The woods were cold, damp and smelled well icky. Cordelia couldn't believe she was out here. Angel had meant it when he said this was the middle of nowhere. Why he had sent her and not....Right. Cordelia took a deep breath. There was no one else. Just her. Wiping a hand across her sweaty, condensation covered, no those are not tears face, Cordelia tromped farther
into the woods.
Something was following her. Shadowing her. Cordelia turned. Nothing.
There weren't supposed to be people for at least a thirty miles. So whatever
was following her wasn't people. Picking up her pace, Cordelia's ears filled
with the crunching of twigs beneath her feet and her own fast breathing.
Underneath it though she could still hear this faint footfall. Scared,
backed up against a tree. The sounds grew softer. Then stopped. And that was worse than anything. The woods were completely silent. No birds. No animal movements. No crickets.
Heartbeat flooding her ears, Cordelia tried to remain quiet. After about ten seconds she relaxed. It was just her stupid imagination. Stupid, stupid...SLAM! Cordelia couldn't breath. Large clawed hands pressed her down into the dirt. A shaggy head dripped drool onto her face from sharp fangs. Dark eyes stared down at her.
"Cordelia. Stop." A voice whispered hoarsely.
Cordelia opened her eyes. She was staring straight in to two intense blue green eyes. Half a second later she breathed. "Oz? You, you jerk. You scared me."
Then she shoved him as her hands connected with his warm chest her voice shook. "You were, you are. Oz YOU'RE NAKED!"
Oz climbed off of her and Cordelia suppressed her odd disappointment. He was well built for a little guy. And warm. "It's freezing."
Oz stood up and offered her his hand. "You could use some clothes. I could use an explanation. What are you doing out here? This is like literally nowhere..."
"C'mon. There's a cabin no 100 yards from here. "
She took his hand. It was warm and she clung to it. This was the oddest place to find a friend who was naked. Yup. Completely naked and not caring about it one bit. Cordelia checked her head for concussion. This was too weird.
"What are you doing here?" She asked him again.
Oz frowned. "Hiding."
"Yea. Me to." Cordelia looked away.
Oz was just as comfortable clothed as unclothed. Cordelia smiled to see him in an oh so familiar bowling shirt over a T-shirt. It made the scene much less surreal. Then of course the sureallness returned when Oz leapt refusing to meet her gaze.
"Right. I'll start. But I want an explanation out of you when I'm finished." She sat back in the worn recliner and Oz leaned forward on his bench. The cabin seemed almost intimate with it's enclosed space and warm fire. It made her feel connected, to what she had no idea. Connected and alone, like they were the only two people in the world.
"Angel says, when things get confusing you should go...To a place where things aren't so painful..."
"To bail?" Oz supplied. His red hair was longer then she remembered. A dark red spiky halo, it made him seem wilder.
She nodded. "Yeah. He told me about this place. Said it was quiet. Unoccupied." Cordelia gave him a pointed stare. Oz shrugged. "I was looking for unoccupied."
"Well, it's a good thing you found it." Cordelia snapped. Running a hand through her hair she found several leaves. She stared at one. "Do you remember a coupla weeks back..You came to give Angel that ring?"
"You remember Doyle, of course you do! What with him getting all drunk and calling you his little Bam Bam for most of the night.." A smile touched her lips. The first one in a while. "God that was fun. Remember?"
Oz half smiled, a major reaction. "Half demon. Yeah. I remember."
"Did everybody know but me??? Oz, you coulda clued me in!!! God!!"
"I thought..No one mentioned it." Oz looked slightly embarrassed.
Cordelia grumped. "Then how did you...Oh." Oz tapped his nose. "Ew? Again?" Cordelia frowned. "So why didn't anyone tell me??" She was angry and just a little hurt.
Oz gave her a sad look. "No one wants to advertise freak status."
"DOYLE WAS NOT A FREAK! And neither are you." Cordelia pulled her legs up, huddled on the well worn chair.
Oz didn't speak for a full minute. "Was?" He asked gently.
Oz's calm facade cracked. "Oh. I'm sorry. He was a good guy... I liked him."
"He kissed me." Cordelia whispered. "Before. And that's why I'm here. Because he kissed me. And now I get to be the freak, Oz. I was the only one. The brooding vampire with a soul...the half demon who was had the biggest crush on me and me the human girl with more mouth than brains sometimes..."
"You're not dumb." Oz stated and she believed him. "Loud." She smiled.
