He is dreaming --
There is a full moon overhead, bright and round and far larger than it
should be. The light gives everything a strange, flat, silver look. He
looks around himself, but there is not much to see; sparse desert shrubs,
an occasional rock or two, and beyond that, nothing other than sandy soil
as far as he can see.
The voice comes from nowhere, just a whispered ghost of a sound that swirls
around him with no hints as to identity or origin.
"Where are you?" he calls, and the words fall echoless into the night,
soaked up light water drops into a dry sponge.
He turns in a slow circle, but can see no one. Movement in the edge of his
vision startles him, but it is just a lizard that freezes mid-scamper,
caught by his gaze, staring up at him with bright eyes. Except for the
lizard, everything is deathly still.
"Go," he tells it, and it scampers away, vanishing behind one of the rocks.
"Where are you? Who--?"
Silence greets his questions. In the distance, a coyote barks sharply, and
the sound --
-- snapped him abruptly awake.
Oz lay still for a moment, staring up in momentary disorientation. The
ceiling above him was dark, like the night sky but too-low and starless,
and he felt abruptly confined. But with the confinement came
self-awareness -- he was in a city, not the desert, and he was awake, not
He didn't need to look out the window to know that the moon was close to
full, a bit over three-quarters, only a sliver of a shadow at one end. It
would be full in three days. On the nights of the full moon, he always
needed to be alone, be outside, to be free. One more night here, and then
he'd have to leave.
His skin was tingling, he realized, and the fine hairs on his arm standing
on end. That always happened after magic cast on or near him. Which meant
that the dream had been at least in part magic. Which, in turn, meant...
He had no clue what it meant, actually. A wry half-smile pressed to the
surface, and he let it come. If the dream were important, it would be sent
again. If not, it wouldn't. Oz shrugged, philosophically. Didn't matter
to him either way.
He fell back to a dreamless sleep, and by morning had forgotten the dream.
He is in the same place, as far as he can tell; in the moonlight, he can
see nothing different. The moon is still full, unchanged. Oz stares up at
it. He isn't feeling even the usual restlessness that came with the full
moon. When he's not in full control, the change burns, but that isn't
"Help me." The voice is stronger this time, and when he turns, there is a
shadowed figure there. Taller than he is (which isn't saying anything),
though not by much. He can see a rough outline of masculine features, hear
in the voice an echo of a British accent.
"Who are you?"
"A friend," he answers, cryptically. "Will you help me?"
"Why should I?" Oz asks, more curious than hostile.
"Because I'm one of you."
One of you. The phrase sends a chill down his back, and he glances up at
the moon, quick and almost unintentional. "Who are you?" he repeats.
"I can't talk long." Even now, the figure is wavering, shimmering, like a
mirage. "Listen to me. A branch of the military found me, captured me,
put a damn collar on me like I'm somebody's pet dog." The man's voice is
harsh with scorn and anger. "I can't do anything. This dreamwalking's the
only thing I have control of, and it's taking a lot out of me."
"So what--" Oz starts to ask.
"Find me. Find this place. It's not heavily guarded; I haven't seen
anyone here in a long time. Help me escape. I'll be in your debt."
The form wavers more, and the man is doubled over, as if he's in pain. Oz
grasps at him, trying to steady him, but his fingers pass through the man
as if he were ghost, not flesh. "How do I find you?"
"...Follow your instinct," the man says, and gasps, and vanishes, and Oz is
left standing alone in the unnatural stillness.
When Oz woke up, his skin was tingling to the point of burning, and there
was a foul taste in his mouth.
I'm one of you.
Rubbing at his arms, Oz rose from the narrow bed and crossed to the window,
pushing aside the heavy curtains. The light from outside spilled brightly
in, but it was the harsh white of electric lights, not the comforting glow
He needed to get out of the city.
There'd been a time when he liked cities. Not that he'd ever preferred
them, by any means, but the band had gotten gigs in LA and Santa Cruz and
other places. You could lose yourself in cities, in the lights and crowds
and noise, and they were so vibrant. There'd been a time when he
wouldn't have minded that.
That had changed.
He needed open space, now, needed to lose himself not in crowds but in
empty landscape. It was the wolf doing this. Even with the control he'd
learned, it still held influence over him, changed his instincts. The
crowds that came with cities made him uncomfortable; the sounds were too
loud, and the lights too bright, and he just... needed to leave.
Now he had another reason.
I'm one of you.
Follow your instincts.
