Bars on our Doors, Bars on our Hearts

By PaBurke

Summary: Oz trying to survive in a human world.

Spoilers: Season five.

Distribution: The Nook, OzMIA

Rating: PG-15

He had thought that he needed human contact. He had thought that he had been alone in the woods too long. He had thought that a quick trip into the city would cure what ailed him.

Oz had thought wrong.

He had been with the animals for far too long. There the only emotions were 'need' and 'fear.' And fear was in short supply when you were on the top of the food chain.

Oz had forgotten fear.

The human fear of rejection, the beast's fear of being caged, warred within Oz. The buildings that towered skyward made the beast quiver. The distraction of taking the bus turned into a failed experiment. Most of the occupants feared something: money problems, job problems, health problems. Oz could smell decay. One of the riders was dying and knew it and feared what was beyond death.

A child's laughter brightened the bus for a moment and offered hope. But the mother feared rejection, feared that the child was too loud, that he might bother the other riders and shushed the laughter. The hope flickered and died.

Oz got off the bus miles before he had planned. The streets were slightly better and they were slightly worse. He could walk away from the people and their fears, but he would only run into a new set of fears from a new set of people.

He saw those who thought they were strong prey on those they saw as weak. The beast had no problems with this. It took a few moments to realize that Oz did. A boy, bruised, lifted himself up from the mud and smiled at Oz, for no reason, than because Oz was there. The boy was not as prey as previously believed. The boy walked away and no one offered to help him.

Oz didn't know if he had smiled back at the boy. He hoped that he had. Had he been the one to hush and smother the flickers of hope this time?

Dusk was falling and the shops were closing up for the night. Shopkeepers turned off lights and lowered the gates. The rattles unnerved the beast within. It didn't like cages.

The beast feared cages.

It even feared cages that it was kept out of. All the beast saw were the bars. Bars intended to keep out danger did not feel secure to Oz, to the beast. The bars kept Oz on the outside with the danger, but Oz could not have handled being inside the bar and 'safe.'

There was danger on the streets, but Oz walked by it unnoticed.

He had learned that in the woods and it served him well. As Oz had walked by the danger, so he walked by those in danger. Those people didn't see how close they were to the edge, they didn't see how long the drop was down. They didn't see the sharpened pikes at the bottom.

Oz saw it though. He did not comment to those on the edge. He did not help.

He didn't push them over the edge either.

Where was there hope? Why had he come here?

He hadn't seen the sun because of the rain clouds and he couldn't see the stars for the smog. There was barely any grass to be seen and fewer trees.

Oz abruptly changed directions. He had had enough. It was time to leave this city. Street by street Oz walked out of the city. The further apart the houses, the higher Oz's spirit rose. The lights seemed brighter, the roads cleaner. There weren't people out on the street here, but there weren't bars on these windows.

Oz could smell trees and animals from here. It was calling him home.

A church bell tolled the hour. The automated sounds hovered on the winds.

Oz paused and listened.

Was that hope?

Oz didn't know.

He kept on walking until he was surrounded by woods.

Alone.

*Ifin/I*