punch_kicker15: (WOz)
[personal profile] punch_kicker15
Title: Between Past and Present Tense
Author: punch_kicker15
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Relationships: Willow/Oz
Summary: Set in Season 6 after Gone. Sparks fly when Oz returns to Sunnydale and offers to help Willow with her magic addiction. Can Oz and Willow rekindle their old feelings, or will their past wounds get in the way?
Word count: 7835
Notes: Written for the
[livejournal.com profile] nekid_spike minibang. Title is from the Weakerthans song "Aside". Plot bunny courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] tiny_white_hats, a terrific Willow/Oz author who is greatly missed. Super-duper art by [livejournal.com profile] emmatheslayer and rbfvid

Normal Again

Boil the mixture until it is reduced by a third, add gingko and boil again until the mixture is reduced by one half . . .

Willow tried to focus on the extraction procedure for the antidote, but her thoughts kept going around, Amy-on-her-wheel fashion, about Buffy and the demon and Xander and Spike. Should she have tried to capture the demon with magic? Was sending Xander and Spike the prudent thing to do--avoiding magic unless absolutely necessary? Or was it yet another selfish decision, sending them into danger so Willow could avoid getting more flak about using magic again?

When Oz finally walked through the door, she could feel her worries finally recede a little, which wasn't entirely logical. Oz wasn't a therapist or an expert on demon-induced delusions.

He put a Starbucks take-out box on the table. "Thought you might need some caffeine." Ok, he was an expert on Willow-support right now, because she was dying for a mocha. She grabbed one and sipped slowly, willing the caffeine to do its work on her headache and fatigue. If she got a little excitable and chatty later on, everyone else would just have to deal with it

Oz leaned against the kitchen counter. "How is she?"

"Still thinking she's in an asylum. We figured out that she was stung by a Glarghk Guhl Kashma'nik, so Xander and Spike are out hunting it so I can make an antidote."

Oz asked, "Where was she when she was stung? Maybe we can help narrow down the search for them."

"She was looking for Warren--" and then she paused, because it just seemed too much of a coincidence, even with the Hellmouth teeming with demons.

Oz seemed to be on the same track. “Maybe we should be looking for him, too."

"I need to focus on the antidote right now."

"Right. But if you give me something that has a little of Warren's scent on it, I might be able to track him."

Willow thought for a moment, then ran upstairs and rummaged through a desk drawer, until she found what she'd been hoarding, pack-rat style, in case she'd ever need it again.

She ran back downstairs to Oz. "This is the invisibility ray Warren built. Be careful with it--if you turn, this setting here, you’ll make someone invisible, which causes molecular dissolution. This setting reverses it; and this setting accelerates it. Someone could die if the molecular dissolution isn’t reversed."

Just then Xander and Spike burst in, wrestling an uncooperative demon.

After they'd subdued the demon and removed the stinger, Oz glanced at Willow.

She placed the stinger in a mortar and started pounding it with a pestle. "I've got this. Go."

***
Oz sniffed the invisibility ray Willow had given him, trying to find Warren's scent. Mostly the ray smelled like fiberglass, glue, metal, and Willow. He closed his eyes, breathed in deeply, and found a very faint human scent lurking underneath all of the rest.

That scent triggered memories. A dark-haired boy who wandered the halls of Sunnydale High with a chip on his shoulder. Oz had been relieved when that boy transferred to another high school or college or whatever it was. There was something about Warren that Oz had found rather freaksome back then.

He shoved the invisibility ray into the back of his van and started driving, windows open, breathing slowly and deeply.

After about thirty minutes of driving around Sunnydale, he picked up Warren's scent in one of housing developments near UC-Sunnydale. It made sense--Warren could blend in with other twenty-something college students who kept odd hours.

He edged the van closer to the source of the scent. There was a familiar odor underneath it--a mix of clay and tar. Oz pulled over to the side of the road, and turned off the ignition, focusing only on his inhalations.

Where had he encountered that odor before? The high school library, right before they blew it up. Wherever Warren was, he was near explosives.

Guess if I ever need another job, I can be one of those bomb-sniffing dogs at the airport.

He wondered for a moment if he should call for backup, or investigate right away. And then he remembered there was an invisibility ray in the back of his van.

***
Willow hovered over the stove, scraping the eggs to the side of the pan. Maybe she should add some cheese for an extra energy boost for Buffy. She turned to the refrigerator, just in time to see a wild-eyed Buffy swing a frying pan towards her head.

It was pure instinct that sent the words out of her mouth: "Thicken," and the magic pulsed from her hands, holding Buffy back.

