Viral Misery
by Puca

He shows up on my doorstep almost exactly like he did the last time he was here.

Like some bewitchment of space. One moment I am alone, the next I'm not.

However, while his posture is still outwardly courteous and contained, his eyes are restless — drifting towards an opposite truth. From there my eyes are drawn to a minute twitching at the corner of his chapped mouth, and further down to where his hands are clenched just a little to tightly.


He nods, and replies with his requisite "Hey", but his voice is parched sounding, raspy. He swallows the word back down before it has been properly finished, and tries to spit it back up in a cough.

"Are you thirsty? The t-trip here must have been long. When did you get here?"

He shakes his head and continues to lean against the door. "No water. Please. Thanks anyways. I-I came directly here. "

I slide my glasses off and frown at him.

"What's wrong, Oz? You look ill."

He nods again, evading my questioning look. He walks slowly into the room, as if the motion causes him dizziness. He sits — no, collapses — into the first chair he reaches. Leans back and coughs again, licking at his dry lips as an afterthought. His tongue looks swollen, and responds sluggishly as he tugs it back into his mouth. It doesn't seem to have helped much.

"Yeah.....I'm sick. I didn't know where else to go, Giles. I-I think it's magic."

I study him closely, noting every off-setting aspect to his haggard appearance. "When did these, ah, symptoms first appear?" I cross over to his side so that I can feel his forehead. He flinches a bit, but allows me to to check his temperature.

I can feel him shrug beneath my hand, and I get the idea that he is relying on gestures not because off a loathing to talk, but of necessity. He appears to be having trouble with his speech, and his thick, grating voice is further testament to that. Plus, he is running quite a high fever.

Already, my mind's roaming through its motley catalogue of curses and demon-inflicted ailments.

"What makes you think this might be magic, Oz?"

Oz looks up at me, his eyes dilated.

He clears his throat again, and speaks very slowly to get the words out as crisply as his tongue will allow. "Because I don't know what else it could be. I have never had a flu like this before. It has to be magic. Help me?"

His throat clenches again, and he gasps a little for breath, shivering.

He looks sickly to the point of passing out. I grab him by his forearms to help hoist him to his feet. I try to hide the pitying sympathy I'm feeling from leaking out. I've a feeling that it would bother Oz to see it.

"Sleep. You need to sleep, and I'll start looking through my books." Any questioning can be saved for later, after he is rested. To watch him trying to answer in his present state is torture — for both of us.

He looks at me, relieved. "So you'll help?"

"Yes", I promise not only him but myself as well.


I awake, still seated at my desk, to the sounds of yelling and thrown objects issuing from my kitchen.

I fumble for my glasses — having taken them off for a moment's rest that appears to have lasted hours — and make my way to the kitchen, still half asleep and groggy.

I'm met by the sight of Oz destroying my kitchen in some sort of rage.

He's shirtless and I can see by the way his chest is heaving that he's hyperventilating. He is pale, so very pale, but his face is flushed. Whether with fever or anger, I can't tell.

I am frozen there momentarily, refusing to believe what my eyes are telling me is happening. That Oz — little quiet, calm Oz — is shrieking and smashing plates. Throwing food from the open fridge against walls and to the floor. Stomping at the mess like — like Rumpelstilsten in the fairy tale.


I say it loudly, with as much authority as I can muster through the shock and sleep still gripping at my head — perhaps I'm dreaming?

He doesn't appear to hear me, simply continues to destroy my glass dishes and smear my food around the floor. He throws opens a cupboard door so hard it chips the paint, and reaches in to scoop all the jars and boxes onto the floor. Salt is thrown across the room in a white comet, raining down with a miniature hail sound. My jars of seasoning are stomped upon until the plastic splinters, the leaves and powders mixing with crushed vegetables and melting vanilla ice cream. My linoleum looks like an abstract painting done by a chef.

I slowly begin to approach him, for I haven't the slightest clue what's going on in his mind and body. My search last night turned up nothing.

I hold my hands out to show they are empty, and continue to inch forward cautiously into the Oz whirlwind.

He sees me, and stumbles backwards, over the piles of slippery food coating the floor.

"Oz, can you hear me? I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to know what is wrong." I say this as if talking to a sociopath holding a hostage. The kitchen and food appears to be the hostage here, though if was a person I strongly suspect it would be leaving the house in a body bag.

Oz bares his teeth at me, spittle coating the surface. Other than that, he appears to be lost somewhere inside where he doesn't understand me.

Could it be the wolf?

"Oz....I don't want to hu —"

He interrupts me with childish squalling, throwing his arms up to pound at the cabinets beside his head. "I want! I want to, but I can't! Why?!?! No nonono!"

