“Oz, are you okay?”
He heard her words as if from far away. He was retreating, retreating from the knowledge of what was happening to him, the reality of
life changing. Everything within him told him to tell her he was fine, to keep everything to himself until the processing period was over.
But people’s lives were at stake. Willow was at stake and that thought was the pivot on which his answer turned.
“No,” he said, meeting her eyes. “No, I’m really not.”
Buffy looked as if she wasn’t sure how to handle this Oz.
“Veruca’s the wolf.”
“But you said-“
“I lied. I don’t remember last night. But I remember waking up this morning.”
“Why wouldn’t you tell me that?”
“I don’t…find it easy to tell things until I’m sure I understand them. You remember my first wolf out.”
“Well, I think that’s something you should get over,” she said slowly. “But I’m glad you told me now. If we know who it is we can
just make sure neither of you gets out tonight.”
“She wants to be out.”
“She wants to?”
He nodded. There was no simple way to explain the connection between the two of them, the way her seductive words awakened parts of
him he hadn’t known existed. But there were two facts that he knew. One, not letting the wolf roam free was the right thing to do. Two, he
wouldn’t hurt Willow if he could help it.
“Does Willow know about this?” Buffy’s words were coming harder than he was used to having directed at him. He had to appreciate the
irony. She was talking to him like he was a monster.
“No, I couldn’t tell her.”
“You know she thinks Veruca is seducing you away from her? You know she doesn’t want to come to you with it because she feels guilty
for doubting you? You know that her self esteem is hitting an all time low?”
“Then you’re either blind or just a guy.”
“Call Veruca, tell her to meet you here at sunset. I’ll be waiting. Tomorrow you talk to Willow.”
He could do nothing but nod. He still didn’t know what he was going to do, but he suddenly felt less alone.
Veruca slinked her way along the bars of the cage and Oz again felt the irresistible connection that he’d experienced the first time he’d seen her. It was a pull, a powerful animal attraction. Now that he knew the cause, he could analyze it. He knew it was nothing more. But for some reason he wasn’t sure she knew that.
He pulled her into the cage and her eyes lit up and he felt an answering desire overpowering his senses. But he didn’t give in.
Buffy slammed the cage door behind Veruca. Oz immediately pulled away and the other werewolf circled in shocked surprise.
“You? Come to watch? Kinky.”
“The only show I’m going to watch involves me tranquilizing your ass,” Buffy replied.
“Strong one, aren’t you? Fast one,” she said, turning to Oz. “Thought you’d protect the populus, cage me up like you? You could be
free if you’d only let yourself go and lose the chains.”
“If you’re talking about Willow,” Buffy interrupted. “I think she is a chain. But it’s one he needs. That sort of freedom is
Oz was glad she’d said that. He needed to hear it. He stood as far away from Veruca as he could get. He could feel the change coming.
Willow knew that she should still be feeling bad about her failed seduction, but somehow she felt better knowing that she was the one Oz relied on to bring him breakfast after his rough night. She wanted to whistle as she entered the graveyard.
She saw Veruca’s naked form and the bag dropped.
“Willow,” Buffy said quietly from behind her. “I tried to reach you last night.” Willow turned in shock. “Veruca’s the other
“But she- Did he? Why?”
“It’s okay,” Buffy soothed, wrapping her arms around her.
“Will?” Oz said softly from behind. She turned. He was wearing sweatpants for which she was grateful. Not that she didn’t normally
enjoy seeing him sans clothing, but Veruca was stirring luxuriously on the floor.
“Oz?” Willow said questioningly. “What’s going on?”
“Something I don’t understand myself. And if you’re asking about her, nothing in the strictest sense.”
“Why the strictest sense? What about the unstrict part of sense? What’s going on there?”
“Poor girl,” Veruca said, stretching without bothering to cover herself. “Can’t handle the truth.”
“Shut up!” Oz said viciously. Willow recoiled. The words hadn’t been aimed at her but she’d never heard Oz use that tone of voice
before. Oz winced at her reaction.
“May I?” Veruca asked insolently to Buffy who walked forward and unlocked the cage.
“Be my guest. See you tonight.”
“Won’t that be fun?” Veruca left and Buffy gestured nervously.
“So, I’m gonna go now. You guys should talk and I’m class bound. But we’ll all meet later, I’m sure.” Buffy left, presumably
trailing Veruca, Willow knew Buffy would be intent on not letting her out of her sight until that evening.
“How could this happen?” Willow asked plaintively, not to any particular person it seemed.
Oz walked towards her slowly, holding out his hands.
“Will, calm down. I promise Veruca and I did nothing. Buffy watched us all night.”
“But she’s still a wolf and you obviously need something like that. You’ve been drooling over her for days.”
“I haven’t been myself-“ he began. “Wait, I’ve been a different part of myself. The wolf inside me sees her as kin. I am drawn to
her for that, but, for my life, for my entire being, I can’t want anything apart from you.”
