Frau Hunter Ash
Part 1, Red Moon Rising
The young musician didnít looked surprised by Buffyís stunned response when she answered the door to the dorm room she shared with Willow. He expected nothing less than surprise and looked like he was ready to flinch at any moment if her reaction was even stronger.
Buffy Summers, the Slayer, was tempted but resisted slamming the guitarist into the hallway wall behind him and then bouncing him down the stairs a few times. Both of them knew as The Slayer she could do it; she had the skills, she had the strength and she definitely had the anger.
"Is Willow around?"
Buffy Summers felt her eyes narrow in anger as Oz did flinch and the Slayer sensed his muscles tensing in a pre "flight or fight" adrenalin rush.
"Havenít you done enough damage?" Buffy demanded. "Sheís just now getting back on her feet."
"With your help?" Oz snapped, his green eyes flashing.
The question puzzled Buffy but she refused to be drawn out of her original anger at him for hurting her best friend, her Willow.
"Iím not talking about me, you idiot!" she snapped back. "She spent a week in this damned room and refused to budge, we could barely get her to class. She wouldnít eat, she wouldnít sleep, her grades slipped!"
Oz had the decency to look ashamed at Buffyís description of Willowís suffering. He had left town with little word and no explanation other than to find himself and a way to control the wolf raging inside of him.
"Is she here, please?" he asked again.
"No, sheís over studying with a friend," Buffy growled, her blue eyes almost flashing lightning at the small male.
Oz pulled out an envelope and handed it to the blonde. She saw it was addressed to Willow.
"Could you give that to her, please," he asked in his normally soft and low voice. "It has the number where Iím staying; Iíd like to see her."
"Why? Are you back for good or do you plan on ripping out her heart again?" Buffy demanded.
"I donít know, one of the things I want to talk to her about is to say Iím sorry," he admitted and turned to walk away, stuffing his hands in his jacket.
Buffy watched as he walked down the hallway towards the stairs, her eyes still angry. He hadnít changed outwardly in the six months he had been gone, she thought. He still had that scruffy look that Willow seemed to find adorable in him. His red hair was still spiky, an old baggy rock t-shirt, baggy green trousers in the style favored by a lot of the skateboarders and Doc Martin boots.
Buffy slammed the door and turned back to the room she shared with Willow, wanting to punch something. She thought about ripping up the envelope and whatever it contained inside but she knew Oz would just be back and find a way to get to Willow.
Buffy Summers, college student and Vampire Slayer, let out a yell and kicked her chair into her desk, shattering it. She laid the envelope on Willowís bed and threw herself on her bed and began pounding her pillow flat.
<It wasnít fair>, she thought. Willow was just getting her life back in order after her werewolf boyfriend had left. The young college student, computer hacker and witch had taken the breakup very hard. First Oz had slept with Veruca, a female werewolf, and then turned Willow down for intimacy. To finish off the hackerís self esteem, he left town with barely a goodbye to his girlfriend.
Willow had gone through everything Buffy had described to the musician. It had actually been closer to two weeks before Buffy and Xander had gotten Willow to pay attention to anything other than sleeping and crying.
She had started going out with them and attending a local on-campus Wicca pagan group and had met a new friend which helped distract her.
Buffy had just met Willowís new friend Tara and thought the new friendship was actually good for Willow. What was puzzling Buffy was her reaction to Tara in general; she didnít like the time Willow was spending with Tara even though it seemed to be helping the witch. <That didnít make sense>, Buffy scolded herself.
Buffy had her own distractions lately and had been spending less and less time with Willow. The Slayer knew that it was only natural for Willow to start turning to someone else for friendship and focus. Buffy was spending time with her new boyfriend Riley, the commando-trained demon hunter. Time spent patrolling with him, studying with him, and sleeping with him.
It did bother Buffy though; she was used to Willow being there. <Willow had always been there for her: unconditional friendship and unconditional love.>
Buffy frowned to herself, <where did that come from? What was up with these thoughts?>
<Her Willow? Unconditional love?>
<Gods, wasnít her life complicated enough?> A voice demanded from deep inside the Slayer.
Willow pulled back from the kiss; knowing that she was blushing and lightly cursing her normally pale skin. Having red hair didnít help; it made her blushing more noticeable and embarrassed her even more.
She noticed the same puzzled look on Taraís face.
"Wow," Willow muttered and sat down on Taraís dorm bed. The other witch joined her on the bed, still looking puzzled.
"Iíve wanted to do that since we met," Tara admitted.
"Really? I mean, like, thatís the nicest thing anyoneís ever said," Willow stammered.
"But?" Tara added with a slight smile on her face.
"I donít know," Willow admitted.
"Not what you expected?" Tara asked gently.
"Itís not you!" Willow began stammering again, "Oh gods, I justÖ I donít know. Itís not because youíre a girl and Iím a girl, itís not that itís the gay thing, even though Iím not sure about being gay. I am attracted to you, thatís not itÖ"
"Willow!" Tara broke through the red-haired witchís babbling. "Itís alright, I feel it too. Something isnít clicking or maybe it is and I'm just scared, I don't know either. The magik works, being with you is wonderful, but itÖ"
"Goddess, youíre not mad at me?" Willow asked softly.
"No, not at all, it doesnít seem to be there for me either," Tara responded, her voice still soft and somewhat sad.
"Nothing changes between us, does it?" Willow asked, her voice sounding small and somewhat timid and Tara drew the smaller woman into her arms.
"No, I was hoping that maybe there was more but you canít force love, especially if both of us donít feel it," Tara whispered.
"But I do love you," Willow muttered and then smiled shyly. "Can we try that kiss again?"
"What about Buffy?"
Before Willow could puzzle out what Tara could mean by that question, the person in question barged through the door.
"Willow," she almost yelled as a greeting when she stopped in the middle of the floor and took in the sight of her best friend in Taraís arms.
Everyone seemed frozen in place, Willow in Taraís arms and Buffy gawking at her best friend.
"IÖ uh," Buffy stammered. "I wanted to find you before he did; I didnít want you to fall over in shock. I didnít mean to barge inÖ"
"Buffy," Willow sat up, moving slightly out of Taraís embrace. "Who him?"
"IÖ uhÖ Oz," Buffy stammered. "Oz is back and looking for you."
