It was Willow that eventually let Oz into the apartment, appearing at Giles' side to ask that he see to Joyce. The woman wasn't handling the situation well at all, none of them were, but the Slayer's mom was taking it the hardest. And perhaps that was as it should be, but her loud sobbing and sudden fits of intense questioning weren't helping any of them maintain any kind of focus or control. So when she had once again clamped a hand on Willow's shoulder and demanded to be told everything that had anything to do with the demonic world at all, the budding wicca was quick to delegate the task to the Watcher. Shooing him away with one hand, she pulled the door fully open, only to be struck with a strange surprise at the sight of the young man on the doorstep.
"You!" he said in shock, tilting his head and narrowing his eyes. "You're here!"
"Um. So are you," Willow replied, confused and too distracted to try and puzzle out what he meant by the comment. She remembered him from school and she figured that was where the feeling of familiarity had come from, but she couldn't quite place him exactly.
"It's just, I keep seeing you…" He trailed off as though he weren't sure where he was going with the statement, just looking at her with a sort of wonder on his face that made her blush and look down at her shoes. "I'm Oz," he blurted. "And… wow, it really sucks that we're meeting like this."
"Um, you said you had something important to tell Giles?" Willow confirmed, stepping aside os that he could step through the door. "Sorry we're kinda brushing you off," she apologized, locking the door behind him, "We're… sort of in crisis mode here. You sure this can't wait?"
Oz shifted on his feet. "Look, you're Buffy's friend right?"
And those seemed to be the magic words, because suddenly the whole apartment fell silent, all eyes on him.
"What do you know about Buffy?" the librarian asked slowly, his words guarded.
Willow watched as Oz went pale, and she blinked when she thought she saw his eyes darken.
"Look, I don't…" he began, clearly hesitant. Then his shoulders squared and he lifted his head. "Yeah, she's a vampire."
Silence followed this revelation, an awkward, uncomfortable silence, and it was broken only by a hysterical giggle. Oz recognized Xander by his dark, floppy haircut, knew him from around school, but had never seen such a look of despair and desperation on his face before, on anyone's face.
"You know," he said slowly, drawing the words out as if he were waiting for confirmation.
"We do," Giles spoke grimly.
Willow watched as the boy ducked his head, his shoulders slumping. He was cute, and she suddenly recalled that she had seen him once at the Bronze, playing with his band. Still, there was something more about him…
"Wait a minute," she said, her brain clicking into gear, "How do you know Buffy's a vampire? Oh god, she didn't bite you did she?!"
His head snapped up and his eyes really did flicker as he showed her something that looked a little bit like fear.
"No, she… no. I uh… I just saw her…" His voice was low and nervous as he stumbled over his words, taking two steps backward away from the group and towards the door.
Giles came to attention at his odd behavior, and Xander too must have noticed, because he stood and left Joyce's side, coming to stand behind Willow and place a hand on her shoulder.
"Is there something you're not telling us?" Giles asked. "If you know something, please… we just want to help Buffy."
The boy licked his lips nervously.
"I'm a werewolf?"
An exhausted, incredulous sort of silence followed, until it was broken by a hysterically giggling Xander. After that everyone seemed to shift, suddenly anxious in their skins, as though by trading positions around the room like the hands of a clock they could relieve the itchy tingles at the base of their spines. Oz swallowed hard; he knew these people, but they knew the Slayer, and he wasn't sure where that left him.
"So," Willow said in a small, frightened tone, "Um, a… werewolf. Um…"
Oz frowned at her, his eyes flicking to her feet as she took an awkward step back. "Relax," he grumbled, crossing his arms, visibly drawing back. "I don't bite."
"Really?" Xander snorted bitterly. "Not even when the moon's up and you're running around in a dog-boy costume and snapping at people's heels?"
"Moon's up now," Oz pointed out. "And I have never bitten anyone. Being a werewolf, or a vampire, or anything doesn't mean that you don't have any self-control."
"You do seem remarkably… calm," Giles spoke slowly, carefully.
"It's not full moon," Oz conceded. "But yeah. I am."
"Like I said," Oz said. "Just because I'm a werewolf doesn't mean I'm not me. Still a person."
"You're a demon," Xander warbled, and it was the tears in his voice that kept Oz from snarling. It was true – he was a calm, easy-going kind of guy, and he did have great control over his wolf, but this… this was a sensitive subject for him.
"So what?" He asked tightly through gritted teeth. "I'm also a bass player."
The four people in the room all looked at him oddly, with something almost like concern, as though they weren't sure about his sanity.
"There are lots of demons out there who don't kill people. Or eat people, or scare people, or hurt anyone," he said, struggling to explain. "Other wolves, vampires…"
"Vampires?" Xander asked sarcastically. "Really?"
Oz glared. "Yes. Vampires."
"You've known vampires who don't kill?" the librarian asked with a sudden interest.
"A handful," Oz nodded. "Some who stopped, some who never did. Call themselves 'tame,' try to fly under the radar because of the…"
He cut himself off before he said Slayer.
"Where did you find these vampires?" the man asked intently, taking several strides across the room until he was standing just a little too close, and Oz had to wonder if he was only so willing to consider such a possibility because it was Buffy who was at risk.
"All over," he answered, taking a measured step back. "The Midwest, the East coast. I met two whole nests that went tame in the Andes when I was studying under a shaman there."
