by Dolores

i. Ectothermic

The only place Angel ever truly felt warm was the bathtub.

He'd been in there for nearly an hour; the water had completed its slow decline from scalding hot to barely tepid. The raw, pink scars that marked where hot pokers had skewered him still throbbed, sharp pain turned dull. They'd healed quickly though, quicker than they should have.

Quicker than he deserved.

It was probably the Gem's fault. It was still on his finger, tarnished silver and dark stone. Cordelia had already remarked that it looked like costume jewellery from a bad B-movie, and she was right.

The water sloshed over the side when he got out, and shards of glass from shattered cologne bottles vanished into the liquid, waiting like crocodiles to catch the unwary.

His entire apartment was a catastrophe, strewn with the detritus Spike had created in his futile search for the bauble currently adorning his finger. He stepped gingerly onto safe parts of the floor, grabbed a towel, and exited the bathroom in search of clean clothes.

Angel reached the lounge, towelling down his chest.

He froze when he realised he had company. The damp towel hung limply at his torso, protecting his modesty, but only just.

Lounging, appropriately, on the sofa, Oz was gazing idly at a patch of the wall a few feet to Angel's left, head turned politely away from the near-naked Angel, but not in such a way that Angel wasn't still well within his field of vision. If Angel didn't know better - and he wasn't sure he did - he might have thought Oz was trying to stare without making it seem that way.


Water dripped from Angel's hair and trickled down his back. He felt very cold.

"Uh. Hey."

"Feel better?"

"Not really." He felt weak, even if he no longer had open wounds. He needed some blood.


Angel wrapped the towel around himself in an awkward manner that attempted to maintain some dignity, but didn't really manage it. "Um. I just need to find some clothes."


Angel turned, and he thought he could feel Oz watch him go.

When he returned Oz was trying to tidy up, gathering books that had been scattered on the floor and putting them back on their shelves.

"You don't have to do that," Angel said, in black shirt and pants and feeling more himself.

Oz ignored him and carried on tidying. "You need anything?"

"I need to eat."

They walked through to the kitchen; when Angel pushed open the door Oz immediately recoiled, faced twisted in discomfort. Angel's own nostrils burned. Inside, pig's blood congealed on every surface, blackened and rancid. A quick search proved that all of the jars Angel kept in his fridge had been destroyed, but then that wasn't any great surprise.

Angel closed the door and returned to the lounge, where Oz sat, bowed, taking deep breaths, face tinged green.

"You ok?"

Oz ran a hand through his hair. "I could kinda smell all that through here. But that close... not really too cool."


Oz glanced up at him, and made a tiny move with his shoulders that might have been a shrug.

Angel waited a couple of seconds then asked, "Oz, you've already done much more than you need to - but could you drive me to the abattoir? I'm going to need to get some more supplies."

"I would, but I can't. Doyle took the van to some guy he knows who can fix it up cheap. The bumper got pretty smashed up driving into that warehouse."


"All in a good cause."

"Didn't you want to go with him?"

"Couldn't; apparently his friend's not so keen on werewolves. Why I'm here. And, I figured you might want some company, what with having just been horribly tortured and all."

Angel sat down, perched on the arm of a chair, feeling a little light-headed. Oz was looking less green, more pink. It made him think of blood and he grimaced.

"Or maybe not."

Angel shook his head a little, partly in answer, partly to clear it.

"Besides, my only other option was to go to a pool party with Cordelia and Devon. Not so much my style."

Brows furrowed. "A pool party?"

"Yeah. Devon's sorta screwing this A&R guy, and he's having a barbeque thing. Industry guys, so Cordelia wanted to go so she could network. Kept going on about how Courtney Cox was in this Bruce Springsteen video once."

"Devon's gay?" Angel was faintly surprised, but then he'd never been good a picking those things up. Took him fifteen years to figure Spike out.

"I don't get this. He wears sparkly clothing and never actually sleeps with any of the girls he dates. Why am I the only one to work it out?"

"That's all it took for you?"

Oz smiled a faint, thin smile that was a conversation all of its own.

The silence lasted for a few minutes after that, and Angel moved from the chair arm to the chair proper, in dark contemplation of the day, the ring, and some shameful thoughts about Oz.

"I could open a vein if it'd help."

Angel's head snapped up. "What?"

"If you need to drink. Be just like blood donation."


Just then, the clatter of the lift signalled someone was coming in to the apartment. Over the mechanics, someone was singing "Molly Malone" rather out of tune. Doyle.

