Pairing: Oz, Giles (friendship)
Summary: Who does Oz turn to after finding Willow and Xander together?
Word Count: 1728
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Spoilers/Timeline: after Lovers Walk
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: velvetwhip, thanks for all your help trying to find the right words.
"Time to get up."
Oz barely registers the authoritative tone in Giles' voice, or the rattle of the cage door as it is unlocked, still being mostly asleep.
It is the sound of the kettle reaching the boiling point that finally rouses Oz. The scent of coffee follows that sound, convincing him to stir from the not-so-comfortable position on the cold floor of the book cage.
It is that sound and scent that remind him that this is a morning after a night spent as the wolf, more than the slight chill he feels due to his naked status. The sound of the kettle, along with the scent of coffee – with a fainter scent of herbs for tea – calms Oz. It means that he is in the library and Giles has helped to keep him safe.
Groaning as he stands, Oz ruffles a hand through his unruly hair and stretches. He grabs his clothes from the top of the weapons cabinet and pulls them on. As he pushes open the cage door, Giles appears from his office carrying a tray with their tea, coffee and a couple of donuts.
"Good morning," Giles greets him.
"Morning," Oz replies, dragging himself to the table and sliding into one of the chairs. He blindly reaches for the coffee and takes a long sip. It may be crappy instant coffee, but it still helps.
Oz shrugs and takes a bite of his jelly donut. "I guess," he mumbles around his food.
They lapse into an easy silence, each losing himself in his own thoughts. When Oz finishes eating, he licks his fingers clean and pushes away from the table.
"Thanks." He drains the last of the coffee and sets the mug back on the tray. "I should go."
"All right," Giles says. "I'll see you tonight."
'One more night in the cage…' Oz muses, 'this month.'
Months pass in a similar fashion for Oz and Giles. Sometimes Willow, Xander or Buffy would spend the night in the library with Oz, but more often than not, they left the wolf alone.
If someone else was there in the morning, Giles would forgo their breakfast together. By silent agreement, they decided to keep that just for them.
Oz doesn't know where he's going. All he wants to do is get out of town. Get as far from Willow as possible.
Scenes from earlier in the evening play out before his eyes as he drives down the dark road, his headlights the only illumination. Willow and Xander on the bed, kissing. He can't help wondering if it would have gone farther if he and Cordelia hadn't interrupted. Has Willow had sex with Xander when she wouldn't with him? Was the sweet virgin act just that?
How could he not have known what was going on behind his back? Granted, Willow has had a bit of a crush on Xander for as long as he's known her, but when had that changed? When did Xander start to reciprocate her feelings? Why did it have to be after Oz had fallen so completely in love with her?
A sign for Breaker's Woods catches Oz's eye and he turns down that road. He sees Giles' Citroen in the parking lot and nearly turns the van around. Instead, he parks beside the small car and grabs a flashlight out of the back of the van. Giles should know about Cordelia, he tells himself.
Choosing to test the sense that got him into trouble earlier this evening, Oz picks up Giles' scent and follows it to the man's camp site.
"Who's there?" Giles calls out from the far side of the fire.
Oz steps out of the shadows, schooling his features so that he doesn't betray the turmoil he's feeling. "Hey."
"Oz? What on earth are you doing out here? Is everyth-- everyone, all right?" Giles asks.
"Not really," he admits, scrubbing a hand across his cheek, wiping a tear away. Perhaps coming here was a mistake.
"What's happened?" Giles asks, moving over so that Oz can join him on his log bench.
"Cordy's in the hospital. She fell on a rebar." Yes, that was what he'd come here to say.
"Good Lord. How did that happen? Was there a fight?" Giles presses.
"No fight," Oz says. "It was an accident. She fell through some bad stairs."
Oz stares into the fire, twisting his hands together, fighting back tears.
"What aren't you telling me?" Giles carefully asks.
Oz swallows around the lump in his throat. "We found Willow and Xander together."
Giles looks at him, confused. "I'm not sure I understand. They have been friends for a very long time. Surely this isn't the first time they've been alone together."
"NO!" Oz shouts, unconsciously rising to his feet. "They were together. Lying on a bed and making out together."
"Oh." Giles eyes widen in shock and understanding. "Oh! Oh, Oz, I'm so sorry."
"How could she do this to me?" Oz asks, deflating, sinking back onto the log. He turns tear-filled eyes on Giles. "What did I do wrong?"
