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Author's note: Some of the dialogue has been taken from the original episode, but major plot changes have been made, to make this a much darker story. I have quoted heavily from the Call of the Wild, and I have made a reference to the scene in Season Three were Willow reads the novel to Oz, which I never wrote, so just pretend that happened between episodes. Enjoy.

A Full Moon Rose High.

"Far more potent were the memories of his heredity
that gave things he had never seen before a seeming familiarity;
the instincts (which were but the memories of his ancestors become habits)
which had lapsed in later days, and still later, in him,
quickened and became alive again."

Who has Won to Mastership, Chapter 4, pg. 61
The Call Of The Wild by Jack London. (1876-1916.)

Oz laid the book aside as he attempted to return to tuning his guitar, but the words continued to haunt him. For some reason he felt compelled to study this work every time the three nights where the moon brought out the werewolf in him arrived. He knew Willow read the book to him once, when he used the cage in the Library of Sunnydale High as a place to contain his wild animal until the moon entered it's regular cycle once more.

Whether he had been aware of the words on a human level, or an animal level, or even perhaps a combination of both intelligence's, remained to be determined, but the author's words touched his mind, possessing a power of over him that he rarely felt anything else did, almost as if they understood him better than he did himself.

Amongst the passages concerning the tale of Buck's ownership by various masters until the dog was unable to escape the call of the wild, Oz found a truth in London's insights that caused him to question the emotions he experienced when he let the werewolf inside of him reign free. He felt the struggle between his human and animal natures steadily increase each time the trilogy of nights arrived upon the horizon, causing him to question if he had as much control over the monster inside of him as he and the slayerettes believed.

Since the destruction of the high school he had been forced to find a new secure location in which to spend those three nights; an underground cavernous ruinous crypt, located in one of the countless graveyards which littered Boca del Inferno. He, Angel and Xander had worked on the cage during the summer, a bonding exercise which together with the other preparation required of the slayerettes to prepare for life on the college campus, brought a deeper understanding and respect on the nature of the demon within some of the men who fought along side the slayer.

Oz could see similarities between Angel and himself, in the duality of their natures; the constant inner struggle of vampire or werewolf against the human soul. It was something a part of him had recognised during the spring when Angel lost his soul, when he had just acquired the werewolf trait, thanks to his cousin Jordy. He could also see the strength of Buffy in her determination to understand both sides of her boyfriend, to empathise instead of fearing the demon inside.

This same bravery existed in his own girlfriend, he knew, for it was why Willow had been the first to decide to try calling forth Angel's soul from the afterlife and place it in sovereignty over the demon who ruled his undead body once more. However, there was where the difference between Angel's duality and his lay. For when the demon inside him came out to play, it ruled over his human soul for three nights, rendering any control over his animal tendencies useless.

Oz knew that this undeniable fact still possessed the ability to frighten his girlfriend, and indeed any other member of the Slayerettes. This was why he had chosen the location of the crypt, deep in one of the countless graveyards which littered the hellmouth, to hide himself away, almost like a dark and unnatural family secret.

Like Angel, Oz realised that he still had a long way to go in accepting the wolf inside him. As vampires recalled every aspect of the life of the human whose body they half raised from the dead, so did Oz remember what occurred during the nights when a full moon rose high and bade his werewolf to come out and play. Some of the urges he experienced during that time he revolted against, embarrassed and ashamed that they existed inside him, the flip side to his reticent, intelligent nature.

He was painfully aware of the resources which Willow and the others had to resort to when he escaped from his cages, which was why he had been so determined to make this one as secure as possible. Yet still he felt the crypt was vulnerable to penetration and escape, even before he endured the requisite nights behind the metal bars he, Angel and Xander had fashioned over the once natural opening within the underground tomb.

At times he wondered if perhaps it would be better for him to be put to sleep while the wolf reigned over him, but then he reconsidered, believing that ignorance would not help his ability to understand or need to accept the beast.

Which was where he envied Angel. For the souled vampire seemed to be having an easier time of accepting his inner demon, even though the man himself still argued that two hundred and forty-four years had not brought him close to understanding the vampire who warred with his soul.

In comparison Oz was still in the infancy of experiencing his inner werewolf, so perhaps understanding was still too much to ask at this point, yet nevertheless he felt the need to do so, for lately he could not help but feel that time would soon turn against him, and take the matter out of his hands entirely.

This was why he felt the need to read The Call of the Wild, not just because it was night before the cycle would begin again, but because he was unable to escape the feeling that fate would soon intervene between himself and his werewolf, with deadly consequences.