"Oz?" Willow whispered. "Oz? As in red hair, guitar, wolf fur and fangs, Oz?"
"Yeah," Buffy answered unhappily.
"Oh God," the witch frowned and missed Buffyís puzzled look for a moment until she looked up and realized Buffy was staring at her holding hands with Tara. Willow began to blush an even brighter red. "IÖ uhÖ Tara, I need to go for a bit."
"You going to be okay?" Tara asked, turning to Willow with such a look of concern that Buffy felt her heart lurch a little.
"Yeah, I think so," Willow said softly, appearing to think about it for a moment. "I guess I need to talk to him."
"You donít have to!" Buffy said firmly. "I can just tell him to get lost."
Willow appeared to continue thinking about it and shook her head as she stood up. "No, that would be cowardly, that wouldnít be good, no, not good."
Buffy managed to finally smile. "Thatís my Wills, babbling right along."
Willow blushed and smiled. The witch turned as Tara walked up behind her. "Iíll call you or drop back by later, okay?"
"Sure, let me know, okay?" Tara asked.
"Yes, I will," Willow promised. "Letís go, Buffy."
"So, where we headed?" Buffy asked once they got outside Taraís dorm.
"Buffy, IÖ uh," Willow tried to begin. "Letís walk, okay?"
"Okay," Buffy agreed and the two young women started walking along the campus. "IÖ Iím glad you found Tara, Willow. What does Oz returning mean though? I mean, like, Iím okay with the gay thing and I donít think Oz deserves you."
Willow began blushing, as if on cue. "Itís not what you think it is with Tara. Well, actually, it was kinda but that changed, maybe. I mean, weíre still friends and everything but weíre notÖ weíre not, like girlfriend as in girlfriend-girlfriend thing. At least, not yet, I don't know."
"Slow down!" Buffy laughed. "Try that without the babble."
"Oh boy," Willow sat down on one of the many benches and Buffy joined her. Buffy could tell the young witch was nervous and placed her hand reassuringly on Willowís thigh. The Slayer almost jumped at the feeling of electricity passing between them and saw Willow jump as well.
"IÖ uhÖ Tara and I, we admitted we were attracted to each other and kissed," Willow said in a rush, blushing profusely.
"And?" Buffy whispered, almost holding her breath.
"And weÖ it was nice but it wasnítÖ it totally," Willow tried to explain.
"Is it because of Oz?"
"No," Willow said thoughtfully. "We came to that before you showed up."
"So, like, youíre not gay?" Buffy asked, puzzled.
"No, I think I am, or at least bisexual," Willow admitted.
Buffy and the young witch sat lost in their thoughts for a few moments.
The Slayer was puzzled by her own reactions and couldnít seem to sort them out. Willow seemed happy around Tara, better than her own relationship with Riley which was turning out to be a disaster, but they werenít a couple? <What did that mean? What did that especially mean for Buffy?>
Ever since Oz had left, Buffy had started noticing how much she depended on Willow, especially since they hadnít been spending that much time together. Somehow, Riley seemed like a poor substitute for Willow in her life. <What did that mean?> The Slayer demanded from herself. <Just because she had found herself dreaming about Willow in a most "more than just friendship" way, did that mean she was gay or bi? Just because she found herself watching her best friend all the time, especially when the young witch changed for bed or got up in the mornings. Just because watching Willow got her hot and bothered, did that mean she was gay? >
<Just because the thought of Willow with either Tara or Oz drove her crazy, did that make her gay?>
<Maybe,> it also meant she had fallen for her best friend somewhere over the last few years together.
"Are you okay with this?" Willow asked in a timid voice.
"Yeah, itís just a surprise, I never thought you went for females," Buffy commented.
"I didnít think I did but Tara and I got closer and I started noticing these feelings," Willow said. "You know that evil double vampire Willow thing, like she was totally skanky and kinda gay. I tried to ignore it until Tara. Then I started noticing other girls and kinda analyzing how I felt and I guess Iím kinda gay. "
"Other females?" Buffy asked, raising her eyebrows and noticed how flushed Willow suddenly got and how nervous. "Like who?"
"IÖ uhÖ shouldnít we be talking about Oz?" Willow asked.
"Okay, Iíve got an envelope he left," Buffy said, agreeing to the distraction for now. It might give her time to think too. She pulled the envelope out and handed it to the witch and watched as Willow ripped it open and began reading the pages inside.
Willow read, letting Buffy drift into the background. It was something a part of her mind noticed though; she never really let Buffy totally leave her mind.
Willow handed the letter over to Buffy as she leaned forward, putting her chin in her hands, elbows on her knees. The young witch was quiet as her best friend read the letter.
"What are you going to do, Wills?" Buy asked softly when she finished reading.
"I donít know. Iím going to call him."
"How can I help?"
"Just be here for me," Willow whispered, looking up at her friend. The compassion and caring in Buffyís eyes surprised Willow. Buffy had been so hung up lately with Riley that Willow wasnít sure about how close their friendship was now. Looking into Buffyís eyes, there was no doubt but there was a new level of confusion.
Willow had danced around the gay question and thinking about women other than Tara because the red head didnít want to think about that, especially when talking to Buffy. Willow had gone through something of a self analysis when she realized she was attracted to Tara and one her thoughts which seemed to constantly came back was about Buffy.
Not only how gorgeous the Slayer was, but also how much their friendship meant to Willow. They were close and Willow knew they loved each other, now it was time to admit that she was also IN love with Buffy.
<Maybe not admit it aloud though,> she thought to herself. The last thing she wanted to do, especially now, was lose Buffyís friendship. Willow didnít think she could face Oz, her changing relationship with Tara and the general stress of living in Sunnydale without Buffy.
"Iíll always be here for you," Buffy said softly and felt her body moving forward slightly, her eyes half closing.
Both women suddenly sat upright and blinked in the sunlight a moment, both realizing they had been about to kiss.
"IÖ uhÖ I guess I'll call him?" Willow asked softly.
"Okay," Buffy stammered, mentally smacking herself. <How could I be so stupid?> she yelled at herself. <Just because she likes females doesn't mean she likes YOU!> "I'll wait in our room."
"Okay, that's good," Willow stuttered. "Support is good, close is good. I mean, support close is good."
