Monosyllabic Eccentricity

Title: Coming to Terms
Author: J. Browning
Rating: G
Spoilers: Phases
Summary: This story takes place during and contains spoilers for the season two episode Phases. Because that episode puts so much into setting up the scenario, but then rushes the conclusion with minimum exploration of the emotional (or practical) fallout.
Disclaimer: The characters and scenarios of Buffy the Vampire Slayer do not belong to me. I am writing for my own amusement and am making no profit from it.


On Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Buffy looks down at Willow crouched next to Oz the werewolf and gets down with her.
Willow: You think it'll be okay?
They both look up at Giles.
Giles: He'll be a little sore in the morning, but... he'll be Oz.


*****

"Jeez, he's easier to manhandle when he's human," Xander grumbled as he helped Giles carry the limp form of the drugged werewolf into the book cage at the library, having joined the intrepid team of werewolf-trackers too late to witness the werewolf-capturing action but just in time to help with the post-capture heavy lifting.

"Oh yeah? Something we should know about, Xand?" Supervising the operation, Buffy raised an eyebrow and listened with amusement as Xander realised the possible implications of what he'd just said and started to splutter.

"Oh, not that I'd ever…I mean with the…and…uh…hey, what's with all the extra pounds and inches, anyway? 'Cause…"

"Are you sure he's all right? Shouldn't he be starting to wake up by now?" Willow interrupted, staring into the cage at her transformed boyfriend and looking distressed.

"Oh God, I hope not." Xander looked alarmed at the thought, exiting the book cage at speed.

Giles followed more casually, pulling the cage door shut behind him so that the werewolf was securely locked in. "Oh, not for a while yet, I shouldn't think," he told Willow, gently. "He's quite well sedated for the moment, although it should have worn off by morning without any ill-effects."

"So lucky us we got such a good strong cage to keep our books in," Buffy noted. "Could have almost been designed to hold a vicious beast."

"He isn't a vicious beast!" Willow protested. "I mean, okay, he is right now, but…h-he isn't! He's Oz."

"Will, I didn't mean…" Buffy turned to her friend in apology, seeing how worried and upset she was.

"Xander." It was Giles's turn to interrupt, looking meaningfully at the boy. "Perhaps you could give me a hand with something. Through here."

He gave Xander no chance to protest, firmly leading him away to his office, tucked away in a corner of the library and leaving the two girls alone to talk.

Buffy looked at her friend with deep sympathy. "Are you sure you're okay, Will?"

"Oh yeah," Willow nodded vigorously. "I'm just great. My boyfriend tried to eat me, and then I shot him. Things couldn't be better."

"I can't understand how it happened." Buffy looked into the cage at the sleeping werewolf, whose human form was so unassuming – and had given not the slightest hint of this ferocious alter ego. "I mean, what was he thinking? Being around you when he was going to change? Unless he didn't know – but how could he not know?"

"Oh no, it wasn't his fault," Willow immediately insisted. "It was my fault. Except that it really wasn't. Maybe it wasn't anybody's fault. 'Cause I went around there, to, to, you know, be daring and up the speed quotient, like you said. And h-he had chains and stuff. He was trying to lock himself up, he really was! Only I went over and interrupted him at the exact wrong moment, and he tried to tell me it was a bad time, only I didn't listen, because I had this whole speech planned out and I wanted to say it before I lost my nerve. But then it sounded wrong so I had to change it, and then I wished I hadn't…A-and then it was too late and everything was bad."

"I'm really sorry," Buffy murmured.

"A-and he never told me, you know?" Willow softly added. "D'you think that says anything about us? I mean, 'cause, I know we haven't been seeing each other all that long, and we've been kinda slow about picking up speed, but you'd think he'd have told me something that important."

She looked hurt as she gazed into the cage at the creature her boyfriend had turned into. Oz lay there, unconscious and oblivious still.

"Maybe he was embarrassed," Buffy suggested, feeling bad for her friend and hoping she and Oz would be able to work this out. They seemed so good together, and she'd been so happy for Willow that she'd finally found a guy who really appreciated her the way she deserved. "Or confused. You know, 'cause if it was me, finding out I was a werewolf would really freak me out."