"Now it's your turn. C'mon Oz. Nothing would make you leave your precious Willow." She smiled to take the sting out of it. "I mean you would never do anything. Oh she might. Did she cheat one you with Xander again?"
"Did she kiss somebody else? Like Devon?"
Cordelia frowned. "Ew! She didn't kiss Giles did she? He's handsome in a James Bond way but ew, old..."
"I cheated on her."
"I don't believe you." Cordelia was shocked. "You wouldn't. You love her. She loves you. You were happy. Why didn't you stay happy? I don't believe you!"
"It gets worse." Oz couldn't meet her gaze again. "Then I killed her."
"Willow?" She squeaked.
"No. The bitch."
Cordelia took a sharp breath. She had been kidding. Oz didn't kill people. He was a big fluffy puppy dog. She almost took a step back at the intense look in his eyes. "Duh, doesn't that make you even? Killing the other woman...? Bad joke. I'm sorry. Were you defending Willow?"
Oz looked away. "Yes."
Cordelia sighed. That at least made sense in her world. "Then there ya go, Oz. Defense is not murder..."
He slumped forward. His eyes were black against the fire light. "I wanted Veruca dead. Not just because she was trying to hurt Willow, but because of how she made me feel. How she lead me into hurting Willow. How I hurt Willow. I hurt her. It was like I broke up her insides...I feel..."
"How do you feel?" Cordelia leaned over and touched his shoulder. "Hey, it's okay. We're friends. Tell me."
He blinked. "Inhuman." He turned and stirred the fire. Ashes flew away
Cordelia felt for him. And she had a little taste of that now. That feeling. It's in your stomach coiled up and it only tells you one thing. "You're other." Not human. Not people, other. "You feel different because you are. You are not inhuman Oz. Was Doyle inhuman?"
"He was this half demon guy with blue spikes and blue eyes and weird
greenish skin. He saw other in the mirror if he sneezed. But you don't
think he was inhuman? Oz. Everybody's a freak." Cordelia climbed off her
chair and sat at his feet. "You learned to control your inner whatever.
I saw you come crashing down on me. Correct me if I'm wrong but you did
that full on wolf.
Otherwise you just attacked me naked...." She frowned. "Ew. But you didn't so much as scratch me. You weren't in control before. Now you are."
"Look at me Oz. I'm the freak. That's why I'm here."
Oz looked at her. And Cordelia knew he saw past the perfect make-up, the slightly mussed hair and the worn T-shirt and jeans ensemble. He saw her, Cordy. "You're different." He commented.
"Yeah. See Doyle had these visions. They hurt. I know cause I got them." Cordelia looked down at her hands. "He died to save a lot of us and he kissed me, before..The dying. His kiss left me with his gift. Angel freaked. I freaked. And here I am. A freak."
Oz grabbed her hand. "Two freaks."
"Two freaks." She echoed. "Soon to be one. You're going back to Willow..."
"I can't...I'm dangerous." Oz looked frightened.
Cordelia resisted the urge to laugh. "You are *so* not dangerous. That
bitch messed with your head, right? Told you you were a monster. And hey,
you bought into it. Fine. You came out here and did the Wild Oz thing.
Now you need to do the make it up to Willow thing. Oz, you didn't hurt
me. And you controlled the change. Full moon not for another week. You're
hiding out. Go be with her. Before...." She sighed.
"You can. You're just afraid."
"I am." Oz sighed. "What if ...?"
Cordelia glared. "This isn't a game of 'What if?'. This is your life. Go live it."
Oz nodded, galvanized. "What about you?"
Cordelia grinned. "I think my speech works for both of us."
Oz touched her shoulder. "You lost a friend. The gift is a big part of him. It doesn't make you a freak. Not when you think about all the people in your life."
"Witches, slayers, half demons, not to mention broody vampire employe rs.." Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Oh I get it! I'm not a freak to the people who count. Not anymore. Now I'm different like them. Great! I'm the Sunnydale equivalent of a normal girl! Ha ha." Cordelia placed her hand on Oz's cheek. "Thanks."
"It's even." Oz hugged her. Cordelia was surprised. "Yeah." She agreed.
"So? Yeah. No more hiding out for me either. Well, maybe a few days. A vacation sounds nice. Plus I could get a tan."
"The bathroom's an outhouse."
Cordelia grabbed her purse. "We are *so* out of here."