Nothing For The Tin Man
by glossolalia

Oz has been hunting for a while now.

LA's no place for a werewolf. He'd been told on the road to stay out of the city; no one could say exactly why. Accounts differed, but it wasn't supposed to be safe.

He came anyway.

Everyone had been right on one thing. There were no wolves here.

Not that he was looking for any.

He started at the boarded-up hole in the ground where the office used to be.

Plenty of other nasties, from vamps on up.

He dusted three his first night when they couldn't help him, wouldn't answer his questions.

Vamps hunt like cats -- anywhere, they don't care. Wild blue yonder to tiniest crawlspace, they'll chase and play and kill. They don't mind a bit.

Oz isn't like that. Bigger spaces, that's his thing. Journeys. He won't call them quests, because his prey's not important. No grail, no sword in any stone. Not since he left the first time, anyway.

No quest. Just a hunt.

He picks up snatches of the scent all over town. They don't lead anywhere, just around before trailing off.

He's chasing his own fucking tail.

In the meantime, Oz needs to eat, and while he's crashing at a squat out past Echo Park, there's still food to buy, busfare to get. So he's at a yuppie club tonight, all tarted up. Shiny black dress shirt one of the girls loaned him, gel in his hair.

He's done this before. Stand up straight and let your eyes slide around the room, unseeing, until someone steps up to speak to you.

Negotiate activities and price, find a room or the guy's car, and it's money for the pocket.

Still a hunt, just slightly different.


Wes leaves his TV dinner half-eaten and cooling, congealing, on the table. He does finish the bottle of Merlot, however.

He takes his time at the club, having arrived earlier than Lilah's message instructed.

Of course he comes alone.

He needs the time to adjust to the press and noise of bodies. People everywhere. So many people, so much noise. Everything bathed in cerulean light, like an aquarium, and they're all moving like exotic fish, furling and preening, skin glimmering deadpale.

He hasn't left his apartment in far too long. This much company, all at once, it's as if he's drowning in static, a humming buzz that prickles over his skin, in his lungs, confusing him.

Surf and pulse, carrying him away.

Only if he lets it.

Wes straightens his spine and clears his throat as he gazes slowly around.

On the mezzanine, in the recess between two pillars, someone waits.

Three-quarter profile, sharply-angled jaw and slick dark hair. Skin so pale it flourishes under these ridiculous lights, borrows their glow, glows still behind Wes's lids when he blinks. The figure is small, but decidedly masculine, encased in dull-toned black silk and vinyl. Masculine: Long, lean lines that angle rather than curve.

The flat, bored stare of the hustler.

Not for him, but Wes appreciates the sight nonetheless.

Behind him, cool sharp scent of Lilah's perfume.

"I see you got my invitation."


The place is suddenly full of vamps. Stink of old blood, half-clotted and too dark, mixed with wet dirt, broken grass, trampled lilies.

Oz stays where he is, growl held suspended in the back of his throat until he needs it.

Dancers scatter, drinks raised over their heads, and through the haze of dry ice and vamp-stench, he picks up just what he's been tracking pointlessly through the city for over a week now.


Smells like a vamp, but - finer. Like the lilies got picked up, pressed into a book, and now, decades later, they're dry as rice paper, their edges sharp enough to slice skin. Angel.

Oz moves through the trample of confusion and fear and looks down over the railing.

Angel and a leaner shadow-version of Angel, whirling in tandem, staking and kicking like it's old school week in Sunnydale. It's magnificent, intimidating, gorgeous. Oz glances around the rest of the crowd, at the woman at the bar, wide-eyed, fingers twitching around an imaginary stake, vamps dusting like punctuation to a series of physical shouts. Angel and his shadow, his Robin, dance around each other, dark and darker.

They have something between them, beyond resemblance. Something like intimacy.

Something that makes him want to look away.

Some chick knocks into Oz, grinds her stiletto into his toe and catches his jaw with her elbow in her hurry to escape.

Screams over the uptempo dance crap, gasps and dust.

By the time he's back on his feet, gripping the railing, Angel and Dick Grayson have vanished.

He chases the trail, hobbling on the broken toe, and loses it in the alley.

Square one, but at least now he knows Angel's here.


"Why, you're just new all over, aren't you?"

Wes cracks his jaw and rolls his shoulders. Hunger stabs his gut, he's thirsty, and that's about all he has to look forward to for the rest of the day.

Lilah's wrong about everything; the extent of her misunderstanding, of her inversion of the order of things, is nearly magnificent, certainly grand.