"How do they do it?" the older man demanded, desperation leaking into his voice as he reached out and grabbed Oz's shoulders, his hands fisting in the bright floral print as he shook him lightly.
"I don't know!" he yelped, reaching up and grabbing Giles' wrists, attempting to break free without hurting him. "I didn't ask!"
It was Willow, her voice soft, coaxing as she reached out and took the man's arm in her hands, easing him back and away. She cast Oz an apologetic glance and it was like a gentle hand down his spine, stroking his hackles and anchoring him in place.
"I… I apologize," Giles muttered, "I didn't…"
"I get it," he replied, cutting him off as he shrugged and straightened his shirt. "Let's just… leave it there, ok?"
"I told you," he growled, "I don't know."
"Well how do you do it?" he demanded.
The question took him by surprise. It shouldn't have. But it did.
"Lots of ways," he responded carefully. "Meditation, jogging… Pot helps," he deadpanned.
A collective collapse seemed to happen then, and there was another silent shifting of seats in which Willow moved to Mrs. Summers' side, Giles fell into a chair and removed his glassed to rub his temples, and Xander, though he watched Oz with a wary eye, slipped behind the desk and rested his head on his arms. The werewolf watched them nervously, anxiously, unsure what to do or how to help in the problem that he suddenly found himself bogged down in. He never imagined he'd be here, never imagined that he'd be trying to help a Slayer, or that his classmates, his librarian, out of all the world, would be who they are.
Sliding down the wall to the floor, Oz hung his head and sighed.
The Slayer was a vampire.
Spike slouched lower in his chair, his leather jacket creaking around his shoulders. He didn't know what to do with himself. It made him itch to have a Slayer so close and yet…
He shifted his hips, uncomfortable in his jeans.
God she was beautiful.
She'd been beautiful before, of course, anyone could've seen it. He'd seen it, that very first night when he'd stalked her at the Bronze, watched her dance under the lights and fight in the alley, all fire and youth and hot, pounding heart. And she was still beautiful that way, still warm, all golden hair and flushed cheeks in the glow of the little coal stove in the corner, even without that steady beat. It was just… different now. There was a shadow flickering beneath that sunshine, a wicked darkness glinting in her eyes when the light caught her gaze just right. He'd been able to feel the predator in her before but it had been young, small, controlled. Now, in one fell swoop, it was grown and well fed, ready to snap the chain that collared it and stretch its bulging, glossy muscles on the hunt.
A growl rumbled low in Spike's chest.
His demon was in a total headspin, at a loss for what to do. Half of him was raging, snarling at the wrongness of it all, and the other half simply marveled in beauty of it. Before him was the ultimate predator, the most gorgeous and deadly creature in heaven or Hellmouth, and her smell…
Dear sweet lord, her smell.
He swallowed hard against the rock in his throat, scented the air subtly.
And still got caught.
Drusilla's dark eyes pinned him to his chair and his heart might've jumped into his throat if it weren't already dead.
Spike straightened up with a jerk, suddenly aware of the traitorous bend of his own thoughts. What the hell was he doing, sitting here staring down the Slayer while his dark princess sat at her side? He clutched the arms of the old wingback in a white-knuckled grip, sure that she knew exactly what was going on, sure she could feel the tension and confused lust rolling off him, but then her lips curved in a mischievous sort of smile and he let out an inaudible breath of relief. He didn't know why but it felt like she was letting him off the hook for something. He didn't believe for a second that she couldn't taste what he was thinking, feel it sparking off of his skin, and so the indulgent wink she sent him only twisted the hot blade of wrongness in his side.
But bloody hell, weren't they a sight.
Dru sat primly on the edge of the wicker loveseat, her dress arranged carefully over her knees with the Slayer on the floor at her feet. The girl was nervous, confused, and it showed. Her arms were wrapped tight around her shins as she rested her chin on her knees, her face tipped down and her eyes fixed on the floor as Dru gently brushed out her hair. It was like spun gold around her shoulders, the glint of firelight casting it full of sparks like copper and raw honey. Dark thoughts flickered through his mind at the sight of the two of them together, pressed close and quiet. There was an intimacy between them that clashed violently with the sharp edge of lust and tension in the air, and it set his teeth on edge.
She felt like family.
Or at least like nest.
And that wasn't right.
Because she was the Slayer. Vampire, yes, but still the Slayer.
How the hell was this supposed to work? How was he supposed to…
He didn't know.
Luckily for him, it seemed like his demon did. It was drinking her in intently, lapping up her essence like a big cat, strapped with muscle and sprawling languidly as it licked its claws. Whenever she had risked a glance at him it had taken over, flashing golden eyes and pulling lips back from sharp teeth as a carefully controlled snarl rumbled up out of his chest. His mouth curved in a smile when her breath caught in her throat and she dropped her eyes back to the floor, the dark thing in him purring with smug delight at her show of submission, and wasn't that a pretty thing? For all her newfound edges, all the sharp, dark power that curled like smoke in her hazel eyes, she was giving in to him. Inside that devil's body, underneath the black and the leather that was unlike anything he'd ever seen of her, she was still Buffy, and he wasn't sure that he couldn't take her.
Spike swallowed, unwilling to acknowledge the innuendo, unwilling to admit, even to himself, that he felt more drawn to her in this moment than he ever had to anyone or anything before in his unlife. She was an abomination and a miracle, a vision that went against everything he knew and was, but he knew one thing for certain.
He couldn't wait to fight her.