Buffy noticed she wasn't the only one blushing and at a loss for words. <Was she one of the females Willow had 'checked out'? What did her relationship with Riley mean?>
"Oh God," she whispered.
"Oh boy," Willow agreed. "I need to talk to Oz and get this over with," Willow muttered.
"Okay, Iíll be in our room when you get done," Buffy said firmly. "You can do this."
"Yeah, my turn to hurt him," Willow muttered.
"Will, thatís not it and you know it," Buffy scolded gently.
"I know, Iím not doing it out of revenge. Iíve changed and heís probably changed, I know Iím not in love with him anymore," Willow agreed. "Iím in... I, uh, gotta go."
The computer hacker was up and trotting away before Buffy could respond, leaving the Slayer with a slightly stunned expression on her face. <Was Willow about to say what Buffy thought she was about to say?>
Willow had agreed to meet Oz at the Espresso Pump and was now nervously waiting, drinking her second cup of strong Earl Grey tea when she saw the familiar spiky red hair walking in the door.
"Oh Goddess," she whispered to herself as Oz spotted her and his face lit up. Watching the young man make his way to her table just confirmed what Willow had decided. She was no longer in love with Oz. She still felt a stirring for him but it was nothing like when she thought of Buffy and Tara.
Oz sat down slowly, his face and eyes cautious.
"Hey, Willow," he said simply.
"Hi, Oz," the witch responded. "Youíre looking good."
"Thanks, Iím doing a lot better. Thatís why I came back," Oz responded.
"I learned to control the wolf, no more losing it on full moons," he answered with a grin, taking her hand in the two of his. "I still change but I can control the rage."
"Thatís great!" Willow was truly happy for Oz, turning into a werewolf for three nights out of the month, especially when the wolf was a blood thirsty, out of control, killing machine was not what she wanted for anyone, especially her ex-boyfriend. It didnít matter that he had hurt her, a lot of that was because of the wolf.
"Yeah, I was hoping to make things up to you," Oz continued. "I was hoping we could start again."
"Oz," Willow hesitated, "IÖ"
The normally quiet musician waited.
"I donít think so," Willow said softly. "Iím not in love with you, Oz. I care, and I still love you, sort of, but not like Ďin loveí with you."
Willow expected Oz to be hurt; she wasnít prepared for the anger in the young manís eyes. Feeling his hands clenched in anger shocked the witch.
"Oz? Iím sorry," she whispered.
"Weíre meant to be together, Willow," he muttered. "I love you."
Willow tried to pull her hands out of his but his grip tightened.
"It took that mess with Veruca and finding myself before I realized how I really felt. I canít live without you, Willow."
"Oz, please, donít do this," Willow winced as Oz squeezed even harder.
"I canít do this without you, Willow," Oz continued, ignoring her struggles. "I can only control the wolf by thinking of you and of us being together."
Willow began to look around the coffee shop and was dismayed. There were only three other people in the shop besides the guy behind the counter. A couple so deep in love that they probably wouldnít notice if an airplane dropped on them and a student who had his head buried in two different pre-med books. The guy behind the counter was somewhere in the back and out of sight.
"Oz, please, youíre hurting me," Willow pleaded, a little louder.
"Just come with me tonight," Oz kept on, seeming not to hear Willowís protests.
"But tonight is a full moon," Willow whispered and then cried out as she got one hand loose but Oz clamped the other one tightly.
"Yes, come with me and see how I can control the wolf, we can be together like weíre supposed to be," Ozís eyes had gone from his normally blue to a wolf yellow and Willow felt her heart begin pounding with fear. "We can join together, Willow. I can teach you."
Willow knew she had gone pale as Ozís words sank in.
"You want me to be like you, like in furry and fanged three nights of the month?" Willow squeaked, trying to lower her voice as she continued to struggle to get her hand free.
"Once we mate, nothing else will matter," Oz grinned but it wasnít a friendly grin, especially in his eyes.
"Oz, no, please!" Willow winced again. "I donít love you anymore, thereís someone else. At least I hope they love me," she muttered.
A deep rumble from the young manís chest caused Willow to freeze.
Oz pulled her hand up to his lips and she almost screamed when she saw fangs when he smiled.
"One bite, Willow," he said softly. "Thatís all it takes."
"Oz, no! You canít mean that! Think of the suffering youíve been through!" Willow protested. "Think what you put everyone else through, especially me! You canít mean to put me through that!"
"Iíll take care of you until you can control it," Oz shrugged and ran his tongue over her wrist. "I could do it now, you know."
Willow was speechless with fear and then mentally shook herself. She was in danger and she wasnít going to be a helpless victim! She began searching her mental magick database for something to use against Oz as her heart pounded loudly, the terror breaking her focus.
Willow didnít know this Oz; this wasnít the kind and gentle young musician that had left Sunnydale to find a way to control his demon. Willow had a feeling that the demon inside had somehow conquered him.
"You know how I want it though?" Oz questioned, ignoring her stunned expression. "I want us to be together when it happens, I bite you and we both change and becomes mates forever."
Willow thought she was going to be ill. "You mean like having sÖ like doing it and turning all furry?"
"Yes, itíll be fantastic!" Oz grinned. "Or you continue to argue and fight me and I do it now and wait for you to change tonight or tomorrow."
Willow was beginning to panic, she couldnít think straight enough to form a spell and she knew she was running out of time.
"I canít, Oz, please," Willow whispered.
Oz growled and tightened his hand abruptly and Willow cried out with the fire-like pain radiating up her arm from her hand.
Instinctively, Willowís other hand grabbed the napkin holder and whacked Oz along side his temple and pulled her hand back from him. Oz yelled in anger, surprise and pain and was grasping for her shirt as she dashed past him, heading for the door.
The young witch almost bounced off the pre-med student suddenly in her way. The tall young man grabbed her arms to steady her and then pulled her behind him.
"Get out of here, I want to talk with your boyfriend," he said and faced an enraged Oz springing up out of his chair.
Willow knew she should stay and try to protect the young man; it could be a major disaster if he was bitten by Oz. Buffy and the Scooby gang might actually have to hunt him down just because he had tried to help Willow. The witch also knew she was the focus of Oz and she needed to get out of there.
Willow hit the sidewalk running and stumbling, clutching her wounded hand. The pain was incredible and the red-haired witch bounced against a wall and almost fell. Willow bit her lip and kept moving. The hacker ducked down the next street and began running back towards campus; her only thought was to get out of Ozís sight and to get to Buffy. Oz wouldnít dare take on Buffy during the day.
