Jason ached. There was the hint of a headache beginning to throb behind his eyes and his stomach twisted with nausea. But there was no time for him to fall apart, not when the whole world was blowing up around him.
Once again, Anita had let her gun do the talking for her, and shot Oz. Only it turned out he wasn't the kind of guy to fall down dead. No, he decided to stand back up as some kind of hairy eight foot tall monster with a mouth that seemed to be made entirely out of teeth and a complete rage on for Anita.
It was one of the most frightening things Jason had ever seen, and he'd been rotted on by the best.
There had never been anything threatening about Oz. He was the kind of mild presence that could be mistaken for weak and never challenged anyone. Only now he was a furnace of POWER, a hungry burn that made Jason want to flinch away because there was nothing of civilized lycanthropy there; just the pure unadulterated rage of a beast that had no problem seeing humans as meat.
Jason had suspected that there was more to Oz than the guy was letting on, but he definitely would have told Jean-Claude if he had thought there was something like THIS hiding behind that painfully complacent exterior.
Anita was still making that shrill pain sound that made Jason's beast perk up with interest, but he had the control to remain in his human skin. He wasn't going to do anything that Monster-Oz would see as a challenge, because from the way Oz was laying into the werewolves and other lycanthropes nipping and lunging at him, it would have been a painful lesson in futility.
Instead Jason stayed sitting on the floor and tried to seem as harmless as possible. He couldn't help hoping that maybe there was enough human-Oz scent on him that Monster-Oz would see him as a friend and not as something to kill and/or mate with. Because judging by the size of the schlong Oz was sporting, he would end up split in half.
Oz didn't seem to be going after anyone that didn't attack him first, which was a good sign for everyone else in the room, but those that did go after him... Bodies were flung about with the force to crack bone and several wolves were sent yelping and fleeing from the fight, licking at their wounds.
Anita was lying on her back on the floor with Monster-Oz hunched over her, and he wasn't letting anyone close enough to take his playtoy away from him. There was a worrying amount of blood pooling out from under her and from the growing franticness in Jean-Claude's gestures and orders, there was a good chance she was dying.
And all Jason could think was that he wished she would just shut up already.* * *
What had otherwise been a quiet night of watching TV and gorging themselves on candy and popcorn was interrupted by an alarm going off through the whole house. A loud, klaxon wail that made the dishes rattle in the cupboards and put everyone's teeth on edge.
"What is that noise?" Buffy demanded, covering her ears with her hands. She was sitting in the recliner, her legs folded under her and a large bowl of buttery popcorn cradled in her lap.
Xander had been looking around frantically, but then a look of understanding crossed his face. "That's Willow's Warning," he said, untangling himself from a sleepy Andrew and jumping to his feet. "Something's happening!"
He could hear Buffy and Andrew pounding after him, but his whole attention was focused on reaching the stairs and Willow. His bare feet nearly slipped on the third step from the top, but he caught himself on the rail and kept going, bursting through the door into Willow's workroom.
The only word to describe it was "pandemonium."
Images whirled and spun through the very air, angles of view caught and captured in vibrant color, highlighting the horror happening somewhere at some fancy dress party. Blood sprayed across a beautifully tiled floor, dresses and suits tattered and torn, faces cringing away from the hot meaty breath of...
"Is that Oz?" Xander asked in horror, moving out of the doorway so Buffy could bull her way into the room. "He's completely wolfed out."
"I thought he was under control," Buffy said. Her hand was clenching and unclenching at her side, as though desperate to grasp the comforting hilt of a weapon.
Willow had her back to them and was sitting cross-legged about four feet in the air. Her red hair was twisting and tangling around her head in a magical wind, streaks of darker color tumbling from her scalp to dissipate in visible wisps from the ends of her hair. She turned her head when she heard them and there were tears streaming down her cheeks, though her eyes blazed with fierce determination.
"We have to help him!" She reached out toward the largest of the images, her fingers almost touching the fur covered arm of wolfy-Oz.
