Spoilers: Third season
Feedback: Please!

Queena's Challenge
1) Have the number 75.
2) Have a Tiara
3) Oz must rescue Buffy
4) Oz mentions Willow's in England.
5) Buffy talks about Angel leaving to go to LA


Oz woke to Giles' strangled cry as he saw the vampire with Willow's face lift Buffy into the air by her throat. Oz quickly looked around and was relieved to find he was still on the stage of the Bronze. He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs.

"Open the gate and let the Master enter!" Vampire Willow shouted at the distraught Giles as she shook her captive for emphasis.

As Oz's vision cleared a little more, he was terrified as he realized Buffy was unconscious: the glazed look in her eyes told him she couldn't see him. As he lay there gasping and gathering strength, he saw that the slayer's arms were behind her back--as if tied there--and the tiara that had been on the May Queen's head was now deeply imbedded in her thigh. Blood ran freely down Buffy's leg from the gash the tiara had created.


"She's going to die in a few moments," the vampire softly told Giles. Oz could see she was correct: Buffy's face was beginning to turn blue, as the lack of oxygen became apparent.

Oz felt the drumstick still in his hand, the smooth wood a caress. He'd grabbed it right before Willow...No! The vampire...had knocked him literally head over heels across the stage. He took a deep breath, trying to revive himself so he could do what he had to do--knowing if he stumbled or faltered he would be killed and that everyone else in the room would die with him. He purposefully blocked out the fact that he was going to have to kill the vampire...if he thought about it, he knew he would hesitate and all would be lost.

With one last look at Buffy's blue face, Oz took another deep breath and willed strength to his legs. With a surge of impossible energy, he leaped up and rushed across the stage to plunge the drumstick deeply into the vampire's back.

There was a moment where time seemed to stand still, then the vampire's form dissolved into dust, then fell to the ground, and Buffy fell with all her weight landing on her injured leg. By the look of intense agony that flashed across her face, Oz was certain that if she'd had the air to scream, she would have. Oz reached for her to support her, but his weak legs gave out and he sat heavily, drawing her head into his lap.

The slayer seemed so tiny, so fragile as she began to gasp for air, which in turn began a series of convulsions. Not wanting her to injure herself further, Oz tried to restrain her as she thrashed on his lap. Suddenly, two paramedics appeared out of nowhere and lifted her off of him. Oz' head began to swim and the world around him became unreal, distant, as he slowly sank back to lie on the floor.

The paramedic's voice broke through to Oz's fogged brain and he turned toward Buffy. "We need those wire cutters here, now!" Oz watched as the paramedics rolled Buffy onto her side, and he could see her hands were tied with bailing wire, and each movement of her thrashing body sent the wire deeper into her arms and wrists.

The next thing he knew, there was a light in his eyes and he heard people talking around him, but again, everything seemed distant--nothing to do with him.

"Concussion, I want an MRI stat..." Oz finally understood as he drifted off once again.

Oz woke again to darkness and drifted for a while longer, then waking again to light shining in his eyes. This time, it was daylight and after blinking to clear his vision, he found he was in a hospital room. He turned his head to see Giles sitting by his bed, reading.

"Hey," Oz said surprised at the weakness of his voice.

At the sound of his voice, Giles looked up and smiled, saying, "Welcome back." Oz managed a slight smile, then the memory of Buffy's blood-covered form slammed into his mind.

"Buffy?" He choked out in near panic.

Giles placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Still in ICU, I'm afraid." The Watcher paused a moment to clear his throat, then continued. "We almost lost her twice. The...um...damage to her throat was so severe that the swelling blocked her airway." He turned away from Oz and walked to the window to look out at the afternoon sunlight. Oz could see his shoulders shaking as he tried to continue.

"They had to perform surgery on her throat," Giles said, finally...seeming to speak to the golden afternoon. He turned back toward Oz, removed his glasses and began cleaning them. "They had to remove her larynx." At Oz's blank look, he added, "...her vocal cords. And I'm afraid there is a rather large scar."

Oz thought of how much Buffy loved to talk, using her lovely voice to communicate...and more than just with words. Now, she was silent. As a musician, Oz couldn't conceive of a worse curse. "She must be totally devastated," he murmured, thinking that he needed to go see her now, and wondering how long he'd been unconscious.

