Something On The Outskirts

He's sitting there.

Just sitting there, so characteristically silent it's about to drive me insane, wondering what's going through his head.

What exactly do you think when you fear your girlfriend is going to die?

All the bickering is going on around him; I watch with brutal fascination as he takes it all in and lets the arguments just roll off. There are no "what-ifs," no alternate possibilities for him.

Everything is about getting her back. Alive. I remember that feeling, like one of those dreams where you're running and running but your goal is just getting farther away. You think you'll never be able to get there in time and your whole world will crash down in ghastly splinters.

Have you ever dropped a mirror and seen your shattered face staring back at you, broken up into so many pieces you think you're looking at a reflection of your soul? I did, once, long ago. Long before I died, but the memory has remained. I'm curious to know if he's going through the same thing.

So when Wesley keeps pounding away about the end of the world and so on and so on he finally just stands up. I think I'm the only one paying really close attention as he crosses to the basin to be used for the destruction spell and sends it crashing to the floor.

Like coming out of a haze, everyone stares, and that's it. Question answered, if there really was one to begin with. We get Willow back.

Whatever the cost.

In the ensuing silence, he slowly walks out. No discussion needed; that's the way he lives his life, only saying what needs to be said. I see so much of myself in him...

And I know he's terrified. I remember the feeling when Buffy died, rushing through the tunnels and praying it wasn't too late, and then it was. Seeing her lying there, face-down in the pool of water... Only once have I wished with my entire being that I'd never been cursed with my soul. Right then, looking at her lifeless body. What cosmic cruelty allowed me to love only to force me to lose?

I know what he's feeling and I have to go after him. As I start towards the door, Buffy steps forward. "Angel, maybe he needs -"

I catch her eyes, revel in that silent communication we have that makes her stop short. "I've been there, Buffy. He shouldn't be alone."

I briefly see her nod on my way out, and I'm just in time to see him duck into stairwell to the roof. Following, I find him staring out over the lawn, the street, the rows of well-matched suburban roofs. "We'll get her back. Everything will work out fine," I say softly, stepping up behind him, mere inches away.

He stuffs his hands into his pockets. "Happily ever after? Don't you know that's just for fairy tales?"

"Oz." No reproach in my voice, only searing sympathy. "Buffy meant what she said. She won't let anything happen to her. I won't let anything happen to her."

"Huh." He turns around, cold undirected rage deep within his eyes. "Why doesn't that make me feel any better?"

"I don't know." My eyes catch on one matted bit of his hair, off to the left and back. It seems so out of place with the rest of the casual spikes. "Because you know Buffy and I can't control everything? You know I'm lying through my teeth and I'm every bit as scared as you are?"

He leans closer, his warm breath tickling my chin. "Who are you scared for, Angel? Willow? Or me?"

I close my eyes. He's so close, too close...not used to being alone with him, so utterly alone and so mind-numbingly close...

"You," I spit out. "Willow knows what's happening where ever she is. You're the one in the dark. You're the one left wondering. And you're the one who has to live with the outcome. Good or bad."

"And there we have it," he agrees in a whisper so soft I'm not sure anyone without supernatural hearing could pick up on it. "The outcome, Angel; it can be good or bad."

I'm shocked that I'm actually shocked when he presses his lips to mine, when he gently swipes the tip of his tongue into the confines of my mouth. But that's most certainly the end of my shock, because I've always known what I'd do if I ever got him this close.

My hands slowly rise, move in to cup his cheeks and knead into his flesh, provide some stabilizing balance as our kiss become rougher, faster...fiercer. Beast against beast, until we jerk apart, Oz's humanity forcing his breath to come in ragged pants. "Do you get it now, Angel?" he growls, sadness etched all over him.

The only thing left is to tell the truth. "No."

"There's always something, man. A little something on the outskirts...always the little possibility of something different, something just that much more exciting..."

He's on me again, easy and light this time, rubbing his hip against my groin as he tortures my tongue with tiny wisping licks...and then he's gone again, heading for the door back to the stairwell. It opens and one small strip of the roof is flooded with light.

"It's just how it is, Angel." He shrugs. "Happily ever afters aren't real; I don't think they ever have been."