 


At the same time, across campus, the slayer had little idea of the steadily increasing inner turmoil which one of her friends was going through. This was through no fault of her own, for the friend in question had yet to make public any of his private concerns, and at the moment, she had a more pressing one which required her sole focus.

She ran through the typical tableau of student body which occupied the campus grounds come nightfall, strangely unnoticed by any of them that her athleticism was not mere display or training for sports, but a battle for survival. Her pursuer went equally unnoticed, scant minutes behind her, his forehead ridges and fangs visible without any concern for disguise or caution. He was sure of his prey's now inevitable end, and felt certain he would feast on the blood of his victory soon.

When the girl came to an abrupt halt in a more secluded part of the college campus, the vampire was understandably slow to realise that the prey before him was not just another hapless co-ed facing death at his hands, but the feared hunter and killer of his kind; the chosen one, the slayer.

"Thanks for the relocate," Buffy remarked, causing the vampire's gleeful expression to slowly evolve into one of shock. "I perform better without an audience."

Before the acceptance that his walking corpse was about to be restored to its natural state was even begun by the vampire, he received the first blow from the slayer. His instincts immediately caused him to respond, but the element of surprise had succeeded in causing the battle to be an uneven one, as well as short.

"You were thinking, what, a little helpless co-ed before bed?" Buffy asked rhetorically as she continued to pound into him. "You know very well, you eat this late..." she paused to thrust her stake into his chest, "you're gonna get heartburn. Get it? Heartburn?"

Unhappily for her wit, the vampire was beyond verbal response at this point, as his body and demon reacted to the death which the wooden stake had rendered upon them. Silently his flesh transformed into dust, followed by his bones, until nothing remained of the walking corpse except ashes in the grass.

"That's it?" Buffy queried incredulously aloud. "That's all I get? One lame-ass vamp with no appreciation for my painstakingly thought-out puns." She glanced upwards towards to the heavens above, the realm of the Powers that Be. "I don't think the forces of darkness are even trying. I mean, you could make a little effort here, you know? Give me something to work with."

She walked away from the kill site, venting her frustration in a more silent manner, in an effort to calm herself before meeting with the slayerettes at the Bronze as she was due to do, unaware that the Powers that Be had decided to answer her idle wishes, in the form of an old and familiar slayer of slayers; otherwise known as Spike.

"Watch your mouth, little girl," he remarked as he watched her walking away, still angry at his loss of the Gem of Amarra by her hands only three weeks ago. "You should know better than to tempt the fates that way. 'Cause the big bad is back, And this time, it's... Urrgh! Aaaahhh!"

His threat went unheard and unappreciated, as the full power behind his words was rendered weak and dragged into the darkness of unconscious, courtesy of a sudden electrocution performed on his undead body, as figures in dark clothing pounced on his corpse like members of a wolf herd, dragging their prize away into the shadows of the college campus.


"The Bronze is more fun this year, isn't it?" Willow remarked to her best friend when she arrived and joined the rest of the group in what since Xander's ownership of the nightclub had became their hang out booth beside the dancefloor.

Buffy now nodded in agreement before replying verbally to her best friend's inquiry. "'Cause of the gloating factor alone, you know? We're all about college now. We've got heady discourse."

"Yeah," Oz agreed. "Curfew-free nights of Mom and popless hootenanny."

"Co-ed dating prospects who find townies sexy and dangerous," Xander added, receiving a dark look from the former vengeance demon who sat beside him. "What? I can dream."

"As long as that's all you do," Anya remarked.

"Right," Buffy uttered, not bothering to hide her amusement caused by Xander's words. "So if college is so great, what are we doing here and why is it more fun?"

"Because the Bronze is nice and familiar," Willow replied. "It's like a big comfy blanky."

Oz turned to her with mild surprise. "I was under the impression that I was your big comfy blanky."

Willow smiled at his query before explaining. "Aw, you're my person blanky. This is my place blanky. You know, with all the shock of the new, it's nice to have one place that you can come back to where everything's predictable."

"Hello," a distinctly British voice remarked suddenly, the innocuous greeting serving to cause a certain degree of alarm amongst the slayerettes.

"Giles, trouble?" Buffy asked, sitting upright from her previous position of recline against her boyfriend, who had like wised straightened his tall body to prepare himself for lending assistance.

"Oh, no, Buffy, don't get up," her watcher forestalled her. "No. Nothing like that. No, I just, you know, I thought I'd drop by. Uh, latte anyone? On me?"

"So much for your predictable blanky theory, Will," Buffy remarked.

Giles seated himself in the spare chair Doyle recruited from a nearby table. "Splendid. Well, it's ages since I've been to a gig."

Everyone glanced at him with the same look teenagers usually display whenever an adult tries to appeal to their definition of cool.

