Hail, Hail

Everything, all the time.

That's what it comes down to, Oz thinks. To have gone through the experience of being placed above and far beyond human is one thing -- and indeed, his perception is always filled to bursting, his capacity for sensation increased a thousandfold. He would be mad if it hadn't.

There is a Godhood in this, though it doesn't matter in present company. If he could still shift, it might've been different, but dead flesh cannot change, no matter how much it wants to.

Oz knows he has given this to Giles, at least the rudiments of it somehow. There is a crease on his forehead that is directly related to the mildly irritating itch in his side. Darla's wound, which Oz had corrupted with his teeth.

He tells himself it would be presumptuous to tell Giles precisely why it isn't quite healing, despite his vampirism.

He knows the truth: he likes this secret thing, this sudden companionship that could grow between them, beyond Sire and fledge. This new possibility that he can barely wrap his mind around wanting.

Oz has settled within himself well enough to know a few more things for certain. He is not a werewolf so much as the trapped spirit of a long-dead true wolf. He is a not a vampire so much as the equally trapped demon of unknown species. He is not Oz so much as Oz-who-became.

He belongs to Giles, body and souls.

Giles belongs to him, equally. Pack, and Oz will mount him and give his demon fits. Oz knows the smile has made it to his face when Darla returns it with one of her own. She drinks from Drusilla every night, and so is healing very fast now.

Oz knows that none of them have any idea what to do about Glory.

On the one hand, pointing Glory towards her key, this Dawn that he does and does not remember now that he knows, would surely rid them of Buffy. And that leads to the interesting question of whether or not another Slayer would be called, or if the mystical line would re-center itself in Faith, safely locked away.

A jailed, unstable Slayer is surely better than the free-range variety... which would suggest that the Watchers' Council would either have her freed or killed.

A fresh, untrained Slayer would be better than both.

And yet, none of this could come to pass without bringing themselves to the attention of an unstable Goddess, whose motives are completely unknown. Oz has the urge toward destruction, it's true, but he would rather it be on the terms of himself and his family, not some crazed deity.

Oz wants the time to settle in with this for a while, to curl at Giles' feet and spend the day shaping and reshaping the metaphysical questions and theological discoveries. They all actually lived in a polytheistic universe. Oz could walk up to a practicing monotheist and say, hey, you're wrong.

It's staggering to know that. Absolutely stunning.

And what if the mono/poly dichotomy didn't work at all? What if Glory was part of the One In Many? If they were, actually, plotting around God, as opposed to a god. This is a situation in which pot would be both a necessity and the most wrong thing imaginable.

They have to think. He has to think, add his mind to the group's. Put aside the stark terror.

When had philosophy ever meant so much?

Oz wonders, for the first time, what part of him, what who of him will go to Hell when he dies permanently.

Oz wonders if he can change his sense of religion now -- or, he supposes, develop one -- to avoid the. Pitfalls. Drusilla is giggling, so he doesn't have to.

Oz wonders if there is a way to run from this, and knows that it isn't just his inner demon being sensible.

And yet, other demons have been seen in her company, and she (She?) had transfigured more... perhaps she preferred demons to humans, and wished to create some sort of paradise?

And what would that be? A world without Slayers?

The wolf in him rebels at the idea. There's something... not right about that. Unnatural. Though there was the whole matter of God, or, maybe all of the Gods deciding just what would be natural. Like, maybe they'd argued about whether gravity should exist, or if it should shut on and off randomly, with people and demons and others occasionally floating right up into the sky and out beyond the atmosphere and.

Right about here would be where Devon supplied a "dude," and took away the joint.

Oz is feeling intensely himself, more than any dream of sunlight could provide.

Perhaps all vampires recalled their humans when faced with something truly eternal.

If Gods were eternal. Something there. Something niggling.


Devon's mother invites him in, smiling. She'd always felt he was a good influence on her son -- it was in the pointed looks she'd give Devon across the dinner table whenever Oz stayed over.

Devon, over the years, had done his part to corrupt Oz as much as possible in response. At the last, before Jordy's bite, before Willow, Devon had seen Oz as a qualified success, at best.

Devon had been oddly angry. Or at least it had seemed odd then.

"You never just ride it," he'd said. "You never just... fuck, man, you're not here at all, are you?"

"I'm here."

"You're not."

"I am."

"Yeah?" Bright eyes half-visible through the haze inside the van, just enough silence to make it seem serious, though not serious enough for the Oz-that-was to focus on it.

"Yeah. I'm here."

"Dude, we just had a serious conversation using, like, eight words."

"It's because we're guys."

Laughter, slow, pot-clumsy sex. More laughter, and that was the last of it.

