"Oh man, I am way too wired to even think about sleep right now," Faith said, pacing around Giles' living room.

"I know what you mean," said Willow from her seat at the table. "Even though that spell totally drained me, I just can't sleep."

"Would it be possible for you to be quieter for those of us who can?" Xander asked from the couch where he and Buffy lay. "I'll have you know, sleep is necessary for those of us in the working world."

"Xander," Buffy said through a yawn. "You have three more days until you have to go back to work."

"Well, yeah," he said. "But I still like sleep."

Buffy smiled, kissed him and nuzzled a little closer.

Willow and Faith both rolled their eyes. The door opened and Angel walked in.

"Hey, Fang," Faith said. "How's the girl?"

"She'll be okay," he said. "They gave her some blood, and they're gonna keep her overnight. She woke up while I was there, but she didn't really know what happened to her."

"And what did you tell the doctors?" Giles asked from his position across from Willow.

"I found her unconscious, and she looked like she needed help. Low pulse so I brought her in."

"Good," said Giles.

"What's her name?" Willow asked. "So I can check her records later."

"Tara Maclay," Angel said. "She goes to UC Sunnydale, so you should be able to check up on her easily."

Willow nodded, satisfied.

Angel looked at a clock on the wall. "Well, it's almost sunrise, and we're not leaving town today. I guess I'll go take up residence back at the mansion."

"Oh, I'll go with you!" Willow said.

Angel looked at her, confused.

"Oh, right, we didn't tell you. Oz's cage got mauled yesterday and we locked him up at the mansion. It was the only place secure enough that we could think of," she said.

"Okay," he said.

Willow quickly gathered her things and followed him outside.

* * * * *

The door shut and Angel and Willow walked into the mansion.

"You want a glass of water?" Angel asked.

Willow shook her head. "No thanks," she said. "I won't be here long, sunrise is in a minute or so."

"I know," Angel said. "I can smell it. But stay as long as you want. I'm going to go sleep."

"Thanks, Angel," Willow said. Angel walked off towards his old bedroom. He paused at the hallway entrance, sniffed the air, shrugged to himself and walked on. Just then, the door to the basement of the mansion opened and a young blonde woman walked out. Angel looked at her in surprise, then noticed Willow's look of horror.

"Can I help you?" Angel asked, frowning at her.

"No, I've been helped enough, thanks," she said, walking towards the door. A moment later Oz came up from the basement, pulling his shirt on.

"Oz?" Willow asked, crying.

Oz looked up. "Willow. . . Willow, no it's not. . ."

"How could you?" she cried, then ran out of the mansion.

"That was original," Veruca said, snidely, from near the door.

"Leave. Now," Angel said, a low growl emanating from his throat. Oz turned, noticing him for the first time.

"Angel, that wasn't -"

"Her scent's all over you."

"She's a werewolf. She came in last night right after Xander locked me up. If she hadn't been here, she could have been interfering with the fight. Or killing innocent people."

"Oz. . . it's not my place to say anything."

Oz looked at the souled vampire and nodded, walking away. He paused at the door and looked around.

"So the world didn't end," he said.

"Not for most of us," Angel replied.

Oz took a deep breath and walked on.

* * * * *

Willow sat on a bench in the park, hugging her knees to her chest, trying to convince herself she was being paranoid and imagining things. Oz wouldn't -

"Are ye a'right, miss?"

Willow looked up to see who was addressing her. There stood a man with dark hair, wearing a suit right out of the seventies. He looked genuinely concerned.

"I'm fine," she sniffled.

"Look, I'm not much for stickin' my nose in. . . though I find I've got a tendency to barge in where I'm not wanted. The point is, ye're not alright. A blind man could see that, dearie."

"What do you care, anyway?" she asked.

"Just a friendly face tryin' to lend a helping hand where I can. The name's Doyle by the way."

"Oh," she said. "Vision-guy."

"Eh. . . and how would you be knowin' about that?"

"Angel told us. I'm Willow."

"Ah, the infamous Wicca. It's nice to finally put a face with the name."

Willow gave a cursory nod then went back to staring at the air.

