"In the heat of the night...In the heat of the day...When I close my eyes...When I look your way...When I meet the fear that lies inside"
--Sisters of Mercy
Willow looked at him, her eyes lit enthusiastically. "And you won't have to worry about getting out...or your dad finding out...or anything like that!"
Oz closed his eyes for a second, trying to think of a better way to say what he was thinking. "But it's..." He paused. "No, okay. It's cool. You're right." He looked at the clock on the wall. "Oh, I have to go. Band practice. Because I'm in the band."
"Oh!" Willow looked up. "You're right! And I told Giles I'd...you know...research and stuff. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Yeah." He leaned in and kissed Willow tenderly on the cheek. "Bye," he said quietly.
"Bye!" Willow grabbed her bookbag and took off towards the library. Oz stood there for a second, his eyes closed. Damnit. You couldn't even tell her what you thought.
Oz knew exactly what he thought of the idea to put him in the library cage every month. There was one particular word in general -- Zoo. Like a cheap freak in a sideshow, he was being put on display. And it was all "for his own good".
Fuck his own good.
He grabbed his books and took off in the opposite direction. He had one more night before he had to sit in that cage like Jojo the Dog Face Boy and he knew exactly where he was going.
He sat in his room until long after dark, his stereo blasting one CD after another. Bauhaus. Sisters of Mercy. The Cure. The Smiths. Joy Division. All at the point where he could pretend that the outside world didn't exist any more and all there was in the world was him, the music, and his velvet bedspread that he was lying on.
But it never lasted long. And when the sun had set and the moon had been high in the sky for several hours, he sat up and started getting ready. Within the hour, his hair was pomaded, his lips covered in lipstick, his eyes smeared with black eyeshadow, and his clothes black.
He shut the door of his bedroom quietly, attempting to get out of the house without either parent realizing. It didn't work.
His mother stood in the hallway, putting towels away. She saw Oz's appearance and her face fell. "Oh Oz..." she said quietly. "Your father isn't going to like this..."
Oz shrugged. "Since when does he like anything I do?" he said, his voice bitter.
"He means well..." She looked down at her feet. "Oz...please....don't do this tonight...he had a hard day at work..."
Oz patted his mother's shoulder, ignoring the wince when she saw the bright red nail polish on his fingers. "I won't bother him. I'll just go." He pulled his hand away. "It's not like I was ever wanted here anyway..." He started walking to the front door, ignoring his mother's calls.
Only when he was in his van did he allow himself to react.
The Blue Angel was packed when he got there, as packed as a tiny club can be. A slow sultry song was sliding through the many rooms like the thick hazy smoke of clove cigarettes.
Oz moved his way through the crowds of people to the bar and ordered a small glass of chartreuse. The bartender gave it to him with a grin. "Here you go, darlin'..."
Oz accepted it with a light smile. "Seen Alexa?" he said quietly, just loud enough to be heard over the noise.
"She's in the back with a client, babe..." She pointed towards the back room.
Oz nodded and started walking towards the back, walking past small groups of figures in black. The music changed from the slow sultry crooner to rough, vicious industrial as he walked, like Dantè descending deeper and deeper into hell. He finally reached the room he had spent several nights in. He sat down in the corner, watching the scene playing out before him.
There was a man tied to the pillory, somewhat older, with graying brown hair. His shirt was off and Alexa's whip slammed down on his back hard, leaving welts across his back. He was strong, he was cold, he didn't move away from her whip but instead, his back arched towards it.
Oz watched with casual disinterest, his green eyes glittering in the low light. He felt as if he knew the man, but in a way that he had never felt about someone. The man reacted like him. The man was him. He knew the feeling of the whip across his back, the pain lancing across him, that glorious pain that made him forget the anger, the bitterness, the screaming rage that he always had to stuff down deep into him.
This man felt the same way.
Before Oz knew it, Alexa was dropping the whip and untying the man. The older man reached down and picked up his shirt, then turned to face Oz. The shirt fell to the floor as he froze in recognition.
Oz's eyes widened as he recognized the man. Within a matter of seconds, he had stood up and walked over to the pillory and picked up the shirt. "Giles," he said, his voice barely audible over the music. He held up the shirt.
Giles took the shirt gently. "Oz," he said, just as quiet.
The two men moved to a table in a smaller room. Oz left for five minutes, and returned with a half full bottle of chartreuse. Giles raised an eyebrow. "That must be expensive..." he said.
Oz shrugged. "I'm the only person who drinks it...." He set down two glasses and poured a small amount into each. He picked up one of the glasses. "Cheers," he said to Giles before tipping back his drink. The fire burned all the way down. And it felt good.
