Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

By Rod
For Lisa Martin

Daniel Osbourne sat in the back of his beaten up van in something of a quandary. Of course, being Oz, 'pondering a quandary' looked much like 'relaxing in the sun', or indeed any other form of thinking. The only thing that distinguished this mood from any more pleasant cogitations was the slight frown creasing his brow.

Should he stop in Sunnydale on his way to LA or not? Oz wanted to do both, but obviously he couldn't be in two places at once. He wanted, no he needed to see Willow and her girlfriend, to know beyond doubt that he was over her. Catching up with his friends would be a plus, too. On the other hand, he had promised his boyfriend that he would go straight to LA and annoy Angel with their news. If the silver-tongued bastard was with him it would be no contest, but on the whole Oz had to agree that Lindsey was safer being in another state entirely when Angel found out.

He could please Lindsey and visit Sunnydale on the way back... but Sunnydale was here, and Oz could see Willow now, and it wasn't like bugging Angel was really urgent...

Having argued himself round in circles like this for half an hour, Oz sighed. He might as well toss a coin and be done with it. Digging into his pocket, he remembered dropping his change into a charity box that morning. Other people needed the money more than he did, true, but right now not having a single coin on him was a nuisance.

A single coin.

Oz paused. He did have a single coin on him, one he rarely even thought about any more. Carefully he pulled a pendant out from under his T-shirt and unclipped the coin from its chain. His Magic Quarter. How could he forget that? Oz shook his head ruefully, remembering how he had acquired it.


Oz was sitting in a diner in the middle of nowhere, wondering just how far his remaining cash would go before he had to get a temporary job or start singing for his supper again. He was running to anywhere that would have him, anywhere that wasn't Sunnydale, the same way that he had ever since his abortive visit home. When the vaguely familiar man slipped into the seat opposite him, he was startled enough to raise an eyebrow.

"I hear I have you to thank for the Initiative's destruction," the man said without preamble. With that, Oz finally remembered his name.

"Ethan Rayne," he said.

"No, that's me. You're Daniel Osbourne."

Oz snorted. "All I did was get captured."

"Yes, but it was your capture that made the Slayer's boyfriend question everything, so that ultimately she could deal with the mechanical abomination running the show. It all comes back to your return to Sunnydale."

"By that logic, you should be thanking my parents for giving birth to me."

"I choose to look only a little further than normal for causes. This way I don't have to deal with that annoying little girl." Rayne flagged down a waitress and ordered "something resembling tea, please. Will you have anything?"

Oz shook his head. "I remember what happens to people who drink with you."

Rayne rolled his eyes. "You sound just like Ripper, never one to let an apology get in the way of a good grudge."

"This is an apology?"

"What does it sound like?"

"Insincere thanks."

"True. Perhaps my sincerity would be enhanced if I offered to do something for you."

"Perhaps I know better than to take up the offer."

"Even when it relates to your body hair problem? Janus does govern change, you know."

Oz paused. If Rayne really could do something about his lycanthropy, that was an avenue worth exploring. On the other hand, Rayne's solutions tended to have highly undesirable side effects.

"Out of the kindness of your heart?" he temporised.

Rayne nodded, took one look at the scepticism written all over Oz's face and rolled his eyes. "All right, all right, it's to get Ripper off my back again. I do a favour for one of his friends, in this case you, and he stops breathing fire and brimstone in my direction. Hopefully. It doesn't exactly make for a quiet life, having our Rupert annoyed with you."

"What do you want from me?"

"Toss me a coin."

Oz smiled. "Cross your palm with silver?"

Rayne sipped at his tea and made a face. "Disgusting," he murmured, then returned his attention to the young werewolf. "I suppose it's traditional, if you must think of it that way. Good symbolism for you, actually."

Oz tossed him a quarter. "Then what?"

"Then I put Janus' blessing on it in his other aspect. He also governs choice, as you would know if you paid any attention to the subject. That's why the Romans associated him with doorways." Rayne scowled at the coin in his hand. "I don't suppose you have a silver dollar or anything more poetic like that? No? Well it was worth a try. There just isn't that much silver in modern coinage. Still, as you pointed out there is the cultural association, which should do just as well."

"Why?" Oz was genuinely curious, and Rayne seemed to be in the mood to talk. Of course at least half of what the Englishman was spouting was bound to be pure gibberish.

"Magic is all about turning the associations that humans make into reality. Because folklore still regards coins as being silver, to a certain extent we can make it act like silver. Not enough to hurt you, but enough for a spell to get the general idea."

"So now you go off and perform your big ritual?"

Rayne grinned. "Not as big as you might think," he said, pulling a small paper bag from his pocket. "Some big-shot deities might insist on a full half-hour of bowing and scraping before they'll even get out of bed, but with Janus either what you're doing is interesting or it isn't. If it isn't, no amount of incense will help. It doesn't hurt to have done the preparation ahead of time, just in case."