"She doesn't know, yet," Giles said, turning back toward him. "They have her on a respirator. According to the doctors, they had to induce coma." Giles walked nervously back to his chair and picked up his book, placing a bookmark in it and putting it onto the bedside table.

"The doctors claim that Buffy's system is using up the drugs too fast so they are going to have to remove her from the respirator soon or risk an addiction." Giles looked back at Oz, and Oz got the distinct feeling that he was not telling him everything.

"I have to see her," Oz said not really understanding why he was suddenly so obsessed but he knew he had to see her before she woke up. He had to prepare himself for any scar, internal or external, because if she saw rejection, in his face she would never recover from it. Oz knew that with Joyce dead, Willow in England, Angel in LA, and Xander in the army, he might well be Buffy's only chance at recovering emotionally from this situation. He was sure that was why Giles was waiting for him to wake-up.

Giles looked down and away from Oz and again Oz knew he was holding more back. Oz reached out and grabbed Giles' arm forcing him to look at him. "Tell me," he asked gently.

Giles' sighed, "The doctors claim they must wake her up slowly so her body realizes that it must start breathing on its own." Oz let his arm drop and Giles turned to walk towards the door of the room. Turned around and continued, "If she wakes up too fast or is confused she could fight the respirator causing more damage or...." He trailed off and Oz instinctively braced for bad news knowing this was what was making Giles so agitated.

Giles took another deep breath; a tear leaked out of one eye. "The paramedics claim from the time they removed her from your lap to establishing an airway it took them about two minutes but they have no idea how long before that she was, she was...... Giles broke down, hot tears running out of his eyes and he groped for his chair sitting down. Oz finished, "They think she has brain damage."

Giles recovered enough to speak, "She could. As they arrived at the hospital her heart stopped.... They were able to get it going, but once again, it was several minutes...."

Oz guessed, "So the coma Buffy is in may or may not be because of the drugs?" Giles nodded. "And even if she does wake up she might not be Buffy?" Giles nodded. "How much time?"

"They are already lowering the dosage of one of the drugs, trying to get Buffy to breathe. If she does take over for the machine they will lessen the dosage of the tranquilizer until she wakes up."

"If she wakes up?" Oz added under his breath.

"Yes." Giles said. "I think it would be best if you got some sleep tonight and I'll take you to see her first thing in the morning. We should know more by then." Giles gathered up his book and left, leaving Oz to do a lot of thinking.

*************

Oz woke slowly, the morning sunlight shining through the window of his hospital room. He had dozed fitfully after Giles left yesterday afternoon until around eight-at which time a nurse appeared with a little yellow pill. He thought to himself: Devon would have loved the drug, while Oz felt like he had lost part of his life to it. Oz drifted for a while thinking about how much he hated being sick or hurt because of the drugs the medical community seemed to think it needed to pump into a person.

When he woke again, the sun was higher in the sky and he felt as if his bladder was going to explode. He felt more awake; the headache that had been in the background was gone. Oz looked around the room for the telltale door to the bathroom-he remembered the nurse helping him use the pitcher looking thing on his bedside table last night. "Never again!" He mumbled, sitting up and throwing the covers off. He sat on the edge of his bed for moment waiting for the slight feeling of dizziness to pass before he got to his feet.

Once in the bathroom he discovered towels, a clean gown, and a robe so he decided to get clean while he was at it. When he came out of the bathroom feeling much better, a nurse was just finishing changing the sheets on his bed and a tray of food was on a sliding table next to it.

"Hello," the nurse said cheerfully. "Happy to see you up and around, though you should have called one of us to help you with your shower," she admonished as she finished putting a pillowcase on the pillow.

"Sorry," Oz said, although he wasn't very-he didn't think he could handle a nurse helping him while he was conscious. The nurse gave him a strained smile as she fluffed the pillow, putting it on his bed. Oz was beginning to get tired so he sat on the edge as the nurse disappeared briefly into the bathroom. She came out and put his dirty towels with the bed linens.

"I'll tell Dr. Matteson you're awake and she'll be in to see you," the nurse said, walking to the door. "But don't expect to make good your escape," she added with a wink and a small smile, as if reading Oz's mind. "Dr. Matteson is of the 'old school' and is very conservative when it comes to head injuries." The nurse nodded with just the hint of approval in her voice as she closed the door.

