~ Written for the Wesley Slash Ficathon for Lianne

Mostly he stayed in Europe. Asia made him think too much about Tibet, and made him think about obligations. Think about visiting the monks who'd given him everything -- devote a few years of his life tending their garden to repay them. But the monks had sent him on his way once he'd learnt what he'd gone there to learn. He didn't owe them, but some part of his brain never could accept that.

So Oz stayed away from Asia. Traveling in South America was just
difficult -- too many hot, sticky jungles and government officials who saw a US passport as an indication of things Oz didn't want to deal with. It wasn't just the supernatural -- the petty and not-so petty crimes of drug lords and corrupt officials and rebel guerrillas would have been tiresome enough, but once you realised that South America was a favorite spot for demons everywhere -- it wasn't a nice place to go.

Europe, though, seemed to have been built for a solitary werewolf who was no longer trapped by the moon. The music, the food, the languages all melted together and swirled into his brain until he thought even his blood had been replaced with it. The tightly packed continent had sucked him in the moment he set foot on its ground. So he wandered, and worked, and sometimes lived in studio apartments and made his way through life as though everything fit together exactly.

But sometimes he found he couldn't stay completely away. North America seemed to exist only to pull him towards the west, towards Willow. He'd tried wandering no farther than California, thinking San Francisco would be just the spot. But it had been too close, so he'd tried Seattle, then Denver, then Dallas and Louisville and finally Maine and into the cities then wildernesses of Canada.

But everyplace made him think of going back to her. The one place in the world he couldn't be.

So he lived in Europe, and once a year he allowed himself to go back to LA: the closest he could bear to be without being with her. He stayed out of everyone's way since the first time he'd stopped in to see Angel and Cordy. Didn't want to tempt himself with asking how was Willow. Didn't want to tempt himself into going up just to look at her from the shadows.

The shadows of LA served, and he wandered the streets and looked for things to do. During the day he spoke with an Italian accent, or French, and let people think he hadn't grown up just a few dozen miles away. At night he armed himself and went hunting, because even with the wolf chained up inside him, he could always taste the blood on his tongue. Hunting -- vampires, if not the prey he wanted -- helped him feed some of those desires.

Tonight he had a crossbow slung underneath his jacket. He was wandering more or less aimlessly; he had no idea if there were any vampires in this neighborhood or not, but it was close to his hotel and even just a search, tonight, would be enough. He walked silently down the sidewalk, sniffing the air surreptitiously.

He stopped when he smelled someone he knew. He turned into the alleyway the scent was coming from, and froze when he saw a figure in the dark, scurrying through the piles of garbage. He took a step closer, checking the rest of the alley for other scents, but they were alone.

Oz walked closer until the figure stopped, and straightened, looking at him. Oz was astonished to see how much Wesley had changed -- he looked like he'd been living in the alley they were standing in. He'd lost weight, gained a very serious-looking scar, and his eyes gazed back at Oz with no life in them at all.

They looked at each other for a long moment before Oz realised the other man was not going to speak. He nodded, casually. "Hey."

Wesley frowned at him. "Oz." He didn't seem at all curious about Oz' presence. Rather, he was standing there as though simply waiting for Oz to leave.

Neither of them moved. Oz looked around, still on guard for anything that might leap out at them -- Wesley smelled like someone who was ready to be attacked at any moment, so Oz figured he must be expecting someone to join them.

"Can I help?" Oz asked.

Wesley seemed surprised by the offer. "I'm just searching for something."

Oz waited, then when Wesley didn't elaborate further, he wondered if he was intended to leave, or if Wesley was waiting to be asked. Oz didn't know what to expect -- the Wesley he had known would have already been explaining at some length exactly what was going on, as well as asking questions about why Oz was here.

This new, quiet Wesley unsettled him. It seemed so completely off that Oz thought he had come to an alternate Los Angeles, instead of the one in the world he lived in. He hadn't ever liked Wesley, back in Sunnydale. But now, Oz found himself feeling none of the animosity he'd once felt. Whether it was Wesley who had changed, or himself, he felt only concern for him, now. Whatever else Wesley had been, he'd been one of the good guys.

In a flash, it occurred to Oz that his earlier impression might have been correct. If something had gone wrong and Wesley were homeless, he might not care to say so to someone who knew him. Saying he'd been searching the dumpster for food would be embarrassing, especially to someone who had known him at his peak.

His offer to help having been refused, Oz figured that pressing the matter would be rude. But he couldn't leave Wesley here, in the alley.

His hotel wasn't far from here. Without making it obvious that he just wanted to give the other man someplace safe to sleep tonight, there was only one way to get him there.

Luckily for Oz, he'd been willing to fuck Wesley since the day he'd met him.


Wesley woke up, suddenly, but without making any movements. It only took him a moment to recognised where he was; the hotel room decor was not so strange, but the young man curled up on the other side of the bed, was.

He'd been surprised when Oz had invited him back to his hotel room. His search for the enchanted dagger he'd dropped the previous morning during a fight had been proving futile, and he'd nearly accepted the fact it was lost when Oz had shown up. He'd expected Oz to tell him about some trouble, another apocalypse perhaps, and had waited, hoping he would -- and would not -- hear him say one name in particular.

But Oz hadn't mentioned Angel or anyone at all. He'd simply stood there, looking around, then quite subtly began flirting with him. Wesley had had no idea what to make of it, then he'd realised that he had a choice. Go home alone, sit in his cold empty flat and try not to think about the things he'd done.

Or he could go back to Oz' hotel room and forget about everything for a few hours.

And so he had. But now it was done, and it was time he left. Wesley eased out of the bed and found his clothing in the dark. A shower could wait until he got home; there was no one he would encounter who he'd care would notice that he smelled of sex, and werewolf.

For years, he'd been so cautious, so considerate. Saying no when he'd wanted very much to say yes, and showering thoroughly those times he had been unable to say no. And it had got him -- nowhere. Here, sneaking out of a room at midnight, from a chance encounter with a man...

Who should hate him. The only thing Wesley had ever done to Oz was let Oz' girlfriend be left for a sacrifice. Why on earth would he want--

Wesley dressed quickly, before Oz could wake. Whatever his reasons, Wesley wanted to be gone before Oz could reveal them. Some revenge -- embarrassment, perhaps? A spell to be cast while he slept? He noticed none such on his person now, but he would check himself thoroughly when he got home.

Maybe the trap was due to be sprung in the morning, he thought as he let himself out of the room. It was fortunate he'd woken now, and escaped before Oz could do whatever he'd planned on.

He hurried down the brightly lit hallway, and wondered at the chance that had brought Oz to him here, tonight. Wesley cursed himself a fool for giving in. Loneliness and self-recrimination had made him blind
and stupid.

It would not happen again. Determined, he made his way home.

When he reached his apartment building, he saw Lilah's car parked outside.