Actions

Work Header

Finding North

Chapter Text

One Week Later

Giles knocked carefully on the Summers' front door. He was tired and weary after his search in Oakland, but he felt he owed it to Buffy's mom to keep her updated. Although he didn't blame himself for Buffy's flight from Sunnydale--after all he didn't control who the next Slayer became, and he'd advised against a romantic entanglement with a vampire--he did feel he was responsible for Joyce having felt out of control and out of the loop.

Joyce opened the door. "Oh. Mr. Giles," she said. She looked around him. "Oakland?" she asked as she stepped back to let him in.

Giles sat down on the couch in the living room and cleaned his glasses. He shook his head.

"No Buffy?" she asked anxiously.

"No vampires. Bunch of schoolkids in heavy mascara listening to extremely silly music," he replied. He gave a long, loud sigh.

"Well, thank you for going," she responded politely. She sat in the wooden chair across from the couch. "I can hardly.....leave the house. Just for work, you know. I....I'm just afraid she'll call and she'll need my help."

Giles nodded. "Buffy is the most capable child I've ever known. I mean, she may be confused, u-unhappy, but I, uh, honestly believe she's in no danger," he replied.

Joyce rose from the couch. "I just wish I could talk to her. The last thing we did was fight," she explained.

"Joyce," Giles began softly, "You mustn't blame yourself for her leaving."

"I don't," Joyce said carefully. "I blame you," her words ended as she glared at him.

Giles stood, put his clean glasses back on and shook his head.

"You've been this huge influence on her, guiding her. You had this whole relationship with her behind my back. I feel like you've taken her away from me," she explained.

Giles made a huffing sound, low in his throat. He went to the front door. With his hand on the handle he said, "I didn't make Buffy who she is."

"And who, exactly, is she, Mr. Giles?" Joyce asked acidly.

Giles shook his head and laughed mirthlessly under his breath. "The Slayer. A teenager," he answered as he left.

Joyce stared after him, uncertain if she should apologize or just continue to blame him. Really, though, Joyce thought, it had been her fault. She'd told Buffy to go and not to come back. She hadn't divulged that bit of information to Mr. Giles or Buffy's friends. It had been a cruel move, as a mother, but she'd been in an untenable situation - unable to understand what was going on and unable to lay down the law as a parent. She shook her head; she'd just have to live with it, for now.

*******

Willow bolted straight up from sleep, eyes streaming with tears, mouth open in a silent scream. It had been the worst nightmare yet. She looked around wildly. She hadn't meant to fall asleep. Her English and Government texts were spread out below her on the kitchen table. Pens and paper were scattered everywhere. On a moan, Willow gingerly rose from where she'd fallen asleep in a sitting position and walked carefully to the phone.

As she dialed, she continued to cry.

"What happened?" the voice on the other end answered.

"I need you to come here," she whispered. "Bring....bring everything. I....need....you....to..." Willow trailed off as she passed out. The phone fell from her hands, her body slid to the floor and she hit her head on the hardwood beneath her.

On the other end, Oz jumped out of bed and hung up the phone. He raced around his room, dressing and gathering the supplies Willow had spoken of. He ran down to the kitchen in his parents' house and grabbed a large bottle of Gatorade. As he chugged it down, he ran from the house to his van.

****

Oz found her crumpled on the kitchen floor. He could smell the blood. Part of him yearned to howl. He shrugged off the feeling and gathered her into his arms, along with the bag he carried. He swept up the stairs and into her bathroom. He put her down in the tub. The smell of her blood was grating on his senses, but it also alerted him that the damage was bad. He longed to take her to the hospital, but understood that he couldn't. He opened his bag and set it down on the floor. It contained latex gloves, bandages, witch hazel, antiseptic wash, antiseptic ointment, small, clean towels and several syringes of morphine.

He removed her white peasant blouse and bra and inspected her torso. As there were no marks that he could see, he removed her soft brown pants and stared. Blood covered her inner thighs. As he realized where it was coming from, he leaned back and let out a loud, blood-curdling howl. He couldn't prevent the grief he felt over whatever she'd experienced, but he could prevent hurting her further.