"Well, don't look that way," Giles replied uncertainly. "I'm...I'm...I'm down with the new music. And I have the albums to prove it."

"Yes, but it's your cutting edge 8-tracks that keep you ahead of the scene," Cordelia remarked.

"Don't scoff, gang," Oz defended the watcher as best he could, "I've seen Giles' collection. He was an animal in his day."

"Thank you," Giles returned.

"Hey, why not?" Buffy agreed. "If the Stones can still keep rolling, why can't Giles?"

"Exactly," Giles smiled at her acceptance.

"I think it's brave that you're here," Willow added.

Giles frowned. "Well, thank you, all. You've made me feel right at home."

"Isn't home that empty place you're trying to escape?" Xander reminded him.

"Oh, yeah," Giles recalled. "Jenny has her adult-ed class tonight."

"How's her evening sickness?" Buffy asked him.

"Slowly disappearing," Giles replied. "Thank Joyce for us if you see her sometime before we do."

Buffy nodded, her eyes turning from her watcher to her best friend, who had abruptly stilled, as the music assigned to play at the Bronze tonight emerged from the bowels of the dressing area on to the stage.

"Veruca's playing tonight," Willow murmured, her gaze turning from the stage to observe her boyfriend nervously.

"Yeah," Oz replied, aware of her sudden uncertainty, just as he was aware of the contrasting stare from the woman who headlined the band known as Shy, standing before the microphone on the stage before them. "Every Wednesday. I told you."

Their mutual fascination for one another was another reason why Oz had felt the need to understand the strain of the primitive inside him, for reasons he was barely aware of, let alone able to explain. Every night he saw them perform he was unable to escape the impression that Veruca was singing to him, her deep voice a siren song of seduction, calling on him to understand her prowess and respond.

Buffy was well aware of her friend's insecurities concerning Veruca and tried now to distract Oz as much as she could. "So, Oz, what about dingoes? When are you guys here again?"

Somehow he managed to answer. "Oh, we're up next Friday."

Willow did not have to look at him to know that his eyes were still fixed on the stage. She took his hand and squeezed it, trying to command his attention as she asked him something full of unconscious undertones. "They're good, aren't they?"

"Nothing special," Oz murmured, his words a complete contradiction to the impression his focus was conveying.

"Yeah," Willow agreed, anxious to seize upon his words and use them to secure him once more. "She's quell Fiona. Colour me bored."

"Really?" Giles queried, oblivious to the tension which had surfaced within the group. "I think she's rather remarkable. Such presence for someone her age."

Buffy resisted the urge to leap from the arms of her soulmate and give her watcher a slap upside his head, for his choice of words were anything but sensitive to what her best friend was feeling right now. However, she could not deny that they held a ring of truth. There was a presence about Veruca, but one akin to the feeling she experienced whenever she sensed a vampire was near; what she had felt when she first encountered Angel, before having any idea of what he would come to mean to her. That artist was a threat to Willow and Oz, Buffy was sure, and what destruction she would wield with her brush strokes remained to be seen.


A night of watching Shy perform at the Bronze ended the way all other nights usually ended, Oz seeking the comfort and safeness in the arms of his girlfriend in his bedroom at the house they shared with Cordelia and Xander off campus. He was fully aware of the siren song he had experienced, Veruca's body language during her performance made her intentions abundantly clear, but he did not feel the attraction which she desired. He was still fascinated, curious even, but usually revolted that she was making a move on a man who was not available.

"Mm... It's in the sandblaster," Willow murmured aloud at that moment, rousing him from his preoccupying thoughts. "Uh..."

He rolled over to gaze at her form, gently placing his arms around her as he attempted to call her from the nightmare she was experiencing. "What's in the sandblaster, Will? It's a dream. Come back to me."

Willow's eyes were still closed, but her mouth formed a smile as she continued to murmur. "Mmm...Hmm... All Gemini's to the raspberry hats."

Oz smiled now too. "Now you're faking."

She opened her eyes. "Am not. Just a little," she confessed as she turned to face him.

"Morning," he greeted.

"Morning," she returned in kind.

"Bad dream?" He inquired gently.

"I guess," Willow agreed. Her eyes raked over his face and form, acknowledging their nearness, and her small smile grew alittle wider. "But the waking up part makes up for it."

Tenderly Oz reached out to move a strand of red hair from her forehead, his fingers tapping the skin. "It's always so busy in there."

"Not always," Willow replied, everything within her secure and blissfully happily in the knowledge that the man before her loved and desired her now as much as she did him. "A few things shut my brain up completely."

Oz wrapped his arms around her. "Anything I can help you with?"