"I wish I had an answer for you. I was under the impression that Willow's infatuation with Xander had diminished once things became serious between the two of you."
"I thought so, too," Oz says. "Guess that makes me more the fool."
"I'd hardly call you a fool," Giles says.
"No, not a fool," Oz appears to agree. "A cuckold."
"I can't imagine that Willow meant to cause you any shame," Giles tries to comfort him.
"Don't defend her," Oz spits out. "I can't hear that right now."
"I'm sorry," Giles immediately apologizes. "You're right, now is not the time for rationalizations."
"But later will be?"
"I doubt I'll want to hear it then," Oz says.
Giles shifts a little nervously, drawing Oz's attention.
"You didn't know, did you?" Oz asks.
"I-I had my suspicions," Giles slowly admits.
Oz takes several deep breaths, trying to rein in his hurt and anger. "And you never said anything?" he demands.
"It wasn't my place."
"How long?" Oz asks, not really wanting to know the answer. Please, don't let it be all along.
"A few weeks ago I caught them behaving... oddly... in the stacks while they were supposed to be researching," Giles admits. "I pretended that I hadn't seen anything."
"I thought we were better friends than that," Oz says. "I thought we were friends, period."
"We are. At least, I'd rather hoped we were," Giles assures him.
"And yet you allowed me to believe my girlfriend was faithful only to me."
"I had no proof," Giles counters. "What would you have had me do differently?"
Oz stands, glaring down at his friend and mentor. "You should have… I don't know, told me what you thought you saw."
"Would you have believed me?" Giles asks, rising to his feet.
Oz glares up into Giles' eyes before sagging. "Probably not. I just feel so stupid. How could I not have known about this?"
"One generally doesn't see what one doesn't want to," Giles says.
Tears fill Oz's eyes as they continue to look into Giles'. "What am I going to do without her? She's what made the whole wolf thing bearable. Well, you too. But she wanted me even knowing about the wolf."
Giles barely hesitates as he pulls Oz to his body, wrapping his arms around the boy protectively. "I know this may be hard to believe now, but one day, you'll find another young woman who will accept the wolf."
"I don't want anyone else," Oz stubbornly insists. "I want Willow. I guess I want her more than she wants me, though."
"I know you don't want to hear this, but I'm going to say it anyway." Giles pauses while Oz withdraws from his arms, distancing himself. "The poor girl has lusted after that idiot boy for as long as I've known her. If he has suddenly realized what a bright and beautiful woman Willow has become, you can hardly blame him for that. Not that I approve of them acting on this now-mutual attraction. On the contrary, I'd much rather they had resisted, if only to have avoided the pain that you and Cordelia are now going through."
"At least my wounds are only emotional," Oz says.
"Indeed," Giles agrees.
Needing a moment to collect himself, Oz resumes his seat. He is aware of Giles sitting beside him and is grateful the other man does not try to continue the conversation just yet. Staring into the fire, Oz watches as flames dance along the wood, slowly consuming each piece. He wants to crawl into the fire and be consumed by those flames. Right now, he feels like he'll never be warm again, now that the sun to his moon has abandoned him.
"I suppose that I should head back to town and check on Cordelia," Giles reluctantly says, disturbing Oz's melancholy thoughts.
"No, stay," Oz objects. "She's at the hospital. There's nothing you can do. Besides, she sees you as Xander's friend, so I doubt you'll be welcome."
Giles frowns. "Perhaps you're right."
After some more time passes, Oz shakes himself and stands. "I should probably go. I've intruded on your retreat long enough."
"It's late," Giles points out. "I've got an extra blanket you're welcome to use." The 'you shouldn't be alone' goes unspoken.
"That isn't against the rules, or something?"
Giles shrugs. "I'd say we've broken a fair number of rules already. Not the least of which includes me keeping a wild animal trapped in the book cage of the high school library three nights a month who turns into a naked, under-aged boy."
Almost against his will, Oz's lips turn up in just the hint of a smile. "When you put it like that... thanks. I really didn't want to be in town tonight. Probably would have just slept in the van in the parking lot here."
Giles dampens the fire before leading the way into the tent. After he and Oz settle themselves, Giles quietly says, "I'm glad you found me tonight."
"So am I," Oz agrees.
Oz knows that it will be a long time before he can forgive Willow, if ever, but at least he knows he still has one person he can turn to when life turns to shit.