Something else occurred to her just then, and she felt a sudden pang of guilt at the memory. "And he was probably scared. I mean he walked into the library this morning just in time to hear me telling everyone about how much I was going to kill the werewolf when I found it, so…" She really didn't want to finish that thought, so veered off onto another tangent. "And Giles said it was possible he wouldn't even know, so he probably only just realised. It's not like there've been any werewolf-linkable incidents before this. Probably it only just happened."

"But how?" Willow turned to look at her. "How could it happen? I mean, how could he be just a perfectly normal guy last month, and then get turned into a, a werewolf without us knowing? And we – we're supposed to know about this stuff? How could this happen to him without us even noticing?"

That stung. Buffy knew that her friend hadn't meant it as a personal attack on her duty as the Slayer to protect the people around her from the supernatural evils of the world, but it still felt that way. Just lately, she felt like she'd been letting everyone down.

"I don't know," she countered, feeling bad for Oz, now, that this had happened to him. "I guess I can't save everyone."

"Oh no, I didn't mean…" Willow looked stricken that she'd taken that remark so personally.

"No, I know you didn't," Buffy told her, gently touching her friend's arm to let her know it was okay. "But I did. I'm supposed to save innocent people from the monsters, you know? But they keep getting through. Oz is going to have to live with this for the rest of his life, and Theresa…doesn't even get to live."

Her voice became very small, remembering the timid classmate turned vampire she'd been forced to dust earlier that night. A present from Angel. It had been bad enough when she thought Theresa had been killed by the werewolf she'd failed to capture, but realising that her classmate in fact been murdered by Buffy's own vampire ex-boyfriend as a way of getting at her had been immeasurably worse. Her ex, who'd lost his soul because of her, because of what they'd done together…And thinking about Angel – what he'd been, and what he'd become – brought tears to her eyes, unbidden. She blinked them back, fiercely.

"Right, well, I don't think there's anything more you can do here tonight, girls." Giles briskly told them, emerging from his office once more with a disgruntled looking Xander still in tow.

"Yeah, time to call it a night," Buffy agreed, glad for the distraction.

"Absolutely," said Xander, peering into the cage at the werewolf again. "We're done here."

"No, I wanna stay with Oz," Willow protested. "There's so much stuff we need to talk about. I mean, you know – when he's human again and capable of speech."

Giles shook his head, his expression sympathetic but his tone firm. "There's really no point staying here all night, Willow. I can watch Oz until morning. You should go home and try to get some sleep."

"He's right, Will," said Buffy. "You can talk to Oz in the morning."


*****

"He isn't here?" said Willow in alarm, when she returned to the library before school started the next morning, only to find the book cage empty of its lycanthropic inhabitant of the night before. She'd intended coming earlier, at first light, but then she'd been nervous. What would she say to him? What might he say to her? So she'd hung around at home, fretting about everything that had happened, until the need to see him, and talk to him, had gotten too strong and she'd coming rushing back to the library – only to find no Oz.

She turned to frantically scan the rest of the room, panicking. "Why isn't he here? W-where is he?"

"Ah, good morning, Willow." Hearing her voice, Giles came out of his office looking slightly rumpled after spending the night here and apparently not having had much sleep. "Oz has gone home," he told her. "Sunrise came and I, ah, had to lend him some clothes I keep here. Not surprisingly, he wanted to change into something a little more his style – and, uh, size – before school."

"Oh." Willow hadn't thought of that. "But…h-how was he this morning? You know, after, after everything, and…? I mean, is he okay, was he…?"

"He's fine," Giles assured her. "In fact, he seems to be coping remarkably well, all things considered. We had a long conversation – albeit somewhat one-sided, I must admit. But I was able to set his mind at rest over the true cause of Theresa's, uh, demise, and we discussed various possible coping strategies for the future. I'm confident he'll be fine."

Relieved, Willow smiled broadly, her whole face lighting up. "Yeah. Yeah he will," she nodded. "And so will we. So, I should go find him. You know, to – to talk, and, and stuff."

Wanting more than ever to see her boyfriend again now that he was human once more, she ran out of the library to go look for him.