"Well, the offer stands."

"I think I owe you enough."

"It'll pay itself back. Karma. Instant or otherwise."

Karma. He thought of the ring. That was instant karma; at least, it looked like it. But had he done anything to deserve it? He hadn't even taken Spike out of action.

So, probably not.

Angel got up to greet Doyle, and he felt Oz's stare at his back again.


ii. Endothermic

The only place Oz ever truly felt cold was Los Angeles.

Even Tibet, regularly doused in snow and scoured by winds so bitter you had to hide under half a ton of yak fur to prevent frostbite, didn't make him feel like this.

He reflected he was feeling melodramatic and that Los Angeles was probably getting the brunt of it. He was feeling very tense and that often led to Meryl Streep moments. Dingoes ate my baby and no mistake.

For a long time Oz had coped with being solitary. He'd sought solitude, actually; tried to be away from people. In keeping with the highly ironic path his life was taking, he'd reached the point where he wanted to be with friends but, thanks to the military-industrial complex, he was being kept apart. Sunnydale was suddenly out of bounds.

So he'd come to LA because, aside from a remote monastery several thousand miles away, the only non-Sunnydale friends he had were there. But the building they'd last occupied was a pile of rubble, and no sign of Angel, Cordelia or Doyle remained, save for the faint trace of expensive perfume and pig's blood lingering over the debris.

Nobody had ever said he gave up easily. Which, admittedly, wasn't to say it wasn't true sometimes. But he had nothing better to do, so he might as well have a look for them. A mystery to be solved, or something.


Drive around LA for long enough and you saw most things the world had to offer. Or at least, it seemed that way.

Find a man shuffling along the sidewalk in a tattered raincoat and hat arranged in such a way that most of his features are obscured, and determine his scent is not human, then you got yourself a demon. And $20 and a bit of persuasion and you're told exactly where most of the demons go to find a bit of sanctuary from the human world.

Get there, and, somewhat against expectation, you find it's exactly the sort of bar Devon kept taking you to every time you came to LA.

Oz surveyed the gaudy colours and multi-limbed customers, but saw no-one that resembled Angel, Cordelia or Doyle. He was about to leave when a tall, bright green demon sashayed up to him, clutching a cocktail.

"How can I assist you, my small, lupine friend?"

Funny how some people just knew.

"I'm looking for a guy."

The demon sighed. "Oh, aren't we all?"

"A vampire, actually."

The cocktail was waved emphatically in Oz's face. "Honey, I know young Bradley looked good in "Interview", but trust me: it's less homoerotic than you'd think. Well, mostly."

"No; I've met this one already. Kinda tall, wears black, sorta manic depressive. Got a soul."

"Ah! You mean Captain Morose!"

"Sounds like the one."

"Well, I don't know him per se -- but he comes in here on occasion to meet with the odd patron or two. Alas, never myself."

"So you don't know where I'd find him?"

"If I knew that, I'd be there with a bunch of carnations and a copy of Beaches. But you may be in luck, sweetie. Inasmuch as he seems to have friends at all that demon over there would be the one -- so I guess he might be of some help." One emerald finger extended in the direction of a shifty looking demon crouched over a beer.

"Thanks," Oz said, and made for the table.

"Pleasure!" the demon called after him, then swayed off across the bar.

This second demon, apparently named Merle, told Oz just to wait -- Angel was expected in the very near future because Merle had some information he wanted to sell. Which was kinda lucky, but then maybe it was some karma for the electro-shock sessions.

Angel was predictably concise in his dealings with Merle, and seemed rather pleased to encounter Oz -- partly because it seems he could do with some back up on his next job. He swept out of the bar with Oz trailing in his wake, quietly amused that it seemingly hadn't occurred to Angel in his avenging zeal to actually ask if Oz wanted to do a Robin.

But he figured that so long as he didn't have to wear pantyhose he might as well tag along.

A mission briefing in the van revealed that Cordelia was visiting her mother, who'd moved to Bakersfield since the divorce and now lived in a fog of benzodiazepines and Marlboro Lights, and hadn't even seemed particularly bothered when Cordelia took a 'funny turn' and had to phone her boss in LA with some urgent news.

Doyle, it turned out, was dead but they had acquired the assistance of Wesley, now somewhat less of a stuffed shirt than when last encountered in Sunnydale. He was at home recovering from a nasty concussion from the job before, and so Angel was saving the world on his own. Or at least, he had been.