Oz removed her panties and injected her with one of the low doses of morphine. He then began to clean her up. He turned on the bath and washed the blood away from her thighs and legs. He was more careful, delicate even, with the area between her legs. For this part, he put on latex gloves and turned off the bath - it had done all the work it could.
As he gently cleaned her folds and her insides, he wished, for a moment, that her parents were home, had been home at all that summer, or cared at all. She, clearly, needed someone here twentyfour-seven. When he was finished cleaning her out of all the blood, he changed into a new pair of gloves and left her in the bath while he spread a large towel on her bed.

Back in the bathroom, he dried her gently and then lifted her up. He laid her on top of the towel on the bed and then got out both kinds of antiseptic. On the cuts on her legs, he spread the ointment. On her insides, he used the wash. On the most delicate outside bits, he again used the ointment. Lastly, he wrapped bandages around her inner thighs. He'd done all he could do. The blood had stopped, the wounds were clean, but it would take an OBGYN exam to determine the real inner damage.

Oz left her out on the bed, naked, to dry while he cleaned up. In the bathroom, he scrubbed out the tub, washed the floor, bagged up everything that was bloody and everything he'd used. Finally, he stripped off his gloves and added those to the trash bag. As he took the trash out to the dumpster, he hoped she'd stay asleep.

He wasn't gone long, and when he got back he found her on her side, curled up, asleep. He sighed with a bit of relief and went back into the bath. He zipped up the backpack and took it into her bedroom, leaving it on on of her armchairs. He inspected the bathroom for anything he'd missed and when he didn't find anything, he went down to the dining room. He mopped up the remains of her blood on the dining room floor and on the chair she'd been occupying. He scooped up her books, using her papers to mark her places. He slipped it all into her book bag and went into the kitchen. He prepared a tray of food - juice, cheese, tea, crackers & apple slices - and took it and her book bag up to her room.

Oz set the tray down on one of her night tables and searched through her drawers for suitable clothing. He dressed her in a long nightgown and then sat back. He hated to wake her, but he knew that she needed to eat and to talk about what had happened.

He leaned over and shook her gently about the shoulders. "Willow....Willow," he said gently.

Willow stirred. Her eyes opened and she looked up, into Oz's eyes. "Oz?" she asked quietly.

"Yeah," he said. "You need to eat," he gestured to the tray.

She nodded and scooted up her bed, the movements slow and careful. She winced as she sat down, but the pain wasn't as bad as she'd expected. With her back supported by the headboard, she nodded at Oz. He settled the tray over her lap and sat carefully on the bed next to her.

"Morphine?" she asked as she sipped tea and ate crackers.

He nodded.

"It was that bad?" she questioned.

"Yeah. You...." Oz looked wildly around the room for a moment, his nostrils flaring in and out. She leaned forward and placed a hand on his leg.

"I.....Angel is being raped," she responded.

"You were raped," Oz growled.

"Not....not by....not..." Willow took deep breaths and then sipped more tea. She had some juice and some apple slices before she was calm enough to continue talking. "Not by the standard definition," she commented.

"What does that mean, Willow?" Oz asked, pain evident in his voice.

"I only experienced a fraction of what Angel experienced," Willow explained. "There may have been a lot of blood, but I promise, it's lacerations and bruising. I wasn't actually raped. There was no penetration by anyone. I think I'd know."

"You were bleeding, internally," Oz explained. He raised an eyebrow at Willow.

"Yes. Angel was...whipped, first," she said quietly.

"Whipped, where?" Oz said.

"Uh, you know...um," Willow stuttered. Her face, and what Oz could see of her neck and chest, turned bright red.

He leapt off the bed. "He was whipped around his cock?" he growled.

Willow nodded.

"Which means...you felt whipped around your...." Oz trailed off. He just couldn't say it.

"Not just around. Unfortunately, somehow, in the translation.....the whip hit me on the inside too," she explained. As casually and composed as she could, she went back to eating. She needed her strength for the rest of the day and for whatever tomorrow might bring.