The young woman squeaked in fear at the sound of Ozís voice behind her and sped up. She changed her direction abruptly and dashed through the doors of the dorm closer than the one she shared with Buffy. Willow was breathing heavily as she rushed up the stairs and down the hall to Taraís door.
"Tara! Help me!" she yelled, pounding on the door with her good hand. She could hear Ozís boots on the stairs and whimpered slightly but before she could bolt away, the door opened and someone pulled her into the room and slammed the door shut. Willow spun and saw Tara lock the door just as Oz hit it and grabbed at the door knob.
"Willow! Open this door, damnit!" Oz began screaming while he pounded and kicked the door.
Tara quickly got on the other side of a dresser as Willow got on the other end. Even with one hand, the adrenalin pumping through her system lent her strength beyond the pain and they managed to move the dresser in front of the door.
Willow felt her knees go weak and let Tara pull her over to her bed and then watched as Tara picked up the phone. The hacker was barely aware of her friend calling campus security as the pounding and yelling continued outside the door. After a moment Tara looked down at her, the other witchís eyes filling with tears of anger and concern.
Tara went to the door.
"Get away from here! Iíve called security! Leave her alone!"
The two witches heard Oz cursing them and then his boots pounding down the hallway.
Tara quickly went to the bed and took Willow into her arms as the red haired witch broke down in tears, holding her hand that was quickly swelling.
Buffy found she couldnít concentrate on anything. It was a losing battle to attempt to study or even surf on Willowís computer while she was waiting for her best friend to return.
The Slayerís mind was racing too fast and she couldnít seem to stop it.
"What?" she demanded into the phone as she picked up it before the first ring had ended.
"Itís Tara, Buffy," a timid voice informed her. "Iíve got Willow over here. Oz got a little rough and I think her hand is broken."
"Iíll be right there!"
"No, Willow wants to meet you at Gilesí, weíre going to take a cab over there," Tara informed the Slayer.
"Why?" Buffy asked.
"Because Oz wants to bite Willow tonight and the tranquilizer gun is at Gilesí place," Tara explained and Buffy could hear the tears in the witchís voice.
"Intentionally infect her?" Buffy whispered, not quite believing what she was hearing. That didnít sound like the Oz she knew, unaware she was reflecting the same thoughts Willow had earlier.
"Yeah, he wants to make her his mate," Tara said bitterly.
"Get her to Gilesí, Iíll be right there," Buffy responded, looking at the setting sun outside her window. "Make it fast, Tara."
"I will, promise," the witch responded in a stronger voice.
Buffy quickly grabbed her jacket and several stakes. Then she went to her dresser and rummaged through the bottom drawer until she found something wrapped in a silk scarf. Unwrapping it, Buffy felt a tear escape down her face as she looked at the silver dagger.
"Oz, I liked you but Iím not going to let you hurt my Willow," she whispered and stuck the dagger in her belt behind her back.
She wasnít surprised that the campus was beginning to clear for the evening. Even if no one admitted it in Sunnydale, people learned not to be outside unless it was in numbers once the sun went down. Buffy wasnít worried but she was in a hurry and broke into a trot as she headed for her former Watcherís home.
Even if Giles was no longer officially a Watcher, their relationship didnít change much aftter both of them had rejected the Council. Buffy was grateful that it hadnít, she depended on his guidance and especially his research in her task as Slayer. Between Willow and Giles, there wasnít much in the way of information that could remain hidden. Add in Xanderís enthusiastic and dependable help, and the Scooby gang was a vital asset to the Slayer. Buffy knew that it was the combined efforts of all of them that had kept her alive as long as it had.
Buffy frowned, thinking as she trotted.
Thatís what was missing in her relationship with Riley, she realized. She knew he wanted a relationship with her but the Initiative would always come first. He looked at it like a soldier, as a job and didnít truly understand that Buffy really didnít have a choice in being the Slayer.
Riley Finn really didnít believe in magic, demons, vampires, and werewolves; he believed there was a scientific explanation for everything and that demons were merely a different species that lived underground and hated mankind.
Riley wanted Buffy but she didnít really feel he believed in her role as The Chosen and she didnít believe in the government approach to the problem of demons, vampires and werewolves. She had seen too much and knew that the Hellmouth had been real; she had died fighting that thing and its minions. Buffy had put a sword through Angelís heart, knowing that his soul had just returned, all to keep the demons from gaining power. She had betrayed his love and trust to save the world.
Willow had been there for her after that; Willow was always there for her.
Buffy was determined to be there for her Wills.
The Slayer was almost to Gilesí house when her "spidey" sense kicked in and she skidded to a stop. Her sharp eyes caught movement in the shadows to both sides in front of her and behind her.
Oz stepped out into the light with an evil smirk. Buffy realized the other five figures surrounding her were vampires, in complete vampire demon face. What the Scooby gang called "game face".
"Sorry, Buffy," Oz said easily. "I need to talk to Willow without you around."
"Oz, donít do this! If you love her you couldnít possibly consider infecting her," Buffy begged.
"Shut up! Sheís going to be mine! Kill her!" Oz shouted and the vampires moved in.
"'Kill her'?" Buffy questioned, "Didn't you learn anything more original in hanging with us, Oz?" she taunted.
Buffy struck out with her right hand, ramming a stake through the heart of a vampire on her left and kicking another vampire in the jaw. She spun and drove the same stake into that vampire. Vampire #3 grabbed Buffy from behind and threw the Slayer to the ground while Vampire #4 dived for her neck.
Willow and Tara had made it to Gilesí condo easily. Both young women tried to explain while he examined and wrapped Willowís hand, announcing that it was probably broken and should be looked at a hospital. That was, until he heard what Oz had planned for his favorite computer helper. He declared that the hospital trip could wait until morning, when it was safer.
Giles moved aside to let Tara sit next to Willow so as to comfort the distraught young woman as he headed for the closet where he kept the tranquilizer gun and sedative darts. He noticed the closeness between the young women and wondered exactly how close they had gotten in their friendship. The scholar and former Watcher didnít know Tara very well, Willow hadnít said much about her new friend but Giles had noticed how good Tara had been for Willow after Ozís departure.