Oz lay back after the nurse left and started to doze again after a few minutes he heard the door open. He glanced up to see a little woman in a white lab coat enter his room. Besides her physical size, she was so small she made Buffy seem like a giant, he noticed were her steely blue eyes. She looked at him and marched up to the bed extending her hand-"Hello Oz, I'm Dr. Matteson."

Oz sat up, surprised. He took her hand in a firm grip, "nice to meet you." He paused a moment, "I think." Her smile grew slightly, reaching her eyes.

"Yes, well I understand your trepidation." She said, looking at the clipboard. "You got up and took a shower without the nurse's help." The doctor noted, looking back at Oz who was blushing a deep red at the thought of the nurse helping him.

The doctor chuckled at his discomfort; "Okay, I'll make a note that you are feeling better." She said writing in his chart. "But," she looked him directly in the eyes the steel blue pinning him, "I want you to call the nurse whenever you get up-so she can make sure you are all right."

Oz nodded agreement; this woman might be tiny but she was extremely intimidating. "Okay then, let's get started." She said holding a yellow card. "What color is this?"

After about 15 minutes of the doctor asking Oz questions ranging from the date to who his first grade teacher was, the doctor pronounced the exam done for the day. Dr. Matteson sat down to write her notes in the chart as Oz lay back on the bed-he was exhausted. He began to doze, yet again, when he heard a knock as the door to his room opened once more and Giles walked in.

"Ah, am I ah, interrupting?" Giles asked. The doctor looked up from her notes and smiled at Giles, "no, we were just finished." Then she reached out and touched Oz, "if you can hold on for a few more minutes I'd like to explain the situation with your friend." The doctor turned back to Giles; "it would save me repeating myself."

Oz nodded; very happy and relieved that she was also Buffy's doctor. In just the few minutes he had spent with her he had grown to trust her. The doctor stayed seated, to talk to them, Oz noted thinking that she was deliberately trying to keep her eyes lower than his so it wouldn't seem like she was lording over him.

"Okay," Dr. Matteson began taking a deep breath. "First off you guys don't mind if I speak from memory instead of going and fetching her chart? I have total recall, so I can answer any questions you may have-" she winked at Oz as if she knew she scored points with him for using the word fetch.

"No, of course not," Giles answered.

The doctor took another deep breath and Oz could swear she was purposely slipping back into Doctor Mode, which frightened him.

"Miss Summers seems to be beginning to breathe on her own," Dr. Matteson paused. "The CAT scan did show some clouding but it is unknown if it is a new injury or old or how bad. We just won't know more until we can wake her up." The doctor then stood and walked over by the window, Oz noticed she now had both of Buffy's friends in her line of sight. "Now the good news, she is recovering from both surgeries surprisingly quickly. Since we've lessened the dosages on some of the drugs, we have been able to determine that none of the nerves to her hands were damaged- she can expect a full recovery there. Plus, the scarring on her throat seems to be less than we first had reason to believe." The doctor stopped talking giving Oz and Giles time to process the information.

After a few more minutes she continued, "I cannot stress to you enough how serious it is for a teenage girl or really anyone to lose their voice." She looked Oz directly in the eye, her blue gaze blazing through him. "May I ask what your relationship is with Buffy?"

Oz had to look away from that all knowing stare to compose himself-he was confused by his own reaction. He was her friend, he thought to himself-but the wolf in him always respected her and considered her the pack leader. Still, there was something more that he would never admit... that the magical qualities of both their lives had made them in tune with each other on another level. A level they were never able to explore while she was with Angel and he Willow. Wolves mate for life; he thought wondering where it came from. He looked back at the doctor, again his estimation for her increased as he noticed her patience in letting him work things out in his head.

Finally, he answered as honestly as he could, "I am her friend."

Dr. Matteson's gaze softened, "Oz, I'm going to tell you something and then Mr. Giles and I are going to leave you so you can nap." She turned her fierce stare on Giles daring him to disagree.

Giles just nodded. "We are going to start trying to wake your friend up around four this afternoon or in about 6 hours." She said making sure he was clear on the time frame, at his nod she continued. "When a person goes through a trauma like the one Buffy's going to go through with at the very least the lost of her voice and at the worse some kind of brain damage-they shut down. They don't remember friends, they have so much to deal with that if you leave her life right now, she won't notice you are gone."

Realization dawned, "but if I stick around and then leave she will be crushed." Dr. Matteson body language told Oz all he needed to know.