Holding the coin flat on his palm, the sorceror sprinkled the contents of the paper bag over it, then covered it with his other hand. Oz's sensitive nose caught the scent of wolvesbane and oak amongst other, less familiar smells. Some muttered words and the ceremony was apparently complete: at least, Rayne smiled when he uncovered the coin.

"There," he said. "Wear this and you will always have the choice of whether to go and play in the woods or not. You shouldn't stop changing altogether, that would be restricting the wolf's choices. Besides, the charm will fail eventually, whenever Janus gets bored. Probably at a deeply inconvenient moment, now I think of it. Whenever it is, you should understand more about control then."

"Hmm." Oz studied the now shiny and damaged quarter carefully. "The hole signifies impermanence?"

"Mostly it makes it easier to thread onto a necklace."

"Neat." It had the same date as the coin he had tossed apparantly at random to the warlock. There were the same dents in the edge. Apart from the small circular hole near one edge and its brand new shine, it looked identical. Still....

"You were expecting it to look different?"

Oz nodded gravely. "Double headed."


Not being an idiot, Oz didn't put the talisman on immediately. In fact he didn't keep it on him at all until he had shown it to three different magic-workers who seemed to have some clue what they were talking about. They all told him the same thing; they had no idea what it was, but it seemed to be about giving him choices. Oh, and was there something he wasn't telling them?

So he put it on. Nothing bad happened so he kept it on, and when the next full moon came he didn't change. He did the following month, but that was because he decided to; he could feel the wolf's frustration, understood its need to get out, and changed only once he was safely in the middle of nowhere.

This continued month on month until Oz wolfed out on some demons attacking a lone man, met Lindsey and fell in love. With a male formerly evil lawyer some years older than himself, but Oz had never been a great one for conventions anyway. Now that they were safely past the "is this just a crush and what does he think of me anyway" stage and into "we're serious" territory, Lindsey had insisted on informing their mutual friends. Well truth to tell, Lindsey just wanted to see Angel's face when he heard the news, but Lindsey wasn't stupid enough to actually be present. Hence the video camera lurking in the back of the van, and Oz's current dilemma.

He studied the quarter once again, an amused smile playing around his lips. It seemed fitting somehow that this thing that let him make decisions should get to make one for him. "I guess this is one choice I'm giving back," he murmured, and watched the silver arc it described through the air.


Opening the apartment door, Xander broke into a huge grin. "Oz! It's great to see you. How are you, man? Where have you been? What are you doing here?"

"Xander." Oz smiled in his usual gentle Oz-like manner. "I'm great. Around. Willow's moved, Buffy's out, your folks gave me your address. And your mail," he added, handing Xander a bunch of envelopes.

"Thanks. Come on in, there's such a lot to tell you."

Oz looked round the comfortable apartment as he entered. "Nice place," he commented. The Oz seal of approval.

"I like it. Ahn and I... I guess that's one of the things to tell you. Beer?"

"Soda. I get drunk too fast." He gestured to his skinny body, with all the lack of alcohol-absorbing properties that implied.

Xander smirked at him as he fished around in the fridge. "I bet a drunk Oz is as much fun as a stoned Oz," he said, tossing his friend an ice-cold can and twisting the top off a beer for himself.

Oz waited for his moment. "My boyfriend disagrees."

It took a little while for Xander to stop choking, even after Oz started helpfully pounding on his back. "Boyfriend?" he gasped. The lecture on the evilness of werewolves who made their friends snort beer could wait.

Oz smiled sheepishly. "Yeah," he said, filling the word with all the love he felt for Lindsey.

"Wow." Xander couldn't miss that tone of voice, or the loving look in Oz's eyes. "You're gay. I mean... I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just you're the original Mr Secure and you're gay, and maybe I should stop talking before I make this even worse."

Oz's smile widened. He'd really missed Xander-babble; even relaxed, Lindsey couldn't let his mouth go like that. Words were the lawyer's weapon of choice, after all. "You're doing just fine."

There was a pause as Xander let the implications sink in. "Well?" he said, turning back to Oz. "Gimme some details to work with here! What's he like? What does he do? Does he know about the whole werewolf thing?"

"Linds reckoned that if he could survive being hated by a vampire, he could survive being loved by a werewolf. Breathe," Oz added, since Xander seemed to be choking again.

They talked. Oz told Xander about travelling, self-control, Lindsey and making beautiful music together. When Xander snickered, he pointed out that no really, their guitar styles might be different but they meshed perfectly. He also got Xander to swear not to let Angel know, something Xander readily agreed to provided he got to see the video too.

Xander told Oz about Glory, Dawn, Willow and Tara's difficulties... and Spike. Oz couldn't miss the venom in Xander's voice when he spoke of the blond vampire, but he couldn't entirely agree with his old friend. He knew how much it hurt to love someone who didn't love you any more. He couldn't have forced himself on Willow the way Spike had tried on Buffy, but he had lost control enough that the wolf nearly killed Tara. It was hard for him to hate Spike for trying however ineptly to follow his heart.

