UNDER CONTROL

DISCLAIMER: Joss' blocks, my building.

RATING: K

SPOILERS: Nothing much, mostly just made up stuff. usual characters. Just a little something to get us through...


Buffy sat on the back of the bench, feet on the seat and stared out over the bluff toward the ocean. She remembered coming to this park lots of times with her mom and Dawn on nature walks and picnics before her life started getting crazy. "It's nice to have those memories," she thought as she wiped away an unwanted tear. She still missed her mom, but she'd been doing less and less of the unstoppable crying thing. She'd have to get that under control or she'd be in trouble the next time she had to save the world. And it was a good world. The sun was just reaching the horizon and its orange light washed over the park turning green trees pink and the gravel walkways into iridescent ribbons. Yep. It was good.

Life for Buffy Summers had been good lately too. After her Mom died, she'd felt so alone. She'd gone on automatic for a while, and when she finally blinked, about two months ago, and realized there was still a world out there that expected her to participate, she took stock. It turned out that she had some pretty amazing friends. After they had comforted her, wept with her and remembered with her, they had tended to her and Dawn with unceasing care and effort. Their house was cleaned, clothes washed, shopping done, dishes put away. Giles had even decided to move into their guest room and now their house didn't seem quite so empty.

There was another thing too. Every time she turned around Spike was there. He was always outside her house, there with her on patrol, even walking down the opposite side of the street when she came home from the library. It was awkward at first, she Slayer, he vampire, but she had begun to expect him there and when he wasn't, it seemed incomplete, somehow. Like a symphony without violins. They didn't speak, he was just there. Then one night, she wasn't quite sure when he wasn't walking on the opposite side of the street any more. It was the same side. He wasn't hanging around outside her house, but was inside having coffee (had she been the one with the invitation?) and making small talk.

Buffy re-evaluated a lot of things. She looked carefully at whatever it had been with Spike and considered that she may have been wrong about him. An uneasy friendship grew. It was just understood that they couldn't call it that. And she still had to think of others first and that chip in his head meant that Spike was still dangerous. Buffy knew that if it was ever removed, his vampire behavior would be back in an instant. But that opinion was starting to waiver. She was trying to be strong but she'd begun to think, "Maybe if," instead of "No way in hell."

Enough reminiscing, she thought. She was here to meet with someone. Someone who had been gone a long time, but had returned three or four months ago, around the end of the Glory threat. They all knew he was in town, but he didn't force his presence on them, it wasn't his way. And considering his last visit, it was probably not a good idea for him to meet up with certain people. But all the same, it was good to know he was around. He had called her out of the blue a few days ago to set up this little rendezvous.

She heard footsteps approaching on the path and stood up. She turned in time to see him coming around the corner of the pathway. She smiled. He was just as she remembered him. His hair was tousled his movements unhurried, but sure. And those eyes. Piercing. As always. He nodded, "Hi, Buffy," he said as he stopped in front of her.

"Hi, Oz," she answered. Buffy looked at him. He was uncomfortable looking her in the eye. Nothing new, it was just like he'd always been. But when he did look, you knew it was important and you paid attention. For the forty-thousandth time, she wondered what Willow had been thinking. "It's sure nice to have you back," was her small talk. She gave up on it. She wasn't good at it and it sounded shallow. "So, what's up?" worked much better instead.

"Buffy," he began again, then paused, hesitant. He wanted to ask her all about Willow. He'd been in town long enough to know that things hadn't changed. But he wanted to hope. So he wanted to ask if Willow had missed him, if she'd even talked about him while he was gone. He wanted to know if there was any chance she'd... But that wasn't why he was here. "Thanks for coming up here. In case you're wondering, the full moon's not for weeks so you're OK with me."

"I hear that that'd be OK anyway," Buffy replied. "What you've done, locking away the wolf, is amazing, Oz. Congratulations."

"Thanks. It took a lot of work, you know, research into martial arts and mysticism. And a lot of training until to learn how to control your mind and body, to make each muscle perform perfectly with thought, not instinct. But I think it was worth it. Or I thought it would be." Buffy saw him smile regretfully before he re-channeled the subject. "Anyway, that is kinda why we're here now." Buffy nodded. Waiting. Curious. "When I got back into town four months ago, I got my old job back at the stereo store and just started hanging around. Tried to get the band back together. Waiting to see what would happen. You know? Well, one night this guy comes up to me. I knew him from before, and he says he has this proposition for me."