"I gotta get to class right now, but tonight for sure," Willow replied reluctantly, a part of her rebelling against the good girl persona, tempting her with the idea of being late to class for once in her life.

Her boyfriend frowned at her lack of recollection with regards to the night, before rapidly brushing the discomfort away. "I don't know about tonight, unless the extreme Jerry Garcia look turns you on."

Willow looked at him confused. "Huh?"

"Night before the full moon," he reminded her.

"Oh, that's right," Willow blushed at her faulty memory. "And I have a thing. There's this wicca group on campus I wanted to check out. They have orientation on the three nights you're wolfy. And it's probably totally silly, but..."

He shook his head. "No. Go. Show them how it's done."

"Are you sure?" Willow asked him. "You can lock yourself up? It's only this one month. After orientation, they meet on different nights."

"I'll be fine," he assured her, quelling the familiar uncertainty within his soul.

"Ok," Willow uttered, noticing nothing of his inner anxiety displayed upon his stoic face. "As long as you don't mind."

He held her in his arms for a moment longer. "The only thing I mind is being away from you for 3 nights," he uttered softly before kissing her.


As the sun climbed over the heavens, blazing a trail behind for the things which either shielded themselves or displayed to its celestial light, the slayer and her best friend found themselves in Psychology class, under the severe gaze and direction of Professor Walsh, who was in a rare mild mannered mood that lecture.

"Ms. Summers," she said as she handed the student in question her assignment, "I want you to prepare to lead a discussion group next class. On the paper topic. That was smart work."

Surprised and touched, Buffy looked her teacher curiously. "What do I have to do?"

"If you have any questions, bring them up with one of the T.A.'s," Walsh instructed before turning to the other students.

Buffy returned to her best friend, who had already received her assignment, and was waiting for her at the threshold of the lecture room doors.

"Are you ok?" Willow asked her. "How'd you do?"

The slayer smiled and held up her paper, displaying the mark of distinction for her companion to see.

Willow beamed. "This is good. I mean, this is excellent." Suddenly she mocked frowned. "You did better than me. This is so unfair! You made me jealous of you academically. Buffy!" She hugged her.

"I know," Buffy smiled as they separated to wander the halls. "Can you believe it?"

"Wow," Willow mused. "I guess professor Walsh isn't so ogrey after all."

"And she wants me to lead a discussion group next class," Buffy added, before realising the implications which lay behind that mark of praise. "That means more work, right?" She sighed. "Shouldn't she have a better reward system? You know, like a cookie or a toy surprise like at the dentist?"

Willow's reaction was different. "She wants you to lead a discussion group? Ok. Jealous again. Jealous, jealous,... ok. I'm back. Hey, I'm meeting Oz at the cafe. You wanna come? I'll buy you that celebratory cookie."

Buffy nodded. "Great. I'm T.A. bound right now, and then I will catch up with you guys."

"Cool," Willow replied. "Oh, unless Riley is still trying to chat you up."

"Yeah, it's getting really annoying," Buffy sighed. "I try to stay polite, but its not like he hasn't seen my boyfriend, or heard about him."

Willow nodded. "Scandal of the uni; student dates professor."

"I'm not the only one," Buffy protested, "Doyle and Cordy are in the same boat now. Anyway, I'm reduced to talking about what I need, then bringing up Angel into the end of the discussion as much as possible."

"Want me to come with you for moral support?" Willow offered.

"Nah, I can handle him," Buffy replied. "But if I'm not with you before the bell you have my permission to page me. That'll aid the great escape."

"I'll meet you at the end of the tunnel," Willow promised before they parted.

 


Oz wandered through the cafe, navigating students and the odd member of the teaching faculty in his quest for an empty table. Unfortunately there none to be had, forcing him to scan the eating student body for known faces who might give him space. Then something called to his senses, an irresistible and distinct silent howl from the depths of the forest. He knew the source before his eyes even fixed upon the location. Stubbornly he quelled the impulse inside him to join her, even though she held the only empty table in the place, with the impression that she had been waiting for him, even though she could have no idea that he would be entering the eatery.

Veruca looked up at him, noting his hesitation, ignoring and misunderstanding it. "What are you gonna do, sit on the ground?" She mocked.

"My girlfriend's coming," Oz replied, the implication clear.

She shrugged, unconcerned. "There's room."

Reluctantly he sat down, his eyes unable to escape the sight of her rather large hamburger and basket of fries. "Big lunch?"

"I like to eat," Veruca replied. "I hate chicks who are like, 'does it have dressing on it?'"

Oz nodded. "Agreed. You guys were tight last night."

Again she shrugged. "I guess. The set's starting to come together, but the amps still sound dirty to me."