Angel has a soul, true, but Wes is no more near to losing his own than he was the day he arrived in Sunnydale. In Los Angeles. In Longfellow's clumsy translation, charming for its ineptitude, he is, always has been caught between states: "I did not die, and I alive remained not; Think for thyself now, hast thou aught of wit, What I became, being of both deprived."

Deprivation is the nature of life; both foolish and misguided to believe, as Angel does, as Cordy, Gunn, Fred do, that life is something plentiful, rich, beneficent.

For lunch, sardines on lettuce and another bottle of Sauvignon. He eats the fish from the tin, and rinses it clean when he's finished, cleans it more carefully than he's been caring for his own face.


The cops hold Oz for four days. Might have something to do with the fact that the ID he had on him at the time he was picked up says he's Eric Montoya. An INS dude even came to see him, got flustered by the inappropriate paleness of his skin and his command of English.

He can get out on bail.

Just a matter of finding someone who'll, A, pick up the phone and, B, fork out the grand.

His mom's not home. Two days' worth of messages are going unheard, so he turns to the few other numbers still grooved in his brain, from a time when there were people to call, when he wanted to talk to other people, when he was young enough that he'll probably still know these numbers on his deathbed.

Giles' number is out of service.

Devon never really had a number to try, and his mother says he's out. For how long, she won't elaborate.

Xander's dad is still an asshole and hangs up when Oz asks for Xander.

The Rosenbergs are out of the country on sabbatical, but the department secretary will forward any important professional messages onward.

Getting out of LA county jail isn't exactly a job for a Slayer, but Oz tries Buffy anyway.

"Summers residence." Girl's voice, unfamiliar.

Oz clears his throat. "Hey. Is Buffy there?"


"Mrs. Sum--. Joyce?"

It's quiet for the count of seven -- eight heartbeats. "That's not funny."

"Um, okay. Sorry?"

"What do you want?"

He traces the infinity figure over and over on the scratched-up chrome of the payphone's keypad. "Who is this, anyway?"

"Dawn. Who are you?"

She says it like it's the most normal thing in the world, and Oz shifts his weight from his left foot to his right. "Who--? Dawn who?"

Short breathy nasal sigh. Pissy girl sigh. "Look, I'm gonna hang up --"

"Don't. Please. Sorry. Look, do you know how I could get in touch with Willow? Do you know Willow and, um. Tara?"

Not quiet any more, but no more sighing either. Just breathing, quick and shallow. Then the click of the line disconnecting.

He doesn't feel right. Something's wrong with his stomach, there's an ache at the back of his skull, and he doesn't like this. He's good at rolling with the punches, always has been and he's just gotten better. But something chilly and damp, sluggish, is creeping under his skin.

He tries information for Cordy's number, but of course it's unlisted. That guy Doyle he has no hope of finding; he never even knew if Doyle was his first name or his last name. Same deal with Angel, and normally Oz might get a slight kick out of asking the operator for the number for Angel, just Angel, but the guard's starting to give him the hairy eyeball and he already has the bruised ribs from refusing to take out his jewellery his first night here to decide it's best not to push his luck.

The only other two Sunnydale people he can think of are that military asshole who was with Buffy and Giles' mini-me Wesley. With Riley, he's got the whole first-or-last name problem as well as a deep, pit-of-the-gut welling of bile reluctance to talk to anyone who ever had anything to do with government-sponsored torture sessions.

So it's Wesley, then.

Couple moments of meditation brings up the guy's ridiculous last name -- all he had to do was picture Cordy's trig notebook with the hearts and Mrs. Cordelia Wyndam-Pryce -- and information actually has the guy.

"Hello?" British voice, hoarse but still, always, slightly affected.



This is what Wes's life has become: Entirely random, shorn of direction and purpose, a series of strange, violent incidents (hand on Lilah's throat, foot kicking in Justine's door), empty and glaring.

A phone call from one of Sunnydale's prodigals, a check he doesn't hesitate to write, and now he is standing up in the avocado-green waiting room, greeting the hustler from the club where he first saw a grown Connor.

Because Oz is the chicken from the club, pale and sharply-angled, still wearing the same clothes, only untucked, hair more awry than it ever was in Rupert Giles's library, indigo circles beneath his keen eyes, exhaustion settling over him like a cloud of chalk dust. Silly primitive piercings over one eye, in both ears that only accent his paleness.

"Oz," Wes says. "It's -- good to see you."

The boy nods, shrugs, pats his hair. "Thanks."