Oz glared and began to pace. His muscles bunched under his clothes. His body hunched forward. "Do you think Angel experienced lacerations on the inside too?" he bit out.

Willow nodded, but then realized Oz wasn't looking at her. "Yes," she replied between sips of juice.

Oz's whole body shuddered. "I've got to get out, go for a run," he said. His voice was strained and hurried.

"Alright. You'll....." Willow trailed off.

"I'll come back. I...." Oz looked at her, his face had broken out into the fine hair of his wolf form, his teeth were beginning to elongate. "I'm staying, for now. Somehow." With that, he opened the doors to her balcony and leaped off the edge, into the late afternoon sun.

****

Oz had spent the summer learning how to embrace and control his inner wolf. He'd realized that he was the wolf all the time, and not just the three nights of the full moon cycle. Now, with a thought, he could shift on command. He only shifted during the full moon when he felt like it, but he did still stay locked up. His bite, he'd learned the hard way, was fatal during the full moon. It didn't just turn, it killed. He also stayed away from Willow during the full moon cycle - he didn't see her, not those three days, not even in his human form. As his mate, and wolves did indeed mate for life, Oz couldn't be trusted not to try to turn her during the moon cycle. Even the smallest scratch, as he knew well, could turn a human during the moon cycle.

During the other days of the month, he was careful not to scratch or bite her, just in general. He was careful to cut his nails very short and he never, ever, used his teeth on her. Although a tiny scratch couldn't turn someone if it wasn't during the full moon cycle, Oz was cautious. He only wanted Willow turned if it was her choice. He didn't want to take her choice away, even if turning her made sense to him since she was his mate.

As he ran, in full wolf form, his brain began to calm down, his emotions to slow. He understood, even if Willow didn't, part of why he was so upset, so angry. It wasn't just Willow, his mate, that had gotten hurt and would continue to be hurt until they found a way to rescue Angel. It was that Angel, too, was being hurt - and Oz feared that Angel might be beyond hope or beyond help if they did manage to get him back. Additionally, Oz's heart ached for Angel, because whether he'd accept it or not, Angel, with his deep and abiding connection to Willow, was now part of Oz's pack. As pack leader, Alpha, Oz felt wounded every time something happened to Willow and, by extension Angel.

As he neared Willow's house, he shifted back into human form. Naked as the day he was born, he slipped into his clothes, which he'd left in a pile on the ground. He went in through the front door. He locked the door behind him and began to walk to the stairs.

The phone rang. He paused and rushed to answer it.

**********

"She's back?" Willow asked as Oz slowly walked around her room.

"Yeah. Got home tonight," he replied.

Willow nodded. She could feel anger start to rise in her body; blood burning with it. "And she....what? No explanation?"

"Giles said we're all invited, tomorrow night, for a sit-down dinner. Mrs. Summers wants everything to be nice," Oz said.

"Are we...going to go?" she asked.

Oz nodded. "Yes. I think we should. Everyone will expect it."

"Did you call Xander to let him know?" Willow questioned.

"Giles said it was his next call and not to bother, basically," Oz replied as he sat down on the bed.

Willow took a deep breath. "Saturday night dinner at the Summers'," she said. She shook her head. "I'm going to get some sleep." She looked up. "Are you staying?"

Oz smiled. "I'll need to grab some stuff from my house in the morning, but my parents left for that archeological dig yesterday. I'm staying until they come back or until your parents come home," he said.

Willow rose and put the towel she'd still been sitting on in her laundry basket. "They aren't back for another two weeks," she replied.

"I'll stay with you as long as I can or until we rescue Angel," Oz said.

She nodded and folded down the bed. "Lock the door," she said gently.

Oz frowned. "We're not....not after that," he said.

"No," Willow murmured. "We're not. I can't....I can't imagine having sex again. Not....so soon." Willow swallowed hard. "I meant...in case they did or do come home early....I don't want to get caught with you sleeping in my bed," she explained.

"Oh. Right," he replied. He locked the door. He smiled gently at Willow and removed his clothing. In his boxers, he slid under the covers.