Oz took a deep breath and let the curtain fall closed again, swinging down
over the window, not quite blocking all the light. His instincts said to
leave, so he'd leave.
And maybe he'd even know what to do when he got to wherever this place was.
It was becoming a habit with him: stay away from civilization for as long
as he could, and then come into a city or town just for long enough to make
some money, to get food supplies and gas and sometimes clothes, and then
leave. It didn't take him very long, usually, but 'not very long' was
usually far too long for his comfort.
He'd been in Cedar City almost a month now. It was a decent job -- washing
dishes for one of the local restaurants, which fed him as well as paid him
-- but it wasn't enough to keep him here. Not when the nearly-full moon
was calling to his wolf; not when he had an excuse to leave.
Oz settled his account first with the bed-and-breakfast he'd been staying
in, and then with the restaurant.
His supervisor, a motherly old woman who treated him as if he were her son,
frowned at him. "Where will you go?"
"Stay through the end of the month, can't you? The Shakespeare season
starts end of June, lots of people come in for that."
Staying for the start of the summer play season would, Oz knew, probably
get him roped into staying for the end of the season, which would be
August. Too long to spend in one place. But he just gave her a
half-smile, and nodded, and said, "I'll think about it."
It was raining when he finally left, not hard, just a grey sprinkle falling
from grey clouds that hung heavy in the sky. Oz took a deep breath. He
really had no idea where to go, how to find this place or this person.
Follow your instinct.
Oz scanned the road signs, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel as he
drove, not sure what he was looking for. At a freeway onramp there was a
slight tug at the back of his mind, a whispered half-instinctive why not go
here?, and he shrugged and followed it.
North on 130, through a small town with a cheerful sign that said "Welcome
to MINERSVILLE", and he got on highway 21, going west now, following his
The tug, which he wasn't fully convinced he wasn't just imagining, led him
through several small towns that vanished as soon as he'd driven through
them, across the Nevada border, through another town ("Welcome to BAKER,
pop X elev Y"), and to the visitor center at the Great Basin National Park.
Oz pulled into a free parking space, and blinked. "...Here?" he wondered
aloud. There was no answer, but he shrugged. Even if he didn't free his
nameless friend, this might give him a place to run, when the moon came.
The Park looked more like a desert, local rivers notwithstanding. Oz
followed one of the trails, wandering deeper into the park. It was more
populated than the dream territory, both plant life and animals, and mesas
jutted up against the light afternoon sky, but Oz felt a sense of deja vu.
The trail led him to a group of caves, close to one of the rivers. An
information sign stood near the entrance, and Oz used that as an excuse to
stand aside and let a group of hikers past. They were talking loudly and
cheerily, not even noticing Oz, which he didn't mind. They went in, and a
family of four came out, and Oz stared at the sign and didn't read much of
it. A few words skittered across his vision ("Lehmann caves, so named
because of the Lehmann river..."), but he didn't process them. This wasn't
where he was going.
As soon as he was alone, he left the trail and went deeper into the desert,
passing between rock formations larger than he was. His eyes were
half-closed, and he was very carefully not thinking about where he was going.
Follow your instinct...
It was smell, more than instinct, that stopped him in the end. Oz crouched
down next to a small pile of rocks and held his hand out. There was no
sensation of air movement, but he could still smell the pungent sulfuric
scent unique to Melrakk demons.
A branch of the military found me, captured me...
Oz had been captured by the Initiative, the last time he was in
Sunnydale. The scars were gone, but only because he healed fast, because
any wounds or scars he got always vanished after the full moon. One of the
few benefits of his curse.
He had vague memories of other demons being held in the same place. Held,
tortured, studied, killed; it was all the same, really. The memories of
his own torture were strongest in his mind, but even through the haze of
pain, there'd been the awareness of others there. Including, among other
things, Melrakk demons, shrieking as their poisoned spines were probed and
A branch of the military...
This group, if not the Initiative itself, had to be similar. Capturing
creatures, including Melrakk demons... and werewolves. The dreamwalker
might not be anyone Oz knew, but Oz had been where he was, knew what he was
going through. If it had been him in there, chained and collared and
abandoned, with no one coming to rescue him...
Oz moved the rocks aside. As he'd suspected, there was an air vent there,
leading down to an underground facility. The grate over the vent was
stuck, but Oz pulled until it groaned and shifted and came up with a rusty
squeal. Oz glanced around, but the sound hadn't summoned any unwanted
The air vent was a metal-lined shaft, large enough for Oz to get through;
it wasn't directly vertical, but he slid down faster than he intended and
landed hard on the floor below. Cold concrete floor, cold dark air, and Oz
stood shakily as he tried to catch his breath.