Wes regards him, squinting into the bright afternoon sun, fidgeting like a cranky child, and he tastes, suddenly and overwhelmingly, the tang of salt and metal in the back of his throat.

"You're not well, are you?"

Oz looks away from the window, back to Wes, and his lips twitch. "I'm fine. Just tired."

There's nothing purposeful, nothing significant or important, in what Wes does next. He simply takes Oz's elbow, ignoring the boy's reflexive flinch and stiffening, and says, "Let's get you out of here."


It's not just the angry red scar across his throat, though that does help. Wesley's like an entirely different beast. Haggard and scruffy, clothing slightly rumpled, just like Giles let his clothes get after the school blew up, and he smells like alcohol. Just like Giles.

But he's not Giles any more than he's the Wesley he used to be.

Oz doesn't know who he is beyond the surface details, handsome and tense and very distracted.

He's got time to figure it out, though. Wesley doesn't seem to want Oz to go, suggesting first that they get Oz some clothes, then that they eat. Wesley's SUV smells like baby oil and tears, but there's no trace of anything else infant-related and Wesley doesn't seem like the type to cry.

Which is how Oz comes to be costumed like he's the next junior Watcher, crisp white button-down shirt and dark khakis.

Oz plucks at the shirttails and looks up at Wesley. "This is too much."


"Don't want you spending your money," Oz says. "Not on me." It seems ridiculous; he'll pay Wesley back for the bail, soon as he can, but the rest of this, this expensive store with its own tailor, the promise of real food, it's all way too much. Especially coming from a guy who looks like he could use a bath and several square meals himself.

Wesley selects another shirt, baby blue this time, and holds it against Oz's chest. "I have a family who happens to pay me fairly generously to stay away --"

That's got to be the life. "Wow. Nice."

Wesley gives him a slight smile, more twist of the lips than anything else. "So it's well-spent on another exile, I think."

Exile. Oz can't get the word out of his head, not through the rest of the shopping, not through the drive, then the start of lunch. It's a noun and a verb, both a person and something that can happen. If he thinks of himself as anything, it's reject-retard-runaway. Failure.

He has a name now for the slugs under his skin, the ache in his head and gut. The chill recordings of this number is not in service, the crackly pop of lines disconnecting, they must have set something off, shaken loose the ignorance, and when he stepped out into the lobby, the name was waiting for him.

He wears it now, closer to his skin than Wesley's shirt.

Wesley's eating his steak like a starving man, while Oz stirs the dressing on his salad and flips the leaves of lettuce. He should be hungry, but he's not.

"And who's this?" Cool female voice; Oz has smelled her before, refrigerated ozone and thin whiskey-dark blood. "Playing catch-up with Angel, getting your own young sidekick?"

Wesley sets down his fork and looks up, so Oz does, too. She's old-fashioned looking, hard-edged, like one of those women in a 1940s movie who doesn't need anything from anyone, stronger than any man, sexier than sin.

"Lilah Morgan, Eric Montoya," Wesley says. "Not my sidekick."

She smiles with lips that shine and gleam. "I'm sorry. Apprentice? Is that better?" She turns to Oz, shakes his hand. Her palm is cool like paper. "Nice to meet you. I'm sure we'll see each other again. Wesley and I seem to have made a habit of running into each other."

"Habits can be broken," Wesley says.

Oz's palm burns still after Lilah leaves. "Friend of yours?"


"She's pretty."

"Not the first word that would come to mind," Wesley says. "But, yes, I suppose she is."

He keeps doing that, taking what Oz says, treating it like it's written down, ready for analysis in English class. Like it's just a sentence in a book.

In the car earlier, when he asked what Oz was doing in LA, Oz said, "Looking for Angel," and Wesley said, "There's a lot of that going around. Why are you looking for him?" Oz studied the edge of Wesley's jaw, then the whiteness of his knuckles as he gripped the wheel. "He helps people, right? Need help." Wesley had just nodded and a little while later said, "That's what his card says, at any rate." Like words are just things, spaced out on paper, ready for Wesley to pore over, examine, contradict. Like they don't touch him.

It unnerves Oz, makes him want to plan everything he says, just in case.

"Didn't tell her my real name," Oz says.

"No." Wesley saws another piece of meat off and chews slowly, swallows, sips his whiskey before continuing. "Her people don't need to know about someone like you."

Oz rolls up his sleeves, the soft cotton sliding a little under his sweaty fingers. "Someone like me."

It's not a question, but Wesley nods curtly anyway. "A werewolf who can control the transmogrification? Trust me, you don't want to come anywhere near Lilah Morgan."