This is the first sign I have seen that he's somewhat able to be reasoned with. As chilling as it is, it affords me some hope.

"Oz, tell me what's wrong. How can I help?" I start to inch forward again, making sure my empty hands are within his wild-eyed view.

"I'm fucking THIRSTY, you asshole!" He screams this at me so loudly that his already reedy voice is splintered until nothing's left but the meaning formed by his lips.

I'm taken aback, to say the least. Even his wolf would not....not use such strong words....in my presence. Something else is at work here.

He has fallen to his knees, the caked food spreading around him in an explosion of smells and colors. He looks likes a planet in the center of the sudden silence, the ruined things surrounding him like satellites.

I'm twisted from my reverie by wheezing. Oz has pulled into a fetal position, mindless of the goop and glass shards attaching themselves to his body and hair. He's panting as if he is about to vomit. He's trying to talk between the heaving breaths, I realize, and I rush forward oblivious to the danger.

All I see before me suddenly is a very young man in a great amount of pain.

"Giles....Gi-Giles....h-h-elp....hurts!" I have to lean down to his face to hear this, and I suddenly can smell him. Curdled. The boy hasn't bathed in days, if my nose is telling me the truth. How must it smell to him, with his enhanced senses?

Not good, not good signs here at all.


Still nothing from the books; when a clean Oz enters from the direction of the bathroom he looks at me in such a way that I know he knows.

"Sit down, Oz."

He does, though it is in the chair farthest from my desk.

There are all these questions I have for him, none of them very tactful or easy to ask. What is he feeling? Why come here? Why me?

I take the easy route, and stick to questions that are needed to make any headway in this enigma. Oz is calm now, eerily so in the wake of the kitchen outburst. If I hadn't seen it, I would have scoffed at the person who told me such a tale. Hell, I saw it and and still trying to make it seem less than it was. Cleaning the kitchen not only to remove the ruined stuff for sanitary and normal reasons. Also doing it so that I can pretend it wasn't nearly as bad as it was. It's hard to lie to one's self when the truth's right in front of you, the shards crunching under your heels and dripping from the walls in yolky streaks.

What I can piece together from Oz tells me is this; he started to feel ill two weeks ago. Started with the normal flu-like ailments, progressed to the point he is now. To think of him driving in this condition...fevered, weak, uncooperative muscles...it's terrifying. For that reason, I purposely do not ask him how far he had to come. Once again, I can tell myself it was an hour drive until faced with otherwise.

The will he must have, though. Even an hour's drive seems humanly impossible. Even if he's a werewolf, his body is still mortal...still small. Not much there for the virus to conquer.

Bloody hell.

"Why don't you drink if you are thirsty, Oz? Do you vomit?"

This is the closest I've come to mentioning the earlier events of the day. This is the closest I will come. But I need to ask this question for his own sake...not my own curiosity. No, certainly not that.

Oz shakes his head, and that mask of his cracks enough to see that tears are just beneath the surface. Then the shift is gone, covered by his laconic armor. "Can't"

I rise and go into the kitchen. This is stupid, if he doesn't get fluids in his system nothing I can do will help. Could it be a spell that makes him not able to drink? I don't know. But it would be twisted enough to entertain several types of demon.

I return and hold the glass out to him.

His eyes widen, and suddenly he is tilting his head away uncontrollably to look at the ceiling. His throat spasms once; twice, and he starts to drool. Oz seems to be waging a battle with himself, trying to control a body that is working independently of the mind. A phobia of the water, if I didn't know better.

"Drink!" I sit down next to him, even though the chair isn't large enough for this. Sliding my arm around him, I pull him into a more upright position, though he listlessly struggles a bit.

"You NEED to drink, Oz." He shuts his eyes, but nods. He is shaking now, a heated buzzing I can feel along my side and through the arm supporting him.

Not positive whether he can manage the glass, I try to help him. I try not to look too closely at his face. Instead, I focus on his mouth with its drool still trickling from the corners. I tilt the glass near his mouth, urging him to open his lips so that I can pour some water in.

He slowly does, and I tip the glass to pour in a very small amount. Easy does it, just a little or his body might throw it up from the shock. He holds it in his mouth for a moment, struggling with his throat muscles, and then it's running over his chin, dripping onto his clothing, my legs.

His throat is throbbing again, this time rhythmically and without pause. It looks painful, and the force of it is horrible. Strange shocking clicks are coming from Oz's mouth. His cotton textured tongue hanging a bit, he retches, but there is nothing to come out. Just those soul rending spasms. His eyes are watering, the tears running down his cheeks to combine with the water and once again frothy drool.

It looks like he's foaming at the mouth, I think vaguely.

Wait. It looks like he is foaming at the mouth. This time my mind latches upon the thought and jars me visibly.