"Now, everything I've heard says Willow's a cheerful lass. . . what's got ya so down? Whatever it is, it can't possibly be that bad. And if it is. . . is there someone I can call for ye? P'rhaps that lad Oz that Cordy was -"

Willow sunk her head into her knees, crying more.

"Ah. . . no, not him then. Well, is there someone?"

"Willow?" came a voice from the street.

"Eh, this lass seems a bit down," Doyle said as Xander approached the pair.

"Who're you?" Xander asked as he walked up.

" I'm Doyle. And you'd be. . ."

"Xander," he said, kneeling down in front of his friend. "Will, are you ok? What happened?"

Willow looked up at him. "Oz," she said. Xander searched her eyes for a moment.

"Okay," he said. "Come on. Let's go get you inside." Xander helped Willow stand, basically holding her up.

"Doyle. Work for Angel?" Xander asked.

Doyle nodded.

"Tell your boss thanks. I dropped the phone before I could say it."

"I'll be sure ta mention it," he said.

Xander nodded and walked away with Willow.

* * * * *

"How is she?" Joyce asked as Xander came back down the stairs.

Xander shook his head. "I think she's in shock, or something," he said. "Just unresponsive to everything."

Joyce nodded. "What happened?"

"Angel said something about Oz and this other girl. . . a werewolf. I think it was probably Veruca, the lead singer for this band."

"Did she and Oz. . ."

"I don't know," Xander said, sitting down on the couch in the living room. "I don't get it, any of it. We saved the world last night, we're not supposed to have to deal with big things today."

"Where's my daughter, by the way?" Joyce asked.

"Oh, she passed out on Giles' couch. She was still asleep when I left to find Willow."

"How bad was it last night? Did everyone come out okay?"

"Well, Faith has a nasty scratch across her back, but she'll be okay. I got pummeled a little, but I'm good to go. The rest of the Scoobs are fine. But, uh. . . Riley lost four men."

"Oh, dear," Joyce said. "Is he. . . a-are they. . ."

"I don't know," Xander said. "We haven't seen or heard from them since we split up afterwards, but Riley said they'll take care of it."

Joyce nodded. "Why don't you get some sleep? I'll wake you if Willow needs anything."

Xander smiled, "Thanks," he said.

Joyce tousled his hair and left the room.

* * * * *

"Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?" Xander asked Willow later that day as she was gathering her things.

"No, I'm sure," she said. "I just. . . I need to get my mind off of things. I'm gonna go back to campus and work on some chemistry stuff. I just. . . I need to clear my head."

"Okay," Xander said. "Buffy and I are going to try to track the. . . her tonight, to make sure she doesn't. . . well, we're going to try to find her."

Willow nodded. Xander moved in to hug her. She grabbed him tightly and held on as if he'd disappear.

"I love you, Willow," he said. "You know that, right?"

"I know," she said. "Thank you. I love you too."

Xander smiled at her, not letting go until she did.

"I'll be okay," she said after a minute. "I just need to figure things out in my head before I talk to him."

"You know I'm behind you, whatever happens."

Willow smiled at him and gave him a peck on the cheek.

"You'll call later, right?" he asked.

"I will."

"Bye Willow," he said.

* * * * *

The door swung open. Oz looked up.

"We're finding her," Xander said. "You're helping."

Oz nodded and slipped his shoes on. "Xander, you have to know that -"

"Oz, not talking right now would be in your favor," Xander said, harshly.

Oz's head dropped and he nodded.

"Besides," Xander said, softening his tone. "I'm not the one you need to explain to." He paused. "So where would she go?"

"I have an idea," Oz said. "If we get near her, I think I can track her scent."

"Let's go, then," Xander said, hefting the tranq gun.

* * * * *

"This way," Oz said, moving through the woods. "She came this way, I can smell it."

Xander followed as quickly as he could. Another minute and they came upon a pile of clothes.

"It's not her," Xander said.

"I can see that."

"Why would she drop her clothes here? To throw you off the scent?"

Oz nodded, then looked at Xander pointedly. He understood.

"Willow," he said, and they took off.

* * * * *

Willow was alone in the chem lab, reading over her notes when the door clicked. She turned.

"You," she said, growing angry.

"Me," Veruca replied. "You know, you don't do a very good job of keeping your man in line."

"Oz keeps his own line. I can't control where it goes."