"That," Oz says. Werewolf, of course. The other name for him, longer, more obviously monstrous. Familiar. "Okay."


Being around Oz, Wes thinks, is like being alone, but less clearly pathetic.

Oz rarely speaks, and when he does, the words are short, clipped, typically echoes of something Wes has just said. There's something appealing about him, more lost than Fred ever was, if only because he will not ask for help. He will not ask for anything; he'll barely move unless absolutely necessary. The boy holds himself so tightly, Wes would think of a coiled spring, except that Oz will neither spring nor pounce. He is starched and shrunken, not coiled. Tight and shuttered.

Yet he seemed perfectly at ease at the club, ready to sell himself to the first interested party.

"Everyone's gone," Oz says that night. Wes took him back to his flat for the simple reason that he didn't want to be alone. "That's why I called you. Last name I could think of."

Across the table, Wes shifts slightly in his chair. It makes a beautiful sort of sense, actually. He's not even second-place, but truly an afterthought, born of desperation.

"I mean," Oz continues, his cheeks slightly flushed from the wine he finally accepted from Wes. "You said Angel's like gone. Called Giles, but he's not around --"

"I expect Rupert has his hands full with his own waif at the moment," Wes says and refills Oz's glass.

People, he has long thought, qualify as experimental material just as much as beakers and petri dishes do. Oz, for instance, is pinkening with each sip, his collar undone, shirt rumpled and almost ivory against his perfectly pale skin. He looks like a choir boy, a boy from Wes's past, partying and willingly debauched.

Wes would like to know just how debauched.

He's curious more than anything else.

Oz squints at him. "What?"

Wes waves his hand. "Nothing. Just something I've heard from various contacts. Giles is nursing one of your old friends back from another apocalyptic brink."

An ordinary person would ask which friend, what kind of brink, but Oz simply drinks more wine. Nothing about him is ordinary; various stimuli that would poke, make another yelp or question, simply slide through him with an eerie sort of grace and quiet.

"Same old, same old," Oz says finally. "What about you?"

"Me?" Wes asks. "I'm just fine."

Oz swirls the wine in his glass, apparently studying the smear of crimson against the crystal, nearly hypnotizing himself. "You've got a girl in your closet, Wesley."

He speaks as quietly as ever, and for a moment, a very long moment, Wes feels cold slide as certainly and quickly as a sword's blade down his spine. Frozen and powerless, language wholly insufficient.

Then Oz blinks and meets his gaze. "Not usually a sign of good mental health."

Wes sips his drink as the cold drains away in the face of Oz's steady dark eyes. "So you've met Justine."

"Looking for the bathroom, yeah."

"She's --" He doesn't know why he'd try to explain, nor what he'll actually be able to come up with. Lies are not his forte; imposed isolation and silence have always been preferable to actively lying.

Oz reaches for the bottle of wine, shaking it to check how much is left. "Don't care, actually."

What do you care about? Wes should ask. In the interests of information-gathering, supplementing existing knowledge. For curiosity's sake. "Why were you looking for Angel?" he asks instead.

"Told you. Needed help."

It's the same answer Oz has given him all day. "All right, then."



"What about you?" Oz asks. "What do you need from Angel?"

The apartment is dark; he's left all the lights turned off. Yet Oz's eyes are clearly visible, moss-covered coins at the bottom of a very deep well, sunken in that placid paleness.

"Nothing," Wes answers.

"All right, then." Oz is a talented mimic, cruelly accurate in his inflection and tone.

Wes shifts again, considering whether he ought to fetch another bottle of wine or stand, make his apologies, and go to bed. Let the boy make up the bed on the couch in the office.

He does not move.

"I'm the only one who would kill him. Did you know that?"

Oz regards him silently.

"Of course you didn't," Wes continues.

"I'd kill him," Oz says. "If he pulled that soulless shit again."

"Really neither here nor there, isn't it? You're not here."

"Neither are you."

Wes dips his head, his neck aching and burning. "No, of course not. You're right."

"Then again," Oz says, and pushes the bottle toward him. "Neither is he."

Wes rubs his scar, beloved, glossy skin that still hurts, is still tender enough, that it wakes him most nights. "No."

They can continue to speak about a ghost, circle Angel's shade repeatedly, or they can move on.

Wes goes to bed eventually; it's only ten or so minutes later that the door to his bedroom opens and Oz stands there.

Silhouetted in light from the hallway, slight and glowing. Just looking at Wes, he never says a word.

