Buffy had settled into Faith’s study and found it more comfortable than she had expected, even though the house only had one bathroom, and Spike, as Faith put it, “takes showers so long he’s gonna drain Lake Erie one day.” There was a futon, a computer, and a window, and since she was a guest, nobody got into her space or put too many demands on her time. Her only fear was that she would overhear Spike and Faith having sex one night. If that happened, her best hope was probably to quietly sneak outside and run.
She still wished that she could have shared a bed with Angel, but he wasn’t far. Today, she had come to Oz’s house around noon and crept into the guest room, where Angel greeted her with a sleepy smile. She took a moment to rest her head on his bare chest and share a few words before leaving him with a kiss and a command to get more sleep.
Oz was waiting for her in the kitchen. He led the way out to his car, and Buffy noticed with a pang that his relative silence had a different vibe than usual. She tried to start a conversation about the vehicle having a lot of character -- it really did -- but his response was little more than a grunt.
She tried again as he took them through parts of Cleveland that would never get a mention in a tourism book. “Why do they want us to meet them there? And in the daytime? Angel would have liked to come too...”
“So would Howell. Trying to avoid that.” He kept his eyes on the road, his tone flat. “And tonight’s a lunar no-go for me and them. I would have saved it a few days but Nina called me at six this morning. Didn’t want to wait.”
Buffy’s face flushed a little as she tried to imagine how that conversation had gone. She thought she and Angel had been subtle enough about their suspicions while they were at Nina and Eric’s house, but it wasn’t likely that she was being summoned to talk about something unrelated. From what Angel had told her, Oz probably felt like he was in the middle and trying to choose a side, which wasn’t at all what Buffy wanted.
“You know she tried to frame your cousin, right?” she blurted out suddenly. “Jordan Godfrey. He’s the one who turned you into a werewolf, isn’t he?”
Oz flinched, but his voice was accusatory. “What do you mean?”
“We asked if they had doubts about anyone in the pack and she made it sound like he was dangerous. You told us before he’s a good kid. I believed you. So what’s her deal?”
“She’s infected,” he said curtly. “We have to help her. Isn’t that what this is all about?”
Buffy couldn’t think of a response. Oz pulled the car into the almost empty parking lot of Satellite 3, which looked considerably different without its festive lights and animated crowd. It was hard to tell if the place was even open until they got to the door and she saw the hours posted. They were, however, the only ones there aside from staff. Buffy was about to say as much, but Oz kept walking, beckoning her to follow, and led her up a stairwell and through a door she hadn’t noticed the first time she had been here.
The smaller space they entered upstairs appeared to be another club, entirely distinct from the main floor, but Buffy couldn’t spare a second to observe it when she saw that Nina was already there waiting for them, and that she was accompanied by someone completely unexpected.
Oz seemed as surprised as she was, but he recovered first and said, “Mr. Wolfe. Hi.”
Buffy greeted them with wary courtesy. Dameon Wolfe was sitting in one of the leather armchairs, dressed in what looked like another designer suit jacket, and he appeared just as irate and intimidating as he had the night he had kicked them out of Satellite 3. Nina was standing, closer to the entrance than he was, with her arms crossed and a mean-spirited smirk on her face. There was no bartender or anyone else in the room. Buffy swallowed. “Where’s Eric?”
“Mr. E,” said Nina, emphasizing the stage name, “was not invited.”
“Okay,” said Oz. “Seems like there’s a few things we’ll have to clear up.”
Nobody else moved toward the seating. “Completely agreed,” said Nina smoothly. “Oz, Buffy, I think you guys have gotten the wrong idea from somewhere. I’ve had to keep some secrets, yeah. Most people wouldn’t be able to understand if I explained it right now. And I think we can all relate to that,” she added, raising her eyebrows at each of them in turn.
“Damn straight,” Buffy responded before anyone else could. “Look, I’m coming clean with our secret right now: we came to Cleveland because we heard about people being infected by an evil spirit. It’s happened to you, Nina. Whatever you’ve been hiding -- you don’t need to tell us, just please consider it wasn’t your own idea. And it’s not your fault.”
“My fault?” Nina laughed. “Of course not. No more than it’s yours that you’re the Slayer. Or Angel’s that he has a soul. It’s destiny. I know exactly what I’m doing, and I know it’s right.”
Oz cleared his throat. “Then why not tell Eric?”
“And why is he here instead?” Buffy added, flicking a hand in Wolfe’s direction.
Wolfe spoke at last, and his voice was tinged with a growling quality that sounded permanent. “You have a man held captive in your home. John Howell. I want him.”
“I’m not holding anyone captive,” said Oz.
Nina scoffed. “Sure, honey. Keep him, if you care that much. And hey,” she went on, “tell my boyfriend anything you want. What’s he going to do? Rally the troops and attack me?”
She was right, Buffy realized suddenly. Oz’s allegiance to his pack might be in the process of changing this very minute, but Mr. E would never take their side against Nina based solely on something he hadn’t seen with his own eyes. The Wolf’s strategy went beyond his ritual and invasion of human bodies. “Nina,” Buffy urged softly, “you need help.”
“I’ll get it,” Nina replied with iron certainty. “Believe me.”
Wolfe had finally stood up; now he turned and walked behind the little stage over the bar, and Nina followed. She was wearing a halter top, and the lunar cycle tattoo on her back stood out like a warning.
As they both exited the room through a plain black door that clicked shut behind them, Buffy heard Oz mutter a curse through the hand he had at his face, stroking his stubble.
“What?” she asked.
He was staring at the door as if he could see through it. “Satellite 1,” he said. “Nobody ever goes in there. All those times they said the boss was having a meeting...it must have been with her. Wolfe and Nina.”
Buffy considered that. “I have to talk to Angel.”