Title: Broken Chains
Characters/Pairing: Angel, Oz; Angel/Oz pre-ship if you squint
Word Count: 3,436
Summary: Angel and Oz find an unexpected way to get to know each other better.
Timeline: Takes place shortly after 'Lovers Walk'.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: My site, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - just ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Betas: angelskuuipo & velvetwhip
Author's Note: This has been languishing in my WIP folder for a while now and I decided that it's as done as it's going to get.
Angel prowled around the otherwise empty mansion, feeling restless. Spike's words about his and Buffy's doomed relationship haunted him. It wasn't anything he didn't already know, deep down, but to hear Spike say it made it all the more painful.
Grabbing his coat, Angel headed outside, deciding to do a quick patrol. Anything to distract him from his thoughts.
He never used to mind being alone, but lately he found himself getting antsy if he remained cooped up in his home for too long. With Buffy as his only visitor, he was alone a lot.
Not that he was out looking for company. He found the Bronze just as uncomfortable as his empty mansion.
Shortly after entering Restfield Cemetery, Angel smelled something familiar but he wasn't sure what it was. Allowing curiosity to distract him from his contemplations, he followed the scent through the maze of headstones.
What he found, or rather who, was a bit of a surprise. What was Oz doing prowling the cemetery alone? After watching for a few minutes, Angel realized that Oz wasn't prowling so much as inspecting the mausoleums. He watched as Oz circled around a building before pushing open the heavy door and disappearing inside.
When Oz emerged, apparently not finding what he was looking for, Angel decided to make his presence known.
"Bit late to be hanging out in cemeteries without a Slayer, isn't it?"
Oz looked at Angel, a hint of a smile quirking his lips. "I was wondering how long you were going to spy on me without saying anything. Some people might consider that rude."
Angel was surprised. "You knew I was there?"
Oz tapped the side of his nose.
"It's easy to forget about for most people who aren't me." Oz looked up at the nearly full moon as he finished speaking.
Angel followed the line of Oz's sight, taking in the waxing moon. He suddenly realized why Oz was hanging out in the cemetery alone at night.
"What happened to the cage in the library?" Angel knowingly asked.
Oz shrugged. "Nothing. Doesn't really feel right staying there with me and Willow broken up."
"I get that."
"So, um, know if any of these can contain a werewolf for a few nights a month?"
Angel took a minute to look around. With Darla as his sire, he'd never felt compelled to live in a cemetery. She liked her creature comforts when she was away from the Master. So did he, for that matter. Even though he'd sometimes sheltered in alleys after he'd been souled, he'd always managed to avoid living among the truly dead.
"Sorry, but I've never explored the crypts, aside from looking for nests with Buffy."
Oz nodded, having expected that answer. "Worth a shot."
Considering the subject closed, Oz started towards the next building that looked like it might be sturdy enough for his purposes.
Angel remained still, watching the young man. He couldn't explain why, it's not like they knew each other well - in fact, this was probably the longest conversation they'd ever had with each other - but he liked Oz. Oz wasn't like Buffy and her friends, always feeling the need to express every thought through words or actions. He felt a twinge of guilt for thinking about Buffy like that, but it was true. Sometimes the girl could not be quiet.
Hoping that he wasn't about to make a big mistake, Angel caught up to Oz.
"Does it have to be in the cemetery?" he asked.
Oz looked up at him, curious. "Not really. Just figured it would be far enough away from most people if I got out."
Angel nodded, cementing his decision. "I've, uh, got a cage… in the basement. You're welcome to use it."
Oz quirked an eyebrow. "Do you now?"
Angel shifted slightly, ashamed to admit this. "Angelus had it put in - to keep extra… food… secure."
"Makes sense," Oz said. "Is it strong enough?"
"Should be. And if not, I'll be there to stop you from getting out and hurting anyone."
Oz immediately relaxed, Angel having addressed his biggest fear. "Thanks."
"Come by an hour before sundown and we'll get you set up."
"I'll be there."
Oz pulled up in front of the Crawford Street mansion and turned off the engine. He grabbed the duffel bag containing his change of clothes and slipped out of the van, making sure it was locked.