Wes folds back the quilt and Oz moves forward, his new shirt unbuttoned and floating behind him like vestigial wings.

His hands are small but strong, his mouth silent but so hot, so talented.


Afterward, Oz spends the night on the couch.

More comfortable than most places he's slept in the last several months since leaving St. Paul. He dreams winesoaked visions full of migraines and Willow's face, hears again and again Giles' voice on the phone telling Oz that his number is out of service. Sees Wesley locked in the cage in the closet, crouching like an ape, imploring Oz with wet, bleak eyes. Hears Buffy rapping a gavel, deeming Oz an exile, sending him to the city limits and kicking him out of a moving car.

He hasn't dreamed of Sunnydale in years.

Angel could have helped, but Angel's not here.

Oz never should have come, but he's here now, in better circumstances than he's found for years, new clothes on his back and food in his belly. Wesley's something of an odd bird, half-psycho and half-pathetic, but there's a flat, intelligent glitter to his eyes that Oz would like to unpack. At least brighten.

Wesley doesn't seem to do anything. He reads a lot, lets Oz cook him meals, occasionally asks Oz about the monastery, the marifasa and the discipline he uses. Tells him facts that are nothing like the stories Giles used to tell, even if they're about the same thing.

Exile, Oz thinks over the next several days, continually, nearly obsessively. Wes sentenced himself to exile; he might as well have slashed his own throat.

"I fought to stay alive," Wesley says one afternoon. He starts drinking promptly at one o'clock, but it never makes much of a difference that Oz can see. Makes him smell different, sure, bringing up a vague, diffuse scent of lust and sadness, but it doesn't seem to affect his speech or his movement. "In the park. Later, in the hospital. Pictured my friends' faces, planned what I would say to them. How I would explain myself."

Oz sets aside the crossword puzzle he's been working on and straightens up. Like visiting Wes's bedroom, paying attention is the least he can do toward repayment.

"Yeah?" Oz asks. He's heard this before, various slivers of the same memory. Never a story, never anything captivating; always fragments, facts, like Wes's mind is a card catalogue, like he's just reading off a series of cards. "See, that's where you lose me."

"I beg your pardon?"

Oz sits forward. He's wearing the blue shirt today; Wes is wearing white. Wedgwood china, Oz thinks randomly, then shakes his head and tries to concentrate. "Explanations never made much sense to me."

"You see," Wes says, standing, joining Oz on the sofa. Oz is getting used to Wes's proximity, just because he has to. It's the man's house, after all. "I had no ill intent."

"So?" Oz asks. He twists in his seat, facing Wes. His fingers are spread over the gray flannel of his trousers, long fingers like a pianist's, gripping himself.

"I wish they'd understand that," Wes says, like Oz hadn't even said anything.

Oz shakes his head again. Not to concentrate this time, and it's not like he wants to argue with Wes, but sometimes he gets impatient. Sometimes he wants to grab Wes by the shoulders, shake him around, make those teeth click-clack.

Oz has never seen the point of explanations. Every single day after they saw her kissing Xander, Willow would find him, search him out, offer the same explanation in slightly different words. It didn't help; it just dug the groove of pain a little deeper, scraped out a little more flesh, left him a little achier and emptier. After Veruca, after all his fuck-ups, Oz had the urge to explain; Willow probably would have listened.

He couldn't let himself. Apologizing is one thing; that's just the decent thing to do. Explaining is like forcing yourself on someone, making them adopt your opinion of yourself; it's the opposite of apology.

By the time he came back, then left again, he knew this all the better. Maybe it was the monks, maybe it was how they just lived in the present the way fish live in water, wholly and gracefully. By the time he was about to drive away the second time, Oz didn't even have an explanation to offer.

Didn't mean he wasn't sorry.

Didn't mean he's not dreaming about it every fucking second his eyes are closed.

"Oz?" Wes asks.


"Be a good sidekick and fetch another Cabernet, will you?"

Wesley thinks he's funny. He makes jokes like he's memorized them, like he's animatronic and the jokes are on an old reel-to-reel hidden in his hollow chest.

But it is his house, so Oz does what he's asked.


In the daylight, Wes researches and investigates. Should he find Angel, if Justine's telling him the truth, the gesture alone should be enough to explain his earlier actions.

Oz hardly ever speaks, but the quiet between them is more conducive to research than his former solitary silence. The boy feeds him, makes sure he eats just as he makes sure Justine's bucket is emptied and her food slid through the bars.