"Okay, Oz, we'll leave you to think." She said walking towards the door, motioning Giles ahead of her. She turned before closing the door, "whatever you decide Oz no one will judge you. If you decide to join us at four just call for a nurse and she'll come and help you." The doctor softly closed the door, Oz's mind in turmoil.

*************

The wheelchair Oz was riding in squeaked down the tiled floor of the hallway stretching before him -- the sign to the intensive care unit above the door at the end of it. Oz thought, once the nurse pushed them through those double doors there was no going back. He had spent the last six hours thinking very carefully about what the doctor said about Buffy's condition and her emotional well being. But, when Oz weighed all his choices it came down to one thing, Buffy was his friend and she needed him.

The doors to the ICU opened as soon as Oz's wheelchair was pushed across a little beam of light, and a wave of odors assaulted his sensitive Wolf nose. The smell of blood permeated everything even though it was apparent that the hospital maintenance staff tried to cover it up with very strong antiseptic and cleansers. The smell of blood Oz expected, but the smell underlying everything was the smell of human sweat, the kind given off when they were frightened -- it was the smell of death. As if that thought could have a bodily impact he suddenly noticed how cold it was in this section of the hospital. The nurse seemed to understand how Oz was feeling.

"You get used to it. We have to keep it cold to combat infection." The nurse explained, "the one thing you never get used to is the smell". Oz started counting the numbers on the wall he noticed that each number was next to a room that contained three cubicles, with the bed in each one. At No. 75, the nurse turned into a room, once again Oz noticed three cubicles with people in all three beds. He looked at the middle bed and noticed blond hair, it had to the Buffy, though it just did not feel like her. Nor, he thought, as his Wolf sense of smell took over, did she smell like she normally smelled. The person in the bed was tiny and frail; she had tubes running everywhere, but the big thing that Oz noticed was the respirator hose running directly into the base of her neck. From his sitting position all he could see was her hair.

He felt a comforting hand on his shoulder and looked up to see the tiny doctor. "Medically speaking she's doing quite well, Oz." The doctor walked around to check some of the machines monitoring Buffy's condition. "A real miracle," Dr. Matteson continued distractedly. "Helen, when did her heart rate increase to 51?" The doctor asked the nurse behind Oz.

Helen walked over to the doctor, "I don't know. It had been steady at 40 when I checked at 3:30." "Her blood pressure and respiration are also up..." Oz tuned them out as he got out of the chair and stood next to the bed. He could see Buffy's small face, her eyes closed, if Oz tried he could almost pretend she was asleep-until he saw the tubes running into her nose, the bandages on her wrists, the IV lines inserted into her tied down arms.

Once again Oz felt a comforting hand on his shoulder; this time Giles gave him a sad smile. "Pretty gruesome?" He asked Oz, looking at Buffy. Oz continued to mentally list the damage to his friend, noting that the surgical scar on her neck was already healed.

"We thought we would have to consult with plastics over it." Dr. Matteson answered his unvoiced question and Oz looked at her in surprise. She gave him a brief smile, that never reached her eyes, and said, "a pretty girl like her, usually the scars are the first things the friends ask about." She motioned to them to follow her into the hall.

"Here is what is going on; Buffy is breathing on her own-we still have her attached to the respirator for the time being until we know the status of her other possible injury. If all goes well she should wake up slowly, giving you guys time to ease her into full consciousness over the next 30 to 40 minutes. It's very important that she wakes up slowly and doesn't try to fight or pull out the IV lines...."

Oz's attention was taken away from the Doctor's instructions by a change in the very air around him. He felt the same kind of heaviness as before a storm. He turned back to face Buffy's room, something was different, something was wrong, he just couldn't place what. Out of reflexive habit he sniffed the air, not noticing that the doctor had stopped speaking and was now looking at him with a strange expression. He sniffed again, catching a slight odor and knowing right away whom it belonged too--Buffy was awake and frightened--gathering herself to fight. He rushed to her side grabbing her arm hoping he could calm her before she panicked. But, when he made contact with her he was swept away in a terror so intense he crumbled to knees caught in a fit of dry heaves, only to be confused when the emotion stopped the moment he lost physical contact with her. Dr. Matteson followed him into Buffy's room, he saw her glance at him as he crawled out of her way to sit against the wall taking deep breaths.


"Oz?" The doctor asked.

