Chapter 7 pt. 3

"Hey." Oz responded to Xander's greeting in kind, and stepped back as the other man entered Buffy's living room, glancing around awkwardly. Xander apparently shook off the bad memories, and greeted Giles cautiously, his manner distant. Oz watched quietly as Xander and Giles stumbled through some awkward small talk before remembering that they'd never really exchanged pleasantries before the Watcher's abrupt departure. The werewolf tuned the pair out as they settled into sarcastic comments and long suffering patience as they began telling stories about what they'd experienced during the last several years. Oz glanced around the room, looking fro anything out of place, trying to think of anything that might have been missed despite Buffy's all-day obsession with setting the perfect mood to keep things from exploding, when an idea came to him.

"Time for a little calming background music," Oz mused silently to himself as he heard a car pull up the driveway. It could only be part of the Los Angeles contingent, and since Cordelia had called to say she'd finished her business early and was on her way that left Angel; the guest most likely to tip the barely balancing tension that filled the room towards chaos. As Oz moved to the stereo to find a few soothing piano or clarinet concertos, he kept a wary eye on the awkward reunion between Giles and Xander. Oz knew that Xander had missed Giles, but would be dealing with the same anger over his abandonment that Oz and Willow had faced. On top of a history of rejection and neglect from Xander's own family, they were likely to face a rocky reconciliation, but they had apparently decided to declare a temporary truce and to deal with everything later.

As the music softly filtered through the speakers around the room, Oz took a moment to observe the living area. The hard work he, Buffy and Willow had put in really showed in this room. Comfortable and classy cream leather couches and chairs were clustered around the fireplace with glass topped wooden coffee and end tables next to them. Some antique lamps sat on various tables or stood in the corners near a few antique armchairs covered in rich brocades. A buffet stand and a small secretary graced one wall, and matching short bookcases and cabinets added the final touches, holding classic books as well as hiding the stereo and holding vases of dried flowers. It was different, lighter, than when Angel had lived there, but it still contained items, like the books and antiques that were very reminiscent of Angel's style. And, there were several placed that would be perfect for some of the vampire's objects d'art.

The doorbell rang briefly, and Oz saw Willow pass through the room to admit Angel, catching a few muttered complaints about small children and hiding places as she passed. The werewolf hid an amused smile as he double-checked the well-lit room. Erin had been driving Buffy and Willow nuts all day with questions and nervous energy, and had disappeared from her room while she was supposed to be taking a nap. Oz could only guess she'd overheard Willow reassuring Buffy about Angel's pending arrival and taken it upon herself to meet her hero. Oz had no doubt that Erin would make the evening very interesting; he just hoped she didn't get hurt or upset in the resulting turmoil.

The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he detected the presence of a master vampire. Angel had arrived, and Oz could hear soft murmurs as Willow spoke with him in the foyer. A shifting shadow caught the corner of his eye and Oz turned to look at where Xander was waving one arm at Giles angrily, no doubt upset by Angel's presence. But the shadow did remind Oz of one of his earlier observations; the room was well lit. The werewolf quickly moved to dim the few lamps nearest the French doors, knowing instinctively that Angel would be uncomfortable with the bright light when he was in an intense situation.

Angel entered the room, and hovered a moment in the doorway as he covertly studied Giles' and Xander's expressions, assessing the possibilities, perhaps trying to anticipate their reactions. Oz could feel the power rolling of the old vampire; power suppressed only by his kind soul and the resulting lack of human kills (that would have increased that power). Oz knew that had Angel never regained his soul, he would have been more dangerous than the Master had been, especially if the demon hadn't gone crazy due to the soul's attachment to Buffy. Oz also knew that he had been correct in his earlier realization that the vampire, along with Buffy, was the leader of his makeshift pack. His first instincts were to make sure that Angel was comfortable, and to offer his loyalty. Oz moved one of the armchairs closer to the group, silently offering the seat to Angel, one where he had comfortable shadows nearby, and easy access to the courtyard.

While Angel wouldn't run from a stressful situation, Oz knew that this could turn into a verbal attack from Xander, as it had so often in the past. Angel could definitely hold his own verbally, even when his comments went over everyone's head but Giles's, but that wasn't Oz's concern. Where Buffy's friends were involved, no matter the provocation, Angel would not allow himself to resort to a physical fight to relieve his frustrations. So, Oz wanted him to have an unimpeded path to the courtyard where he could cool off, if necessary. The werewolf knew that Angel usually had a very high tolerance level where Xander was concerned, but he also knew how much Angel *didn't* know about what was going on. Still, and Oz allowed himself a small smirk as the thought crossed his mind, he hoped that cooler heads would prevail. Despite his own unresolved feelings about Buffy's running away, in the end, she came home, with her daughter, asking for help and forgiveness. And as far as Oz was concerned, that's what families were all about.