"How's it going?" Oz asks, setting the sandwich and glass of water down beside Wes's elbow.

"Just thinking," Wes replies. "I was useful, once."

Oz nods and settles back into his customary seat in the corner of the sofa, taking up the book he's been reading. "Probably still are."

"One can't be useful to oneself," Wes says. "I believe that's definitionally impossible."

"Right," Oz says lightly. "Okay."

He doesn't care, and Wes likes that, likes the placidity and calm that Oz brings with him even as it frustrates him, twinges at the back of his mind and heats his cheeks. "Surely you --"

Oz shrugs. "Useful's good. Never was much use myself."

"Even in Sunnydale," Wes continues, Oz's words slipping past him more quickly than wind, "I was of some use."

"Yeah," Oz says.

"You, on the other hand." Wes lifts the top piece of bread and inspects what Oz has given him today. Sprouts, leafy greens, mustard. "What did you do?"

He was always curious about Oz's presence. Present, but never wrapped up in the constant, jittery tension that crackled amongst the rest of them. He fought when necessary, fully and devotedly, but there was always an air of, if not boredom, then at least detachment around him. Rupert Giles tolerated the boy far more patiently, with a great deal more affection, than he did Xander. Even Faith spoke well of him.

"I was in love," Oz says.

Wes reassembles the sandwich. He doesn't have anything to reply, and soon enough Oz takes up his book again.


"What are you doing?"

It's always Justine's first question, often her only comment to Oz when he opens the closet door and squats down.

"Seeing how you are."

She is strong, Oz can tell, but beaten. Internally bruised, desperate to mask that with a rigid, deliberate anger.

"How the hell do you think I am?"

He nods at that and slides a tray of salami sandwiches and cookies under the bars. She wouldn't eat the bologna he used to make her.

They never fed him when he was caged. He'd wake with his stomach yawning hugely and emptily.

"Need anything?" he asks.

She flips him off and Oz has to respect that.


Lilah appears as randomly as anything else in Wes's life these days. A week can go by without a word, and then she will call, stop by, email, several times in a single day.

At night, he and Oz hunt the docks, interview harbormasters and captains-for-hire. Oz's nostrils twitch and Wes wonders how dangerous it would be to suggest a collar and a leash.

Oz is good at talking to Justine; he has a touch, a certain gentleness, that Wes lacks, that the woman responds to.

Oz says it's the simpatico of the cage. He blinks when Wes laughs at that, thinking it's a joke.

With Lilah, however, Oz is, if it's possible, even more reticent than usual. He retreats to the small office-cum-guest room, or busies himself in the kitchen. If Wes didn't know better, he might think that the boy was scared of her.

Wes does know better. Oz isn't scared of anything. He slides around fear, stalks past it, nostrils flaring, glides into your bed and takes you in hand. He displaces fear, rearranges knowledge, silently, gracefully.

"He doesn't like me, does he?" Lilah says, leaning against the wall, her arms loosely crossed. She watches Oz disappear into the office, the door clicking shut.

"I don't expect he does, no," Wes says. "The boy does have exquisite taste."

Lilah gives him one of her knife-fast smiles and drops her eyes in that faux-naive manner that at once angers and captivates him. Despite himself, despite knowing just how false it is, he waits for it each time. Craves it. "You're not training him all that well, then. Would have expected better of you."

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

She's unbuttoning her silk shirt, tugging it from the waistband of her skirt and tilting her head, all pretense of naivete gone. Narrowed eyes more wolfish than anything Oz could achieve. "Isn't that what you do with sidekicks? I'm sure that's what Angel wanted for his son, someone to follow him, watch his back. Learn by example."

"No doubt," Wes says, lifting Lilah's hair from her shoulders, speaking against the clammy softness of her neck. His other hand roves over her breasts, fingers inside her bra, nails on her nipple. Lilah arches against him.

He's always slightly surprised that she has a pulse, just like anyone else. She's more a vampire than most.

Oz's pulse thunders under Wes's hands at night, when they're back from the docks, his breath coming quick and shallow. Silent but so heated, so alive.

Ice and fire, right and wrong, human and demon, Lilah and Oz; Wes confuses them, willingly, hungers for both and hates himself all the more for that.


Tonight was cold and pointless. Oz spent most of the time on the boat watching Justine; she was jumpy, mouthier than usual, a constant distraction. Keep her quiet, will you? Wes muttered and Oz was halfway over to her before it occurred to him that he didn't have to.

Justine sneered at him and Oz stopped where he was.

