears. Haunts someone else for awhile, perhaps. Maybe Willow or Buffy or Giles.
He's probably, Oz thinks sleepily, as Dev snuffles into his shoulder, kinda lonely.
“I think you were right,” the ghost says out of nowhere, in the middle of another wistful monologue about “Dawnie”, Buffy's supposed little sister.
Oz doesn't even try to keep track of who's real and who's not, anymore. He's grown used to the Xander-ghost's nonstop ramble, like standing in the middle of a cool, familiar river.
Dev's sitting on a curb, in the sunshine, mumbling the lyrics to a new song, his sketchbook filling with doodles and phrases--the way Dev's mind turns is something that makes Oz smile a lot, lately--while Oz changes the van's brake fluid.
“There was a girl, and a village and a helicopter, and a field, and we were running, and . . . then there was nothing,” Xander says absently. He seems pale and dim, somehow. Smaller than the kid Oz knew, and much older. Midday traffic zips right through him. “I don't think we made it out.”
Oz nods. “I'm sorry,” he says, and means it. The ghost hangs his head . . . starts to fade.
The warmth of Dev's arms around him is sudden--makes him blink.
Xander is gone.
“You okay?” Oz looks up into puzzled, but happy dark eyes, and smiles a little. Dev always looks somewhat bewildered these days, like a man who tripped on a pothole and fell into a field of clover.
Oz is beginning to understand this look has nothing to do with the growing popularity of the band, and a lot to do with the two of them sharing things: motel rooms, showers, and beds. And breakfasts, because Dev always steals food off his plate and Oz always lets him.
A lingering chill that he hadn't even noticed passes. “I'm cool. Hey, lemme hear that new song you're writing?”