Buffy, alert now, is waiting for the other shoe to drop. "Yes?"

"He says he wants me to teach him to do what I did. To control his nature."

Her mind was in a whirl. Buffy was trying to follow the clues. Where is this going? "Control what?"

"His nature. The things about people that they can't control. Everything from passion to allergies, sneezing to wolfing."

"Another werewolf?" Buffy guessed.

"Well, no, but similar."

"So did you? Help him, I mean?"

"I thought "Not" at first. There were risks. Considerable risks for me. Him more. But he and I, we talked for quite a while and he impressed me as a stand-up kind of guy. Willing to work hard and learn. So, yeah, I finally did." Oz stopped talking.

"And...," Buffy urged.

"Well, we've been working on this particular thing for several weeks now and yesterday we had a rehearsal."

Every nerve in her was screaming. Wherever this was leading couldn't be good. She trusted Oz, but who was this other guy. And here she was, up on a bluff all alone. She tried to seem nonchalant, ""So, how'd it work out?"

"You tell me," Oz nodded and pointed behind her.

Buffy spun around there was Spike.

He was in shirtsleeves and dark denim, pale arms were folded across his chest. He wasn't smiling, but the orange light made his eyes sparkle. It was a moment, perfectly orchestrated by him, and having its desired effect on her. She gasped.

Buffy's mind raced, thoughts tripped over each other in their haste to make themselves known...
First. How'd he get there without me hearing him?
Second: I wasn't paying attention because I wasn't exactly expecting vampires for a while yet.
Third: Sunlight?
Fourth: Spike in sunlight?
Fifth: He looks amazing.
Sixth: Oz taught him to do this?
Seventh: Spike in sunlight.
Eighth: Oh, my God!

Buffy turned on Oz. "What have you done?"

Oz explained, "I taught a friend of mine some self-control."

"Don't you realize how dangerous this is? Are you insane? Oz, suppose Spike teaches other vampires this new little trick? At least we've always been safe during the day."

"He wouldn't do that."

"Why not? Out of the goodness of his heart? Vampires hearts don't work, Oz. Or did you forget?"

"No, I didn't forget" Oz answered with a grin.

Buffy's eyes flew open wide. Had he just grinned? This was no laughing matter!

"Buffy," Spike said softly, "he's right. I wouldn't do that. You have my word."

She turned and looked at him. She knew what she wanted to believe, but being safe, keeping people safe, was more important, wasn't it? She felt trapped and in shock, she fell back on old, less comfortable mistrust and snapped, "Great, I have the word of a killer."

Spike was hurt. He'd been working so hard for so long to gain her trust. He thought he had. He thought that this would be a defining moment in their relationship. A turning point. Well, things were not turning the way he'd expected.

"Back off Summers," he defended. "I haven't killed anything more than you have, in more than a year. I've done my best to be a friend to you and your family, as well as I'm able. I take care of your kid sister like she's my own and fight evil, side by side, with you and the Scoobies. Doesn't that count for anything?" He was losing his temper.

"Spike..." Oz warned, but too late. Smoke began to rise from Spike's hands.

"Bloody hell, Slayer," Spike spat. He closed his eyes and tried to focus. After a couple of moments, he had it back together and the sizzling stopped. "You make me so bleedin' mad," he explained.

Buffy had been horrified by the smoldering. "Oh, God. I'm sorry Spike. Are you OK?"

"Damn it Buffy. I try to do something nice and see what you do?" He held out his singed hands to her to inspect. She took them in hers and searched for damage. His hands were cold. His fingers delicate and pale. But they were strong, good hands. She looked up and he was watching her. Smiling.

"What?" she asked.

He pulled her toward him. She hesitated but then stepped forward, testing the effect of him in her space. It wasn't half bad. "This is what I wanted all along, luv. To hold hands with you in the sunlight." Then he added, "I just didn't think you'd be so difficult about it."

"There's another surprise, Summers." Buffy half heard him as she put her arms around him and laid her head on his chest. Not half bad at all. He enfolded her in his arms and sighed.

Suddenly, Buffy lifted her head. "Spike? Is your heart beating?"

"Like all get out, pet."

Oz smiled a small wistful, self-satisfied smile and quietly left.

They didn't notice until much later.

FIN