Title: The Strength of the Wolf
Fandoms: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Fionavar Tapestry (Guy Gavriel Kay's books)
Spoilers: Through "New Moon Rising" in S4 of Buffy/The entire Fionavar Trilogy. Contains a ***HUGE SPOILER*** for the end of the Fionavar series.
Archive: Email for permission please.
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The Fionavar Tapestry emerged from the gorgeous mind of Guy Gavriel Kay, and I assume he owns it. I own nothing.
Summary: Who helped Oz cope after the events in "New Moon Rising"?
His cry echoes across worlds. Sorrow, pain, denial, betrayal and something else - hopelessness. All reason gone. It tears an answering howl from me, one that says, "I have been there. Let people help you. I have been there. It can get better."
The woods stop around us as I howl, still in my human form. My father crooks one questioning eyebrow. "Did you not hear it?"
My father shakes his head. "Hear what, Galadan?" His voice is gentle, infinitely gentle, as it has been since the day I returned to him. Part of me still waits for the condemnation I think should follow. Instead, he is all patience and love.
"One of my people. A wolf, broken, and his life is shattering. He will not have heard my reply."
With a wry smile, he says, "I think every wolf on Fionavar heard your howl."
"But he is not, so I must go to him." He wants to stop me, wants more of an explanation, but the pull to my wolf is stronger than father's will. "Father, he sounds like I did, after Lisen said no. Hopeless fury, and unending pain. I must go."
I do not wait for his approval, but side-step through an imaginary door to a world I've visited before. His pain pulls me until I am standing in a forest in front of him, neither wolf nor man but some awkward shape in-between. He snarls at me, but does not get up from his huddle.
His shape does not make sense until I lay a hand on his brow, ignoring the snapping muzzle. He has no shields, makes no attempt at resistance, and his story flows into me. He left his love without a word (to save her, the man part of him insists). I stroke his brow, murmur, "I know," and watch the story unfold. She finds another, he returns, he attacks. His captivity, and now I am growling in fury. His exit in pain, race to the woods to be free, and collapse.
I kiss his brow - if Lisen could only see how well I can comfort now - and change into my wolf form. I try to curl around him, but his odd shape makes it awkward. I understand now about the demon and the curse, but I was lord of the andain for a thousand years, and demons bowed to my will. As this one will. And it knows; I do not have to say a word. It cringes in anticipation as I sink teeth into the half-wolf's shoulder. The curse loosens, and he flows into true-wolf shape.
In this form, he is so small, almost still a pup, and I do curl around him. I lick away the tear tracks on his face, and he huddles, shivering and whimpering. I have been in his head; I know that he is thinking that he does not deserve such kindness, or any at all. I keep grooming him, around his ears, down his muzzle. He is still whimpering, shivering even harder, and it seems my comforting has backfired.
It strikes me that it is the wolf who is shaking, but the man who needs comfort. Wolves do no feel guilt or horror over fending off a rival. With a gesture, I change us both to human form. He can do it himself now, but is in no shape to do so. His demon swoons with pleasure at being able to serve me. I let it know that serving the boy - and he is still a boy, I can see now - is serving me. The curse, at least, should be easier for him.
Now it is a small human body shivering in my arms, and with a thought I cocoon us in warmth. With one hand I stroke his hair. The other is on his chest, making small circles. Words of comfort are falling from my mouth, echoes of my father. "Shh, it will be ok. I'll help you, you only had to ask. It will be ok." I can do this, I can help him. I know how, now. Loving the light is as much habit as it is effort.
I wonder, suddenly, if my father is watching. If he can see that I learned, that I try. I throw a privacy shield around us, for the sake of the shivering naked boy in my arms. Shivering, still, despite the heat.
I coax him up into a sitting position, and he is pliable and silent. I summon a glass of juice for him, but he makes no move toward it. I know his depleted body needs it, but he does not know, or does not care.
"Daniel," I say softly, and he flinches, will not look at me. I return my hand to his hair, softly stroking. "Oz," I try again, "please drink. You'll get sick if you don't." Possibly the wrong thing to say, since he clearly doesn't care. If only I were better at this!