"Tara... I..." Willow whispered, leaning into the other woman. "Is it possible to love two people at the same time?"
Tara thought her heart would stop right then. "You mean Oz and Buffy?"
"Oz?" Willow's voice sounded confused. "No, not Oz. You and Buffy."
Willow waited, ready to wince at the rejection she expected. <How could Tara care for her when she was so damned confused? How could she feel so deeply about Buffy and have these beginning feelings for Tara?>
The computer hacker broke into tears and Tara tightened her arms around Willow as the red-haired witch gave into the confusion, the emotional pain and the physical pain.
Giles hesitated at the closet, unable to keep himself from watching the two young women. He wanted to comfort Willow but their protection came first, they needed that tranquilizer gun and maybe one of the real guns he kept. Somehow he wasn't surprised when Willow leaned up through her tears and kissed Tara and the other witch responded tenderly, the kiss becoming part of the comforting. After a moment Willow laid her head on Tara's shoulder and continued to cry.
Giles was just opening the closet door when his front door slammed open and Oz stood in the doorway.
Just like Buffy and Willow, Giles had a moment to contemplate that this didnít really look or act like the young and tortured musician he had known before he was backhanded into the wall. The scholar slid down the wall, stunned.
Tara and Willow both jumped to their feet and faced the werewolf.
"Oz!" Willow yelled.
"You stay away from her!" Tara shouted.
"Is this the reason you turned me down?" Oz demanded, taking in the taller woman standing protectively in front of Willow.
"No! Don't hurt her!" Willow shouted "What you want is obscene, Oz. I donít love you, it would be all wrong."
"Wonít matter after you join me," Oz said threateningly.
"No!" Tara screamed and grabbed a lamp and flung it at the young male. Oz growled and batted it aside and charged the two women. He grabbed Tara by the arms, surprising her with his unnatural strength as he lifted her into the air and ignored Willow pounding on his back with her one good hand.
Willow screamed as Oz threw Tara through Gilesí front window and turned to face her.
"Donít fight it, Willow," he growled softly.
"No, please," the young witch pleaded as Oz began changing subtly, his teeth growing into fangs and his eyes turning wolf yellow. Willow screamed in pain when he grabbed her injured hand and squeezed again, bringing her to her knees.
Willow whimpered when the changing werewolf threw her forward onto her knees and hand. Before she could move, clawed hands ripped her t-shirt off her body and grabbed her around the waist, keeping her off balance.
The hacker tried to kick backwards but only managed to yell in anger again as the clawed hands reached for the front of her jeans.
"Hey! Back off, Wolf Boy! That doesn't look very consensual!"
Willow thought she would break into grateful tears when she looked up saw Buffy standing in the doorway with a silver dagger in her hands.
Instantly, Willow was thrown aside and the werewolf, in wolf-man form, dived for the Slayer with a howl of rage.
Willow looked up in time to see Buffy meet Ozís attacked with a backhand of her own and a slash of the dagger. Oz landed heavily in the hall with a howl of pain and rage.
"Willow, grab Giles and run, Iíll protect Tara. Barricade yourselves in a room or something!" Buffy shouted; trading blows with the wolf, unable to get another slash in on the werewolf.
Willow stumbled over and cried out in panic when she noticed the blood flowing from Gilesí scalp. She scolded herself and began trying to shake him into action while Buffy continued her sparring with the werewolf.
It was a difficult fight for the Slayer, how to fight something when you didnít dare get scratched or bitten and that was the main means of attack from a werewolf? The fight ended up in the doorway of Gile's place and Buffy felt the cool night air on her back.
Buffyís head snapped back from a backhand from Oz and felt herself flying through the air, landing hard on the grass, next to an unconscious Tara.
Willow screamed as clawed hands grabbed her by the shoulders, tearing her away from Gilesí.
Buffy jumped through the window as the werewolf pulled Willow close to him.
"Oz!" she screamed and the werewolf turned his head her way, the yellow eyes looking into her blue ones. Buffy felt a terrible revelation hit her when she looked in those eyes and saw intelligence. It wasnít the intelligence of a wolf or of a clever animal; it was human. Buffy suddenly knew, Oz did have control over the wolf and he was very much aware what he was doing.
It was Oz, not the animal, which was about to hurt Willow.
Willow saw the same intelligence when the werewolf turned back to her and whimpered as his fangs began to lower to her neck. She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth.
The sound of another scream and crunching bone snapped Willowís eyes open. The sight of Buffyís arm in Ozís jaws took a moment to sink into the computer hackerís mind.
Buffy, ignoring the fire flashing pain, took the opportunity to bury the dagger into Ozís shoulder all the way to the hilt.
The werewolf released his hold on Buffyís arm and howled in pain. As Buffy fell to her knees and Willow joined her, Oz dived out the door.
Giles shook his head and groaned softly. After a moment he managed to sit up against the wall. He was confused for a moment until he remembered the attack by Oz. He looked over to his sofa and saw Willow and Tara fussing over Buffy, the two witches dashing back and forth grabbing the first aid kit and bandages.
Something seemed different, not like the usual "after battle care" of the Slayer. Not only was the energy more intense but no one was hovering over him. The blood on his hand when he checked the back of his head worried him and their reaction worried him even more. Another question seemed to run through his head a moment later, <was that one of his t-shirts Willow was wearing?>
"Oh God!" Willow was mumbling. "Why did you do that?" she kept asking.
"I didnít have a choice," Buffy was muttering back as she gritted her teeth against the peroxide washing out her wounds.
"Giles!" Willow spotted him sitting up and Tara was there in a moment, helping him up to a chair and held a gauze bandage against his head.
"Buffy?" the scholar asked, his voice reflecting his questions and concern.
Buffy was extremely pale, sweating and her face was very pained.
"What happened?" Giles asked, noticing Willowís tears as she continued to clean some wound on Buffyís arm. He couldnít get a good look from his angle but it was obviously bad.
"You got banged up, Tara got tossed through the window, Oz was about to bite me and Buffy threw her arm into his mouth," Willow said in a rush, the tears flowing even faster.
"Oh my God," Rupert Giles muttered, realizing his Slayer had just been bitten by a werewolf.
He leaned forward and looked at the wounds closely and frowned. He tried to put on a neutral face when he saw Willowís panicked expression. Giles knew that he couldnít lie to any of his kids though and he shook his head and saw fresh tears flowing down the witchís face.