He doesn't know what he'll do if they ever do find Angel. What he'll be like, if he can possibly help with the dreams. Worst case scenario, he'll give Oz one of those dark, pseudo-befuddled looks, and tell him to talk to Wes. Or Giles.

Oz is still shivering an hour later, still feeling the sick roll of the boat under his feet, as he settles over Wes, gripping his wrists together, staring at him from beneath lowered lashes.

They never speak beyond the same familiar script.

"What're you doing?"

Wes thrashes his head once, twice, then returns the look. "Staying alive."

He's slicked and ready, and Oz can push in in a single long stroke, shove the air from Wes's lungs, and it's tight, sunhot, alien. "What are you doing?"

Wes stretches his neck, tilts his head back, looks at his captured hands. "Staying --"

Oz shakes him, thrusts short and hard, and Wes's eyes close, face contorting even as his body relaxes, as one leg wraps around Oz's waist. It's no answer, it's the wrong answer, and Wes is too stubborn, too arrogant, too far gone to see that.


He needs to be more careful.

Wes knows this. He wakes in the mornings, hand reaching out, finding cold pillow and empty space beside him. When they finish at night, when Oz has brought him trembling, nearly screaming, to the edge and then pushed him off, Icarus falling, he leaves. Wes will find him curled on the couch, arms wrapped around himself, face hidden in the cushions.

In his half-sleeping state, however, Wes still reaches for him, fingertips still expecting to find warm skin, soft hair.

He can't have this.

"What did you think you needed Angel for?" he asks over breakfast.

He knows that Oz stays for Angel, out of some older loyalty, some newer need, that, as it did with Faith, with Connor, has nothing whatsoever to do with Wes. He hasn't asked Oz about Angel in weeks, wonders if he'll get any kind of different (better) answer now. Now that they've spent so much time together, now that they presumably know each other, now that he's screamed most of his secrets to Oz's impassive face.

"Help," Oz says. "Told you."

"Of course you did."

Sunlight streams into the room, golden-brassy-russet; since Oz has been here, the curtains are open, the light stronger. The flat looks and feels different, as if Wes is visiting someone else's home.

"You're welcome to --" Wes begins and stops. Oz stirs the odd, lumpy hot cereal he consumes each morning with his Tibetan broth and does not look at him.

"Go on," Oz says. Eats.

"To stay. In bed. If you like --" They don't speak about this outside of the bedroom, and Wes is struck, suddenly and fully, by the paranoid suspicion that perhaps it's all been a delusion. A forgery, even, he thinks and bites back the laugh. Perhaps Oz does not visit him; perhaps he's madder than he ever suspected. "You should feel comfortable."

"Sure," Oz says. "Okay."

He still looks like the choir boy Wes first dressed him as. Despite the stubble, despite the steel rings in his brow and ears, Oz is untouched, terminally, impossibly young. Vivid but still, across Wes's table, crisp shirt -- pink today -- half-untucked as he spoons that concoction into his mouth.

"We'll be going over the tidal charts this morning," Wes says.


Wes talks to him like Giles, like Snyder, like he just assumes you're going to listen to him. But he doesn't have Giles's gentleness or Snyder's authority. Sometimes Oz wonders if Wes talks like that to convince himself more than whoever's listening.

Oz sets down his empty bowl, then his spoon.

Irritation prickles over his shoulderblades, down to the small of his back. There is gratitude, then there is repayment, but then, finally, there's simply disrespect.

There is finding Angel, but then there's letting Wes push him around like a doll, like a satellite.

Justine's in a cage. Oz, for once, isn't.

"That so?" Oz asks and sips his tea.

Wes is already busy unrolling maps and pulling out his calculator.



"Not your employee. Let alone your servant."

Wes cocks his head like Oz suddenly switched over to French and he needs a moment to adjust. "Of course not."

"So don't talk to me like that."

Setting down an almanac, Wes then adjusts his glasses. "Like what?"

"Can't tell me what to do." Oz's skin tightens, somehow, like the wind just kicked up, out on the water, and he forgot his sweater.

"Oh, no?"

"Not how this works," Oz says.

Wes sits on the edge of the table, one leg swinging slightly. He's wearing a mean, slight smile. "How does this work, Daniel?"

He's told Oz that Daniel's a much better name, that Oz is a child's name, a vagrant's, a ne'erdowell's. That Daniel has a certain gravitas.

He likes it so much, he can have it. Anything's better than Wesley.

Oz isn't surprised that Angel trusted Wes to kill him. Wes is, more and more every day, an assassin. Heartless, robotic, skilled at waiting. Hollow and he tastes like metal and wine.