"What are you using?" He asked her, glad of a safe topic. "50 Or 120?"

"Hey," a voice remarked, one he knew well and loved, enough to realise the insecurity which possessed its tone right now. He stopped talking, as the already old tension grew around the table once more. "Hey."

Once more Veruca was oblivious, either by design or reality. "Hey."

"You wanna sit down?" Oz asked Willow, trying desperately to sound causal, and aware that he was probably failing. "So you should be using a 50. And Blue Voodoo, not your best bet, unless you dig the distort."

Willow found her seat, a part of her wishing she had surrendered to her first impulse to flee the scene, and resorted to her usual method whenever she felt uncomfortable. Babble. "Music talk, huh? Cool. I love to listen to Oz talk about the biz."

Veruca ignored her. "What do you like again? I know you told me."

"There's a couple good ones," Oz replied. "The Johnson Mil..."

The singer shook her head. "My number one is Redbone."

Oz looked at her incredulously. "Number one? No. I gotta go with Hound Dog."

Willow heard the name and leapt at the chance to sound like she understood what they were talking about. "Me, too. That's a great song. I mean, Elvis, what a guy."

Bemused, Veruca smiled at her. "You a big Elvis fan?"

Failing to see the humour, Willow nodded. "The biggest. Well, I mean, after Dingoes, of course."

"We're actually talking amps," Oz explained, inwardly ashamed at how he had embarrassed her. "But it's easy to get confused, the names they give them."

"Oh," Willow uttered, lost. "Ha ha," she attempted unconvincingly.

Her boyfriend knew that she was beyond being unable to pick up on the energy and tension between him and Veruca. Anxious to reach some clarity himself on the issue, he did what he usually did when faced with an uncomfortable situation. "You know, I gotta bail. Um, I'll call you later."

Veruca and Willow stared at each other, their differences evident and uncomfortable for both of them, causing her to rise from her chair as well. "I should go, too. Good shirt."

Willow feelings of embarrassment and foolishness increased tenfold. She glanced down at her pink and fuzzy top, wishing she had not picked that particular item of clothing to wear that morning, but before her mind could move on to the other feelings she had experienced just now, her loneliness was abruptly lessened.

"Check out the rapid exits," Buffy remarked brightly, trying to cheer her best friend up from an encounter she knew would be difficult. "Was it me?"

"Me," Willow replied with a sigh as her best friend sat down. "I don't speak Musicianese. How come you didn't tell me I look like a crazy birthday cake in this shirt?"

Buffy frowned. "I thought that was the point."

"He thinks she's sexy," Willow continued. "He gets this blushy thing going on behind his ears. That's for me only."

The slayer reached across and took her hand. "It doesn't mean anything. So Oz checks out another girl. He loves you."

"I know," Willow replied uncertainly. "I know. And I don't wanna be the kind of girl who freaks every time my boyfriend notices somebody else. I mean, I have wrong feelings about other guys sometimes, but I feel guilty, and I flog and punish."

"Exactly," Buffy agreed. "I'm sure Oz is flogging and punishing himself. This is sounding wrong before I even finish. Look, I promise you, in a couple of days, it's gonna be like 'Veruca who?'"

"You think?" Willow asked her hopefully."

She nodded. "Absolutely. Oz just isn't the type to stray. Not tonight anyways. He'll be locked in a cage."

"I was thinking about that," Willow remarked, her expression altering to one of less bleak proportions.

"How so?" Buffy asked.

"You know how me and Jenny conjured an enchantment on a charm for Angel to enjoy the sunlight without going poof?" Willow began, waiting for her friend to nod before she continued, "well, I was wondering if the same thing could be possible for Oz. Enchant something of his so he doesn't go wolfy."

"That's a great idea," Buffy agreed. "Why don't we go and ask Jenny if she knows of a spell we could use or adapt. Do you have something of Oz's that he wears?"

"No, but I'm sure I could find something," Willow replied, before they rose from the table to exit the cafe, briefly pausing to buy the celebratory cookie on the way.


Deep in the forest a call was sounding,
and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring,
he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire
and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest...(1)

Even before the hour of sunset was due, Oz felt the strain of the primitive within alive and active, stalking his mind as a predator hunts his prey, waiting for the inevitable moment of vulnerability within which he could bite at the human soul in the rule of the body he hungered for and reign supreme once more. He called on his willpower to contain the beast until classes were over and he could head for the safety of the crypt, and secure himself behind the cage he with others had fashioned to imprison the werewolf the night of the full moon and the two nights surrounding it.