"Buffy?" he said softly, the Slayer was leaning back on the sofa with her head laid back. Giles could tell she was in a great deal of pain as shown by her pale face and sweating. It was clear that the Slayer was hurting more than usual. He saw her wince as he shifted the arm and inspected it closely. "Both bones are broken but the bleeding isnít bad."
"We should take her to the hospital and get that set," Tara said firmly.
"We canít," Giles said softly.
"What? Why not?" Willow asked.
"Because I was bitten by a werewolf and might get furry at any moment," Buffy said softly, her eyes still closed.
Everyone fought back tears.
"We donít know that!" Willow cried, leaning her head on Buffyís shoulder. "We cleaned the wound really quick and really good, maybe it didnít get through, and maybe sheíll be okayÖ"
"Wills, its okay," Buffy said softly, reaching up with her good hand to stroke Willowís hair.
"Itís not okay!" Willow sobbed and Tara knelt in front of them and laid her hand on Willowís leg comfortingly. "My ex-boyfriend tries to rape me and turn me into a werewolf and you stop him by taking the bite, itís not okay!"
Giles, trying to work around a massive headache, the overwhelming fear of a werewolf Slayer, and now he was wondering what was going on with the three women in his living room. Willow began crying even harder when Giles placed the tranquilizer gun on the coffee table, close to hand. They all knew it really wasn't in case Oz returned; it was in case Buffy turned.
"What do we do about Oz? A loose werewolf, he could kill someone," Tara asked.
"He might but we wonít be able to find him," Willow muttered.
"What do you mean? We know how to track werewolves," Giles asked.
"Can we track a werewolf with a human mind?" Willow countered. "It may have been the wolfís body but its Oz inside. He knew what he was doing. He wasnít trying to kill me, he was trying to bite and turn me."
"Sheís right, I saw his eyes," Buffy agreed as chills shook her body. "They were wolf yellow but it was Oz doing the thinking and he was totally evil."
"This is so not like Oz!" Willow complained, holding onto Buffy.
Willow pulled back when she felt Buffy continuing to shudder.
"I donít know, lay her down," the scholar suggested and Willow moved over on the sofa enough for Buffy to lay her head on the witchís lap while Giles grabbed a blanket out of the closet. Tara re-bandaged Buffyís arm with a splint.
The Slayer looked like she had developed a high fever and Giles was puzzled when he felt her forehead and didnít feel any heat. Buffy tossed her head restlessly in Willowís lap while the young witch stroked Buffyís hair and forehead.
"She doesnít have a fever," he muttered. He glanced down at her arm and frowned. He held the Slayerís arm up for the two young women. Willowís eyes widened and Tara gasped at the red streaks that ran from under the bandage and up to Buffyís elbow.
Buffy began muttering and jerking. Willow continued to stroke her forehead and began talking to her, attempting to comfort and calm the Slayer.
"Giles, what is it?" Tara asked.
"Iím assuming that itís the poison of a werewolf bite. Her unusual Slayer healing ability is trying to fight off the infection," Giles muttered, wiping his glasses with his shirt. "This may be why there have never been any records of a Slayer being corrupted by a werewolf."
"Or the fact that werewolves usually kill their victims?" Willow snapped.
"Well, yes, there is that to take into account," Giles responded easily, his scholarly mind shifting into action around the problem. "We might have a bit of luck here if she can fight off the infection and not turn into a werewolf."
"What can we do to help?" Tara asked, sitting on the back of the sofa behind Willow and pulling the witch back to lean into her while Willow stroked Buffyís hair.
"I donít know," Giles admitted, watching the Slayer moan and thrash. "Wait it out, I guess."
"You guess? Buffy could be dying or morphing into something furry and fanged with a really bad temper and all you can do is guess?" Willow demanded.
"Willow!" Giles snapped and then fought to control his own desire to raise his voice. "Iím sorry, you know we tried to find a cure when Oz turned into a werewolf, I havenít found anything new since then."
"Oh goddess, please," Willowís head dropped forward and Tara wrapped her arms around the smaller witch.
Four hours later, Giles was losing the battle to get Willow to go to the hospital and have her hand tended to, even with Tara joining in the argument and offering to drive the young witch. Willow refused to leave Buffyís side while she was still struggling with the werewolf bite.
Giles had always known that the two girls were close but he was beginning to suspect that it ran deeper than just best friends and was also suspecting that all three of them had come to some revelations in the last few days.
The Watcher muttered to himself that Buffy dating the vampire Angel was complicated enough; he wondered how complicated dating Willow or Tara or both Willow and Tara could get, especially in Sunnydale.
Giles also didnít bring up the fact that Xander and Anya hadnít arrived at his house yet. He was worried enough for everyone. Only Tara seemed to notice the former Watcher reaching into the closet and pulling out another tranquilizer gun and loading it. Giles looked over at his former charge, his Buffy, and laid the gun on the desk; within reach, just in case.
It was dawn before Giles really lost most of his nervousness. He didnít think Oz could maintain his werewolf form in the daytime, especially if he had been out howling all night. The former Watcher was worried though, Buffy wasnít any better and Willow wouldnít leave her side. Tara had finally fallen asleep in a chair and there was still no sign of Xander and Anya.
"Alright," Giles said firmly, getting to his feet and waking Tara up. "I donít think itíll be as dangerous in the daytime. I want Tara to take Willow to the hospital and get that hand set. If you wait too long then theyíll have to re-break the fingers or you wonít use that hand again." he gave Willow a stern look, cutting off any protests she might have.
Tara, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, nodded in agreement.
"Iíll call Joyce and have her come over here and help me watch Buffy while you two are gone. Iím going to have her drop by Xanderís place on the way over here," he continued. "He and Anya were supposed to come over here last night and they didnít show and thereís been no answer at his place."
"Oh goddess," Willow muttered, placing a pillow under Buffyís head. She quickly examined the Slayerís arm and whimpered at the sight of the red streaks running now from Buffyís fingertips to her bicep.
"What do we do with a Slayer werewolf?" Giles asked no one in particular.
"Get her through this!" Willow said firmly, her green eyes shining with determination.
"Of course, of course," Giles agreed readily. "Go and get yourself seen to."