He still wasn't sure why Angel was helping him out like this, but he wasn't going to question his good fortune. The thought of getting loose while in wolf form terrified him. He didn't want to kill innocent people, or worse, accidentally pass along his curse. Somehow, Oz knew that Angel would do everything in his power to keep that from happening.
Oz almost laughed as he thought back to his first wolf-moon cycle and how he'd changed before Willow's eyes. He'd been about to try to chain himself up with a regular set of handcuffs and chains. It wouldn't have held him, he knew that now, but at least he'd known that he was a danger.
He'd never wanted to be a danger. He just wanted to get through high school and play his guitar. Maybe find a nice girl.
He thought that he'd at least managed the last one. Willow was the epitome of Nice Girl. At least until she wasn't. At least until she broke his heart.
He felt the beast stir at thoughts of what Willow had done to him, shook himself out of his reverie, and rang the doorbell.
He didn't have to wait long for Angel to open the door.
"Oz, right on time," Angel said, stepping back to admit him.
Once he was inside, the two men just stood there, not sure what else to say. Finally, Angel broke the silence.
Oz followed him through the mansion, taking stock of the mostly-barren rooms. It wasn't very homey. Then again, Angel was a vampire, and they probably didn't do homey.
"I thought there'd be more art," Oz murmured to himself.
"Excuse me?" Oz's low voice wasn't lost on vampire senses.
"Oh, sorry. Um, I remember Buffy saying something about there being lots of art at your place. But I don't see anything like that here."
Angel made a sound, not quite a growl, but close. "That was at my apartment. The one I had when I lost the soul. Angelus found this place. I haven't gotten around to moving my things over since I got back."
"I've wondered about that," Oz commented.
"You've wondered about why I haven't moved my stuff?" Angel asked, confused.
"No, since I didn't know that until now. No, why did you stay here if you still have the other place? Wouldn't this place be filled with bad memories from being soulless?"
Angel stopped walking and turned to look at Oz with something akin to wonder. No one had asked him that before, even though he expected it from Buffy or Cordelia.
"I suppose the memories from my time here, while not good, are still better than my memories of the apartment." Dropping his voice to a whisper, he admitted, "I could never sleep in that bed again."
Oz nodded in understanding and gestured for Angel to continue walking. They finally arrived in the basement and Angel flicked on the overhead light to reveal a real life dungeon.
There were multiple sets of chains along the walls at shoulder and ankle height for both men and women, as well as several hooks embedded in the ceiling. One wall had an assortment of whips and knives. Finally, along the far wall, stood a large steel cage.
Oz whistled while Angel shifted uncomfortably.
Sensing the vampire's embarrassment, Oz promised, "I won't tell the others."
Startled, Angel met Oz's eyes and knew the boy understood his feelings. "Thanks." After a beat he asked, "Do they know you're here?"
"I called Giles. Don't know if he told the rest."
Oz walked over to the cage, setting his bag down against a wall, and dropped his coat on top of it.
As he pulled open the cage door, he noticed that Angel had already purchased a new heavy padlock, the kind that opened with a key. After he inspected the lock, Oz looked to Angel, who was holding up the key, which he placed on a hook Oz hadn't noticed before, near his bag. Oz nodded and continued his inspection.
After several minutes, he exited the cage and nodded. "It'll do."
"Good. Is there anything you need?"
Looking back at the cold, concrete floor, Oz requested, "If you've got an extra blanket, I wouldn't turn it down. I do start and end as me, after all."
"Of course. I'll be right back."
Oz pulled off his t-shirt and dropped it on top of his coat, then bent to remove his shoes and socks. He shivered in the cool dampness of the basement, but he could feel the change coming on and the clothes were beginning to get uncomfortable. He circled around the room again, the scent of old blood detectable to his heightened senses, and tried not to think about how Angelus had used this room.
When he heard Angel approaching, he made his way back to, and inside, the cage. He turned to face the room just as Angel descended the last step.
Angel paused, staring at him for a moment, before crossing the room to hand him the blanket.
"Thanks," Oz said, taking it, trying to figure out what that look was. Pushing it out of his head, he turned and spread the blanket out, making a little bed for himself.