Xander didn't see it that way, that was clear enough. He seemed to be in a mood to stake the vampire as soon as look at him, if he couldn't hold his temper for long enough to turn Spike into vampire pate instead. Oz didn't know Xander's moods as well as Willow, but this looked like the kind of anger that could burn and burn.

It was late evening by the time they talked themselves out, too late to drop round on the Summers household. Yawning, Xander offered Oz his spare bedroom. Oz was grateful; he was used to sleeping in the back of his van, but that wasn't a smart thing to do in Sunnydale.

Settling between the sheets, Oz smiled as he thought of Angel's likely reaction. Tomorrow was going to be fun.


"Angel Investigations, can we help -- Oz!"

Oz grinned and waved from behind a video camera. "Hi Cordy!"

Cordelia came out from behind the front desk to hug her slightly-built friend. "How have you been? For that matter, where have you been? And what's with the Borg implant?" She gestured towards the camera, then stopped, clapping her hand to her mouth. "Omigod! My hair! I must look awful..."

"You look great, like always."

The deep voice came from the offices behind the desk, so Oz panned the camera round in time to catch the tough-looking black guy step out, hand in hand with a pretty young woman. From the ease with which they were wandering around the back area, Oz figured that they had to be more of Angel's team; Gunn he knew from Lindsey's descriptions, but the woman was a mystery. He settled for waving and shouting "Hi!" to them too.

Gunn waved back, apparently finding the whole thing amusing. "Cordy, you going to introduce us to Spielberg Junior there?"

"Oh sorry. Gunn, Fred, this is Oz. We were friends back in Sunnydale." Oz looked at her. "Kinda," she added reluctantly. He beamed.

"Pleased to meet you."

"Sunnydale, huh? So you know all about..."

"Things that go bump in the night? Sure." Oz panned the camera round the hotel lobby, and decided not to ask about the pentagram painted on the floor. "Speaking of whom..."

"I'm up here." Angel clearly still knew how to make an entrance. He swept down the hotel's main staircase cutting an imposing dark clad figure, every inch the vampire in charge.

Oz waved at him too, since he'd done it to everyone else. "Good," he said smiling. "We weren't sure you'd show up on video."

"We?" Cordelia practically squealed. "You've got a girlfriend again? Spill it, Oz. I want all the gory details." Angel rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.

"He's dark haired, about 5'10"..."

"He?" Angel was clearly surprised.

"Oz, are you sure about this?" Cordelia was suddenly serious, a million miles from the vapid cheerleader Oz was used to. It was rather disconcerting. "This isn't some getting-even-with-Willow thing, is it?"

Oz gave her a gentle smile. "Maybe to start with. We were both running because the people we wanted didn't want us. Took a while to realise we wanted each other."

"So you're, uh, gay then?" Fred had a nice voice, Oz decided, even if she was more hesitant than Willow had ever been.

"Very happy," he told her.

"You are too," Cordelia said, smiling gently. "He's good for you, I can tell. Do you...?"

"He's happy too." He was; Lindsey kept calling Oz his "reward", mock-complaining that if he'd known that this was what he'd get for one good deed, he'd have signed on with the white hats long ago. Oz didn't pay that much attention to the words, because Lindsey's eyes were always saying "I love you." That and his smile were what really mattered.

"Hey!" Cordelia poked him. "No going all gooey and sentimental on us here, Mister. I want details."

"Though maybe not the gory ones."

Angel assumed a look of total innocence as Cordelia glared at him. Before she could continue her interrogation, Gunn got in first. "That was going all gooey and sentimental?" he asked.

"This is Oz. He was grinning. He never grins."

Oz's lips twitched in yet another small smile. "Guilty as charged," he said, bowing very slightly towards Gunn.

"Come on, Oz," Cordelia pleaded, "I never get proper gossip around here. Tell me about him."

"Handsome. Great guitarist. Good kisser. Amazingly tactile."

"I thought we'd agreed about the gory bits."

"Talks enough for both of us."

"Now there's a surprise." Cordlia was clearly amused at what constituted waxing lyrical in Oz-speak, but Angel was beginning to frown. It seemed like the vampire was starting to get half a clue, and to be honest Oz was enjoying this just a little too much. Time to cut to the chase.

"You might know him. Lindsey Macdonald."

Bingo. Angel was doing a serious impression of a goldfish, and Cordelia wasn't much better. Gunn was looking distinctly hostile, though, while Fred was just confused. Linds was just going to love watching this, assuming Angel didn't find a big magnet from somewhere.

Cordelia, predictably, was the first to recover the power of speech. "Are you mad?" she screeched. "This is evil lawyer guy we're talking about here. You know he used to work for--"

"Wolfram and Hart? Yes. I know what they're like, too. He's not like that now. You did good, Angel."

"I..." Angel took an unnecessary breath and looked straight at Oz. "No, Lindsey did good. I just helped out." Looking into the camera, he continued, "Lindsey, if you hurt him, I will hunt you down and make you wish you'd never been born. I'm glad you're making him happy, though, and... I guess I'm glad you're happy too. It's about time."

