Fluidity Overcomes Rigidity
by Tesla

Giles thinks that Oz is too careless of himself. Oz wants to laugh, would laugh if it wasn't so sad. Giles is the one who can break, has broken, is still breaking. He won't let Oz fix it. "You try to fix everything," Giles said.

"Man. No," Oz had said, gripping the wire of the library cage, from the outside, looking at Giles inside. "Not some Mr. Fix-It, at all."

"Or you care too much about everyone and everything," Giles pursued, as if he was researching something for Buffy to go kill, instead of talking about hearts and minds. Hearts and minds, the things that the Scoobies pretended didn't matter, when they were the only things that mattered. "Your compassion can be a burden at times, you know, Oz."

Oz let go of the cage, and turned to pick up his guitar case.

"Don't be offended," Giles said, but said it still in his older'n'wiser voice. No use even discussing, let alone arguing, when he was in that groove.

"No, it's cool," Oz said, and turned to look at him as he said it, gave him the openness of his face. "I'm gone, then."


No place really that he wanted to go to; too early to go to the Bronze and set up, Willow in the chemistry lab. Devon in the cheerleader's changing room with a girl. There was no good reason and a lot of grayish reasons why Oz drove out to Angel's old mansion.

He got out of the car, carrying his acoustic guitar in its crappy case. By the time he got to the door, it was swinging open, and Oz knew that Angel had been awake. He walked inside, and as he thought, Angel was behind the door, away from the light.

"Hey," Oz said.

"Hey," Angel said, and closed the door. "You want some tea?" He turned, and moved back through the shadows into the large light room and the fireplace.

"Tea's good," Oz said. It was always chilly here, unless you were in front of the fire. He followed Angel there, and saw him crouch in front of the fireplace, and pull a blackened can of water out of the fire. He had two mugs there, and tea bags.

Angel looked up, a little apologetically. "I don't have sugar or anything."

"That's fine." Oz watched him, frowning a little. Somehow, a man like that shouldn't be drinking tea out of coffee mugs and a old can. Silver teapots, china, fine things. Not that he wanted to go get those for Angel; but he had a sense of the fitness of things, of when things were out of order. And the man shouldn't be apologizing.

Things were still out of order here. Or in him.

"Giles told me today that compassion can be a burden," Oz said, taking the mug and sitting on one side of the hearth.

Angel sat on the other, looking into his mug as the tea steeped. "I don't know. There's not enough of it around, for anyone to feel burdened." He looked over at Oz. "I'm not the best one to ask."

"You didn't stay here just for Buffy," Oz said. "You're interested in what happens to other people."

Angel was silent so long that Oz had time to hear the wheezing of the burning bark in the fireplace, and for his tea to cool enough to drink it.

"I'm not ignoring you," Angel said. "I just got out of the habit of talking for a long time. And then, I talked a lot when---when I was evil."

"I get that. Some people say I'm laconic," Oz said.

Angel grinned, and as always, Oz was a little startled. Angel looked like a kid when he did that. It was kind of sad. "Heaven arms with pity those whom it would not see destroyed," he said.


"Yeah. I was just reading it. He meant that feelings of love and compassion aren't just good, and right, but ultimately self-protective. Hatred and coldness are self-destructive in the end. I'm interested, but I'm not interested enough. Considering how much I have to atone for, I haven't learned anything, really."

It was the longest Oz had heard Angel talk. "Yeah, I get that." He put the mug down. "You're back for some reason, though. Heard about the Christmas thing. So you have to be doing something right."

Angel stood up to get some sticks for the fire. "Don't worry about Giles," he said, over his shoulder. "His compassion gets worn a little thin. Since he didn't kill me as soon as he knew I was back---" he fell silent, arranging the sticks on the fire, keeping his face turned away from Oz.

"Got a tune I heard," Oz found himself saying. "Wondered if you could tell me if it was old."

Angel straightened up, brushing his palms on his worn corduroy pants. "I'm not a musician."

"Yeah, but you heard a lot," Oz said, unclasping the lid of the guitar case. "Okay?"

Angel shrugged, his hands in his pockets, but he moved to the end of the couch and sat down.

Oz sat at the other end, and played a little Celtic tune he'd heard once, a long time ago. Bothered him not to know the rest of it.

Angel shook his head. "It's probably newer Irish music. I stopped listening to the old stuff when I was turned. I'd remember it, though." He sat, wrists on his knees, dangling his long strong hands. "Mind playing something else? You're good."

"Okay," Oz said, and thought for a moment. He began to play, and Angel leaned back into the couch corner. Oz played another song, and saw the big man put his head back, and close his eyes.

He played the next song quieter, slower.

Angel was asleep.

Oz got up, not trying to be too quiet, because that's how you made noise. He put his guitar up, and eased out the door and to the van. He let the van go down the drive a bit before turning the key.


Later that night, when they were loading up the equipment in the van, Devon saw something on the windshield. "Somebody's leaving you love letters, dude."

Oz came around and pulled a piece of paper from under the windshield wiper. When he unfolded it, it was a pencil drawing of him, with his guitar, in light and shadows. He looked handsome and strong.

"Hey," Devon said from the side door. "Is it a love letter?"

Oz folded it up and put it in his jacket pocket. "Nah," he said. "Directions."


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