Pairing: Oz, Angel (friendship)
Summary: Before he can find answers, Oz needs some helping finding the correct path.
Word Count: 1,793
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Spoilers/Timeline: after Wild at Heart
Distribution: My site, my LJ, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - just ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Betas: The ever-patient and insightful velvetwhip and angelskuuipo
Note: This is a prequel to my story "Why'd you go and break what's already broken?". I wanted to know what happened when Oz visited Angel.
The blue van's engine idled as Oz sat in front of the building that housed Angel Investigations. He sat there for many long minutes, his hand on the key, as he debated the sanity of this visit. Cursing his indecision, Oz almost violently turned the motor off and removed the key from the ignition. He exited the van and headed into the building.
An overwhelming sense of déjà vu came over Oz as he entered the office.
He stood in the doorway for a moment, until Cordelia stopped bickering with the Irishman (demon) on the couch long enough to notice him.
"Oz?" she squealed, rushing over to him. His sense of déjà vu strengthened. "It’s so good to see you, again, so soon. Oz. It's Oz."
"Hello, L.A.," he greeted them.
"Good ta see ya again," the Irish demon said.
"You too. Doyle, right?" Oz queried.
"That'd be me," Doyle said.
By then, Angel had come out of his office to greet him. "Oz."
"Angel." Oz nodded.
"You're back," Angel observed.
"I am," Oz agreed.
"Well, that was a fun reenactment," Cordelia said. "Not." She turned to face Oz, releasing the arm she'd taken. "So, what brings you to our dreary office today? More mythological jewelry that's going to make Angel a target?"
"Are you sure you're not giving him some kind of priceless heirloom that is really more befitting a beauty of my caliber?" she pressed.
"Cordelia, darlin'," Doyle said before she could start pestering Oz again. "Let me buy you lunch."
"I already ate lunch," she protested.
"Then I'll buy you dessert," Doyle insisted. He grabbed her purse and practically dragged her out of the office.
"Fine, but when we get back, you're going to tell me all about the Bronze," Cordelia said to Oz. As an afterthought she added, "and Willow."
A flash of pain flickered over Oz's otherwise stoic face at Willow's name. He hoped the slip would go unnoticed, but, unfortunately, it appeared that it had not escaped Angel's eagle eyes.
"Is everything okay with Willow?" he cautiously asked.
Oz shook his head. "That would be a no. And kinda why I'm here."
Angel nodded. "Come down to the apartment."
Oz followed Angel into the ancient elevator. He wondered, much like he had last time, why they didn't just take the stairs. It would have been faster. And yet, the relative silence of the elevator, aside from the ancient machine's groans, gave him time to figure out how much to tell Angel.
"Would you like something to drink? I've got water, tea or... blood," Angel offered.
"No thanks, I'm good," Oz said, looking around the room. He wandered over to the couch and sat, making a show of getting comfortable. Anything to delay this conversation.
Angel sat in an armchair; obviously waiting for Oz to say whatever he'd come all this way to say. As the silence stretched on, Angel finally asked, "Has something happened to Willow?"
"You could say that," Oz admitted. He wiped sweaty palms against his thighs. "You could also say that I happened to her."
Angel was instantly on his feet, growling slightly. "Did you do something to her?"
Oz stood, too, palms out. "No. Hey, no. Well, not physically, at least..."
"You hurt her emotionally?" Angel supplied.
"More than I would ever want to," Oz admitted, collapsing back onto the couch, scrubbing his hands over his face.
"Do you want to tell me what happened?" Angel asked, taking his seat.
"Not especially, but I need to talk to someone, and you were the only person I could think of who would understand," Oz said.
"Does this have to do with the wolf?" Angel guessed.
"Boy does it ever," Oz sighed.
"Tell me what happened," Angel said.
"Short version: While in wolf form, I cheated on Willow with another wolf, Veruca. Who I'd locked in my cage with me. Willow found us. Then Veruca went after Willow and I had to kill her. Veruca, not Willow. I left Sunnydale."
Angel let out a low whistle.
"I wish I could blame it all on the wolf, but the wolf is me. I am the wolf. Even though Willow owns my heart, I still couldn't deny my attraction to Veruca," Oz admitted.
"It's the nature of the beast," Angel agreed.
"Veruca, she kept encouraging me to just give into the animal. She said I shouldn't lock myself in a cage every month like some pet. She didn't care if she hurt anyone."
Angel nodded. "She had embraced her demon. She wasn't trying to hold onto her humanity the way that you do."
"That's kinda why I'm here," Oz said, taking advantage of the opening. "I want to find a way to control the wolf. I've heard that it can be done. I need to be in control so that I won't ever hurt Willow like that again."