Cordelia looked at Angel strangely. "My, aren't we in a forgiving mood today."

"Not that forgiving, Cordy." Angel's voice was abruptly flat and dismissive. Oz quirked an eyebrow; something was going on here, he hoped they'd tell him eventually.

Cordy gave Angel a long, measuring stare before switching back to Oz. "Be careful," she told him.

"We always use condoms," Oz said, deadpan.

"Again with the gory bits!" Angel said, covering his ears.

Eventually they ended up in the office, talking about old times and new, and introducing Gunn to more of the weirdness that is Sunnydale. Oz told them about travelling, self-control, Lindsey and their music. He told them about his arrangement with the wolf and what it meant to be able to run free, and about how he and the ex-evil lawyer guy meshed together so perfectly.

The others told Oz about Darla, Connor and Holtz. How the vampire bitch-queen had staked herself to give life to her son. How Angel's baby had been snatched away from him and returned as a skittish, hell-hardened teenager, his mind poisoned by the vampire hunter's hatred for Angelus. How Wolfram and Hart had interfered at every step, still trying to push Angel over the edge.

They told him about everything and everyone except Wesley, Oz noted. He wasn't stupid; he noticed the careful looks the others gave Angel at times, and the holes that then appeared in their stories. He noticed the way that Angel sat like a stone through the brief and obviously incomplete story of Connor's kidnapping to another dimension. He knew from experience that Angel had a very big heart, and he guessed that the vampire was trying to wrap it all around his son. Losing him must have hurt more than all his torments in hell, and something told Oz that Wesley had been involved in some way.

He got the details out of Cordelia later on, when Angel went to get a room ready for the young werewolf. Oz understood where Angel was coming from, but he agreed with Cordelia, Angel was wrong. Wesley had done what he had done to try to help Angel and save Connor. He had been wrong, horribly wrong, but his motives were the best. Angel's hatred was only driving Wes away, a reversal of the way the vampire had finally pulled Lindsey out of Wolfram and Hart's grip.

It was late evening by the time they talked themselves out, and Oz was glad that Angel Investigations was now based in the Hyperion. Beds were easy to come by here, and for all their age were more comfortable than the back of his van.

Settling between the sheets, Oz frowned as he thought of Sunnydale. He hoped that meeting up with the Scooby Gang would go as well as his day in LA. He wanted Willow to be happy for him, and maybe if he was honest for her to be just the tiniest bit jealous, but mostly he wanted everyone to know that they were over each other. He hoped.


"Lesser being, what do you think you are doing?"

Oz looked up blearily at the two glowing figures standing above him, their skins a patterned swirl of blue and gold. The Oracles, a rather fuzzy memory suggested. Angel had mentioned something about them. But... "Aren't you supposed to be dead?"

The male Oracle managed to look more annoyed if anything, but the woman chose to answer him. "In your physicality, yes. We can now only reach your world in dreams, and that with difficulty."

"Ah." Dreams, that explained a lot. Oz could just about remember crawling into bed, and he was fairly sure that bed hadn't been the portico of a Greek-style temple. He was sure he would have picked something more practical to wear than a T-shirt and boxers if he had known he was coming here.

"Explain yourself, lesser being."

Oz began to understand the irritation with which Angel and his friends spoke of the Oracles. They would get more respect if they toned down the attitude a bit and asked more sensible questions. What the hell was there to explain?

"I've just been visiting Angel/Xander," he said, and stopped dead. Both names had come out of his mouth simultaneously, which was kind of a neat trick but wasn't what he had intended. He meant to say that he had been with Angel. He distinctly remembered arriving at the hotel and catching Angel's stunned mullet impersonation on video. He was going to swing by Sunnydale on his way back, more to see Willow than anyone else.

Except that he equally clearly remembered ending up at Xander's apartment because he couldn't find anyone else, and getting Xander to choke on his beer. He was going on to LA in the morning, ready to spring his surprise on the AI team.

He looked up at the Oracles, raising both eyebrows. "I did both?"

The male Oracle looked at him in the way that impatient teachers reserve for very slow five year olds. The female seemed more amused by the situation. "You did," she told the werewolf. "Schršdinger's Cat is the paradox you are seeking to recall."

Oh yes, the cat in the box that was both alive and dead until you looked. But how could it have happened? What was so different about choosing whether to go to Sunnydale first or second.

Oz gave himself a mental slap on the forehead and pulled his Magic Quarter from under his T-shirt.

The male Oracle looked disgusted. "A thing of chaos," he sneered.

"Acting to promote choice and order," the woman observed.

"He knows better than to trust such things!"

"It has not acted falsely." The female Oracle seemed very sure of this statement, but still looked inquisitively at Oz.

"I couldn't make up my mind where to go first," he admitted. "So I tossed a coin."

"That coin." The male Oracle narrowed his eyes. "You are correct, sister, it did not play false. It merely refused to make the choice for its owner."

Oz considered the matter carefully. The Schršdinger's Cat angle bothered him, but he needed more information. "Is this necessarily bad?"