A combination lock secured the door of the cage, the gap between the bars wide enough for Oz to put his human arm through and ensure release when the daylights returned to hellmouth once more. Usually he felt embarrassed having company with him, even Willow's, ashamed of the howling beast which the phases of the moon reduced him to, but tonight he found the once welcomed aloneness disturbing and unsettling. Trying to convince himself that the feeling was a by product of the prospect of unleashing the werewolf, he started to undress, knowing the tearing effect his inner demon usual had on his clothing.

The full moon rose high into the sky, bathing the land with its' ghostly hue, calling the wolf forth from him. Enraged against the secured surroundings barring him from having any satisfaction during these eyes, the werewolf hurled himself again and again the bars of his cage, until the hinge which fastened one side of the door surrendered to the damage caused by the repeated impact and flew apart.

Werewolf rushed out of the prison then up the stairs and out of the crypt, his determination for freedom an undeniable urge deep inside him. Strains of the primitive were alive and active, but he retained his wildness and his wiliness, causing him to seek the forests away from the roads and houses of an innocent populous. Attracted by the smells and sounds his paws pounded the ground until he reached the large gathering of buildings which were the college campus.

He saw halted as he caught sight of a human, walking on the smooth yet hard surface beside the shrubbery enclosed grass upon which he ran. His movements, however slight, caused the bushes to rustle and shudder, causing the human to turn and occasionally halt, convinced that something was stalking them.

"Hello?" They called nervously out into the darkness.

A werewolf was incapable of speech so could not reply. He could snarl and howl, however, and these noises he used as he strove to gain pace on the now running human, before leaping out infront of them to declare their presence.

Screams rose from the human, a terrible sound, but not unfamiliar to the beast who hunted them. The werewolf dodged the offending leather briefcase which was tossed at him in a vain attempt to prevent his pursuit, before increasing his pace once more as the prey disappeared around a corner.

"God..." the human uttered as they encountered another horrifying sight, realising that there were two of these fearsome beasts in existence. Survival instincts alive and active, they leapt for the bushes, just as the monsters rose from the ground to attack.

But the human was no longer the prey, nor indeed was the desire to hunt holding any sovereignty over the werewolves. Instead the blood lust gave way to a more combative stance, the desire for supremacy, to show the other who was king.

As the human ran for the hills, they continued to lay into each other, tearing and nipping at the flesh and fur before them, until the moonlit hours gave way to the dawn.


Oz woke to find himself naked in a part of campus secluded undergrowth. Terrified he rapidly took in his surroundings, the fear within him lessening as he encountered no evidence of any life, human or animal having been destroyed, only for the emotion to return with a vengeance as he encountered the naked human form next to him.

He froze as his mind raced through the cloudy recollections of the night before, now returning to haunt his human soul, assuring him that contrary to first impressions, he had not spent the night with this woman lying next to him. Now, he had to make sure that his companion was fully aware of this too, and her secrecy was gained.

"That was, um..." he struggled for the words.

"Some night," Veruca answered him, unconcerned with her unclothed state and his.

"So it appears," Oz remarked.

"Right," Veruca added, "you don't remember. It's like that at first, but then little bits and pieces will start coming back to you."

"I do remember," Oz replied, surprising her. "And I know we didn't.... couple." He strove to establish other facts. "So you're A..."

"Werewolf groupie," she finished. "Nobody else gets it done for me."

Oz frowned. "What?"

"Kidding," Veruca replied. "You know what I am. You've known since the first time you saw me. Now, you... Need... To relax."

"Not a possibility," Oz replied.

"So what do you want to do?" Veruca asked him.

Oz chose not to answer her, rising from the ground and heading for civilisation, hoping no one else was up at this early hour to notice two naked students stealing clothes from the Laundromat.


"God! The kids in the dorm need fashion 101 in a big way," Veruca remarked, disgusted at the underwear she was forced to 'borrow.' She glanced at her companion and found him in a similar desperate state. "Or we could start right here at home."

"Not making a statement," Oz informed her. "Just wanna get back to my place, figure out why we got out of our cages."

Now it was time for her to become surprised, even incredulous. "You have a cage?"

Oz frowned at her, his horror inwardly increasing. "Don't you?"

"Uh, yeah. Has a little wheel with a plastic ball and a cute little bell in it," she mocked. "God! Somebody's domesticated the hell out of you."

"It's my choice," Oz replied. "I don't wanna hurt anybody."

"Maybe," Veruca allowed. "Or maybe you just don't wanna admit what happened to you. Maybe you just wanna pretend like you're a regular guy."

Oz tried to ignore her prowling towards his personal space. "Well, I am. I'm only a wolf three nights a month."

"Or you're a wolf all the time and this human face is just your disguise," Veruca countered. "You ever think about that, Oz?"