"You willing to fight for him?" Veruca asked, coyly.

"I always fight for what I love," Willow said.

Veruca glanced at a clock. "I guess we're about to see how good of a fighter you are."

Willow looked at the clock, then out the window. It was almost sundown.

"Whoa, I said I'd fight, but I thought you. . . I mean, you're a werewolf, you'll kill me!"

The door burst open and Oz and Xander spilled into the room.

"You will not touch her," Oz said to Veruca.

"You gonna stop me?" she asked.

"I'll do what I have to," he said.

"Guys, we don't have to -" Xander started. He stopped when Veruca and Oz both started to change.

"You'll have to kill me," she said as she morphed.

"I've got a wolf in me," Oz said. "I can deal."

The two wolves leapt at each other and met in mid-air. Oz, the heavier of the two, pushed Veruca down onto the ground. Amidst a fury of claws and fur, growling and drool, the wolves grappled for dominance. The whole time Xander was trying to get a bead on them, but they moved too much and his aim wasn't accurate enough. After a few moments, Oz gained the upper hand and tore Veruca's throat out, leaving the wolf dead on the floor.

"Oz?" Willow said.

Oz-wolf turned and saw her, standing there defenseless and turned to attack. Xander lined up a shot and put Oz to sleep. Willow crumpled to the floor, crying. Xander quickly checked Veruca and felt no pulse. He then went over to Willow and helped her to her feet. They went into the hall. Xander called Riley to have them pick up the body, and he and Willow carried Oz out of the building.

* * * * *

The door opened. Oz looked up from packing.

"Hello," Willow said.

"Hi," said Oz.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going."

"Now?"

"Mm-hmm," he said, zipping the suitcase.

"That's your solution?" she asked.

"That's my decision."

"Don't I get a say in this?"

"No. Veruca was right about something. The wolf is inside me all the time, and I don't know where that line is anymore between me and it. And until I figure out what that means, I shouldn't be around you... Or anybody."

Tears started flowing down Willow's cheeks. "Well, that could be a problem, 'cause people. . . kind of a planetary epidemic."

"I'll find someplace."

"Well, how long?"

"I don't know.

"Oz. . . don't you love me?"

Oz moved to her and pressed his forehead to hers. "My whole life. . . I've never loved anything else."

"Oz. . .. oh, God, Oz. . ..."

Willow stood there in his room as he grabbed his bag and headed outside. Oz loaded his bags into his van and got into the drivers seat. He rested his head on the wheel for a few moments. He looked up and saw Xander standing in front of the van.

"Hey," Xander said, walking up to the driver's side window.

Oz nodded. "Is this the part where you beat the crap out of me?"

Xander chuckled. "No, Oz. I'm not going to do anything. Not only do I not want to, but more, if I did, it would just hurt Willow more." He shook his head. "I've done enough of that in my life. Too much. I don't want to hurt her anymore. But. . . I need to say something here."

"Okay."

"I don't know why. . . this all happened. But I do know that Willow is one of the most important things in my life. More than the fight, more than the job, more than. . . just about anything you can think of. If you. . . when you come back, make sure you do it for the right reason."

Oz looked at him for a moment, then nodded. Xander nodded back at him and stepped away from the van. Oz turned the ignition and drove off, Xander watching him go.

Xander sighed and went into the building to find Willow.

* * * * *

Xander and Buffy lay on her bed at the dorm room. Willow had chosen to sleep at her parents house that night.

"So what's the score?" Buffy asked.

"The world didn't end," he said. "But Willow's in pain. Riley lost four men. I guess we won, but I don't really feel like celebrating."

Buffy raised her head up to his and kissed him lovingly. "It will get better," she said. "Willow will move on, and Riley's men will be honored. The world will keep on not ending."

Xander nodded and wrapped his arms around the woman he loved.

"Being here, next to you, I can believe that," he said.

Buffy smiled and nuzzled closer to her lover, intent on going to sleep.

* * * * *

In the street outside the dorm, a figure in a black leather coat dropped his cigarette on the ground and stamped it out. He straddled his motorcycle and headed out of town.

"Sunnydale," he said to himself. "I'll be back when I'm ready, and this town won't know what hit it."

He rode off into the darkness, smirking the whole time.

END