His senses were alert, almost werewolf-sharp. In exchange for control on
the full moon, he'd lost the inherent dormant nature of the wolf during the
rest of the month. If he lost control, or summoned it intentionally, it
could come to the surface even during the darkest of the new moon. Around
the full moon, as now, control was hard, and the traits tended to leak out,
leaving him stronger, faster, with more sensitive hearing and smell and a
tendency towards hyper-aware twitchiness.
The hallways were dark and deserted. For the longest time, all he heard
were the eerie wails and grumbles of various demons, caged and no doubt
bearing the scars of torture. There were no sounds of guards; no sound of
civilization beyond the faint metallic hum of machines and sensors.
Oz passed through rows of semi-dark cages, the hair on his neck bristling
at the presence of so many potential enemies. He was hoping desperately
that his dream visitor would recognize him, because he had no way to --
It wasn't as much a voice as a sound, a hiss meant to attract
attention. Oz followed the sound to a cell, the only occupant a man
sitting cross-legged in the corner, watching Oz with bright expectant
eyes. He was naked (Oz suppressed an unwelcome memory of his time under
the Initiative's care, equally naked, but tortured and tested beyond the
point of caring) except for a collar, leather and metal and stone worked in
some elaborate design and painted over with runes. Similar cuffs were at
his wrists, joining them together.
"You?" Oz said, meaning: Are you the one that's been invading my dreams,
summoning me? Are you the one I'm here for?
The man nodded and stood smoothly, seemingly unaware of his nudity. He
said nothing, but held out his wrists, palm up, in a gesture that said
'free me' as clearly as words could have.
"How do I get you out?" Oz asked him.
The man shook his head, resigned anger in his eyes, and his head turned
slightly. Oz looked closer and for the first time saw the faint lines of a
wire-and-magic muzzle holding the man's mouth shut. Not tightly -- as Oz
watched, the lips parted slightly, curving in something that wasn't a smile
-- but it was probably enough to keep him silent.
"Damn," Oz muttered. They'd gone to more trouble with this man than the
Initiative had bothered with him, though perhaps that would've only been a
matter of time. Riley had gotten him out relatively quickly. He'd been
lucky. "Okay. Do you know how I can get you out?"
"Pen and paper?" Oz asked, meaning, can you write the instructions down for me.
An emphatic negative shake, then, and the man raised his cuffed hands to
tap against the air between the cell-door bars. There was a loud crackle,
and blue energy sparked at the place he'd touched.
"Huh," Oz said. "So..."
The other man looked intently at him, and then, deliberately, closed his
eyes and tilted his head to one side.
"You want me to sleep?"
The same intense stare. Trust me, it said; and though Oz wasn't inclined
to really trust anyone, he shrugged and sat down, willing himself first
into a relaxed state and then into sleep.
"You can talk here?"
"It's dreamwalking," the man says, as if that explained everything. "The
muzzle's been warded to keep me silent, but this isn't speech."
"So how do I get you out?"
"The barrier's just physical, there's no magic involved. Sloppy of them,
but I'm not complaining. It's all controlled by a computer in an office at
the end of the hall."
"You know the password?"
The man gives a sardonic smile and shakes his head. "For some reason they
didn't confide in me. Can't imagine why. But I do know that if the system
goes down, so will the cell doors."
"If the sys--" Oz stops, understanding. "Break the computer."
"But won't that release all the creatures in here?"
"It won't open the cells, just unlock them. And even so..." The man
shrugs. "They won't get far. Most of them aren't mobile any more, and
most of the rest are quite mad."
Oz swallows at that, and nods. "One question, for if we get out."
"...when," Oz amends.
"This muzzle, whatever they have on you. Can it be removed?"
"I'd say so. It's not attached too deeply. Now go," he says, before Oz,
staring, can echo the '...too deeply?' back at him. "Get me the hell out
Oz smiles in acknowledgement, and--
--woke. One of the fluorescent lights was flickering erratically. Oz
grimaced at it and headed down to where the office was supposed to be.
Smashing through the window graced Oz's hand with shallow scrapes that
would heal within hours, and set off a loud ringing alarm in the
building. Working quickly, he jumped through and took aim at the
computer. He didn't have weapons with him, but he released enough of the
wolf that his kicks had more power than human kicks should have.