The male Oracle looked ready to explode, but the female silenced him with a glance. "You consider that two of you would be twice as effective as a servant of the Powers?" she asked. "That is a worthy thought."

"There is only one of you, lesser being," the male broke in. "The Powers have not yet observed which path you have taken. The longer this situation endures, the greater the stress on your reality."

"Consider further," the female added calmly. "One of the stress loci is in close proximity to the Hellmouth."

That really didn't sound good to Oz. "It could pop open?" he asked.

"Or you could."

Oz raised his eyebrows again. "I could cease to exist?" he asked, phrasing it formally so that they wouldn't mistake his meaning.

"You could cease to have ever existed. It would be the simpler solution."

Not a solution that he wanted to contemplate, Oz decided. "So maybe-me leaves Sunnydale, the Powers take a look and that's it?"

"Nothing so simple, lesser being," the female Oracle said with a gentle smile. "With our deaths, access to your physicality is limited. In your terms, the box is latched from the inside."

"Oh." So he had to do something to be got out of this mess. That figured. He looked questioningly at the woman.

"There is a solution which fits our purposes." It was the man who answered, and his smile was not a pleasant thing. "Two of our tools have been separated, and may become lost."

"Spike/Wesley," Oz murmured, the two names again emerging simultaneously from his lips. That was really disconcerting, he thought.

The male Oracle nodded. "If you can reconcile the irreconcilable, the act of reuniting them will reunite your paths also. The ritual will come to you when needed."

"The choice my brother offers is a hard one," the woman told him. "It comes with a price you will find hard to pay."

Oz looked up at them steadily. "Is there really any choice?"


He came awake suddenly, disoriented by the unfamiliar surroundings of the Hyperion. His dream, if that's what it was, was still sharp and clear in his mind, together with the vague memories of a day in Sunnydale which couldn't have happened. Except that according to his dream, it had... sort of.

Usually everything looked much simpler in the morning light, but now that he was awake, Oz felt more uneasy than before. He wasn't sure that he could trust his dream, and he ruminated on it as he dressed. He could check it, he could call Xander's apartment and ask if he was there... except that the other potential Oz might answer the phone, and that could be bad. He didn't know what would happen if he did the magical equivalent of collapsing his wave function without due ceremony, and he didn't particularly want to never have been born. It was a good thing he didn't actually know Xander's new number.

He stopped on the stairs. Technically, he only knew that Xander had his own apartment from last night's dream, likewise for Willow moving into the Summers house after Joyce died. He could ask about that while still leaving his doubts some all-important philosophical wriggle room. Hopefully other-Oz would find something similarly innocuous to ask about.

"Morning," he said, walking past the front desk on his way to the small kitchen the AI staff used.

"Good morning, Oz," Fred sang back cheerfully. Oz eyed her suspiciously before realising where his wariness came from. That happy tone of voice that this time of the morning usually meant that Lindsey was about to pounce on him and make himself late into the office again. Not that Oz objected, he'd just had to learn to be careful what he was carrying those mornings. Scalding himself was not a turn on.

A few minutes later he returned to the lobby with his preferred breakfast, a large mug of coffee. "Sleep well?" Fred asked, observing his silent communion with the sacred bean.

"Mmm. Just..."

"You're used to getting woken up, aren't you?"

"Mmm." He smiled at her, blushing a little.

"Sometimes Charles brings me breakfast," she said shyly, blushing herself. "It's nice."

Sometimes Lindsey has me for breakfast, Oz thought. He nodded. "Is there an address book down there?" he asked with an artful carelessness that would have alerted Cordelia immediately. "I should warn Willow I'm coming." One of the few things he could absolutely count on Queen C doing was keeping her social contacts up to date.

Fred nodded and crouched to search under the desk. "I liked her, she was quiet."

Oz blinked. "You've met her?"

"She came to tell Angel that Buffy that was dead. Oh, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said it like that, but she got better anyway, and I really don't know what say at times like this, and oh look, here's the address book..."

"Thanks," Oz said quickly. It seemed that Fred was just as bad at nervous babbling as Willow was. He gave the young woman another slight smile to reassure her, then took the book from her. "Mind if I use the phone?" he asked.

"Oh sure... I guess."

He smiled again, then took himself and his coffee over to one of the back desks where he could peruse the address book at his leisure. Taking a quick look around to ensure that no sharp-eared vampires were close enough to call him on it, he faked a short phone call to Sunnydale for Fred's benefit -- no sense in calling for real and risking Willow getting suspicious. As he did so, he flipped through the pages for Xander's address. When he found it, he paused; the old address of the Harris house had been crossed out and a new one added in Cordelia's erratic handwriting. The address that other-Oz had gone to yesterday.

That crystallised his decision. Whatever the case, Oz had to treat his dream as if it had been real, it was the only safe thing to do. Besides, bringing the lost lambs back into the fold was of the good, surely? It was just kind of ironic to send a wolf to do it.