It couldn't be, could it?

Oh hell, yes it could. It easily could.

"Oz, I'm taking you to the emergency room."

The only answer I receive is another spasm, another stream of tears from his red eyes.


"It is rabies, Mr. Giles. Classic symptoms. No doubt about it."

The doctor looks at me as if he expects me to start crying or create a scene. Instead, I sink gratefully into the cushions of the couch behind me. Rabies. It'll be ok. They can take care of that.

"Thank goodness. How long will the treatment take?"

The doctor stares at me a moment, and sits down carefully next to me.

"Sir", he says quietly...very very quietly and carefully, "once symptoms for rabies appear, it is too late. There is nothing that can be done. There is no cure."

The room is blurring. It is not my glasses, I know I am wearing them. It takes me a moment to realize that it's my eyes betraying me, and then I am hunched over.

I don't sob out loud, just let the tears run their course. I lost the ability to cry out loud long ago. My actual sobs have all used up. But Oz deserves something from me, and I will give him what tears I can.

And I do, I do. And it's not enough. Will never be enough. I promised him....I promised him!

But it is all I can do, for now.


"How long will it be?" Oz is doped up on painkillers, and staring at his jacket buttons as if they're the most intriguing things he has ever seen.

I wouldn't let him stay there. It's a disservice to Oz. And his time is not up yet. I can still find a spell, somewhere. I know exactly what I am looking for now, and I know it will only be a short matter of time until Oz can drink all the water he desires.

The doctor argued with me. Said that it was amazing that Oz was still alive at all, that the hospital could ease his pain until the end. The disease typically kills its victims within a week of the symptoms appearing.

I didn't tell him that werewolves are quite sturdy.

But it's true....and I am sure that Oz can hold in there another 24 hours. More, if need be. And I have enough bloody painkillers with me to last a week, if need be. Things to numb his throat and his nervous system. Thank God for small favors.

"How long what, Oz?"

"Time until I will be Ok?" I didn't tell him that rabies has no medical cure. I told him it was serious, and that I had a cure for him. That in the realm of magic, rabies is nothing. A trifle. A fly on the face of fixable ailments.

His grin almost made my half-lie worthwhile. Worth any lie needed to get his eyes to light up the smallest amount, to smooth out the wrinkle between his eyebrows that seems to have taken up permanent residence.

I will find him a cure. I will, I will I will. This mantra will not cease till I can change it too I have, I have, I have, I did it.

So you see, it wasn't really a lie. Not at all.

Because I will, so and that already means I have.

I have a strong will too, you know.

And I promised.


"Can I call Buffy and the others?"

Oz snuggles further down into the blankets of my bed. "No. Please."

I nod. "You sure? They, ah, can help me with the....the preparations for the spell." I am not a good liar. But they really could be of help right now. Especially Willow and Tara. They, better than anyone, would know what type of spell to help me search for.

"Can't you wait? I'm not ready to see....them." Oz says this with such quiet urgency that I nod despite what I know is better. I know by them he means Willow.

And besides, I promised I would help. And perhaps....just perhaps, there is a part of me darkly flattered that of all people he would come to me as his hope.

It affords me a bit of power in my mind, power against self-perceived powerlessness. So help me, I want to do this for Oz. I want to be the one to say, "I can help you."

But before I can do that, I need to find the cure. So I nod again and leave him to much needed rest.

What do werewolves dream of?



I have gone through at least a quarter of my books, and there's nothing.

If I needed to turn Oz in to a woman, if I needed to remove any nasty warts or skin ailments, or if I had a reason that required making him speak in the lost language of Atlantis.....these I could do.

And as for ways to kill Oz, there are countless.

But to save him, there are few. And none of those can save him in the manner needed. Save him from a rattlesnake bite, yes. That is the closest I have come.

But I still am optimistic. I have to be, or I pound the final nail into the coffin, so to speak.

Oz wanders into the room, having slept over 18 hours. He looks worse. The viral clock is ticking, is patiently bringing him closer to the tock that signals the clock has wound down to stillness.

He is very calm right now, drifting through the room on week legs. Circling, circling. The doctor said I should expect this. Periods of manic rage, periods of alert stillness.

Periods that herald the final stage. That stage that will leave him — by all rights should have already —

" — It's too bright in here." Oz starts to move towards the windows, but I beat him to them easily, drawing the blinds.


"Yes, Oz?"


I hope this is the truth. Please God, let me be telling the truth. "Yes. Tonight, after the sun has set."

"My legs aren't working right. It hurts."

"Do you want more pain killers?" I look around, trying to remember where the bag is.

"Not yet. Just thought I would tell you what i-it is like." Coughing now, to much to say for his damaged throat to handle. "C-c-c-ause it is different, y-ou know? Rabies is odd. I w-wish I remembered what gave this to me."