"She's, she's waking up-badly" he choked out. The doctor didn't hesitate, she pulled a syringe out of her coat pocket and plunged it into Buffy's arm, she pulled the needle out just as Buffy hand reached towards the tube in her neck, the tie downs on her wrist snapping cleanly. Dr. Matteson tried to stop her hand but was pulled over on to the bed on top of the slayer. Then Oz felt the heaviness in the air clear away and the doctor was able to push herself off of Buffy still holding on to her arm, gently placing it back down by the unconscious girl's side.

The doctor walked over to Oz reaching her hand down to help him up. "We need to talk. Now!" She said, helping him to his wheelchair. He looked over at his friend, "she'll be out for another hour or two," she paused, squeezed his shoulder, and added. "I promise." She turned the chair around to face the shocked Giles. "We need to talk, privately," the small woman said to Giles. "I suggest Oz's room so he can lay down." Then she pushed Oz down the hallway, expecting the opened mouth Giles to follow.

*****************

"Okay, just what are you and what is Buffy?" The small doctor demanded once Oz had been settled in his bed. Giles stood by the door as the doctor paced the room in front of the window. The setting sun lighting up the gray in her hair.

Giles started to answer, "ah, I'm not sure what you mean." He said trying to throw the doctor off track. "Oh, Bull, you know exactly 'what I mean!'" she said with an edge, her eyes flashing fire. "Look, I have instincts about things and I think you are the good guys." She took a breath, "but I have a young girl in there," she motioned in the general direction of the ICU. The doctor took another breath, Oz noticed her hands were shaking, "I have a young girl in my care that so far has healed faster than anyone I've seen, or the medical journals claim is possible, a girl that goes through drugs like...."

Dr. Matteson paused again; it appeared like she was searching for the word. She gave up and bonelessly sat in the chair by Oz's bed.

"I've been a doctor in Sunnydale for 10 years, my lover is a Witch." She looked over her shoulder at Giles then continued, "I know things here are not like they were in Cincinnati; but Miss Summers is in my care," She repeated yet again as if it explained everything. And Oz thought maybe that it did. Giles walked over to him and sat on the corner of his bed. Oz smiled as Giles took off his glasses and began cleaning them.

Giles put his glasses back on and sighed, "Buffy is what is known as a Slayer." The doctor seemed surprised. "Susan thought that was a myth." She stated. Then noticed the confused expressions. "My lover?" She paused, " the Witch?" She explained, "her name is Susan."

The doctor smiled at the twin expressions of surprise on Oz's and Giles' face, then her face went back to what Oz now understood as her "doctor mode." "Tell me all you know about her physiology because I have the sinking feeling for the past 24 hours medical science has done her more harm than good." The doctor gave a shudder, "and if she had been able to pull out that tracheotomy, oh, goddess!"

Giles started to explain to the doctor about Vampires and Slayers the drone of his "lecturing voice" helping lull Oz into sleep; he still was recovering from his own injuries. He woke to the sounds of Giles and Dr. Matteson talking. He saw the two adults reflected in the window of his room, the nighttime darkness turning the window into a mirror. He noticed that sometime during his nap another chair had been brought in and the light by his bed turned on-the tray table placed between them acting as a make shift desk.

"You are correct, Gail, the slayer's metabolic rate most likely is the cause of the incredible healing."

Gail? Thought Oz, when did Giles get promoted to a first name basis with the Doctor?

"So on top of everything else we did wrong, we are also starving her to death!" Gail got up and started pacing around the room.

"No, I don't believe you treated her incorrectly." Giles told her, "she is still human and heals like a human only at a much higher rate."

The doctor let out a derisive snort, "Well good, at least the surgeries were necessary. I don't think we've really caused that much damage."

"Exactly, you saved her life." Giles added.

"Yes, we did." The doctor said as she walked back to the table and picked up some papers. "With the information you just told me I think we can outline a proper course of treatment."

Oz thought this would be a good time to let them know he was awake-besides the doctor had said the drug she gave Buffy earlier would only keep her out for a few hours. He yawned and stretched.

The small doctor turned toward the werewolf, offering a shy smile. "Good you're awake."

"Buffy?" Asked the teen.

Giles answered standing up and walking over to him, "Gail thought it would be wise to keep her sedated for a while longer in view of her discoveries concerning Buffy's slayer's, ah, enhancements." Oz raised his eyebrow in inquiry.