It was late afternoon by the time that Oz found Spike's crypt. He had checked in with the rest of the gang first, just to make sure, and it seemed that he had guessed right. Not even Buffy harboured the same anger towards Spike that Xander did; oh she was angry, but she also blamed herself for taking advantage of Spike, leading him on. To her, she was as much at fault as the vampire was.

Then saying hi to Willow had turned into having lunch with Willow and Tara, and the whole awkward discussion with his former girlfriend's former girlfriend about not getting between them. He wasn't quite sure that the witches were completely reconciled yet, but they were getting there. They couldn't be what he was supposed to fix.

So then Spike. And Xander. That was the hatred that needed to be damped down, not that Oz had a clue as to how he was going to pull it off. Getting them talking at all would be a start, he guessed.

He paused outside the crypt, then walked over to where the bushes seemed to be disturbed. He was right; a motorcycle had been hidden away from the eyes of casual viewers. A beautiful bike, Oz thought as he ran his hands along the sleek lines. If he were the big and studly type -- or Spike -- this would be exactly the sort of bike he'd want, something that screamed power and demanded your attention.

On the whole Oz was glad to be van man, but once in a while....

He pulled his attention away and returned to the crypt. Knocking on the door he listened carefully, wishing for the wolf's sensitive hearing. Nothing. "Spike," he called and knocked again, louder.

"Go away." The words were clear and distinct, even through the wooden door of the crypt. There was no drunken slurring at any rate, which was a positive sign.

"We need to talk," he said.

"Fuck off and die."

Oh well, faint heart ne'er won fair... whatever it was he was trying to win. Oz gave up on the subtlety and opened the door.

"Oh bloody brilliant," Spike snarled. "Let's just break into someone's home because we can. What the hell do you want, wolf-boy? What are you doing in Sunnyhell anyway?"

Oz looked round the surprisingly roomy crypt, trying to work out what was out of place. Something was, his intuition told him. It wasn't the TV, or the fridge in the corner, however wrong they might be in what was supposed to be some family's final resting place. It was the hundred and one other little things that weren't there. Where were Spike's mementos, his personal stuff that turned a crypt into Where Spike Lived?

Putting that together with the bike in the bushes, Oz said, "I thought running away was my bag."

He was abruptly pushed up against by a furious vampire in gameface. "Shut the fuck up," Spike shouted. "This chip only stops me hurting humans, furball. Want to find out if you still count?"

Oz shrugged, despite the uncomfortable position. "Not really. But you're leaving. You've packed."

"None of your business." The words were defiant, but the fire was leaking out of Spike's attitude. He let go of Oz and stalked further back into the crypt, looking like a scared kid covering his fear with false anger. Oz wisely kept that observation to himself.

"It doesn't work."

"Huh?" That got Spike's attention back.

"Running. It doesn't work. You come back to find your girlfriend's taken up with another woman."

Spike stared at him a moment, then shook his head. "It's not the same. We're different, we are. If it weren't for this bloody chip I'd just take what I wanted."

"It's not the chip."

Spike froze. Just for a moment the anger slipped enough to see the scared little boy in his eyes.

"You... raised bruises. It's not the chip."

"I..." Spike took a deep, unnecessary breath and flopped into his chair. "I love her. I bloody love her and then I went and hurt her anyway. Is that what you wanted to hear? She'll be safer when I'm gone."

Oz nodded, but said nothing.

"Glad you agreed with me," Spike muttered bitterly.

"It's what I told myself when I ran," Oz explained.

Spike looked dumbfounded, then laughed weakly. "You don't give up, do you?" Oz shook his head. He couldn't afford to give up this time. "Why should I stay anyway? It's not like she's going to forgive me."

"She will." In a way, she already had. "Forgiving herself is harder."

"She shouldn't think that," Spike whispered. "It wasn't her fault, tell her it wasn't her fault." Oz just stared at him. "What?" Oz stared some more. "All right, I can take a hint. I'll tell her if it'll get you off my back."

"It'll get you off your back."

Spike appeared to consider this for a while, then gave Oz the first glimmerings of a smile. "'Why To Be Good', by Daniel Osbourne."

Oz shrugged. "If it works."

"All right," Spike sighed. "I'll go apologise to the Slayer. If she doesn't stake me first."

Oz smiled. For all the superficial Big Bad attitude was going back up, he was reasonably sure that Spike's self-loathing was under control. The vampire's unexpected love for Buffy would win out, he hoped. Ah, except there was something else to do first.

"She won't. Xander might."

"Xander?" Spike seemed genuinely surprised. "Like that's any different from normal. The whelp's always hated me."

"Not like this," Oz insisted.

"So what?" Oz kept silent, letting Spike add it up on his own. "So he'll tell her he doesn't trust me, and she'll believe him because he's so sodding close to her. Bloody hell, I mean it this time and he'll never let her believe me!"

"So persuade him."

"What? Your bloody fur must grow inwards, 'cos something's squeezed all the sense out of your brain. Donut boy's never going to even listen, never mind like me."


