Economy from Tension

By Shakespeare's Girl

A/N: Angel and Oz participate in a study in terseness. For the Challenge.

The nice thing about Oz, Angel mused, sizing up the werewolf who was standing in his basement apartment, was that he didn't feel the need to speak simply to fill the silence. Angel finally nodded. "Oz."

"Hey," Oz nodded back.

Oz looked taller than Angel had remembered. Maybe it was just that he wasn't sandwiched between Xander--who couldn't seem to stop growing--and Giles, who was your typical tall, thin Englishman. Angel decided that was probably it. Or it was because Oz was currently flanked by a grinning Cordelia Chase--who wasn't wearing heels today--and Doyle, who was short because he was a Bracken Demon and they tended to run on the smaller side.

"Nice surprise," Angel commented.

Oz shrugged. "Thanks."

Yes, Angel thought to himself, not having to use full sentences was nice. And they were communicating just fine. Why were people so hung up on talking?

"Staying long?" Angel asked, making a tiny gesture that Cordy and Doyle wouldn't notice, offering Oz space in the apartment if he wanted.

Angel noted the miniscule lift of Oz's eyebrows that signified that he'd think about it. "Few days," he said, making it sound casual. It wasn't. It was a warning that he didn't know how long he'd be here. Angel didn't respond. Sometimes another warm body--any warm body--was nice. You got them when you could and you didn't complain about their schedules or wanting them back when they left.

"Are they always like this?" Doyle asked Cordy, amazement at the sparse conversation evident on his face.

"No, we're usually laconic," Oz answered for Cordy. Angel allowed himself a small smirk at that. Leave it to Oz to put everyone at ease and in their place so easily.

"Come on in," Angel offered, leading them back deeper into his lair. "So . . . good to see you." Angel liked that he didn't have to voice his question for Oz to answer it.

"I came primarily for a gig, but also to give you this," he explained, holding out a ring with a green stone overlaid with gold. Oz raised an eyebrow but didn't comment when Angel didn't touch it.

Doyle was the one to look closely. "Wait a minute, is that what I think it is?" he demanded, practically itching to grab the ring.

"It's the gem of Amara," Angel confirmed, still not accepting the ring.

"One and the same," Oz agreed. Still hesitating, Angel finally took the ring. "Buffy wanted you to have it," he half apologized.

"Hey, Buffy," Cordelia latched onto the subject, sensing the tension in the room. "How is good old Buffy anyway?"

"She's . . ." Oz frowned a little, and that told Angel all he needed to know about Buffy.

"What? Still the brave little Slayer, or is she moping around in the dark like--" Cordy cut herself off, panicked. "Like nobody around here!" she back-pedaled, making obvious signals to Oz not to talk about it.

Angel ignored them, turning away and examining the ring carefully. It was the real thing. Most fakes looked prettier and better than this. And he could feel the power pulsing against his cold skin.

"She's good," Oz told Cordelia, ignoring her blundering. "She is Buffy."

"And I'm sure we'll be interested in that later, but right now can we concentrate on the motherlode Angel just hit?" Doyle interrupted. He leaned closer to Angel, energy practically vibrating off of him, frustration just as apparent as he waited for Angel to finish his inspection and put the ring on. "What are you waiting for, man? Put it on!"

"Okay, you're getting weird about this ring," Cordy observed, crinkling her forehead in her imitation-frown. "Since when did you get all Versace about accessorizing?"

Doyle rolled his eyes at her. "Since the accessory is priceless and renders it's wearer one hundred percent unkillable if he's a vampire."

"Unkillable?" Cordy repeated. "Whew! You mean not even stakes?"

"Not nothing," Doyle announced. "Not stakes, not fire, and the best thing is, not even sunlight. I mean just think of it man," he continued, focusing on Angel. "Poolside tanning, bargain matinees, plus, I know a couple of strip clubs that have a fabulous luncheon buffet." At Cordy's glare, he trailed off. "I mean it's . . . I've heard."

Angel looked at Oz. "And it's from Buffy."

"Yeah," Oz nodded. Then he elaborated. "Your buddy Spike dug up Sunnydale looking for it. He got a fist full of Buffy and left it behind. She wanted to be sure it was in good hands."

"So she sent you," Angel mumbled. Oz winced. It was a slight, and they both knew it.

"I was heading this way," he said calmly, even if the hurt didn't disappear from Angel's eyes.

"And she didn't even send a note?" Cordy tisked. "Wow. That's really--" Angel glared, and she winced. "This is one of those times when I should just shy away from the topic, isn't it?"

"Come on," Doyle begged, deftly ignoring the other's discomfort, "I have something that will boost your spirits." Doyle grabbed a stake. "Why don't you put it on, and I'll stake you. It'll be fun!"

"Maybe later," Angel deferred. The ring didn't feel right. It was off somehow. Tainted maybe. It felt like dark magic, maybe even the deepest magic. That wasn't something he could truly tell unless he tried the ring on, and he wasn't going to risk it until he was sure.

"What are you, out of your mind?" Doyle sputtered.

"I said, 'maybe later'," Angel repeated firmly.

"Yeah--"

"Doyle."

"Okay, you have it your way, man," Doyle backed off. "But I'm still going to celebrate with a drink down at the pub."

Cordy grinned. "He'd celebrate the opening of a mailbox with a drink at the pub," she explained. "You coming, Oz?" she asked, even as she waved goodbye to Angel.

Oz waited for a signal from Angel, then turned back to Cordy. "Yeah, I could eat something."

"Go ahead," Angel said unnecessarily. Oz still waited a few more seconds, until he was sure of Angel's answer, before he turned and left.

The silence hung heavy in the empty apartment. Angel sighed, then smiled. Having Oz around for a few days would be nice. Like white noise, only quieter.

Neither one of them would admit the real reason Oz would stay with Angel. The easy communication, so second nature to them now, wasn't caused by their being kindred spirits, or anything silly like that. It was because they were constantly watching each other. Oz was watching Angel, to be sure he was Angel, to observe a vampire up close, because Oz was at heart a predator. Angel was watching Oz, to be sure Oz watched him, because he'd never been friends with a werewolf before, because Angel was just as much a predator as Oz was. And the watching created tension. And the tension caused more watching. And the watching meant that they knew exactly the way the other one moved, had intimate knowledge of the way the muscles under the layers of clothes and skin worked, knew exactly what mood the other was in just by how the fabric of a shirt shifted. And that created more tension.

Tension spawned economy--economy of phrase, of movement.

And all of it somehow mixed together and created both lust and camaraderie.

It was the lust that drove them toward each other. It was the lust that held them together. It was the lust that made Angel snap out of his reverie and move toward the sewers. If Oz was right, then Spike wasn't far away, and it just wouldn't do for him to get his hands on the ring. There were more important things at stake here than a weekend with Oz.