"You can call me Gail, too." She said to the teen, then added "I was going to release you tomorrow anyway after some more tests we might as well not stand on formalities."

Gail took a deep breath as if bracing for bad news, she then asked him; "I need you to tell me everything that went on earlier. You were obviously aware of something that I wasn't. I need to know what so we won't have a repeat of what happened."

Oz turned towards the window to gather his thoughts; "It was like the air became heavy." He turned back to Giles and Gail to see if they were following, Gail nodded for him to continue. "It felt like a storm was coming, sort of like the air was charged, so I turned towards the direction I felt it coming from-then I smelled Buffy...." The werewolf trailed off realizing how strange he sounded.

"Oz, I told Dr. Matteson about your condition." Giles said. The teen glanced at the doctor to see how she took it. Gail gave him a strained smile. "Go on, Oz, please. What happened when you touched her?"

The teen cringed as both the physical and emotional memory assaulted him. "It was like she was terrified and it was transferred into me." The youth said taking deep breathes.

"Okay, that enough for now." The doctor turned to Giles and stated, "you didn't mention your slayer being empathic or, for that matter, the werewolf either."

Giles took off his glasses, " ah, a slayer has clairvoyant dreams and such, and can sense vampires close by but... empathy...." The Watcher finished disbelieving.

Giles was slightly taken aback when the doctor began to laugh, "you live in a world with Vampires, superhuman slayers, and werewolves and yet you don't believe in a simple empathic link between a badly hurt teenage girl and her friend?" The doctor's laugher took on a hysterical nature as she clutched her sides sitting heavily on the nearest chair. Though Oz had to admit Giles' Scullying amused him too.

After a few more moments the doctor was able to compose herself, wiping the tears from her eyes, she told Giles; "Gosh, I needed that. All right, lets get back to the issues at hand, but after we get Buffy back on her feet remind me to show you some of the studies Duke University did in the late fifty's and early sixty's on psychic phenomenon."

Gail stood up again, "Oz you said everything was fine and then you felt a charge to the air? Were you picking it up or was Buffy projecting? Do you know?"

The teen thought for a few moments; "I don't know. I mean sometimes with Willow I knew what she was feeling-it was more of hunch then."

"Anything more? I really don't know what I'm trying to find out. Mr. Giles was very helpful in explaining about her physical strengths, her heighten senses."

"That's it!" Oz shouted excitedly. "We have to get her out of that place, now!" He sat up.

"Whoa there kid what's it?" The doctor part of Gail coming to the front and pushing Oz back down on his bed.

"That place, ICU, it smells like death. It freaked her out. She's a slayer she's supposed to fight death with all her might and she can't.... We have to move her-take her home, or to another part of the hospital." He said in a rush, the doctor shook her head.

"I'm sorry Oz but it's taken me ten years to train the staff there and get enough nurses that I trust-no, there is no other place in this hospital that can give Buffy the round the clock nursing care she has to have at this point."

Giles spoke up then, "what about hiring private nurses, keeping her here in the hospital?"

The doctor shook her head; again, "do you have any idea how expensive that would be? And the insurance companies would never go for it. This is a private hospital, meaning for profit, you would have to front the money and we are talking thousands."

"But if we had the money then you could find the nurses and get the hospital to agree?" Giles persisted.

"Yes, the hospital would jump at the extra money and I know several nurses that need the overtime-but I still can't go along with it. When some one wakes up the sense of smell is the last of the senses to become active. If you and Oz are talking to her, she should be fine."

Oz thought about how he felt when the odor first hit him, the wolf in him nearly made him run. "But smell is the most visceral of all the senses?"

"Yes, but...." The doctor started and then trailed off. "I see your point."

She turned around to Giles once again in doctor mode, "All right you supply the money and I'll make sure Miss Summers is moved ASAP and will arrange the care."

She checked her watch, "I have rounds to make, a critical patient to move and a new course of treatment to make up for said patient. Why don't you guys get some rest" she turned back to Giles "and I'll met you back here at around 2:00 AM and we'll try again?"

The doctor started out of the room, "Mr. Giles I'll show to the business office. Wolf-boy," she smiled in a Xander like way, "go back to sleep we have a long night ahead of us."

After the doctor, Gail, left with Giles the teen lay back on the bed thinking about that afternoon. The day after Buffy's eighteenth birthday the Scooby Gang sat in her kitchen listening to the cut and bruised slayer talking about Giles' betrayal and termination from the council.