"OK, so he doesn't have to like me, just hate me less. He still won't listen."


"He won't listen to you either."

Longer pause.

"Bloody hell, you're impossible. Just keep him from staking me for long enough to say my piece."

Oz smiled and led the way out of the crypt. This was the easy half of the job, he reminded himself. Persuading Xander to calm down, actually listen and honestly look at Spike's side of things was going to be a whole lot harder.

Behind him he could hear the vampire muttering, "One day I'll figure out how you talked me into this."


"What is he doing here?"

Angel was taking Wesley's presence about as well as expected. Badly, in other words. Oz started to psyche himself up for a long, hard discussion.


"I don't want to hear anything he has to say."

"You should."

"I don't care."

A good start, Oz didn't think. So far Wesley hadn't said a word, and Angel was looking at him in a decidedly Angelusy manner. I'm going to kill you, those looks said, and they were no idle threat. Probably the only reason Angel hadn't acted on them so far was that Oz was in the way. Perhaps he could start Angel talking instead.


That certainly got Angel's attention. The vampire looked at Oz incredulously. "You know why. I know you talked to Cordelia about what he did."

"So tell me. In your words."

"He took my son." Angel's voice was icy, more threatening than ever. "Because of a prophecy that wasn't even true, he took my son from me."


"It doesn't matter why. He knew that Connor meant everything to me, he could have discussed it with me. Instead he just upped and left, and handed my son over to my worst enemy."

"I didn't hand him over. Justine ambushed me and took him." Wesley sounded tired and resigned. His fingers rubbed the ugly scar across his throat in what seemed to be an unconscious gesture.

"Holtz couldn't have got his claws into Connor if you hadn't taken him. Because of you, my son grew up in hell."

Wesley looked down. "I didn't mean--"

It was the wrong thing to say. Angel brushed past Oz and had Wesley pinned against the wall before the werewolf could react.

"You didn't mean it," he snarled in full gameface. "You're sorry. Well, sorry won't bring my baby boy back to me. Sorry won't let me be with him as he grows up. Sorry won't let hear his first words or watch his first steps. Do you know what it's like to have something that precious ripped away from you? Do you want me to show you?"


"I deserve it."

Spike mumbled admission of guilt shocked Oz. It was so unlike the vampire to sound so small, so defeated even when he was in the wrong. He'd expected Spike to stand up to Xander and exchange insults, but he was crumbling before he'd even started.

Xander, on the other hand, wasn't the least bit impressed. "Oh no you don't, Fangless," he said bitterly. "Playing for sympathy doesn't work when you've murdered your way across Europe. If it wasn't for that chip, you'd be cheerfully trying to rip our throats out now."

He slammed the blond against wall suddenly. Oz watched in alarm as the dazed vampire was spun around, his face pressed uncomfortably against the plaster.

"No," Xander growled, "this time you get exactly what you deserve."

This was going too far, Oz thought. "Xander!" he said sharply.

Xander ignored him, unfastening Spike's jeans and pulling them down. The vampire struggled weakly, not really trying to get away, as if he really had made up his mind to take his punishment.

"Xander! Stop!" Oz tried to restrain his old friend, but was horrified to see his hand pass through Xander's arm like a ghost. Xander didn't even notice that, he didn't seem to notice Oz at all any more. As if Oz wasn't really there, wasn't really real any more. The timing sucked.

"Is this what he felt like, d'you think?", Angel hissed. "Trapped. Helpless. Alone." Wesley flinched at the words, then again as rough hands opened him up.

Desperate, Oz waved and shouted at man and vampire. Neither gave any sign that they heard him. It was only when he tried to stop that Oz realised he had been shouting gibberish, incomprehensible words that continued to pour from his lips despite his wishes.

The words continued as he cringed, hearing Wesley's gasp of pain and Angel thrust roughly home. They poured forth with his tears as Xander whispered stinging insults into Spike's ear in time with his thrusts. They filled the silence with which the Wesley/Spike suffered, the anguish and self-loathing finally clear on his face. They rose to a crescendo as Angel/Xander screamed his release, a cry of triumph, grief and shame.

Then there was silence, and Oz could finally collapse under the guilt. He curled into a tight ball, still crying, trying to block out the double reality around him. This was all his fault; he had brought the victims to their attackers, something he knew would be risky, and he hadn't been able to keep them safe.

Distantly, he heard Angel and Xander order Spike and Wesley to leave, their voices still curiously twined together but now empty of emotion. There were no other words, just the quiet shutting of a door. Oz knew he was being hysterical, but there was something so terrifyingly final about that sound that made him curl up tighter, glad that he was in no position to screw up any more.

"It is begun."

The voice belonged to the male Oracle, and Oz uncurled enough to glare at him for the smugness in his tone. He seemed singularly unaffected by the werewolf's stare, and left it to his companion to elaborate.

"There is now guilt pulling them back as well as their guilt driving them away. It seems like the worst of starts, lesser being, but it is the only way to the best of ends."

