I'm nervous. I don't like it. My chest is tight with apprehension, my mouth,
despite the application of Dutch courage, is dry. All for the sake of meeting
someone I haven't seen in ten years.
I sip my red wine, and stare into the yellow flame of the elegant, tall, white
candle in front of me. The slightly smoky smell from the wick helps cancel the
assault of different aromas around me. Then, a look towards the glass door as
it opens to admit someone else into the restaurant... but not him. So I look back
at the flame. Laying my glass down, I start playing with a lock of my hair,
and let out another sigh.
I'm not really sure why I'm so wound up. I'm trying to keep a lid on it, because
I'm sure this place has a dress code that prohibits fur. But it isn't easy.
Which is stupid because, of all the people from then, he's the one I had least
history with. I suppose I'm afraid of judgement. Of all of the questions that
he's going to ask. Of finding out what's happened to everyone, and the inevitable
feelings of guilt if Buffy or... anyone has died, because I could have should
have? been there to help.
But I wasn't assuming anybody has died because I left. I couldn't deal
with not being a part of Willow's life like I was, and I worried that I would
end up hurting someone if I stayed. And I used the excuse of the Initiative,
not that anyone really believed it. I left and I've stayed away for ten years,
and I haven't spoken a word or exchanged a single letter with any of the old
Scooby Gang since. At first it was just a mixture of laziness and forgetfulness.
But then, later, when I wasn't being lazy and I had remembered, it was just
too difficult. Too scary, the thought of seeing or speaking to any of them again.
Besides, my life had moved on. They were a part of my history, not my present,
and I wanted to keep it that way because it was easier to deal with.
I would have kept it that way too, except for what happened last night. When
I learned how to control the wolf at least, prevent it from surfacing at the
full moon I was a rare breed; the knowledge I have isn't well known, and difficult
to learn. I'm lucky. But werewolf pelts are still in demand by the people of
Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and Japan and the rest of those places where bits of
endangered species are considered an acceptable commodity. Technically, I'm
not an endangered species, of course, but you still don't get that many werewolves.
Worse for me, I'm a known werewolf; my encounter with Cain all those years ago
made sure of that.
However, I had thought that my ability to control the wolf would have meant
that those wackos wouldn't ever bother me. For ten years that was true, until,
it seems, the hunters figured out that the control is disrupted if you make
us angry. As that scientist from the Initiative put it, the wolf responds to
negative stimulation'. I may be a rare breed, but it seems there are enough
of us out there to make it worthwhile for Cain and his mob to spend time figuring
I wouldn't ever have found that out except that I kept in touch with two other
werewolves I met on my travels when I was younger that knew the same things
I did. One is already dead and probably on his way to Sri Lanka, and the other...
I don't know. He gave me an urgent call to tell me what was up, and said he'd
call again... but I haven't heard from him in a few days. Then, last night, they
came for me. They were waiting in my apartment, tried to jump on me when I went
in. I dodged out of the way, and staggered back into the hallway. They were
the hunters, I was sure; the faint tang of werewolf blood hung around them as
a warning they were unaware existed. I managed to get away with a few bruises
and no wolfing out, but I can't just go home, not now. I don't have anywhere
else to go. In short, I needed help.
So I called Angel Investigations. A woman, who sounded English, answered the
telephone Angel must be collecting Watchers and I told her I needed to see
Angel. I didn't say who I was, or why I needed to see him. Just that I did.
Reluctantly, she arranged for us to meet in this restaurant, so here I am. I'm
not sure what Angel can do, but I'm hoping he'll know.
Which brings me back to my nervous waiting. The door swings open, and in walks
a tall, dark man, the tails of his duster swirling about his legs. The same
old Angel. My stomach lurches at the sight of the vampire. He looks around,
then his eyes lock onto mine, and his mouth falls open in surprise. He moves
over to me, and I stand up to greet him.
"Oz! I'm here to meet you?"
I nod. He opens his arms and we hug. We're hugging. As my face is pushed towards
his chest, the rush of his pheromones drenches my hypersensitive nose in an
ocean of pure lust, mixed in with a musky aftershave. There, you see, is the
other reason I was so nervous. Everyone releases pheromones; most of us don't
know it. Thanks to my werewolf-American heritage, however, I do. And Angel gives
off more than anyone else I've ever met. Naturally, it helps that Angel is very
handsome, that he has a presence, but the reason that so many people find him
attractive is his pheromones. It drives me wild. Not that I'm going to start
humping his leg, but there's a large part of me that would like to. We separate,
and I quickly sit down. He joins me.
"How's things?" he asks.
"Not great." I say, and then briefly explain the situation.
"So you called me." I nod again. "Well, I'm sure we can help you. And seeing
as you're a friend there'll be no charge."
"Thanks, but won't Cordelia have something to say about that?"
He gives a sad smile. "She would have done. But... she died a couple of years
A wave of nausea courses through me. "A demon?" I whisper.
He shook his head. "That's the ironic thing. It was a car accident; she survived
all manner of demons and vampires to die in a crash."
"I'm sorry." There's a pause. I decide to change the subject. "Is Wesley still
there?" Willow had said he'd started to work for Angel the last time I saw her.
"Kind of... it's complicated." He seemed uncomfortable. Change subject again.
"So who's the woman I spoke to on the phone?"
"Oh... that's Wendy. She's a Watcher."
"Another one?" He just smiled. I think for a moment and a wicked thought crosses
my mind. I thought that the voice was familiar... maybe I shouldn't say anything.
I decide to ask anyway.
"Angel, is Wendy... was she Wesley?"
He looks shocked, and I wonder if I've put my foot in it again.
"How did you guess?" he asks.
"How did it happen?" I respond, grinning at the thoughts in my head.
"We made an enemy of a particularly Wicca. She decided that he was so much
of a woman that he should actually be one. Then she disappeared, and we haven't
been able to track her down. Willow's tried to change him I mean, her back,
but she wasn't able. So she's stuck as Wendy."
"How's he, uh, she coping?"
"To be honest... I think she likes it now."
"It's never dull around with you or Buffy."
"That it's not. So, shall we get some food?"
"That'd be cool." I look into his eyes and he smiles back. The nervousness
returns, my smile fades and I swallow. He takes it as something else.
"Don't worry about the hunters, Oz." He puts his hand over mine on the table
for a moment, and gives it a squeeze. "It'll be OK."
Sure, the line's tacky. But he was sincere. Maybe that was the most attractive
thing of all.