She changed out of her nightgown for a soft t-shirt and long pajama pants. She slid into bed next to him and wrapped around him. "Get the light, will you?" she asked.

He turned off the light and then snuggled back. It was a long while before Oz slept; he waited, wide awake, as her breathing became even and deep. What he wanted, more than anything, in that moment was for Willow to be well-rested. He'd grown increasingly worried as the days had gone by that she'd never recover from the sleepless nights.

*********

The Next Day

Willow wrung her hands nervously as she sat at her dining room table. Oz was up in her room, getting dressed for the dinner at Buffy's house. He'd brought over a suitcase of his things, his guitar and his backpack that morning. They were, essentially, living together for the next two weeks, but that had nothing to do with her nervousness. She loved Oz, was comfortable with him and valued having him around. She'd slept last night, a deep, near-dead sleep. She had plans to do the same tonight, even though she worried about Oz; she felt like she would finally be able to go without the glamours once the two weeks were up.

She was nervous because in a few short minutes, they'd be leaving to go see Buffy. She was angry; she was terrified that she'd say or do something to alert Buffy about her connection with Angel or about how angry she was with her. Willow didn't want to start that kind of drama. She was also nervous because of how much she'd changed over the last three months. She didn't want Buffy to notice, and be mad, that Willow was no longer her plain and dowdy little sidekick. She was a strong witch and had blossomed; her breasts had grown, her height had increased slightly, and even though she was waif-thin, she had a good reason. Her hair was much longer, and she curled it only at its ends. She even had a slightly different take on fashion than she'd had when she'd last seen Buffy. Okay, she was no sex kitten or anything, but...she'd had sex! She'd experienced things she didn't even think Buffy had. And she was terrified that Buffy was going to take one look at her and find her lacking, or just be plain rude about the changes.

Oz bounded down the stairs. "Ready?" he asked.

She took a deep breath. "As I can be." She gestured to her bag. "I'm taking my school things in case it really is as boring or fraught as it sounds like it might be," she explained.

He nodded. He hadn't expected any less. "Did you take your pills and the double dose of corydalis?"

She nodded.

They left and she locked the door. She got into the van gingerly, sitting down carefully. She still had some discomfort. The painkillers had done all they could to mask the immense pain she had been in.
***

They arrived at Buffy's house quickly, and Oz helped her get out of the van. She left her bag, but lifted the tray of brownies she'd put together that day. Nothing, not even animosity, could make her ignore the invited-guest-to-someone's-home rules that her parents had instilled in her.

Oz knocked. Buffy opened the door, a big smile on her face.

"Hi, guys," Buffy said. She stepped back to let them in. "Xander and Giles are already here," she looked over at Willow. "Look, you brought something!" she exclaimed.

Willow handed Buffy the platter. "They are homemade dark-chocolate brownies with a layer of eggless cookie dough on top," she explained. She inclined her head. "Buffy," she said.

Buffy frowned. She could see that something was different about Willow, more than just her new clothes, but her brain hadn't yet determined what. "I'll....just take these into the kitchen," she supplied.

Willow rolled her shoulders and grabbed Oz's hand.

"This is...awkward," Oz said softly.

Willow nodded and they moved into the dining room.

Joyce rose. "Willow," she said as she came over and hugged Willow gently. She stepped back. "It's so good to see you!"

Willow smiled genuinely. "You too, Mrs. Summers," she replied. She gestured to Oz. "You've met my boyfriend, Oz."

Joyce smiled. "Yes," she said. "So nice to see you."

Willow and Oz sat down just as Buffy came back in. As Buffy took her seat next to Joyce, she spoke. "That's what it is....you grew! You're taller, and stuff!" Buffy exclaimed.

Oz squeezed Willow's hand under the table.

"Yes, I guess so," Willow replied.

"Well, let's eat, shall we?" Joyce said. "The gang's all here. There's roast chicken, gravy, roast potatoes, peas and carrots. There's cake for dessert, later. Uh, also coffee and juice," she explained.