Buffy thrashed against the magic so violently that Willow could feel it, like fingernails scratching her skin.

"Willow! Why won't you let me go? I want to stay there, and you keep pulling me back here!" Buffy howled

Willow's breath caught in her chest. Buffy was happier--in an insane asylum, because this life hurt so much. And it was all Willow's fault. She ached to do something, anything to make Buffy's pain stop. Magical solutions tumbled through her mind--a spell to get inside Buffy's mind again, Lethe's Bramble, teleporting someone from the coven, or Giles to fix this

But maybe any fix she might try would make things worse. She held the barrier firm, and said, through gritted teeth, "If I thought you were in your right mind, and not hopped up on demon venom, I'd let you go. But there's no way I'm gonna do that before we get poison out of your system."

She took the eggs off the stove, and started mixing another batch of antidote.

***
Oz waved his hand in front of his face, then checked the van's mirror to make sure the invisibility ray had worked on his whole body. His plan wouldn't work if the ray had only worked on his head.

When he was sure that he was completely invisible, he shoved the ray under the passenger seat of the van and moved slowly and quietly, tracking Warren’s scent to its source.

He waited outside the house, listening intently. Jonathan was arguing with someone. "You've got to be kidding me! The Defiant is a warship. The Enterprise is built for exploration--"

"--but Picard used the Enterprise to defeat the Borg, the deadliest threat the Federation ever faced--"

"No way. The Dominion was a much bigger threat. The Borg didn't understand anything but force. The Dominion were master manipulators, and that made them way more dangerous."

Oz crept closer to one of the windows and peered into the room. Jonathan and a red-haired boy (who must be Andrew) sat in front of computer screens.  Warren was tinkering with a small handheld device--it might be a detonator.

Andrew turned away from his computer screen. "But Sisko didn't win the war with the Defiant. He won it because of Damar's fierce Cardassian patriotism and Kira's talent for terrorism. And they still might have lost if wasn't for Odo's grand sacrifice in returning to the Great Link."

"Will you two geniuses stop arguing about Star Trek and check on Buffy?" Warren asked.

Andrew glanced at his screen. "They brought in the demon a few hours ago." He pushed a few buttons. "Looks like Willow has her in some kind of magic bubble thing. It's wicked cool. Jonathan, could you learn how to do that?"

The hair on Oz's arms raised up. They had some sort of video surveillance on Willow and Buffy. Also, it sounded like things had deteriorated since he’d left.

"Time for a Doublemeat run. Andrew, you're up." Warren got up and checked another monitor.

Oz positioned himself near the front door. When Andrew opened the door, Oz slipped inside. He stepped as quietly as he could into the hallway, following the scent of explosives. If he could get some idea of the size of Warren's arsenal, he could report back.

One of the floorboards creaked, and Oz froze, holding his breath.

"Did you hear something?" Jonathan asked.

"It's probably just the wind. Get back to researching those orbs." Warren's voice dripped with mixture of irritation and contempt.  "I'm going to keep watching the Slayer Network."

Oz could hear a drawer opening, and suddenly Warren jumped into the hallway. He looked straight at Oz through infrared goggles, and tackled him to the ground.

"That was one big flaw I hadn't fixed yet. The ray doesn't mask your body heat."

Oz pushed against Warren's chest in a futile effort to get back up.

"Dude, why are you here? Rosenberg's a dyke now--getting whipped by her is pretty pathetic." Warren pushed his knee harder into Oz's chest, squeezing air out of his lungs.

Jonathan yelled, "What's going on?"

Warren said, "We've got an intruder. Go get some rope."

The reds and greens in the room start to fade. Oz’s heart started pounding with the anxiety of potentially losing control, but he didn't fight the transformation. He had to get back to Willow and Buffy and warn them.  His clothes began to feel more and more confining as he allowed the wolf to emerge. When his clothes finally burst at the seams, setting the wolf completely free, Oz surged up, knocking Warren to the floor.

Jonathan peered out the door to the computer room. Oz growled with all of the fury in his heart, and Jonathan yelped and closed the door.

Oz bit down on the back of Warren's shirt, and smashed his head against the wall. After three satisfying thunks, Warren's body went limp. Oz's fangs itched to rip into his prey's throat and protect his pack.

But if he wanted to be a man and not just a wolf, he needed to solve things without violence, if he could. He dragged his prey down the hall, and nudged the front door open with his nose.

He reached the van and started the calming exercises to revert to human form.