Willow nodded, not convinced. Her world had been turned upside down. She almost thought it would be easier to find him with Veruca.
Sure, she would feel like dying, but at least that way she wouldn’t have to face the fact that Oz would always want another woman.
“I can’t talk anymore. If I talk, I’ll cry, I’ll blabber. I loved you.”
“Don’t you love me now?” How could he look as though she’d just broken his heart?
“More than possible.” And she ran out of the crypt.
Oz had been worried that Willow’s fear would turn to anger and it had. And when she was angry she turned to magic. It was something he thought about constantly and felt anxiety over no matter how much he wanted to be the considerate boyfriend.
But that was beside the point at the moment. Now, he just cursed himself as he ran through the woods. He could hear Buffy behind him
and he was glad. He was counting on her to stop him. It would be wise to stay away, but how could he? He’d let Veruca trick him, let her so
far past his defenses that he’d done the one thing he swore never to do. Willow was in danger and not just today. But everyday. With him.
With every wolf breath he took and every drop of wolf blood that pounded through his heart. He couldn’t take it, couldn’t stop it.
He burst though the classroom door, his face narrowing as he took in Veruca and Willow’s positions.
“You won’t touch her again,” he said, striding forward.
“Come on, Oz,” Veruca said. “She’s holding you back from being who you are.”
“I know who I am,” he said less assuredly, but knowing it was true.
“We’re animals, right?” she said, pacing slowly around him. “We should talk in animal terms. You and I? We’re mates, Oz. Admit it.”
“I have a mate.” That was the one thing he didn’t doubt for anything in the world. All it took was one flick of red hair, one look
from brown eyes, one pale handed touch and he was hers, even if Veruca - his kin, his kind, his other-ness, was near.
“Come on, her? You can do so much better. I can take care of her for you. You wouldn’t even have to feel guilty. We’re animals. We
“Yeah, we kill.” Oz felt his features start to change and he knew he wasn’t the wolf yet, but he had to make the decision while he
still could. Veruca would never touch Willow again.
He went for her throat.
“So, that’s your solution?” Willow asked incredulously.
“It’s my decision,” he said resolutely.
“Don’t I get any say in this?”
Oz had been thinking, had been agonizing. He could only find one way to never hurt her.
“Veruca was right about one thing,” he said quietly. “I am the wolf all the time. It’s inside of me and I can’t see the line between
me and it anymore. Until I can figure that out I’m not safe to be around you. Around anyone.”
“Well, that’s too bad, because people: pretty much a planetary epidemic.”
“I’ll find someplace.”
“Oz, don’t you love me?”
“My whole life…I’ve never loved anything else.” Fresh tears started to course down her face and he couldn’t take it anymore. “I swore
I wouldn’t hurt you anymore.”
A fresh resolution crossed her face.
“Well, wake up, dumbass! You’re hurting me now!” He was shocked by the words that came out of her mouth and she obviously was too.
“No, you don’t get to talk.” Willow moved away, gesturing wildly. “I’ve been a sinner in the past. I made mistakes. You forgave
me. We went through stuff. We went through everything. We’re not just a couple, we’re a couple! You don’t just get to make decisions willy
nilly and run off all noble. Do you think I want Angel for my boyfriend? No. I want you cause you stay, cause you’re the best thing that
ever happened to me. I want the wolf and I want you. If you go, I go. End of story. Resolve face!”
“Will, I have to figure this out. It’s killing me inside, not knowing who I am. Not sure if I can trust myself. If I could have you
and know, I would. But this way, I don’t take you down.”
“Yes, you do. Do you even want to know what I’ll do if you go? I don’t know - and for a girl who always knows, that’s something. It
will be bad. It won’t be pretty. I almost got run over today and you hadn’t even decided to go yet!”
His eyes widened. His resolve shattering, he moved toward her and pressed his forehead to hers.
“I can’t stay.”
“Then I can’t either.”
“I don’t want to leave you.”
“Good thing you don’t have to then. You said it yourself. I’m your mate. And this mate goes with her mate and that’s that.”
“But your life, your school. Buffy, Xander, Giles.”
“Pish,” Willow said. “There are schools all over this world and I’m pretty sure I’ve been accepted to all of them. And leaving my
parents is supposed to be sad? As for my friends, our friends,” Willow faltered slightly, “we’ll, we’ll come back, is all.”
“Letting you do this seems like the most selfish thing in the world. I’m supposed to be protecting you.”
“You are, by letting me come and letting me choose.”
He sighed, the relief and terror equal.
“I would’ve come back to you,” he said. “No matter how long it took.”
“But who knows what I would have been then?” she said softly. He took his hands and framed her face, kissing her again and again. He
wasn’t much for words, not much for expression. But he could feel and he could show it.
Willow responded eagerly, seeming anxious to reaffirm their relationship, to feel connected with him again.
“Shall we just leave tomorrow, then?” he asked, breathless.
“Goodbyes, then leaving. First, kissing.”