Oz felt control slipping away from him as he drove out of Canada.
For a long time he had been loping along thinking that a cage and a few darts were all the safety measures he needed to be safe and human.
Fooling others had been easier than fooling himself when he got that first look at Veruca. Some part of him deeper than boyfriend-band member-good guy had recognized her and gone after what it wanted.
Never mind that people got hurt and the pack he'd found through Willow had closed off to him.
Doing wrong to one of the Scoobies was like doing wrong to each one of them and that didn't slide out of sight like fur after the change wore off.
They were able to welcome him back when he returned; flushed with the knowledge gained so that he felt he had the right to be close to Willow again. Yet, it wasn't like it used to be.
A considerate werewolf shouldn't go out after dark when the moon was nothing more than something to add dimension to night. And one had to know better than to depend on reminiscence and impossible dreams. It would have been better if he hadn't knocked on Giles' door at all.
'Getting away from it all' was so simple that it almost sounded like something out of a 'See Jane Run' book, only it was the college version. Some heading for a chapter on lupine behavior and deep analysis of the ramifications of an inconsequential lunar cycle. He could expand on such a lecture.
The wilderness had been good for suppressing Willow-related rage, but trees weren't people, and the damage he inflicted would have killed a human. Seeing bark and leaves scattered around him when he revived was like coming to at the scene of a battle he'd slept through.
His disquiet was not shared by his 'neighbors.'
There were other wolves up beyond where settlement dared existed, but they didn't understand his need to control what he was. Acceptance was their way of life and the moon the only sermon they listened to.
While he meditated on the barest idea of sound, howls filled the night like invitations. He was abnormal even among his kind and couldn't relate to their joyful abandon.
All the chants and centering exercises couldn't make shaky control any more stable. The fact was that at some point the illusion would dissolve like so much cotton candy and inevitably something would get broken. Now even thinking about Sunnydale made his fur rise. At least living with the moon tugging at his bones and shaping him to its will had been predictable.
He shook with the specter of facing deep emotion as anything but an adversary.
That he was unable to to handle this alone wasn't as frightening once he made the decision to seek help.
Los Angeles didn't have the same neon glow, or it was just that he could just see the shadows more clearly. There was more than petty, smudged evil moving stealthily on the streets of a city after dusk. It smelled like hopes left too long in the sun and motives that never saw daylight. Combined, they made him think too long on hunting.
On the trail of former private investigators he came upon more 'moved to-' notices than actual success. A length drive around the city took him directly across their new place of business.
Rising up like a monument to the benefits of greed, the Wolfram and Hart building caught his attention.
It was easy to find a route to the building, getting inside was a matter of mind over body.
Muscles tensed involuntarily as the wolf objected to the route his feet were taking. While it was accepted that a wolf could learn a few things from a blood drinker, most of the lessons boiled down to 'steer clear.'
It was old news that the 'good' vampire and his flock had moved up in the world. Oz just hoped that Angel hadn't gone so high that he couldn't be reached.
Harmony would have vaulted her oh-so-neat desk to greet him if she had been anything less of a would-be professional. As it was, Oz thought that as a greeting, a squeal was overly shrill in a lobby where sound bounced back on itself.
People dressed in suites that were expensive enough to be stylishly unflattering glanced in their direction, but he saw very few smiles. Obviously there wasn't much in the way of employee camaraderie. Either that or Harmony wasn't well liked.
Office pariah or just the friendliest former classmate, Harmony had the welcoming spiel down and brought Oz up to date and interrogated him all the while leading him to Angel's office.
Angel's office was everything one would expect: big, well furnished and smelling of leather and blood. The windows that let evening's last breathy illumination inside didn't soften what he was doing.
Oz was walking into a monster's den, never mind the trappings of being fit for company or the plaque on the door. He'd willingly put himself within reach of teeth sharper than his own, and the thought calmed him.
Angel didn't look up until Harmony closed the door, but his focus had already shifted to include Oz. He stood a bit straighter as the level of suppressed energy in the air to made his skin pull tight.
He stood in front of the desk sure that it was good manners to wait for an invitation, and certain that he had no clue about how to ask what he wanted. It used to be so easy, he spoke only when the right words were heavy on his tongue. Now they choked him.
While there weren't any wish granters on hand that he could see, he felt as though he could ask for anything and that the suggestion of desire would be communicated to whatever force powered Wolfram and Hart. Looking around, he speculated that they might very well keep all the genies in dusky blue bottles with elaborate stoppers on a shelf someplace just out of reach.
He was wise enough to know that despite all the power of Angel's position, the vampire couldn't just snap his fingers and make Oz human again. And even if such a thing wasn't impossible, he figured wolf blood didn't leave completely. More of himself blended with it at each change. Division only worked when he could see through anger's haze.
Angel had to know something about the power of separation. To everyone around him he and the demon were two distinct personalities. Whether or not it was the truth wasn't important, belief made people feel better. He would feel better if he could believe that there was such an easy answer.
"Oz, this is a surprise."
"I would think with a place like this you would have known the second I drove into town."
Angel didn't smile. "I did, it just sounds more polite."
Somehow 'the right thing to do' didn't seem like something Angel had much experience with lately. The low lights in the office contrasted with Angel's skin //zebra stripes like what was right and what passed now//.
Angel waited, plainly saying 'I have all the time in the world,' yet nevertheless suggesting that Oz should spit out whatever was on his mind.
"I figured you might know a way."
"To get rid of the wolf?"
"Get rid of it, control it." What had happened in Sunnydale must have been sent along in the 'wayward Scoobies report'.
"There's a big difference between the two," Angel pointed out, and looked more closely at Oz, no doubt seeing the effects of his struggle. "Anyhow, I thought you found a way to live with it." He said 'live' as one who knew it was never that easy.