"You can, uh, go ahead and lock me in. Won't be much longer," Oz suggested.
"Right," Angel huffed, moving to do just that.
"Do you want me to…" Angel jerked his head towards the stairs.
"Up to you. I'm used to doing this with an audience. But, I was hoping to get naked before the change. Couldn't do that at the school and I've lost a lot of jeans in the last year because of that."
"I thought they had blankets up for your privacy."
"They did, but I still wasn't comfortable undressing in front of them."
Suddenly Oz groaned and bent over. When he looked back up, his eyes had gone black and he was hairier than he'd been a moment before.
Hands, that were looking more like claws, scrambled with the fastenings of his pants. "Looks like you get a show."
Angel turned his back, giving Oz some privacy while he scrambled out of his remaining clothes in the short time he had left. He'd just tossed them beyond the bars of the cage when he lost consciousness.
The last thing Oz saw before losing himself to the wolf was Angel's face as he turned back to the cage.
Angel watched, mesmerized by Oz's transformation. In all his years, he'd never witnessed a man turning into a werewolf. He'd never been present during any of Oz's past changes, afraid of being perceived as voyeuristic rather than curious.
His change was so different from Angel's own.
While Angel remained mostly human when his demon surfaced, only his face altering, Oz's entire body changed when his demon came forth. Not only did it change, it grew. Oz's demon was much larger than the man himself. Much hairier, too.
Ignoring the growling coming from the cage, Angel remained in the basement for a long time, simply observing this new version of Oz; it was so different from the man he knew.
Only Angel didn't really know him. Not as much more than an acquaintance. Oz was Angel's ex-girlfriend's best friend's ex-boyfriend. After all, Oz had come into the group only shortly before Angel had lost his soul. They didn't see each other often when there wasn't a crisis going on and then they were all in research mode so there wasn't much socializing going on.
Angel resolved to get to know the young werewolf better, especially if they were going to be spending three nights a month together. Even if one of them wasn't going to be talking during that time.
A crash from upstairs followed by Buffy's voice calling out for him finally roused Angel from his contemplations.
With a sigh, Angel headed up the stairs, quietly closing the basement door behind him.
"Angel, where are you? I know you're here," Buffy yelled, running around the living room.
"What is it, Buffy?" Angel asked, stepping into the room. He made a mental note to get a lock for the garden door so his ex would stop barging into his home.
"There you are," Buffy exclaimed. "Come on, we need you," she said, grabbing his arm and trying to drag him towards the door. "We can't find Oz."
Angel didn't budge, causing Buffy to comically swing round so she wouldn't fall over.
Deciding to play along, he asked, "Did he escape from the book cage?"
"I don't think he ever showed up. Willow asked me to check on him to make sure he was settled since she obviously couldn't do it and when I got to the library the cage was empty. Now come on." She tried to pull Angel again, but he remained stubbornly in place.
"What did Giles say?"
"What do you mean, what did Giles say? I didn't talk to Giles. He wasn't there."
"Did you think to call him? Didn't you go to him first? He is the Watcher, after all," Angel pointed out.
"Why would I go to Giles? He's not strong enough to fight a werewolf on the loose," Buffy exclaimed. Looking at Angel's smug face, she narrowed her eyes at him and took a step back. "What do you know?"
Angel relaxed his stance. "If you had talked to Giles, he would have told you that Oz found a new place to change as he was no longer comfortable doing it in the library now that he and Willow are no longer together."
"How do you know that?" she asked warily.
"Oz is in the basement."
"He's what?" Buffy screeched. "Why didn't you just say so?"
"Because this was so much more fun," Angel admitted.
Fear and sadness chased each other across Buffy's face. "Why did you just sound like Angelus?"
Angel rolled his eyes. "I still have my soul. I'm just tired of this. We're not together anymore so you need to stop running to me every time you have a problem." He ignored Buffy's hurt expression. "How would you feel if I came barging into your home all of the time?"
"You couldn't, you were uninvited."
"Not the point," Angel said through gritted teeth.
"I know," Buffy admitted. "I guess I like having an excuse to see you."