When he could see color again, he surveyed the damage: Warren was bruised and covered with dirt and leaves, but otherwise seemed in decent shape for someone who'd been knocked out and dragged several hundred yards by a werewolf.

Oz dug through his unexpected-werewolf-emergency box and found some chains that would hold Warren. He dragged him into the back of the van, wincing as his thigh muscles buckled under the other man's weight. Some things were definitely easier to manage with wolf-strength.

With Warren sufficiently restrained, Oz grabbed a spare set of clothes from the box, and dressed quickly. Then he turned the invisibility ray on himself and made himself visible again.

It was several minutes before his hands were steady enough to drive back to Buffy's house.

***
"Let me out, you bitch, or I swear you'll all regret it!" Warren thrashed against the magic barrier.

Willow dug her fingernails into her palms, hoping Buffy couldn’t hear it. She needed her rest after finally returning to reality.

A formidable-looking trio of warlocks pulled Warren out of the house.

Willow sent a telepathic message to Sara: What happens to Warren and Jonathan and Andrew now? Do they go to a Technopagan jail?

I think they’ll try rehabilitation first. Sara must have sensed Willow’s skepticism through the telepathic connection, because she added, These boys aren’t the first to misuse technology and magic. The Brotherhood of Hephaestus has lots of experience teaching people who want to use their talents more productively. And plenty of experience containing people who don’t.

Willow thought, Good to know. Thanks for sending the Brotherhood here so quickly. See you this weekend.

Oz came down the stairs and joined Willow on the couch. He looked as tired as Willow, but had a determined look on his face. He said, “There’s something I want to tell you, if you feel like talking right now.”

Anticipation fluttered in her chest. “Sure. Go ahead.”

He took her hand in his. “I want to move back to Sunnydale. I want to start helping you guys again. I’ve learned enough now that you don’t need to worry about the wolf anymore.”

She felt a twinge of disappointment, and she couldn’t ignore the reason for it. Might as well get it out of the way, so she’d know one way or the other. “Oz, do you still feel like we could have worked things out if you’d stayed?”

“Sure. But I don’t expect anything from you.”

She wished she had something eloquent to say. She blurted out, “Because I’d still, if you’d still.”

Oz touched her face, “I’d still. I’d very still.”

They’d said those words a long time ago, when they were both different people. But as her lips brushed his, it didn’t feel like regression. It felt like they were reclaiming something precious from their past to create a happier present and future.

on 2016-04-30 07:18 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] velvetwhip.livejournal.com
Love the ending! Hurrah for the defeat of The Trio and Willow and Oz giving it another chance. Lovely story!


Gabrielle

on 2016-05-01 06:06 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] punch-kicker15.livejournal.com
Thanks, I'm so glad you liked the ending!

on 2016-05-01 10:53 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] comlodge.livejournal.com
Cool. Oz is back in the fold. Great plot line with some interesting twists throughout. Loved your original characters.

on 2016-05-04 03:56 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] punch-kicker15.livejournal.com
Thanks, I'm so glad you liked the plot and the OCs. :)

on 2016-05-02 09:04 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] snogged.livejournal.com
Awww!

I'm glad to see that the trio got defeated.

on 2016-05-04 03:58 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] punch-kicker15.livejournal.com
I'm glad to see that the trio got defeated.

My goal in fanfic this year is to come up with as many different Tara Lives! scenarios as possible. Glad you liked it. :)

on 2016-05-07 04:00 pm (UTC)
ext_1707915: (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] rbfvid.livejournal.com
I finally have time to read your story, and I love it. You found such a great way to fix S6, and to deal with that the "magic is drug" nightmare.
The part about “So how do you live with being selfish?” is my favorite, as it perfectly nails all S6 Willow issues (you know, instead of all that 'magic is drug' nonsense).

ETA: Oh, and one thing - you should probably add next chapter links at the end of chapters, to make navigation easier.
Edited on 2016-05-07 04:03 pm (UTC)

on 2016-05-09 04:02 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] punch-kicker15.livejournal.com
The part about “So how do you live with being selfish?” is my favorite, as it perfectly nails all S6 Willow issues (you know, instead of all that 'magic is drug' nonsense).

Thanks, I'm glad you liked you liked that part! When I started thinking about writing this story, refuting the magic drug addiction explanation was the first thing I wanted to do. And the conversation about selfishness was the first scene that materialized in my head when I started writing.

Oh, and one thing - you should probably add next chapter links at the end of chapters, to make navigation easier.

Done. Thanks for the reminder.

And thanks once again for the terrific banner for the story!

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