Brief moments with Willow in his arms, wondering if there was something more to her self-consciousness than just her own experiences with years of unrequited love, but not wondering too deeply. There was something always so forbidding about certain kinds of self-analysis, even as he'd wallowed in others.

Here, now, Devon grinning into his neck, long arms wrapped around him, Oz is unafraid of himself.

Oz is here now. Here now. All of him.

They catch up. Devon tells him about the new guitarist, and his deep love for 80s hair rock. Oz tells him about the way the desert had wanted to eat him alive, and how he'd almost let it. About being a vampire in a werewolf's body. Or however it feels right then.

Devon just nods.

"Aren't you afraid?"

"Hey, you know. Sunnydale. And. I knew." Eye contact, and Devon's so open it pulls Oz closer.

Finds himself running a hand over the contours of Devon's face, looking for something that would make Devon stop thinking and just talk.

"You were always just so little, man. Your heartbeat just. Right there, everytime I held you. And... nothing."

Kissing Devon like this is shocking. So much heat it feels dangerous. So wet and soft. Oz feels as though he's raping Devon's mouth, but Devon doesn't seem to mind.

Devon kissing him back and doing that nose thing, rubbing up against his face somewhere between a nuzzle and an Inuit kiss. Perhaps Eskimo would be the better word now, though. Eater of flesh, devourer of small, human worlds.

"I could kill you."




Giles is outside with Devon's mother when he leaves. Devon sleeps through the sounds. Giles' allows him to arrange the body neatly, but not to close the door.

"That was... impetuous, Oz."

"Also surprising. I didn't think humans could still be..."


Oz half-nods. He can't think of anything better.

"Your nature is unique, of course, but we've known vampires to be varied..." Giles trails off, obviously thinking on something, but, for the moment, not sharing.

He has dressed as a former self. An apparition from Oz's first senior year, edged sharp and graceful. Drusilla has heard the stomp and crunch of Slayer feet all over the biscuits, and they've all taken it to mean that she has stepped up patrols.

Two missing witches and a Watcher, too. And quite a few of the Watcher's books.

Darla had demanded they find minions to do the move for them, but had to admit it would be too noticeable.

Darla and Spike both seem to miss direct action, but since they will not agree with each other what course to take, there will be no... runaways?

Will they have a prodigal of their own, or will it always be Angelus?

Giles' kill for the night is a man locking up his real estate office. Oz can taste his laboring breath from this distance, and knows the satisfaction of exactly the right sort of prey brought down.

It makes him think about Xander, wonder if he's found a person to be yet. Someone he can like. He wonders what it would have been like to know him, wolf to hyena. Would they have liked each other? Been able to stand each other's scent?

Drenched in Devon's scent, Oz is forced to consult this new/ old part of him that deals in emotions beyond those in his -- apparently indestructible -- hindbrain.

Giles: Admirable, fascinating. Magnetic.

Spike: Fun. In need. Also magnetic, but different.

Darla: Beautiful. In need. Dangerous.

Drusilla: Beautiful. In need. Terrifying.



Oz doesn't know whether to trust the first words that come to his mind, finds himself at a loss to self-define. Yes, those are his feelings for them. Could they possibly be the same for him?

And just how insecure had Angel been as a mortal anyway?


In the end, they decide to simply ask. Track the unique scent to Sunnydale's best hotel, a mostly useless sprawl of absolute luxury in a town on very few maps. Oz remembers walking past it, tripping with Devon and Mike. Staring up at faux Spanish revival that somehow retained a basic class.

Wondering how it stayed open.

Now, all five of them are standing in a lush, red corridor, waiting on the word of a demon whose species Spike and Giles argue about with a sort of good-natured viciousness. They are the line of Aurelius, the best, smartest, strongest, and most feared. Slayers have fallen to their number. Their fear is so rank that Oz can't keep his nose from twitching.

Slayers have fallen to their number, but Glory has tossed the girl who could very possibly be the best Slayer to have ever lived around like a rag doll, and then simply ignored her.

None of them have ever ignored a Slayer. And then there's the fact that she's a goddess.

Oz has never been happier to be the mascot.

People rarely throw mascots around.

Gods might, though.

His family stands as though anything with a nose and an half functional brain couldn't tell they were near to wetting themselves. Oz stands with them, and does breathing exercises that merely make him more nervous.

Apparently, his dead body really doesn't need that much oxygen.

It's only ten minutes before she grants them audience, and nowhere near long enough. They walk in order of age, save for Oz, who shamelessly heels Giles.

She sprawls amidst a wreckage of shopping bags, packaging, and trays of salad.

"Well. There you all are. I'm hungry."