Her face and form were closing in on him, threateningly. Oz backed away. "I'm going. I gotta check the paper, see if we did any damage last night."

"Oh, we did. But only to each other," Veruca replied. "I know some part of you remembers that. It doesn't take a full moon. We could do it again right here. See if you have the courage to go all the way this time."

"We are never going to," Oz replied. "This ends... Right now."

"I can help you, Oz," Veruca remarked seductively. "You're scared. I was, too. But then I accepted it. The animal, it's powerful, inside me all the time. Soon, you just start to feel sorry for everybody else because they don't know what it's like to be as alive as we are. As free."

"Free to kill people?" Oz countered. "I won't do that. I've seen others do that, and the damage it does, to people and to them. "You shouldn't either."

Veruca shook her head. "You don't understand. But you will. You'll see that we belong together."

"No," Oz replied. "I know where I belong."

Veruca watched him go. "See ya tonight."


Buffy heard the conversation taking place between Professor Walsh and Riley Finn as she wandered the halls that morning, seeking one or either of them concerning her forthcoming discussion group, but without any real focus on the words until they made an effort to include her in the talk.

"Two of them," Walsh could be heard saying as Buffy came to a halt before them. "It was unbelievable. The fact that I survived at all is a miracle."

"Excuse me. Ms. Walsh?" Buffy began, causing the professor to turn to her.

"I hope you're careful when you walk around campus after dark," Walsh remarked to Buffy. "I was attacked by wild dogs last night."

Slayer instincts became alive and active. "Wild dogs?"

Walsh nodded. "Two of them. Biggest things I've ever seen. The first one was- Well, for a moment, I thought it was a gorilla. Did you have a question, Buffy?"

Leading a Psychology discussion group was now the furthest thing from the slayer's mind. "No. No, I was just... Saying howdy."

Fortunately Walsh was oblivious to the retreat her pupil was now hurriedly making. "Fine. See you in class."

Buffy nodded, walking away from the professor and teaching assistant, careful to keep her pace as unconcerned and unhurried as possible until she was out of their sight. When she rounded the corner, her walk changed into a run, not stopping until she reached room one hundred and twelve, where Mythology was lectured.

Giles looked up from his desk at the hurried arrival, and instantly stopped working on whatever he was doing at his desk as he witnessed his slayer check that the hall was empty and then that the entrance was closed. "Buffy, what's wrong?"

"Professor Walsh was telling her TA that she got attacked by two wild dogs last night," Buffy replied as she stepped up to his desk.

Giles slipped into watcher mode, the implications inescapable to him as well. "Werewolves? Two of them?"

Buffy nodded. "That's my guess. Question is, who are they?"

"I think I can answer that," a voice remarked at that moment.

The slayer and her watcher jumped, then turned to the door.

Where Oz was standing with a very shocked Willow.


Giles was the first to contain his surprise. Forcing down any thoughts which contemplated worst case scenarios, he silently motioned for the two newcomers to join him and Buffy at the desk, making sure they took care to close the doors behind them, before he sat down and looked at Oz. "Explain. Everything. From the beginning."

"I changed as usual," Oz replied. "I remember hurling myself against the cage, but this time the hinge buckled and broke under the pressure. I got out. I ran about the campus, encountered Professor Walsh, and gave chase, and that's when I saw the other one." He paused, the recap becoming more difficult to voice aloud. "I attacked her and then chased her, and we ended up in the fields. When I woke, I recognised her."

"Who?" Willow asked softly, though a part of her half suspected she knew the answer already. Oz had come to her suddenly just before she was about to leave the house to check on him, only to be confronted by his appearance at the threshold of her room, a lost expression on his normal reticent face. He told her nothing more than that he had got out the night before, then asked her to come with him to Giles and Buffy. They had passed Professor Walsh and Riley Finn on the way, causing them to come here.

"Veruca," Oz answered, his eyes never moving from hers. As soon as he saw the horror arise within her pupils, he sought to reassure her. "Will, I swear I never laid a finger or paw on her in that way. I would never cheat on you."

"I know," Willow uttered, softly, the reply surprising herself, for until now she had never held such faith in that conviction. She met his amber stare of relief, then turned to her best friend and the watcher. "What do we do about this?"

Giles looked to Oz as he asked, "What is Veruca's attitude to the werewolf?"

"Total opposite of mine," Oz replied. "She thinks that its the greatest freedom. She's dangerous." He frowned. "Too dangerous."

"In that case there's only one solution," Buffy slowly replied, trying to quell the misgivings inside her, for they had always promised themselves that they would never use the discovery they made during the summer to their advantage. "I know it's not good, but at least she'll live."