Willow wanted to protest but knew that Giles was right; she definitely didnít want to lose the use of her hand. Most of the typing done on a computer keyboard was with the left hand, after all.
Tara insisted that Willow file a police report and the doctor agreed, calling in a police officer once he learned that her crushed and broken fingers were from an ex-boyfriend. Tara pointed out that if Oz was picked up by the police, he couldnít hurt any of them for at least the day and night. Willow managed to smile at that thought and willingly filed the report, giving the police the name of the hotel where Oz was staying and described him hurting her in the Espresso Pump and having to hit him to get away. Tara added in about Oz chasing her all the way to the dorm rooms and threatening to break in the door and how she had called Campus Security. She then added they had stayed all night at a friendís house because they were worried about Willowís safety.
Willow was amazed; normally shy Tara seemed to have been replaced by confident and quick thinking Tara. The blonde witch blushed at Willowís amused expression when the police officer left after writing up the report and leaving papers for Willow on how to file a restraining order. The police officer had been reluctant to take a report of a squabble between a boyfriend and girlfriend until he saw Willowís hand and talked with the doctor.
Willow also knew that it was unlikely that the police would find Oz. Normally, she would be worried about exposing police officers to possible death or infection by a werewolf but with Oz in control of the wolf, she didn't think they'd find him at the hotel or anywhere else.
Judging by Anya and Xander being missing and the attack on Willow, the computer geek figured that Oz had everything planned before he had approached Willow. It was also very clear that he wasn't done; she knew he still wanted her as his mate.
The red-haired witch had been so focused on Buffy all night that she had shut out the pain until she and Tara arrived the hospital, then the pain hit. Despite her half-hearted protests about drugs, she had been given a shot of something that made the pain seem dull and a little distant. Better than the throbbing and red hot sensations running up her arms from her very swollen hand.
Willow tried to pay attention as the doctor talked with the police officer but she found it difficult with whatever drugs they had given her and didnít really care at that moment. She wanted to get back to Buffy as soon as possible.
"Are you okay with me?" Willow asked softly as Tara sat on a stool next to her gurney in the emergency room trauma area.
"Yes, as long as we stay friends, I think we can figure this out," Tara smiled slightly.
"No danger of losing that," Willow attempted to smile. "Thank you for staying last night, not that you could have left. No, that would have been dangerous, dangerous isnít a good thing. No, best you stayed, but Iím glad you stayed without thinking it was dangerous to leaveÖ"
Tara grinned and Willow began blushing, realizing that she was off on one of her trademark babbles.
The doctor pulled the curtain aside and looked down at Willow.
"That is not a happy face," Willow commented. "That is not a face about to deliver good news."
The doctor smiled ruefully. "No, itís not," he agreed. "I donít know how you got through the night with that hand like that. The pain had to be incredible."
"We were too scared to leave the house," Tara explained. "He ripped the phone out and we couldnít call for help or leave until this morning."
Willow was once again impressed with Taraís quick thinking.
"Okay, here it comes," Doctor John OíConnor warned. "Three of your fingers are broken very badly and weíre going to have to put pins in them to correct the break. He must have grabbed it at different angels to break the bones like this."
"Pins?" Willow asked softly. "Surgery?"
"Yes, Iím afraid so. Theyíll be coming for you in a few minutes. Youíll be out of the hospital tomorrow morning with a cast on your arm for at least three months. Then weíll remove the pins and youíll be in a cast for another month, and then start on the physical therapy."
"Therapy? Iím aÖ" Willow stammered.
"Sheís a computer geek," Tara explained.
"Hope youíve got the new voice recognition software or things will be a little frustrating for you," Dr. OíConnor attempted to joke and left the two young women.
"Surgery? I canít have surgery," Willow protested. "Iíve got to get back to Buffy!"
"Donít you dare get off that bed!" Tara warned, her finger in Willowís chest for emphasis. "Iíll call Giles and tell him whatís happening. Heíll watch over Buffy and protect both her and Buffyís mom with his life, you know that."
"I know, I justÖ itís not fair!" Willow snapped and frowned at a nurse moving the curtain aside. The young college student really glared at the sight of another syringe.
"It usually isnít fair, honey," the older steel gray haired nurse commented. "This will help relax you before surgery."
"I donít want to relax, I want to go home," Willow protested.
"Easy now, I saw those x-rays, you donít want to play with this," the nurse responded. "Theyíve called in a bone specialist. Your boyfriend must have a grip of iron."
"Oh goddess," Tara muttered and Willow managed to turn even more pale and sank back onto the bed as the shot began to take hold. "Do you want me to call your folks?"
"No, they wonít notice anything anyway," Willow muttered, her eyes finally closing after more than 24 hours of being awake and stressed.
Giles hung up the phone with a heavy sigh. He heard Joyce talking softly to Buffy in the next room. They had moved Buffy into his room and on his bed, hoping to make the Slayer more comfortable in her struggles against the infection.
Joyce, of course, had rushed right over to Xanderís place within minutes of receiving Gilesí phone call and then to the Watcherís condo. Giles knew that Joyce was having a hard time seeing Buffy hurt as any mother would, but having the knowledge that it was very likely that Buffy would die at a very young age in what would most likely be a violent and painful death made it worse.
Buffy was still thrashing and mumbling, sweat had plastered her blonde hair to her forehead and the red streaks had reached from her finger tips and to above her bicep. The young Slayer didnít seem to hear her Mom talking to her or feel her gently wiping her forehead with a cool cloth.
"Willow," Buffy muttered. "Wills, help me."
Giles entered his bedroom and found Joyce wiping tears away as she looked up at the former Watcher and occasional boyfriend.
"Whereís Willow, she keeps calling for her," Joyce asked.
"I just talked with Tara," Giles felt like crying himself, it just seemed that the situation was getting worse and worse. "Theyíre taking Willow into surgery in a few minutes to try and repair her hand. The doctor told Tara that Willow will be lucky to regain full strength of her hand in a yearís time."
"Oh my God," Joyce whispered.
"Wills!" Buffy muttered.
"Sheíll be in the hospital overnight at the least, I should think. Tara is going to stay with her," Giles informed Joyce. "The police have a report on Oz but I donít think theyíll find him. Sunnydale seems to protect the darker individuals around here. I'm going to go to the hospital in a bit and make Tara eat something. I doubt she has money for the cafeteria," he muttered.