Oz reflected that the mission briefing hadn't actually briefed him on the mission, but he was willing to play it by ear.

"So what are you doing in LA? A gig?"

"Looking for some company, actually."

"You can't get that in Sunnydale?"

"Not any more," Oz said, and quickly brought Angel up to date with the last few months, although he glossed over Willow's new romance. After all, he figured that was something for Willow to share when she wanted to.

Angel just nodded, gave Oz directions, and didn't ask any questions. Which was how Oz preferred it.

They reached a warehouse down by the docks, and Angel muttered something about how bad things always seemed to happen down there. It was late, but various workers still moved about loading and unloading and paying yet another van no attention.

"Park here," Angel said of one building, indistinguishable from the rest apart from the number 487 painted in white on the side.

It wasn't hard to get inside, and they soon found their quarry -- three guys in suits standing around a cage. Inside, a creature that appeared to be half moose and half vicious dinosaur stalked around and growled threateningly.

From their vantage point in the shadows, Oz hefted his crossbow and whispered, "I bet that hasn't gone through customs."

"Actually, it's not coming into the States -- they're sending it out."


Angel produced a machete from inside his coat. "Someone in New Zealand has a grudge, let's say."

The plan was simple. Angel would rush the guards and put them out of action and Oz would shoot the beast with a poisoned dart. Once it was down, off came the head and all would be well.

It worked for the most part -- they were human guards and once one was knocked unconscious and the other had a broken leg, the third fled and Oz was able to shoot. Unfortunately, the poison took time to work and the creature, enraged with pain and probably kinda pissed off it'd been locked up in the first place, managed to bust out of its prison.

By the time it did collapse, Angel's shirt was in ribbons and claw marks scored across his chest. Oz was on the deck, a little winded and probably with a bruised ass, but otherwise unhurt. Angel performed the decapitation and then they made for the exit.

"It's not that I don't want you to visit," Angel said, "but I seem to go through a lot of shirts when you do." He was stripping it off in the back of the van, Oz having driven them a few blocks away for safety. Oz was scrabbling around for his first aid kit. He found it and began to clean Angel's wounds with some antiseptic wipes, kneeling behind Angel to face the broad, smooth back and interesting tattoo.

It was the first time he'd ever got to touch Angel and it was kind of like touching a snake. You thought he'd be cold and clammy but instead he was dry and kinda cool and it was quite nice. He figured his fingertips must seem really hot by comparison. He could ask.

"Am I hot?"

Angel's head snapped round. "What?"

"My hands, I mean. Do they feel hot? Having warm blood and all that," Oz clarified, and laid a palm of Angel's shoulder.

"Oh. Yeah, I guess so."

Oz carried on cleaning, taking his time and not moving his other hand from Angel's shoulder.

"Thanks," Angel said after a moment. "You were key. Again."

"No problems. It was actually kinda fun. I needed a bit of fun."

Angel was quiet.

"I've done your back. Turn round."

Angel did so, and suddenly reached up to grip Oz's jaw. "Just some fun?"

Oz smiled a thin smile. "Yeah."

"One good turn deserves another, right?"

They moved closer still. "It's karma."

Angel's skin felt even nicer against Oz's lips than it did his fingers. Lips against lips was something heavenly.

Later, when they were naked and straining against each other on the threadbare carpet of the van, Oz found that he enjoyed it when someone else took the lead. It had always been him before, even with Devon, who was surprisingly timid when it came to sex. Angel was take-charge though, perhaps the more so because he didn't do this very often. Oz was quite willing to be taken charge of, at least for tonight.

Because they both knew that would be all it was.

Oz stayed for a few days in the end, but the first night in the van was never repeated. Wesley got better and Cordelia came back from Bakersfield and it was comfortable for a while. Oz got a glimpse into a new life where he was part of Angel Investigations and he was tempted to stay.

He'd been rejected in Sunnydale and he could find acceptance in LA. Instant karma, or so it seemed.

But then he also knew it wasn't right for him. His path was taking him somewhere else. Which is not to say it wouldn't bring him back to LA at some point, but just now, it led away.

"I'm pretty much the Littlest Hobo," he explained to Angel from the window of the van, who looked nonplussed at the comment, standing in the grey light just before dawn.

"It's been good to have you here," Angel offered. "Always is."

"It's appreciated."

"Anytime you need some company..."

Oz nodded. "I know where you are. Or where I can find you."

And as he drove off he knew Angel's stare followed him away.


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