Wolf in the Fold
Disclaimer: Joss owns all characters mentioned herein except for Kate Gardner. I own the plotline and the AU.
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On one level, I was surprised to see Oz. He’d come to Willow’s funeral late last year, but we’d barely spoken a handful of sentences to each other. For all that he was now in control of his wolf – and I never saw so much as a hint of fur the entire time he was in town – he still didn’t seem to like me.
It was all on him as far as I was concerned, though I didn’t really blame him. He’d left Willow after losing control around another werewolf, eventually killing this wolf; and while he may have thought he had the noblest of motives for doing so, the point is that he left. And he had apparently expected Willow to be waiting for him when he got back. Whether that was part of his wolf nature or his own I didn’t know. But when he found out that Willow and I had gotten together while he was off trying to find himself, he lost control and tried to kill me.
I’ve forgiven him for that. But I’m still uneasy around him, and I’m sure it can’t be much better for him, either.
I asked Kennedy, “Do, do you need any backstory?”
Oz said, “I dated Willow before Tara did. I’m also a werewolf.”
“That’s enough for now,” Kennedy said, with a tone indicating that she wanted the longer story later. “But – Willow dated guys?”
“Just me,” Oz said. “And I’d prefer not to talk about that part of my life.”
“When did you get into town?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
“Pretty much now,” he said. “Wasn’t sure where the Hyperion was so when I saw you thought I’d follow you back.” After a second, “Slayer sense. Should’ve remembered.”
“Who’s been keeping you up to date?”
“Willow. I had a dream. Said you needed my help, asked me to come.” He shrugged. “Never been able to say no to her. Even in my dreams.”
Kennedy said, “So why did you follow us?”
Oz said, “This is where my human and my wolf conflict. Part of me still sees Tara as the person who stole Willow from me. I was trying to avoid interaction. Again, forgot about those Slayer senses.”
“You don’t seem to be having any problems right now,” Kennedy said.
“Tight control,” Oz said. “Being uncomfortable, I can deal with. I’d just rather not.” After a second, he added, “Still, Willow asked me to,” as though that were the answer to all the problems in the world.
Maybe it was.
“She, she did mention ‘someone’ might be coming,” I said. “But she said you’d be here in a few days.”
He shrugged. “Had nothing else to do. And I was only in San Diego. Was waiting to see if maybe I might be needed to help with Sunnydale. I wasn’t.”
“Tara here pulled off an amazing spell in the clutch,” Kennedy said. “Nearly killed her and she went ahead and did it anyway.”
Oz said, “Impressive.”
We walked more or less in silence back to the Hyperion. Check that. I walked in silence. Oz tried to walk in silence. Kennedy asked a lot of questions. Kind of an awkward end to the date, but there wasn’t much to be done about that. I’d enjoyed myself I’d even managed to flirt a little, although awkwardly. It’s a lot easier to flirt with someone who knows your every move. Willow appreciated subtle, for the most part – knowing looks, touched, and so on. The occasional “don’t get used to those clothes” didn’t make a dent. Kennedy, though, I suspected, would prefer being less subtle. Not “I will club you over the head and drag you back to my cave,” but knowing winks and glances wouldn’t do it for her.
Not that I was up to that, yet. (Does that mean I would be?) But I was relaxed enough to tease her a little.
Apparently, Kennedy had never encountered a werewolf before and wasn’t about to let the opportunity go without pumping one for information. For his part, Oz didn’t seem offended by Kennedy’s having slammed him into a wall. But, from what I knew about him, he wouldn’t be.
I was his one real weak spot.
“So, there are others like you out there?” she asked.
“I’m not the only werewolf,” Oz said.
Kennedy grinned and said, “That’s not what I meant. I meant, werewolves who can control themselves.”
“More than you think,” he said. “There’s kind of a loose brotherhood. And sisterhood. Don’t mean to be sexist. There are those who go out and kill and maim people. They tend to draw a lot of attention.” Then he asked, “Have you ever killed a werewolf?”
“I’ve only been a Slayer for a month,” Kennedy said. “So, no. My Watcher taught me to watch one if I saw it – and to only kill it if it attacked me, someone else, or people’s pets or livestock.”
Oz nodded. “Good. When we see one doing something like that, we’re supposed to give them one chance to reform. If they don’t, we kill them.”
She said, “You kill them?”
“I don’t like it. But we don’t have a jail, and no human court would hold them. I’ve never done it, myself. Managed to reform a couple.”
When we got back to the Hyperion, people were surprised to see Oz.
Most people. Giles was simply slowly nodding his head. While everyone else crowded around the werewolf, I went over to Giles. “You knew.”
“He called me this morning,” he said. “I confess I wasn’t expecting him to come in with you. He mentioned –“
“Having a dream like Kennedy’s and mine,” I said. “He said that. I get the impression he wouldn’t have come if Willow hadn’t asked.”
“Oz, at his finest, was never a very social person,” Giles said. “He was never unfriendly, and he was able to interact well when the situation called for it. But he was far more comfortable being alone. Or –“
“Or with Willow. We, we’ve already danced around that.”
“Apparently she saw something untoward happening in his future if he remained – a lone wolf, as it were. So she convinced him to join us. I would have told you sooner, but with all the trouble we had with Amy Madison, there really wasn’t time.”