The computer buckled under the onslaught, eventually sparking belligerently
and going dark. Back in the long hallway of cells, everything was suddenly
grey-black as both the lights and the electric barriers died. There was
also a distinct hiss, probably an anaesthetic gas meant to subdue the captives.
Holding his breath, Oz found his way back by memory, and pushed open the
metal-barred gate that was the only remaining barrier to the cell. Warm
hands found his arm and shoulder, giving him an urgent go-on nudge, and Oz
quickly retraced his steps to the small vent he'd entered through.
The alarm, he was sure, would be noticed somewhere; eventually, there would
soldiers here, swarming through the underground base if not aboveground as
well. But they'd gotten out unscathed, and Oz, lying on the desert floor,
staring up at the dark blue sky of early evening, didn't mind that at all.
As soon as they got to their feet, the man gestured emphatically at the
muzzle over his mouth. "You want that off," Oz translated, a bit dubiously.
"It might hurt."
Another, more impatient nod.
"You're nuts," Oz said, but he worked his fingers into the mesh and pulled.
It wasn't as bad as he'd feared. The wires slid out with almost bloodless
holes around the man's face. He grimaced, working his jaw like he'd been
punched, and said, a bit hoarsely, "Thank you."
"You want this?" Oz held up the muzzle.
"God, no." A shudder, followed closely by a grimace. "Get rid of that
"And the collar?" Oz said, "and do you want clothes?"
"Clothes," the man echoed, and smiled suddenly. "Yes, I'd think that would
be a good thing."
"I don't have any here," Oz said, but he slipped out of his jacket. His
arms, suddenly bare, prickled suddenly against the night air. "Take
this. We get back to my van, you can borrow some of my clothes."
The man held up his cuffed wrists, smiling sardonically. Oz shrugged,
setting the coat aside for the moment.
"The collar, the cuffs, these are restraint devices. Mostly magical in
nature, though I think they wouldn't fight being removed the old-fashioned
way. The bastards who had me would take it off every few weeks, to see if
I'd... gotten any better." The anger in his voice was enough to tell Oz
that the military's definition of 'better' was 'less abnormal'. "Which
means there's some sort of catch or release somewhere."
Oz looked, bending close to the collar, and was intensely aware of being
close to the man himself as he did so. There was a feeling of wrongness
and a feeling of rightness, and his fingers shook as they brushed over the
He couldn't find a catch; in the end, he simply lost his temper and,
calling on the wolf again, yanked. It ripped unevenly, with a squeal that
vibrated through Oz's whole body, but it came off, and Oz stepped back a
"Thank you." His rescuee rubbed at his neck. "God, that feels good."
Oz finally realized what had been nagging at him. "You're not wolf."
Caught off guard, the man said only, "What?"
"You're not a 'wolf," Oz said flatly. "You said you were one of us, but
The man sighed and crouched down, working at the cuffs. His skin was pale
in the moonlight. "I can assure you," he said carefully, "that when I said
that, I honestly thought I was telling the truth."
"You thought you were a werewolf?"
He got a scornful look. "Not exactly. To rephrase, I thought you were
one of us. I figured the only people I'd be likely to reach with my
dreamwalking would be others of powers. Wizards. It wasn't until later,
until I met you, that I realized what you really were; and by then, it was
Oz looked at him for a long moment. "If you'd known from the beginning,
would you have lied to suit your cause?"
"To save my own skin, you mean?" Another sardonic grin. "Most likely, yes."
"Yeah," Oz said, and turned away. He wasn't sure why he was as angry as he
was. "So if you're not a 'wolf, what are you?"
The man, having worked his hands out of the cuffs, shrugged Oz's coat
on. It didn't cover him fully, but it had been long on Oz. "British," he
said with dry amusement.
Oz shoved his hands into his pockets and stared up at the moon. Nearly
full; tomorrow, he'd have to watch himself very carefully to make sure the
wolf wouldn't slip out.
"Sorcerer, actually," the man said, when it was clear Oz wasn't going to
respond. "I knew a hundred spells that could get things out, but I
couldn't do anything magical. Extremely frustrating."
Oz said, "Who are you?"
There was a moment's pause. "My name, if you must know it, is Ethan."
Memory tugged at the corner of Oz's mind, and a name worked its way up
through the depths. "Ethan Rayne?"
"Yes," the man said automatically, and then stopped. "How did you --?"