They filled plates and ate - tossing meaningless conversation back and forth and updating Buffy about school and anything she wanted to know. They avoided the subjects of her leaving, Angel, what she did while she was gone and how it had all affected everyone.

When they were finished, they moved into the living room.

Since Joyce was in the kitchen washing dishes, Giles approached Buffy.

"How are things between you and your mother?" he asked quietly.

"Uh. A little strained," Buffy replied. Giles nodded and sat in one of the wooden chairs.

Buffy and Xander took seats on the couch. Willow sat carefully in the other wooden chair. Oz stood behind her.

"Hey, so you're not wanted for murder anymore," Oz offered, trying to fill the awkward silence. "The cops dropped the case based on lack of evidence, you weren't charged."

"Oh. Great. Wow, that's so good," Buffy said.

"So where were you? Did you go to Belgium?" Xander asked.

Buffy cocked her head to the right and looked at Xander with an odd expression. "Why would I go to Belgium?" she asked.

Xander laughed. "I think the relevant question is why wouldn't you? Belgium! They've got waffles!"

"What about you, Xand? What's up with you?" Buffy asked.

"Oh, you know, same old, same old," he replied with a grin.

"Hardly," Giles piped up. He gave a slightly mischievous grin. "He is dating Miss Chase, again."

"Oh! Wow!" Buffy exclaimed. She looked at Xander. "That's good, right? You wanted her back?"

"It's good...it's great, and....yes," Xander replied.

"Where were you?" Willow asked quietly.

"Um, well....it's a long story," Buffy replied.

Xander sat up a bit straighter. "So skip the heartwarming stuff about kindly old people and saving the farm and get right to the dirt, then, Buff," he said.

"Perhaps Buffy could use a little time to adjust before we grill her on her summer activities," Giles supplied.

"I would like to know as well, Buffy," Joyce said as she came into the living room. She sat down on the couch next to Xander. "I haven't heard the tale," she said. "We'd all like to know."

"I think I.....I just wanna get back to my normal routine. You know, school, slaying . . . kid's stuff. In fact, I'm jonesing for a little brainless fun. If that's okay?" Buffy said. She looked at Xander. "What are you doing tomorrow?"

Joyce folded her hands in her lap and stared at the carpet.

Xander squirmed slightly. "I'm a little tied up tomorrow, actually," he responded.

Buffy smiled a little and then nodded; she turned her gaze to Willow. "Will?" she asked.

"I can't," Willow said. "I've got schoolwork and a coven meeting."

Buffy frowned. "C'mon, friends don't let friends browse alone."

Willow shook her head. "Homework and a coven meeting, Buffy," she replied.

"What do you mean....coven?" Joyce asked quietly.

Willow looked at her, eyes alarmed. "I'm a witch," she explained softly.

Joyce shook her head. "Witchcraft is dangerous, Willow." Joyce turned to Giles. "Did you put her up to this, Mr. Giles?" she asked angrily.

"Of course not," Giles replied. He stood. "I was very much against the idea of her practicing magicks. I discouraged her interest in the craft. If she is going to take it up, however, it is in her best interests to have joined the Coven of the Eire. Direction is always best," he said. He shook his head and strode for the door. "Good night, all," he said. He looked at Buffy. "As for school, Buffy, uh, you know you'll have to talk to Principal Snyder before --"

Buffy cut him off. "On it. Mom is making an appointment with His Ugliness. I know she can break him."

As Giles left, Willow looked after him - a little envious at his quick exit. She'd give just about anything to leave. Gingerly, she rose. Oz supported her by putting his hand in the small of her back. He leaned over and whispered in her ear. "Ready to go?"

She nodded. "Well, this has been......." Willow trailed off. "Worlds of not fun," she began again. "Uh....Oz and I are going to go," she finished.

Xander got up from the couch. "You're not leaving yet, please?" he said. "We haven't even gotten to hang out."

"I'm tired, Xander," Willow said by way of explanation.

Buffy stepped forward and laid a hand on Willow's arm. She snatched it back as though she'd been burned. "Wow, you're....you've got some high energy running!" she said.