"Didn't work. When I saw Willow a while back I kind of lost control. Hung out in Canada for awhile, but it hasn't gotten better."
Staring past Angel was easier than seeing understanding in his eyes. He knew that when he said 'lost control,' Angel heard the rumble of hunger just below the words.
"It's not that simple, Oz. You can't just make the wolf go away. It's a part of you now, of who you are."
There were clichs, and then there was necessity.
"I need to know if you can help me." Fix me.
Angel could hear things beyond humans and he caught everything that Oz did or didn't say.
Oz thought he was something of an expert on 'blank', yet Angel's expression was more like a mask than a polite layer over what he was really feeling. Angel blinked and shades of bright/old gold flashed in a medley of spring freshness with a harsh summer dying just beneath the surface of his eyes. His face was that of experience and anticipation.
The silence lengthened until Oz thought the air felt a little like syrup but with more holes to fall into. Webbing more like, strands tethering reality in place till he was sure it had been this way.
Finally Angel smiled //ice melting on a griddle//. Cold, spreading heat, and all the nights to enjoy it.
"Yes," he said, and Oz could almost see the 'beware, no way back' signs telling him that this last step couldn't be taken back. "Follow me."
There were more dark and mysterious corners in Wolfram and Hart than should have been possible under fluorescent lighting. Some had equally anonymous doors nestled in them like dirty pearls. Others were simply improbable but there.
It was through one of the most neatly secretive looking doors that Angel led Oz.
There was space for a werewolf, even a state of the art cage with fresh bedding, though another wolf had used it recently.
Oz never knew what anyone besides Angel and Harmony thought of his presence. The information wasn't offered and he didn't see any reason to ask. None of the people working with Angel were close friends and he hadn't come to make new friends. And while Oz didn't know any of the people around Angel well enough to be sure, from what he'd seen on his way in, isolation seemed universal.
Even Harmony didn't know anything but that he had come seeking Angel's help.
The only other scents that lingered around Angel were that of ash and peroxide. Spike's presence might be unexpected, but he seemed constant.
Other than that, Angel seemed to have posted a 'keep away' notice understood by everyone.
Oz only got a special pass because of his position. Locked in a cage deep within an unfamiliar world, there was little he could do to hurt Angel. Though with the vampire's version of helping he thought very seriously about the idea.
Leaping at the bars and bloodying himself in his efforts to get out was a direct result of the vampire's 'assistance.' The cage wasn't small by any means, and although he felt small inside the firm there was room to expand. He just didn't like what he might turn into.
On the floor, moments from doing a repeat of 'kissing metal' he looked up at the sound of Angel moving to crouch in front of the cage.
//Nice to know that you've got more control.//
As if Oz wasn't letting fur creep over his skin.
//If you weren't so sensitive you would have been able to stay in Sunnydale. Live a normal life.//
The remarks weren't anything new; Angel teased him up into a rage until he couldn't think beyond kill. And then he got knocked down again. Resenting Angel would be neat. Hate made everything much less debatable. It would remove a threat and protect his throat. Of course, he'd been the one to bare his throat in the first place and he'd done it willingly.
//Don't let emotion get the better of you. The change has to be at will, not with mood.//
//Be realistic Oz, don't assume that a victory carries over to every situation. You have to anticipate what you might encounter.//
"It's not like you've cornered the market on successful relationships," he retorted, lip curled off his teeth.
He had never been so angry at someone unless they were //trespassing// where instinct said they shouldn't be. Angel took the idea of 'no respect for boundaries' and reworked it for his convenience. All the lecturing, snipping was like being in a classroom and his instructor was more dedicated than any other had been before.
All the experience he'd had with handling the unbroken and then shattering them personally meant Angel knew more about their motives than they wanted to hear. He could see in the dark but didn't want to.
Behind bars things thinned down to their simplest forms. The wolf was anger and destruction. versus human reason and stillness. He knew how to weigh life as a man,
Angel placed the same importance on the wolf's judgment.
"Instincts aren't a bad thing," he said, turning to to meet Oz's gaze and smiled the way one would at a client //victim//. Unlike other times when such an expression would have been an unbearable threat, Oz held his ground and didn't attack.
//The trick is learning to listen and then act.//
Back against the wall of his cell, Oz did just that. Lycanthropy had been someting to endure while keeping it out of most conversations. His otherwordliness just happened to present itself randomly in the course of living. It seemed too easy to let something happen that he had been so bent on holding back, but he closed his eyes and tried to ease into the wolf.*
Fur hugged his legs and feet like a project set aside by an absent minded tailor. From belly to face the change paused as he held down on a button that he hadn't known existed.
Angel found him asleep like that later. Oz woke to find the vampire resting in a crouch; jacket someplace else, shirt unbuttoned to a tease below his clavicle, sleeves rolled up. He looked every bit a creature who knew just how far his limits extended and who'd reached past them.
The distance to the front of the cage was spanned with a small jump.
"Guess you can write this up as a success story."
Angel smelled like lemons and hurt.
"One of the few."
Reaching out didn't feel quite as weird when he knew how far he could go. He'd get tired of holding onto the need to run eventually but he knew that it was more solid than 'maybe with time.'
Oz might not be able to lead Angel through a door marked 'happiness', but he could stick around a while as a reminder that such a thing existed.
Please post a comment on this story.
Title: Wolves and Dark Corners
Author: scy [email]
Details: Standalone | R | 13k | 08/11/04
Notes: Written for Kbk in the Angel/Oz ficathon. More than a little AU.
Spoilers: Season 5
Disclaimer/Other: The sad truth is no.
[top of page]
|Home/QuickSearch + Random + Upload + Search + Contact + GO List|