"You're still together?" Angel asked, surprised.
Oz shook his head. "No. I left her. I told her I couldn't be around her right now. It kills me that she's in pain, but I can't risk harming her because I can't control the wolf."
"She never cared about that before," Angel softly pointed out.
"I know, but I've never lost control like that before, either. I remember what it was like to be cheated on. It's not fun. But we can't keep hurting each other like that, no matter how much we love each other."
"Does she know what you're trying to do?"
"No, I didn't want to get her hopes up," Oz said.
"So you just left her after putting her through that ordeal? With no closure?" Angel asked.
"When you put it that way, I sound like an ass," Oz sighed.
"Maybe that's because you're acting like one," Angel griped.
"Whose side are you on, anyway?"
"This isn't about sides," Angel calmly stated. "It's about not leaving things undone."
"I left her," Oz snapped, unconsciously rising to his feet. "I left the only person I have ever loved to avoid the possibility of accidentally killing her, or worse. That seems pretty done to me."
Oz slowly sat back down, as Angel closed his eyes and appeared to try to calm himself after his outburst. While he'd just finished with this time of the month, the wolf was still relatively close to the surface, especially when he was upset; like now. He'd had no idea that Angel might be able to sense that – until today. It would certainly explain why the two were never close in Sunnydale.
Opening his eyes, Angel said, "I get that. You have no idea how much I get that."
Oz looked around the apartment, the validity of Angel's statement hitting home. Angel had left the woman he loved in Sunnydale, too. "Yeah, I guess you do. That's why I came to you, after all."
"You needed someone to talk to?" Angel questioned. "In case you haven't noticed, neither of us are big with the talking; most of the time."
Oz huffed out a laugh. "Believe it or not, I have noticed that."
"So, if you're not here to rationalize your decision to leave, why did you come?"
"I was hoping you might have heard of a place I could go to deal with my...situation."
Angel cocked his head to the side as if thinking. "As far as I know, there is no way to get rid of the wolf. Once you've been bitten, you're a werewolf for life. I'd hope you know that I would have mentioned it sooner if there were a cure."
"Thanks. I kinda figured that. Giles did all kinds of research on my condition when I was first bitten. No, I was hoping you knew of people who could help me control the wolf." Oz turned wide, hopeful eyes on Angel.
Standing, Angel went to his bookshelves. He pulled out a volume and began to flip through the pages.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Oz asked, "What'cha got there? Demonic phone book?"
"Something like that," Angel answered.
"You know I was joking," Oz pointed out.
"I wasn't," Angel said. He continued to turn pages until he obviously found what he was looking for. "Here." He handed the open book to Oz.
Oz tried not to show that his hands were shaking as he reached for the book. Could this really be the answer he was looking for, right here on Angel's bookshelf?
He looked down at the page and blinked. "It's a monastery. Not quite what I was expecting."
"It makes sense, if you think about it," Angel said. "A good deal of learning control is through the use of meditation. It's one reason I do Tai Chi. The monks at this monastery have worked for centuries to help demons live as peaceful creatures."
"Did you study with them?" Oz asked.
Angel shook his head. "My guilt was too strong to allow me to seek help. By the time that I learned this place existed, I didn't feel that they could help me. My soul did its job and kept me mired down in my guilt. I didn't think that I deserved any kind of reprieve. What the monks could have taught me, I thought would be an easy way out."
"That's not much of an endorsement," Oz commented.
"Your situation is very different from mine. You were still relatively innocent when you became a werewolf. I had been a soulless monster for over a century when I was cursed. I think they could help you," Angel assured him.
"How do I find them?" Oz asked.
Angel smiled. "I'll make some calls and we can find that out. It may take a few days."
"That's fine. I've got time," Oz said.
"You're welcome to crash here, if you need a place to stay," Angel offered.
"That's cool," Oz accepted.
Angel stood. "Come on up to the office. We can see if Cordelia and Doyle are back. Maybe one of Doyle's contacts can help."
"Does she know he's part demon yet?" Oz asked, following Angel back to the elevator.
"No, and it's going to stay that way until Doyle mans up and tells her the truth," Angel said.
"She won't hear it from me," Oz promised.
They rode in silence until the elevator came to a clanging halt. As the doors opened, Oz grabbed Angel's sleeve, holding him back for a moment. "Angel... Thanks."
As Angel stepped out of the elevator, the main office door opened and Oz could hear Cordelia and Doyle bickering. He smiled as he thought about the adventure he was about to embark on… and the look on Willow's face when he went home to her a changed man.