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Familiar Smells

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I had to get away. She had done it once and I had forgiven her. I had trusted her not to do it again. Couldn't she understand how painful this was? I had trusted her with my everything, and she had betrayed me, twice. She knew my family; she knew how much it meant for me to trust her. She knew what Glory had done to me. And still, she had tampered with my memories. Love doesn't mean that you never fight; love means that you work through the bad. But she wasn't willing to work, to struggle. The magic was starting to destroy her. Power tends to corrupt. Ever since she brought Buffy back she thought she could do anything, without consequence. That she could just fix everything with magic. But it doesn't work like that.

I said I was going to see Mr. Giles, but I don't think he'll be able to help really. Or maybe I'm afraid he will be able to help. He went away because he was afraid he would always be helping Buffy, that she would never really grow up and take responsibility. I don't know if that was a good idea. I think she needs someone to guide her, we all do. I wonder if maybe if he had stayed, maybe things wouldn't have turned out this way. But we can't change the past.

And it's hard to even change the present. I'm on an airplane now, staring down at the ocean, bound for a country I've barely even read about, and all I know is that I don't want to do what I planned to.

***

He met her at the station, but it was obvious that her thoughts were elsewhere. She was quiet the whole ride back to his house. She seemed to relax a bit once they went inside. It was comfortingly familiar. She had never known the Sunnydale High library, but she imagined that it was much like this. Shelves upon shelves of musty books, all about the mystical. The air was thick with the smell of tea and alcohol and book. The dim lighting hid the dust.

"I'm afraid it's not much. But there's a spare room. You can keep to yourself, or not, whatever you wish."

She followed him as he carried her bags into a sparse room. "Thank you. You're very generous. I think I'd like to go for a walk, though." He looked a bit surprised. "Don't worry, I'll be able to find my way back. I'd just like some fresh air after such a long plane ride." He nodded.

***

The rain had begun not too long into her walk. He had suggested that she take an umbrella as it rained quite frequently in England, but she had brushed him off. She didn't regret it. There was something cleansing about it.

Her hair and clothes were plastered to her skin. She was beginning to squint in an attempt to see through the thick sheets of rain.

She literally bumped into him. A man, of average height and stocky build. He looked up at her in surprise. "You still smell like her."

She gasped. He took her wrist, gently. "Let's get somewhere dry."

Her heart was pounding as she followed him, staying out of the shadow of his umbrella. Every time the light shifted he imagined she saw him turning into a werewolf again. In her mind she was being chased all over again. The fear, the confusion and insecurity in the events that followed. And the beautiful security after Willow showed up at her door with a candle, when they -- she wrenched her mind back to the now. They were ascending concrete stairs. He was turning a key in a door. Then more stairs, another door. Then light. A spartan flat, probably six stories up.

"We need to get you some dry clothes. Do you want a warm shower before that?"

She shook her head. She felt very cold, now that the warmth of the flat was seeping into her.

"Okay. I'm not sure how much of my stuff'll fit you, but I think I can find some sweats."

She stood nervously as he went in search of clothes, painfully aware of the fact that she was dripping all over his floor.

He came back with a set of red plaid flannel pajamas. "You can change in the bathroom, get dried up while you're there." He gestured to a doorway. She took the pajamas from him gingerly so as to not get them wet. Once in the bathroom she stripped down and dried herself off. She put on the pajamas and carefully folded her own wet clothes, her undergarments between her blouse and skirt. When she emerged from the bathroom she could smell spices. She walked toward the kitchen. Oz was chopping vegetables and boiling pasta. He turned as soon as she entered the room. "I had just gone out to buy a couple things for dinner, and I've certainly got plenty to share." He read the hesitation on her face. "I don't get too many visitors. It's good to have company sometimes." Then he went back to cooking. She decided if he wasn't going to engage her in conversation she would just check out his apartment. There were few books. Lots of candles. She remembered that she had tamed the wolf within him through meditation. The bedroom had a large futon, and at its foot a large red candle, already lit. She settled herself on the mattress and stared at it, focusing on the flame, breathing in the familiar scent of paraffin and fire.

She started when Oz touched her on the shoulder. "Dinner's ready."

They didn't talk much during the meal. He said he had been staying in London for close to a year now. He had gotten all he could out of Eastern meditation, so after he had left Sunnydale the last time he decided to try urban life, anonymous amidst the crowd and all that. She revealed that she was staying with Giles, that Willow was getting drunk on magic and power. Oz looked worried, but didn't say anything. He just listened. After dinner he suggested that she call Giles. "No sense in you getting all soaked again, and that storm isn't going to let up anytime soon." So she called Giles, said she was staying with a friend (surprised at how easily the term came out) and would be back sometime tomorrow. Blessedly, he didn't press. She hung up the phone her hand almost shaking, not sure what she had gotten herself into. "I guess we should be calling it a night, then," she said, turning to face Oz and forcing control into her voice.

"I've only got the one futon," he said, more matter-of-factly than she would have expected. She looked down at the pajamas she was wearing, then back at the sweatsuit he was wearing. "I think we'll be okay."

Awkwardly, they got into bed. As she lay there, trying to bring her breathing under control, she remembered that she hadn't slept in a bed alone for a long time. Oz was staying on his side of the bed, though, not touching her. He had probably fallen asleep already. She finally allowed her body to relax. She still couldn't fall asleep, though. Suddenly she was aware of heavy breath on her neck. Gentle kisses on the back of her head. He spooned up against her. She felt her heart pounding. She steadied her breathing to the rhythm of his. His hand rested on her side. She covered it with her own hand and moved it onto her abdomen. Massages on her belly, kisses on the side of her neck. He rolled so that she was on her back and he was lying on top of her. He gazed into her eyes then unbuttoned her shirt. She shivered. He cupped her breasts in his hands and sucked on the nipples. She moaned softly. He pulled off his sweatshirt and continued to make love to her breasts. She was shaking now. He moved her hand over the hardness at his crotch, wanted to make sure she wanted it. She arched up toward him. He swiftly removed his own pants as well as hers. Their arms were wrapped around each other as they writhed, until they exploded together.

They lay together for a long time before they both fell asleep.

She had never known a man could be so gentle. Her brother had certainly never been so gentle.