"What are you talking about, Willow?" Buffy demanded. "Look at him! He's killing
people. We shouldn't help him. We need to stop him."
"You don't understand," Willow said. "She hurt him first. She shot him."
"Please don't take this the wrong way, but I might have shot him too." Andrew stepped back from the fierce look Willow leveled at him, his shoulders hunching meekly. "Well, he is a big werewolf. I wouldn't want him to attack me."
"That's just it, he wasn't wolfed out when she attacked him," Willow said. "He was just standing there and she pulled out a gun and shot him in the chest. She tried to kill him!"
The large closet/storage room door was opened so hard it slammed against the wall and Kennedy came out carrying a large duffel bag in each hand, a crossbow slung over her shoulder. "I'm ready to go if you are," she said, then seemed to notice them standing there for the first time. "Are you guys coming with?"
"What are you talking about?" Xander asked. He raked a hand through his hair. "Everyone just calm down a moment, and Willow, can you turn off that ear-shattering alarm so I can think? We need to take a step back from what's going on and you need to make with some explainy."
Willow waved her hand and the teeth-grating sound abruptly stopped. She unfolded her legs and stood up, her hair falling back down around her shoulders as she visibly calmed herself. "We need to rescue Oz," she said. "We need to rescue him right now."
"Rescue him from what?" Buffy waved her hand at the soundless images of Oz flinging people around like dolls. "He looks like he's the one attacking people. I mean, look at that lady. He tore her up. I don't even know how she's still alive."
Xander walked around the floating images, examining them closely to try and put together the series of events that had to have taken place. His eyes widened when a bunch of people started contorting their bodies and ripped out of their clothes as their skin burst with fur and and their bones cracked and popped disgustingly into new alignments.
"They're wolves, like actual wolves." He couldn't help being fascinated. When he'd been a kid and he'd thought of werewolves, he'd imagined it would be like that, people shifting and turning into real wolves, not the wolfman monsters of reality.
They'd all seen so much death and destruction in their lives that it had become something they were inured too. It was probably horrible that they could look at the bloody scenes of violence happening in front of them and calmly demand explanations, but their days of leaping headfirst into an apocalypse situation without a pause for research were pretty much behind them.
Xander walked over to Willow and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "We trust you," he said quietly, "but you need to tell us what's happening and what you need us to do. We can't just run into something like this blind."
Willow drew in a large, shaky breath and scrubbed her hand over her face. "You know I've been worried about Oz and trying to see where he is," she said. "Well..."* * *
Her world was pain.
Shattered bone shifted with every breath and she had no idea where she ended and the pain began. The floor was cold against her back and she couldn't help the idle wish that she had been wearing pants instead of the tiny backless dress that had seemed oh-so sexy earlier in the evening.
Her fingers twitched, but she was afraid to move, not without a plan. The creature
Oz had become had broken her ribs with one blow. The next would probably kill her.
"See why I told you he was dangerous?" Buffy sounded amused. She was squatting next to Anita's shoulder, her crossed arms propped on her jean clad knee. "You should have put another bullet between his eyes when you had the chance. He's going to kill you now. You and everyone else here."
Anita opened her mouth, but no words could escape, just a whistly exhalation. She had screamed so much that her voice was just gone. She pleaded with her eyes instead, begging her only friend to help her.
"Really?" Buffy asked, her eyes sparkling brightly. "You really want me to help you?"
Anita jerked her chin in a shallow nod, all that she could manage. Blackness was edging around her vision and she had to face the cold reality that she was dying.
"Give me your hand and I'll help you," Buffy said, her voice dropping to a soothing purr. "Just reach out to me and we will have an agreement."
Anita's arm felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. She couldn't lift it, could only force it to slide a few inches across the floor. Frustrated pain tears squeezed out, mixing with the blood to make her eyes sting and burn. Her fingers inched a few centimeters more toward Buffy, all that she could manage before the darkness flooded her vision.
Dimly, she heard Buffy's voice say, "...sealed in blood... deal is done... devour... destroy
Blackness took her. A wailing dark.