"What about the others, Xander and Anya?" Joyce asked.
"I donít know. They havenít seen Xander at work and his parents think they went out of town or something," Giles responded.
"What happens if she canít fight off the infection?" Joyce asked softly as Buffy writhed in pain.
"I donít know, really," Giles answered. "Thereís never been a Slayer who was bitten by a werewolf and lived. Since we left the Council, I canít ask them for advice, help, or even let them know we could be in trouble."
"You told me about Buffy being a Slayer means sheís stronger than full grown men, faster, and a natural fighter. You also mentioned her unusual healing ability, wonít that help?"
"I think itís the only thing that kept Buffy from becoming a werewolf last night after the bite," Giles said uneasily. "With any other human there wouldnít be a question of her becoming a werewolf, but whether being a Slayer will help, I donít know ."
"Giles, I donít know if I can do this," Joyce said softly.
The former Watcher walked up and placed his hands on her shoulders as she turned to look at Buffy struggling.
"We donít have a choice, Joyce," he responded. "Just like she didnít have a choice in becoming the Slayer."
"Now I know why most of your Slayers didnít have family and friends, it hurts too much, doesnít it?" Joyce demanded.
"When we lose them?" Giles asked and didnít wait for Joyceís response. "Yes, it hurts too much but Buffy and I didnít have choices. Becoming a Watcher was the only choice to save my life and possibly my soul; for Buffy, it was the only choice she had. It may not be fair to take young girls in their teens and train them to kill demons, send them out after vampires until they die and wait for the next Slayer, but we werenít given a choice in the matter."
"I hate this, Rupert!" Joyce said fiercely.
"I know, I do too," he admitted.
"Buffy has told me about her boyfriend, Riley," Joyce said, changing the subject. "Doesnít he work for a government thing that deals with this? Maybe they have more research or equipment that can help Buffy."
"Even though Buffy has gone on patrol with Riley, I donít think she totally trusts the organization he works for," Giles pondered. "After being betrayed by the Council, weíre both a little gun-shy of organizations with too many secrets. They might have answers or they might decide that the safest thing to do is neutralize her."
"Imprisonment or execution," Giles said bluntly. "Weíve heard rumors that they take and do experiments on captured demons, vampires and other creatures. We know of one vampire who they managed to neutralize his ability to drink from humans. Heís one of their success stories; imagine how many experiments it took to reach that level."
"You talk like you feel sorry for whatever theyíre experimenting on," Joyce frowned and turned to look at her sometime lover. "Donít you train Buffy and help her kill these things?"
"Sometimes, not all demons are evil and werewolves are cursed people," Giles tried to explain. "Like Oz, we didnít blame him or hunt him down, we did our best to protect him and keep others safe from him. Iím not sure the Initiative would be so considerate, even if it is Buffy."
"Why isnít Buffy calling for Riley?" Joyce said thoughtfully.
"Iím not sure," Giles tried evasion.
"You look like youíre avoiding something, Rupert," Joyce almost growled. "I know that look; itís a look of when you donít want to tell me something, usually concerning Buffy."
"I have no idea what is going on with Buffy and her dating life," Giles said truthfully. "I do know that Willow was one of her first friends and theyíve been close ever since."
"But Buffy isn't...," Joyce hesitated, her own face puzzled. "Is she? I've only known about boys."
"I don't know, truthfully," Giles admitted. "I don't know what to think anymore with anyone's dating. You and me are off and on again, Willow is awfully close to Tara and Buffy, Xander is dating an ex-vengeance demon, Buffy has been dating Riley but her track record with males is horrible and I've gotten the sense that she's not happy with Riley. I don't know, none of it adds up."
"Wills," Buffy muttered, tossing in her sleep.
"How long before we know?" Joyce demanded. It was only 9am in the morning.
"I don't know," Giles mumbled.
"Either she dies, wakes up or turns into a werewolf?" Joyce snapped.
"Yes, I'm afraid so," the Watcher mumbled and hugged Buffy's mom tightly.
Both of them jumped at the sound of the phone ringing. Giles moved out of the room to answer it.
"Yes?" he answered.
"It's Oz," a voice growled on the other end and Giles' hand tightened on the receiver and he turned his back to the hallway, hoping to cut down the sound traveling to his room.
"What do you want?" Giles' demanded. "Haven't you done enough?"
"Shut up," Oz snapped back. "I have Xander and his girlfriend. Simple exchange, Willow comes with me and you get loser boy and his ditsy sidekick back."
"Willow isn't here, I sent her out of town to get away from you," Giles hissed.
"I don't believe you! She wouldn't leave Buffy injured," Oz protested.
"Believe what you want, she's not here," Giles insisted. "What the hell happened to you, Oz? The boy Willow loved never would have done this. You destroyed your relationship with Willow just to keep Veruca from hurting anyone in wolf form that night, now you've bitten Buffy!"
"I grew up, Giles," Oz's voice sounded so calm that it infuriated the older man. "I found a pack and learned how to live with the wolf instead of fighting it."
"You can't consider dragging Willow into that with you," Giles protested. "Please, Oz, just leave town or you'll force us to kill you."
Oz laughed and Giles felt like he had been hit in the chest.
"Buffy won't be hunting me, old man," Oz laughed again. "She'll be hunting WITH me soon."
Giles stared at the phone after Oz hung up and resisted throwing it against the wall. He turned and saw Joyce standing in the hallway and knew she had heard his end of the conversation, despite his low voice.
"He's totally insane," Giles tried to explain. "He says he has Xander and Anya and wants Willow and Buffy."
"How can he have Xander and Anya?"
"He mentioned a pack, he obviously has help," Giles considered.
"Well, we can't give him any of the kids," Joyce said firmly.
"That means finding him and rescuing Xander and Anya, keeping Oz from finding out Willow is in the hospital and praying Buffy doesn't..." Giles hesitated.
"Turn into a werewolf like Oz?" Joyce finished, choking on the words.
"No, worse than Oz," Giles said truthfully. "Oz has human control over his werewolf side now. Buffy wouldn't."
"Like the movies? Just out for blood?" Joyce whispered, a tear escaping down her face and Giles drew her into his arms, fighting back his own tears.
"Yes, a werewolf with the strength of a slayer."