If Oz was still in Sunnydale, if he believed in names and roles other than exile and monster, he might think he could do something about that. Help Wes somehow, reach out to him beyond repayment of a debt, show him the ease and warmth of friendship.

He hasn't been in Sunnydale for a long time, though. Nor is Wes easy to care for, possible to reach.

"For that matter," Wes says and picks a stray thread off the seam of his pants, "what is this?"

Oz closes his eyes briefly, recalls the Heart Sutra, first forward, then backward. "Not what you think."

"I don't think anything," Wes says.

A moment ago, half a lifetime ago, he wanted Oz to stay in his bed. Now he's sneering, quiet and mean. Just like his girlfriend. Both of them.

"Right," Oz says. "And I don't have freckles on my ass."

Wes winces at what he'd call the crudity of that statement. That he can deem things crude after the shouts he gives in bed, after the sting of his skin on Oz's palm, after the harsh, rough whines he gives when Oz presses two fingers on his windpipe to match the two up his hole, is funny. Or it would be, if Oz felt like smiling.

"Come off it," Oz says, and there's a calm inside him that he doesn't like. It's the pre-moonrise calm that holds and tightens in between the shivers. It's fateful and irresistible and creepy as fuck. "What do you want from me?"

Wes looks back at him, eyes flat and blue behind his glasses, lips blanched as they roll against each other. As he, visibly, ostentatiously, thinks that over.

"You want me to leave?" Oz asks. He knows the answer, knows that somehow, for some reason, Wesley needs him. Wants him. Same as he needs Lilah, like it's a scale, like he has to balance good and evil. Like it's all up to him.

Except Oz isn't good, any more than Lilah is purely evil. Nor, for that matter, is Oz all that sure he wants to be wanted. Not like this.


Wes swallows tiny slivers of ice, the size and sharpness of razorblades, a cascade of them, nearly choking him.

The boy looks up at him, eyes wide and green, his cheeks pink. Lips slightly parted, almost imploring. That brief flare of anger Oz just showed has left Wes unsettled, almost confused. Oz is himself again, however, eyes pure and clear, voice disarmingly steady. He needs something from Wes, needs to be shown something, taught something.

Wes doesn't know what it is. He doesn't know anything.

Oz is -- has been -- so placid, so pliable. Attentive, almost anticipatory, to Wes's needs, to their search (hunt) for Angel, and it has lulled Wes. Allowed him to believe that the boy cares for nothing for himself, is nearly nothing. Is the exemplar of his ridiculous religion, dharma and emptiness.

But Oz is like anyone else. He needs.

"No," Wes says finally. He cannot look away from Oz's small, sharp face. "I don't want you to leave."

Oz smiles then, widely, completely. Wes has never seen him make more than the smallest gesture, the most controlled expression. Still smiling, Oz stands, walks down the hall. Wes follows. Perhaps they'll fuck now, in full sunlight, out of the dark, anew and passionate.

Oz doesn't stop at the bedroom. He continues to the office. He retrieves a small duffel bag from beside the couch and turns around.

"I'll be going, then," he says.

Wes can't help it. He gapes. Oz is still smiling, calm and happy. He slides past Wes, goes back out into the hall.

"Now?" Wes asks, following, stupid and slow.

"Good a time as any."

He grabs Oz's sharp shoulder, the bone rolling under his hand, and spins him back around. Oz doesn't flinch, but goes with the motion, lets Wes shove him against the wall. Hollow thump of flesh on plaster.

"No," Wes says. Hears his own voice as if tuned on a radio in the next room, shrill and clogged with static. "You're not."

"I am."

Baffling, infuriating confidence on that boyish face. Mendacious, worse than Lilah, than Justine. Faith. Angel. He doesn't care about Wes, never did.

"You're a fucking monster," Wes says. Spittle flies. He's making a scene.

Oz rolls his head against the wall, looks at the door to Justine's closet. "So are you. Worse, actually."

Stupid boy. Wes's scar throbs, hot and sharp, his skull filling with a dull red haze, his eyes burning and wet. He might as well be on his back again, in the park, in the hospital. Near death, tenaciously resisting for those who will never understand.

No one will ever understand him.


Oz lopes down the street, his bag slung across his chest. Clean clothes, food in his belly, and a twenty in his pocket. He hopes Angel gets found; it'd be a shame to lose him.

As for Oz, he'll be fine.

LA's no place for a werewolf. Or a human being.


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