Oz remembered her talking about gut wrenching fear and misery. He made a flippant comment about keeping up tradition. If this afternoon was an example of the pain in her life-a life she covered up so well-he would do everything in his power to keep her from feeling that way again.

***************************************************


Oz sat in his hospital bed watching "Casablanca" on late night A&E. It was Willow's favorite movie-he didn't know why he was torturing himself by watching it-though he realized at the closing credits the ache in his heart whenever he thought of Willow, had lessened. The teen idly wondered if Buffy liked old romantic movies? He thought he should ask her. Oz had a huge collection of the oldies, as he called them; and he mumbled "Play it again Sam." Thinking about Buffy and how she would look dress up in the 40's style clothing getting on the plane leaving his life--like Willow did-just like in the movies. "Now just where did that come from?" he mumbled again.

Giles opened the door knocking on it. "Ah, good you are up, Gail has Buffy situated directly down the hall. She requested we join her in about ten minutes or so. Do you think you can walk or should I have the nurse get a wheelchair?"

"No, I can walk Giles," Oz said turning off the TV and getting out of bed looking for his robe. "Why did Dr. Matteson send you?" Oz still wasn't comfortable using the doctor's first name.

"Ah, I think she felt we should have some time to ourselves," Giles said walking further into the room closing the door. The watcher seemed nervous to Oz.

"What's wrong Giles? Is Buffy worse?" Oz asked trying to figure out the Englishman's problem.

"No, no, or, well the same," Giles fidgeted some more clearly working up to saying something. "Oz, I'm concerned you might be miffed that I disclosed your secret."

The werewolf let out a sigh of relief, "No Giles, I understand you had too. I trust your judgment and I trust Dr. Matteson, I mean, Gail. I don't know why, I just think she cares very deeply about her patients. Now if that is cleared up I really want to see Buffy."

"Of course," Giles turned to lead the way to the slayer's new room.

*************

Buffy's room was only a few doors down from Oz's, something the young werewolf was sure was on purpose. Guess I won't be leaving tomorrow, he thought to himself pushing open the door.

"Hi Wolf-boy." The doctor greeted him smiling, sitting in a comfortable chair under the window. Oz wondered at just how much more Xander-like the doctor could be, at the same time wishing Xander were here to help. Giles walked over to the doctor and they began to converse in quiet tones over something Gail was writing on a clipboard.

Oz stood by the bed; everything was the same as in ICU, all the same monitoring equipment, all the same tubes and hoses running into her, all the same, he thought-except there was a difference.

Buffy seemed different.

He couldn't place what the difference was, he just knew something had changed for the better. He reached out and stroked her hair, pushing it away from her face. He thought that was the only safe place to touch her. Oz gently rubbed her brow, using his thumb to make soft light circles, and then widening the circles as his strokes reached her temples. It was the same soothing gesture his Mom would use after he had a nightmare; it always relaxed him, helping him fall back to sleep.

Oz started doing the same thing to Buffy's hand starting between her thumb and fingers and working his way down to her wrist just above the tie downs and the bandages. He concentrated on the keeping the touches light, slow, exactly the same as his mother's, pretending he could impart some of his mother's comfort into his friend-he always felt so loved whenever his mother held him-he wanted to make Buffy feel the same way.

Oz sank into a calm meditated state, he didn't know when the slayer woke-up, only that she was conscious-her eyes still closed. The two adults were so engrossed in their conversation neither Giles nor the doctor had realized she was awake.

Oz could tell that it was the slayer that was conscious by the change in the feeling of the air around her. The slayer was listening with both her physical hearing and with another kind of hearing, the kind of hearing only a werewolf could answer or match or understand. The werewolf vaguely noticed the slayer was now smelling the air, and he let out a sigh of relief that they were not in that 'death place' as the wolf now thought of the Intensive Care Unit.

The human part of the werewolf focused, not letting his mind or his senses match the level of alertness the slayer's were reaching. Concentrating on keeping both the physical and emotional touch light, soft, gentle, drawing circles--as the Buffy portion of his friend woke, blinking her green eyes open. Her pupil's were so dilated by drugs that they appeared almost black. She tried to turn her head in the direction of the voices but couldn't. By the way her emotions remained steady Oz could tell she recognized Giles' voice. The werewolf could see she was confused and in pain but as long as Giles was there and she could feel and smell him-she felt safe.