Oz nodded, not liking the solution any more than the rest of them, but aware that they had no choice. "Do what you have to do."

The bell before first class began to sound, breaking the unsettling silence which had formed as the four contemplated the outcome their next actions would incur.

Giles stood up. "You all better get to class. I'll inform the rest before lunch."


"He walked to the centre of the open space and listened.
It was the call, the many-noted call,
sounding more luringly and compelling than ever before.
And as never before, he was ready to obey.
The last tie was broken. Man and the claims of man no longer bound him."(2)

Willow walked into Oz's room at the end of the day, to find him in the midst of packing a bundle of clothes into a suitcase. He looked up at her entrance, his face sad, but resolved.

"Hi," he greeted softly.

"What are you doing?" She asked him.

"I'm going," he replied simply.

"Now?" Willow asked him. "That's your solution?"

"That's my decision," he corrected.

"Don't I get any say in this?" Willow asked him.

Oz shook his head. "No. Veruca was right about something. The wolf is inside me all the time, and I don't know where that line is anymore between me and it. And until I figure out what that means, I shouldn't be around you... Or anybody."

Willow clasped his hand and freed the suitcase he was holding, letting the offending object drop to ground. "What if you had something with which to define that line?" she asked him softly.

He looked at her, his face betraying a facet of the turmoil he was experiencing for the first time. "What do you mean?"

"Remember when we sorted out Angel's false identity papers so he could enter gainful employment?" Willow answered, her other retrieving something from the pocket of her skirt, hiding the object from view with her closed fist until she could lay the palm open before him, to reveal a delicate gold chain, with a familiar half moon attached to it. "Jenny and I enchanted this for you, as protection against the werewolf."

Oz tentatively reached out with his free hand to the chain resting upon her palm, fingering the half moon charm and the skin surrounding it. "This works like Angel's does?" He sought to confirm, barely able to believe that after his actions the night before she was still so generous and willing to give him this incredible gift.

Willow nodded. "The spell was the same in essentials, but Jenny and I adapted it to contain the wolf as oppose to the vampire. Of course the real proof is in testing it." She paused, summoning her courage, before adding, "I could make another, for Veruca, so we don't have to...." she let the sentence end there, unable to voice the true finish, the outcome of Veruca's fate bothering her as much as it bothered the other slayerettes when Giles informed them earlier that afternoon.

"No," Oz replied, "I don't think she would view the gift with the same emotions as I do. I think she would resent it."

"Whereas you?" Willow asked, hope rising despite her fear of impending desolation.

Oz took the chain from her open palm and placed it round his neck, gently letting go of her hand so he could put both of them behind his back to fasten the clasp. When the talisman was secure, he sought her hand once more, along with the other this time, as he prepared to lay her final fears aside.

"I view this gift as the most precious thing I have ever received in my life," he uttered huskily, "save your love." He closed his eyes as he pressed his forehead against hers, fearing her reply to his next question. "Do I still have that?"

"You always will," Willow reply. "Even if you still chose to go."

"I'll never leave," he promised her, before seeking the comfort he found in the act of pressing his lips to hers.


"He felt strangely numb. As though from a great distance,
he was aware that he was being beaten. The last sensations of pain left him.
He no longer felt anything, though very faintly
he could hear the impact of the club upon his body.
But it was no longer his body, it seemed so far away." (3)


A shrouded figure clothed entirely in black watched with an increasing sense of misgivings as others attired like him poked and prodded at the capture they had brought back for testing. They had sworn never to do this, never to surrender to this last resort, yet here they were, only hours ago, throwing away that decision in order to solve a problem to which there was only one other alternative.

The figure in black had fought just as everyone else did in the fierce debate which evolved from this proposal, suggesting the alternative, even though that too was rendered unthinkable. But this figure knew now, more than ever, that the alternative was an easier solution to live with than this. Perhaps that was why their leader had given the figure the task of disposal, knowing that their position in the pack raised them to the same level of ability as their leader and other members, endowing the figure with the power and resolve to do what the others might perhaps shy from doing.

He waited until they had finished with her, until they ordered him and others to take her away to the containment block. Until he was the last to be with her as one by one the others returned to their duties, leaving him alone with her in the cage she feared.

Then he took care to disable the closed circuit surveillance, before disabling her and taking her body out into the depths of the forest, where a call still sounded.

 

The End.
To Be Continued In

THE INITIATIVE.

The last three quotes were all taken from The Call of the Wild by Jack London and are from; 1. The Sounding of the Call, Chapter 7, page 117, 2. The Sounding of the Call, Chapter 7, page 134, 3. The Toil of Trace and Trail, Chapter 5, page 88.