The disputed demon scurries out of the corner, bowing and trembling. "Yes, most exquisite one?"

"I don't want this rabbit food. Take it away!"

He moves to do so, a heretofore unnoticed friend helping. The two demons move among them, quickly and neatly. Their fear is different, even beyond their species. It's more... permanent somehow. Excepted. Like the happiness of some of the more popular, less intelligent people in his classes -- a dully steady contentment, woven right into their bones, almost.

Glory is tapping her foot, tossing her hair like an odd cross between a twelve year old girl and a restive horse.

She has the same wholesome prettiness as Darla, though one that is far better fed. She's smiling at him.

"You really are a little cutie aren't you, halfling?"

"I try." Blinks when it comes out normally.

"Aren't you darling. Can I have him?" Looking directly to Giles, whose hand tightens on his shoulder once, but briefly. He is a pragmatist. Oz can't feel his feet.


"Oh, you Sires are always so possessive. I should have a baby. All the best clothes, get her into a good pre-school. Hmm. What should I name her?" she asks the room at large. "And where's my real food?"

The first demon rushes in with another tray. A deli sandwich and pickle artfully arranged with something else vaguely reddish serving as garnish. It's one of those things that don't quite fit, like filet mignon on Wonder bread. Also, there is New England clam chowder. And crackers.

"This is going to make me so fat and then I'll have to eat more salad which I hate and why why why can't I have my key?"

"If I may, Glorificus?"

"Call me Glory. What's your name?"


"Oh, that's so cute! Darrrr-la. Those are great shoes."

"There's this darling boutique Dru and I found in L.A."

"You have to show me!"

Darla smiles and giggles, and it's almost real. Oz's fear is more of the bemusing variety, but he remains alert.

"Your colors are so loud! All swirly and bright..." Drusilla dances something old and complicated around Spike, who smiles openly and half-sways with her before Giles nudges him back to attention.

"I don't know you, do I?" Glory turns to Darla. "Did I..." waggles her fingers, "you know. To her soul?"

Darla smiles. "Oh, no, that was Angelus."

Glory nods sagely, kicks her feet. "I need more hot peppers."

The demons scurry back with hot peppers.

"Hunh. I need my KEY!!" The room shakes, but nothing happens. "It was worth a try." Glory picks up the small bowl of soup and blows across it. "So. What do you guys want?"

"Well, Glory, that's just it. We want to know what... well, what your intentions are toward our. Well, our universe."

"My intentions toward the universe?" Glory falls back on the bed laughing, soup just barely not sloshing over her bare forearms. Oz watches the soup intently. Cannot, in fact, tear his eyes away from the bowl. If it spills... if it spills something will happen.

Oz isn't ready to die again. He wants to make it to forty-five, one way or another. An adult age, with a certain amount of wisdom and coolness still within reach and Glory is still laughing and Oz whines, a little helplessly.

Giles is thankfully still there to squeeze his shoulder. There's something inherently wrong about being face to face with God. A God. Too many questions answered that he'd have to think about later.

Too many conclusions to make peace with and Glory's wound down a bit, making those post-laugh sighs and grinning... well, like a lunatic.

"Wow, you guys are so organized. I haven't even got my key yet and you're here, covering your asses. Man. I love being a Goddess."

They look at each other and stand, firming themselves as much as possible.

"Well, OK, you guys are kinda fun and cute and different. I'll make you a deal. I'll tell you what I'm going to do and you...."


"Tell me where you got those shoes."

Dru leans close to Glory. "They came from the cowwws."

"Uh, huh."

"Ah, Glory, Dru is just trying to be helpful. Let's see, I think I kept a card..."

And Darla had, because that was just the kind of universe he existed in now. Flakes of dried blood dusted down to the floor when she pulled it out of her handbag.

Glory bounced on the bed and whooped. "Road trip, boys!" Stood and started tossing clothes in a garment bag before abruptly leaping back onto the bed and jumping up and down. "I! WANT! MY! KEY!" The window broke in its frame.

And then she jumped back down and smiled. "OK, you guys have been good. Here's the deal -- I get my key, I re-enter... what are you kids calling it these days? Valhalla?"

"Heaven?" Giles voice is unsteady.

"There you go! I re-enter heaven, and take back my rightful place among the Powers."

"And... then?"

"Funtime! Now get out. Go. Scoot! NOW!"

They don't stop running until they're back at the mansion.


Later, hastily fed and essentially prowling within five entirely separate spaces, there is time to think.


"Really, Spike, that's rather inappropriate now, don't you think?"

"Oh, bloody fine. RUPERT."


"Useless bloody fledgling. Is Armageddon a good thing or a bad thing?"

It's a good question.