The wolf felt Buffy fade as the slayer took over, for a short time, and then Buffy returned only to fade out again. Each time Buffy returned she reached a higher level of alertness, and each time she faded out the slayer relaxed a little more because it could find no threat, only the soothing calmness Oz tried to convey.

Oz could feel through the slayer the focus of attention shifting in the adults. The color of the slayer's emotions changed as Giles touched her hand smiling down at her. His touch colored brightly by his fatherly love for her. The girl returned a weak smile and Oz knew it was time to break the contact, regretting the loss of the connection but at the same time understanding the love between Giles and Buffy was private.

Oz pulled back mentally and physically taking a step back away from the bed; Buffy's reaction was immediate-panic briefly flashed across her face as her eyes searched for him. The werewolf stepped back to the bed meeting her eyes and he felt a reaching out to him as their eyes met her mental touch a light caress, then gone.

The doctor coughed gaining Giles' and Buffy's attention, "Hi, Buffy, I'm Gail, your doctor. While you are awake we need to run some tests." The doctor continued, "It's not normally done this way but would you like for Giles to stay?" The frighten young girl nodded, then quickly glanced towards Oz.

"I'm sorry, Buffy, Oz was injured too and needs to go back to bed." The doctor pushed what Oz remembered as the nurses' call switch and the nurse from earlier this morning appeared with a wheelchair. Gail smiled reassuringly at both teens-"He can come back in the morning, I promise."

Oz sat in the chair; he didn't want to leave Buffy's side-except all of a sudden he was totally exhausted-as if he had just played six sets on a Saturday night at the Bronze.

*****

Oz stood outside of Giles' apartment; he looked up at the sky and saw the bright big full moon. He wanted to sit down on the front stairs and just stare at the beautiful sight. The door opened and Buffy stepped out on the porch; she was in a simple blue dress that made her eyes appear bruised.

"Hey," she said shyly, holding the door open. Oz could hear the old musical "Camelot" on the TV, the good version with Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet.

"I hope you don't mind that I brought you here." Buffy said sitting down on a stone bench. Oz hadn't noticed the bench behind her a second ago. Then he realized they were now in a graveyard and Buffy was the slayer dressed in shorts and a tank top. He could still hear Julie Andrews singing.

Oz caught up with her then, "We're in a dream?"

She nodded shyly. "It's a slayer thing, I guess." She shrugged. "They tend to only happen like this when I really need them too."

The scene changed again to his dorm room; she was sitting at his desk. Robert Goulet started belting out his ballad about Lancelot, the righteous knight who fell in love with Guenevere. A story of doomed love that caused the downfall of the kingdom.

"I needed to thank you, Oz, for saving me. Twice." Buffy stood up and walked to where he was standing by his stereo, the moon shining through the window the only light. "I don't know how I know it, but thank you for getting me out of the 'death place'." The slayer turned, they were back at Giles' apartment, both sitting on the couch. A window framed the moon.

"I could smell people dying, feel them leaving and there was nothing I could do to save them. Another minute and I would have gone crazy or left." The slayer finished, facing away, letting her revelation sink in.

They were at the hospital, in Buffy's room. They stood next to the bed as the slayer slept a bandage where the tracheotomy had been. The moon's light shining on her face through the blinds. Dr. Matteson sitting by the bed doing paper work.

The dream Buffy walked over to the doctor; "She said I'd lost my voice but there are devices or ways of learning to breathe that will help me learn to talk."

They were back at Giles' on the couch again, "Oz, why? Why do you help? You could have gone, when Willow went to England, you could have gone to LA like Angel. Why do you stay? Are you my Lancelot? The righteous Knight."

He answered her the only way he could, he leaned slightly forward and placed a tender kiss on her soft lips pouring all the love he just realized he felt in it. When he pulled back, her eyes were closed and her face flushed.

"Oh," she said. Her glazed eyes opened. "I guess that makes me Guenevere." Then she asked, shyly, "Where do we go from here?"

****

Oz jerked awake to sunlight on his face. Buffy's question was blazing a path through his mind. Just where would they go from there, he thought, snuggling deeper in the covers. Hoping to have another dream, he fell back asleep.

The End.

I think. This was the first fanfiction I ever wrote and now I've been thinking that it needs expanding.