Knowing Me, Knowing You

Angel watched the threads of saliva dance from the Oz-wolf's jaw as it clawed futilely away at the wire mesh that enclosed it. Its ink black eyes looked back at the man that stood a few inches away from it, and flashed with rage. Angel was close enough to see, to hear, to smell, but just not quite close so that the Oz-wolf could use its claws and its teeth to pierce the pale flesh. It growled at the vampire, who returned the gaze, if not the growl.

I was the fist time he'd agreed to look after Oz in the library, and he'd never realised just how much the quiet, reserved young man changed when he was confined to a tiny part of another creature's mind. The parallels were almost too obvious. Angelus might look like Angel, talk like him and walk like him but he was only the echo of the besouled Angel. And yetˇ because he retained the memories of what he had done it was as if he had been there all along. A horrified onlooker, powerless to stop the destruction caused by his own hands. His own teeth. Oz, of course, didn't remember anything of when he was a wolf, but Angel imagined that wouldn't make him feel any less guilty if he were to hurt someone.

Like Angel, Oz had become a monster at an early age. The rest of his life changed by one simple bite. Oz was only a danger a fraction of the time, of course. On the other hand, this confinement three nights a month would always be required. Unless someone found a cure. Something that there could never be for Angel. He would never see his reflection again.

He really should get to know Oz better; of all of Buffy's friends, he was the one of which he knew least. But he wanted to find out more, if only because he and Oz had more in common than, well, any of the others. Even Buffy. But not today.

The Oz-wolf was quiet now, and Angel sat down at a table, flipping idly through one of Giles' books. It was getting late, or rather, early. Xander was supposed to relieve Angel of duty before dawn so that the vampire could slip home in safety. He had better arrive soon; the sun wouldn't wait.

The sun did not. Xander had not arrived by the time Helios burst above the horizon, and Angel remained in the library. He got up, avoiding the places where sun fell across the floor of the library, and peered into the cage.

The buttery light of the morning cast slivers of light across Oz's sleeping form. His skin was translucent and pale, the freckles across the tops of his shoulders providing the only contrast. Then the small man stirred, and rolled over onto his back, arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross. Angel knew he should give Oz privacy but couldn't not look at the naked person in front of him, and couldn't repress the thoughts than ran through his head. He didn't want to.

The sound of Xander arguing with Willow suddenly echoed from the corridor as they approached the library, and Angel briefly turned to look at the door, swallowing. He looked back at Oz, for one last glance before he moved away from the cage and his eyes met Oz's, and Angel's mouth opened a little, suddenly sticky.

But Oz said nothing. He smiled a little, and nodded. Angel blinked, nodded in return, then moved across the floor to the table, just as Willow and Xander swung open the doors.

He travelled home under a blanket in Oz's van. His driver said nothing during the journey, except as he drew up to the mansion.

"I have a free period first thing."

Maybe today Angel would get to know Oz better after all.