I try another of my father's tactics. "Please drink, for me." And he does not look at me, there has still been no eye contact, but his hand reaches for the goblet.
I hold him steady while he drinks, small sips, until he is finally draining it in one long swallow. He puts the goblet on the ground and whispers, "Thank you," vestige of a lifetime of training. Habit, as much as effort.
He is not shivering as much anymore. The skin under my hands feels almost normal. "I heard your cry. I came to help you," I say. I do not know if he wants to talk. People always assume that talking will help, but wolves can be silent. We have smells on the air, the tilt of a head, the thwap of a tail, the glint in an eye. And this boy was quiet as a human, before he became a wolf.
He doesn't talk, but he leans into my touch. We sit in silence, my hand rubbing circles on his back, and his hands slowly unclench in his lap. I do not comment on the tears, but when he shifts his face slightly in my direction, I understand. As I did earlier, I lick away the tear trails, tongue on skin this time. He melts towards me. His face finds its way to my neck, and I gather him in.
He mouths against my neck like a pup, and my hand on his head pushes him closer. Silently, I grant permission. He licks and nuzzles and nibbles, seeking and needing and maybe even playing. I know that no one has ever dared do this for him - the curse, contagion - and I know that he has done this for a little one he loves and hates.
He gnaws at my skin, snuffling, tears splashing down on my shoulder. I tighten my hold around him. He is licking up my neck, up my face. Whimpering again, and I am surprised that the sounds of an injured wolf have not brought the predators out to investigate. Or maybe they can hear, as I can, that underneath it all is the fury to rend and tear.
He is back at my neck and the whimpering is muffled as his mouth works over my skin. I have exhausted my repertoire of comfort, but his body is moving on top of mine, almost rocking, but not. Not, because to do so would pull him away from me, and he is terrified to let go. Somehow, I have become his whole world for the moment. Not as his god - does he even recognize that, in his pain? - but as another person inside the pain. A way, although he doesn't believe it, to escape from the pain.
I hold him, one hand around his waist, the other pressing his head in place, and begin to rock. I do not know why we are doing this, other than that he seems to need it. We rock, and some of the desperate tension slides away. He is no longer frantically chewing on my skin, but simply sucking without pause. We rock, and the tears fall again, more slowly now. His hands are around my back, holding as if I might suddenly go away. I break the long silence to whisper, "I'm not going anywhere. It's ok. I'll be here, I'll help you."
'A god needs his children,' Lisen told me once, and I laughed and said, 'I have no children. I am yours alone.' Stupid, stupid, a thousand blind years. And now a sobbing boy in my arms, treating me like his anchor. A hundred years of quiet talks with my father could never have explained this.
The movement of his mouth changes, until he is no longer fiercely sucking but just occasionally nuzzling at my neck. I no longer feel tears falling, but do not stop rocking us until he detaches his mouth and pulls back. He says, "Thank you," and there is nothing perfunctory about it this time. He is still looking down as he says it, and does not raise his head when I say his name.
"Oz," I say again, and this time I have fingers under his chin, bringing his head up. Finally, he raises his eyes as well. His eyes meet mine, and there is something - a small shock, perhaps - that runs through him. I see it the moment he understands whose lap he is sitting in. Before he can say a word, I kiss him, first on the left cheek and then on the right, with a final press to his forehead. "I am so glad you called me," I say, and it is one of the truest things I have ever said.
We have much to discuss, and he knows this. By now he is aware enough to feel the changes to his body, his curse. We have much to discuss, but first we have something far more important to do. With a gesture we are both wolves, and off in the distance I scent our prey. He takes off first, stumbling a little as he adjusts to his new form, and then he is fluid motion.
There is something aching in my chest, a new feeling, like comforting. An old feeling, like love. And I think this is pride, as my wolf bounds off in the distance and stops to look back, waiting for me. Proud of him, for certain, and maybe proud of myself, just a little.
I lope with giant strides to catch up. He is quivering with the joy of the hunt, his first real hunt. As I reach him, he pounces, his long tongue licking me from nose to ear. I swat at him, and he does it again. For the first time in years, I do not miss being lord of the andain, not even a little.
~ For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. ~
- Rudyard Kipling