He firmly set the glass on the table and poured another. He looked at down at the glass, the green liquid sliding around the glass. "I once heard that if you drank this in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, you were drinking the spirit of New Orleans." He sipped at the liquid, then looked at Giles. "So was that small talk enough or should I continue?"
The other man looked down at the glass on the table. "I...I don't quite know what to say," he finally said.
"I do. You come here and get beaten by a professional dominatrix. And tonight, you were caught by someone else who came to see her." Oz smiled bitterly. "How was that?"
Giles frowned. "You...you came to see her? But..." He shook his head. "No, this isn't proper. You shouldn't be here."
Oz chuckled. "You're one to talk. I'm sure Snyder would love to hear that the staid librarian was caught at an S&M club with whip marks across his back."
Giles' eyes narrowed. "Truce?"
Oz nodded. "Truce." He sipped at his drink, then chuckled. "Of all the people..." he said quietly. He looked at Giles. "You're hardly the person I'd expect to see here."
"I would say the same about you." Giles paused. "I suppose the monthly...transformation would quickly heal bruises or any other injuries relating to...these activities?"
Oz nodded. "But I have to wonder what your excuse is..."
Giles smiled slightly. "It's...not that difficult, living on the Hellmouth." He looked directly at Oz, his face suddenly grim. "Does Willow know?" he asked.
Oz raised an eyebrow. "Does Buffy know?"
Giles gave him a look. "It's hardly the same thing, Oz. This is something you should tell the....girl you are...seeing."
Oz's eyes narrowed. "This doesn't concern Willow," he said coolly.
Giles straightened. "It does concern her. Who knows what...diseases you might be carrying from your....activities here." He pinned Oz down with a glare. "If you harm her in any way..."
"I'm not sleeping with her!" Oz finally said, his voice loud and harsh. "And I'm not fucking anyone here!" He looked at Giles in disbelief. "Do you really think I'd be that stupid, Giles? That I'd do that to her?" He looked down at the table. "I love her....I couldn't hurt her." He looked back up at Giles. "And neither could you."
Giles looked up in surprise. "I....I wasn't aware that it was that obvious," he finally said.
Oz shrugged. "It isn't. That's why you're here, isn't it? To drive away those thoughts?"
Giles smiled lightly. "No, it's not that..." he said softly, looking down at the glass before him. "I have other...demons to deal with. Inner...demons..."
Oz raised an eyebrow. "Huh....Well, I believe I have one up on you...your inner demon doesn't come out every month to tear up the livestock."
Giles looked up at Oz in surprise, relaxing when he saw the slight smile on the boy's face. He chuckled. "You're quite right," he said.
Oz looked at Giles. "So why do you come here?" he asked, his voice quietly serious.
Giles frowned, deciding on what to tell the boy. Finally he sighed. "When I was....younger...I did a lot of...unfortunate things. It...wasn't me who was doing them...it was..." He sighed again, looking down. "It was as if someone else was in my body. I...I come here..." He looked up at Oz. "I come here to keep him from doing anything again." There was a pause for several seconds. Giles finished his drink and poured himself another one before continuing. "I've answered. Now it's your turn."
Oz frowned. "It's...It's like why you come here. Only I haven't done anything yet. I don't want to do anything to hurt anyone." He looked down. "I get angry...and I can't do anything about it...and I find myself wanting to do....things....and I can't let myself...I can't let it happen...and I come here...because there's nowhere else to go and there's nothing else to do..."
Giles looked down at the table. "It's...natural...for someone in your...condition...to have problems with anger..."
Oz shook his head. "N-No...this happened long before I needed chains during full moons. W-when I was younger..." He took a deep breath. "Before I could drive and just...leave my house whenever I wanted to...I...I would cut myself..." He chuckled. "You can't see the scars now, thank you werewolf metabolism." He looked up at Giles. "But there was the anger...and the pain...and it'd all curl up in my stomach until all I felt was sick...and the only thing I could feel was the pain...the physical pain of the knife carving into me." He looked down again. "And now...now I come here. And it's not me who is hurting myself anymore, it's Alexa. And I'm afraid..." He took a deep breath. "I'm afraid that if I don't, all that pain and rage and hatred will continue to build up in me until it has to come out...and I don't know what'll happen when it does."
Giles sat there silently for a minute, not knowing what to say. Finally, he spoke. "We..." He looked up from his glass and directly into the boy's eyes. "We are more alike than you realize," he said, his voice low. "Pain is...pain is a part of our lives. It shapes us into what we are today. And...sometimes...it's all we have left..." He set his glass down and poured another two drinks. "To our pain," he said, lifting his glass.
Oz lifted his glass and smiled wryly. "May it never leave these walls."
They clinked glasses and drank.