"You know I'll still help out in a real fight, but this was not the time. And not the way to ask me. There's this invention they have now called a telephone. I suggest next time you use it."
"You should go," Angel cut her off. "Oz is safe. Go home."
Reinforcing his point, Angel walked to the front door and held it open for her. Reluctantly, Buffy left, turning back as Angel closed the door.
Angel took a moment to realize that he'd really just thrown Buffy out. Not only that, but he'd laid down the law in a way that he hadn't been able to with her before. He was a little surprised and ashamed that this girl had been able to hold so much power over him at one point. Not anymore.
A part of him would always love her, but she wasn't his redemption. He knew that now.
Angel headed towards his kitchen, wondering if he had anything in there that wasn't blood. Oz would probably be hungry in the morning.
As he'd suspected, Angel did not have any food fit for consumption. All he had found were some power bars Buffy had left at some point, and he wasn't about to subject Oz to that kind of torture. He was finding that he liked the boy.
Making sure that Oz was secure in the basement, Angel took a quick trip to the store. However, once there, he had no idea what to buy. He knew that donuts were often a part of either a late or early research session, so he bought a box of those and some milk. Milk was good for humans, right?
He also picked up a lock for the garden door, which he easily installed when he got home right after putting away the food.
As he worked on the lock, Angel couldn't help but think about how observant Oz was. He'd remembered that he used to have a lot of art and noticed the lack of its presence in this place, his supposed home.
Looking around the main room, he had to wonder why it had taken him so long to make this place his own. He knew why Angelus had not bothered to move everything to this new residence. His demon had often scoffed at his interest in any art created by someone other than himself and would understandably not care if it was around him.
But it did mean something to him. He'd had some of those pieces for over a century. They were important to him. Which meant that they should be in the place he resided.
The night passed quickly and before he knew it, the sun was beginning to rise. Angel returned to the basement just as Oz began to morph back into his human self.
Angel resisted the urge to laugh as Oz instinctually wrapped himself in the blanket in his sleep. Grabbing the key from the hook on the wall, Angel unlocked the door, opening it a bit so Oz would know he was free.
Unfortunately, the door squeaked as it was pulled open, causing Oz's eyes to pop open.
"Hey, sorry, it's just me," Angel apologized. "Go back to sleep."
"What time is it?"
"Just past 6am."
"I've got to get ready for school," Oz said, pulling the blanket more securely around himself as he sat up.
"Of course. I'll see you upstairs. I bought donuts."
Oz quirked an eyebrow at that, but didn't comment. "See you in a few."
Angel headed for the kitchen and heated up some blood for himself. A bedtime snack. He didn't usually eat before bed, but he found himself suddenly starving.
True to his word, Oz appeared a few minutes later, shaving kit in hand. "Is there a bathroom around here?"
"Up the stairs, second door on the right."
Angel had finished his blood and was washing out the mug when Oz returned.
"I should have given you the full tour last night," Angel apologized.
"It's fine. Other stuff on our minds."
"I'll show you around tonight, if you want…"
"That would be nice." They stood in silence for a minute before Oz prompted, "You said something about donuts?"
"Right." Angel grabbed the box from the counter and set it, the milk and a glass on the table. "When I got to the store I realized I didn't know what you'd like, so I asked for an assortment."
"This is good," Oz confirmed. "You really didn't need to do this. I didn't expect you to be all host-like."
"It was no trouble. I had some other things to get while I was out anyway." It wasn't entirely a lie.
Deciding it wouldn't hurt to ask, Angel said, "When you come back tonight...If you don't mind...Do you think I could borrow your van while you're...in the basement?"
"Shouldn't be a problem. May I ask why? You've got your own car, right?"
"I do, but I was thinking that it was time to bring over some of my belongings from my old apartment. A van would make that easier."
Oz smiled. "Yeah, man, that'd be cool. I'd offer to help, but we aren't going to be conscious at the same time all that much for the next couple of days."
"Speaking of which, I should get to bed." As if the mere notion of sleep made him suddenly exhausted.
"And I should get to school. I'll be back around the same time tonight."
"I'll see you then." Angel followed him to the door and locked it behind him. He was actually looking forward to that night.
It was time to get on with his unlife.