Willow barely resisted rolling her eyes. She took a deep, calming breath.

Joyce nodded a little and headed upstairs. "I'm going to bed. Buffy, you'll see your friends out and we'll talk in the morning?"

"Yeah. Sure. Good night, Mom!" Buffy called.

"So, you up for Bronzing it?" Xander asked in a near whisper.

Buffy grinned. "I think I can get out of the house....so....yeah." She turned to Willow. "You coming?"

Willow shook her head. "I'm tired. I'm going home."

"Are....are you okay?" Buffy asked.

Oz put his hands on Willow's shoulders and whispered in her ear, "Not now, not tonight. Let's just go."

"I am not okay," Willow answered Buffy's question. "It is not okay that you left. It is not okay that you left us here to pick up the pieces and dust vampires and everything, by ourselves."

"I'm sorry that I had to leave, Willow, but you don't know what I was going through!" Buffy exclaimed.

Willow's eyes narrowed into a death glare. "I do. I really, really do," she said.

Willow's voice was so quiet and forceful that Buffy felt the hairs on the back of her arms stand up. "You can't know what it was like for me," she insisted. "I was just trying to make things easier."

"For who?" Willow said as she crossed her arms over her chest. In order to not get into things any further, she let the rest of Buffy's comment slide.

"You guys were doing just fine without me," Buffy said.

"We were doing the best we could! It's not like we had a lot of choice in the matter, Buffy. We did what we could," Willow said.

"You have no idea how much I missed you. Everyone. I wanted to call every day. I wanted to be here....I just couldn't," Buffy said.

"That doesn't matter, Buffy. It doesn't matter at all. Why you left, the fact that you left at all, it just doesn't matter to me. What you did....it's unforgivable," Willow's voice went hard. "I'm going before I say something I'll regret."

Oz opened the front door and ushered Willow out. Buffy followed them out into the front yard.

Xander followed closely behind. He wasn't entirely sure what was happening, but he wanted to be there when it did.

"She said if I left the house, not to come back," Buffy yelled against the wind that was beginning to pick up. "I had to go. I didn't do this to punish you, or Xander, or my mom, or Giles....or anybody."

Willow whirled around. "That's great, Buffy," she said. "Fine. Whatever. You put your mom through hell."

"You know, maybe you don't want to hear it, Buffy, but taking off like you did was incredibly selfish and stupid," Xander chimed in as he came around to stand in front of Buffy.

"Okay! Okay. I screwed up. I know this. But you have no idea! You have, you have no idea what happened to me or what I was feeling!" Buffy yelled.

"Did you even try talking to anybody?" Xander asked.

"There was nothing that anybody could do. Okay? I just had to deal with this on my own," Buffy said as tears began to slide down her face.

"Yeah, and you see how well that one worked out. You can't just bury stuff, Buffy. It'll come right back up to get you," Xander said as he placed his hands on Buffy's shoulders and rubbed. His face was filled with concern.

"I didn't think I even could've gone to you, Xander. You made your feelings about Angel and I perfectly clear," Buffy said, her voice childlike and wounded.

"I'm sorry about that, Buff. I am. I can't help who I do and do not trust. But....you gotta admit....most girls don't hop a Greyhound over boy troubles," Xander replied.

"Buffy," Willow began, "You didn't -"

"No, please, I can't take anymore of this," Buffy said, interrupting Willow.

"Let her finish," Xander said softly. "You at least owe her that."

"That's alright, Xander," WIllow said. She gripped Oz's hand. The pain was returning and there was nothing she could do about it in the situation she was in. "We're going....and I'll see you at school, Xander," she said.

"You don't know what it was like for me, Willow," Buffy pleaded as Willow and Oz got into the van.

Willow shook her head; she'd had enough. "I may not know what it was like for you," she said coldly, "but I know what made you flee. And I know what I can't forgive."

"What is it?" Buffy cried. "What's wrong?"

Willow's face shut down. Her voice went brittle. "His soul went through me," she said finally. "The spell worked," Willow said as she shut the door and the van roared to life.

**********************

TBC