“I’m not worried,” I said. “Speaking of –“
“She’s awake and unhappy, but as she is bound so tightly that she cannot so much as scratch her nose, she’s been unable to do anything about it. I was planning to interrogate her but thought it would be wise to avoid doing so until you’d returned. I have no idea what she’s capable of by simply opening her mouth, but I have no desire to find myself in the rodent form that she always seemed so fond of.”
“I’ll help you,” I said. “Just let me go back and talk to Kennedy for a few minutes. Our date ended, well, abruptly, when Oz showed up.”
He nodded. “I’m hardly rushing you,” he said. “Still, sometime before the end of the day would be preferable.”
“I’ll let you know,” I said. “Just to be on the safe side, in the meantime, don’t let anyone take off her gag or, or remove those ropes, for any reason, including having to go the bathroom. She, she can pee in her pants if she has to.”
“Are you capable of restraining her when we do remove the gag?”
He meant, would I violate my self-imposed rule on not using any magic except telekinesis or aura-reading. . “In the interests of stopping your impending rodent hood, I think I can manage,” I said. “Though you’d probably make a cute rat.”
“I have no desire to find out,” he said. “Let me know when you’re ready. On a completely unrelated note, Riley Finn finally called us back.”
It took me a second to put two and two together and get the four I needed to get to. “About Faith.”
“Exactly. They were unable to convince the LA District Attorney’s office to stop looking for her, so they’ve done the next best thing. Created a new identity for her.”
“This is good.”
“Yes, though there was some Godfather-type negotiating.” At my puzzled look, he said, in an atrocious Marlon Brando accent, “At some point in the future I may ask you to do me a favor. When I do, I expect the answer to be yes.” I winced. “I wasn’t that horrible.”
“Let’s just say that if the world had to depend on your talents as an impersonator, we’d be, um, doomed. But I get the idea.”
“They know that the Slayers are not a hit squad,” Giles said. “That’s the important thing. Also, Faith has a favor to ask you.”
Leaving Giles, I threaded my way through the crowd surrounding Oz -- he was being introduced to some of the other Slayers as well. Most of them were interested; some were bored. Vi’s reaction was --
Well. I didn’t need to read her aura to gauge her reaction. She was fascinated. And I don’t think it was because of the scintillating conversation. It was good to see her relaxing again. Rona was finally due to get out of the hospital tomorrow; by a coincidence, so was Robin Wood.
Everyone else had been out for at least two weeks. Once we were all together, we could start spreading out. Faith and Robin, and a handful of other Slayers, would go to Cleveland; Wesley, Kate Lockley and a few others would stay here; and most of us would head to Warren, MD. Over the last couple of weeks, Giles had shaken the money free from the Watcher’s Council and bought the former nursing home in Baltimore. Belle Baker -- the Baltimore agent who’d found the property -- was also supervising some early repair work. Not the normal job of a real estate agent, but once we found someone we trusted, we wanted to stick with them. She had no problem taking the extra money, and she owned the company, so she didn’t have to get anyone else’s approval.
Thinking about auras, though: I should have read ‘Kate Gardner’s’ when she walked in. Just to be sure, I checked Oz. And only Oz. His aura was mostly light. His wolf hung over him like a shadow, but there was nothing inherently evil about it.
Then I shut it down. This power is not something I plan on using routinely. Like I said: I will be the exception.
I do not have absolute power. But Willow may have given me the next best thing.
Kennedy had gotten kind of lost in the tumult. I grabbed her by the hand and took her into Angel’s office. Angel, Cordelia and Wesley were among those out there surrounding Oz, so we had the room to ourselves.
“Not the end to our second date that you had in mind, was it?” I asked.
“Not really,” Kennedy said. “I don’t have a problem meeting Oz -- he’s a big part of the Scooby past.”
“And, and the future, apparently,” I said.
“Sure. It was kind of neat to meet my first werewolf. And apart from the fact that he seems not to like you, he seems cool enough. Of course, that’s enough to mean I hate his guts.”
“You don’t have to,” I said.
“Yeah. I think I do,” She said. “There’re enough people out there who seem to be acting like he can walk on water. I think he can do with a couple who don’t.”
“He is basically a good guy,” I said.
“Far as I’m concerned, he has to prove it,” she said. “Now,” she said, taking my hand. “About ending our date.”
She leaned forward as if to kiss me.
A split second before our lips met, there was a knock at the door. Kennedy growled. I said, “Yes?”
Faith came in. When she saw Kennedy and me, she swore. “Shit. Sorry, Tara. Sorry, Kenny. Shoulda known you’d come in here to get away from the howling mob.”
As she turned to leave, I said, “Hold on. Giles said you had a favor to ask me.”
“Yeah,” Faith said. “Sure you wanna hear it now?”
“You’re here, it’s quiet,” I said. “Go ahead.”
“Okay.” After a second or so, I realized something: Faith was nervous.
Faith, whose attitude towards subtle made Kennedy look Machiavellian, was nervous about asking me something. “Go ahead,” I said.
“Well,” Faith said, “You know how the G-Man got the beefcake to dummy me up a new ID. Well, they gave me the same first name but told me I could have any last name I wanted. And, well, I was hoping you wouldn’t mind if I took the name Rosenberg.”