But Oz had whirled, vibrating with the restrained need to hit him. "I know
you," he said, not bothering to hide his anger. "From Sunnydale. Willow
told me about you."
"Willow." Ethan sighed, half in resignation, half in wistful
reflection. "Delightful child."
"She didn't like you. And neither do I."
"But you came for me," Ethan said, with an innocence that had to be
feigned. "You got me out of that hellhole--"
"Not by choice," Oz said firmly. "Not if I'd known who you were."
"I'm touched by the sentiment."
"You will stay away from me in the future," Oz snarled, "and from Willow."
Ethan smiled. "Trust me. I have no plans to go back to Sunnydale any time
"Ever," Oz said, and when Ethan shrugged, he walked away.
Oz kept walking.
The hotels in the town of Baker didn't fill up all that quickly; as the
night clerk, eyes caffeine-bright, explained to Oz, most of the people
visiting the National Park stayed in Ely, to the west. Oz made
noncommittal noises and booked a room for the night.
Ethan didn't know his name, Oz told himself. He couldn't find
him. Restless, uneasy, he curled in one of the chairs, staring into the
darkened room corner for a long time before finally drifting to sleep.
He'd forgotten about the dreams.
"So we meet again."
They are still in the desert, and the moon is still full. Ethan stands
tall in the moonlight, colorless robes flowing about him. Oz ignores the
intruder as best he could, which isn't all that well.
"I can't say I know what Rupert and the others have told you about me, but
I'm not all that bad."
I am going to wake up, Oz tells himself firmly. I will wake up, I will
wake up, I will...
"You can stop that," Ethan says, amused. "Might've worked before, but the
collar's off now. I've got control."
I, Oz tells himself, pointedly, am going to wake up.
"Come back to me."
"No," Oz says.
"Look, you saved my life. I'm not going to turn you into a toad." Warm
hand on his shoulder, warm breath against his ear and jaw. "Let me thank
"I have your coat," Ethan says with a hint of mischief.
Oz stays silent.
Warm lips trace his jaw, working back to the nape of his neck. Warm leg
behind his own, bracing him. Warm hands against his chest, warm chest
against his back, and in the manner of dreams, Oz is suddenly naked, and
the air is surprisingly neutral in temperature.
Oz stays silent.
"You feel the attraction," Ethan whispers, and the words flutter soft
against Oz's skin. "It's why I was able to reach you. Why you were able
to hear me. My sendings weren't that strong."
Oz stays silent.
"Come to me."
Oz closes his eyes.
"Come to me," Ethan repeats, and Oz--
The room was still empty, and the sky hadn't yet lightened to dawn. Oz
sighed and, slipping shoes on, left the hotel room.
Follow your instinct.
The pull was stronger now than it had been before. Oz followed it, walking
to a motel a few blocks down. He knocked at room 122, and wasn't surprised
when Ethan opened the door.
Ethan didn't look surprised either. "I rather thought you'd be back," he
He'd found clothes -- a light grey silk shirt, dark grey pants. Oz looked
at him for a moment and then punched him, hard, sending him sprawling back.
"That's for hurting Willow."
Ethan stood, half smiling. Oz stepped into the room, took Ethan's face in
his hands, and kissed him hard.
"You know who I am," Ethan said, speaking into Oz's mouth. He hadn't
resisted, but he'd made no move to return the gesture either.
"So why're you doing this?"
Oz closed his eyes. "You know why," he said, and pressed himself against
the grey silk.
"Yes," Ethan said, "I suppose I do;" and that was the last they said for
the rest of the night.
Morning light stole across Oz's face, irritating him into wakefulness. His
dreams, in the short time he'd slept, had been empty.
The room was equally empty.
It was Ethan's room, but there was no sign that Ethan had been there. Oz
dressed slowly, thinking about what he would do. Tonight was one of the
nights of the full moon. It had been a while since he'd lost his control,
but still, there was no sense in putting other people in danger. Putting
himself in danger. He'd drive, then, get out where there weren't
people. Out where it was empty.
His coat lay draped over the understuffed chair in the corner. Oz picked
it up, and a small off-white card fluttered down. Curious, he picked it up.
It was the size of a business card, but unmarked; the color of cream, with
faint speckles of darker brown. Scrawled in ink across it, smudged in
places, were three words, written in simple upper-case letters that were
In your debt.
Oz brushed his thumb across the front of the card, smiled faintly, and
stuck it in the coat pocket.