We had agreed that he must have been bit by another affected animal during a full moon. When is a very good question, though. It could have been the last full moon...or it could have been a year ago. There is a varied length of time until any symptoms show.

"I'm going to watch TV."

I watch Oz pad from the room, bundled in layers and layers of clothing. He had been cold.

Right, then. Back to the books.

This time, I know I will find it. I can feel it. Yes.


Oz is rocking back and forth in a corner, and is beginning to get that frantic look in his eyes again I fear heralds an outburst.

"It hurts, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts....."

A toneless primal chant, addressed to whom? I have no idea. He was repeating it when I came in, and I suppose he will continue to repeat it if I was to leave now.

I look to the wall clock. It has only been three hours since the last pill. They should last at least eight hours.

Oh, god. The lycanthropy. Damnit..his metabolism, his bloody damn werewolf metabolism! I forgot, how could I forget? The energy his small body consumes, it must burn away the painkillers before they have a chance to effectively work.

Oh, God. No one should be forced to look down into the face of someone in so much pain. What type of God does this to his creatures? A test? For me? For him?

His time?

Not if I can do anything about it.

I curl up next to him on the floor, taking his body — oozing the scent of sickness, rancid, wrong — into my arms. Stroking the greasy hair, pausing to kiss his forehead.

"Tonight, tonight. I will fix it tonight. I promise, I promise. You will be alright. I promise, Oz. I promise."

And soon it is just his heartbeat, me crooning sing-song promises in time with its fractured beating.

I am almost through my books. There are seven left.

But I promised him I would make it all better.

Damn you, damn you, damn you. God. Hear me?


Oz comes into the room once more, and I have to stare at him despite the way it must appear to him. As if I am staring at a side-show freak.

His eyes have turned yellow; his ears have elongated. His entire body seems to going through a time-lapse photography sequence. I have been following him around when taking a break from the books, and each time another part of his wolf has appeared or vanished. It must be from his nervous system shutting down.

"Are you ready, Oz?"

His eyes are so cloudy and his features so slack, I wonder if he can understand me. The rabies is progressing faster than the doctors had guessed at. His body has fought with all the supernatural power it possesses, but there is still only so much it can handle.

But Oz still manages to nod, and I am once again awed by the power and strength this boy — young man — must possess to even have pushed his body this far. I doubt it could have been just his body alone that has kept him standing.

He forced himself here. To me. I was the one he came too.

And that's....that's so wonderful, and painful, yet also has so many other intricate feelings attached that I dare not analyze them.

"Let's go then, Oz."

I follow behind him to the door, looking back once at the closed books on my desk. Ready to go back on the shelf.

I keep my promises.


We drive in silence, the only sound that of passing traffic and Oz's labored breathing. The smell of his failing organs. My own belated "what if?" thoughts.

I drive to the city landfill. It is the only place that will work.

I half expect Oz to question why we have come to this place, of all the spots to drive to.

But he doesn't, just fumbles with the door handle until I get out and cross around to his side to open the door for him.

"Let's walk. A bit further, Oz. Then we will take care of your, uh, problem."

Oz is mechanical in his movement. And that, more than anything else, confirms the notion that the true Oz is gone. Disengaged from the here and now. Or pulled far back into his own mind to escape the pain and the virus-induced thoughts that are plaguing him. Either way, the outcome is the same.

Where is Oz? Oz isn't here. He's off in a place of his own devising, I imagine. I hope.

As we walk further into the stench and piles of refuse, I let the idea of Oz's refuge take hold. Let it grow, branch off until I like the feel of it in my mind. Let it feel just, and right.

I hope it's a place where he is running free, with an female werewolf for company. Or a Willow-wolf. In the center of a warm pack, belonging in a way he never can in this human controlled world.

"T-this is good, Oz. Stop here. This will do nicely."

A deep, shady forest, with a sun-dappled clearing in the center. An ocean of grass is there, soft to the feet — whether they be human or wolf. And breezes full of interesting scents and then there would be little puppy-children and no complications.

"See the stars, Oz?"

Oz cranes his head up slowly, and a little smile crosses his lips. "Nice."

And in this world there is never a memory of his past pain or heartache or the stench of the human waste that's towering on either side of us. No knowledge that some things can not be overcome, not even with magic. In this world, anything is possible.

I fumble in my coat pocket for the gun I have brought with me.

The stars really are quite lovely, tonight.

Just as lovely as they would be in his world. Every night, with the northern lights to lull him and his love to sleep under branches heavy with leaves.

"Don't turn around Oz. Don't turn around."

I promised him. I promised him I would make the pain stop.

"Don't turn around."