"To heal a festering wound," the male Oracle supplied, "one must expose the corruption. To find forgiveness for others, our champions had to be reminded of what in themselves needs forgiving."

Oz looked at them blankly. He couldn't accept that anything good would come of the rapes that he had unknowingly arranged. Spike and Wesley had nothing to stay for any more, the last slender threads holding them to their friends severed by those brutal attacks.

The female Oracle sighed and leant down to where Oz lay. "Go home, lesser being," she said. "You have travelled both paths and neither, and causality no longer complains. Rest now, your part is played." She touched him, and as the Oracles disappeared from view he felt a sense of peace descend on him. A sense that he fought with all the savagery the wolf could muster.

It was all his fault, after all, and he should suffer for it.


Lindsey looked up as Oz stumbled into their house. "That was quick...." Whatever else the lawyer was going to say was broken off as he took in Oz's tear-stained face. Oz knew that there would be questions later -- he hadn't been expected back for a couple of days yet -- but for now he was glad that Lindsey's instant reaction was to sweep him up in a hug and whisper reassuring nothings.

The young man sniffled in his lover's arms for a moment, then whispered, "I think I've done a bad thing."

"I forgive you," Lindsey said immediately. Oz pulled back to give him a questioning, disbelieving stare. "Whatever you've done, it can't be as bad as the things I've done in the past. You forgave me them, how can I do less?"

"You don't know what I've done."

"I know you, and that's all I need to know. Now quiet down and let me hold you."

Oz nestled in closer again, and let the strong arms surround him. He would tell Lindsey later, once he was recovered enough to face the rejection. Because even Lindsey wouldn't be able to stomach this.

He was wrong, of course.


He'd show Harris, Spike thought to himself. Then laughed, cussing himself for fifteen kinds of fool.

A year ago, he'd have meant that in the worst possible way. He would have been out there trying to find some way around the chip, anything that he could do to the Slayer's puppy that would be more personal and satisfying than hiring someone to beat him to a pulp. He hated the man with the same sort of passion that had him protecting Dawn with his life, tolerating him only because Buffy liked him.

He still hated Xander, that passionate fire hadn't dimmed. But now he had to prove himself in the whelp's eyes, not because it would earn him brownie points with Buffy but because it was the right thing to do. Harris didn't trust him, and somehow that had become a thing not to be tolerated.

Spike would show him, though. Before the... talk, Spike had had a plan. Modified, it would do the job. He was going to get that thrice-damned chip out of his head, that much of it was still intact. Coming back and gorging himself on the Slayerettes' blood was now strictly off the menu however. In fact, gorging on anyone's blood was out.

No, the Big Bad was going to come back and behave exactly as before, as if he was still chipped. He wouldn't drink from anyone, not even if Riley Finn himself came up and begged Spike to bite him. Then, once he'd manoeuvred Buffy's cheering section into the perfect position, one where he could have taken them all out and they knew it... he'd pass up the opportunity.

He really wanted to see Xander's face when that happened. When he realised that Spike could have killed him a dozen times over and hadn't, for no reason at all, the whelp would have to admit that he could be trusted.

This was going to be the start of something truly great.

Spike kicked the motorcycle into life and roared off into the night, his mind's eye firmly fixed on a cave in Africa.


Twenty four hours after he had tried to apologise to Angel, Wesley was back in the lobby of the Hyperion. He wasn't there to apologise this time, that was over and done with. He'd taken his punishment as he'd deserved, but that had also served to show him how Angel was punishing himself. The vampire still somehow felt that he should have known what was going to happen, that he should have spared his child from growing up in that hellish dimension, so he couldn't let go and take any real joy in Connor's return.

Wesley had done the damage, therefore, he reasoned, it was his duty to fix it. He couldn't change the past, but he could help the people he cared about see that it was past, and that there was a present to live in and a future to wonder at.

Despite everything, he still cared about Angel. He couldn't have taken the gamble that he did otherwise; if the prophecy he had been fighting had come true, killing Connor would have killed Angel, and Wesley couldn't stand that thought. Even after yesterday... no, he refused to blame Angel for being the instrument of his punishment.

So Wesley still cared. Enough to risk stubbornly putting himself in front of an angry vampire again because the vampire wouldn't take his help any other way. Enough that he wasn't sure caring was the right word any more, even if the person he cared for never cared for him again. Enough that failing Angel was no longer an option.

Gunn and Fred had made sure he was comfortable in the lobby, then fled. Wesley couldn't blame them, he knew his scar was unsettling and it didn't help that it made shaving difficult. Besides, he had been distinctly unfriendly to Gunn when he had last visited, desperate to get help for Fred.

Cordelia had gone out, and was apparently meeting Angel on a beach somewhere. It seemed that Gru had finally told her where her heart lay before he went back home, and she was finally telling Angel. Wesley hoped he cared enough to be happy for them; it would have to be enough to do his part and help. They might be back by dawn, or they might spend the day somewhere more private.

Whatever the case, Wesley decided, they would come back to find him there for them. He would just have to wait.

And wait.

And wait.